The State Department’s Response to the 2012 DIA Islamic State Document

Defense Intelligence Agency report exchange begins at 29:45

FMR Director of the DIA Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will discuss the 2012 Defense Intelligence report that predicts “an Islamic State” would arise as a result of the West’s desire to “isolate the Syrian regime” in an upcoming Al Jazeera interview set to air July 31.

Al Jazeera’s early press release indicates that Flynn says of the document concerning the origins of ISIL’s meteoric rise that: “I think it was a decision, I think it was a willful decision.”

Thus far the highest level denial of the document’s significance has come from the State Department in a June 4 daily press briefing.

Note that spokesperson Marie Harf ignores the essence of the question, which asks her to comment on the origins of ISIL in light of the DIA report, instead merely holding up GCC countries as currently part of the anti-ISIL coalition.

The below is the relevant section of the transcript from State.gov (see video above starting at the 29:45 mark):


 

QUESTION: It is striking, though, how similar – how what’s happening currently does chime in with the prediction we now know that the Defense Intelligence Agency made in 2012 that a Salafist principality might grow up in eastern Syria and western Iraq, and that – in fact, that was the policy. That’s what – the goal of the GCC countries, your allies in the region. Would you accept that that’s what’s happened?

MS HARF: Well, I think you’re making a number of sort of sweeping generalizations.

QUESTION: That was the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012.

MS HARF: Well, I haven’t read the whole DIA report. I’m happy to go back and pull that and take a look at it. There was a lot of assessment done at the time about the possible futures – directions that Iraq could take, certainly. So I’m happy to go back and look at those, but —

QUESTION: You don’t think it’s the goal of the GCC to have some sort of Salafist area there to be a sort of bulwark against Iran?

MS HARF: I think the fact that GCC and regional countries are taking direct military action against ISIL in the region now, I think, should make it pretty clear how they feel about ISIL.

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IMPORTANT DIA UPDATE: Former Defense Intelligence Director Michael Flynn Comments Publicly on 2012 DIA Islamic State Report

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (Public Domain Image)
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Former DIA Director (Public Domain Image)

MY INITIAL REPORTING on the DIA memo that in 2012 predicts that the West would fuel the rise of “an Islamic State” in Syria caused enough of a global media stir that it prompted DIA Public Affairs to respond to my questions.

But as Middle East Eye reported, the DIA’s response was disappointing yet still somewhat revealing:

When asked repeatedly by journalist and ex-US marine Brad Hoff to dispel claims that the West aligned itself with IS or ISIS at some point in Syria, the DIA’s official response was telling: “No comment.”

While major foreign media like The Guardian, The Sunday Times of London, Der Spiegel, RT News, UK Daily Mail, and London Review of Books ran stories and prominent editorials that featured serious discussion of the document, their mainstream media equivalents in the U.S. didn’t touch it. To my knowledge, outlets like CNN, FOX, NBC, Newsweek, NPR, Washington Post, etc… have yet to even quote from the specific document either through broadcast or even in online articles.

Perhaps it will take hearing from the chief of the DIA that was in place at the time the intelligence report was drafted to finally inform the broader American public?

Thankfully, this will happen in a forthcoming Al Jazeera English interview with retired US Lt. General Michael Flynn, former head of the Pentagon’s DIA and senior intelligence officer with the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Al Jazeera’s press release announcing the interview entitled “Is the US to blame for ISIL?” indicates that Flynn is asked specifically about the document in the prerecorded show set to air July 31:

Publicly commenting for the first time on a previously-classified August 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) memo, which had predicted “the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria (…) this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want” and confirmed that “the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and [Al Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” the former DIA chief told Head to Head that “the [Obama] Administration” didn’t “listen” to these warnings issued by his agency’s analysts.

“I don’t know if they turned a blind eye,” he said. “I think it was a decision, I think it was a willful decision.”

