Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Thursday that a militant group in Syria and Iraq that gained control of key Iraqi cities this week may try to create an Islamist state.
“I could not have predicted the extent to which ISIS [the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria] could be effective in seizing cities in Iraq and trying to erase boundaries to create an Islamist state,” Clinton told Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass during a conversation hosted by CFR in New York. Referring to the conflict in and around Syria, she said, "Now the wicked problem has gotten even wickeder."
Clinton said the problem in Iraq has been exacerbated by Syria's civil war, which has created problems not just for Syria but for the whole region.
“In addition to the formation of a well-armed, incredibly tough-fighting force by ISIS and other jihadist groups, you have at least 1,000 foreign fighters, primarily from Europe but also at least some from the U.S., who are getting combat battlefield experience and becoming even more extreme,” she said of the situation in Syria.
Clinton said that as secretary of state, she thought that the U.S. should have considered arming Syrian rebels.
“With respect to Syria, I felt quite strongly that we needed to see if it were possible to vet, train and equip moderate opposition figures,” she said. “Because when this started, there was truly a citizen’s uprising. You had people taking arms who were pharmacists or professors or students, and they had no training.”
But, as she wrote in her new memoir, Hard Choices, she was overruled on the issue by President Barack Obama, who was wary of engagement in Syria after the backlash to the Iraq war.
Clinton is currently on a nationwide book tour, which many speculate may be the unofficial start to her possible bid for the presidency in 2016.