by Gordon M. Hahn
Part 1: The Obama Administration and the Muslim Brotherhood at Home
Under a misguided illusion that Islamists can be regarded as moderates worthy of partnership with democracies and other civilized states in the war against jihadism, the Barack Obama administration has undertaken a series high-stakes, ideologically-driven and naive policy gambits driven by the U.S. president’s dangerous sympathy for Islam. In and of itself such a sympathy is not necessarily a problem if it is moderate and indirectly influences a few, non-strategic policies. However, when it becomes the ideological foundation for U.S. foreign policy and strategy across the Muslim world, it is downright dangerous and a potentially catastrophic miscalculation. The upshot of Obama’s miscalculation has been the simultaneous destabilization of whole regions of the world, the weakening of key allies, the alienation of potential ones, and the possibility that for the first time since World War Two the West and Eurasia will be riven by violence, terrorism and war.
The catastrophic failure of Obama’s pro-Islamic foreign policy is shaping the perceptions and calculus of friends, enemies, foes, and ‘frenemies’ alike. For great powers, his policies offer risks and opportunities but, more importantly, they demand a complete re-thinking of what U.S. foreign policy goals are and a rapid policy response to the picture that comes out of such re-thinking. This has become especially true when it comes to the single great power the expanse of which stretches along the most of the Muslim world’s northern periphery – Russia. Therefore, Moscow is in the grips of a major revamping and reinvigoration of its foreign policy activity along its southern periphery. In each case the need to do so can be reasonably argue to have been necessitated by American mistakes and failures–from South and Central Asia in the east to North Africa in the west.
Here I will focus on the most recent cases of the Arab Spring and demonstrate that the Obama administration has attempted to make alliances with Islamists as a buffer against global jihadism and a battering ram for destroying secular authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world despised by many liberals and the left, despite their use as a bulwark against radical political Islam. In three key cases of the so-called Arab Spring–Egypt, Libya, and Syria–the Obama administration has supported the radical global Islamist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The Egyptian case is well-known and will not be discussed here.
The pro-MB policy has been a fundamental miscalculation for several reasons. First, it assumed that democratic, moderately Islamic states led by the MB would follow secular authoritarian regimes. Instead, as the short-lived MB regime in Egypt demonstrated, an Islamist MB regime is no better and likely much worse than secular, even military-led regimes. The rise of Islamist authoritarianism after the fall of secular regimes is even better demonstrated by the upper hand that jihadist totalitarian groups have in the chaos of post-secular regimes across those parts of the Muslim world thrown into chaos with the help of U.S. policy.
Second, it assumed an impermeable line between the global Islamist revolutionary movement, led by groups such as the MB and Hizb ut-Tahrir Islami (HTI), and the global jihadi revolutionary movement, led by the Islamic State or IS (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) and Al Qa`ida (AQ). The former type of group is often a half-way house for radicalized Muslims heading towards the path of jihad. Like their jihadi counterparts, the MB and other radical Islamist revolutionary groups favor a global caliphate based on the rule of Shariah law. The difference lies in the strategies and tactics for getting there. By backing the MB, the U.S. facilitated jihadi agitation and propaganda, recruiting, and arms acquisition fueling the global jihadi revolutionary movement.
Part 1: The Obama Administration and the Muslim Brotherhood at Home
There is a logic President Obama’s policy bias in favor of the MB. President Obama’s biographical and radical leftist background lends him a great pro-Muslim feeling that often attains absurd proportions. After all, he spent many of his most formative childhood years in Indonesia, went to a madrassah school there, and stated in his autobiography that the most beautiful sound he ever heard is the Islamic azan or call to prayer. The president apparently believes that Islam and Muslims have been an instrumental part of America since its founding. In his 2009 Cairo speech, which the administration claimed sparked the MB-led Egyptian revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in September 2012, President Obama claimed to “know” that “Islam has always been a part of America’s story” (www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-cairo-university-6-04-09). In a 2010 speech marking the end of Ramadan, Obama asserted: “Islam has always been part of America” (www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/08/11/statement-president-occasion-ramadan). In February 2015 he stated: “Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding” (http://cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/obama-islam-has-been-woven-fabric-our-country-its-founding). In short, President Obama has a bias in favor of Islam–indeed, a hyper-empathy that goes over the line into fantasy. Given these realities, it might be expected that this sentiment would be reflected in the American President’s foreign policy. In fact, it is.
There is now a boat load of evidence that the Obama administration has brought in officials and advisors from radical Muslim circles–in particular those from groups fronting for, or tied to the MB–who espouse Islamist, anti-semitic, and anti-American points of view similar to those MB proposes. Until Hillary Clinton’s resignation as US Secretary of State, MB links connected two high-ranking Obama administration officials: Clinton’s chief of staff Huma Abedin and current special assistant to the National Security Council Chief of Staff for the military’s Islamic chaplain program Mehdi K. Alhassani. The specific link is the Muslim World League (MWL), indicted for financing Al Qa`ida (AQ) front groups. MWL successor groups have been officially designated terrorist organizations by both the State Department and the United Nations (Aaron Klein, “White House aide linked to al-Qaida funder,” Counter Jihad Report, 9 May 2014, http://counterjihadreport.com/tag/mehdi-k-alhassani/).
A link between these two and MB is the Muslim Student Association (MSA) with branches in hundreds of universities across America. The nationwide umbrella organization MSA has extensive proven ties to the MB (“The Muslim Students Association and and the Jihadi Network,” Terrorism Awareness Project, 2008http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/Articles/MSA%20and%20Jihad%20Network%20v5b-1.pdf). The MSA’s official anthem restates MB’s credo:
Allah is our objective
The Prophet is our leader
The Quran is our law
Jihad is our way
Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.
Abedin served on the board of the MSA at George Washington University in 1997 (http://shoebat.com/2014/05/03/distribution-list-smoking-gun-benghazi-email-included-muslim-brotherhood-agent/). The GWU MSA was founded by Muslim Brotherhood activists with start-up funding provided by the Saudi Arabian charity the Muslim World League or MWL founded in Mecca in 1962. From 2005 to 2006 Alhassani was the GWU MSA’s president (Aaron Klein, “White House aide linked to al-Qaida funder,” Counter Jihad Report, 9 May 2014,http://counterjihadreport.com/tag/mehdi-k-alhassani/). In 2001 AQ in the Arabian Peninsula’s American leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who inspired Fort Hood jihadist Nidal Malik Hasan, became the chaplain for the GWU MSA chapter (http://shoebat.com/2014/05/03/distribution-list-smoking-gun-benghazi-email-included-muslim-brotherhood-agent/).
