Top House Intelligence Democrat: Obama Islamic State Strategy ‘Not Going Fast Enough’

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, strongly criticized the Obama administration’s strategy against the Islamic State on Fox News Sunday.

Rep. Adam Schiff labored mightily on Fox News Sunday to make Hillary Clinton sound less than delusional in her debate pronouncement that President Obama has got ISIS right where he wants them. Schiff, who was bluntly calling President Obama’s campaign against the Islamic State a “failure” just a few weeks ago, forced himself to keep Clinton’s presidential hopes alive by pretending a “political process” at the United Nations would spell the end of both Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and the most hideous elements of the rebellion against his regime.

“Well, this was in the context of do we go after Assad or do we after ISIS, can we do both? And her answer is basically we need to do both, and now for the first time we have a political process at the United Nations that brings about an end to both,” said Schiff of Clinton’s remarks. “And I think she’s right. I think it isn’t enough to leave Assad in place, because as long as he is there, there is going to be a recruiting magnet for ISIS.”

When Fox News host Chris Wallace pointed out that U.N. resolutions with Russia and China insisting on keeping Assad in power will have little effect, Schiff admitted that this was a troublesome detail but insisted, “the first step has got to be sitting around the table and agreeing to a process to get to the end result.”

Schiff thought the Russians and Iranians would soon realize they had walked into a quagmire in Syria, and the conflict was already “posing a real problem” and becoming an “albatross” for Russian president Vladimir Putin. In reality, Putin’s approval rating in Russia hit an all-time high after he began bombing Syria, although it is always possible that a grinding war of attrition would eventually bleed Putin of political capital.

“At the end of the day, unless Iran and Russia want to have a rump Alawite state and a rump Sunni state, and a Kurdish state, then they’re going to have to come to the table and bring about an end to this regime,” Schiff declared.

The degree of Kurdish revulsion for the prospect of a continued Assad regime is also open to question. They are much more focused on fighting the Islamic State, and the Russian vision of a consolidated Assad-run Syria turning its guns on ISIS to finish them off once and for all does not sound unrealistic to them. There is no good Syrian endgame for Russia and Iran that involves a resistance they have always described as filled with “terrorists,” top to bottom, getting what it wants.

Schiff said he thinks President Obama has “the overall right strategy” against ISIS and has been “right to resist bringing in massive numbers of American troops,” but the strategy has not been implemented vigorously enough.

“While the broad outlines of what the president wants to do, I think the right ones, it’s not going fast enough. The pace is not going fast enough,” said Schiff. “I think we have to look for something to change the dynamic on the ground. And for me, that would be in the form of the safe zone, or a buffer zone, or no-fly zone. Something that can end the refugee flows, something that can give space and time to train up forces, to take on ISIS.”

Wallace pressed Schiff about President Obama refusing to take measures such as a no-fly zone or sending in special operations ground forces with close air support to lead Arab forces into combat against the Islamic State, but Schiff gave President Obama a pass and blamed that reluctance on the Iraqis—whose government was, he said, “too much under the thumb of the Iranians.”

Schiff then conceded that battlefield conditions have been “stalemated for too long,” and are not likely to improve any time soon. Even the vitally-important recapture of Ramadi was something Schiff could only “hope is imminent,” but, he admitted, “if the past is precedent, then that’s still going to take a very long time, and I’m concerned the clock is ticking, and the danger to the American people is still very present.”


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