In an interview on Meet the Press, with NBC's Andrea Mitchell, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that Barack Obama had been too cautious in confronting the threat posed by IS (The Islamic State).
When asked by Mitchell why Obama says the US still does not have a strategy to confront IS, and if that doesn't project weakness from the White House, Feinstein said:
"Well, I mean I know what you want me to say. But I'm not going to say it in that sense. I think I've learned one thing about this President, and that is he's very cautious. Maybe in this instance, too cautious. I do know that the military, I know that the State Department, I know that others have been putting plans together, and so hopefully those plans will coalesce into a strategy."
Earlier, Feinstein said she agreed with the article published yesterday in the New York Times by Republican Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) :
"I think Senator McCain and Senator Graham really laid the basis in Saturday's New York Times in an op-ed, for confrontation [with Islamic State]. And I happen to agree with what they said."The article Feinstein refers to, entitled "Stop Dithering, Confront ISIS", goes into considerable detail about how Barack Obama's caution and "half measures" were dangerous and startling attitudes for a president to display in wartime. The fact Feinstein expressed agreement with what is essentially an attack piece on Obama by the GOP, shows the considerable challenge the White House is facing, as it attempts to explain how such an obvious and real threat could have been ignored for so long by the United States.
At another point, Mitchell asked Feinstein about Obama's now-infamous remark in a New Yorker piece in January that The Islamic State was a Jayvee team, that supposedly did not rate much US concern. Mitchell noted that Obama had clearly gotten that wrong. Feinstein agreed with Mitchell, and in illustrating how adept and resourceful Islamic State fighters were, Feinstein pointed out the following:
"[Islamic State] crossed the border into Iraq before we even knew it happened."Mitchell then asked Feinstein:
"Was that an intelligence failure, or was the White House not listening to the community?"And Feinstein replied in perhaps a more revealing fashion than she had intended:
"Well, I think that our intelligence in Syria has not been good, for a number of reasons. But I do know that the breaking through of the borders was not known ahead of time. I think a lot of that, hopefully, has been repaired now, and I think the intelligence community is well aware of the need to get up and running in a major way both in Iraq and in Syria."What Feinstein seems to be suggesting here is that the intelligence community, no doubt following Obama's earlier assessment that Islamic State was a minor player compared to al-Qaeda, was not "up and running" with sufficient resources to warn ahead of time that Islamic State fighters were massing to invade Iraq. That, if true, would constitute a massive failure on the part of the CIA/NSA, which the press has essentially ignored until now. As she indicated, Feinstein, even now, can only hope that this situation has changed, presumably because she has no direct evidence that it has.
Finally, at one point, Feinstein expressed deep skepticism that President Obama's plan, or strategy, as he expressed it during his "tan-suit" press briefing, had much chance of success. Obama had indicated that the key to defeating Islamic State would be to unite Iraq's ethnic communities, and particularly the Sunnis, in a government that all had "bought into". Obama in fact indicated that without the Sunnis onboard, Islamic State could not be defeated.
But Feinstein, taking a wearily realistic tone, assessed that idea as dubious as best:
"I'm not sure that Iraq's ever going to come together as one nation."Clearly, Barack Obama is facing one of the biggest non-economic challenges of his presidency at this point, with even Democrats expressing doubts about Obama's leadership, his decision-making, and his ability (or willingness) to recognize and confront the most dangerous threats in the world today.