June 15, 2016

"Trump tweets story claiming 'secret memo' shows Obama supports ISIS."

Headline at The Hill. Excerpt:
The story, from the conservative Breitbart website, says the State Department received a memo from an intelligence agent who claimed al Qaeda in Iraq, a group that splintered off to form ISIS, was one of the "major forces driving the insurgency in Syria."

Based on the memo, the article claims that the Obama administration backed ISIS by setting up a program to train Syrian rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad. The Syrian opposition comprises dozens of different factions, and the Obama administration has struggled at times to find reliable allies not tied to extremists. The Pentagon had focused on vetting the rebels who took part in its "train and equip" program, but it stalled after the Pentagon was only able to train 150 rebels, far short of its goal of 3,000.
Here's Trump's tweet:



I don't trust Breitbart (and I passed on that story when I saw it), but I think we've long understood this problem of who the "rebels" in Syria were and whether it made sense to help them. So why haven't other media been pursuing this story? Trump has been critical of the disarray caused by Obama/Hillary policy in Syria (and Libya). What is Hillary's side of this? It's ridiculous that the media that support Hillary merely attack Trump for pointing at stories that suggest that Hillary/Obama had bad judgment, didn't know what they were doing, or worse. The media have left the opening for Trump to take these easy shots, and now, when he does, they seem to think it's enough to say Trump isn't nice or Trump throws out inconclusive evidence and invites us to think for ourselves and ask questions.

107 comments:

Sebastian said...

"It's ridiculous that the media that support Hillary merely attack Trump" Why? It's their job. It's their M.O. MSM shill for Hill: what else is new?

cubanbob said...

Trump in his inarticulate and somewhat loopy way may be right. I suspect that Benghazi was some sort of gun running scheme to what is now ISIS that went very bad.

traditionalguy said...

If Obama supports the Iran deal and threatens to shoot down Israeli Airforce planes that try to bomb Iranian Nuke facilities, then it would be nothing much that he and Hillary gave our support to AlQaeda against Assad.

Only Obama, being an insider Muslim, can best understand the many Muslim Sects and their shifting War needs.

Trump is wasting our time exposing what we already know about.

Brando said...

This is the problem with trying to pick a side in that mess--we're as likely to end up arming vile terror groups as we are to be helping "freedom fighters" overthrow a dictator. Doing nothing sounds bad, but actively making it worse is worse than nothing.

Roughcoat said...

cubanbob --

You are correct. But it's worse than that.

Wheels within wheels. Forget it Jake, it's the Middle East.

M Jordan said...

We have entered the Trump v. Obama phase of the operation. Hillary is dimming. I'm not sure Trump will win this phase since Obama has the media horde gathered round him in strident "Protect the queen bee" mode.

But it's definitely an interesting phase to watch.

Quaestor said...

Obama, Clinton, and their allies in the media will do whatever is necessary to bury or discredit this story because the Administration's confused "Arab Spring" policy led directly to the Benghazi incident.

EDH said...

I appreciate Althouse rigorous and fair analysis of Trump versus the herd mentality.

PB said...

Why haven't other media outlets pursued the story? You mean NYT, WaPo, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN? They can't cover a story that would be negative for Obama.

Now that they've made their money covering Trump and the Republican primary, they're pivoting back to full-throated Obama positive all the time.

cubanbob said...

Roughcoat said...
cubanbob --

You are correct. But it's worse than that.

Wheels within wheels. Forget it Jake, it's the Middle East.

6/15/16, 12:30 PM"

Benghazi is Obama's and Hillary's Iran-Contra without the virtue of there being any good guys (the Contras) in the picture plus the Republicans are worthless when it comes to Congressional political theater.

Gusty Winds said...

God forbid we are invited to think for ourselves or ask questions.

tim in vermont said...

Hillary has a good explanation, it's "look , squirrel!"

Limited blogger said...

Trump is ripping control of the media away from Democrats with by-lines. This is so refreshing, and gives me a small amount of optimism for my children's future. A small amount.

buwaya said...

"Obama has the media horde gathered round him in strident "Protect the queen bee" mode"

It should have been clear long, long ago to any observant person that the bulk of the media is not only solidly biased, but that it is a disciplined, controlled system.

The British papers are often much better for following US news, precisely because, though they have their own biases, they are apparently unmanaged. Even the Guardian will carry things that are quashed in the US MSM.

Why distrust Breitbart any more than the NYT? Both are biased, and its not a bit clear which one is more so. Habit maybe?

Nonapod said...

Trump is a fascinating loose canon. His blunt, ham handed attacks are probably much more effective than many on the left would be willing to admit.

traditionalguy said... Trump is wasting our time exposing what we already know about.

For people who support him or are at least pretty well informed, sure, this isn't exactly news. But I can guarantee that there's a huge swath of voters who haven't the first inkling of this sort of stuff. But because Trump brought it up, and Trump won't let it go, it will force the left wing MSM machine to address it, and struggle to spin it so it hurts Trump and helps Hillary if that's even possible. It will become a story because Trump made it one as he always does. This may even encourage a few low info types to actually go out of their way and learn a little bit (I know, wishful thinking, but I can dream, right)

tim in vermont said...

One of those missiles, signed out to the CIA for Syrian rebels, took down a US helicopter in Afghanistan, thankfully nobody was killed.

eric said...

Have you seen how high Obama's approval ratings are?

With the fawning media coverage he gets, is anyone shocked? Plus, it's a presidential election. The media needs to pump up the Democrats to get them elected. No worries, the ombudsman will apologize once Hillary is secure in the white house.

The inverse is also true. If it's a Republican President,the constant negative media pounding makes you wonder how any Republican ever has an approval rating over five percent.

n.n said...

From Benghazi to Damascus to Kiev, the press has gone out of their way to cover for this administration.

Hagar said...