“Is the US to blame for ISIL?” with Michael Flynn will be broadcast on Friday 31st July at 20.00 GMT and will be repeated on Saturday 1st August at 12.00 GMT, Saturday 2nd August at 01.00 GMT and Monday 3rd August at 06.00 GMT.

For continuing coverage of the DIA Islamic State document, follow Taylor Tyler’s excellent reporting at Headline and Global News.

Now in London Review of Books, the DIA ISIS Report Continues to Drive Global Discussion

West will facilitate rise of Islamic State “in order to isolate the Syrian regime”: 2012 DIA document

The coming July 16 London Review of Books print issue will carry an excellent and historically rich article entitled The Hijackers, by Oxford scholar and current Tufts University historian Hugh Roberts. The article gives a “long view” narrative of the Syrian conflict, while concluding that Western policy in Syria has been “a disgrace” and Britain’s role a “matter of national shame.”

In the last section of the lengthy article, Roberts discusses the origins of the Islamic State in light of the “extraordinary revelation” contained in the declassified 2012 DIA document—a revelation first reported here at Levant Report.

File:Lrb17aug2006vol28no16.jpgThe entire essay is a must-read, but here is just one sizable excerpt that covers the DIA document:

Cockburn argues that ‘for America, Britain and the Western powers, the rise of Isis and the caliphate is the ultimate disaster.’ There are certainly grounds for thinking he is right. But there are also grounds for wondering. His book went to press before he could take account of the extraordinary revelation that US intelligence had anticipated the rise of Islamic State nearly two years before it happened. On 18 May, a document from the US Defense Intelligence Agency dated 12 August 2012 was published by a conservative watchdog organisation called Judicial Watch, which had managed to obtain this and other formerly classified documents through a federal lawsuit. The document not only anticipates the rise of IS but seems to suggest it would be a desirable development from the point of view of the international ‘coalition’ seeking regime change in Damascus. Here are the key passages:

7b. Development of the current events into proxy war … Opposition forces are trying to control the eastern areas (Hasaka and Der Zor), adjacent to the western Iraqi provinces (Mosul and Anbar), in addition to neighbouring Turkish borders. Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey are supporting these efforts. This hypothesis is most likely in accordance with the data from recent events, which will help prepare safe havens under international sheltering, similar to what transpired in Libya when Benghazi was chosen as the command centre of the temporary government …

8c. If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing 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.

So American intelligence saw IS coming and was not only relaxed about the prospect but, it appears, positively interested in it. The precise formula used in paragraph 8c is intriguing. It doesn’t talk of ‘the possibility that Isis might establish a Salafist principality’ but of ‘the possibility of establishing’ a Salafist principality. So who was to be the prime mover in this process? Did IS have a state backing it after all?

Read the full article at LRB…

Brad Hoff Interviewed by ANC Report

 

Key documents and articles referenced in the show:

  1. My original report on the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency ‘Islamic State’ document.
  2. 1980 DIA report “Assad’s Prospects” at CIA FOIA Reading Room.
  3. 1982 DIA “Special Analysis” entitled “Syria: Muslim Brotherhood Pressure Intensifies” (this was initially viewable at Foreignpolicy.com but is now not available at this location)
  4. DIA reports on Muslim Brotherhood/Syrian Government conflict from 1980’s are covered in an Oct. 2014 article by Sharmine Narwani
  5. An excellent little known background history of CIA/Western clandestine intervention in Syria going back to the 1950’s, and the regional “pressure cooker” that aided Syria’s formation into an authoritarian security state: “The Baby and the Ba’ath Water” by the BBC’s Adam Curtis
  6. 2011-2012 Arab League Observer Mission to Syria report documenting attacks and sabotage of Syrian resource infrastructure by unknown groups.
  7. For commentary and a selection of relevant passages from the Arab League report, see here.
  8. My December 2013 article covering mainstream media admissions of rebel chemical weapons possession and usage.
  9. Final United Nations report on chemical weapons usage in Syria.
  10. “Gay Girl in Damascus” hoax which was originally pushed in international media for propaganda purposes.
  11. CNN’s “Syrian Danny” hoax; also see Anderson Cooper’s final awkward interview with Danny in which Anderson asks him about the staged nature of Danny’s video reports from Syria.
  12. Wall Street Journal coverage of Joseph Schmitz and Blackwater (now called Academi) attempt to carry out a large scale private weapons shipment plan to arm anti-government fighers in Syria.
  13. For more about the “long war” for the identity of Syria, see Patrick Seale’s foundational work on modern Syria, Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East (1988). For scholarly discussion of the question of clandestine external support for the 1982 Hama uprising see especially chapter 19, “The Enemy Within.”

