By Sandy Fitzgerald
WASHINGTON D.C. – The world was a much safer place before President Barack Obama took office in 2009, and his decision to withdraw troops from Iraq without leaving a stay-behind force “was a mistake,” Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso believes.
“When we, the United States, leaves a vacuum anywhere, that emboldens others to go in when there is no sense of deterrence by the United States, that lets bad actors move in and fill the void,” Barrasso told CBS “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer Sunday.
Barrasso agreed that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad must be protected, and said that the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] is a direct threat to the United States.
“They have the capacity and I believe they have the intent,” said Barrasso. “They have stated it in terms of their opposition of the whole western world. They are the richest, most powerful and most savage group of terrorists in the history of mankind, and they have taken over an area truly the size of Indiana bordering Syria as well as Iraq. So I think it is a direct threat to the United States.”
Barrasso said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki needs to step down if any kind of peace accord or settlement can be reached to slow down fighting in the war-torn country. He noted the Iraqi leader’s power is waning, and a peace agreement cannot be hammered out as long as he is in office.
“He only has 24 percent of the votes going into the next system of Parliament that starts July 1,”said Barrasso. “Sunnis and Shias alike have come out against him. But if you want the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Shias working together, it cannot work with Maliki.”
Schieffer pointed out that Obama pulled out remaining troops in Iraq when Maliki refused to sign an agreement that kept U.S. troops under the legal control of the United States. But Barrasso said he believes that Obama did not push hard enough to keep the troops in Iraq.
“The president made a campaign promise that he would withdraw the troops,” Barrasso told Schieffer. “He withdrew the troops and I believe he did not push hard to get that. He wanted to get this thing confirmed by the Parliament. It would have been difficult to do…the president is somewhat backtracking on his decision and the way he laid it out.”
Barrasso also believes the United States should be arming opposition forces in Syria, but he would not negotiate with Iran for help or a solution.
“They are not our friends,” said Barrasso of Iran. “They will try to use this leverage to have a nuclear weapon, but I do not think we should be the air power for Iran coming in on the ground.”
Further, said Barrasso, the United States needs to be developing its own energy resources, and it should “hit the stop the clock button” when it comes to withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on the show that he agrees the main goal for now is to protect the U.S. embassy, and that Maliki has to go before a settlement can be reached.
“In 2011, he did not want us there and we left,” said Manchin. “He had three years to bring that together, and our people have been speaking with him and working with him and moving in that direction. Maybe we did not push hard enough.”
But as far as becoming militarily involved, Manchin said, there is “no appetite for us to get boots on the ground and get back into that country, in any way, shape, or form.”
In addition, said Manchin, the United States does not need troops on the ground to fight ISIS.
“If military might or money would have solved that problem in that part of the world, and we could have made it better, we would have done it by now,” said Manchin.
But, Manchin said the United States should make sure not to be drawn into a civil war in Iraq because “we will never get out.”
Until Maliki is gone, said Manchin, there is little chance for an agreement, but even then, he’s not sure one will come.
“I think the lines will be redrawn and predictions other people made will show that it will be a different area than what we have today,” said Manchin. “And we, for some reason, do not want to accept that.”