Tags: Barack Obama | Exclusive Interviews | Iraq in Crisis | MidPoint | democrats | isis

Ex-CIA Station Chief: Obama Too 'Afraid' of His Base on Iraq

Monday, 11 Aug 2014 06:17 PM

By Sean Piccoli

The United States needs to send troops and spies into Iraq immediately to coordinate U.S. air strikes against the violent Sunni radicals of ISIS and ensure that they are not just repelled but "destroyed," a former CIA station chief told Newsmax TV on Monday.

"The problem is, this administration is so afraid of its own left — that it's going to be criticized by the liberals and the progressives in the U.S. government — that it will not act," retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen, who commanded agency operatives in Afghanistan after 9/11, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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With American air strikes against ISIS underway in Iraq's suddenly unstable Kurdish region, and U.S. weapons reportedly going to Kurdish forces, Iraqis themselves — with White House support — are pushing to replace the country's Shiite Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, with a less polarizing and sectarian leader.

Berntsen applauded U.S. efforts to get rid of Maliki — a "bad actor," he said, who has driven his Sunni rivals "into the arms of ISIS" and "conducted himself almost like [executed Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein, but as a Shia."

But Berntsen said it would be a mistake for the Obama administration to wait on a resolution of the political crisis in Baghdad before moving to crush ISIS — whose ferocious, quick-strike brigades are not content to just seize territory from Sunnis and Kurds.

"The ISIS forces have moved south and they're encircling Baghdad as we speak," he said.

Berntsen said that the U.S. needs to step up the air war immediately, and not just for piecemeal defense of threatened cities.

"ISIS needs to be destroyed," said Berntsen. "We need to have a campaign right now of 200 air strikes a day on ISIS, not the pinpricks that we've had.

"We need to be going after them because this is a cancer that is growing across the Middle East. The longer we wait to engage aggressively, the more difficult this is going to be in the end. And the president and Secretary [of State John] Kerry have failed totally to grasp the danger that is at hand."

Berntsen also said that air power alone won't finish ISIS, and that "small teams on the ground" calling in air strikes and "interacting with our Kurdish partners and others to get intelligence" are needed.

"And I'm not talking large numbers of forces," he said. "Maybe a couple of hundred. That's it. Maximum, one or two hundred people, would make a gigantic difference."

Berntsen said that in 2001, 135 CIA agents joined with 350 Special Forces' troops to lay the groundwork for assaults on the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan.

"We have to do to [ISIS] what we did to the Taliban back in 2001," he said. "We have to engage them, assault them, destroy them. They have to be destroyed as a fighting force."

He pointed to the horrors ISIS is inflicting on the Yazidis, a religious minority that lived peacefully in northern Iraq. Yazidis are now fleeing their homes by the tens of thousands and pleading for U.S. help.

"If you see what they're doing on television," Berntsen said of ISIS, "they're crucifying people, beheading people, burying people alive, forcing people to convert, trapping thousands of people on mountains and having them starve to death and die in the heat.

"These people are evil," said Berntsen, "and when facing evil, as Edmund Burke said, the only thing that's required for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing. We have got to act."

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