Right-wing media have claimed that the current violence in Iraq is the result of the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq and President Obama's willful failure to secure a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In reality, Iraq refused the terms of a SOFA with the U.S. despite Obama's efforts to maintain a military presence there.
Crisis In Iraq Escalates As Militants Seize Major Cities
Time: Iraq's Second Largest City Falls To Militants. Time reported on June 10 that Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, fell to the Sunni militant group Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS):
The fall of Iraq's second largest city to Islamist extremists Tuesday sends an alarming message about the deterioration of a country where the U.S. spent eight years, 4,500 lives and $1.7 trillion. Mosul, a city of 1.8 million located in the far north of the country, long cultivated a reputation as a military town. But Iraqi soldiers threw down their guns and stripped off their uniforms as the insurgents approached on Tuesday, according to officials stunned by the collapse of its defenses. [Time, 6/10/14]
Conservative Media Ignore Or Dismiss Obama's Attempt To Maintain Military Presence In Iraq
Breitbart Omits Maliki's Role In Withdrawal Of American Troops From Iraq. A June 15 column on Breitbart.com didn't provide any mention of the fact that Maliki refused the terms of a status of forces agreement with the U.S.:
Lastly, the fact that Senator Obama built a campaign narrative on the foundation that Afghanistan is the “good war” and Iraq was the “bad war” locked his administration onto a politically defined track that short-changed America's national security interests. Once in office, commitment to this narrative - that was deemed to have helped him win office - meant that the Iraqi campaign had to end at all costs. So great was the pressure that the administration was prepared to pull all US forces out in 2011 without securing the standard Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Baghdad that would have allowed us to leave enough forces in country to suppress and deter violence against the Maliki regime and keep the country functioning after more than 4,000 Americans had died to free it from Saddam Hussein. [Breitbart.com, 6/15/14]
Fox Guest: Obama Created Problem Of Lack Of SOFA In Iraq. Andy Card, the White House chief of staff under President George W. Bush, appeared on the June 16 edition of America's Newsroom to claim that “not having a status of forces agreement in Iraq is a horrible problem that President Obama is facing, and he created that problem.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 6/15/14]
Fox's MacCallum: Many Feel SOFA “Could Have Been Given A Much Stronger Effort.” On the June 16 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum said that many people feel the status of forces agreement “could have been given a much stronger effort” by President Obama. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 6/16/14]
Limbaugh: Iraq Situation Is Responsibility Of Obama Administration; “He's The One That Got Out Of There.” On the June 16 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed the crisis in Iraq is “owned by Obama; he's the one that got out of there.” He later added that “Maliki asked us to maintain a force in Iraq from 2011 on.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Program, 6/16/14]
Fox's Pavlich: Obama “Failed To Negotiate” SOFA And Blamed It On The Iraqis. On the June 13 edition of Outnumbered, co-host Katie Pavlich claimed, “President Obama failed to negotiate a status of forces agreement and then he blamed the Iraqis and acted like they didn't want the agreement when they did.” She concluded, “the president left that conversation before it was over because he made a political decision.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/13/14]
Washington Times: White House Pulled Out Of Iraq Instead Of Negotiating Compromise. A Washington Times article on June 15 claimed that the Obama administration refused to engage in “tough negotiations” on the SOFA:
Once Mr. al-Maliki repeated his demand for criminal jurisdiction over U.S. forces, the Obama administration stopped talking, a former defense official said. The White House planned to pull out of Iraq instead of engaging in tough negotiations to reach a compromise. [The Washington Times, 6/15/14]
Fox's Wallace: “There Are Arguments About How Hard Obama Pushed” For SOFA. Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked of the violence in Iraq, “How did President Obama let it get to this point?” When his guest, former congresswoman Jane Harman, pointed out that Iraq refused to accept the SOFA, Wallace responded, “there are arguments about how hard Obama pushed” for it. [Fox News, Fox News Sunday, 6/15/14]
Fox Host: Many Say Obama Administration “Did Not Do Enough To Negotiate With Al-Maliki.” On the June 16 edition of Fox's Happening Now, co-host Eric Shawn asserted that “Many say that the Obama administration did not do enough to negotiate with al-Maliki to get some advisers there.” [Fox News, Happening Now, 6/16/14]
Obama Pushed For Status of Forces Agreement, Iraqi Government Refused
Time: “Iraq's Government, Not Obama, Called Time On U.S. Troop Presence.” An October 2011 Time article titled “Iraq's Government, Not Obama, Called Time on the U.S. Troop Presence,” explained that U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq was “an overwhelmingly popular demand among Iraqis” :
But ending the U.S. troop presence in Iraq was an overwhelmingly popular demand among Iraqis, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appears to have been unwilling to take the political risk of extending it. While he was inclined to see a small number of American soldiers stay behind to continue mentoring Iraqi forces, the likes of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, on whose support Maliki's ruling coalition depends, were having none of it. Even the Obama Administration's plan to keep some 3,000 trainers behind failed because the Iraqis were unwilling to grant them the legal immunity from local prosecution that is common to SOF agreements in most countries where U.S. forces are based. [Time, 10/21/11]
AP: SOFA Negotiations Thwarted By Iraqi Government. In October 2011, the Associated Press reported that negotiations for a SOFA were stymied after the Iraqi government refused to grant American troops legal immunity:
But talks ran aground over Iraqi opposition to giving American troops legal immunity that would shield them from Iraqi prosecution. Legal protection for U.S. troops has always angered everyday Iraqis who saw it as simply a way for the Americans to run roughshod over the country. Many Iraqi lawmakers were hesitant to grant immunity for fear of a backlash from constituents.
“When the Americans asked for immunity, the Iraqi side answered that it was not possible,” al-Maliki told a news conference Saturday. “The discussions over the number of trainers and the place of training stopped. Now that the issue of immunity was decided and that no immunity to be given, the withdrawal has started.” [The Huffington Post, 10/22/2011]
The New York Times: “Iraqis Were Unwilling To Accept” Terms Of SOFA. An October 2011 New York Times article provided details of the complicated negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq for a status of forces agreement (emphasis added):
Over the last year, in late-night meetings at the fortified compound of the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, and in videoconferences between Baghdad and Washington, American and Iraqi negotiators had struggled to reach an agreement. All the while, both Mr. Obama and the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, gave the world a wink and nod, always saying that Iraq was ready to stand on its own but never fully closing the door on the possibility of American troops' staying on.
Through the summer, American officials continued to assume that the agreement would be amended, and Mr. Obama was willing to support a continued military presence. In June, diplomats and Iraqi officials said that Mr. Obama had told Mr. Maliki that he was prepared to leave up to 10,000 soldiers to continue training and equipping the Iraqi security forces. Mr. Maliki agreed, but said he needed time to line up political allies.
This month, American officials pressed the Iraqi leadership to meet again at President Talabani's compound to discuss the issue. This time the Americans asked them to take a stand on the question of immunity for troops, hoping to remove what had always been the most difficult hurdle. But they misread Iraqi politics and the Iraqi public. Still burdened by the traumas of this and previous wars, and having watched the revolutions sweeping their region, the Iraqis were unwilling to accept anything that infringed on their sovereignty. [The New York Times, 10/21/11]