House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said on Wednesday that negligence by the Obama administration toward reliable allies in the Middle East is directly responsible for the acquisition of arms from those countries by the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist groups.
"When the Arab League first began discussions with us three years ago about helping with Syria, they said, 'We need your help — not boots on the ground, but guidance,'" recalled Rogers, a Republican from Michigan who is retiring this fall after 14 years in Congress. "The U.S. response was 'that's too hard.'"
Since then, he added, "every month, the options have gotten worse."
The seven-term lawmaker, former FBI agent and U.S. Army officer spoke at a press breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
In response to a question from Newsmax as to why ISIS has acquired weapons from Middle Eastern countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia that are assumed to be U.S. allies, Rogers blamed it on the fact that "the [Obama administration] never quite weighed in on the Middle East situation, despite appeals from the Arab League."
With the United States not playing the stronger role in the Middle East requested of it by Arab friends, he told us, parts of the Arab League "have started to fracture. The Arab League [nations] started fighting among themselves."
As a result of this infighting, Rogers added, "some supplies within the Arab League [nations] began getting in the hands of extremists. Other weapons migrated to extremists in eastern Syria."
The longtime congressman believes that as the situation in the Middle East "deteriorated before our eyes, we just watched. Every month, our options get worse. That is why engagement is so important."
By engagement, Rogers explained, "I mean that having the secretary of state show up for a chat isn't going to do it."
He also cited a comment that he and his colleagues have heard more than once from officials in Arab League countries, who are frustrated with the administration now calling for a certain policy direction after a long period of not being engaged in their situation:
"If you're not going to sit down with us, you're not going to lecture us on the shape of the table."
Referring to President Barack Obama's news conference last week when he hinted at possibly working with Iran to resolve the Iraq crisis, Rogers said: "You can imagine all the calls [members of Congress] got from Arab League partners on what a bad idea that is!"
When he leaves Congress next January, Rogers will launch a nationally syndicated radio show. One of the topics he plans to talk about, he said, "is why American exceptionalism matters. The Arab League certainly feels it does."
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