A former British diplomat has accused Hillary Clinton of contributing to Iraq's disastrous meltdown during her four years as Barack Obama's foreign policy chief.
Emma Sky, who served as an adviser to one of the top US commanders in Iraq, claims in a new book that Clinton operated a "dysfunctional" diplomatic mission to Baghdad that allowed a lapse back into sectarian warfare after elections in 2010.
At that time Clinton was midway through her four-year stint as Obama's Secretary of State, the equivalent position to Foreign Secretary in Britain.
The criticisms, which come in the same week Clinton launches her presidential bid, are contained in a book that Sky, an Oxford-educated Middle East expert, is to publish next month about the seven years she spent in Iraq.
Entitled The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, it paints an unflattering picture of the Obama Administration as it tried to extricate itself from the country as hastily as possible.
While the demand for a speedy drawdown from Iraq was driven primarily by Obama, Clinton is accused of appointing an incompetent US ambassador to Baghdad, Chris Hill, who had little experience of the region and held its people in contempt.
That then paved the way for Washington to be outmanoeuvred by Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who was able to grab a second term in office despite fears that he was a sectarian dictator in the making.
The book also claims that the US Vice-President, Joe Biden, showed little interest in Iraq's political complexities, making oafish comparisons between its sectarian civil war and Britain's historic tensions with Ireland. Thanks to Obama's hasty pull-out at the end of 2011, Ms Sky says, hard-won opportunities for a lasting peace in Iraq after the war to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003 were squandered.
"That war - and the manner in which the United States left it behind in 2011 - shifted the balance of power in the region in Iran's favour," she writes. "Regional competition ... exacerbated existing fault-lines, with support for extreme sectarian actors, including the Islamic State, turning local grievances over poor governance into proxy wars."
Sky, now an academic at Yale University, first worked in Iraq in 2003 after a spell as a development expert for the British Council in the Palestinian territories. Although a self-described "tree hugger", her expertise in Arab affairs saw her appointed as coalition governor of the northern city of Kirkuk, where she impressed General Ray Odierno, whom she advised during the US troop "surge" that curbed Iraq's 2006-7 Sunni-Shia civil war.