Although she served as its secretary of state, likely 2016 presidential contender Hillary Clinton has some tough words for how the Obama administration dropped the ball in handling a brewing crisis in Iraq and surrounding regions.
The uprising of Islamic militants in recent months has led to countless deaths of Kurds and other minorities in Iraq and Syria, a problem Clinton said was exacerbated by the U.S. government’s failure to act on behalf of Syrian rebels.
“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad – there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle – the failure to do that left a big vacuum,” she said, “which the jihadists have now filled.”
She addressed the issue during a comprehensive interview with The Atlantic, maintaining that she favored a more active role during her years at the State Department. Clinton also criticized Obama’s trite rhetoric regarding his administration’s foreign policy ideals.
“Great nations need organizing principles,” she maintained, “and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
Looking to the future, she noted that if the current trajectory continues, the Islamic terrorism destroying Iraq and Syria will likely spread to other regions – including America.
“One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States,” she said. “Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand.”
A common goal among these radicals is the destruction of the West, she explained.
“How do we try to contain that?” Clinton asked. “I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat.”
Her firm stance extended to the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinian terrorists in neighboring Gaza. She expressed support for the Jewish nation’s retaliation to relentless missile attacks from the Hamas-sponsored militants in recent weeks.
“Israel was attacked by rockets from Gaza,” she said. “Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”
Clinton lamented the fact that, with violence affecting numerous regions of the world, so many are focused on the perceived overreaction of Israeli forces to the threat posed by Palestinian aggressors.
“There are a number of factors going into it,” she said. “You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism, especially with what’s going on in Europe today. There are more demonstrations against Israel by an exponential amount than there are against Russia seizing part of Ukraine and shooting down a civilian airliner. So there’s something else at work here than what you see on TV.”
As with her comments regarding Iraq, Clinton’s response to the Israeli crisis stands in contrast to the stated position of the Obama administration. Interviewer Jeffrey Goldberg noted that insiders have already predicted Clinton will embark on “a more forceful attempt to highlight her differences with the (unpopular) president she ran against, and then went on to serve.”
Following his interview with the early Democrat favorite to replace Obama, he said that he “got the sense that this effort is already underway.”
Among other foreign policy issues covered in the interview was Iran’s insistence that it has a right to pursue nuclear enrichment that could ultimately result in weapons of mass destruction.
“I’ve always been in the camp that held that they did not have a right to enrichment,” she asserted. “Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich. This is absolutely unfounded.”