Declassifying the Syrian Jihad: CIA vs. the Pentagon, by Brad Hoff

For anyone undertaking the daunting task of trying to understand how the US got itself stuck in a Syrian quagmire, this article is invaluable. From Brad Hoff at

On a Monday morning in September of 2014 White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stepped out in front of cameras to respond to questions of “intelligence failure” and explained that both the administration and intelligence community were caught completely “surprised” over the shocking and “rapid advance” of ISIS into Iraq over the course of that summer. However, two years prior in August 2012, an intelligence official with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) stationed in Iraq had written an incredibly prescient classified report predicting that out of the Syrian war could emerge “a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime…”

It seems the analyst’s chief concern, from his or her vantage point in Iraq, was that the international coalition fueling the rebel insurgency across the border in Syria to effect regime change in Damascus could produce a monster capable to devouring large territory. The intelligence report forecast that “ISI [Islamic State in Iraq] could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”

The memo specifically names Ramadi and Mosul as among the first Iraqi cities to potentially fall victim to what it calls “unifying the jihad” under the banner of an Islamic State. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) would capture Mosul in June 2014, and in a seemingly unprecedented blitz across Anbar, seize Ramadi on Sunday, May 17, 2015. Ironically, the intelligence report itself would hit public view in heavily redacted form on Monday, May 18, 2015 – just as the world was receiving news of the fall of Ramadi.

Soon after it was written, the 2012 IIR (Intelligence Information Report) landed on the desks of Congressional Intelligence Committee members, but more importantly it would be used to argue policy at the White House – this according to the DoD’s chief of military intelligence at the time the memo was produced.

Director of the DIA at the time of the memo’s drafting and former Sr. Intelligence Officer for JSOC, Michael Flynn, has repeatedly affirmed the report’s accuracy in public statements. But now for the first time a CIA perspective has been offered: former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell recently took to Politico to weigh in on controversy surrounding the now declassified 2012 memo which further warned that “the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” and that “the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition.”

Ex-CIA #2 Morell contradicts Flynn’s account of the intelligence report, writing that “it was simply wrong in its facts when it indicated that the West was supporting extremists in Syria.” Morell wants you to take his word for it: “The administration went to great lengths to ensure that any aid provided by the United States to the opposition would not fall into the hands of extremists, including the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.” Morell adds his voice and insider credentials to a chorus of others assuring the public that Trump is spouting debunked conspiracy theories in claiming the memo points to Obama and Hillary “support” for ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria.

To continue reading: Declassifying the Syrian Jihad: CIA vs. the Pentagon


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