This is the problem with trying to pick a side in that mess--we're as likely to end up arming vile terror groups as we are to be helping "freedom fighters" overthrow a dictator. Doing nothing sounds bad, but actively making it worse is worse than nothing.

This is bound to be the result when you can't even explain your policy to yourself - and much less to others!

Tom said...

This story cites a source with evidence. I think the evidence needs to be shown as false or explained. Trump is reasonable for pressing this attack if that response is not forthcoming.

Roughcoat said...


Here's a part, and only a part, of the equation.

We provide Kurdish groups (or factions, if you will) with material and monetary support.

The Kurdish leadership is notoriously corrupt.

Guess where a goodly portion of that material and monetary support goes?

Also--and this is a little-known fact--many Kurds are fighting with ISIS. They are fighting with ISIS for several reasons, but one of their chief motivations is to fight against rival Kurdish factions.

People don't know this in part because the Kurds are highly adept at public relations. So much so that they become the designated good guys in the conflict.

They are not the good guys.

Wheels within wheels.

Quaestor said...

Obama, at Clinton's request, armed various "rebel" groups in Syria hoping to topple Assad with little intelligence as to the ideology of the group being armed. Clinton saw a similar opportunity in Libya to depose Muammar Gaddafi, a virtually castrated dictator who had been lying low for years, to furnish her cap with yet another feather. Potential rebels were identified and subsequently armed with, among other things, shoulder-fired surface to air missiles. It is not clear whether these were obsolescent Stingers or Chinese-made Hong Ying-5 missiles, however some of them were delivered to groups with al-Qeda or ISIS allegiance. When the error was discovered Clinton tasked Ambassador Stevens with a buy-back mission — gold for missiles — which is why he traveled from the secure Tripoli embassy to the insecure Benghazi consulate.

madAsHell said...

After Snowden, and Hillary's email server, I really thought we might have some revelations of extra-constitutional behavior, or underhanded dealings. I have not seen such revelations. I'm sure they are out there, but they must make the wrong people look bad.

David Begley said...

AA

The media is covering and protecting Hillary.

Same reason nothing is reported about the Clinton Foundation or Laurate University. When Hillary gets indicted over the bribery scheme she ran through the Foundation while she was at State, MSM is going to look foolish.

WaPo and NYT would also have to send reporters abroad. The fix is in.

Protecting Hillary is also why we get all these poll results. Easy to read the poll and say Hillary is up 12% and sixty some percent of women will never vote for Trump.

tim in vermont said...

So you think the trolls are in meeting rooms with whiteboards trying to game their response right now?

Unknown said...

Wandering into the Fever Swamp is not without risk. Here's a 2012 assessment of this story from Breitbart.

http://www.juancole.com/2015/05/strategic-against-assad.html

Assessing where things may go is not the same as making them go there or even helping them go there. But it really helps to conflate the two for those with the sort of derangement syndrome that populate the internet..

The Drill SGT said...

The underlying IR looks legit, as far as that goes. I could dummy up better, but would need help doing the FOIA redaction notes :) It's a Situation Report that consolidates a collection of facts and rumors. The sloppy part comes in the rehashing by Breitbart and The Hill. No Intelligence Agent calls himself "Intelligence Agent. The term of art for USG folks is Intelligence Officer. agents are our locals. Spy's are the other guys.

mockturtle said...

Obama was being either very naive or very complicit. Take your pick.

Unknown said...

Apologies: the story from Professor Cole above is from 2015, not 2012.

AllenS said...

buwaya said...
It should have been clear long, long ago to any observant person that the bulk of the media is not only solidly biased, but that it is a disciplined, controlled system.

Nothing pointed this out better, than when everyone found out about Journolist.

exiledonmainstreet said...

Yeah, Juan Cole is such an objective source.

That's so convincing.

Night Owl said...

"The media have left the opening for Trump to take these easy shots, and now, when he does, they seem to think it's enough to say Trump isn't nice or Trump throws out inconclusive evidence and invites us to think for ourselves and ask questions. "

Republicans are expected to play nice... and lose. Like Romney. He was considered indecent because he "politicized" the Benghazi attack during a campaign. Imagine, a politician politicizing ... what horror.

It is fascinating... no, interesting, -- I can't think of the best word... maybe "fitting" or "unsurprising"-- that it takes a candidate as blunt and crude as Trump to --so far-- effectively push back against the partisanship of the media. Any Republican who dares run for President is in for the fight of his/her life from a media that is in lockstep against them. They have to have the stomach for it. As many have said, media bias played a big role in creating Trump as the GOP nominee.

tim in vermont said...

So they are going to move the goalposts and claim that because they never intended to help ISIS, they didn't bumble into doing so? I guess that is what Unknown is implying, but since she is unable to put her own argument into words, we may never know.

eric said...

Althouse,y you wrote that you don't trust Breitbart.

Does this mean there are media outlets you do trust?

tim in vermont said...

Breitbart uses the same tactics as The Boston Globe, just for the other side. I may read them, but I don't trust their headlines.

Roughcoat said...

To a certain extent the Obama administration did bumble into helping ISIS. But it has also knowingly helped ISIS ... even as it has knowingly helped the enemies of ISIS. The people in the Obama administration responsible for this sorry state of affairs fancy themselves adept players at the Great Game (e.g.,I give you Ben Rhodes). They think they are well able to orchestrate the complex machinations of the sort that obtained in the original Great Game between Britain and Russia in central and south Asia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They think they can set wheels upon wheels in motion without getting crushed by them. They are wrong. They are as children playing an adult's game. They are the ones getting played. And they will be crushed.

protestmanager said...

" So why haven't other media been pursuing this story? Trump has been critical of the disarray caused by Obama/Hillary policy in Syria (and Libya). What is Hillary's side of this? It's ridiculous that the media that support Hillary merely attack Trump for pointing at stories that suggest that Hillary/Obama had bad judgment, didn't know what they were doing, or worse. "

That's one of those, oh, what do you call it, rhetorical questions, right?

