McCain: Opponents lying about Iraq history

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said opponents are lying when they say the Iraqi government did not want a continued troop presence in the country when U.S. combat missions ended in 2011. 

The Arizona senator has blamed the current militant Sunni uprising in Iraq on the failure of the United States to secure a status of forces agreement in 2011. He said some Democrats are trying to explain that away by inaccurately claiming the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not want troops to remain. 

"Opponents and those who want to justify this colossal failure that has caused the greatest threat to United States's national security since the end of the Cold War, they're trying to justify it by saying that Maliki didn't want American troops there," he told PBS on Wednesday night. 

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McCain took issue with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who was also on the program. Kaine asserted the Obama administration was in conversations with the government about leaving a limited number of U.S. troops in the country past 2011, but Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, admitted Iraq did not want the U.S. in the country. 

"Do we come in now to back up Maliki with military force after he kicked us out and after he's governed the wrong way? That would be foolish," Kaine said. 

McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) were in direct talks with the Iraqi government at the time, McCain said, and Iraq was ready for a deal before the number of troops the United States proposed leaving fell sharply. 

"What Senator Kaine is saying is just totally false," McCain said. "In fact, it's a lie, because Lindsey Graham and I were there." 

"The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff himself said that the number of troops that we were proposing cascaded down to 3,000, when it had been recommended to be 20,000," McCain added.

He said Iraq, at that point, determined an agreement “wasn't worth the problem.”