WASHINGTON — The White House said Wednesday it was “utterly false” that President Barack Obama and his vice president had not spoken with Iraqi leaders for months before reaching a troop withdrawal decision.
A report by McClatchy newspapers, citing US embassy logs, said earlier that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had remained aloof amid ultimately failed negotiations on agreeing a small future US force in Iraq.
Iraq’s refusal to grant US troops legal immunity prompted Obama to abandon US plans to keep a residual training force in Iraq after December 31, and to announce all US troops would come home this year.
“To suggest that the president and the vice president hadn’t been in communication with Iraqi leaders is wrong,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“That report is just categorically false. To suggest the president and the vice president had not been in communication with Iraqi leaders, it turns out… that’s wrong.”
Carney said conversations that Obama and Biden, who was put in charge of overseeing the withdrawal from Iraq nine years after the US invasion, had with foreign leaders were not always revealed or “read out” to the press.
“The vice president had many, many conversations with Iraqi leaders over the time period mentioned in that story,” he said.
“The president spoke with Prime Minister Maliki this summer — (the report) is simply erroneous,” Carney said, describing the story as “utterly false.”
The McClatchy report said that a list of direct conversations provided by the US embassy in Baghdad, culled from the White House website, found that Obama had no direct contact with Maliki between February 13 until Friday, when they held a video conference.
Biden did not have direct contact with Maliki after visiting Iraq on January 18, according to the report.
Obama announced on Friday that all US troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year, ending a long war which cleaved deep political divides and estranged the United States from its allies.
After nearly nine years, the deaths of more than 4,400 US troops, tens of thousands of Iraqis and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, Obama said the last American soldier would leave with his head held high.