They don't cover it because they're Democrat party operatives with bylines. They respond with "Trump is being mean" because the truth is that Hillary and Obama are both incompetent buffoons, and so other than pounding on the table there's no possible defense.

JAORE said...

eric, you beat me to it. Can you, dear hostess, provide a list of the media you do trust.

Perhaps on a scale of trustyness....

virgil xenophon said...

tiim in vermont@12:49pm/

IIRC that helicopter shootdown was identified by the serial numbers found on a fragment of the missile casing, incontrovertible proof that Libya was being used as an illegal transit point and that the program--run by Hillary--was totally out of control. Her fingerprints were all over that operation--an operation who's failure led directly to the death of our personnel in Benghazi

jr565 said...

isnt what trump is saying exactly what the left was saying about Isis? When we were trying to train the opposition the argument against Lindsay graham and John McCain was that we knowingly created ISIS by getting in league with them. Suddenly though it's wrong for a republics. To say it about a democratic president?
How is it different than the left saying we created the Talibsn and trained bin Laden? It's the exact same argument.

virgil xenophon said...

@protestmanager/

You forgot to add charlatans for good measure..

virgil xenophon said...

PS: FIRST RATE charlatans..

jr565 said...

"I don't trust Breitbart (and I passed on that story when I saw it), but I think we've long understood this problem of who the "rebels" in Syria were and whether it made sense to help them. So why haven't other media been pursuing this story? Trump has been critical of the disarray caused by Obama/Hillary policy in Syria (and Libya). What is Hillary's side of this? It's ridiculous that the media that support Hillary merely attack Trump for pointing at stories that suggest that Hillary/Obama had bad judgment, didn't know what they were doing, or worse. The media have left the opening for Trump to take these easy shots"
This is the same media that the administration admits it played and got to carry their water on the Iran deal, specifically because they were so ignorant and thus would believe what the administration told them. So why haven't they pursued the story? Well did they pursue the Iran deal story? Did they pursue the Hillary email story? Did they pursue Benghazi. They are either complicit or stupid. Or both complicit AND stupid.
If they were to argue it can't be trusted because it's breitbsrt aid ask them how they are somehow more trustworthy. At least breitbart has this story.

J. Farmer said...

"The Syrian opposition comprises dozens of different factions, and the Obama administration has struggled at times to find reliable allies not tied to extremists."


This is precisely what critics of our Syria intervention have been pointing out for years. Joh McCain himself was accidentally caught in a photo op with a known radical Islamic jihadist during his secret trip to the Middle East in order to gin up support for us supply heavy arms to rebel forces in Syria, including shoulder-fired antiaircraft weaponry. Don't worry, he assured us, we were going to supply the "moderate" rebels. What mechanism we'd use to determine the moderates from the non-moderates was left a little murky. But even then, how easy would it be for "moderate" weaponry to fall into "non-moderate" hands."

Several factors led to our stupid entanglement in Syria. First, every hack foreign policy writer was determined to make the so called "Arab Spring" fit into some kind of fake pattern of history. Supporting revolutionary forces against authoritarian regimes was painted as kind of mission of American exceptionalism. Second, neocon forces were desperate to wreck any possible negotiations with Iran and were adamant in pushing a totally bogus, anti-empirical story about Iran being on some kind of march towards dominating the Middle East, even though its position in the region is quite weak vis-à-vis the Arab Gulf states. Under this false assumption, supporting insurgent forces against Assad was seen as a way of weakening Iran's position (e.g. Syria is an instrumental land route to supplying Hezbollah). Saudi Arabia has been supporting radical Sunni forces in Syria against the Alawite Assad regime.

The smartest, most prudent move the US could make in Syria is to do an about-face and declare support for al-Assad. Supply government forces with the supplies and intelligence they need to quell the rebellion and get back control of its territory. The catastrophic mess the US has made of the middle east in the last decade and a half is due precisely to the continuously hamfisted, bumbling policy of knocking out authoritarian regimes and leaving behind violent, anarchic failed states in its path. Let me count the ways: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria. Our military has been tinkering in Somalia since at least George H.W. Bush's presidency and is that country any closer to having anything resembling a coherent nation-state. The inability of these populations to live in borders that are ungovernable is not going to be solved by laser guided bombs and a "residual" US military presence.

If I'm for pulling up the drawbridge and keeping the borders tight. But if we are going to insist in meddling in these countries, let's at least through our support behind relatively liberal strongmen who are nonetheless prepared to give their cops a little free reign to crack a couple of skulls every now and then to keep order. Calling for democracy in these places is madness.

virgil xenophon said...

More to protestmanager/

Both the Clintons and Obama have proved Lincolns famous aphorism/dictum sadly wrong. Unfortunately all one needs really do to succeed in politics is fool "enough of the people enough of the time"..

Unknown said...

"The Syrian opposition comprises dozens of different factions, and the Obama administration has struggled at times to find reliable allies not tied to extremists."

Oh, man! That is just too rational for the Trumpsters to get their head around.

Terry said...


"The Syrian opposition comprises dozens of different factions, and the Obama administration has struggled at times to find reliable allies not tied to extremists."
The Obama administration gave the Iranians, the sworn enemies of the United States in all things, $150 billion dollars.
That ought to buy a lot IED's.

Brando said...

The best way to deal with groups like ISIS is to do everything in complete secrecy. Announce simply that we are getting rid of ISIS via "Project Zeus" and that the media will be told about Project Zeus when they are ready to hear about Project Zeus. It'll turn out that Project Zeus is combining Sales and Marketing.

