Monday, September 29, 2014

Obama: US Intelligence Underestimated Militants in Syria (VOA News)

U.S. intelligence agencies underestimated Islamic State activity inside Syria, which has become “ground zero” for jihadists worldwide, President Barack Obama said in a CBS television interview broadcast on Sunday.
Conversely, the United States overestimated the ability of the Iraqi army to fight the militant groups, Obama said in a 60 Minutes interview taped on Friday, days after the U.S. president made his case at the United Nations for action.
Earlier Sunday, U.S.-led airstrikes hit three oil refineries near Syria's border with Turkey early Sunday in the ongoing offensive against Islamic State militants.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attacks occurred shortly after midnight, adding that they also hit a plastics factory.

Citing US intelligence
In the CBS interview, citing earlier comments by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Obama acknowledged that U.S. intelligence underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.
Islamic militants went underground when U.S. Marines quashed al-Qaida in Iraq with help from Iraq's tribes, he said.
“But over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos,” Obama said according to a clip of the interview broadcast earlier.
“And so this became ground zero for jihadists around the world," he said.
Obama last week expanded U.S.-led airstrikes, which began in Iraq in August, to Syria and he has been seeking to build a wider coalition effort to weaken Islamic State.
This group has killed thousands and beheaded at least three Westerners while seizing parts of Syria and northwestern Iraq.

Washington Post interview
Clapper told a Washington Post columnist this month that U.S. intelligence had underestimated Islamic State fighters and overestimated Iraq's army.
“I didn't see the collapse of the Iraqi security force in the north coming,” Clapper was quoted as saying. “I didn't see that. It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is an imponderable.”
Obama outlined the military goal against the Islamic State group: “We just have to push them back, and shrink their space, and go after their command and control, and their capacity, and their weapons, and their fueling, and cut off their financing, and work to eliminate the flow of foreign fighters.”
But Obama said a political solution is necessary in both Iraq and Syria for peace in the long term, according to the interview, which will be broadcast in full on Sunday night.

US Congress reaction
Also on Sunday, U.S. lawmakers stepped up calls for congressional authorization of Obama's war against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, amid signs the United States and its allies face a long and difficult fight.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio told ABC's This Week that he believed Obama had the legal authority for strikes against Islamic State militants, but would call lawmakers back from their districts if Obama sought a resolution backing the action.
“I think he does have the authority to do it. But ... this is a proposal the Congress ought to consider,” Boehner said, warning that the United States could eventually be dragged into another ground war in the region.
Obama and other U.S. officials have said they believe no further vote to authorize force is needed, but political analysts warn that the war could dampen participation by anti-war Democrats in the November elections.
Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN that Congress should debate the issue because of uncertainty about how long the U.S. military would remain engaged in Syria.
“There are some serious questions that we have to ask,” Murphy said. “You need a realistic political strategy. And I just don't think we have that today in Syria.”
Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, urged Obama to follow the lead of British Prime Minister David Cameron in recalling the British parliament.
“I think the president has an obligation to call us back tomorrow to start this debate,” Barrasso said.

Other developments
  • Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said a recent United Nations resolution that bans travel to fight with religious extremists is a "political victory" for Syria. Washington has insisted that the air campaign against Islamic State fighters that began last week would not benefit the Syrian regime, now three years into a civil war.
  • Activists and Kurdish officials said Islamic State fighters fired rockets into the town, known both as Kobani and Ain al-Arab. At least 12 people were reported wounded in the rocket attacks, while no immediate casualty estimates were released for the coalition strikes.
  • Britain's Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Sunday armed British warplanes are flying daily missions over Iraq and would launch airstrikes if called in by local forces on the ground.
Some information for this report came from Reuters.


  1. Le président américain a admis dimanche que les Etats-Unis avaient sous-estimé le fait que le chaos en Syrie pourrait fournir un terrain propice à l'émergence de groupes djihadistes aussi dangereux que l'organisation l'Etat islamique (EI). S'exprimant sur la chaîne CBS News, il a qualifié la Syrie de "Ground Zero pour les djihadistes à travers le monde"....

