Panetta puts the onus for Iraq withdrawal, ISIS’s rise squarely on Obama

Ever since the rise of ISIS in Iraq, with the subsequent re-engagement in that country by American warplanes in the air and advisers on the ground, there has been a debate about whether the U.S. erred in leaving Iraq completely by the end of 2011. At the heart of the issue are the negotiations that took place prior to the withdrawal, aimed at changing the Status of Forces Agreement left by the Bush administration. Depending on who you ask — or when you ask President Obama, as I’ll demonstrate below — either the U.S. didn’t want to stay, or the Iraqi government insisted we leave. I have suggested history would have to sort out this question.

Well, the writing of that episode of history is under way, and the latest voice is that of Leon Panetta, who served as Obama’s CIA director before taking over as defense secretary in July 2011. His account of that tenure, “Worthy Fights,” hits bookshelves next week — and an adapted excerpt of the Iraq SOFA question was published by Time. He argues that it was the White House that insisted on a complete withdrawal. Read the complete excerpt, but here is the most relevant part:

“Privately, the various leadership factions in Iraq all confided that they wanted some U.S. forces to remain as a bulwark against sectarian violence. But none was willing to take that position publicly, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki concluded that any Status of Forces Agreement, which would give legal protection to those forces, would have to be submitted to the Iraqi parliament for approval. That made reaching agreement very difficult given the internal politics of Iraq, but representatives of the Defense and State departments, with scrutiny from the White House, tried to reach a deal.

“We had leverage. We could, for instance, have threatened to withdraw reconstruction aid to Iraq if al-Maliki would not support some sort of continued U.S. military presence. My fear, as I voiced to the President and others, was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we’d seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S. Iraq’s stability was not only in Iraq’s interest but also in ours. I privately and publicly advocated for a residual force that could provide training and security for Iraq’s military.

“Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy did her best to press that position, which reflected not just my views but also those of the military commanders in the region and the Joint Chiefs. But the President’s team at the White House pushed back, and the differences occasionally became heated. Flournoy argued our case, and those on our side viewed the White House as so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests.”

In the end, Panetta writes, “the White House coordinated the negotiations but never really led them. Officials there seemed content to endorse an agreement if State and Defense could reach one, but without the President’s active advocacy, al-Maliki was allowed to slip away.” The former secretary argues that “a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country.”

Compounding the problem, in an interview with “60 Minutes” Panetta said the military was advising the president to arm Syrian rebels back in the fall of 2012. That would have been shortly after Obama drew his ill-advised “red line” about chemical weapons use, and roughly a year before Damascus called Obama’s bluff and he publicly vacillated about what to do. Of course, it was also during an election in which Obama was running on the premise that Islamic terrorists were “on the run.” Two years later, we are finally getting around to taking the advice to arm the rebels — though with greater risk, because of ISIS’s growth.

Now, there’s reason to view Panetta’s account with some skepticism. For one, as the defense secretary at that time, he has motivation to portray his team’s role in the negotiations as favorably as possible. For another, Panetta served in Bill Clinton’s administration and could be viewed as a Clinton loyalist trying to soften any criticism of the role Hillary played in these negotiations at the State Department.

But there are handy rebuttals to those lines of thinking as well. First, Obama himself appeared to take credit for insisting on withdrawal during one of his October 2012 debates with Mitt Romney:

Of course, he was singing a different tune once ISIS had been promoted from JV terror group to the varsity team:

So, Panetta’s account seems to be more than merely self-serving.

As for the Hillary angle, I see some risk for Team Clinton in trying to make Obama out to be the bad guy on this or any other foreign-policy mistake. For starters, Obama was doing precisely what the Democratic Party’s base wanted at that time. I don’t get the sense that many Democratic loyalists now blame the rise of ISIS on our withdrawal from Iraq; they remain stuck on “blame Bush.” I’m not sure there’s enough daylight for Hillary to drive a wedge between the base and Obama on this issue. And as far as those who aren’t hard-core Democrats go, I don’t know that portraying Hillary as unable to convince Obama of her position necessarily helps her appear more presidential.