But seriously, how about creating large numbers of commando units and infiltrators to get in, identify the people we like the least, and take them out one by one, leaving them paranoid about everyone around them and unable to function? I'd rather that than trying to hold territory, supplying "friends" who may put those weapons right back in unsavory hands, or sticking with inaccurate bombing that kills lots of civilians but not a lot of insurgents.

Though the real fight is right here. It's not like the enemy launches their attacks on us from Syria. We have more to fear from cells operating right in our backyards.

policraticus said...

Remember how "We armed and created the Taliban" and "The CIA funded al Qaeda" and "Bin Laden was on the US payroll" were all accepted as plain, obvious facts not that long ago? You know. Back during another party's administration.

Rotten sauce for a rotten gander

Roughcoat said...

The Syrian opposition comprises dozens of different factions,

Not "dozens". That's ridiculous. What an ignorant statement. How many "dozens"? Thirty-six, forty-eight, sixty? When someone talks about multiple dozens, those are per force the kind of figures we're dealing with. Can anyone identify "dozens" of factions?

Terry said...

The White House posse can't even tell the good guys from the bad guys in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

J. Farmer said...

@Terry:

"The Obama administration gave the Iranians, the sworn enemies of the United States in all things, $150 billion dollars.
That ought to buy a lot IED's."


The Iranians are on our aside in the fight against ISIS.

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

What was the name of that commenter who liked discussing BHO the usurper? Did the name start w/ an M?

Anywho, it's too bad that Althouse waited until now to explain the wisdom of the questions that Trump asks about BHO's anti-American-ness. That guy could have used her backup back then.

Roughcoat said...

The Iranians are on our aside in the fight against ISIS.

Not hardly. That's a simplistic view--a Westphalian-oriented view. The Iranians are on their own side, now and always. What are Iran's goals vis-à-vis for the Middle East? What position and role does it wish to play in that region and in the global community as a whole? Iran is indeed fighting ISIS, or rather elements of ISIS, but it's well past time to retire that tired old saw "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Iran is not our friend and the fact that it is fighting ISIS does not affect that calculus in the slightest. Iran is not on our side. It is our enemy. One of several in the region.

tim in vermont said...

Unknown, how about you explain your point to us in plain language? I am pretty sure all you can do is post links, cut and paste, and snark.

Birkel said...

Don't trust Brietbart? Fine.

Anybody who trusts NYT, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, AP, Bloomberg or AFP is every bit as foolish as everybody who trusts Brietbart.

Terry said...

I don't think 'on our side' is right way to describe the Iranian policy towards ISIS, J. Farmer. According to Foreign Affairs:
"Iran is using ISIS’ ascendance in the Middle East to consolidate its power. The country is now the key ally keeping Iraq’s Shiites and the Alawite Bashar al-Assad regime standing against well-armed and tenacious Sunni jihadists. In those battles, Tehran will likely do just enough to make sure the Sunnis don’t conquer the Shia portions of Iraq and Assad’s enclave in Syria, but no more. Meanwhile, in ISIS’ wake, Tehran will strengthen its own radical Shia militias."
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2015-11-15/irans-isis-trap

J. Farmer said...

@Terry:

""Iran is using ISIS’ ascendance in the Middle East to consolidate its power."

I find this nonsensical. By having to attempt to prop Assad's forces up through supplying him with arms and financing, he is a strategic liability to Iran and a drain on their resources. Even if he is able to hold onto power, he will rule over a fractured, war-torn country. Iran's position vis-a-vis Syria has been significantly weakened since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. This is the primary reason the Saudi's have intervened so strongly on the side of the Sunni's. They say a total overthrow Assad as a way of weakening Iran's position. Iran countered by supporting a friendly regime to them, and the consequences has that both sides of this conflict appear close to weakening. Again, a yet another fractured failed state in the middle east seems to be what we're heading for with Iran.

@Roughcoat:

"That's a simplistic view--a Westphalian-oriented view."

Not Westphalian at all--which was concerned with the sovereignty of states. Perhaps I should have phrased it as: the US and Iran are on the same side in terms of ISIS.

"Iran is not on our side. It is our enemy."

Talk about a simplistic view. Talk of "friends" and "enemies" is a spectacularly childish way of international affairs and diplomatic relations. Interest and power are the primary factors at play. It is in Iran's interest for a stable Syria under Alewite domination. That is a petty concession to make to Iran for what we get in return (i.e. an assad regime that had managed to keep a lid on radical Sunni forces within its borders).

Can anyone identify "dozens" of factions?

Dozens may have been a bit of an overstatement, but here is a list of the some of the various factions, militias, armies, etc. that are at play in the Syrian Civil War:

Syrian Armed Forces
National Defense Forces
Ba’aath Brigades
al-Abbas Brigade
Arab Nationalist Guard
Army of Monotheists
Fatemiyoun Brigade
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command
Gozarto Protection Force (Syriac)
Syrian Social Nationalist Party
Popular Front for the Liberation of the Sanjak of Iskandarun
Free Syrian Army
Fatah Halab
Islamic Front
Al-Nusra Front
Ahrar ash-Sham
Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria
Jabhat Ansar al-Din
Muhajirin wa-Ansar Alliance
ISIS
Khalid ibn al-Walid Army
People's Protection Units (Kurdish)
Women’s Protection Units (Kurdish)
Syrian Arab Coalition
International Freedom Battalion (Turkish)
Syriac Military Council
Kurdistan Workers' Party (Turkey)
Russia
Iran
Hezbollah
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve [US, Britain, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates have all carried out airstrikes]

Birkel said...

Well when "J Farmer" finds something nonsensical, that settles it for the rest of us.

Fucking idiot.

Hagar said...

he Iranians are on our aside in the fight against ISIS.

No, they are not.

I think it was a mistake for George W. not to spell out for us that we were in a war with Iran. Understandable, since that immediately would have raised the question, "so, why aren't we invading Iran?" but still a mistake, which enabled Obama to first pull our military out of Iraq, wait a little while the Iraqi government sought refuge with the next strongest horse, and then re-enter Iraq, but now supporting Iran.

