McCain, Inhofe: Why was immunity only possible for troops in Iraq now?

A pair of senior GOP senators on Tuesday said if the Obama administration has been able to secure legal immunity for U.S. special operations heading to Iraq, it should have landed the deal years ago.

“It’s interesting that [immunity’s] OK now when, according to their narrative, it was impossible to get before,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

ADVERTISEMENT
He added that the reversal on the issue is “all part of this tissue of lies” that the administration gave for not securing a status of forces agreement with Baghdad in 2011 including a residual troop presence.

“I’d been much happier if we had not dropped all of them out in the first place,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Now it’s easy to say, ‘All right, now are you happy?’ No."

The immunity bargain, announced Monday, paves the way for 300 special operations forces to begin advising Iraq’s security forces, which have repeatedly retreated from attacks by the extremists known as the Islamic State in Iraq in Syria (ISIS).

In the last week alone, the group has captured large swaths of western Iraq, including key border crossings with neighboring Syria and Jordan.

President Obama has said the soldiers would boost American intelligence on the ground, a development that could lead him to military action, such as airstrikes.

McCain said the administration has “done almost nothing” to improve the situation on the ground in Iraq.

“We’re not doing any planning ... meanwhile, ISIS continues to consolidate its position in the towns,” he said. “We could take people out in the open areas that they have to traverse in their vehicles.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he had not seen the details of the immunity agreement but he was “glad there is one.”

“It’s very important there be one,” he told reporters.