So, I’m inclined to think Panetta is probably telling this story because it’s the way he saw things while he was at the Pentagon. And the way he saw things isn’t a particularly flattering one for the president.

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140 comments
consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

obama campaigned on getting out of iraq - the wrong war - and trying to make a go of it in afghanistan - the right war (for him initially anyway). he then grew up and learned what everyone here should already know - you can't impose your will through the barrel of a gun on people you know very little to nothing about. so pannetta's views on this subject isn't really all that surprising, is it? 


we, and our 'friends', have made a mess of the region. our presence is, frankly, no longer productive or stabilizing. we should be gone. let those we've armed deal with the problems they've in essence created. imho being the world's policeman / whipping boy in this region has gotten us very little in return. but the oil keep flowing. drill baby drill

MHSmith
MHSmith

Love these continued deflections from what Mr. Panetta had to say, Kyle. 



MHSmith
MHSmith

@FIGMO2 

On another day I'll be more than glad to take this subject up when Kyle brings it to fore.


notagain
notagain

If a bullfrog had wings.If our President had a little help,cooperation,stead all the stumbling blocks I'm sure he could have done better on lots of things.

MHSmith
MHSmith

You gotta love it when the budget and deficits are brought in to defend questionable judgement calls made by President Obama. 



Seriously, much as I'd like and many other Conservatives would like to have a - HONEST - budget debate, the budget is not the focus of this article. However, two things are givens on the money we spend on defense and debt: a) We are not going to default on our debt b) nor will any President, Obama included, fail to defend the American people no matter how much it costs or how much he must spend.

.

Whether Obama's decisions were good or bad is a judgement call on all of our parts and that of history.



Then again, on complaints of undue and unjust judgements:

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When has anyone from the left on this BLOG ever, "EVER", had one good thing to say about President Bush or any of his decisions?

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None of that matters to the liberals on this blog either?!



*

*



U.S. Military Budget 

~ How Much the U.S. Spends on Defense Will Surprise You



The U.S. military budget is $756.4 billion for FY 2015. This includes:

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  • $85.4 billion for Overseas Contingency Funds for the wind-down of the War in Afghanistan.

     .

  • $175.4 billion for defense-related agencies and functions. This includes the Veterans Administration ($65.3 billion), the State Department ($42.6 billion), Homeland Security ($38.2 billion), FBI and Cybersecurity in the Department of Justice ($17.6 billion), and the National Nuclear Security Administration in the Department of Energy ($11.7 billion). 

.

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That makes military spending the "second largest" Federal government expenditure, after "Social Security ($896 billion)." Military spending is dropping, thanks to sequestration and the end of the War in Iraq in 2011. It's all-time high was $851.3 billion in FY 2010. (Source: Office of Management and Budget, 2015 Budget, Summary Tables, Table S-11)

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Military spending is greater than Medicare ($529 billion), Medicaid ($331 billion), or the interest payment on the debt ($251). It's also more than the three next largest departments combined: Health and Human Services ($73.1 billion), Education ($68.6 billion) and Housing and Urban Development ($32.6 billion).

If all military spending could somehow be safely eliminated [which it cannot], there would be a budget surplus of $174.8 billion, instead of a $564 billion budget deficit.

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 http://useconomy.about.com/od/usfederalbudget/p/military_budget.htm


Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

@MHSmith 

a) We are not going to default on our debt b) nor will any President, Obama included, fail to defend the American people no matter how much it costs or how much he must spend.

--------------------------------------------

OK, let's add some givens based on the logic of those ridiculous points, alright? 

a) We are never going to have a recession again, b) we will not be attacked again. 