It is not that Iran is our ally; it is that we now are Iran's ally.

Obama has pulled this off without any explanation to us - in fact without anyone even questioning it - certainly not the news media - and I think this is very wrong.

I do not even know if we ought to be fighting ISIS on the ground in Iraq/Syria, but we surely should not be doing it in support of Iran that so recently caused so many deaths and dismemberments among our armed forces.

J. Farmer said...

@Birkel:

"Well when "J Farmer" finds something nonsensical, that settles it for the rest of us.

Fucking idiot."


What I said: "I find this nonsensical."

In other words, giving my opinion of something. Now, if I'm not mistaken, that's pretty much what every single person here does. Yes, to me, that argument makes no sense. And then I said why I thought it made no sense. If someone disagrees with me, I am more than open to listen to them tell me why my position is incorrect or why an alternative explanation is better. I'll consider it and give my reaction. That's how intelligent conversation generally proceeds. Did I anywhere intimate that I consider the question settled for anyone else. Did I declare that no alternative explanation was possibly? Please share with me where I did that.

Your sum total response to my argument: fucking idiot. What exactly is that supposed to add to the conversation except demonstrate to the rest of us the crude and adolescent you're prepared to conduct yourself.

Roy Lofquist said...

"they seem to think it's enough to say"

Nope. They just don't have anything more to say. They don't dare go there.

Birkel said...

Epistemic closure is painful to watch, J Farmer.

If you push really hard on your own hips, you might be able to get your head out of your ass.

buwaya said...

"Talk of "friends" and "enemies" is a spectacularly childish way of international affairs"

It isn't. The US-Iranian problem is fundamental cultural incompatibility. US culture, broadly defined, in its pre-decadent form, is a political threat to the Iranian regime and the subset of the population that supports it. This can be seen in the 2009 protest movement. The same is true of much of the rest of the world, China for instance.

Iran will stop being an enemy when the US declines into international cultural irrelevance, a process that is well underway. Until then they will be actively, loudly hostile no matter what the US does or what short term interests are.

Huntington was perfectly correct as far as that went.

J. Farmer said...

@Hagar:

I think it was a mistake for George W. not to spell out for us that we were in a war with Iran."

The two single most significant contribution to any relative increase in Iran's power in the region were the elimination of two hostile regimes on their borders (the Taliban to the east and the Baathists to the west). Iraq is in a favorable position to Iran because the country is about 70% Shia and shares significant cultural and historical ties to the country. Iraq is a pseudo state whose borders were drawn by the victors of the First World War over the carcass of the Ottoman Empire, and it encloses factions that do not possess a coherent enough national identity that is necessary to make an actual nation-state run. So just as the fake state of Yugoslavia cracked along ethnic fault lines in the post-Tito era, post-Hussein Iraq was destined for ethnic divide and conflict. The separate de facto nation0-state of Kurdistan had already been in existence for a decade prior to the war. All this middle about residual forces and troop numbers is a complete sideshow to much more fundamental ethnic and tribal tensions.

Syria, similarly, was an authoritarian regime (the al-Assad family) belonging to a minority Shia Alawite sect ruling over a majority Sunni population. As Assad's regime has weakened and started to fall apart, the country has descended into violent conflict along tribal/ethnic lines (e.g. Arab, Turkish, Kurdish, Assyrian, etc.).

J. Farmer said...

@Birkel:

"Epistemic closure is painful to watch, J Farmer.

If you push really hard on your own hips, you might be able to get your head out of your ass."


Hey, here's a novel idea, instead of just continuously hurling childish personal insults at me, you actually make an argument for some kind of position. If you just want to keep telling me what an idiot I am, I'll just continue to yawn.

Terry said...

J. Farmer, there are degrees of what it means to be 'on one's side.' The over-arching goal of the United States is Middle East stability. I don't think the Iranians are interested in stability in the Middle East, they are interested in hegemony.

Birkel said...

Your opinion is contrary to facts, you ridiculous waste of space. You wouldn't see those facts and I won't waste my time watching you move the goalposts and practice pedantry.

You're useless and I'm happy to tell you.

Hagar said...

Yes, dear; and they are our enemies - now and forever. The U.S. is inimical to either a reborn Persian Empire or a Bagdad Caliphate.

Birkel said...

Remember when we were told by the likes of J Farmer that Saddam Hussein was against al Queda only later to find out he was supportive of some al Queda elements?

Good times.

History did not start yesterday.

buwaya said...

"The two single most significant contribution to any relative increase in Iran's power in the region"

The single most significant contribution to Iranian power is the increase in its revenues granted by B.Obama plus the US exit. Power is money, and Iran had to try to do what it could on the pittance it was left by sanctions. Its intervention vs the US in Iraq was done on the cheap. Its nuclear program likewise, in spite of its priority.

Iran had little to fear from the Taliban, there was no way these paupers could make serious trouble in hostile Shiite lands. Iraq was powerless, its military in ruins. But the real prize is the Gulf.

With money and the US out of the way Iran can seriously challenge the Saudis for the Gulf.

J. Farmer said...

@Birkel:

"Your opinion is contrary to facts, you ridiculous waste of space. You wouldn't see those facts and I won't waste my time watching you move the goalposts and practice pedantry."

Ah, the classic I know everything you say is wrong, so I can't even bothered to say it. But I can write two posts now insulting you like an immature blowhard. Just tell me one fact I got wrong. Just one. Too taxing a task?

@Terry:

"The over-arching goal of the United States is Middle East stability. I don't think the Iranians are interested in stability in the Middle East, they are interested in hegemony."

