Tags: Exclusive Interviews | Iraq in Crisis | ISIS/Islamic State | MidPoint | Syria | War on Terrorism | Michael Hayden

Ex-CIA Chief Hayden: ISIS Erred in Killing Journalists

By    |   Wednesday, 03 September 2014 03:45 PM

The violent jihadis of the Islamic State are proving to be capable of error and miscalculation, and may find their biggest mistake was prodding the United States into action with the barbaric executions of two captive Americans, former U.S. intelligence chief Michael Hayden told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

"When you wake up a sleeping giant, you may have to live with the consequences," Hayden, former director of the CIA and NSA, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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Hayden said that President Barack Obama, in announcing his intent to "degrade and destroy" the Islamic State's military machine, is finally projecting the resolve that his past and present national security advisers have been urging him to show toward the radical group.

He said Obama "came down pretty hard" on the group, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in a speech Wednesday in Talinn, Estonia — one day after video surfaced of a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff, being decapitated by a knife-wielding ISIS militant.

But Hayden said the speech and the ongoing airstrikes against ISIS positions in Iraq aren't enough.

"Right now, all we're doing is kind of correcting the line of confrontation, pushing ISIS back a bit as the president said, breaking their momentum," said Hayden. "We have got to take the fight to ISIS throughout the entire Islamic State, and that includes the patch of land formerly known as Syria.

"I was really struck with the president saying we have to do it on the ground, as well," he said. "And for that, we'll need some good regional allies."

But Hayden recommended against a U.S. alliance of convenience with the government of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, despite their common interest in stopping ISIS.

"We actually tried to cooperate with the Syrian intelligence service while I was director of CIA to cut down that foreign fighter pipeline from Damascus into western Iraq, and it was a very unhappy, unsatisfying experience," said Hayden.

"I don't think we coordinate anything with the Damascus government," he said.

Hayden instead advocates "a frank and private conversation" with Assad, to the effect that "we intend to take on ISIS wherever they are, and it would not be in the interest of the Syrian state to interfere."

As for how many U.S. troops to commit to combat against ISIS, Hayden noted that in Iraq, American ground forces are growing in number to help coordinate U.S. airstrikes and to support the Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIS.

"Already, in a fairly stealthy manner, we've got more than 1,000 troops in Iraq — and by the way, without that Status of Forces Agreement approved by the Iraqi parliament that we said was necessary to keep our forces there," he said.

"I suspect that number of people on the ground is going to grow over the next three, six, nine, or 12 months," said Hayden.

Hayden said that one of the president's next tasks is to change the narrative of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, which "he seems to have started to do today with that speech — just point out in a very candid way why we've got to do something."

The president, who campaigned on ending the U.S. war in Iraq, had said "it was OK to be war-weary for the last several years: 'al-Qaida's on the run,' 'the tide of war is receding,' " said Hayden.

"And now circumstances have proven that's simply not true," he said.

A crushing U.S. military response to ISIS militants could also undercut their image as brilliant strategists, said Hayden.

Hayden speculated that the murders of Sotloff and fellow journalist James Foley were ISIS's way of trying to "pump up their jihadist credentials," and signal to the world — and other jihadi groups — that ISIS is a force to be reckoned with.

And that act of vanity could wind up proving that ISIS, for all its impressive battlefield wins and reputed media savvy, is fallible, said Hayden.

"These guys aren't 10 feet tall. They make mistakes," said Hayden.

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The violent jihadis of the Islamic State are proving to be capable of error and miscalculation, and may find their biggest mistake was prodding the United States into action with the barbaric executions of twocaptive Americans, former U.S. intelligence chief Michael Hayden said.
Michael Hayden, ISIS, Iraq, Syria
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 03:45 PM
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