Kerry in Iraq: Four Interviews – and Fox News, too.
During his visit to Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry gave several interviews to news media and Fox, too.
Since the question as to what military action — if any — the United States will take in Iraq is on everyone’s mind, the following are answers and comments Kerry gave and made, respectively, to questions directly or indirectly referring to that issue.
SECRETARY KERRY: And the President is carefully putting together an appropriate counterterrorism strategy to deal with this, but you have to deal with it thoughtfully. And that is exactly what we’re doing.
If the President were to just make some decision to strike here or there, there’s no backup, there’s no “there” there in the Iraqi Government, it could be completely wasted. It’s not a pathway to victory. So what you need to do first is get the government formation done here in Iraq. You need to have leadership that can unify Iraq, reconstitute the military, the army itself here in Iraq, and help them to be able to push back.
There will also be a need to – and President Barzani talked to me about this here today. He said there’s no pure military victory here; you’ve got to have a political solution. And a political solution will involve empowering the people in the communities where they are now to push back against them… which is precisely what the President is doing.
QUESTION: You’ve promised sustained and intense support for Iraq’s security forces, but so far that’s only translated into 300 military advisors. That’s not very intense.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we’re setting up the joint operations command. In addition to that, we have very significantly increased the intelligence gathering that is taking place here. The President has insisted on doing what our military believes it needs to do in preparation for any contingency. But most important to the President and to me and to all of us is the government formation. If you don’t have —
QUESTION: So no military airstrikes before a government formation?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I mean, barring some exigent emergency or something that predicates that the President makes a decision which he always has available to him with respect to any country or any crisis in the world. But basically, there must be a government here so that there can be a strategy going forward, because just a strike alone is not going to change the outcome. You need to have a full-fledged strategy that is being implemented which is principally a political strategy.
And as even President Barzani and his folks today said, there has to be – they concur there’s no military solution. There may be military action, but there has to be a political solution that deals with empowering the people in the communities where ISIL is today to be prepared to take them on. That takes a certain amount of preparation, strategy, implementation. And what President Obama is trying to do is encourage that process to come together as rapidly as possible, because without it everything else would be wasted.
QUESTION: And are 300 American advisors enough to keep them at bay, and if not are you and President Obama ready to —
SECRETARY KERRY: … America is going to help Iraqis keep them at bay. And what the President has asked me to do is try to assess what the political appetite here is to be able to put together the kind of government that can help reconstitute the army sufficiently that they have the ability to put it together, because if the President were to decide to do something abstractly and U.S. simply gauging without Iraq’s capacity to support that, it’s going to fail. And nobody wants that. At least…nobody… And we’ve already decided – the President has decided – and the American people have made clear: Nobody wants to see American soldiers coming back here in a combat role.
So you have to look to Iraq, to its government, to its military, to be able to make the decisive difference here, and we’re trying to find out whether or not they’re capable of doing that.
QUESTION: Opposition leaders here today said they don’t want American intervention, even as our special forces are beginning to embed in small groups with the Iraqi command.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s not intervention. What we’re trying to do is help the – and I understand what they don’t want, and President Obama and the American people don’t want that either.
QUESTION: Doesn’t it put our troops at risk to have so much opposition to them being here?
SECRETARY KERRY: I think there is actually a great desire, otherwise they wouldn’t be here. The government and everybody has asked them to be helpful with respect to planning, advising, some training and assisting. But we are not here in combat role. We are not here to fight. And the President has no intention – none whatsoever – of returning American combat troops to Iraq to go back to where we were. That’s not in the cards.
What we’re trying to do here is assess what are the capabilities of the Iraqi military, what is the situation on the ground, what is ISIL, how much of it is there, and all the different options with respect to what you might do about them. And that will inform the President and the national security team to be able to make judgments.
Finally, James Rosen of Fox.
A combative Rosen focused on a New York Times/CBS news poll suggesting that Americans disapprove of President Obama’s handling of foreign policy, instead of on the major issues.
For example, Rosen: “Are you humbled by that?” To which Kerry answered, “Well, look, it’s a good thing that we don’t do foreign policy by polls. That would be a tragedy and a huge mistake.”
To which Rosen doggedly persisted with questions such as:
“So are you doubting the verdict?”
“The American people are expressing disapproval. Are you doubting their judgment?”
“Are you doubting their judgment?”
“Are you effective?”
“It sounds like you like the polls you like and you don’t like the polls you don’t like.”
When Rosen finally got to the Iraq crisis, his questions bristled with negatives and gotchas:
“This was not an intelligence failure?”
“Obviously, whatever steps [the President] took, which you’ve only described vaguely, proved inadequate to prevent this current crisis from developing… So this, to a reasonable observer, will appear as either an intelligence or a policy failure, or both.”
“But you saw Fallujah fall and you saw Ramadi fall, and what did you do about it to prevent Mosul from falling? It doesn’t seem like very much.”
What Rosen conveniently failed to mention was that other inconvenient fact, that most Americans now say that the Bush-Cheney Iraq War wasn’t worth the cost.
Just 18 percent of Americans think the result of the war in Iraq was worth the loss of American lives and other costs of attacking Iraq, the lowest percentage ever recorded in CBS News Polls. Seventy-five percent do not think the Iraq War was worth it, up eight percentage points since 2011 (just before all U.S. troops were removed), and up 30 points since August 2003.
While Fox and its allies in Congress continue to attack the President, what is important is that our military forces are capable and ready — and they are — to respond to whatever options the President selects. That they be “ready if called upon for Iraq,” and they are:
Lead image: The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush conducts a replenishment with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys in the Persian Gulf, June 18, 2014. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Scott Barnes.
An F/A18C Hornet aircraft launches off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf, June 17, 2014. The Hornet is assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 31. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Harry Andrew D. Gordon.
An E-2C Hawkeye aircraft moves across the flight deck of the USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf, June 17, 2014. The Hawkeye is assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 124. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel previously ordered the carrier into the Persian Gulf to provide President Barack Obama additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Maggie Keith
U.S. sailors prepare to board an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf, June 17, 2014. The Seahawk is assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 9. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua K. Horton