Islamic bogeyman in Syria strikes fear in Washington
The message out of Washington at the weekend was at best
incoherent, at worst downright dangerous.
In the same week that US President Barack Obama asked Congress to fork over $500 million to support the Syrian opposition in its three-year battle to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, the American leader also warned on the possibility of European passport holders in Syria slipping into America to wreak unholy havoc.
“We have seen Europeans who are sympathetic to their cause traveling into Syria and now may travel into Iraq, getting battle-hardened,” Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. “Then they come back. They've got European passports. They don't need a visa to get into the United States.”
“Now, we are spending a lot of time, and we have been for years, making sure we are improving intelligence to respond to that,” he added.
Obama said the US must enhance reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, and US Special Forces will likely play a role, as well as beefing up security clearance at airports, already the source of agitation with many American travelers.
Why Syrian rebels would attempt an attack on US interests at the same time Washington is supporting their anti-government efforts was not touched upon in the interview. In fact, much of Obama’s anxiety over some imminent attack on the US homeland appears to stem less from solid evidence out of Syria and more from Republican doom-mongering.
The warnings were nothing short of hysterical, going so far as to
suggest the Republicans were fishing for supporters in a sea of
gloom and doom of their own creation.
“Right now, sources tell us, at this moment in Syria, Al-Qaeda bomb makers are trying to design a new generation of explosives, including nonmetallic bombs. And the US government is wrestling with how to respond,” Pierre Thomas, ABC senior justice correspondent, warned out of the gates.
What followed was a chorus of right-wing handwringing, led by the Republican Peter King, the former Chairman of Homeland Security, who pointed to ‘Americans in Syria’ as the nation’s gravest threat.
“Syria is our biggest threat right now because not only are there thousands of Europeans who have visas sent to the United States going to Syria, there’s also at least 100 or so – 100-plus Americans who are over there in Syria right now,” King told ABC. “I can’t go into all the details, but that is very important…because a number of [overseas] airports don’t have the type of security they should have.”
ISIS Militants Declare Islamist ‘Caliphate’: The extremist Sunni group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and ... http://t.co/GXtXkGIV40
— Kamal Faridi (@kamaluf) June 29, 2014
Republican Mike Rogers from Michigan chimed in that “this is exactly the kind of threat that keeps me up at night.”
“I've been on the Intelligence Committee for 10 years, chairman for the last four years. I have never seen a threat matrix so serious, so varied, and so many different streams of threat,” Rogers added.
Meanwhile, amid the sudden wave of angst now gripping Washington, the Obama administration is attempting to grapple with the sudden rise of a militant group that fashions itself as the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIS), a Sunni-led movement with the stated goal of creating a caliphate, or Islamic state, throughout Iraq, Syria and the Levant.
ISIS has already succeeded in overrunning large chunks of
northern Iraq, while Iraqi government forces are desperately
trying to prevent Tikrit, situated just 80 km from Baghdad, from
falling into control of the militants.
Beltway critics are questioning Washington’s conflicting strategy of assisting, on the one hand, Al-Qaeda backed militants in Syria, which risks opening a Pandora’s Box of unforeseen problems, while, on the other hand, bracing for a fight against an off-shoot of the very same terrorist group now running rampant in Iraq.