McCain says Maliki needs to 'reach out' to Iraq's Sunnis

Jan. 12, 2014 at 12:53 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. John McCain said Sunday Iraq's prime minister would have to reach out to his rivals if he wanted to improve the country's security situation.

McCain, R-Ariz., told CNN's "State of the Union" that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was paying the price for heavy-handed treatment of Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority.

"Maliki has got to...reach out to the Sunni," McCain said. " He has got to have reconciliation."

McCain, a senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, proposed sending former U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker or retired Gen. David Petreaus, the former U.S. commander in Iraq, to Baghdad to consult with Maliki on ways to defuse the upsurge in fighting that culminated with the occupation of Fallujah by fighters tied to al-Qaida. "Maliki trusts them, and [they can] try and get this thing sorted out," McCain said. "Because it is not just Iraq. When you look at Iraq-Syria, you are seeing an al Qaida enclave there and that is very dangerous to American national security."

McCain said the fall of Fallujah was the price the United States was paying for what he considered President Obama's rush to withdraw troops from Iraq. "This president wanted out and we got out," said McCain. "They would never say the number of troops that they wanted to have there, so Maliki decided to go his own way. And we are now seeing dramatically increased Iranian influence there in Iraq."

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