    "Le chef de notre renseignement Jim Clapper a reconnu qu'ils avaient sous-estimé ce qui se passait en Syrie", a-t-il dit en parlant du directeur du renseignement national. Interrogé pour savoir si Washington avait aussi sur-estimé la capacité ou la volonté de l'armée irakienne de combattre les djihadistes, le président américain a répondu : "C'est vrai, c'est tout à fait vrai".

    Ces commentaires sont extraits d'une interview de l'émission "60 minutes" de CBS, qui doit être diffusée intégralement dimanche soir. M. Obama a estimé que les propagandistes de l'EI étaient devenus "très calés" sur les médias sociaux et attiraient, en Europe, en Amérique, en Australie et dans les pays musulmans, de nouvelles recrues "qui croient en leurs inepties djihadistes".

    Il a ajouté que la solution était en partie militaire, en évoquant les raids aériens menées par la coalition anti-djihadiste formée par les Etats-Unis et leurs alliés, destinée à priver l'EI de ses territoires et ressources. Il a qualifié la Syrie de "Ground Zero pour les djihadistes à travers le monde". Mais il a estimé que la Syrie et l'Irak devaient aussi résoudre leurs crises politiques respectives. L'Irak se trouve divisé depuis le départ des troupes américaines entre une population sunnite et un gouvernement chiite, tandis que la Syrie est embourbée dans une guerre civile sanglante depuis 2011.

    "La Turquie ne peut rester en dehors de la coalition internationale"

    C'est la déclaration qu'a faite dimanche, à son tour, le président turc Tayyip Erdogan, dont le pays décidera la semaine prochaine de la nature de son implication. Depuis plusieurs mois, la position prudente de la Turquie contre l'EI décevait l'Occident, mais le récent voyage de Tayyip Erdogan aux Etats-Unis semble avoir changé la donne. "Nous mènerons des discussions avec les autorités concernées cette semaine. Nous serons là où nous nous devons d'être. Nous ne pouvons rester en dehors de ceci", a dit M. Erdogan dans un discours au Forum économique mondial, à Istanbul. Il a ajouté qu'une intervention terrestre pourrait être nécessaire........................

  2. Obama: Gefahr durch Dschihadisten unterschätzt...

    Die amerikanischen Geheimdienste haben nach Ansicht von Präsident Obama eine Mitschuld daran, dass der radikal-islamische Extremismus durch den Bürgerkrieg in Syrien erstarken konnte. In einem Fernsehinterview räumt er Fehler im Vorgehen ein.

    Die amerikanischen Geheimdienste haben nach den Worten von Präsident Barack Obama die potenzielle Gefahr der Extremistengruppe „Islamischer Staat“ (IS) in Syrien unterschätzt. Die Extremisten hätten sich das Chaos im syrischen Bürgerkrieg stärker zu nutzen gemacht als erwartet. Zugleich hätten die Geheimdienste die Schlagkraft der irakischen Armee im Kampf gegen die vorrückenden Dschihadisten überschätzt.

    So hätten sich die islamistischen Extremisten während der vergangenen Jahre in das Bürgerkriegsland Syrien zurückziehen und von dort eine Offensive starten können. Aus dem Irak vertriebene frühere Al-Qaida-Kämpfer hätten sich in Syrien sammeln und die Dschihadistengruppe IS gründen können, sagte Obama am Sonntag in einem Interview mit dem amerikanischen Sender CBS, das vorab in Auszügen veröffentlicht wurde. So habe Syrien ein „Ground Zero“ für Dschihadisten aus verschiedenen Ländern werden können. „Ich denke, der Chef unserer Geheimdienste, Jim Clapper, hat eingeräumt, dass sie das, was in Syrien vor sich ging, unterschätzt haben“, so Obama.
    „Dschihadistischer Quatsch“

    Auf die Frage, ob die Regierung die Fähigkeit oder den Willen der irakischen Truppen zum Kampf gegen den IS überschätzt habe, sagte er: „Das ist absolut richtig.“ Die Extremisten seien im Umgang mit sozialen Medien „sehr gerissen“ und würden Kämpfer aus Europa, den Vereinigten Staaten, Australien und muslimischen Ländern anlocken, „die an ihren dschihadistischen Quatsch glauben“, sagte Obama weiter......................