DeborahinAthens
DeborahinAthens

What unmitigated BS! The agreement to leave Iraq was negotiated by Bush. The Iraquis did not want us there! So tell me again how this can be laid at Obama's feet?? The only way to get out of this agreement would be for Obama to renegotiate with the corrupt Iraqi regime and with Congress. We all know how that would work. Don't you Cons get it? We, the People DO. NOT. WANT. TO. MAKE. WAR! President Obama was elected and re-elected because we thought he was our best chance to get out of this crap! He was NOT elected and re-elected because of the BS reasons the Republicans keep insisting are the "real" reasons. If McCain or Romney were president, we would have hundreds of thousands of American troops fighting and dying to eradicate a cancer that cannot be eradicated. We want our troops home. Secure the borders of this country step up international police work. THAT will be what will prevent these animals from harming Americans. If they rampage across their own countries and behead whatever Muslim tribe is different from them and blow up schools for their own people , who gives a crap? If we leave, shut the door on the region, figure out how to get alternative energy elsewhere, eventually they will figure out how to make peace between their warring factions. If they don't? Maybe they will just all be dead. Problem solved.

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

@DeborahinAthens 

I like it Deborah.  So bamster could not and would not look at the evolving foreign situation and act accordingly because the American people were leading him "from behind" or because he is so inflexible? 

He has secured the borders?  He has figured out how to get energy elsewhere? 

"eventually they will figure out how to make peace between their warring factions. If they don't? Maybe they will just all be dead. Problem solved."

I think your assessment and bamsters is "simple solutions" for simple minds in a complex world, which is why bamster's brand of non-leadership does not work. 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@CherokeeCounty 

 as Director of the CIA, I had talked with Prime Minister Maliki regarding this issue, and then when I became Secretary of Defense, I had a number of conversations with him as well in which I made very clear, along with General Austin and Ambassador Jeffrey, that it was extremely important that we needed to have a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), that we needed to have immunities for our troops, that we needed to have that protection. He believed that there was possibly a way to do this that did not involve having to go to the parliament, to their council for approval.

It was very clear, among all the attorneys here, that we absolutely had to have their approval through their parliament if we were going to have a SOFA that provided the kind of immunities we needed. I cannot tell you how many times we made that clear. I believe the Prime Minister understood that, and it was at the point where he basically said I cannot deliver it, I cannot get it through the parliament that we were then left with the decisions that were made.

---

but that was then, this is now, and those books ain't gonna sell themselves I guess.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@stands_for_decibels @CherokeeCounty That contradicts what he's saying now ... how? He says right there, as quoted in the OP, that he tried to convince the Iraqis. What he's saying now is that he believes the president could have successfully leaned on Maliki and gotten it done, but the president chose not to do that. Did you expect him to criticize the president so publicly while the negotiations were still going on?

lvg
lvg

This is pure BS.   Two to Three trillion dollars spent on Iraq war according to CBO and majority of Americans wanted war to end and our troops out in 2009. We cannot afford to keep residual forces all over the world . Same cons like Kyle scream about the deficit. Majority of deficit created since 2002 is due to two things:

Annual defense budget increasing over 250% each year  (from 2001) and tax cuts. In addiiton we were funnelling billions to sunnis in Iraq as war reparations to stand down. Tell me Kyle where all this extra money for Iraq is?why do we still have dozens of military bases in  Germany, Italy and Japan. Is World War II over?


Meantime Obama has put together most comprehensive coalition ever in combating ISIL. How about a little reporting on all the victories in past week? Iraqi, Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces recaptured the most important border crossing from ISIL  and Turkey voting to join coalition and put boots on the ground in Syria; British, Australian, Danish planes joining air attacks on ISIL;  and sixth major terrorist leader killed by US since Obama was president. 


None of that matters on this blog.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

As he has in the past, Bush refused to "second guess" President Obama's decisions, but noted that he was in favor of leaving behind a residual force of about 10,000-15,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.


"The president has to make the choices he thinks are important. I'm not going to second guess our president. I understand how tough the job is. To have a former president bloviating and second-guessing is, I don't think, good for the presidency or the country."


http://foxnewsinsider.com/2014/10/02/exclusive-george-w-bush-says-some-us-forces-should-have-stayed-iraq


Class act^^.