Huma worked with Abdullah Omar Naseef on the editorial board of her father’s Saudi-financed think tank, the Institute for Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA). Huma was there from 2002-2008, and Naseef was there from December 2002 – December 2003. Naseef left the JMMA editorial board at a time when various charities led by Naseef’s MWL were declared illegal terrorism fronts worldwide, including by the U.S. and U.N. Naseef is still the MWL’s secretary-general. Huma’s mother, Saleha, is the editor of the IMMA’s Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs (JMMA), the publication of Syed’s institute (http://shoebat.com/2014/05/03/distribution-list-smoking-gun-benghazi-email-included-muslim-brotherhood-agent/). Its latest issue (Vol. 35, Issue 4, 2015) features the lead article “Muslims in Western Media: New Zealand Newspapers’ Construction of 2006 Terror Plot at Heathrow Airport and Beyond,” a study of alleged Islamophobia, in which the institute specializes (www.tandfonline.com/toc/cjmm20/current). Saleha Abedin is also a MWL representative.
The MWL and its various offshoots, including the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and Al Haramain, have been accused of having terrorist ties. Al Haramain was declared a terror-financing front organization by the U.S. and U.N. with direct ties to Osama bin Laden and banned both in the U.S. and worldwide. The Anti-Defamation League accuses the MWL of proselytizing a “fundamentalist interpretation of Islam around the world through a large network of charities and affiliated organizations” and notes that “several of its affiliated groups and individuals have been linked to terror-related activity.” In 2003, U.S. News and World Report documented “a blizzard of Wahhabist literature” accompanied MWL’s donations (http://shoebat.com/2014/05/03/distribution-list-smoking-gun-benghazi-email-included-muslim-brotherhood-agent/).
Both Abedin and Alhassani were links in the Obama’s administration’s strategic communications (propaganda) operation to pin the 11 September 2012 Bengazi attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya and three CIA operatives on an Internet film instead of an AQ affiliate’s attack. In an email obtained under a Judicial Watch lawsuit sent to Alhassani and other officials from Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communication sent an email to Alhassani and several other administration officials three days after the three days after the Benghazi attack indicating the need to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” Another email indicates that US Ambassador to the UN Susana Rice was prepped on the Saturday before her Sunday tour of talk shows where she repeated the video story and other elements cantained in the email’s talking points (See p. 14 of the PDF of several documents at, http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/1919_production-4-17-14.pdf#page=14).
An Egyptian newspaper claimed in December 2012 that six Muslims in particular have direct ties to the MB or are even MB members. Four are adiminstration officials or semi-officials, and three of these deserve scrutiny: assistant secretary for policy development at the Homeland Security Department (HSD) Arif Alikhan; HSD Advisory Council member Mohammed Elibiary; and U.S. special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference Rashad Hussain (www.investigativeproject.org/3608/dawud-walid-the-quran-and-jews and Ahmed Shawki, “A man and 6 of the Brotherhood in the White House!,” Rose El-Youssef, 22 December 2012, www.rosa-magazine.com/News/3444/%D8%B1%D8%AC%D9%84%D9%886-%D8%A5%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%81%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%B6). To be sure, the Egyptian article appears to be overstated in claiming these persons’ MB membership. The piece was likely part of a strategic communications operation carried out by opponents of the MB regime that overthrew Mubarak and backed the post-MB Egyptian government of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi counter-revolution. Nevertheless, the Obama administration’s appointment of these officials or plenipotentiaries as well as several other Muslim-American leaders—in particular, Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) president Imam Mohamed Magid and and Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) co-founder Salam al-Marayati—is disturbing given their indirect MB associations and MB-like Islamist political and theological views.
The biggest knock against DHS assistant secretary for policy development Arif Alikhan has been the endorsement by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of his appointment. CAIR has defended terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah as liberation movements. It also was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Hamas terrorism funding case, and several of its former officials have been convicted of terrorism-related charges. A lesser rap is that Alikhan attended a fundraiser for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) just days before his appointment. MPAC has a similar history of defending Hamas (http://www.jihadwatch.org/2009/07/new-dhs-official-linked-to-muslim-public-affairs-council-which-calls-hizballah-a-liberation-movement). The Egyptian publication claimed that Alikhan is a founder of the World Islamic Organization (WIO), which it characterizes as a Brotherhood “subsidiary” (www.investigativeproject.org/3869/egyptian-magazine-muslim-brotherhood-infiltrates#). These indictments of Alikhan seem less than convincing as evidence of MB ties.
Much more disturbing was the appointment in 2010 to the DHS Advisory Council (HSAC) member of Mohammed Elibiary, released from his position in September 2014 amidst reports of a coverup involving his misuse of secret documents (http://freebeacon.com/issues/controversial-dhs-adviser-let-go-amid-allegations-of-cover-up/). Before his HSAC appointment Elibiary was known to have publicly praised the MB’s leading philosopher Sayyid Qutb, the leader of Iran’s Islamist revolution Ayatollah Khomeini, and a radical New York imam Siraj Wahhaj, who was an unindicted co-conspiratr in the World Trade bombing case and was a defense character witness for the jihadist ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdel Rahman (www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/mohamed-elibiary-homeland-security/and www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/712.pdf).
While on the HSAC Elibiary was caught having tweeted that it is “onevitable that the caliphate returns” (http://freebeacon.com/national-security/senior-dhs-adviser-brags-inevitable-that-caliphate-returns/). His tweets were later used by ISIL for propaganda and recruitment purposes (http://freebeacon.com/national-security/isil-celebrates-dhs-advisers-anti-american-tweets-on-return-of-caliphate/). Echoing his appointer, Pressident Obama, Elibiary claimed in November 2013 that America is “an Islamic country with an Islamically compliant constitution” and that the Muslim Brotherhood poses no threat to the U.S. (http://freebeacon.com/national-security/dhs-adviser-tweets-america-an-islamic-country/).
The funding for Elibiary’s own community organizing activity has been shrouded in secrecy. He is co-founder, president and CEO of the Freedom and Justice Foundation (FJF), founded in November 2002 “to promote government relations and “interfaith community relations for the organized Texas Muslim community.” The IRS revoked the FJF’s nonprofit status in May 2010 for failure to file the requisite forms that would have revealed its source of funding. Moreover, his FJF has never filed a Texas Franchise Tax Public Information Report. He also has ties to CAIR. The North Texas Islamic Council (NTIC) or Texas Islamic Council (TIC) is a FJF affiliate, and Elibiary is a registered NTIV agent for the NTIC. One of the NTIC’s directors is H. Mustafaa Carroll, who is the executive director of CAIR’s Houston chapter. Elibiary has described the writings of Qutb, the chief ideologist of the MB and a major source for global Islamist and jihadist revolutionaries alike, as having ““the potential for a strong spiritual rebirth that’s truly ecumenical allowing all faiths practiced in America to enrich us and motivate us to serve God better by serving our fellow man more” (www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/712.pdf).
According to an investigation by the Washington Free Beacon, Elibiary was at the center of a scandal involving the “inappropriate disclosure of sensitive law enforcement documents” resulting from his access to DHS’s secure HS-SLIC system, according to a DHS letter. The case has been “shrouded in mystery, with various officials providing unclear and at times contradictory answers about whether DHS ever properly investigated.” The allegation was that Elibiary “inappropriately accessed classified documents from a secure site and may have attempted to pass them to reporters.” As part of his role on the HSAC, Elibiary “was provided access to a network containing sensitive but unclassified information,” according to the July 2014 DHS letter U.S. congressman Louis Gohmert (Republican from Texas). DHS claimed that its 2011 investigation “found no credible information” that Elibiary “disclosed or sought to disclose ‘For Official Use Only’ information to members of the media.” Nor did DHS “find any indication that he sought to disclose any other internal OHS [Office of Homeland Security] information to anyone apart from official use of information within the scope of his role for the Homeland Security Advisory Council,” according to the letter states.
