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Biden Enters Iraq Fray, But McCain Says He Lacks al-Maliki's 'Confidence'

Jan. 7, 2014 - 02:02PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
Vice President Biden Hosts Iraqi Prime Minister Ma
US Vice President Joseph Biden, left, welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to the Naval Observatory in October in Washington, DC. The White House announced on Monday that Biden will lead the Obama administration's push to ensure Iraq does not slide into another ethnic-based conflict. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — US Vice President Joseph Biden’s intervention into Iraq’s worsening security situation fails to inspire confidence in the White House’s attempt to defuse new clashes in Iraq that are threatening a new civil war there, according to one Senate GOP hawk.

Late Monday evening, the White House revealed Biden’s role in the Obama administration’s attempts to keep Iraq from sliding into another ethnic-based conflict.

In separate emails sent minutes apart just after 9 p.m. EST, the White House announced Biden had conducted telephone conversations with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi.

“The vice president emphasized that the United States stands with Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” [ISIL] during his talk with the embattled al-Maliki, the White House said.

Biden also “praised the recent security cooperation between Iraqi Security Forces and local and tribal forces in Anbar province.”

ISIL is an al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic extremist groups that began operating in Iraq after the US invaded in early 2003. Over the weekend, ISIL captured the strategically important city of Fallujah, which US forces captured in a bloody battle in April 2004.

Al-Nujaifi is a Sunni. Al-Maliki is a Shiite.

The White House said Biden and Al-Nujaifi “discussed how best to sustain and deepen recent cooperation between Sunni communities and the Iraqi government.” He and al-Maliki “affirmed the importance of working closely with Iraq’s Sunni leaders and communities to isolate extremists,” the White House said.

But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, told Defense News that Biden — a former chairman of the latter panel and sometimes-candidate for secretary of state — likely lacks the diplomatic skill to ease tensions.

“No,” McCain replied when asked if his longtime Senate colleague’s involvement gives him greater confidence in a swift resolution. “Because al-Maliki doesn’t have confidence in the vice president.”

McCain and other congressional GOP hawks long have slammed Obama for ending the Iraq war, with the upper chamber’s “maverick” saying Tuesday that had the US stayed there, “reconciliation would have happened” between Shiites and Sunnis.

Now, McCain and other Republicans want Obama to engage anew in a nation that he so desperately wanted to untangle American forces from as a presidential candidate in 2008.

“We should be sending people over there to help them and give them assistance in training, give them assistance in how to handle this,” he told reporters.

McCain and other GOP hawks, however, are not calling for US combat troops to be inserted in any operations to take back Fallujah.

“No American … troops in combat,” he said. “But certainly we could be assisting in training, in providing the kind of intelligence that they need. There’s a myriad of ways that we can help.”

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