Mike Rogers on the Iraq disaster
House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) appeared on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace to discuss the disastrous situation in Iraq. Rogers emphasized the danger posed by the bloodthirsty ISIS invaders, who make the terrorists who roosted in Afghanistan “look like a tea party” by comparison.
Responding to President Obama’s call on Friday for some sort of political arrangement between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government, Sunni Muslims, and the Kurds, Rogers said, “Leadership is important. Absence of leadership and decisiveness is important here. It’s too late to have long political reconciliation meetings that will last weeks or months, to try to get through even the finest points of difference. You have an al-Qaeda army on the move. This isn’t just Sunnis versus Shias. This is an al-Qaeda-minded group that is using all of the tactics of brutality to subdue Mosul, and Tikrit, and other places.”
He’s not fooling when he talks about “tactics of brutality.” The hot new talking point among sobbing liberals this weekend, as they hug each other and look for ways to keep believing Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign rhetoric, is that ISIS isn’t really an al-Qaeda group, because they were too brutal for Osama bin Laden’s gang. They jumped into the World Cup Twitter feed over the weekend to post a photo of a police chief’s severed head with the caption, “This is our ball… it is made of skin.” They’re fond of putting snuff films online, including one where a group of ISIS thugs disguised themselves as soldiers, set up a phony checkpoint, and murdered every Shiite who pulled over. Another shows ISIS gunmen slaughtering several truckloads of helpless civilian captives along the side of a road. The UK Telegraph writes of “several individual massacres which may have bene planned at Camp Speicher, just outside Tikrit, once a US military base.” ISIS claims it killed over 1,700 captives in this orgy of executions.
Rogers said the situation was “as dangerous as it gets” because “we have thousands of Westerners and Americans in both eastern Syria and Iraq, who have Western passports” who might become terror operatives sent to carry out attacks in Europe and the United States, once they’ve been radicalized and trained at “jihadist Disneyland in eastern Syria.”
Rogers alluded to Mohammad Abusalha, a 22-year-old from Florida who hooked up with the jihadis in Syria, carried out a suicide bombing attack against Syrian government forces, and appears in a recruitment video designed to entice more Americans to “join the caravan of jihad and martyrdom” – a message superimposed over footage of jetliners hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Rogers warned that more bad elements would rally around the black flag of ISIS if they continue to demonstrate strength, while Obama projects weakness. Tracking the escalation of terrorist activity, followed by a lack of forceful response, which culminated in the 9/11 attacks, he warned of a near future in which ISIS follows the same path of aggression against provocative passivity… with the added menace of an armory that includes captured military equipment, hundreds of millions of dollars in booty, and a large contingent of terrorist agents with Western passports. It’s also not heartening to watch ISIS making smart battlefield moves, such as halting their headlong drive to Baghdad so they can consolidate their grip on the Iraqi territory they’ve already conquered. “That is an interesting development, and even more concerning if you think that they have learned from their past mistakes about overreaching,” judged Rogers.
Rogers forcefully disputed the characterization of Iraq’s crisis as a Sunni versus Shia civil war. “Not every Sunni has joined al-Qaeda. We have an al-Qaeda problem, in a scale we’ve never seen before,” he said.
Re-energizing an Arab League coalition against ISIS is an important step in Rogers’ opinion. He said the League would be inclined to join the effort, provided they received “command and control, intelligence packages, and more accurate targeting” from the US military. Rogers proposed a strategy of “disrupting ISIS elements in eastern Syria” as well as Iraq… a plan that would, unfortunately, be welcomed by Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, but he appears to be winning his struggle to remain in power anyway, and the last thing the world needs is for Syria to go from being a Baathist dictatorship to part of an ISIS terror state stretching across Iraq and Syria.
An Arab League partnership would allow American air and missile forces to be used more carefully and effectively, without putting American boots on the ground… provided we act quickly. “If we’ve learned anything, it’s that you can’t fire missiles and then turn around and come home,” he said. “It has to be a coordinated effort. That’s why you have to have the Arab League with you. They have the capability, with special forces and other things, to impact certain parts of the battlefield. We should use that.”
Rogers described Iran’s offer of military partnership with Iraq and the US a “trap,” observing that not long ago, Iranian Quds Force operatives were helping Iraqi insurgents blow up American troops. Leaning on Iran instead of putting an Arab League force together would be “a failure of leadership.”
Unfortunately, it’s a failure our hapless Secretary of State, John Kerry, was talking about making again on Monday morning, declaring the Obama Administration is “open to discussions” with the mullahs of Tehran, and “would not rule out anything that would be constructive.” It doesn’t seem to have dawned on the deep thinkers in the State Department – working over the weekend to prepare options for Obama when he returns from his 125th golf outing as President – that legitimizing Iran in a desperate effort to hand off the Iraqi crisis is a strategic error almost as grave as allowing an al-Qaeda group to build a terror state the size of Indiana with a billion-dollar treasury. “We murdered the Americans for years in Iraq, and now they come crawling to us for help” would become a popular talking point in Tehran.
Rogers said that ISIS was a problem we would have to deal with, one way or the other… either in Iraq today, or in New York tomorrow. This was probably a deliberate allusion to ISIS mastermind Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s parting words to his erstwhile jailers when he walked out of a prison camp in Iraq in 2009: “I’ll see you guys in New York.” The camp was manned largely by personnel from New York, and named after New York Fire Marshal Ronald Bucca, who died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. I’m starting to think letting these guys out of prison is a bad idea.
Update: For the benefit of anyone inclined to dismiss Rep. Rogers’ analysis of the ISIS threat as mere partisan sniping, here’s Mike Morell, who served as acting CIA Director under Barack Obama, saying the same thing. If anything, Morell is even more direct in asserting that ISIS plans to set up a “caliphate” even larger than the territory they’ve already captured… and then use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against the United States.
Morell also flatly stated that he does not believe “it is in the interests of the United States to work with Iran,” because it’s dangerous to enhance Tehran’s prestige and “give them a foothold in Iraq.” To cushion the blow for Obama supporters, he also has some thoughts about how the process of “de-Baathification” under George W. Bush left Iraq without the intelligence and military organization necessary to repel this invasion. On second thought, since that makes the status-of-forces agreement Obama didn’t get even more significant, maybe that line of reasoning won’t prove very comforting for his fans.
Update: Guess who predicted years ago, with pinpoint accuracy, precisely what would happen if American forces withdrew completely from Iraq. Go on, guess.