Hillary Clinton said she was not attempting to attack President Barack Obama’s foreign policy moves in Syria and Iraq when she cited in a recent interview his administration’s “failure” to contain Islamic extremists in the region.
A spokesman for Clinton, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, said the former secretary of state during Obama’s first term as president had called Obama to clear the air over her remarks.
“Earlier today, the secretary called President Obama to make sure he knows that nothing she said was an attempt to attack him, his policies or his leadership,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said, according to AFP.
Clinton told the Atlantic in an interview published Sunday that the administration faltered when it did not do enough to actively lead in coordinating insurgent factions fighting Bashar Assad’s government in Syria. This power “vacuum,” she said, led to the rise of the extremist group Islamic State that has since splintered away from Al-Qaeda and is violently gaining territory in northern Iraq.
"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, which the jihadists have now filled," Clinton said.
Clinton also suggested in the interview that the Obama administration has a lackluster strategy for confronting Islamic militants now on the rampage in Iraq.
"Great nations need organizing principles, and 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle," she said, dismissing an Obama administration slogan.
The US is conducting air strikes and supplying weapons to help outgunned Iraqi Kurds fight off the offensive of Islamic State fighters. Clinton’s comments were made before the air strikes were ordered.
Merrill said any “honest differences” Clinton and Obama have over contentious issues like the rise of Islamic State are being used as a cudgel to divide the pair.
“Some are now choosing to hype those differences but they do not eclipse their broad agreement on most issues,” he said.
“Like any two friends who have to deal with the public eye, she looks forward to hugging it out when they see each other tomorrow night,” he added. Clinton and Obama are to both attend at gathering on Wednesday in Martha’s Vineyard, where the president is currently on vacation.
Merrill said the former secretary of state, who had pushed a more aggressive program than Obama has pursued in aiding militants fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad in the nation’s civil war, “has at every step of the way touted the significant achievements of (Obama’s) presidency, which she is honored to have been part of as his secretary of state.”
It was reported Tuesday that Obama recently views criticism of his policy in Syria as “horseshit,” believing that no amount of arms to the often shadowy and in-flux rebel groups fighting Assad would have made a major difference in the conflict.
“This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards,” Obama told the New York Times in a recent interview.