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Virginia Senator Mark Warner assesses situation in Iraq and the Middle East

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On Friday evening, June 20, the University of Virginia Center for Politics hosted a screening of its Emmy award-winning documentary short film, “Out of Order,” followed by a panel discussion featuring former U.S. Senator John Warner (R-Va.) and his successor, incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.). Both Warners appear in the film along with Bob Schieffer of CBS News and other current and former Members of Congress.

After the two-hour, formal program, the current Senator Warner answered questions from the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about his re-election campaign and also about foreign policy issues.

The day before the interview, President Barack Obama had spoken to the White House press corps about the administration's plans to send military advisors to Iraq in an effort to defend that country against the army of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Learning lessons in Iraq

Senator Warner said that he supported the president's deliberate approach with regard to Iraq, saying that it is important to gather all the facts on the ground before taking action.

“Of all places in the world,” he explained, “Iraq is a place [where] we should have learned the lessons that we've got to get all the facts first.”

Noting that he is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, 'Warner said he believes “very strongly that we need to slow the rush of these terrorists into Iraq.”

At the same time, however, “I also believe that we need to support any Iraqi government that's going to be inclusive” rather than narrowly sectarian.

“Particularly since part of the Iraqi army melted away rather than try to defend their own country,” Warner said, the United States needs to gather and assess intelligence about who the “bad guys” are.

“Before we take action,” he explained, the U.S. government must find out whether the ISIS forces might be “in uniforms that used to be Iraqi army uniforms.”

He asked, “How do we get that intelligence?,” stating that “on this issue, I think the president is moving with the right deliberate speed in terms of getting information first before we take action.”

Corrupt regimes

Warner also commented on the nature of regimes in the region and the sacrifices made on behalf of the people there.

“If there are only corrupt, sectarian regimes in all of those countries' future, then the region and the world's future is going to have a real challenge,” the senator said.

Suggesting that the American people are disheartened by the situation, Warner asserted that “the challenge is going to be: will these countries step up” in their own defense?

He said that it “was sickening” to see Iraqi soldiers “drop and run” rather than fight, especially after “thousands of Americans lives were lost” and “trillions of dollars were spent” on behalf of Iraq by the United States, which spent “billions of dollars” on training and equipping Iraqi troops.

Senator Mark Warner's dialogue with former Senator John Warner, moderated by political scientist Larry Sabato, can be seen in its entirety on YouTube.

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