Martha’s Vineyard (United States) (AFP) – Hillary Clinton on Tuesday denied attacking President Barack Obama over his foreign policy in Syria and Iraq, insisting she was looking forward to “hugging it out” with the US leader when they meet at a party later this week.
The former secretary of state was widely interpreted to be distancing herself from Obama ahead of a possible 2016 election run on Sunday, when she blamed the rise of Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria on failures of his administration.
However a spokesman for Clinton said Tuesday the former top US diplomat had called Obama to clear the air over the remarks, insisting she was not assailing his leadership.
“Earlier today, the secretary called President Obama to make sure he knows that nothing she said was an attempt to attack him, his policies or his leadership,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said.
Merrill said Clinton and Obama had “honest differences” on some issues, including Syria.
“Some are now choosing to hype those differences but they do not eclipse their broad agreement on most issues,” he said.
“Like any two friends who have to deal with the public eye, she looks forward to hugging it out when they see each other tomorrow night,” he added, referring to a soiree Clinton and Obama are due to attend on Wednesday in Martha’s Vineyard, where the US President is on vacation.
The White House meanwhile told AFP both the US leader and his wife Michelle were “very much looking forward to the occasion and seeing former secretary Clinton.”
– Failures leave ‘big vacuum’ –
In Sunday’s interview published in The Atlantic, Clinton faulted the US decision to stay on the sidelines of the insurgency against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, saying it helped create a vacuum filled by the most extreme rebel faction, the Islamic State.
Clinton, widely considered an undeclared presidential candidate for 2016, was an unsuccessful advocate of arming the Syrian rebels when she was secretary of state during Obama’s first term.
“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against 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,” she told The Atlantic.
Clinton, who lost to Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, also suggested the US leader lacked a strategy for dealing with the jihadist threat.
“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” she said, referring to an Obama motif.
Clinton’s comments were made before Obama authorized the recent wave of air strikes on Islamic State militants in Iraq.
Merrill meanwhile emphasized that Clinton “has at every step of the way touted the significant achievements of (Obama’s) presidency, which she is honored to have been part of as his secretary of state.”
Obama is planning to return to Washington for two days on Sunday before heading back to Martha’s Vineyard for a break during which he traditionally spends the bulk of his free time on the golf course.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]