Back in January, President Obama told the New Yorker’s David Remnick that the group then known as the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, or the Islamic State in the Levant, was not that big of a threat.
At the core of Obama’s thinking is that American military involvement cannot be the primary instrument to achieve the new equilibrium that the region so desperately needs. And yet thoughts of a pacific equilibrium are far from anyone’s mind in the real, existing Middle East. In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been “decimated.” I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.
The al Qaeda flag flying in Fallujah was flown by ISIS.
“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.
“Let’s just keep in mind, Falluja is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”
But who is the “we” Obama refers to there?
The intelligence community is pushing back, saying that the growing ISIS threat has been included in the Presidential Daily Brief over the past year.
A former Pentagon official confirms to Fox News that detailed and specific intelligence about the rise of ISIS was included in the PDB, or the President’s Daily Brief, for at least a year before the group took large swaths of territory beginning in June.
The official, who asked not to be identified because the PDB is considered the most authoritative, classified intelligence community product providing the President with analysis of sensitive international events, said the data was strong, and “granular” in detail, adding a policy maker “…could not come away with any other impression: This is getting bad.”
“Granular” is an interesting word in this context. It means that the intelligence on ISIS has been quite specific, down to who the leaders are, how its field forces are armed and deployed, its capabilities, how it is raising money, and more.
But that was all included in the Presidential Daily Brief. Obama may not have attended many of those. He was routinely skipping them in the months leading up to 9-11-12, the terrorist attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya.
He now says that he reads them instead of having intelligence officers brief him, as previous presidents have. Briefings allow for a back-and-forth that Obama is not getting even if he is reading his PDBs.
The situation now is that ISIS is growing as it establishes its own capital in Syria — where Obama admits that he has no strategy to deal with them. ISIS has an unknown number of western passport holders among its troops. They can travel freely.
The Texas-Mexico border is wildly insecure. And ISIS is very aware of that.