However, DHS’s denials are contradicted by documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Judicial Watch, which indicate that there was never a proper investigation into Elibiary’s actions. In a September 2013 letter DHS informed Judicial Watch in fact that it could not find investigation records connected to the matter. This conflicting information suggests a cover up of the fact that there was no investigation, as congressman Gohmert notes, and that Elibiary was let go from the HSAC to lock in the cover up. Terrorism expert Patrick Poole concluded that any DHS investigation that might have occurred was “phony,” since it failed to contact him and his source, which led to the first public allegations of Elibiary’s misuse of documents. “(W)hen DHS couldn’t provide a single email or document in response to the Judicial Watch FOIA to prove this investigation ever took place, the jig was up,” Poole noted (http://freebeacon.com/issues/controversial-dhs-adviser-let-go-amid-allegations-of-cover-up/; see also www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/mohamed-elibiary-homeland-security/).
President Obama’s originally appointed Rashad Hussain as his special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). In February 2015 Hussain was promoted to the position of director of the U.S. State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (www.jewsnews.co.il/2015/02/26/obama-appoints-muslim-brotherhood-linked-muslim-to-head-center-for-strategic-counterterrorism-communications/). Hussain previously served on Critical Islamic Reflections program organizing committee with the founder of Zaytuna College, Imam Zaid Shakir (http://www.yale.edu/cir/2004/about.html). Shakir’s co-founder is Hamza Yusuf, who has said that jihadist Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, convicted in the Al Qa`ida conspiracy to bomb New York landmarks in the 1990s, was tried unjustly (www.investigativeproject.org/2778/ipt-profiles-hamza-yusuf).
Speaking at a MSA conference in 2004 Hussain condemned the U.S. Justice Department for “politically motivated persecutions” in prosecuting the soon-to-be convicted terrorism supporter Sami Al-Arian, a University of South Florida computer engineering professor. He also called the legal process “sad commentary on our legal system,” “a travesty of justice,” and “atrocious” (www.politico.com/story/2010/02/islam-envoy-retreats-on-terror-talk-033210#ixzz0g5R9A5gl). One wonders what legal system Hussain would prefer to the American system of justice. In 2006 the good professor pleaded guilty to one count of “(c)onspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian jihadist organization, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a U.S. State Department ‘Specially Designated Terrorist organization’” and was sentenced to 57 months in prison (www.investigativeproject.org/profile/100/sami-al-arian). The judge in the case said there was evidence that Al-Arian served on PIJ’s governing board. Al-Arian successfully had lied about his ties to the terrorist group for ten years. For his part, Hussain lied in 2006 about the fact that he made the noted 2004 remarks condemning the Justice Department for ‘persecutions’, only to be forced to admit he had lied after being subjected to media scrutiny in the wake of his appointment. (www.investigativeproject.org/1809/how-are-these-not-considered-lies). According to the watchdog group Global Mulsim Brotherhood Watch, Hussain has a long record of attending MB-tied conferences, including a May 2009 conference organized by MB-tied groups like the MSA (www.globalmbwatch.com/2010/02/20/breaking-news-rashad-hussain-admits-making-controversial-comments-and-asking-for-deletion/).
In addition such to appointments, Obama administration grant-giving has rewarded radical Muslims, including open anti-Semites. Director of the Michigan branch of MB front group CAIR, Dawud Walid, has traveled abroad at least twice on U.S State Department funds, using a 2010 trip to Mali to criticize America’s treatment of Muslims after 9/11. But it gets worse. In a 25 May 2012 sermon at the Islamic Organization of North America mosque in Warren, Michigan, Walid asked rhetorically: “Who are those who incurred the wrath of Allah?” Walid answered: “They are the Jews, they are the Jews.” He also has stated: “One of the greatest social ills facing American today is Islamophobia, and anti-Muslim bigotry. And if you trace the organizations and the main advocates and activists in Islamophobia in America, you will see that all those organizations are pro-Israeli occupation organizations and activists.” Walid’s anti-American bias is reflected in his view that the 2009 shooting death of a Detroit imam was unjust, despite the imam’s refusal of police orders to lay down his weapon and surrender and his fire at police first (www.investigativeproject.org/3608/dawud-walid-the-quran-and-jews).
Obama’s ties to Muslims with anti-American and radical leanings predate his election to the presidency. The Obama campaign’s Muslim outreach adviser Mazen Asbahi was forced to resign in August 2008 after Wall Street Journal article unmasked his indirect radical and MB ties. In 2000, Asbahi served on the board of the Islamic investment fund Allied Assets Advisors Fund (AAAF), a Delaware-registered trust. Asbahi also has been a frequent speaker before several U.S.-based groups that scholars associate with the MB. AAAF is a subsidiary of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which receives funding from the government of Saudi Arabia and holds the title to many U.S. mosques in the U.S. NAIT promotes fundamentalist Islam compatible with both the ideology of MB and Saudi Arabian Wahhabism. Other AAAF board members at the time included one Jamal Sayid, the imam at a fundamentalist mosque in Illinois the Bridgeview Mosque in Bridgeview, Ill., outside Chicago. Sayid served on the AAAF board until 2005. The Justice Department designated the imam an unindicted co-conspirator in a 2007 racketeering trial of several alleged Hamas fund-raisers, which ended in a mistrial. Sayid has been identified as a leading Hamas member in numerous news reports since 1993. (www.wsj.com/articles/SB121797906741214995 andhttp://www.globalmbwatch.com/2008/08/06/breaking-news-obama-advisor-resigns-after-wall-street-journal-report/). Asbahi reportedly has connections to two other MB-linked organizations, the Institute For Social Policy And Understanding and SA Consulting. One of the latter’s three managers is Omer Totonji, the apparent son of Iraqi-born U.S. Muslim Brotherhood founder Ahmed Totonji (www.globalmbwatch.com/2008/08/01/breaking-news-obama-top-muslim-adviser-part-of-two-more-organizations-tied-to-us-muslim-brotherhood/).
The White House’s ‘go to’ imam is Mahomed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), to which Asbahi also has ties (www.globalmbwatch.com/2008/08/01/breaking-news-obama-top-muslim-adviser-part-of-two-more-organizations-tied-to-us-muslim-brotherhood/). Although Magid has been involved in outreach to Jews at the US Holocaust Museum and the gay community, he has also awarded an American Muslim who has verbally attacked Jews on an Islamist ideo-theological basis. Magid is often invited to attend administration speeches on US Middle East policy at the State Department, has advised the FBI and the Justice Department to criminalize defamation of Islam, and is a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism Working Group. He also advises other federal agencies. In 2012 Magid’s ISNA organized a “Diversity Forum” at which Magid gave a diversity award to CAIR Michigan branch director Dawud Walid, just weeks after Walid’s sermon at the Islamic Organization of America (IOA) mosque in Warren, Michigan, in which he claimed Jews had incurred the wrath of Allah (www.investigativeproject.org/3608/dawud-walid-the-quran-and-jews andhttps://pjmedia.com/blog/obamas-shariah-czar-mohamed-magid-hands-diversity-award-to-jew-hater-dawud-walid).
Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) co-founder and director Salam al-Marayati is a frequent White House visitor and administration consultant (www.mpac.org/programs/government-relations.php). Marayati has said that Israel should have been added to the “suspect list” for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks (http://theblacksphere.net/2013/04/devout-muslims-in-key-positions-in-the-white-house/). MPAC has stated Muslims should be “confronting a nation of cowards,” speaking of the United States in the words of former U.S. Attorney General (www.mpac.org/programs/government-relations/ferguson-confronting-a-nation-of-cowards.php). Marayati’s MPAC spokeswoman in 2007, one Edina Lekovic, was editor of Al-Talib: The Muslim News Magazine at UCLA, for its July 1999 issue which praised Osama bin Laden as a “glorious mujahed” and in 2007 lied on national television about it, for which she was later fully exposed by Investigative Project director Stephen Emerson (www.investigativeproject.org/293/ms-lekovica-dozen-printing-mistakes). By the early 2000s, if not much during Ms Lekovic’s years at UCLA, the UCLA MSA was engaged in Islamist and anti-Semitic propaganda and agitation, including support for the publication (www.discoverthenetworks.org/Articles/MSA%20and%20Jihad%20Network%20v5b-1.pdf). CAIR was affiliated with the university paper, with its southern California chapter’s director sitting on Al-Talib’s editorial board (www.investigativeproject.org/271/mpac-cair-and-praising-osama-bin-laden). The UCLA MSA was also intimately involved with the newspaper’s publishing and protest activity attacking Jews (www.discoverthenetworks.org/Articles/MSA%20and%20Jihad%20Network%20v5b-1.pdf and www.danielpipes.org/blog/2003/06/cairs-legal-tribulations).
Given all of the above, it is certainly not unreasonable to suspect that President Obama’s Cairo speech was intended to lend support to the world’s most powerful MB branch—that in Egypt. The Obama administration’s warm support for Egypt’s MB-led revolution and short-lived regime and cold shoulder to Gen. Sisi’s government is well-known and speaks for itself.
Part 2: The Obama Administration and the MB Abroad
Abroad, President Obama’s sympathy for semi-Islamist, MB-like elements at home was soon reflected in his foreign policy. It appears to have been the foundation of the Obama administration’s overall strategy in the Middle East and North Africa and the war against jihadism. It would be evident in the administration’s policy failures in Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and Syria. Those failures would influence U.S. relations with allies and competitors, especially the other major powers in the region – Russia and Turkey – putting them on a collision course as they attempted a region in free-fall collapse as a result, for the most part, of American policies.
The Obama administration first encouraged the MB-led overthrow of Hosni Mubarak’s secular Arab nationalist regime in Egypt, and then openly supported the new MB ‘democracy.’ Thus, the U.S. was backing the overthrow of the leader who had repressed the MB in the wake of the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in October 1981, in which the some MB members were involved but not the main actors. Thus, President Obama invited MB leader and new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to the White House, a strong endorsement from any U.S. president. After President Obama’s November 2012 meeting with the MB’s now Egyptian President Morsi, Obama told his aides that he “sensed an engineer’s precision with surprisingly little ideology” (www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/world/middleeast/egypt-leader-and-obama-forge-link-in-gaza-deal.html?pagewanted=1&_r=4&src=un&feedurl=http:/json8.nytimes.com/pages/world/middleeast/index.jsonp&pagewanted=all&). This was at a time when the Israeli incursion in Gaza was at its peak and Egyptian MB officials were issuing the most harsh and sometimes jihadist and racist statements in relation to Israel and Jews. Just days before Obama met with Morsi, the latter declared in Cairo’s Al-Azhar mosque: “The leaders of Egypt are enraged and are moving to prevent the aggression on the people of Palestine in Gaza. … We in Egypt stand with Gaza,” he said. “[W]e are with them in one trench, that he who hits them, hits us; that this blood which flows from their children, it, it is like the blood flowing from the bodies of our children and our sons, may this never happen.” At the same time, the chairman of Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party, Saad Katatni was making threats of jihad against Israel: “We are with you (Gaza) in your jihad. We have come here to send a message from here to the Zionist entity, to the Zionist enemy. And we say to them, Egypt is no longer. Egypt is no longer after the revolution a strategic treasure for you. Egypt was and still is a strategic treasury for our brothers in Palestine; a strategic treasure for Gaza; a strategic treasure for all the oppressed” (www.investigativeproject.org/3827/obama-administration-oversells-morsi).
MB officials and its official website in fact issued a series of anti-Semitic and jihadi calls. During one MB-organized protest at the time, preacher Muhammad Ragab called on Muslims “to raise the banner of jihad against the tyrannical, invading and wicked sons of apes and pigs [i.e., the Jews], and to unite against the enemies of Allah.” MB website articles described “Zionists” as “apes and pigs,” “scum of the earth,” “prophet murderers,” or “infidels.” For example, MB General Guide Dr. Muhammad Badi issued various jihidist and anti-Semitic calls and motifs, including a quote of the hadith of “the rocks and the trees” – a well-known Islamic antisemitic motif–also found in Hamas’s founding charter–according to which the Muslims will fight and kill the Jews before the Day of Judgment. The MB also repeatedly thanked God for the deaths of Israeli civilians during the killed by rockets (www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/6836.htm).
The Obama administration has never criticized the Egyptian MB or any other MB branch for pro-Hamas and pro-jihad rhetoric whether from Morsi, Katatni, or their ‘ikhwan’ associates. In addition, he nor any U.S. official ever threatened sanctions as the new MB regime allowed Islamist elements to attack Coptic Christians, and he was reluctant to support the overthrow of the MB regime and the return to power of the now military-backed Arab nationalist rule under Gen. Sisi.
Indeed, when confronted by a journalist on the issue, then State Department spokeswoman and architect of State’s remarkably similarly failed Ukraine policy, Victoria Nuland responded: “Well, I’m obviously not, from this podium, going to characterize the Egyptian view, nor am I going to speak for them and characterize our private diplomatic conversations. … We all agree on the need to de-escalate this conflict, and the question is for everybody to use their influence that they have to try to get there” (www.investigativeproject.org/3827/obama-administration-oversells-morsi). This pro-MB policy orientation was mirrored in the events in Libya and elsewhere that soon followed.
