Isis cri­sis: po­lit­i­cans didn’t lis­ten, say spies

Taranaki Daily News - - World -

Wash­ing­ton – The rise of Isis – the Is­lamic State in Iraq and Syria – has led to clashes be­tween spies and politi­cians on both sides of the At­lantic.

The CIA and MI6 have lashed out at ac­cu­sa­tions that they were guilty of in­tel­li­gence fail­ures when al Qaeda rene­gades swept into Iraq from Syria.

For­mer CIA of­fi­cers have ac­cused the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of seek­ing to cover up its own pol­icy fail­ures by lay­ing the blame at the door of Amer­ica’s spies af­ter Iraqi soldiers fled from an at­tack by Isis ji­hadists. Sim­i­larly, sources close to the Se­cret In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice in Lon­don have blamed the For­eign Of­fice and Down­ing Street for ig­nor­ing the grow­ing men­ace of ex­trem­ists in Syria.

A for­mer CIA of­fi­cer who served un­der­cover in Iraq said re­spon­si­bil­ity for fail­ing to fore­see the Isis ad­vance lay squarely on Obama’s shoul­ders.

‘‘It was as if the Obama ad­min-

‘‘It was as if the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion saw thun­der­clouds rolling in, heard the thun­der, saw flashes of light­ning and the wind pick­ing up, then said they were re­ally sur­prised when it started rain­ing. It’s just not cred­i­ble. ’’ For­mer CIA of­fi­cer

is­tra­tion saw thun­der­clouds rolling in, heard the thun­der, saw flashes of light­ning and the wind pick­ing up, then said they were re­ally sur­prised when it started rain­ing,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s just not cred­i­ble.’’

A CIA spokesman, Dean Boyd, said: ‘‘Any­one who has had ac­cess to and has ac­tu­ally read the full ex­tent of CIA in­tel­li­gence prod­ucts on and Iraq should not have been sur­prised by the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.’’

A US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial said an­a­lysts rou­tinely warned the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of the grow­ing strength of Isis and its threat to Iraq’s sta­bil­ity. It was also told of ef­forts by Isis to set off up­ris­ings in ar­eas with sub­stan­tial Sunni pop­u­la­tions, and how the Iraqi army’s weak­ness in ‘‘Mo­sul, specif­i­cally, al­lowed the group to deepen its in­flu­ence there’’.

Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral Michael Flynn, head of the US De­fence In­tel­li­gence Agency, warned Congress in Fe­bru­ary that Isis ‘‘prob­a­bly will at­tempt to take ter­ri­tory in Iraq and Syria to ex­hibit its strength in 2014’’.

A Pen­tagon ad­viser with ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in Iraq de­scribed Obama’s in­abil­ity – or un­will­ing­ness – to bro­ker a deal to keep troops in the coun­try af­ter 2011 as dis­as­trous. At the height of the Iraq war, the CIA had more than 1000 people sta­tioned in Bagh­dad.

‘‘We threw away so much of our ca­pa­bil­ity as the war was wind­ing down,’’ he said. ‘‘Iraq is the per­fect ex­am­ple of how that can go wrong.’’

Repub­li­cans on Capi­tol Hill have in­di­cated that they will in­ves­ti­gate whether the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ig­nored CIA warn­ings.

‘‘This is not an in­tel­li­gence fail­ure; this is a pol­icy fail­ure,’’ said Con­gress­man Mike Rogers, chair­man of the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, last week.

The Bri­tish govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to with­draw most of its in­tel­li­gence as­sets from Iraq is also blamed for ‘‘sketchy’’ brief­ings on Isis for min­is­ters in Lon­don.

At a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing this month, David Cameron or­dered spy chiefs to pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion.

A min­is­ter who was present said: ‘‘The qual­ity of the in­for- ma­tion about Isis, who they are, what they want, how many of them there are, was no­tably lack­ing. The spies had their eye off the ball.’’

But sources close to MI6 say Cameron and Wil­liam Hague, the for­eign sec­re­tary, were more in­ter­ested in ask­ing the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices to iden­tify mod­er­ates in the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion that they could deal with than they were in mon­i­tor­ing ex­trem­ists.

‘‘There has been great po­lit­i­cal re­luc­tance to fo­cus on these ex­trem­ist groups be­cause that would have called into ques­tion our en­tire strat­egy of op­pos­ing Bashar al-As­sad and talk­ing to the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion,’’ the source said.

‘‘We have been com­pletely caught off bal­ance by this.’’

An­other source briefed on the in­tel­li­gence from Iraq said lis­ten­ing posts in Bagh­dad run by the GCHQ lis­ten­ing sta­tion were help­ing to build up in­tel­li­gence on Isis.

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