The crisis in Iraq proves without a doubt that al-Qaida "is on the march" once more, says Paul Wolfowitz, of the American Enterprise Institute.
The former Pentagon official told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV
that both political parties "keep referring to this as a Shia-Sunni conflict."
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"I defy you to find one of them who can explain to you what a Shia is or a Sunni," he said. "This is not just a sectarian conflict. This is al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is on the march back. It is not on the road to defeat, as the president has so often said."
For now, he added, the United States needs "to be helping the people who are helping themselves to fight these extremists."
"Unfortunately, to some extent, that means in [the Iraq] crisis we have to help [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki, but we need to make it clear that the continuation of his behavior that divides Iraqis that should be united in fighting the extremists, that behavior has to stop," he said.
Wolfowitz said "there are a lot of people to blame for where we are" in Iraq.
"Unfortunately, you have to start with Prime Minister Maliki," he said. "A lot of people outside the government, people with experience in Iraq . . . said this man is deepening sectarian divisions in Iraq, stupidly and senselessly. We walked away from Iraq when we shouldn't have. I know that Maliki didn't seem to want to have an agreement to keep us there, but we didn't seem terribly eager to stay and the result has greatly worsened the situation."
Relying on Iran to help restore order could be disastrous, he added.
"Iran is a player in this, unfortunately, and I'm not saying that it doesn't make sense to talk with them and find out what they're doing and perhaps warn them against some of the things they are doing, but the idea that seems to be implied . . . that they might actually want to play a so-called constructive role in Iraq, it's already clear what role they want to play in Iraq, and it's not constructive."
Wolfowitz also told Malzberg that the captured Benghazi attack suspect shouldn't be tried in civilian court because the United States risks "surrendering our ability to get intelligence" from the Libyan-based terrorist.
Ahmed Abu Khattala, of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, "is a combatant in a terrorist war against the United States," he said. "I don't believe that as a general matter it's the right thing to do," to bring him before a civilian court."
"I guess one of the big questions will be, by doing that, are we surrendering our ability to get intelligence from him? . . . It's not over, and if the administration wants to pretend that it's over, that's very misleading, and it's impossible to develop smart policies when you proceed from false assumptions."
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