Rise of Islamic State was ‘a willful decision’: Former DIA Chief Michael Flynn

The White House decided to support armed rebels in Syria despite intelligence warnings forecasting the rise of the Islamic State.

In Al Jazeera’s latest Head to Head episode, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn confirms to Mehdi Hasan that not only had he studied the DIA memo predicting the West’s backing of an Islamic State in Syria when it came across his desk in 2012, but even asserts that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as ISIL and Nusra) against the Syrian regime was “a willful decision.” [Lengthy discussion of the DIA memo begins at the 8:50 mark.]

Amazingly, Flynn actually took issue with the way interviewer Mehdi Hasan posed the question—Flynn seemed to want to make it clear that the policies that led to the rise of ISIL were not merely the result of ignorance or looking the other way, but the result of conscious decision making:

Former DIA Chief Michael Flynn on Al Jazeera
Former DIA Chief Michael Flynn on Al Jazeera

Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?

Flynn: I think the administration.

Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?

Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.

Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?

Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.

Hasan himself expresses surprise at Flynn’s frankness during this portion of the interview. While holding up a paper copy of the 2012 DIA report declassified through FOIA, Hasan reads aloud key passages such as, “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria, and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

Rather than downplay the importance of the document and these startling passages, as did the State Department soon after its release, Flynn does the opposite: he confirms that while acting DIA chief he “paid very close attention” to this report in particular and later adds that “the intelligence was very clear.”

Lt. Gen. Flynn, speaking safely from retirement, is the highest ranking intelligence official to go on record saying the United States and other state sponsors of rebels in Syria knowingly gave political backing and shipped weapons to Al-Qaeda in order to put pressure on the Syrian regime:

Hasan: In 2012 the U.S. was helping coordinate arms transfers to those same groups [Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda in Iraq], why did you not stop that if you’re worried about the rise of quote-unquote Islamic extremists?

Flynn: I hate to say it’s not my job…but that…my job was to…was to ensure that the accuracy of our intelligence that was being presented was as good as it could be.

The early reporting that treated the DIA memo as newsworthy and hugely revelatory was criticized and even mocked by some experts, as well as outlets like The Daily Beast. Yet the very DIA director at the time the memo was drafted and circulated widely now unambiguously confirms the document to be of high value, and indicates that it served as source material in his own discussions over Syria policy with the White House.

As Michael Flynn also previously served as director of intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during a time when its prime global mission was dismantling Al-Qaeda, his honest admission that the White House was in fact arming and bolstering Al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria is especially shocking given his stature.

Consider further the dissonance that comes with viewing the Pentagon’s former highest ranking intelligence officer in charge of the hunt for Osama bin Laden now calmly and coolly confessing that the United States directly aided the foot soldiers of Ayman al-Zawahiri beginning in at least 2012 in Syria.

This confirmation is significant to my own coverage of the DIA report, as I was contacted by a number of individuals who attempted to assure me that the true experts and “insiders” knew the document was unimportant and therefore irrelevant within the intelligence community and broader Syria policy.

This began after a Daily Beast article entitled The ISIS Conspiracy That Ate the Web  cited former NSA officer John Schindler as an expert source. Schindler concluded of the DIA document: “it’s difficult to say much meaningful about it… Nothing special here, not one bit.”

To my surprise, only hours after I published a rebuttal of Schindler and the Daily Beast article, I was contacted by a current high level CIA official who is also a personal friend from my time living in the D.C. area.

This official, who spent most of his career with CIA Public Affairs, made a personal appeal urging me to drop my comments attacking John Schindler’s credibility, as I had noted that Schindler is a highly ideological and scandal-laden commentator who consistently claims special insider knowledge in support of his arguments. This CIA official further attempted to convince me of Schindler’s credibility as an insider and expert, assuring me that “he has written insightfully.”

Mehdi Hasan’s historic interview with General Flynn should put the issue to rest—the declassified DIA report is now confirmed to be a central and vital source that sheds light on the origins of ISIS, and must inform a candid national debate on American policy in Syria and Iraq.

As it is now already becoming part of the official record on conflict in Syria among respected international historians, knowledge of the declassified document must make it into every American household.

Forget what you think you know about the Israel-Palestine conflict

Brad Hoff

Brad Hoff served as a Marine from 2000-2004 at Headquarters Battalion, Quantico. After military service he lived, studied, and traveled throughout Syria off and on from 2004-2010. He is Managing Editor of LevantReport.com and currently teaches in Texas. 

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  • hammersmith

    We should be proud.

  • SoCalMike

    I’ve always known this.
    Just couldn’t prove it until now.
    Obama is not hands off or distracted.
    Since taking office, he has worked to empower, arm and fund the elements of Islam warring on the West while kicking our former allies in the teeth at every turn.

    • qualityrkc

      Which allies?

      • jjwestP07

        Allie Egypt who was helping fight terror and was guarding Israels border . The Muslim Brotherhood gov that Obama put in was thrown out by the Egyptian people. It is said Obama wanted to use Egypt’s large Army to attack Syria. Obama has charges of crimes against humanity against him in Egypt and Obama and Hillary’s puppet Morsi is in Prison.

