Daily Beast: Obama Administration Had Warning on ISIS

Sunday, 06 Jul 2014 02:13 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Dozens of intelligence officers, diplomats, and others say they warned the Obama administration of the threat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was posing to Iraq, and the collapse of Mosul wasn't just predictable, but expected.

"It's simply not true that nobody saw a disaster like the fall of Mosul coming," Ali Khedery, a senior adviser at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, told The Daily Beast. "I can't speak for anyone else, but I literally predicted this in verbal warnings and in writing in 2010 that Iraq would fall apart."

James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador, agreed that the warning had come early on the fall of Mosul.

"I and a zillion other people said in 2014 that we needed to do more than the very slow and inadequate reaction," said Jeffrey. "If [ISIS] could move in and seize Fallujah and they were on the offensive, and they were active in Mosul and Nineweh [province] too, the army was lethargic and not doing very well, at that point there was a possibility for us to provide air strikes and advisers.”

The problem was, the Obama administration had its hands tied because of its policy on Iraq.

On Nov. 1, 2013, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the White House and asked Obama to send the military back into his country and help his Air Force develop targets for air strikes. His request came after Maliki celebrated when last troops left Iraq in 2011, but he was concerned about the serious threat ISIS and Sunni insurgents were posing.

And just days later, Brett McGurk, a deputy assistant secretary of state and the Obama administration’s senior U.S. official in Baghdad, warned that ISIS was launching up to 40 suicide bombers a month.

ISIS had benefited from Iraq's weak security forces and the grievances from Iraq's population.

However, Maliki was rejected and McGurk's warnings were unheeded, as President Barack Obama's policy options were limited. Had he approved Maliki's request, he risked making the controversial leader more powerful. He did agree to sell nearly $11 billion of weapons to Maliki's military, but was unable to get the leader to reverse reforms in which he ousted some of his forces' better leaders in favor of installing his own supporters.

And two months after Maliki's visit, Fallujah fell to ISIS and five months after that, Mosul fell. But meanwhile, intelligence analysts from the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency were still issuing warnings that Iraq's military could not stand up to ISIS.

The Mosul collapse may have been a surprise for the average citizen, but Tariq al-Hashimi, an Iraqi vice-president living in exile in Turkey, says that he does not believe the U.S. government was surprised at all.

One senior U.S. official told The Daily Beast there are no good options over whom the U.S. should support.

"This stuff is far more complicated than 'white hat / black hat' and Maliki good, that guy bad, or Maliki bad, that guy good. They're all shades of gray, at best."

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