US turns over Hezbollah prisoner to Iraqi government

The U.S. handed over a Hezbollah prisoner suspected of being involved in the deaths of five U.S. soldiers to the Iraqi government Friday, as U.S. troops prepare to leave the country, the White House said.

The Obama administration had been pushing Iraq to allow the U.S. to keep Ali Musa Daqduq in U.S. custody, and President Obama discussed it with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki when he visited the White House Monday, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

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But the Iraqi government wouldn’t agree to let the U.S. taking Daqduq out of Iraq, and the U.S. legally had to transfer him to Iraqi custody under the security agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in 2008, Vietor said.

The decision to hand the last prisoner in U.S. custody over to the Iraqis was blasted by Republicans and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) Friday, who had wanted him transferred to Guantánamo Bay for a military tribunal.

A statement from Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance What the chaos in Afghanistan can remind us about the importance of protecting democracy at home 'The View' plans series of conservative women as temporary McCain replacements MORE (R-Ariz.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' MORE (R-Ky.), Lieberman and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump offers sympathy for those charged with Jan. 6 offenses Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod MORE (R-S.C.) called the move “disgraceful.”

“Coming on the heels of the Administration's failure to maintain a small American military presence in Iraq to support the fragile peace there, this failure to keep a committed murderer of Americans in U.S. custody sends exactly the wrong message to our allies and enemies in the region,” the statement said.

Sen. Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Live coverage: Georgia Senate runoffs Trump, Biden face new head-to-head contest in Georgia MORE (R-Ga.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: “Given Iraq’s history of releasing detainees, I expect it is only a matter of time before this terrorist will be back on the battlefield.”

Vietor said that the administration did not want to send any more detainees to Guantanamo, and the U.S. had discussed transferring him to a U.S. military commission.

“The president has been clear that he believes it’s in our national security interest to close the detention facility of Guantanamo Bay, not add to the population,” Vietor said.

Vietor said the Iraqis have given assurances to the administration that Daqduq will be tried for his crimes.

Daqduq is accused of organizing a 2007 raid in Karbala, Iraq, where five U.S. soldiers were killed.

Under the security agreement with Iraq, the U.S. must return all prisoners to Iraqi custody as it leaves the country. The U.S. marked the end of the Iraq war Thursday and is in the process of withdrawing the final troops from the country by the end of the month.