Press Secretary Jay Carney regarding McClatchy's Iraq article

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 26, 2011Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney aboard Air Force One en route Andrews Air Force Base

Aboard Air Force One, En Route Andrews Air Force Base

Q Can I ask an Iraq question? There have been some reports that the President didn’t get very personally involved in the negotiations. Given that a lot of this had to do with Iraqi politics and unable to get to immunity, does it also show that ultimately the administration just didn’t think it was necessary --

MR. CARNEY: I'm glad you asked that, Scott, because that report is just categorically false to suggest that the President and the Vice President hadn’t been in communication with Iraqi leaders, and it turns out that's wrong. The Vice President had many, many conversations with Iraqi leaders over the time period mentioned in that story. The President spoke with Prime Minister Maliki this summer. And it's simply erroneous.

The fact of the matter is, as we discussed and the President announced, the President is keeping his commitment to draw down U.S. forces to zero at the end of this year; to end the American war in Iraq in a responsible way that honors the remarkable sacrifice and service of our men and women in uniform, as well as our civilian personnel, and gives Iraq the best opportunity to build a prosperous and democratic future.

We will continue to have a vital and important relationship with Iraq in the years ahead. The Strategic Framework Agreement, as you know, Scott, is very, very important to the Iraqis and it’s very important to us. And we’re going to build on that. We want a normal relationship, the kind of relationship we have with sovereign nations around the world -- which is why we are so puzzled by those who suggest that keeping this commitment is somehow not the right thing to do, when it was a commitment signed by President Bush, first of all, and secondly, it is -- by fulfilling this commitment, we’re demonstrating the fact that largely because of, or certainly in part because of the remarkable efforts by our American men and women in uniform and civilians, Iraq is now in control of its destiny, and able to secure its own country.

That has been the case step by step in this process. When the President said we would remove U.S. forces from Iraqi cities by the summer of 2009, people said, oh, well, that will be terrible, it will -- these critics said that will be terrible and cause a dramatic increase in violence. The opposite happened.

Same thing when the President said we’d draw down to 50,000 troops and end our combat mission -- the situation improved. And it improved because of the remarkable work that our forces have done with the Iraqi security forces.

So the President is very confident that this is a course of action that is good for the United States and good for Iraq.

Q Jay, why wasn’t there any record then of all these calls that you say occurred? Because the McClatchy report looked at embassy logs --

MR. CARNEY: There was actually a readout of at least one of these calls that they seem to have missed. But the fact is, as you know, Jim, we don’t read out every call we have, the President has or the Vice President has with foreign leaders.

The Vice President, as you know because he was asked to basically oversee our Iraq policy by the President at the beginning of this term, was throughout my time working for him and has continued to be in regular consultation and contact with Iraqi leaders, as well as other interlocutors who have worked with us on Iraq, including the United Nations and others. So I’m puzzled by the piece.

Q In light of that, though, will you be producing some of the logs or records --

MR. CARNEY: I don’t know. I mean, to produce -- to prove an utterly false story, I mean, it’s just -- and, again, some of this stuff has been read out. I can tell you, as a fact, that the Vice President was in regular consultation with the Iraqi leaders. The President had a conversation with Prime Minister Maliki this summer. Again, I’m puzzled by it.