Jimmy Carter: President Obama blew it on ISIL
Former President Jimmy Carter is criticizing President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, saying he has shifting policies and waited too long to take action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
In an interviewed published Tuesday in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the 39th president said the Obama administration, by not acting sooner, allowed ISIL to build up its strength.
“[W]e waited too long. We let the Islamic State build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria,” he said, using an alternate name for the terrorist group. “Then when [ISIL] moved into Iraq, the Sunni Muslims didn’t object to their being there and about a third of the territory in Iraq was abandoned.”
The administration has launched airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria, the group that has swept across much of northern and central Iraq and has released videos of its members beheading two U.S. journalists and two British aid workers.
Carter said Obama’s air campaign against ISIL in Iraq has “a possibility of success,” provided that some troops are available on the ground. He did not specify whether he meant U.S. or other ground forces.
The former Democratic president and Georgia governor also said the president has shifted his Middle East policy on several occasions.
“It changes from time to time,” he said of the president’s Middle East strategy. “I noticed that two of his secretaries of defense, after they got out of office, were very critical of the lack of positive action on the part of the president,” Carter added, in reference to former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, who have each released a memoir detailing frustrations with Obama’s foreign policy and management style. In particular, Panetta, who stepped down from the post last year, has criticized Obama in several interviews since the release of his book earlier this week.
Former presidents are often seen as reluctant to criticize one another and the sitting president out of respect for the difficulty and pressures of the job, and former Republican President George W. Bush has repeatedly declined to disparage his successor. But Carter has previously spoken out against Obama’s policies on drones and surveillance programs, and last year called the implementation of the Affordable Care Act “questionable at best.”
In Tuesday’s interview, Carter continued his criticism of Obama’s targeted killings program.
“I really object to the killing of people, particularly Americans overseas who haven’t been brought to justice and put on trial,” citing the administration’s acknowledgment in 2013 that it had killed four U.S. citizens with drones in the Middle East. Carter said those killings “[violate] our Constitution and human rights.”