US State Dept.: Iraq Debacle was Biden’s Portfolio

Jen Psaki says Biden was 'running point on Iraq' in apparent attempt to shift blame from Obama for ISIS debacle.

Mark Langfan,

Kerry and Psaki (R)
Kerry and Psaki (R)

At the daily State Department briefing on Friday, the blame-game over the Obama policy catastrophes of Iraq and Syria seems to have gone super-nova, when Jen Psaki, the State Department Spokesperson, appeared to insulate President Barack Obama, and directly indict Vice President Joe Biden over the debacle, by claiming the 2009-2011 Iraq total withdrawal “was the Vice President’s portfolio.”

In a peppery questioning of Spokesperson Psaki by a reporter, the reporter constantly interjected “So it’s his [Biden’s] fault,” and Psaki didn’t reject the accusation out-of-hand. Instead, Psaki pointedly let the accusation go virtually unchallenged while she finished her response.

While she eventually halfheartedly denied Iraq was Biden’s “fault,” Psaki immediately pointedly re-emphasized that, “I was saying, actually making the point – and it’s well known – that the Vice President had this [the Iraqi] portfolio . . . that we elevated it [the Iraqi portfolio] to the Vice President. That was who was running point on Iraq."

During her response, Psaki specifically failed to remotely mention that President Obama had any decision-making role in the “Iraqi-portfolio.”

The State Department Spokesperson’s clear attempt to pin the Iraqi debacle and ISIS on Biden could point to a finger-pointing meltdown inside the Administration itself, and raises many additional questions. Did President Obama himself, sanction Psaki’s attempt to call Iraq “Biden’s portfolio,” or was it Secretary Kerry’s decision?

It appears there had to be an “executive decision” by Psaki’s superiors before she would have explicitly staked out her “Iraq was Biden’s portfolio” response.

This latest example of “blame-everybody-else-but-Obama,” closely follows President Obama’s deflecting blame by making the highly irregular excuse to CBS News about his own ISIS intelligence failure that “I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.”

Obama’s statement made it appear it was Clapper’s fault and not Obama’s fault. A fierce backlash to Obama’s assignment of the blame to Clapper immediately ensued.

In any event, this intra-administration backbiting may be a watershed event inside the Obama Administration itself, and signal possible jockeying as to whom from the Obama administration may run for president of the United States. Up to now, ex-Obama-administration members writing memoirs, like Defense Secretary Gates, Secretary of State Clinton, and Defense Secretary Panetta, have leveled withering, and highly unusual, criticism against Obama’s decisions in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq while Obama is still in office.

The specific interchange between Spokesperson Psaki and the reporter went as follows:

“MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. The fact is the Vice President of the United States, who is higher ranking than the Secretary of State, had the Iraq portfolio and ran point on Iraq, and went to Iraq --

QUESTION: So it’s his fault.

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. Went to Iraq – I don’t know the number the times, I’d certainly defer to my colleagues at the White House – and was closely engaged with this issue. There were a range of officials who were working on this within the government – including Secretary Panetta, including Vice President Biden, including Secretary Clinton – who agreed that we could have a residual force there if we could have protections from troops. But we know we couldn’t force the Iraqi Government, a sovereign country, to agree to that.


MS. PSAKI: They didn’t.

QUESTION: But the criticism is that you didn’t use the leverage that you could have had, or that you did have, to get there. And from what you’re just saying, I mean, so this is – this was the Vice President’s portfolio, so that everything that’s gone wrong --

MS. PSAKI: Well, that –

QUESTION: -- in Iraq since is his fault?

MS. PSAKI: No. I was saying, actually making the point – and it’s well known – that the Vice President had this portfolio –


MS. PSAKI: – that we elevated it to the Vice President. That was who was running point on Iraq. It just – those criticisms just don’t bear out the facts from the ground. We could not force the Iraqi Government to agree to have a troop presence and – when they did not want to have a troop presence there. And obviously, they didn’t want to give us the protections we needed to have a troop presence there.”