Introducing a report on Monday's NBC Nightly News about Al-Qaeda forces seizing control of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, anchor Brian Williams went out of his way to blame the President George W. Bush for the deteriorating security situation: "U.S. fighting forces are gone from Iraq. But as so many predicted when President Bush chose to go to war there after 9/11, the fighting has started up again." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
However, in the report that followed, correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin featured a sound bite of President Obama – not President Bush – celebrating the "historic moment" of an abrupt U.S. troop withdrawal from the country after failing to negotiate a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. Mohyeldin noted: "Some warned the U.S. withdrawal left a security vacuum."
At the end of the segment, Mohyeldin placed Iraq in the context of an increasingly unstable Middle East:
Now, the conflict is not just about the battle inside Iraq, this is obviously really focused on the conflict in neighboring Syria. And what happens in Syria is already spilling across the region into neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Turkey. And at the core of it really are two major regional powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and we are seeing them fighting in almost every single one of these countries.
Williams observed that it was an "increasingly dangerous neighborhood," but Obama's incoherent foreign policy was not cited as a cause.
Here is a full transcript of the January 6 report:
7:00PM ET TEASE:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Losing ground in Iraq. After the U.S. lost so much blood and treasure on the battlefield, now the U.S. watches as the Al-Qaeda fighters appear to seize control of a big Iraqi city.
7:10PM ET SEGMENT:
WILLIAMS: Overseas tonight, after almost nine years of fighting, over 4,400 Americans dead in Iraq, more than 32,000 came home wounded, and so many will bear the scars of that war for the rest of their lives, U.S. fighting forces are gone from Iraq. But as so many predicted when President Bush chose to go to war there after 9/11, the fighting has started up again.
We all learned about the city of Fallujah during the war. Well, now there are reports that Al-Qaeda forces may have seized control of that city while threatening another. Our report on all of it tonight from NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin.
AYMAN MOHYELDIN: In broad daylight on the streets of Fallujah, fighters linked to Al-Qaeda brazenly brandish their weapons, vowing to control Iraq's Sunni heartland and warning they'll punish anyone who sides with Iraq's Shiite-dominated government. For days, government forces have been fighting the Sunni militants, killing and injuring scores of them as civilians flee in terror. Not far from Fallujah, Iraqi military convoys are taking up positions, preparing for a major offensive against Al-Qaeda militants who now control much of the city.
Fallujah, the same city U.S. troops fought and died to control in 2004. Seven years after that battle, the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq.
BARACK OBAMA [DEC. 12, 2011]: This is an historic moment. A war is ending, a new day is upon us.
MOHYELDIN: But some warned the U.S. withdrawal left a security vacuum.
FAWAZ GERGES [MIDDLE EAST ANALYST]: The United States shed great blood and treasure to secure Iraq, to basically get rid of Al-Qaeda. And almost now in two years, Al-Qaeda is back.
MOHYELDIN: Back and gaining momentum. But the U.S. says it won't be sending in troops again.
JOHN KERRY [SECRETARY OF STATE]: This is their fight, but we're going to help them in their fight.
MOHYELDIN: Help in the form of military hardware, drones and missiles.
JAY CARNEY [WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY]: We're accelerating our foreign military sales, deliveries, and are looking to provide an additional shipment of Hellfire missiles as early as this spring.
MOHYELDIN: Hoping that will be enough to turn the tide.
Now, the conflict is not just about the battle inside Iraq, this is obviously really focused on the conflict in neighboring Syria. And what happens in Syria is already spilling across the region into neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Turkey. And at the core of it really are two major regional powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and we are seeing them fighting in almost every single one of these countries, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Increasingly dangerous neighborhood. Ayman Mohyeldin, back from the field. Thanks, appreciate it as always.