Rice Doesn’t Buy GOP Talking Point That Iraq Withdrawal Strengthens Iran

Reposted by arrangement with Think Progress

Condoleezza Rice continued her book tour this week talking with Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin. Rogin pushed Rice to share her reflections on the Obama administration’s foreign policy, and surprisingly, the former Secretary of State chose to distance herself from the right-wing talking point that the end of year troop withdrawal from Iraq will dangerously strengthen Iran’s regional influence.

The go-to criticism leveled by GOP hawks doesn’t hold much water with Rice. She told Rogin:

The Iraqis are good armed forces; they’re buying a lot of our equipment. I think they’ll be able to defend themselves. They continue to need help on the counterterrorism side, and it would have been a good message to Iran. Although I think it’s easy to overstate the degree to which the Iraqis have any attraction to Iran — that’s a pretty lousy relationship, really.

Neocons and various Republicans harshly criticized President Obama for announcing that all U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of the year. Fred and Kimberly Kagan wrote that “it will unquestionably benefit Iran.” Newt Gingrich told an audience, “Don’t kid yourself, it is defeat. Iran is stronger.” Rick Santorum claimed “Iranians now have more sway over the Iraqi government.” And the Bill Kristol “letterhead organization,” the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) wrote, in anticipation of a withdrawal, that the U.S. must maintain a strong presence in Iraq to “help ensure Iraq remains oriented away from Iran and a long-term ally of the United States.”

While neoconservatives and GOP presidential hopefuls are eager to suggest that the Obama administration’s withdrawal from Iraq — in conformity with the Status Of Forces Agreement negotiated and signed by Bush — is a major win for Iran, the former Secretary of State is clearly not buying it.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.