The administration then directly intervened to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi regime in Libya–another country with a considerable MB presence–in violation of a UN resolution limiting NATO action to establishing a no-fly zone backed by Russia by its abstention in the UN Security Council vote. The overthrow of Qaddafi first led to minimal change after elections and eventually anarchy and a civil war, which rages to this day. The parliamentary elections of July 2012 saw National Transition Council president Mustafa Abdul Jalil’s party take the most votes, but Jalil represented limited change having been the economic advisor of Qaddafi’s son. The elections also provided an opening for the MB, which finished in second place. But these elections failed in strengthening regime or consolidating democracy, and the country soon melted down into civil war, with jihadi elements supplementing the Islamist trend represented by the MB.
The Obama administration pattern of supporting MB and, unwittingly through it, jihadi elements such as AQ first emerged in Libya in 2011. In the words of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi (CCB)—founded in September 2013 and including among its members former US Congressman Peter Hoekstra and numerous former CIA and military officers—the Obama administration “switched sides in the war on terrorism” (www.aim.org/benghazi/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/CCB-Interim-Report-4-22-2014.pdf). CCB member and former CIA officer Clare Lopez concludes that “the Qaddafi opposition…was led by the Muslim Brotherhood and the fighting militia was dominated by al-Qaida. That’s who we helped” (http://counterjihadreport.com/tag/mustafa-abdul-jalil/).
A December 2015 FOIA release of emails of then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton show that from the outset of protests in Libya the Obama administration was aware of AQ’s presence in the U.S. backed opposition and anti-Qaddafi rebels’ war crimes and had sent special ops trainers inside Libya from nearly the start of the protests, and concerned regarding oil access for Western firms, Qaddafi’s gold and silver reserves and his plans for a gold-backed currency that might weaken Western currencies. Thus, Clinton’s unofficial advisor and envoy to the region, Sidney Blumenthal refers in one email to “an extremely sensitive source” who confirmed that British, French, and Egyptian special ops forces were training the Libyan rebels along the Egyptian-Libyan border and in Benghazi’s suburbs within a month of the first ant-Qaddafi protests which began in Benghazi in mid-February 2011. By March 27 what was repeatedly being referred to as a popular revolt involved foreign agents “overseeing the transfer of weapons and supplies to the rebels” of the National Libyan Council (NLC) opposition front, including “a seemingly endless supply of AK47 assault rifles and ammunition.” Blumenthal then notes that “radical/terrorist groups such as the Libyan Fighting Groups and Al Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are infiltrating the NLC and its military command.” Moreover, Blumenthal reported to her that “one rebel commander stated that his troops continue to summarily execute all foreign mercenaries captured in the fighting.” The commander was using a label–‘foreign mercenaries’–used by opposition forces for the black Libyans favored under his regime and apparently was not referring to the Western special forces training and backing the rebels, whose atrocities of Libyan blacks were well-documented at the time by human rights groups the U.S. government often cites. Furthermore, Blumenthal states that the stories of Qaddafi’s forces engaging in mass rape and his distributing Viagra to encourage them were only rumors, and yet these rumors became a charge leveled officially by Clinton in a State Department statement, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice at the UN itself, and numerous Western officials and media. The claims were shown in July 2011 by Amnesty International to have been very likely false and initiated by the rebels (www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2016/01/06/new-hillary-emails-reveal-true-motive-for-libya-intervention/ with links to original sources). The above-mentioned CCB investigation, based on interviews with sources in U.S. intelligence agencies and the military, concludes that the U.S. facilitated delivery of weapons and military support to Libyan rebels from the MB who were linked to AQ, including the AQ cell that undertook the Bengazi consulate attack that killed U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three CIA operatives.(www.aim.org/benghazi/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/CCB-Interim-Report-4-22-2014.pdf).
A New York Times investigation confirms the interpretation supported by the recently disclosed documents and CCB investigation. Secretary of State Clinton, whose ear Huma Abedin had, provided the pivotal support convincing the president first to back a UN resolution on a no-fly zone and disabling Qaddafi’s command and control. Clinton also led the push inside the administration to upgrade from that policy to one of pursuing a rebel victory and a strategy of letting its allies supply weapons to the rebels and knowingly and willfully exceed the UN resolution’s legal writ. Almost immediately after the UN resolution’s adoption and well before Qadaffi was killed, the U.S. was providing assistance that went far beyond that necessary to secure a no-fly zone. According to former CIA Director, General David Petraeus, the United States was then already providing “a continuing supply of precision munitions, combat search and, and surveillance.” Throughout spring 2011, the Obama administration looked the other way as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates supplied the rebels with lethal weapons, according to the Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others, and Clinton knew and was ostensibly “concerned that Qatar, in particular, was sending arms only to …militias from the city of Misurata and select Islamist brigades.” The State Department’s Libya policy adviser Daniel Shapiro acknowledged to the NYT that the goal no longer was enforcing a no-fly zone but “winning” and “winning quickly enough,” the latter goal perhaps connected with U.S. domestic politics and the presidential election little more than a year away. US State Department’s Policy Planning Director Anne-Marie Slaughter confirmed in the NYT article that the U.S. “did not try to protect civilians on Qaddafi’s side” (Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “The Libya Gamble, Part 1: Hillary Clinton’s ‘Soft Power’ and a Dictator’s Fall,” New York Times, 27 February 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/us/politics/hillary-clinton-libya.html?emc=edit_th_20160228&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=59962778&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign&utm_term=%2ASituation%20Report&_r=0).
Clinton was unusually interested–on “the activist side”–in having the U.S. take part, if a clandestine part in the supply of weapons to “secular” Libyan rebels “to counter Qatar” and the threat of lost influence. However, senior military officials, such as NATO’s supreme allied commander, Adm. James G. Stavridis and Obama’s national security adviser Tom Donilon warned that there were signs, “flickers.” of Al Qaeda within the opposition and the administration would not be able to ensure that weapons would not fall into Islamist extremists’s hands. This was a ‘flicker’ of the tragedies in Benghazi and Syria yet to come(Becker and Scott Shane, “The Libya Gamble, Part 1: Hillary Clinton’s ‘Soft Power’ and a Dictator’s Fall”).
The CCB and the NYT also concluded that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi had communicated to the U.S. his willingness to resign and depart from Libya and that the U.S. facilitated the delivery of arms to Libyan MB rebels tied to AQ in the person of its North African affiliate, AQ in Maghreb or AQIM. Moreover, the investigation found that the U.S. ignored Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s called for a truce and expressed a readiness to abdicate shortly after the 2011 Libyan revolt began but was ignored or rebuffed by U.S. officials leading to “extensive loss of life (including four Americans), chaos, and detrimental outcomes for U.S. national security objectives across the region” (www.aim.org/benghazi/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/CCB-Interim-Report-4-22-2014.pdf). There was another plan supported by State Department policy planning director Slaughter to have Qaddafi step down in favor of one his sons, but this was also rejected by Clinton in favor of supporting the rebels to victory and violating international law established by the UN resolution (Becker and Scott Shane, “The Libya Gamble, Part 1: Hillary Clinton’s ‘Soft Power’ and a Dictator’s Fall”).
