Whether or not U.S. officials knew in advance that violent Sunni radicals could upend Iraq, the White House response to the brutal insurgency that is redrawing the Middle East map has been flatfooted and inept, an economics and politics correspondent for Saudi TV told Newsmax TV
"The Obama administration national security team and foreign policy members are totally out of sync with what's happening in the world," Ahmed Fathi told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner. "Their analysis of the situation, their contingency plan — if there is a contingency plan — is less than mediocre."
"This is the fact we have to deal with until 2016," Fathi said, alluding to the next U.S. presidential election.
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As debate in Washington flares over who knew what and when
about ISIS, the jihadist group has already planted its flag in territory seized from Syria and Iraq, and put the self-anointed leader of the so-called Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on video
for the world to see.
While Fathi shrugged off Baghdadi's vision of a new "caliphate" as farfetched, he also said that dream — of an Islamic utopia modeled on ancient times — has cropped up before and bears watching because it persists among some radicals.
When the Muslim Brotherhood briefly ruled Egypt, for example, its leaders "started to promote this idea of the caliphate," said Fathi, adding the dogma shuns established borders.
"Their dream is to build the caliphate from the Atlantic Ocean to the China Wall," he said.
Fathi cut President Barack Obama some slack on developments in Iraq, saying the speed with which the U.S.-trained Iraqi government army collapsed before ISIS' guerrilla onslaught "is unimaginable."
"This goes beyond the logic of things, beyond the nature of organized armies," he said.
In hindsight, he said, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ran the armed forces like a political patronage racket, complete with kickbacks.
"Those who signed up to serve in the Iraqi army were actually paying a salary of a month or two months to get through the door," he said. "Corruption was prevalent."
Fathi allowed that U.S. officials might have "exaggerated" the extent of their surprise at ISIS's prowess and the Iraqi army's lack thereof. To be caught completely off guard, he said, "means that there is … no US intelligence inside Iraq" and "no US intelligence inside Syria."
ISIS fighters "were controlling, already, towns and cities in Syria," said Fathi. "They did not just come out of the blue."
The worry now is that by looting banks when they seized Iraqi cities such as Mosul, ISIS has also made itself "the richest terrorist organization in the world" to the tune of several hundred million dollars, said Fathi.
"Remember, al-Qaida's operating budget in the key years … was not more than $30 million," he said.
Fathi sees one consolation in that the United States' new enemy may be a little too full of himself.
Commenting on the video, he said Baghdadi has made it easier for the U.S. to track his whereabouts.
"He has signed his death certificate … by showing his face," said Fathi.
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