Key Senate Republicans are condemning Iraq’s release of a senior Hezbollah operative with ties to Iran, an operative whom the U.S. has accused of killing American and Israeli troops and plotting terrorist acts.
Baghdad officials released the prisoner, Ali Musa Daqduq, despite pressure from the Obama administration to keep him in custody.
The U.S. government turned the terrorist over to the Iraqi government less than a year ago instead of trying him in U.S. military court, a decision Republicans said the administration made knowing it would likely result in his release.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, had sent several letters to Attorney General Eric Holder asking that Mr. Daqduq be tried by military commission.
A lawyer for Mr. Daqduq told Reuters that he had been released and is now in Beirut.
“A military tribunal would have been a far better avenue to bring this terrorist to justice,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement Friday. “Instead, It’s probably just a matter of time before he finds his way back to the battlefield where undoubtedly innocent people will be killed.”
Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both senior members of the Armed Services Committee, said Mr. Daqduq’s release shows waning U.S. influence in the region after the Obama administration failed to secure a agreement with the Iraqi government to allow some U.S. forces to remain in the country after the U.S. mission concluded.
“The United States now has so little influence that it could not prevail upon the Iraqi government to extradite Daqduq to the U.S. to stand trial for his crimes,” they said in a statement.
Vice President Joe Biden in a phone call Tuesday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, expressed strong objection to Mr. Daqduq’s release, according to a White House official.
The White House previously released a read-out of Mr. Biden’s call with Mr. al-Maliki Tuesday that contained no mention of Mr. Daqduq.