Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has strongly criticised President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in Syria, saying that the failure to provide military assistance to moderate opposition forces in Syria left a power vacuum that the jihadists have now filled.
During an interview with The Atlantic weekly, Clinton said: “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against [President Bashar] Assad – there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle – the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.”
The interview took place before the US president launched air strikes against forces with the Islamic State in Iraq, but was only published on Sunday.
Clinton criticised Obama for lacking a true approach to foreign policy, pointing out that, “Great nations need organising principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organising principle,” in reference to the way Obama describes his own efforts.
Several political observers believe this is the sharpest criticism of the president that Clinton has made since leaving office in 2012. She is widely expected to run for president in 2016, and has already started to forcefully criticise the Obama administration’s foreign policy, despite leading the State Department during his first term in office.
Clinton warned of the possibility of jihadist groups’ crossing into Europe and the US, saying: “One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States. Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’etre is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank—and we all fit into one of these categories. How do we try to contain that? I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat.”
Clinton argued that US foreign policy succeeds when it works according to a general plan with a clear goal, for example during the Cold War era. She also vigorously defended Israel’s military campaign against Palestinians in Gaza, suggesting that all “the responsibility rests with Hamas” for the high Palestinian civilian death toll, leading the interviewer to remark, “she is leaving no daylight at all between the Israelis and herself.”