  3. Obama says US underestimated threat...

    President Barack Obama has acknowledged that US agencies underestimated the threat posed by the Islamist insurgency in Syria.

    In a frank TV interview, he said that al-Qaeda had been beaten in Iraq by US forces working with Sunni tribes.

    But they took advantage of the power vacuum in neighbouring Syria to emerge as Isis, later called Islamic State.

    Meanwhile, there has been fierce fighting to the west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.................

  4. Obama acknowledges anti-ISIS campaign helps Assad in Syria

    President Barack Obama on Sunday gave voice to the conundrum at the heart of his Syria policy, acknowledging that the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State group and al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria is helping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, a man the United Nations has accused of war crimes.

    "I recognize the contradiction in a contradictory land and a contradictory circumstance," Obama said in an interview aired Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes." "We are not going to stabilize Syria under the rule of Assad," whose government has committed "terrible atrocities," Obama said.

    "On the other hand, in terms of immediate threats to the United States, ISIL, Khorasan Group -- those folks could kill Americans."....Read more:

  5. Obama says US underestimated rise of ISIL ...US president says Washington, in contrast, overestimated the Iraqi army's ability to counter armed groups....

    US intelligence agencies have underestimated the activity of armed groups inside Syria, which has become "ground zero" for them worldwide, US President Barack Obama has said in an interview aired by American CBS television.

    Conversely, the US overestimated the ability of the Iraqi army to fight the groups, Obama said in the interview taped on Friday and aired on Sunday, days after the US president globally made his case for action in a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York.

    Citing earlier comments by James Clapper, director of national intelligence, Obama acknowledged that US intelligence underestimated what had been taking place in Syria..................

  6. Iran's President calls airstrikes on ISIS 'theater,' says broader campaign needed...

    (CNN) -- Airstrikes against ISIS militants are a "psychological operation," not a military one, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Friday.

    "It is a common threat for all of us," he said. "And this requires a unison effort from all of us."

    "We need a vast campaign of operations ... the aerial bombardment campaign is mostly, I would say, a form of theater, rather than a serious battle against terrorism."

    Iran and the United States have found their foreign policies surprisingly aligned in the past several months, as both try to beat back the advance of the Sunni extremists that have gained a foothold in Iraq and war-torn Syria.............

  7. Pentagon calls for patience in Iraq, Syria war...

    The U.S. military cannot bomb the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) into “obscurity,” it cautioned Tuesday, appealing for patience in its escalating attempts to defeat militants in Syria and Iraq.

    “No one said this would be easy or quick, and no one should be lulled into a false sense of security by accurate air strikes,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters.

    “We will not, we cannot bomb them into obscurity.”

    Kirby spoke a week after Washington launched air raids against the ISIS group in Syria, with dozens of bombing runs flown by American and Arab aircraft.

    The raids have struck ISIS-controlled oil refineries, tanks, artillery, buildings and other targets, even as the militants continued to gain ground in some areas, including near a contested town near the Turkish border where Kurdish forces have been pushed back.

    Kirby criticized some media coverage as raising unrealistic expectations about the air campaign in Syria and Iraq..................

  8. US Welcomes Canada Joining Airstrikes against Islamic State ...

    The United States has welcomed a decision from Canada's parliament to authorize airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq.

    The measure approved Tuesday backs the airstrikes for up to six months. It also prohibits the use of ground forces in any combat operations.

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government does not take the decision lightly, but that the Islamic State group poses a real threat.

    He said the U.S.-led coalition must act to stop the group from spreading and to keep it from being able to launch attacks outside the region.

    A White House statement said the United States will work with its partners to "expand our sustained and comprehensive approach to degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State group...................


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