And yet US intervention in the middle east has categorically resulted in the exact opposite of stability. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya have all been counterproductive failures. Iran is not even remotely close to a hegemonic position in the middle east. It's two significant proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, are concerned exclusively with agitating the Israeli occupation. They'd a security problem for Israel, but on a global scale Hamas and Hezbollah are practically meaningless. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states vastly outspend Iran militarily and all possess much better trained and well equipped military forces. The Iran regime is motivated, like most regional powers, first by self-preservation and second by influence. It has not demonstrated territorial ambitions. Saudi Arabia has been a much more disruptive force and cause of instability in the region. Its support for Sunni forces in Syria helped prolong and widen the civil war, which has been absolutely catastrophic. Between the stamped in Medina at last year's Hajj to the sudden execution of dozens of regime dissidents including a major Shia cleric), to the pointless deadens military campaign in Yemen, the new Saudi monarch has proven himself to be a rather nervous, reactionary fellow.

Terry said...

Blogger J. Farmer said...

@Terry:

"The over-arching goal of the United States is Middle East stability. I don't think the Iranians are interested in stability in the Middle East, they are interested in hegemony."

And yet US intervention in the middle east has categorically resulted in the exact opposite of stability.

I won't argue with your statement, J. Farmer, but that wasn't the intent. As I remember the discussion leading up to the March, 2003, invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was seen to be a destabilizing influence in the ME. By replacing him, we would secure a more friendly, more stable Iraq. It's easy to criticize this reasoning in retrospect, but I don't think that many people, in 2002 and 2003, were saying it was wrong to depose Saddam because it would destabilize the ME and strengthen the hand of the Iranians. Obama certainly did not give that as his reason for opposing the Iraq War.

Birkel said...

J Farmer: The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya have all been counterproductive failures.

We can all admit that America's Democrats did everything they could to hurt America's interests. When one half of the country actively pursues failure, we get a lot of failure. Never let crises you create go to waste.

J. Farmer said...

@buwaya:

"Iran had little to fear from the Taliban, there was no way these paupers could make serious trouble in hostile Shiite lands. Iraq was powerless, its military in ruins."

In August 1998 the Taliban captured Mazar-i-Sharif and in the process seized an Iranian consulates and murdered eight Iranians diplomat. It caused a huge public reaction in Iran, and there was widespread fear that Iran would respond with a military attack. They amassed 70,000 troops on Afghanistan's border. It was a major international crisis in autumn of 1998 with a lot of work done by the UK. It remained a major source of tension between the two regimes.

"With money and the US out of the way Iran can seriously challenge the Saudis for the Gulf."

This vastly overstates Iran's position. Iran has no significant capacity to project military force outside its borders. Saudi Arabia, in gross terms, is the 3rd highest military spending country in the world. In per capita and percent GDP terms, it's the #1 spending country in the world. It outspends Iran 5-to-1. This article in Foreign Affairs does a concise job of putting Iran's relative regional weakness in perspective.

Roughcoat said...

Not Westphalian at all

Yes, your formulation fits right into the Westphalian paradigm: you're thinking in terms of sovereign nation states--that Iran sees itself as a Westphalian-type state. It doesn't. It sees itself as something greater and more comprehensive, with theological underpinnings and goals.

Perhaps I should have phrased it as: the US and Iran are on the same side in terms of ISIS.

You'd still be wrong. Re-read my post.

Dozens may have been a bit of an overstatement

You think? Your list does not identify "dozens". Very sloppy of you to use that term. You're playing fast and loose with the facts, which is the sort of behavior that has helped make such a mess of our endeavors in the Middle East. Also, you're misidentifying the enemy: compiling a list of all the actors is meaningless once you take into account that only a few of those groups have any real influence, impact, or substantive role to play in the course and unfolding of events in the ME. You need to identify and distinguish between those groups that are influential and those that are not.

buwaya said...

"This vastly overstates Iran's position. Iran has no significant capacity to project military force outside its borders. Saudi Arabia, in gross terms, is the 3rd highest military spending country in the world. In per capita and percent GDP terms, it's the #1 spending country in the world. It outspends Iran 5-to-1. This article in Foreign Affairs does a concise job of putting Iran's relative regional weakness in perspective."

With just a little bit of the money the US has granted Iran, it can close the Gulf of Hormuz with mines, antiship missiles, fast missile boats, who knows what else. The power to sink any tanker. or even to credibly threaten them, is the power to control it. And Iran has one thing the Saudis don't, or in much smaller numbers, motivated soldiers. The Saudis spend a great deal but it seems more in desperation than confidence. And the 5:1 ratio isn't going to remain that. Add to which there are major Shiite populations in sensitive areas on the Arab shore of the Gulf ruled over by a Sunni minority.

J. Farmer said...

@Roughcoat:

"Your list does not identify "dozens". Very sloppy of you to use that term. You're playing fast and loose with the facts, which is the sort of behavior that has helped make such a mess of our endeavors in the Middle East.

Uh, that list includes 31 factions (and that doesn't count the different countries of the US-led coalition). That's about 2 1/2 dozen. Yes, they have relative size and influence. But the point is that many exist in the first place, and the reason they do is because Syria is fracturing along sectarian lines, just as Iraq did following Baath Party rule. Saying that there is some "moderate" force that is (1) opposed to Assad, (2) opposed to ISIS and sympathetic violent jihadist groups, and (3) capable of forming a stable, functioning government in Damascus is asking for a very tall order. Even groups that are opposed to Assad and ISIS are radical Sunni groups that would like to see a theocratic state on the model of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Do we arm these people?

J. Farmer said...

@Roughcoat:

"It sees itself as something greater and more comprehensive, with theological underpinnings and goals."

