With the Middle East and her legacy coming apart at the seams, Hillary Rodham Clinton has taken up fiction. In her CNN interview, she was back to rewriting her indefensible track record.
On Iraq, she insists on the agreement to keep troops in Iraq:
I supported what we were trying to convince [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki to do, which was a small, targeted, follow-on force to provide what the Iraqis couldn’t provide for themselves, intel, surveillance, training and the like. And I am absolutely convinced, from being in the Situation Room, that Maliki and his larger circle did not want a continuing American presence. Now, you can ask yourself why, given what has happened. And I think there are two main reasons. One, I think that Maliki and his party, which, remember, didn’t win the most votes in the first election, but were able to form a government. So he had to make a lot of political deals with various segments of Iraqi political society to form that government. And there were elements within it that did not want an American follow-on force, and that was connected, in part, to the Iranians not wanting an American follow-on force. So I mean I know what we offered and I know that we tried. And I know that Maliki and his inner circle did not want to go forward.
This is contrary to contemporaneous and subsequent observations of those privy to the talks, including former ambassador Ryan Crocker. The administration was told repeatedly that parliament would be a problem, but that Maliki would offer assurance as to immunity for U.S. troops. This was not good enough for the administration, the troops were pulled and President Obama bragged that he had gotten all the troops out. Former ambassador to Turkey and undersecretary for defense policy Eric Edelman tells Right Turn: “The U.S. insisted, allegedly at the demand of the Pentagon lawyers, that anything that wasn’t approved by the [Council of Representatives] wasn’t good enough (although it appears to be good enough for the advisors we have in country now).” Moreover, the number of troops requested by the military was systematically reduced again and again by the White House until it was a few thousand troops. Edelman explains, “Given that Secretary Clinton acknowledges the political pressures Maliki was under begs the question of whether the Obama Administration, by whittling the numbers of troops in the proposed US residual force down to around 5,000 from the 20,000 or so that the commanders wanted, made it politically unpalatable if not impossible for Maliki to risk a lot to get a minimal U.S. force presence. Whether that was by intent or sheer incompetence I cannot say, but under those circumstances Maliki would rightly have feared that such a force would not be able to do much beyond force protection for itself.”
Then there is Israel. In Clinton’s book, she acknowledged that the focus on settlements was a mistake. But now she’s back to blaming the Israeli government — as if the central problem really was those settlements: “This is my biggest complaint with the Israeli government. I am a strong supporter of Israel, a strong supporter of their right to defense themselves. But the continuing settlements, which have been denounced by successive American administrations on both sides of the aisle, are clearly a terrible signal to send, if, at the same time, you claim you’re looking for a two-state solution.”
What evidence is there that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was prepared to or ready in any sense to accept a peace deal of any type? (Certainly his subsequent conduct both in aligning with Hamas and digging in on the right of return suggests he’s taking no gambles for peace.)
Moreover, former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams, who oversaw the U.S.–Israel relationship during the Bush administration, tells Right Turn, “Mrs. Clinton just does not know the facts–which is remarkable given that she was Secretary of State for four years. During the entire Obama presidency, Israel has been almost entirely avoiding building new settlements or physically expanding existing ones. There has been population growth and expansion, but the expansion of population has been overwhelmingly in the settlements that Israel will obviously keep in any peace deal– the ‘major blocks.’” (This was pursuant to an agreement between President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which was ratified by both Houses by overwhelming margins. Clinton refused to acknowledge its existence and conveniently leaves it out of her current account.) Abrams explains, “In that sense the “peace map” has not changed. That she refuses to acknowledge. This shows that she has simply closed her mind to the facts.”
Clinton’s story also ignores that Israel (also during the Bush administration) did uproot settlements (and paid the price to this day) and forgets that Israel during her tenure did enact a freeze and then extend it, to no avail.
And lastly, on Iran Clinton leaves out some key parts of her tenure. “I worked very hard and led our efforts to get the sanctions to be international that brought Iran to the negotiating table and sent one of my trusted advisers early in 2012 to begin that process of what — how big will the table be and who gets to sit around it and the like. And I have followed what has been done since then. This is a — this is the real nub of it, because if you cannot be persuaded that the Iranians cannot break out and race toward a nuclear weapon, then you cannot have a deal.” To begin with, she wasted nearly two years of the first term trying to “engage” Iran. (She elsewhere ‘fesses up that it was a mistake not to do more to help the Green Revolution.) Then she neatly leaves out the State Department’s role in repeatedly delaying and attempting to water down sanctions.
Too bad she wasn’t asked any (even moderately) tough follow-ups. She does remind us, however, that the media are not likely to press her too hard or fact-check her. The GOP will need an informed and tough nominee to do that. Otherwise she will continue to spin an utterly false account of her time at State. She must figure that she couldn’t possibly get to the White House if she told the truth.