Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told TheBlaze he is rethinking his support of the U.S. effort to liberate Iraq given the continued violence in the country and alleged killings Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government took part in.
Gingrich spoke at a rally in front of the White House the same day that Maliki was meeting with President Barack Obama. After Gingrich spoke, TheBlaze asked him if Maliki's actions undermine the U.S. war to liberate the country from the Saddam Hussein dictatorship.
Former House Speaker New Gingrich, third from right, talks with former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, center, as they waits their turn to speak during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, to protest the meeting between Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Barack Obama at the White House. Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, right, talks with retired Col. Wesley Martin, former counterterrorism commander, Coalition Forces in Iraq. (AP)
“Yes. Absolutely,” Gingrich told TheBlaze when asked whether the current situation undermines the U.S. war to liberate Iraq. “It requires us to rethink very deeply what we thought would work. I say that as somebody who supported it. I mean I'm personally having to rethink a lot of assumptions about the Middle East.”
Others attending the rally were former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy. They called for a halt in funding and arms to Iraq. Protesters chanted, “No aid to murderers. No arms to kidnappers.”
The largest objection concerned 3,000 people from the Iranian democratic opposition living in Iraq as refugees known as the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MeK) in Camp Ashraf, about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad.
When the United States left Iraq, the Maliki government wanted to disperse them. Under a United Nations-United States brokered agreement, they were moved to a new area called Camp Liberty near the Baghdad airport. But 52 people left at Ashraf were shot and killed and seven were captured reportedly held by Maliki's forces. The matter was discussed at a hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Oct. 3. Maliki's critics say the attack at Ashraf was done with the government's military, however, Maliki has denied that.
“My real concern is that the 3,000 people at camp liberty are at risk,” Gingrich told TheBlaze. “We've now seen several attacks, the latest Sept. 1. If you see the video of that attack, it's pretty horrifying. These were killers who came in with a specific purpose of slaughtering people.”
However, he is uncertain if the Obama administration will hold Maliki accountable.
“I hope so,” he said. “You can't tell because the State Department has been very remiss.”
The White House issued a joint statement from both countries late Friday that did not mention the issues surrounding Camp Liberty. But it seemed to be clear that aid in the form of money and weapons would continue.
"The Iraqi delegation confirmed a comprehensive strategy to isolate ISIL and other extremist groups through coordinated security, economic, and political measures," the joint statement from both countries says. "This strategy includes security operations coordinated with local officials, and renewed efforts to empower local security structures, such as the Sons of Iraq, to mitigate extremist infiltration. Both sides emphasized – on an urgent basis – the need for additional equipment for Iraqi forces to conduct ongoing operations in remote areas where terrorist camps are located. The Iraqi delegation stressed its desire to purchase U.S. equipment as a means of strengthening long-term institutional ties with the United States, and confirmed its commitment to ensure strict compliance with U.S. laws and regulations on the use of such equipment."
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration is pursuing the matter with the government of Iraq as well as the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“I can tell you that we remain deeply concerned about fate of the individuals abducted from Camp Asharaf as well as the security of the residents,” Carney said ahead of Obama's meeting with Maliki.
“We are pursuing these matters actively and daily, with UNAMI, with UNHRC, the government of Iraq and other relevant authorities to seek information on the MEK members who went missing and to ensure as much protection as possible is provided,” Carney continued. “These are the kind of conversations we'll have with our counterparts as part of a whole array of topics that come up.”
During the rally in front of the White House, former Homeland Security Secretary Ridge called for cutting aid and arms to Iraq.
“You are not worthy of a visit to the White House,” Ridge said of Maliki to cheers from the crowd. “Secure the safety of the 3,000 men and women that remain at Camp Liberty and then come back and tell us about arms and aid. Until then, we follow up with our friends on the Hill to make sure that neither the foreign relations committee nor the armed services committee send a single dime of assistance or a single weapon until you keep your promises.”