Evidence? The regime has not demonstrated a single bit of expansionist behavior since the '79 rebellion. It has been consistently motivated by self-preservation due to its relative weak position.

narciso said...

that also leaves out the pesky fact the sepah has been supplying the taliban since about 2003,
but the kingdom's armed forces are woefully inadequate, of course Paul Erdman, predicted this standoff, sans ayatollah, 40 year ago, in the last days of america,

Roughcoat said...

Iran has no significant capacity to project military force outside its borders.

Wrong. You are indulging in a subset of Westphalian thinking, namely Westphalian military thinking: which entails the employment of conventional forces in large-scale conventional operations as a means of projecting military power. In fact, Iran has been projecting military power all around the Middle East and Southwest/Central Asia, and has been doing so for several years--successfully, I might add. By "successfully" I mean that its mode of projecting military power is helping to further Iran's political agenda and policy objectives for the region, which include not least theological objectives (e.g., the destruction of Israel, the establishment of a Shi'a imperium in the ME, the validation of Shi'a millenarian theology, etc). The fact that it is not winning major battlefield victories is irrelevant in the form of warfare that Iran is waging.

J. Farmer said...

@buwaya:

The Impact of Sanctions Relief on Iran by RAND Corporation:

"U.S. and allied military superiority will deter Iran’s conventional military capabilities even as Iran regains some of the resources necessary to improve its military. Iran’s deteriorating economy has meant a decline in Iran’s military capabilities as well. The GCC states spend more than ten times as much on their defense capabilities as Iran does. According to General David Petraeus, the United Arab Emirates air force “could take out the entire Iranian Air Force, I believe, given that it’s got . . . somewhere around 70 Block 60 F-16 fighters, which are better than the U.S. F-16 fighters.” And Iran will face an arms embargo for eight years after the JCPOA has been implemented."

The entire testimony gives a number of reasons why the sanctions reliefs your describing will not significantly alter the balance of power in the region.

@Roughcoat:

"In fact, Iran has been projecting military power all around the Middle East and Southwest/Central Asia, and has been doing so for several years--successfully, I might add."

Iran's two most significant proxy forces are Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Both of these forces are corned with agitating the Israeli occupation. Israel has a population of 8 million and is about the size of Vermont. Hezbollah and Hamas are big a security concern for them, but they are a minuscule threat from a global perspective. What significant regional conflict is Iran's influence a significant contributor? They have limited influence in western Iraq and large parts of Syria. They have a weak economy and degraded military capability.

Roughcoat said...

But the point is that many exist in the first place

That is not the point and it is not relevant. This should be clear from my preceding posts. To repeat: the Syrian opposition does not comprise "dozens" of different factions, and the groups you list are for the most part irrelevant to the course and unfolding of events. As well, it is not correct in the context of any discussion concerning events in Syria to categorize the forces involved in Operation Joint Resolve as factions. Further, I made no mention of "some 'moderate' force that is (1) opposed to Assad," etc., no did I make any suggestion or offer any opinion on whom we ought to arm.

J. Farmer said...

@Roughcoat:

"To repeat: the Syrian opposition does not comprise "dozens" of different factions, and the groups you list are for the most part irrelevant to the course and unfolding of events."

Simple question: what is the "Syrian opposition?"

Roughcoat said...

I have to withdraw from this discussion: I have work to do. Work that's directly related to this discussion, actually: and which involves, in part, dealing with Iranians. Food will be served, and sweet tea.

Some other time, maybe, we'll return to the topic.

Roughcoat said...

Okay, once more into the breach.

Re "Simple question: what is the "Syrian opposition?"

You tell me. I'm not the one who used that term, in the context of "the Syrian opposition comprises dozens of different factions." I was responding to that statement.

Now I'm done. Gotta go. Computer off.

Birkel said...

J Farmer:

What evidence do you have to know the state of Iran's position regarding ISIS? Do you believe their public pronouncements? Are you privy to their monetary support?

Do you believe Iran when it claims it wants to kill you?

J. Farmer said...

@Birkel:

"What evidence do you have to know the state of Iran's position regarding ISIS?"

Iran has sent troops into Syria to fight against ISIS. The Iranian Qods commander is frequently in Baghdad helping to organize the counteroffensive. The Shia-dominated Iraqi government is keen to hold onto its western provinces and does not wish them see fall under the control of a radical Sunni force. Likewise, Iran does not want its ally Iraq, a potential client state, to be in a state of civil war. That puts a lot of volatility right at Iran's borders; two Iranian border guards were killed in Qasre Shirin near Iran's border with Iraq. A Revolutionary Guard was killed fighting ISIS in Anbar provence. Iran is a well known ally of Bashar al-Assad and the Alawite minority in Syria. ISIS is a Sunni radical directly at war with that faction.

Matt said...

The problem, of course, is that when Trump points at stories like this it's not just a matter of the Obama Administration making bad decisions - which they have done with Syria. It is, instead, a dog whistle of sorts to whip up the low IQ but high on conspiracy crowd who believe that Obama is purposely working with the Muslims because he is one of them.

tim in vermont said...

So what was the real reason Matt? The good one, I mean, that was nothing like Bush policies? The one with the high probability of success?

tim in vermont said...

Oh, Obama gets a pass because some of his critics are not as smart as you! That's how we judge a policy, what do stupid people think of it?

Mike said...

"So why haven't other media been pursuing this story? "

Because it'a an intelligence information report, which sounds official but is little more than a rumor. What it means is that someone at some point said X. You might as well be investigating something based on YouTube comments.

tim in vermont said...

So Mike, what are we doing involved in a civil war?

hombre said...

Now that Trump is the presumptive Repub nominee and the mediaswine have cashed in on him, it is time to destroy him by distortion, censorship or any other means.

Michael K said...

I've been on an airplane all day and was reading "The Currency Wars" by Rickard. He attributes all the uproar in the Arab world, including Syria, to Bernake's Quantitative Easing which created terrible inflation in food and energy prices in poor countries, including the Middle East,.