The CCB’s broader conclusions about the Islamist revolution in U.S. counter-jihadism policy is backed up by revelations from other newly disclosed documents regarding the debacle in Syria. The Obama administration’s MB policy in Libya–which was already getting out of control and would turn Libya into a failed state, a jihadi and in particular IS stronghold, and a main source of Europe’s refugee deluge–would be applied to Syria as well with even more disastrous results. Documents show that the U.S. administration was well aware that no later than October 2012 weapons of the formerly Qaddafi-led Lybian army were being sent from Libyan MB and AQ rebels to the increasingly jhadist-dominated Syrian opposition.
Obama, the MB, and Jihadists in Syria
When the Syrian revolt began in Daraa on March 18, 2011, the Syrian MB only existed abroad, having been exiled by Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father and predecessor. However, its support abroad translated into strength in the original opposition alliance, the Syrian National Council (Oct. 2, 2011-Nov. 11, 2012) or SNC, backed and ‘weaponized,’ literally speaking, by the West, Turkey, and the Arabs. Turkey and Qatar sponsored the Syrian MB’s strong representation on the SNC, though traditionally different Syrian MB factions have had ties in Saudi Arabia and Iraq as well and more radical Salafists were stronger at home in 2011-2013 in contrast to the MB’s dominance in Syria from 1979-1982 (www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2014/01/syria-muslim-brotherhood-past-present.html#). At a conference hosted by Turkey in Istanbul in October 2011, the Syrian MB became a co-founder of the SNC, which it came to dominate politically if not numerically (http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=48370). Exiled Syrian MB members comprise a quarter of the SNC’s 310 members, and the MB constitutes the most cohesive, well-organized and influential bloc within the SNC. Moreover, another Islamist group within the SNC, the ‘Group of 74’ consists of former MB members (http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=48370; http://carnegie-mec.org/publications/?fa=48334; and www.stratfor.com/sample/analysis/more-divisions-among-syrian-opposition).
The MB is far more clever and deceptive than some other Islamist and all jihadist groups. It attempts to portray a moderate face and join alliances that function as fronts for its activity and vehicles for its rise to power. Thus, the SNC platform professed the goal of creating a full-fledged democracy, with full individual and groups rights and freedoms, elections, and the separation of powers (http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=48370). It also allowed more moderate SNC leaders to assume the mantle of leadership to present a moderate face to foreign sponsors. This is openly acknowledged by MB leaders in the SNC. Former Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadr el-Din Bayanouni, the SNC’s fourth most powerful leader, stated that SNC Chairman Burhan Ghalioun was chosen because he “is accepted in the West and at home and, to prevent the regime from capitalizing on the presence of an Islamist at the top of the SNC” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tk6KTU1zoTE). In 2012 liberal members began resigning from the council precisely because they saw it functioning as a liberal front for the MB (http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/03/14/200546.html). One of the SNC’s few secular members claimed in February 2012 that more than half of the council consisted of Islamists (http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-syria-opposition-idUKTRE81G0VM20120217).
The SNC joined the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces when the coalition was founded in November 2012 but withdrew from it in January 2014 when the latter agreed to enter into talks on a ceasefire and peaceful transition sponsored by the West and Russia in Geneva. By then both the council and the coalition had been long overtaken by the Al-Qa`ida-tied Jabhat al-Nusrah and other such groups as well as by the Islamic State (IS). The National Council is also heavily influenced by the MB. Its first president (November 2012-April 2103), Moaz al-Khatib, was the former imam of the historical Sunni Umayyad Mosque, a converted Christian church which houses the remains of St. John the Baptist and is situated in the heart of old Damascus. One of his two vice presidents was Suheir Atassi, ostensibly a secularist, and Khatib has at times promised equal rights for Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Christians and Kurds alike, prompting optimism in the West at the time that he could be a strong counter to the growing jihadization of the Free Syria Army (FSA). However, Katib is a MB sympathizer if not clandestine operative, a declared follower of the MB’s chief theologian Yusuf al-Qardawi, whom he calls “our great imam.” In accordance with Islamist taqqiya—the right to lie to non-Muslims in order to further the Islamic cause—when communicating in Arabic, Katib’s statements become more radical. He has supported the establishment of a Shariah-law based stated and his Darbuna.net website has included articles, including some of his own, which express anti-Semitic, anti-Western, and anti-Shia views (http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/11/14/islamist-in-chief/). Moreover, Katib has demonstrated just how much the differences between Islamist groups such as the MB and jihadists groups like AQ and IS are differences over strategy and tactics, not the goal of restoring the caliphate and globalizing radical Islamic influence if not rule. He has also called on the U.S. to reconsider its 2012 decision to declare the AQ-allied Jabhat al-Nusrah as a terrorist organization, refusing to denounce JN and emphasizing its value as an ally in the struggle against the Assad regime (www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2012/1212/For-newly-recognized-Syrian-rebel-coalition-a-first-dispute-with-US-video and http://www.sharnoffsglobalviews.com/assad-opposition-094/).
It is important to remember that the dividing lines between secular and Islamist groups such as the MB and even moreso those between Islamist groups like the MB and jihadi groups like AQ and IS on the ground in Syria are fluid and porous. The events in Libya demonstrated the dangers of these intersections, and now failed results would be repeated inside the Syria opposition with support for ‘moderates’ and Islamists leading to support for jihadists.
Recently disclosed U.S. government documents reveal the extent to which — already by at least mid-2012 — the Obama administration along with its European and Sunni allies were supplying financial, weapons, and training support to the SNC in its efforts to overthrow the Baathist and Alawite-led regime of Bashar al-Assad. Moreover, the documents show that the weapons were not only going to the MB-dominated SNC but also to the Al Qa`ida (AQ) Iraqi affiliate, the forerunner to ISIS. In fact, an August 2012 Defense Department/Defense Information Agency (DIA) document, which would have been based on data from the preceding months up to a year before mid-2012, emphasized that Salafists, in particular MB and AQ’s affiliate in Iraq ‘Al Qaida in Iraq’ or AQI already dominated the Syrian opposition forces. The same document undermines the neo-con argument that if the U.S. had intervened in Syria early on– say, in 2011 — there would have been little opportunity for jihadi groups like AQI and IS to dominate the forces fighting the Assad regime. But already in early 2012 if not sooner, elements from AQ’s group in the region, AQI, immediately moved from Iraq to back the opposition in Syria, AQI already had been present in Syria for years as part of its operations in Iraq. Moreover, its strongholds were in the eastern regions of Iraq, and the religious and tribal leaders there came out strongly in support for the opposition to Syria’s secular regime (www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf). Therefore, AQI would have had no trouble recruiting for the fight against Assad regardless of Western actions. One needs only recall the already existing AQI presence and the open desert terrain and porous border between western Iraq and eastern Syria.
