As bad as the Islamic State (ISIS) has been for the war-ravaged Middle East, the United States needs to recognize that murderous group's de-facto creator and enabler — Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad — as an even bigger and more monstrous adversary, says a former State Department official.
"For every one person ISIS has driven out of their town, Bashar al-Assad has driven out ten," Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr., a former assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV
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"For every one person ISIS has killed, Bashar has killed thirty," said Bloomfield, chairman of the board at the Stimson Center, a global security advisory firm.
"And even the Arab foreign ministers have called for the world to take him to the International Court of Justice to face war-crimes prosecution" for his conduct in Syria's brutal civil war, he said.
Bloomfield said that Assad's central role in the horrors gripping Syria and Iraq is not to be overlooked even as the United States trains its military power on the barbaric fighters of the Islamic State.
He said the extremist army's rise had its origins in steps Assad took to save himself.
Assad's gambit, when it looked like he might be driven from power, was to effectively side with one of the rebel factions — the radical Islamists, according to Bloomfield
So a dictatorial regime that once policed its borders jealously started letting foreign fighters in, and emptied its own jails so that dissidents and criminals could join up with the jihadists, said Bloomfield.
And it worked: What began as a counterweight to the more moderate rebel groups — where infighting was already rampant — morphed into ISIS, a vicious army vowing to build a puritanical state.
It was development that left Assad in power, and looking like the lesser of two evils.
"Now he's fine," said Bloomfield. "And the reason he's fine is that he started a bonfire. He opened the door to these extremists. He diverted our attention."
He said that in comparison to the state-sanctioned brutality of countries such as Syria and Iran, "what ISIS represents, when you take away the media, is basically a small, violent gang."
"What kind of a policy is it if someone who has committed the most heinous war crimes using his state military power goes through without accountability?" Bloomfield said of Assad. "Whether it's today or tomorrow the United States must be clear that certain things … are unacceptable."
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