Can we expect that from the next guy when he's retired?

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@IReportYouWhine I don't think Obama will be saying much since he checked out long ago. He's just biding his time...going through the motions at this point.

TBS
TBS

@IReportYouWhine 

Wonder why he wasn't able to negotiate that before he signed the SOFA in 2008?

After the fact talk is just talk. 

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@FIGMO2 @IReportYouWhine That would be the only benefit of a hillary presidency, watching her and obama snipe at each other all the time. 


The campaign trail is obama's life, he's void of leadership and basic reasoning skills, so it's on the road again, yammering about "cars stuck in the ditch" and other low info type nagging.


President Walker will probably have him committed, under the provisions of obamacare, of course.

JKLtwo
JKLtwo

It has to be CNN's fault.  If they had reported on ISIS sooner, obama would have seen the report and been able to react sooner.


It's a shame our government doesn't have a method of reporting information to the president.  Maybe they could look into getting something like that...

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

I don't blame Bush or Obama for this. I blame the cowardly Iraqis. We left 2-3 years ago, and they have failed to secure their country.

They are a sovereign nation too cowardly to protect their own sovereignty. There is nothing you can do for them.

If a group tried to form their own nation inside America and use military force, they would all be dead right now. It's because we aren't cowards but Iraqis are.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

And it's the worst thing in the world for the liberals, having to go back and all.

Iraq has an offer on the table right now for troop amnesty, hot off the press.

Apparently, we've been asking about it.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

WaPo interviewed then, PM Nouri al-Maliki on Jan. 16, 2014.

How closely are you in touch with the Obama administration on the current crisis? Have you spoken with Obama?

On my visit yes, I met with him, but Mr. Obama told me Mr. Biden is in charge of the Iraqi file. I’m always in touch with Mr. Biden, like 48 hours ago we talked on the phone with him twice. We are in touch, either directly or through the embassy.

Last time you spoke to Mr. Biden, what was discussed?

He told us how Americans feel relief over how the Iraqi army is dealing with demonstration places and the fight against al-Qaeda. The professional way of the Iraqi army has changed the image in the United States of the Iraqi army.

Typical Obama, passing the buck...

to BIDEN!!??!!

Were it not so sad, it would be laughable.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

The agreement(s) were a lot more complex than any of our leftists want to admit. There was SOFA and then there was a Strategic Framework Agreement.


Questions about what the U.S. side has given up could linger. Yale's Hathaway says the SOFA, as discussed publicly, appears to go beyond agreements negotiated with past allies. "The SOFA is a misnomer here; it's a SOFA-plus. And it's the 'plus' that's controversial." Hathaway says a so-called right-to-fight clause--the legal authority to conduct military missions after the UN mandate expires--is the "linchpin" of the debate. Other experts say the provision requiring U.S. troops to leave Iraqi cities by the summer of 2009 could render them powerless in containing future violence. Among the most discussed changes outlined by the security deal--in addition to withdrawal from cities by mid-2009 and total withdrawal by the end of 2011--are requirements that U.S. combat troops coordinate missions with the Iraqi government; hand over prisoners to Iraqi authorities; relinquish control of the Green Zone; and give Iraqi authorities the lead in monitoring Iraqi airspace. The agreement also allows for nonmilitary contractors to be subject to Iraqi law, a change contracting advocates fear will open civilians up to unfair prosecution.

U.S. officials, meanwhile, have repeatedly stated that neither agreement will tie the hands of the next administration. The agreements "will not establish permanent bases in Iraq, nor will they specify in any fashion the number of American forces to be stationed there," Ambassador David Satterfield, a senior adviser on Iraq policy, told lawmakers in March 2008.

http://www.cfr.org/iraq/us-security-agreements-iraq/p16448#p3

I've read several offerings of the agreement online. The way I read it, any charges brought against combat forces would require collaborative review by both the U.S. and Iraq.

