Donald Trump’s declaration last week at a campaign rally that President Obama and Hillary Clinton “founded” ISIS drew outrage from establishment media, and the Republican nominee now insists he was being sarcastic, but a Defense Intelligence Agency document declassified last year shows the Obama administration was warned in 2012 that if it continued its policies, a radical Islamic regime could form in Eastern Syria.
Writing in Chronicles magazine, Jim Jatras, a former U.S. diplomat and foreign policy adviser to the Senate GOP leadership, cited a DIA report in August 2012 that was declassified and released last year under a Freedom of Information Act request from Judicial Watch.
Hillary Clinton was secretary of state at the time under President Obama.
The report said “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria, and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”
The “supporting powers” are identified as “the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey.”
Jatras, as Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch blog reported, summarized the report saying that if the U.S. and its proxies kept aiding al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood and other “rebel” groups fighting the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a jihadist state would arise in the country.
Several months later, ISIS declared itself a state straddling the Syria-Iraq border.
Report ‘made no difference’
Jatras pointed out that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, currently a Trump adviser, took over as head of DIA a month before the report was issued.
“Whether it was his personal effort to caution the administration or simply the professional analysts in the DIA apparatus laying out the facts as they saw them, the 2012 report made no difference,” Jatras writes.
In an interview last year with Mehdi Hasan of Al Jazeera, Flynn said the formation of an ISIS state wasn’t a matter of the administration turning a “blind eye.” It was a “willful decision.”
Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?
Flynn: I think the administration.
Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?
Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.
Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?
Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.
Islamic state a ‘strategic opportunity’
In May 2015, Nafeez Ahmed, an investigative journalist and international security scholar, reported the DIA document provided “no indication of any decision to reverse the policy of support to the Syrian rebels.”
“On the contrary, the emergence of an al-Qaeda affiliated ‘Salafist Principality’ as a result is described as a strategic opportunity to isolate Assad.”
Ahmed noted that at the time, media reports focused on the report’s evidence that the Obama administration knew of arms supplies from a Libyan terrorist stronghold to rebels in Syria.
He wrote that the DIA document “confirms that the main component of the anti-Assad rebel forces by this time comprised Islamist insurgents affiliated to groups that would lead to the emergence of ISIS.”
“Despite this, these groups were to continue receiving support from Western militaries and their regional allies,” he wrote.
Ahmed said the Pentagon document explicitly forecasted the declaration of “an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.”
Nevertheless, “Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey are supporting these efforts” by Syrian “opposition forces” fighting to “control the eastern areas (Hasaka and Der Zor), adjacent to Western Iraqi provinces (Mosul and Anbar).”
Ahmed said that in response to his questions about the strategy, the British government “simply denied the Pentagon report’s startling revelations of deliberate Western sponsorship of violent extremists in Syria.”
A British Foreign Office spokesman told him:
AQ (Al-Qaida) and ISIL (ISIS) are proscribed terrorist organizations. The UK opposes all forms of terrorism. AQ, ISIL, and their affiliates pose a direct threat to the UK’s national security. We are part of a military and political coalition to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and are working with international partners to counter the threat from AQ and other terrorist groups in that region. In Syria we have always supported those moderate opposition groups who oppose the tyranny of Assad and the brutality of the extremists.
Ahmed said the DIA did not respond to his request for comment.