GOP senators blame Obama for sectarian tensions in Iraq

Republican hawks in the Senate are blaming President Obama for renewed sectarian tensions in Iraq and are urging him to re-open negotiations on leaving a residual U.S. military force there.

The day after the last U.S. forces left Iraq, an arrest warrant was issued for Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the countrys top Sunni official. He blamed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, for ginning up “fabricated” charges that he ran a hit squad.

“Al-Maliki is behind the whole issue,” al-Hashemi told reporters Tuesday in Iraq. “The country is in the hands of al-Maliki. All the efforts that have been exerted to reach national reconciliation and to unite Iraq are now gone. So yes, I blame al-Maliki.” 

GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said Iraqs stability has been put at risk by Obamas decision to withdraw all U.S. troops.

“A deterioration of the kind we are now witnessing in Iraq was not unforeseen, and now the U.S. government must do whatever it can to help Iraqis stabilize the situation,” the senators said in a statement Monday evening.

“This crisis has been precipitated in large measure by the failure and unwillingness of the Obama Administration to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government for a residual presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, thereby depriving Iraq of the stabilizing influence of the U.S. military and diminishing the ability of the United States to support Iraq.”

The White House said it had to follow the agreement negotiated by the George W. Bush administration to withdraw troops by the end of the year. Iraqi officials refused to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution, the White House said, leaving withdrawal as the only option.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the White House is monitoring the situation in Iraq and has expressed its concerns about the arrest warrant.

“We are urging all sides to work to resolve differences peacefully and through dialogue, in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the democratic political process,” Carney said Monday.