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Clinton blames Islamic militants rise on Obama policies

Clinton specifically faulted the U.S. decision to stay on the sidelines of the insurgency against Syria’s president

Published: Updated:

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton blamed the rise of Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria on failures of U.S. policy under President Barack Obama, in an interview published Sunday.

Clinton specifically faulted the U.S. decision to stay on the sidelines of the insurgency against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad as opening the way for the most extreme rebel faction, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“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,” Clinton told the Atlantic.

Clinton, widely considered an undeclared presidential candidate, was an unsuccessful advocate of arming the Syrian rebels when she was secretary of state during Obama’s first term.

She was interviewed before the U.S. president’s decision Thursday to order limited air strikes to check an ISIS offensive into Kurdistan, which threatened US nationals and facilities and sent thousands of refugees fleeing into the mountains.

Obama, who oversaw the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, vowed not to send US troops back into the country and said Iraqis needed to confront the jihadist threat by forming an inclusive unity government.

Clinton, however, suggested in the interview that Obama 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 slogan.

She said the United States must develop an “overarching” strategy to confront Islamist extremism, likening it to the long US struggle against Soviet-led communism.