As it turns out:

In place of 'boots on the ground,' US seeks contractors for Iraqhttp://www.stripes.com/news/in-place-of-boots-on-the-ground-us-seeks-contractors-for-iraq-1.301798Will they be operating without immunity?

Trefusis
Trefusis

What a damnably interesting question! So cut-and-dried in the age of declared, formal warfare and unconditional surrender and indisputable conquerors such as Douglas MacArthur.  So fuzzy now.  RoadScholar I believe I see a Slippery-Slide through each of those areas of International Law, right down to rock bottom.  Jeepers, it makes me wonder whether cruel fish at places like Brookings think about such things in advance, and whether golfers-in-residence at the White House ever consider this longrun.  Maybe it's best for foreign influences to leave abruptly and involuntarily, as the British so often had to do, or maybe it's not best.  A fool's game for gradualists, though, just as our Wilsonian "nation-building" pretentions are.  Maybe. Either way, our own people get killed for these vague ideas, called by the Left "ideals". 

Tiberius Constitutionus
Tiberius Constitutionus

@Trefusis What do you call what GWB and his neocons were trying to do in Iraq?  No idealism there.  No sirree, pure practicality.  At its finest.

Trefusis
Trefusis

@Tiberius-Constitutionus @Trefusis  Yes, practicality, I agree.  Whether in the finest, I wouldn't know but I doubt it.  If you really want to parse it there's an important distinction betwixt British Utilitarianism and Pragmatism, the latter of which is this nation's contribution to epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics, not to mention jurisprudence.  About ninety percent of the time it's to do with what works.  At those times it masquerades as something merely convenient and obvious, but when push comes to shove it's really something a bit transcendent over previous lockstep thinkings in the West.  It's more fluid and creative, cooperative and unpredictable--yet deliberately so.  Mexican and Canadian diplomats get this but nobody farther abroad does.  It's our ace-in-the-hole, if only for that reason.  Almost no one coming up now in politics or historiography or diplomacy construes that Americans made the fourth and final contribution to Western Philosophical systems of thought.  (Otherwise, for example, Castro would not have invited Soviet missiles; and, separately, the NEA would have drawn battle lines different from the current ones concerning government schooling).  Yanks simply think differently.  Even Georgians might as well confess complicity in this.  We're like the woman who rejected my proposal on grounds that, while it was I she loved it was the other for whom she'd settle.  The United States is bloody practical.  At best.  In the long term it doesn't make me love her any the less.  Sometimes I fear the present incumbent in the White House can't face these facts.  Yesterday, for example, I heard him say "for broadcast" something so callow that it puckered my sphincter to think of his lobotomization of West Wing staff, youngsters hand-picked for their inability and unwillingness ever to make that truant go to class.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

So as you state, and he writes, were the troops, if the were to stay in Iraq, bounded under US or World law, or bounded by Muslim law?

1Robert
1Robert

I used to respect Panetta but he is throwing Obama under the bus, he must be a racist.

Eustis
Eustis

" there has been a debate about whether the U.S. erred in leaving Iraq completely by the end of 2011"

The biggest mistake was going there to begin with. This never would've happened under Saddam

DirtyBird-Rise-up
DirtyBird-Rise-up

So I guess that small military force was going to advise Maliki to not disenfranchise the Sunni and Baath people. Please stop with this madness.....

King Tut 0603
King Tut 0603

Kyle-

You have some fair points here but Panetta is going to paint this favorably for himself.  Both suggestions could be true: we wanted to leave because that is what the American people wanted and we could not get the SOFA tailored to our demands. But, I don't think it would have done us any good to be stuck in a civil war with people who do not want their own freedom and who are not willing to fight for it.

In terms of Obama vascilating on the Syria issue.  The President said he wanted to take military action and he asked Congress to vote.  They refused to vote on the issue, especially after David Cameron got his hat handed to him by the British Parliment.  For the first time ever Republicans decided they did not want to start a war.  Obviously, theire desire to use the President for cover was a better option for them.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@Tony_King For the first time ever Republicans decided they did not want to start a war. 