One DoD/DIA document states that weapons were being sent from the port of Bengazi, Libya to the ports of Banias and Borj Islam in Syria beginning from October 2011–that is, before the SNC was even founded, meaning Western support actually began quite early on (www.judicialwatch.org/document-archive/pgs-1-3-2-3-from-jw-v-dod-and-state-14-812/). The document is heavily redacted (blacked out) and does not indicate who organized the weapons shipments. However, the detailed knowledge of the reasons why specific ports were selected and specific ships used suggests that U.S. intelligence, likely the CIA, organized the shipments. The document states: “The Syrian ports were chosen due to the small amount of cargo traffic transiting these two ports. The ships used to transport the weapons were medium-sized and able to hold 10 or less shipping containers of cargo” (www.judicialwatch.org/document-archive/pgs-1-3-2-3-from-jw-v-dod-and-state-14-812/). This shows that U.S. intelligence was already on the ground before October 2011. Moreover, this demonstrates that early Western actions in the form of supplying weapons especially, only strengthened AQI’s recruitment and development potential both in Iraq and Syria, helping to produce the Islamic State. I include extended excerpts from the most relevant newly released documents at the end of this article. One document warned of “dire consequences,” most of which are blacked out, but one potential consequence is not redacted: the “renewing facilitation of terrorist elements from all over the Arab world entering into Iraqi Arena” (www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf).
The interpretation that the Obama administration intentionally or unintentionally aided and abetted AQ and the rise of its successor organization ISIS (IS) is supported by the U.S. administration’s second-ranking official. On 2 October 2015 U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden let the cat out of the big when he was asked the question–“In retrospect do you believe the United States should have acted earlier in Syria, and if not why is now the right moment?”– at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Biden answered:
The answer is ‘no’ for 2 reasons. One, the idea of identifying a moderate middle has been a chase America has been engaged in for a long time. We Americans think in every country in transition there is a Thomas Jefferson hiding beside some rock – or a James Madison beyond one sand dune. The fact of the matter is the ability to identify a moderate middle in Syria was – there was no moderate middle because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers – they are made up of people who in fact have ordinary elements of the middle class of that country. And what happened was – and history will record this because I’m finding that former administration officials, as soon as they leave write books which I think is inappropriate, but anyway, (laughs) no I’m serious – I do think it’s inappropriate at least , you know, give the guy a chance to get out of office. And what my constant cry was that our biggest problem is our allies – our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks were great friends – and I have the greatest relationship with Erdogan, which I just spent a lot of time with – the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world. Now you think I’m exaggerating – take a look. Where did all of this go? So now what’s happening? All of a sudden everybody’s awakened because this outfit called ISIL which was Al Qaeda in Iraq, which when they were essentially thrown out of Iraq, found open space in territory in eastern Syria, work with Al Nusra who we declared a terrorist group early on and we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them. So what happened? Now all of a sudden – I don’t want to be too facetious – but they had seen the Lord. Now we have – the President’s been able to put together a coalition of our Sunni neighbors… (www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrXkm4FImvc&feature=youtu.be&t=1h31m57s).
This illegal activity is at least one if not the main reason behind the Obama administration’s deception of the American people regarding the murder of US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three CIA agents in September 2012 in Benghazi. Indeed, the above-mentioned document and other recently released DoD documents confirm that within hours of the attack, the entire US government, including those who were at the forefront in claiming the incident was a political demonstration that took place in reaction to a film denigrating Islam–President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and US National Security advisor (then US rep to the UN) Susan Rice–was in fact a carefully planned terrorist attack carried out by an AQ affiliate in Libya and facilitated by the U.S. president’s favorite Islamist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, which was also dominant within the ‘moderate’ wing of the Syrian opposition and Free Syrian Army. Indeed, the recent congressional hearings into the Benghazi terrorist attack demonstrated that within a day of the attack Clinton told her daughter and the Egyptian ambassador to the US that it was a terrorist attack carried out by a AQ affiliate as described in the document not by a ‘demonstration’ protesting film as she told the American people and the relatives of the the CIA agents killed in the attack.
At the same time, the military and intelligence communities are in virtual mutiny over the Obama administration’s failure to recognize the growing IS and overall jihadi threat and the risk of growing that threat by continuing the failed MB and other policies the administration pursues in the MENA region. The military’s policy revolt underscores the fact and gravity of the policy to supply weapons to Syria’s MB- and eventually jihadist-infested ‘moderate’ opposition to the Assad regime. In a January 2016 London Review of Books article, investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh uncovered major dissent and opposition within the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) over Obama’s policy of supplying weapons to MB elements in Syria. Hersh found: “Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him” – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Moreover, the Pentagon critics’ opposition centered on the administration’s unwarranted “fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin.” Another less likely accurate aspect of their critique holds that “Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped” (www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n01/seymour-m-hersh/military-to-military).
In my view, Obama is captive to anything but ‘Cold War thinking.’ Rather, he is willing prisoner of his excessive sympathy for Islam, to his MB strategy, and to his perhaps/perhaps not unconscious association of Putin with the dreaded Republican and conservative white male so detested by the Democratic Party and American left from which the president hails. That association has been unintentionally reinforced by Putin’s attempt to wear the mantle of defender of traditional values, Christianity and, as strange as it may seem to come, Western civilization. However, Hersh’s other findings are well-taken.
According to Hersh, the top brass’s resistance began in summer of 2013–more than a year since the CIA, the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar began to ship guns and goods from Libya via Turkey and sea to Syria for Assad’s toppling. A joint JCS-DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) “highly classified,” “all-source” intelligence estimate foresaw that the Assad regime’s fall would bring chaos and very possibly Syria’s takeover by jihadists was occurring in much of Libya. Hersh’s source, a former JCS senior adviser, said the report “took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups.” The assessment designated Turkey a “major impediment” to the policy since Ankara had “co-opted” the “covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad,” which “had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.” Moderates had “evaporated” and the Free Syrian Army was “a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.” The estimate concluded, according to Hersh and his source, that “there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists” (www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n01/seymour-m-hersh/military-to-military).
DIA Director (2012-14) Lieutenant General Michael Flynn confirmed that his agency had sent a steady stream of warnings to the “civilian leadership” about the “dire consequences of toppling Assad” and the jihadists’ control of the opposition. Turkey was not working hard enough to stem the flow of foreign fighters and weapons across its border and “was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria,” Flynn says. “If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic” Flynn told Hersh. But the DIA’s analysis, he says, “got enormous pushback” from the Obama administration: “I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.” Hersh’s former JCS adviser concurred, saying: “Our policy of arming the opposition to Assad was unsuccessful and actually having a negative impact.” “The Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists. The administration’s policy was contradictory. They wanted Assad to go but the opposition was dominated by extremists. So who was going to replace him? To say Assad’s got to go is fine, but if you follow that through – therefore anyone is better. It’s the ‘anybody else is better’ issue that the JCS had with Obama’s policy” (www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n01/seymour-m-hersh/military-to-military).
In September 2015 more than 50 intelligence analysts at the U.S. military’s Central Command lodged a formal complaint that their reports on IS and AQ affiliate ‘Jabhat al-Nusrah’ or JN–some of which were briefed to the president–were being altered inappropriately by senior Pentagon officials. In some cases, “key elements of intelligence reports were removed” in order to alter their thrust. The CENTCOMM analysts’ complaint was sent in July to the Defense Department and sparked a DoD inspector general’s investigation (www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/09/exclusive-50-spies-say-isis-intelligence-was-cooked.html). This was likely done in response to explicit requests or at least implicit signaling coming from White House officials on what and what is not politically correct in the president’s mind. Thus, the analysts’ complaint alleges that the reports were altered to depict the jihadi groups as weaker than analysts had assessed in an attempt by CENTCOM officials to adhere to the Obama administration’s line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and JN (www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/09/exclusive-50-spies-say-isis-intelligence-was-cooked.html). This would correlate with the motive behind the Bengazi coverup as well, as the terrorist attack occurred at the peak of the 2012 presidential campaign when the president was stumping on slogans that he had destroyed AQ.