Brad Hoff Interviewed by TRUTH IN MEDIA on Syria, DIA Report, & Media’s Failure

Truth in Media/Joshua Cook — Military veteran and journalist Brad Hoff has a unique perspective of Syria after living there off and on for years.

“I ended up settling down in Syria, and loved the culture, loved the people,” he said to Joshua Cook in an exclusive interview.

Hoff said that of course he saw problems there, but the typical stereotypes that he had of the region shattered.

“Got really interested in how the media was covering Syria, and that’s what really got me involved in writing about the place,” he explained. “The mainstream media writing about the conflict in Syria just completely failed on so many fronts.”

The Daily Beast’s coverage of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report, Hoff said, was a hit piece

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW at Truth in Media…

DIA Islamic State report discussed on RT’s flagship program CrossTalk

RT’s June 12 CrossTalk program focused on the origins and nature of the Islamic State.

Program host Peter Lavelle makes a general reference to the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document predicting the rise of ‘an Islamic State’ as he sets up the main question to be debated (at 1:10).

Middle East expert and internationally-syndicated columnist Ramzy Baroud closes the program by extensive reference to the DIA document (starting at 23:30):

“In 2012 there was a document by Defense Intelligence that predicted the rise of ISIS and they in fact refer to it as the Islamic State in those documents. Go to the writing of Nafeez Ahmed where he analyzes this document that was leaked recently. I think it’s rather important that we pay attention to the fact that much of the creation of ISIS actually goes back to American intelligence and American calculation, and this is why I did argue, and continue to argue that ISIS is essentially a western phenomenon more than being a Middle Eastern phenomenon.”

The entirety of this particular CrossTalk debate is excellent. It is a shame that one cannot find a debate that occurs at this level of analysis in mainstream American mediait’s too bad that it takes a state-owned Russian broadcast to bring us serious Middle East analysts who actually speak Arabic.

For example, the Beirut bureau chief for the New York Times, Anne Barnard, does not speak Arabic, and this is part of the reason why her reporting is so lousy, and often riddled with errors. Levant Report itself once deconstructed her sloppy reporting, after which the top Syria expert in the U.S., Joshua Landis, promoted our article, at which point Barnard “favorited” it on Twitter.

Or call to mind this AC360 segment, which ended in CNN’s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour frantically shouting down her fellow panelists as they discussed the conflict in Syria, even saying things like, “Wait just a second — Excuse me. Excuse me. The president of the United States and the most moral country in the world based on the most moral principles in the world … cannot allow this to go unchecked … I’m so emotional about this.”

This is what passes for analysis in the American mainstream and it’s just so embarrassing. Fewer people will feel the need to watch RT News should the U.S. mainstream decide to get its act together.

The Daily Beast’s Jacob Siegal says Released DIA Document Led to “ISIS Conspiracy that ate the Web”

Jacob Siegal, writing for The Daily Beast, misses an opportunity to shine light on the 2012 declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document foretelling the rise of “an Islamic State”, instead, opting to mock those reporting and attempting to interpret its contents.

In his June 6 article, The ISIS Conspiracy that ate the Web, Siegal devotes the majority of his words not to careful analysis of the document, but instead to consigning all those, like Seamus Milne of The Guardian, who dare take the document as a serious and newsworthy revelation worthy of public scrutiny, with the label of partisan conspiracy theorist (the Daily Beast article itself is categorized under the heading “Conspiracy Theory”):

If you’re looking for a single, simple explanation for the rise of the Islamic State that flatters your pre-existing politics, you’ve hit pay dirt.

