McCain Calls for Obama’s National Security Team to Resign Over Iraq

Fuming Republican senators blast the administration for abandoning Iraq as Sen. John McCain says Obama’s national security team should resign.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 21: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) talks with reporters after stepping off the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol November 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Senate voted 52-48 to invoke the so-called 'nuclear option', voting to change Senate rules on the controversial filibuster for most presidential nominations with a simple majority vote.
National Journal
Kevin Baron, Defense One
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Kevin Baron, Defense One
June 12, 2014, 11:13 a.m.

Roar­ing onto the Sen­ate floor as swaths of Ir­aq fall to in­sur­gent con­trol, Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., said the en­tire Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion na­tion­al se­cur­ity team, in­clud­ing Joint Chiefs Chair­man Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey, should resign for fail­ing to keep Ir­aq se­cure.

“Could all this have been avoided? “¦The an­swer is ab­so­lutely yes,” Mc­Cain said. “If I sound angry it’s be­cause I am angry.”

Mc­Cain has re­mained Con­gress’ biggest ad­voc­ate for keep­ing U.S.mil­it­ary forces in Ir­aq to main­tain the se­cur­ity gains of the Ir­aq War, and its loudest crit­ic of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for fail­ing to con­vince Ir­aqi Pres­id­ent Nouri al-Ma­lik to per­mit U.S. troops to stay past 2011.

Pres­id­ent Barack Obama said his White House na­tion­al se­cur­ity team has been work­ing “around the clock” on op­tions for Ir­aq. “Ir­aq’s go­ing to need more help,” he said Thursday in the Oval Of­fice, “I don’t rule out any­thing be­cause we do have a stake in mak­ing sure that these ji­hadists are not get­ting a per­man­ent foot hold in either Ir­aq or Syr­ia, for that mat­ter.”

The United States is con­sid­er­ing “short term, im­me­di­ate things that will need to be done mil­it­ar­ily — and our na­tion­al se­cur­ity team is look­ing at all the op­tions,” he said.

Mc­Cain said Obama should re­place that team be­cause they failed to pro­tect Ir­aq and are mak­ing the same mis­take in pulling out of an equally vul­ner­able Afgh­anistan. Mc­Cain said Obama should in­stead re­call “those who suc­ceeded in Ir­aq.”

“It’s the time that the pres­id­ent got a new na­tion­al se­cur­ity team,” he said. He sug­ges­ted put­ting re­tired Gen. Dav­id Pet­raeus, the former com­mand­er of the Ir­aq war, U.S. Cent­ral Com­mand and the CIA, in charge. Mc­Cain said Obama also should re­call Mar­ine Corps Gen. Jim Mat­tis, former CENT­COM com­mand­er; re­tired Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Jack Keane, chair­man of the board for the In­sti­tute for the Study of War and lead ad­voc­ate for the Ir­aq surge; and Robert Kagan, seni­or fel­low at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, who was Mc­Cain’s seni­or for­eign policy ad­visor dur­ing his los­ing 2008 pres­id­en­tial bid against Obama.

Mc­Cain has long been a polit­ic­al and mil­it­ary op­pon­ent of De­mp­sey’s. Last year, he threatened to hold the chair­man’s pro forma con­firm­a­tion for a second term, and he has used sev­er­al hear­ings as a chance to prod De­mp­sey in­to ad­mit­ting the Ir­aq surge was a suc­cess, as Mc­Cain be­lieves. De­mp­sey and Mc­Cain have also faced off over De­mp­sey’s re­luct­ance to sup­port U.S. mil­it­ary in­volve­ment in the Syr­i­an civil war. On Thursday, Mc­Cain said, De­mp­sey “has gone along with this policy for a long time. We need a new chair­man.”

Mc­Cain also said “We need a new na­tion­al se­cur­ity ad­visor,” call­ing out Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Ad­visor Susan Rice.

“What’s the pres­id­ent do­ing? Tak­ing a nap?” said House Speak­er John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a sep­ar­ate ap­pear­ance on Cap­it­ol Hill.

Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Chair­man Carl Lev­in, D-Mich., in a state­ment noted that Ir­aq’s woes dated to the 2003 U.S.in­va­sion that was ex­ecuted “without ad­equate con­sid­er­a­tion for the con­sequences,” and con­tin­ued be­cause Ir­aqi lead­ers ig­nored U.S. pleas to find polit­ic­al unity after Amer­ic­an forces with­drew.

“It’s un­clear how air strikes on our part can suc­ceed un­less the Ir­aqi army is will­ing to fight, and that’s un­cer­tain giv­en the fact that sev­er­al Ir­aqi army di­vi­sions have melted away,” Lev­in said. “While all op­tions should be con­sidered, the prob­lem in Ir­aq has not been so much a lack of dir­ect U.S. mil­it­ary in­volve­ment, but a lack of re­con­cili­ation on the part of Ir­aqi lead­ers.”

But Mc­Cain in­dic­ated time won’t al­low for much de­lib­er­a­tion. “Every hour the op­tions be­come few­er and few­er as IS­IS, the most rad­ic­al ter­ror­ist group alive, sweeps across Ir­aq,” Mc­Cain said. He cri­ti­cized Obama for de­clar­ing the Ir­aq war over and with­draw­ing troops be­fore at­tain­ing “vic­tory.”

“The Ir­aq war did not end be­cause the forces against Ir­aq and with­in Ir­aq were still un­defeated. The con­flict in Afgh­anistan will not be over two years from now, in 2017, when the fi­nal Amer­ic­an is sched­uled to leave Afgh­anistan. Please learn the les­sons,” he said, to abate “this dir­ect threat to the na­tion­al se­cur­ity of this na­tion.”

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