Perhaps in response to the growing tensions, President Obama threw the intelligence agencies under the bus in September 2014 days after the US authorized itself to begin bombing Syria. He claimed that it was the intelligence agencies who “underestimated what was taking place in Syria” – a euphemism for the growing power of IS. He did this in August (www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/08/09/statement-president-iraq) and again in September (http://thehill.com/policy/defense/219123-obama-intel-underestimated-isis and http://time.com/3442254/obama-u-s-intelligence-isis/). In turn, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has begun an investigation and hearings on the intel redactions (www.nationalreview.com/article/424000/house-investigates-alleged-doctoring-isis-intel-joel-gehrke), and Obama’s former DIA chief, General Michael Flynn, has urged that the investigation begin “at the top” (http://hotair.com/archives/2015/11/24/former-obama-dia-chief-intel-probe-should-focus-on-white-house/ and http://thehill.com/policy/defense/219123-obama-intel-underestimated-isis ).
But matters in the Obama administration are even worse. After illegally running guns to AQ and then IS and thereby strengthening history’s greatest terrorist threat emanating from a non-state actor, the administration facilitated IS’s financing by failing to bomb both the IS-controlled oil wells and the hundred-long truck convoys that transported the oil to market across the open desert in open daylight. Although in October 2014 a U.S. State Department, deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Julieta Valls Noyes, claimed the sale of IS fuel was one of the US’s “principal concerns” and air strikes against them were “a viable option”, nothing was ever done (www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/war-on-isis-us-planning-to-bomb-oil-pipelines-to-halt-jihadists-funding-9813980.html). According to former Obama administration CIA director Mike Morell’s statement on November 24th, the administration refused to bomb oil wells which IS took control of because of the potential environmental damage (www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/11/25/obamas-former-cia-director-reveals-real-reason-admin-declined-to-hit-islamic-state-oil-wells/).
One reason claimed for not attacking the truck convoys was that the drivers of the trucks ferrying oil from Mosul, Iraq to the Turkish border for sale–more about NATO member Turkey’s role below–were not IS members but rather civilians. Only after Russia’s military intervention and bombing of the IS oil convoys, along with France’s doing the same after the November 13th Paris attacks, did the U.S. carry out its first sorties against the IS oil convoys on 17 November 2015. In advance of the first U.S. attack on the convoys, U.S. forces dropped leaflets warning the truck drivers (and any mujahedin accompanying them) of the impending raid (www.wsj.com/articles/french-airstrikes-in-syria-may-have-missed-islamic-state-1447685772). It remains unclear how the U.S. knew the drivers were not IS members, whether this is in fact true, whether this necessarily exonerates them, and whether it is possible to defeat an extremist insurgency under such legal structures.
However, the perfidy of Obama’s MB policy was far greater than simply the usual political correctness and naivete`of the president and his milieu or the resulting policy failures in Egypt, Libya Syria and Iraq. By looking the other way and even facilitating the flow of weapons to rebels, the Obama administration was flirting with violating U.S. anti-terrorism laws. The administration persisted in funneling arms to MB and other ‘moderate’ elements, when it was obvious to any moderately informed analyst that it would be impossible to control the flow of weapons in the murky circles and dark networks essence of frequently intersecting Islamist and jihadist organizations.
The administration’s main partner in this gambit–NATO member Turkey–would raise similar and even more troubling issues.
Part 3: Obama’s America, Erdogan’s Turkey and the ‘War Against’ Jihadism in Syria and Iraq is forthcoming later in March.
DoD August 2012 document on AQI and Syrian opposition (www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf):
- 3: “The Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI (Al Qaida in Iraq) are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”
Al Qa`ida in Iraq (IQI and predecessor to ISIS) is reported already in August 2012 “to be familiar with Syria. AQI trained in Syria and then infiltrated Iraq.
“AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media. AQI declared its opposition to Assad’s government because it considered it a sectarian regime targeting Sunnis.
“AQI coinducted a number of operations in several Syrian cities under the name of ‘Jaish al Nusra’ (Victorious Army), one of its affiliates.” NOTE: Jaish al Nusra was later renamed Jabhat al-Nusra“
- 4: “AQI had major pockets and bases on both sides of the border to facilitate the flow of materiel and recruits.”
“… After the rise of the rise of the insurgency in Syria, the religious and tribal powers in the regions began to sympathize with the sectarian uprising. This (sympathy) appeared in Friday prayer sermons, which called for volunteers to support the Sunnis in Syria.”
“(O)pposition forces are trying to control the eastern areas (Hasaka and De Zor), adjacent to the western Iraqi provinces (Mosul and Anbar), in addition to neighboring Turkish borders. Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey are supporting these efforts.”
“The opposition forces will try to use the Iraqi territory as a safe haven for its forces taking advantage of the sympathy of the Iraqi border population, meanwhile trying to recruit fighters and train them on the Iraqi side, in addition to harboring refugees (Syria).
“If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and De Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iran and Iraq).
“The deterioration of the situation has dire consequences on the Iraqi situation and are as follows:
“This creates the ideal atmosphere for AQI [al Qaeda Iraq] to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi, and will provide a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria, and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world against what it considers one enemy, the dissenters. ISI could also declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory” (www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf)
October 2012 DoD/DIA document (www.judicialwatch.org/document-archive/pgs-1-3-2-3-from-jw-v-dod-and-state-14-812/):
Weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the Port of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The weapons shipped during late-August 2012 were Sniper rifles, RPG’s, and 125 mm and 155mm howitzers missiles.
During the immediate aftermath of, and following the uncertainty caused by, the downfall of the ((Qaddafi)) regime in October 2011 and up until early September of 2012, weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the ports of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The Syrian ports were chosen due to the small amount of cargo traffic transiting these two ports. The ships used to transport the weapons were medium-sized and able to hold 10 or less shipping containers of cargo.
The weapons shipped from Syria during late-August 2012 were Sniper rifles, RPG’s and 125mm and 155mm howitzers missiles. The numbers for each weapon were estimated to be: 500 Sniper rifles, 100 RPG launchers with 300 total rounds, and approximately 400 howitzers missiles [200 ea – 125mm and 200ea – 155 mm].
Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; a Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California; a Contributor for Russia Direct, www.russia-direct.org; and an Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch, http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics. Dr. Hahn has taught Russian politics and other courses at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, St. Petersburg State (Russia), and San Francisco State Universities as well as the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey, California. He also has been a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011-2013) and a Visiting Scholar at both the Hoover Institution and the Kennan Institute. His website is http://www.gordonhahn.com.