By Julian Pecquet - 01/09/14 04:30 PM EST
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee rose to President Obama's defense on Thursday in response to blistering attacks from House and Senate Republicans on his record in Iraq.
Sen. Carl LevinCarl LevinSenate continues to disrespect Constitution, Obama and Supreme Court by not voting on Garland As other regulators move past implementing Dodd-Frank, the SEC falls further behind Will partisan politics infect the Supreme Court? MORE (D-Mich.) placed the blame for the decision not to keep troops in Iraq past 2011 squarely on President George W. Bush and the Iraqi government. Iraq has once again become a hot-button issue amid reports that al Qaeda is gaining traction in the country, notably in Fallujah, where U.S. troops fought two bloody battles in 2004.
“President Bush himself, standing next to Prime Minister [Nouri] al-Maliki in Baghdad as they announced their agreement, said: ‘The agreement lays out a framework for the withdrawal of American forces in Iraq',” Levin said, according to his prepared remarks. “While there was disagreement in the administration over the size of a residual force, what decided the issue wasn’t how many troops would remain. Rather, it was the Iraqi government’s refusal to agree to legal protections for residual U.S. troops, whatever their number.”
Levin also said he's willing to agree to the administration's request to sell attack helicopters to Iraq to deal with the growing terror threat if the Shiite-led government can provide assurances it won't use them for sectarian warfare. The helicopter sale is being held up by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert MenendezRobert MenendezConfirm Julien Neals for the district of New Jersey Puerto Rico task force asks for help in charting island's economic course Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense MORE (D-N.J.).
“The issue here is not whether such aircraft would help Iraq fight violent extremists; they would,” he said. “The question is whether the Maliki government would use them only against violent extremists, and whether we receive credible assurances that such weapons will be used to target Iraq’s real enemies, and not to further sectarian political objectives. With credible assurances, it would be appropriate to provide such assistance.”
The two leading hawks on Iraq, Sens. John McCainJohn McCainPrimary opponent: McCain has 'issues about race' Clinton, Trump sharpen attacks The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamClinton, Trump sharpen attacks Graham: Let special prosecutor probe Clinton emails The Trail 2016: Clinton’s ups and downs MORE (R-S.C.), took to the Senate floor earlier in the day to accuse the administration of having “squandered” U.S. troops' sacrifice. And House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also commented on the foreign policy issue, an unusual move for him, pressing Obama to “take a more active role in dealing with the issues in Iraq” instead of leaving Vice President Biden in charge.
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