I thought you guys would be overjoyed by that!?!

King Tut 0603
King Tut 0603

@DownInAlbany @Tony_King 

I don't mind a fight but it must be a fight that makes sense.  Although we may not have liked Sadaam, the region was stable until we came in and broke it.  Ask yourself why the double standard in terms of Suadi Arabia.  We have a tendency to love some brutal despots and not like others.  This cuases the problems you see now.  Bush sent us down this road and you cannot deny that.  Everything we are seeing is partially a consequence of it.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Watching the videos to which Kyle linked, I can only conclude that Obama relies on people forgetting what he says/said.

Elephants have long memories. Donkeys do little more that bray incessantly...usually in protest when burdened.

schnirt

MarkVV
MarkVV

“So, I’m inclined to think Panetta is probably telling this story because it’s the way he saw things while he was at the Pentagon. And the way he saw things isn’t a particularly flattering one for the president.”


“Not flattering” only for those, who believe that U.S. erred in leaving Iraq completely by the end of 2011. But that is what it is – a belief, for which there is no proof of being right.Had the residual force been left in Iraq, we would be now most likely embroiled in a ground war in Iraq and possibly Syria, and caskets with American flags would be arriving in Dover.

GMFA
GMFA

The Middle East began falling apart once Iraq was invaded. WMD"s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Just to show how illogical the Dems claims that we were forced to leave, because we couldn't assure immunity for our solders is, is the fact we are back and nothing changed, we still have no SOFA or immunity negotiated.


Obama never wanted to be there, he fell over backwards withdrawing, bragged repeatedly about how he brought the boys home and ended the war.  When things went to Heck, all of a sudden it was Maliki's fault.


I know he has no qualms about blaming others and passing the buck on his failures, but how do his sycophants and disciples look at themselves in the mirror and continue to defend the indefensible. 

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

@RafeHollister 

Bingo! 

HE got bin Laden

THEY blew the intelligence. 

Bamster wants to radically change his country.  He does not care about the people in it, nor on the surrounding planet. 

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@RafeHollister Obama burned the "The Buck Stops Here" plaque in the oval office fire place.  He sure didn't want it on his desk.

Don't Tread
Don't Tread

@RafeHollister I believe the term you're looking for is "brainwashed".  It starts in the public schools and continues through college (especially political science classes).

Nobody_Knows
Nobody_Knows

@RafeHollister 

Can you show where the Iraqi government wanted troops to remain in country past the dates Bush agreed to in 08?

If so please post the official Iraqi statement.  That will quickly end all the speculation and innuendo. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@RafeHollister But we arent back.


Not anywhere near like it was before and it wont be either.


Its time for Muslims boys to fight. Americans boys have done enough dying for them. 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@RafeHollister I know he has no qualms about blaming others and passing the buck on his failures, but how do his sycophants and disciples look at themselves in the mirror and continue to defend the indefensible.

It's easy when our liberals wanna blame the 1% for the "misfortunes" of the 99%.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Nobody_Knows @RafeHollister I don't remember them ever wanting us there at anytime, but the Congress, the UN, and GWB thought it was in our national security to be there, so why should we not have "led" them to ask us to stay.  They sure seem to want us back now!

Nobody_Knows
Nobody_Knows

@RafeHollister @Nobody_Knows 

Well apparently "they" meaning the government wanted us there for a time because there was an agreement in place.  

Apparently Bush (See the SOFA in 08 and his own words regarding signing that agreement) nor Obama was able to lead them to ask the US to stay.  


All your spin will just cause people to get dizzy but wont change the fact that Iraq never publicly said they wanted troops to remain after Bush signed the SOFA or leading up to troop withdrawal. 


Even Panetta who the right has just fell in love with this week hasn't quoted any Iraqi officials.


Wonder what that might be?