Hillary drops into Iraq

Hillary Clinton with Nuri al-Maliki and interpreter, April 25, 2009   Just when we thought Clinton would only be making 57,622 miles of foreign trips in her first 100 days as secretary of state, she made a surprise trip to Iraq and Lebanon this weekend. (Above, she speaks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, right, ...

586379_090427_ClintonInIraq2.jpg
586379_090427_ClintonInIraq2.jpg

 

Just when we thought Clinton would only be making 57,622 miles of foreign trips in her first 100 days as secretary of state, she made a surprise trip to Iraq and Lebanon this weekend. (Above, she speaks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, right, with an interpreter's assistance.)

This trip came right after four suicide bombings in two days killed more than 160 people in Iraq. Was this supposed to be a "Hillary to the rescue" moment? Secretary Clinton played down the spike in violence, however, reports the Washington Post. She told reporters that the suicide bombings were "a signal that the rejectionists fear Iraq is going in the right direction" and that there was "no sign" sectarian violence was flaring up again. For the sake of Iraq, let's hope those comments don't end up being vaguely reminiscent of when former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in 2005 said the Iraqi insurgency was "in the last throes."

Hillary Clinton with Nuri al-Maliki and interpreter, April 25, 2009

Hillary Clinton with Nuri al-Maliki and interpreter, April 25, 2009
 

Just when we thought Clinton would only be making 57,622 miles of foreign trips in her first 100 days as secretary of state, she made a surprise trip to Iraq and Lebanon this weekend. (Above, she speaks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, right, with an interpreter’s assistance.)

This trip came right after four suicide bombings in two days killed more than 160 people in Iraq. Was this supposed to be a “Hillary to the rescue” moment? Secretary Clinton played down the spike in violence, however, reports the Washington Post. She told reporters that the suicide bombings were “a signal that the rejectionists fear Iraq is going in the right direction” and that there was “no sign” sectarian violence was flaring up again. For the sake of Iraq, let’s hope those comments don’t end up being vaguely reminiscent of when former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in 2005 said the Iraqi insurgency was “in the last throes.”

At a town hall-type meeting, she sought to reassure Iraqis of the United States’ commitment to their country, even as U.S. forces are set to withdraw from Iraqi cities in two months and the number of U.S. troops in the country is planned to plunge from about 140,000 to 50,000 or even fewer by the summer of next year.

One human rights activist told Clinton, it “looks like to us that the situation of Iraq is not so important or it’s not in the same level of importance for the new administration.”

In her response, Clinton said, “[We] are very committed, but the nature of our commitment may look somewhat different because we’re going to be withdrawing our combat troops over the next few years.” She emphasized that the United States should provide greater support for civilian projects.

Added to the fact that the United States is also bogged down with its Great Recession and problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it’s understandable that Clinton’s remarks sound contradictory. U.S. troops are going to be leaving while suicide bombings just spiked, and Clinton said the United States is as committed as ever.

One Iraqi journalist told Clinton: “[F]rankly, some people are afraid and concerned what will happen as a result of that withdrawal. … [T]here are so many people here and so many citizens who do not have enough trust and confidence in the Iraqi forces.”

What a situation Clinton has inherited. What would you do if you were Hillary?

Photo: Iraqi Prime Minister office via Getty Images

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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