He begins by holding up the admittedly nutty Pamela Geller as somehow representative of the DIA document’s early reporting, though she had nothing to do with either reporting or analyzing the document, instead merely copying the entirety of my own original article to her website many days after its release and adding her own brief commentary (while never seeking my permission), such as the simplistic: “Look at what Obama and his party of treason have unleashed on the world.”

The Pamela Gellers of the world will always have ultra-partisan, self-serving interpretations of what is fundamentally real, newsworthy information, but presenting her and others like her as actually representing the reporting that “ate the Web” is a sloppy attempt to obfuscate the valid conclusions being drawn and circulated as a result of this truly significant document. Siegal would like us to conclude, like Juan Cole, that there is really “nothing to see here folks, move it along, etc…” by first presenting and debunking “low hanging fruit” that is irrelevant to how the story originally spread.

I appreciate that at the very least my own reporting is held up as serious and credible with the lines in the end paragraphs, “The DIA could do itself and the public a favor by addressing the 3 year-old declassified report instead of responding to inquiries with variations on no comment as it did when approached by journalist Brad Hoff.”

I wholeheartedly agree, but it strikes me as odd and inconsistent that Siegal should first write off Seumas Milne’s excellent piece in The Guardian (which now has over 85,000 Facebook shares alone), taking issue even with the title, Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq.

The title of my own May 19 article, West will facilitate rise of Islamic State “in order to isolate the Syrian regime”which was the first to report and examine the DIA document’s contents in terms of “the West backed ISIS” angle, would no doubt also attract the ire of Mr. Siegal should he have bothered to find out the origin of the viral “conspiracy” that ate the web. And yet, he holds me up as a credible journalist cited just after the following: “The report raises some important questions but it’s a mistake to think it answers them.”

What bothers me is that, as a paid editor and journalist at the The Daily Beast, Jacob Siegal refuses to make use of the significant resources at his disposal to seek answers to the many questions he says the document raises, opting instead to attach a stigma to any reporting or analysis that might actually see the document as evidence of U.S. government wrongdoing or negligence (especially as he informs us he formerly worked as an army intelligence officer, which makes it likely that he’d have helpful contacts that might be useful in actually investigating the document).

But I suppose it’s much easier to do a hit piece on straw man conspiracy theories, as opposed to a careful reading and response to the actual original reporting through which the DIA document went viral.

My own reporting began going viral within days after being published. Investigative journalist and best-selling author Nafeez Ahmed, whose counter-terrorism work gained official recognition by the 9/11 Commission, followed on May 22 with an in-depth investigative piece on the DIA report at INSURGE intelligence, which greatly expanded on my report, putting it into full geopolitical context.

Most significantly, Ahmed was able to get official statement from the British Foreign Office, and his coverage of the DIA document later headlined across leading German daily papers and political magazines. It was this story, copied to Zero Hedge, that Juan Cole dismissed as “just a clickbait story”.

But neither my reporting, nor Nafeez Ahmed’s ever claimed that the DIA document exists as stand-alone “smoking gun” proof of the claims that the West knowingly fueled the rise of Islamic State. As I said soon after writing my report on the Scott Horton show, the DIA document merely “completes the picture”—a picture that many, including Ahmed, have been piecing together for years.

But that the West and the U.S. did fuel the rise of ISIS through political support, weapons, logistical coordination, and supplies given to militants in Syria is hardly the theory of a few independent journalists when you have the likes of former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford going around confessing that he himself knowingly backed rebels fighting alongside ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria (Nusra) in 2013. Remember that Ford was the State Department’s top man in Syria and thus had a key role in the rebel “vetting” process. (As for other former government officials, current politicians, and even FSA commanders that have also said that the West gave political and material support to the then nascent Islamic State…well the list is too long for this column.)

