Obama: Syria Has Become ‘Ground Zero for Jihadists’

US Underestimated ISIS, Overestimated Iraqi Military

In comments during an interview with 60 Minutes, President Obama conceded that the US had widely underestimated ISIS, and what was happening among Islamist factions in Eastern Syria in general.

Obama went on to label Syria the “ground zero for jihadists around the world,” saying they were using the ungoverned portions of Syria to “reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos.”

That’s a dramatic understatement, of course. ISIS and other factions didn’t simply go to Syria because the war made parts of the nation “ungoverned.” Rather, the jihadists went to Syria to join a rebellion the Obama Administration was loudly backing and bankrolling.

Awash in US weapons and using the Syrian war as a recruiting tool, ISIS quickly rose from its status as al-Qaeda of Iraq (AQI) into a regional power and, indeed, a de facto state.

Administration officials, like deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken, insist that the US war against ISIS won’t end up like another Iraq. So far, it’s shaping up to be much, much worse.

That’s because after the US policy of backing Syrian rebels turned ISIS into the powerful movement it is today, the announcement of the US air war against ISIS seems to be bringing the group to even greater heights, with not only Syria, but now a second war with America being used as a powerful recruitment tool which ISIS can use both to recruit locals, and to recruit other jihadist factions who simply can’t stand up to the US on their own.

The president has finally admitted to underestimating ISIS, but seems no closer to understanding the source of the threat, or to changing US policy in such a way that they’re not making ISIS all the stronger.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.