Interesting POV.

narciso said...

yes, david goldman (spengler) showed the impact of qe 2, particularly on egypt, not surprising the austrian precreditanstalt, fell to dolfuss, after that crisis,

Terry said...

Blogger Matt said...
The problem, of course, is that when Trump points at stories like this it's not just a matter of the Obama Administration making bad decisions - which they have done with Syria. It is, instead, a dog whistle of sorts to whip up the low IQ but high on conspiracy crowd who believe that Obama is purposely working with the Muslims because he is one of them.

So you heard the dog whistle? Interesting.

Michael K said...

that Obama is purposely working with the Muslims because he is one of them.
So you heard the dog whistle? Interesting.


Does this mean you are a dog or just have the IQ of a dog ?

We are talking about serious issues.

Terry said...

I have commented on another post here that I think that Obama's problem with Islam (and a few other things) is his parochialism. He has lived in a majority Muslim, doubtless had Muslim friends and acquaintances. He thinks he 'knows' Islam more than other people (more than many Muslim clerics, apparently), and he does not see what more objective people see.
I think that W had a parochial problem with Mexicans. He knew many Mexicans, and probably liked them better than a lot of Americans.

Meeeea said...

Well this adds a bit to the possibility he is correct:
http://dailycaller.com/2016/06/13/syrian-immigrant-who-said-911-changed-the-world-for-god-is-a-homeland-security-advisor/

exhelodrvr1 said...

There are redacted intelligence reports out that do indicate that we were working with these terrorist groups in the early days of the Syrian war.

chickelit said...

Terry said...I have commented on another post here that I think that Obama's problem with Islam (and a few other things) is his parochialism. He has lived in a majority Muslim, doubtless had Muslim friends and acquaintances. He thinks he 'knows' Islam more than other people (more than many Muslim clerics, apparently), and he does not see what more objective people see.
I think that W had a parochial problem with Mexicans. He knew many Mexicans, and probably liked them better than a lot of Americans.


Very astute, Terry. Matt should listen to and respond to you but I doubt he will.

Rusty said...

Birkel said...
Remember when we were told by the likes of J Farmer that Saddam Hussein was against al Queda only later to find out he was supportive of some al Queda elements?

Good times.

History did not start yesterday.


Remember his support of the Iran agreement?
Yeah. Me too.
Then things proceeded exactly as I said they would.
It doesn't make me prescient. A lot of people saw it coming.
In his defense he occasionally makes some good points.
On the other hand he often blunders.

Iran will do what is in Irans best interest.
Obama got played again.
The middle east is now worse off than before the agreement.

Phil 3:14 said...

Im intrigued by the similarities between this:

"Can you, dear hostess, provide a list of the media you do trust."

and this:

"The suspicion of protesters reached a point at which Trump supporters were informing on each other for not being “real” supporters. One woman pointed security toward a couple sitting quietly in their seats. “Them,” she mouthed.

The couple seemed baffled and denied to a security agent that they were anything but genuine Trump admirers. He waved them toward the exit and said, “Let’s go.”"

Source via Instapundit

J. Farmer said...

@Rusty:

"Good times.

History did not start yesterday."


I have no idea what "the likes of J. Farmer" is supposed to mean except some third-rate attempt to attack me for a position I never held and an argument I never made. But just as an aside, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are both "supportive of some al Qaeda elements." Argument for invasion and regime change?

"Remember his support of the Iran agreement?"

Seeing as I am prepared to defend it against any criticism you level at it, your memory is not all that impressive.

"Then things proceeded exactly as I said they would."

And how was that?

"Iran will do what is in Irans best interest."

Which is pretty much how every country is expected to act. It's kind of one of the basic tenets of the realist IR orientation.

"Obama got played again."

And David Cameron got played? And Angela Merkel got played? And François Hollande got played? And Vladimir Putin got played? Xi Jinping got played? And the numerous Israeli military and intelligence officials who have come out for the deal have been played? And all of the major arms control organizations that support the deal they got played, too?

"The middle east is now worse off than before the agreement."

Right. For reasons totally unrelated to the deal: collapse of the Syrian state and the subsequent breakdown of state authority in Western Iraq.

grackle said...

I’m intrigued by the similarities between this: "Can you, dear hostess, provide a list of the media you do trust."

and this:

"The suspicion of protesters reached a point at which Trump supporters were informing on each other for not being “real” supporters. One woman pointed security toward a couple sitting quietly in their seats. “Them,” she mouthed.

The couple seemed baffled and denied to a security agent that they were anything but genuine Trump admirers. He waved them toward the exit and said, “Let’s go.”"

Source via Instapundit


The “source” isn’t Instapundit. Instapundit isn’t usually a “source.” Mostly Instapundit just links to news that Instapundit finds interesting. I would think that a commentor whose handle is a biblical notation would have more regard for the truth. Perhaps it was just a mistake …

The source is The Guardian, a British Leftwing outlet. I wouldn’t trust the Guardian’s reportage on anything not politically correct or on anything having to do with America. And especially anything having to do with a Trump rally.

On another note: It seems we have an Iran apologist in our midst. One who believes that Obama’s Iran Nuclear giveaway is fine and dandy. One who believes that Iran is a reliable ally because … as far as I can tell after wading through all the commentor’s offerings is that … Iran needs to be trusted this time because Iran is killing ISIS in Syria in order to keep Iran’s Syrian puppet on his throne.

The mullahs have claimed another lefty convert.

Readers, try this for fun: Anytime you see an accusation of racism leveled at Trump on TV, in articles and in the comments of blogs, look to see if Trump is quoted.

You won’t find any. Why? Because there are none. During this campaign Trump has not uttered even one racist sentence.

OGWiseman said...

If Obama had been "actively supporting" terrorists, as that article claims, that's not "bad judgment", it's treason. That's why the article is more than disingenuous, it's bald propaganda.