While government officials like to claim that “we didn’t know” or that “we had good intentions,” this DIA document is just additional proof that at the very least, at some official level, they did know. The dynamics of the conflict and potential consequences of the West’s course of action were spelled out in quite precise (and prescient) terms, and put into writing in the form of an information report and circulated widely (the early reporting never claimed the document was itself produced as an active or official policy document).

Considering the fact that the world has been told incessantly that ISIS and their associate jihadi allies represent the single greatest and most brutal terror threat mankind has ever seen (and add to that the CIA and White House claim that they just didn’t see ISIS coming!), you would think that for The Daily Beast this might constitute a major newsworthy scandal worth digging into. But again, Siegal instead chooses to make the story ultimately about the power of “conspiracy theories” that take over the web.

Ironically, he cites the discredited former NSA officer John Schindler to say that the DIA document is largely irrelevant and unimportant based on its redactions as well as our inability to know the level of importance assigned to it within the intelligence community (as its classification is not high level).

While Siegal acknowledges that this “sort of report of regional scope and strategic implications was outside my purview” his guiding assumption is that it couldn’t have been very important: “by itself, it’s only evidence of one analysis among thousands churned out yearly by the various intelligence agencies.”

But Siegal could have and should have consulted former high ranking MI6 spy and Middle East expert Alastair Crooke, who does have the experience and background to know. Crooke’s analysis appeared in his regular Huffington Post column a full five days prior Siegal’s Daily Beast article. As to the DIA document’s level of importance within the intelligence community, Crooke confidently asserts following his main thesis:

Intelligence assessments purpose is to provide “a view” — not to describe or prescribe policy. But it is clear that the DIA reports’ “warnings” were widely circulated and would have been meshed into the policy consideration.

The main indicator affirming that this DIA report was not merely “one analysis among thousands” (and by implication barely visible), is described in a Salon.com article which appeared nine days prior to Siegal’s cries of conspiracy theory:

Few of the reports on these documents have discussed on what terms Judicial Watch received them. The organization received the documents by requesting – among other things — “[a]ny and all records produced by any official of the [Departments of Defense and State] in preparation for, use during, and/or pursuant to any” briefing of Congressional leaders and Intelligence Committee leaders, “on matters related to the activities of any agency or department of the U.S. government at the Special Mission Compound and/or classified annex in Benghazi, Libya.” These reports were important, then, to DOD’s own understanding of events surrounding the Benghazi attack.

As to the content of the DIA document itself, Siegal’s main point (after citing Cole) is that the DIA is actually pointing the finger exclusively at America’s allies like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and that “the West” (and U.S.) is somehow wholly separate from its own coalition. Joe Biden’s revealing comments at Harvard University are referenced, but his prior statements regarding support for the Syrian opposition are ignored: “We are working hand and glove with the Turks, with the Jordanians, with the Saudis, and with all the people in the region attempting to identify the people who deserve the help…” (and this is consistent with statements of other U.S. officials).

The idea that U.S. intelligence and military officials were far removed from the situation as allies armed the likes of Nusra, ISIS, and Ahrar Al-Sham, even while those officials all occupied the same “operations command center” (in Jordan and in Turkey), is absurd on its face. American government officials themselves told the New York Times of a joint Saudi/CIA program to arm the rebels beginning in 2012.

The truth is often much more banal than a good conspiracy theory: it often requires knowledge of the alignment of those interests, institutions, historical forces, and guiding ideologies that give birth to a particular horrid consequence. It is the media’s job to investigate and map out those alignments. Such is the case with the swift rise of the monster that is Islamic State.  While it would give me great personal comfort to be able to dismiss inconvenient truths as mere conspiracy theory, I would prefer a national media that tells me the hard truth, and never ceases digging until unearthing that truth.

As he admits that the DIA document raises valid questions, my hope is that Jacob Siegal is even now digging, asking tough questions of DIA and other officials, seeking behind the scenes comment, submitting further FOIA requests, etc… This is my sincere hope, but I suppose I shouldn’t hold my breath.