President Barack Obama on Tuesday spurned a congratulatory phone call from Iraq’s elected prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, and instead asked Vice President Joe Biden to take the call.
Obama’s refusal to talk with Iraq’s elected leader highlighted his efforts to distance himself from former President George W. Bush’s Iraq campaign.
During that campaign, which was authorized by the U.S. Congress, U.S. and coalition troops deposed a fascist dictator in 2003, smashed an al-Qaida counter-offensive, fended off Sunni and Iranian death squads, helped build a new army and established an elected government in an Arab country with a population of roughly 30 million.
Almost 4,500 U.S. soldiers were killed in the campaign, which deeply damaged the Arab public’s support for al-Qaida after its successful Sept. 11 jihad strike in New York.
“Future historians will regard Obama’s precipitous abandonment of Iraq — after we really did achieve victory — as one of the most foolish, shameful and strategically inept actions taken by an American president,” former Army officer Ralph Peters told The Daily Caller.
“After a decade of bloody sacrifice, Obama essentially turned Iraq over to Iran” by failing in 2011 to leave even a small contingent of U.S. forces in the country, he said.
“Vice President Biden today spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki,” a White House statement said Nov. 13.
“Maliki congratulated the Vice President and President Obama on their re-election … [and] agreed that the coming years presented an opportunity for both nations to enhance our strategic partnership across a range of issues of mutual concern and pledged to continue the close consultations conducted in recent months by a series of senior U.S. visitors to Baghdad,” said the formal White House statement.
Maliki heads Iraq’s Shia-led government, which straddles vast oil reserves, bitter conflicts among the country’s three large Kurdish, Sunni and Shia factions, traditional patterns of bribery and corruption, continued pressure from Iran and the much-weakened alliance of al-Qaida and Sunni tribal gunmen.
In contrast to the back-door reception given to Maliki, Obama welcomed congratulatory phone calls from the elected Islamist, semi-theocratic leaders of Egypt and Turkey, and from the autocrats in charge of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, all of whom opposed the U.S. campaign to remove Iraq’s dictator.
“This morning the President was able to return some of these messages personally, by phone,” said a Nov. 8 statement from the White House. “In each call, he thanked his counterpart for their friendship and partnership thus far and expressed his desire to continue close cooperation moving ahead.”