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Kerry denies Obama has been too passive in Iraq

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 19, 2014 at 7:44 am •  Published: June 19, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry brushed aside criticism of Obama administration Middle East policy Thursday, taking exception to assertions Washington has been too passive in the face of surging terrorism in the region.

Kerry noted the failure of the United States to secure a continuing military arrangement with Iraq's government after U.S. combat forces left. "We didn't have operational theater capacity at the time" of the surge in violence spawned by al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State militants, he said in an interview on NBC.

On the broader issue of Mideast policy, Kerry said the administration has been "deeply engaged" in the region and is the largest source of humanitarian assistance. He said violence is on the rise in Iraq because Syria's Bashir Assad, who has been under siege for at least three years, "is a magnet for terrorists of all walks."

Asked about former Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that President Barack Obama has been wrong all along about the Mideast, Kerry replied, "This is a man who took us directly into Iraq. Please."

He reiterated that airstrikes have not been ruled out, saying that "nothing is off the table" in administration discussions.

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