The latest WikiLeaks document dump on Hillary Clinton includes an August 18, 2014 email she sent to John Podesta, who is currently her campaign chairman, but was a counselor to the Obama White House at the time.
The email provided Podesta with a very detailed strategy for dealing with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, based on “Western intelligence, U.S. intelligence, and sources in the region.”
This is not the sort of document one wants to see passing through an unsecure homebrew email server, although it is not as sensitive as some of the other documents we now know Clinton kept on her system.
Perhaps most remarkably, Clinton flatly stated in this email that the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia were funding the Islamic State.
Clinton pushed the Obama Administration’s favorite solution to all foreign crises, arming local forces and hoping they could defeat the bad guys without a major American military presence.
In this case, she recommended arming the Kurdish peshmerga and Free Syrian Army (FSA) – i.e. the “moderate Syrian rebels” of political legend – to “surprise” the Islamic State with a “coordinated assault supported from the air.” As with Obama, she also had a daydream about the white-hat Syrian rebels simultaneously overthrowing the regime of Bashar Assad in Damascus.
Part of this plan involved leaning on Qatar and Saudi Arabia to stop providing “clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region”:
This entire effort should be done with a low profile, avoiding the massive traditional military operations that are at best temporary solutions. While this military/para-military operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.
This effort will be enhanced by the stepped up commitment in the KRG. The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious U.S. pressure. By the same token, the threat of similar, realistic U.S. operations will serve to assist moderate forces in Libya, Lebanon, and even Jordan, where insurgents are increasingly fascinated by the ISIL success in Iraq.
Turkey is mentioned prominently in Clinton’s email. She explained that the Turkish government was nervous about shipping heavy weapons to the Kurdish peshmerga, “out of a concern that the would end up in the hands of Kurdish rebels inside of Turkey,” but she thought “the current situation in Iraq, not to mention the political environment in Turkey,” rendered such concerns “obsolete.”
Clinton was dead wrong about that. The Turks are still extremely nervous about Western arms provided to Kurdish forces in Iraq or Syria ending up in the hands of Kurdish separatists inside Turkey. Ankara is more prone to denounce the Syrian Kurdish YPG than the Iraqi peshmerga, but their general attitude is that all Kurdish groups are linked.
In fact, just today, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildrim railed at Clinton for talking about arming Kurdish fighters during the second presidential debate, saying she would “support Kurds in the region, terrorist organizations, with arms if she is elected.”
Later in her memo to Podesta, Clinton said the Iraqi ISIS situation is “merely the latest and most dangerous example of the regional restructuring that is taking place across North Africa, all the way to the Turkish border”:
These developments are important to the U.S. for reasons that often differ from country to country: energy and moral commitment to Iraq, energy issues in Libya, and strategic commitments in Jordan. At the same time, as Turkey moves toward a new, more serious Islamic reality, it will be important for them to realize that we are willing to take serious actions, which can be sustained to protect our national interests. This course of action offers the potential for success, as opposed to large scale, traditional military campaigns, that are too expensive and awkward to maintain over time.
Clinton’s view of the global ISIS threat, circa 2014, was considerably different from what the Obama Administration was telling the general public, and very different from Barack Obama’s infamous January 2014 dismissal of the Islamic State as the “jayvee team” of terrorism. Clinton has defended Obama’s foolish comment in public, but half a year later, she didn’t seem to see them as a junior-varsity squad at all:
If we do not take the changes needed to make our security policy in the region more realistic, there is a real danger of ISIL veterans moving on to other countries to facilitate operations by Islamist forces. This is already happening in Libya and Egypt, where fighters are returning from Syria to work with local forces.
ISIL is only the latest and most violent example of this process. If we don’t act to defeat them in Iraq something even more violent and dangerous will develop. Successful military operations against these very irregular but determined forces can only be accomplished by making proper use of clandestine/special operations resources, in coordination with airpower, and established local allies.
There is, unfortunately, a narrow window of opportunity on this issue, as we need to act before an ISIL state becomes better organized and reaches into Lebanon and Jordan.
Clinton’s memo to Podesta closed out with assurances that Iraq’s government could be made comfortable with increased autonomy for the Kurds, if the Kurdistan Regional Government did not “exclude the Iraqi government from participation in the management of the oil fields around Kirkuk, and the Mosel Dam hydroelectric facility.”
This was sensible advice, if rather discordant with years of liberals screaming that oil is the planet-destroying root of all evil, and American foreign policy should never be tainted with sinister oil concerns.
But then she voiced the same faith in moderate rebel forces that has come to so much grief in Syria:
At the same time we will be able to work with the Peshmerga as they pursue ISIL into disputed areas of Eastern Syria, coordinating with FSA troops who can move against ISIL from the North. This will make certain Basher al Assad does not gain an advantage from these operations.
Bashar Assad has gained all the advantages he needed since 2014, with the help of Russia and Iran. The Obama Administration has been standing on the sidelines and fuming while its erstwhile Syrian allies are ground into mincemeat. This would seem to present a long-term problem for the Obama/Clinton doctrine of recruiting local forces to handle all military interventions: how eager will such forces be to ally with the United States, after what happened to the Syrian opposition?