- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Obama administration lacks an air of “seriousness” in its policy in Iraq and across the Middle East that thwarts U.S. efforts to confront the growing al Qaeda threat, former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Tuesday.

He pointed to Secretary of State John Kerry meeting Monday in Baghdad with Iraqi leaders.

“When Secretary Kerry goes over there and lectures them about what to do with their government, an awful lot of people on both sides say, ‘We don’t take you seriously,’ ” Mr. Wolfowitz said on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”

Mr. Wolfowitz, who served in the Pentagon under President George W. Bush and as U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia under President Reagan, currently works as a foreign policy scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

“It’s a very big challenge,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. “But we’ve got to do some things to show seriousness and that doesn’t necessarily mean the use of military force.”

“Here’s an example,” he continued. “The president announced that we are going to leave Afghanistan in two years no matter what the condition of Afghanistan is. It would make a big difference if he said, ‘I’ve seen what happened in Iraq. I’ve seen what’s happening in Syria. I’m very concerned about the growth of al Qaeda. I’m reconsidering this deadline in Afghanistan.’ “

Mr. Wolfowitz also urged President Obama to label as “al Qaeda” the Islamic extremist militants gaining strength in Iraq and across the region.

“We should be saying al Qaeda. When you say Sunni and Shia [for] most Americans their eyes glaze over. But if you say al Qaeda, people understand what we are talking about and that’s what these groups are,” he said.

“We are dealing with is a regionwide phenomena of al Qaeda and particularly al Qaeda in Syria and Iraq,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. “The challenge is not to stop the violence from escalating. The challenge is to defeat al Qaeda in Syria and Iraq first, but then also to stop the spread of Taliban violence into Pakistan [and] the growth of al Qaeda in Libya.”

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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