Obama’s Messy Iraq Intelligence Scandal
We’ve heard tales of ‘cherry-picked intelligence’ before—it hasn’t ended well
It’s happening again. A White House fumbling with the violent mess of Iraq finds itself surrounded by mounting accusations that it’s played dirty games with intelligence. A Pentagon facing charges that its analysts have skewed assessments on Iraq to tell top policymakers what they want to hear, rather than what is really happening in that troubled country.
If this sounds terribly familiar, it should. Only a dozen years after the George W. Bush White House was buffeted by allegations that it had “cherry-picked” intelligence to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq, Barack Obama is facing similar accusations. Intelligence Community analysts alleged that, in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, they were pressured to exaggerate Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Now, analysts claim that they have been pushed to present Obama’s war against the Islamic State as more successful than it really is.
Only the most optimistic Obama backers still portray that year-long air campaign (its proper name is Operation Inherent Resolve) as adequate, and most security experts agree that the Islamic State is winning the war on the ground, thanks in part to an American-led air war that is bombing too little and too cautiously. There is no indication that Western airpower is anywhere near inflicting decisive pain on the Islamic State, while our Iraqi partners, who serve as the ground anvil for the U.S. airborne hammer, increasingly feel left in the lurch by Obama.
The air campaign is led by the Pentagon’s Central Command, which is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, half a world away from its foes. Rumors have swirled for months of low morale at CENTCOM, as the Pentagon calls it [website here], as Operation Inherent Resolve drags on without a coherent strategy. Stories of White House interference with CENTCOM headquarters, commonly heard in the military, paint a disturbing picture, with Susan Rice’s bloated and confused National Security Council waging war against the Islamic State in a micro-managerial style reminiscent of President Johnson’s failed efforts against North Vietnam a half-century ago.
Worse, rumors have mounted for months that CENTCOM’s intelligence staff has been pressured to promote “good news” about the struggle against the Islamic State, despite much evidence to the contrary. Such rumors can now be verified…
This is the debut of a new bi-weekly column on National Security.
John Schindler is a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer. A specialist in espionage and terrorism, he’s also been a navy officer and a war college professor. He’s published four books and is on twitter at @20committee.
Do read it all. Very relevant: