President Barack Obama's controversial statement that it wasn't his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, but that of the George W. Bush administration, won't hold water, says Paul Bremer, former U.S. administrator in Iraq.
"History will be pretty clear that the decision not to have any troops there after Jan. 1, 2012, was a very serious, strategic mistake that the president made,'' Bremer said Tuesday on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
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"A lot of words from him aren't going to change history's judgment.''
Still, Bremer, who was a U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands and onetime chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism, said Obama deserves credit for his decision to send air power to Iraq.
"He identified those two objectives on Thursday when he first made the announcement. Over the weekend, he made a very important third objective,'' he said.
"In his New York Times interview, he said we will not allow the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria. That's a strategic objective. I agree with that objective, that's true. We see what happens when terrorists take over a country, in Afghanistan.''
Bremer says a deeper military involvement in Iraq is necessary to crush ISIS, the al-Qaida splinter group marauding through Iraq and killing innocent civilians.
"Contrary to what many people in the press are saying, a more vigorous effort to defeat ISIS, these terrorists, will also improve the likelihood of a broad, non-sectarian government in Baghdad,'' he said.
"These two things are related. If the Sunni tribe sees that we are serious about defeating these Islamic extremists, they are more likely to support what we're trying to do through the government in Baghdad. The same goes for the Kurds.''
Bremer says that if the U.S. had acted more proactively in Syria, Iraq may not have become the powder keg it is now.
"I've been publicly calling for more than three years for a more robust policy in Syria, and there's no question. History will be very clear on this,'' he said.
"If we had taken efforts to support more moderate people in Syria, and if we established a no-fly zone, we would've prevented [President Bashar] Assad from using these barrel bombs on his own civilians.
"We would've saved tens of thousands of lives in Syria and brought about what the president stated his goal was, which was to overthrow Assad . . . Certainly, if we had acted earlier in Syria, we would've faced a much less threatening problem today in Iraq.''
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