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ISIS threat in Iraq exposes Obama’s failed policy in Syria: Administration insiders

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TerrorismISIS threat in Iraq exposes Obama’s failed policy in Syria: Administration insiders

Published 29 August 2014

President Barack Obama has been coming under growing criticism over his policy – or, as some critics would argue, lack of policy — toward the Jihadist threat in Iraq and Syria. The criticism is increasingly coming from members of his own administration. They argue that the failure to help the moderate elements among the Syrian rebels not only helped Assad stay in power, but also allowed the Jihadists to cement their power over a large swath of Syria and then move south to control a third of Iraq. The president has recently asked for $500 million to help train moderate Syrian rebels, but even those who supported such a move two years ago say it may be too late.

President Barack Obama has been coming under growing criticism over his policy – or, as some critics would argue, lack of policy — toward ISIS threat in Iraq and Syria.The criticism is increasingly coming from members of his own administration.

Defense One reports that some members of the administration say they feel “extreme frustration” with the president following his dismissal of their warnings of growing terrorist power in Iraq and Syria. Now that many of those predictions have coming true, and the Islamic State has been gaining militarily, more and more of those involved are voicing their disapproval of the president’s cautious approach.

“Two years ago we told them if we did not train the moderates [in Syria] it would be the [Assad] regime versus al-Qaeda and you would have transnational terrorist networks in Syria,” one unnamed official told Defense One. “The real fear they always had was: arming the opposition means empowering the extremists. And now they say, ‘See? We told you,’ and we say, ‘No, you didn’t arm the moderates and you ended up with extremists.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced a similar sentiment when she said that “the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad — there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.”

In response to charges of not arming and training the moderate rebels in Syria, Obama said that “Oftentimes, the challenge is if you have former farmers or teachers or pharmacists who now are taking up opposition against a battle hardened regime,” adding that training such a diverse group of people into a cohesive fighting force can be difficult.

Critics of Obama within the administration say that this depiction of the situation the United States was facing in Syria in the first two or three years after the anti-Assad rebellion erupted in early 2011 is inaccurate. The same unnamed official said during that period many members of the moderate opposition were soldiers who defected from the Syrian army, and as such could have easily been equipped and trained to form an effective fighting force. The teachers and pharmacists the president referred to were on the margins of the anti-Assad rebellion in its early stages.

Additionally, Congress is now considering Obama’s request for $500 million to train moderate Syrian rebels, but those who argued for such help to the moderate Syrians two years ago, are now saying it may be too late.“What we do know and what we did know was that the longer we delayed this, the less likely it was going to work,” said the official, “Maybe it would have failed, but it had a higher chance of succeeding then than now.”

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