        • qualityrkc

          Mubarak was our guy. He was hated by his people but good for multinationals and good for the petro dollar. He was overthrown by his people.

          Muslim Brotherhood was elected by large margins by the people in Egypt and then subsequently overthrown by the military we support with US tax dollars in a coup.

          I have no clue where you are getting your information but you are way off. As POTUS, Obama’s job is to protect the profits of multinational corporations (the people who fund our government). Your claims that there are communists in the white house does not comport with American foreign policy for the last century where we overthrow socialist governments and replace them with corporate dictators.

          Look no further than Honduras to see the MIC foreign policy at work. If what you said was true Obama would have supported the socialist leadership. Instead he supported a coup to have them overthrown. There isn’t a single instance in recent history you can point to where the federal government has supported a socialist government. Please check your sources.

  • Jan Fearing

    This is a fantastic and important article thank you – am spreading it as far and as fast as I can. I so appreciate your heart for Syria and for sharing the truth. Keep it coming. Would love to you to get on Ben Swann…

  • philip.dennany

    The goals remain the same as prior to the arranged covet 9-11 program. Adjustments are made but the end result must not be allowed to be changed.

  • steveintampa

    More “Create a crisis” before a major election from the looney left like the mortgage meltdown in 2007

    • john kilcher

      Yeah, your boy Bush is squeaky clean, right??? It is this fuckin’ countries hidden agenda to control the flow of oil out of the Middle East. Wake up and get real.

      • steveintampa

        You’re my boy, boy. Are going to vote for Jon Stewart?

        • john kilcher

          Another asshole. End of story.

      • LibsRHaters

        John, what happens if the US just lets whatever is going to happen in the Middle East happen? Besides breaking decades old promises to Middle Eastern countries to protect them from each other and world powers, what if we were to just walk away… What would happen? Do you know, John? You get one guess… Cuz I don’t have time for you hatin’ Libtards. Surprise me… Let’s see if your big mouth has any brains behind it. What would happen?

        • john kilcher

          You will pay more for gas, ASSHOLE.

          • LibsRHaters

            Why thank you for opening your pie hole and showing everyone that not only is “Hater” a fitting title, but lunacy is what drives you to be so pissy and stupid.
            The U.S. Dollar is oil backed, Johnny… We helped form OPEC! We promised oil-rich Middle Eastern countries protection in exchange for their promise to only trade oil in U.S. Dollars. That’s why US Dollar is world’s reserve currency! Because those countries that are buying must come to the table with US dollars.
            That’s why stupid people like yourself can have a job making more than the minimum wage, which you don’t deserve. Johnny, North America doesn’t need any other country’s oil. There’s as much oil in North America as is in the Middle East.
            Let me tell you, Johnny… The price of gas, if we let fat little despots run the Middle East, will be irrelevant. Not only will you not need gas for your no-car, you stupid Libtards will be dead from the riotous chaos that results when all that offshore US cash comes home and deflates the Dollar into far less than a Peso. It would ruin any country that bought US debt, since we could easily pay them off with our worthless money…. Which really isn’t paying them off, you know right? Who wants to be paid with worthless money? I mean, besides you… Who?
            Russia, China, and others would be on US shores with their militaries to invade like Furgeson rioters to get back what is owed them. If you think our broken down and dilapidated military will protect us… LOL! They won’t be working in the military! Our government and our way of life will be destroyed, Stupid Johnny! And people like you will be dead! Weak and stupid people always die first when the economy crashes. LOL! I bet you hate it that George W stood up for your protection by invading Iraq, don’t you? Pathetic fool…

          • qualityrkc

            You foresee a Chinese and Russian invasion while calling others idiots. Hilarious. America is and will always be safe from invasion because of our weaponry, geography, and size.

    • JCL154

      Keep in mind Bush 1 was a globalist, and our Congress is cooperating with obama in the destruction of America. I think we will be lucky to have another presidential election.

    • qualityrkc

      It isn’t a partisan issue and to call Obama a liberal tells me you did not even watch the interview and that you are sadly misinformed. Liberals aren’t allowed any power in the federal government especially when it pertains to foreign policy as that would cut in to the profits of those that fund and operate this government.

      • jjwestP07

        Obama has removed good federal. employees and replaced them with unqualified puppets who allow him to take freedom from the people. And lead America to communism.

        • qualityrkc

          Who has he removed and who has he replaced them with? You can do better than this.

  • Policy Wonk

    The Army of Conquest, formed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia in March of 2015, is rolling through Christian villages that once were vigorously defended by President Assad’s army. The U.S. is complicit in ISIS and al Nusra conquering Syria so that it can be transformed into a violent Islamic Caliphate.
    As a young Marine, I used to sing the Marine Corps hymn. It said we fought to keep our honor clean. This administration is vile. It is shot through by a fifth column of enemy sympathizers who despise Christians and love violent Wahhabism. It’s hard to keep our honor clean these days.

    • hoss2013

      Isn’t it amazing that the “Christian villages” in the US is not reacting to this. Guess there are busy trying to survive in the best economic system money can buy.

      • Immortl

        Hey, hotshot, how about some pics from how the poor of Russia are looking and what percentage of the population they represent, huh?

  • JCL154

    Obama is implementing Cloward-Piven, using Alinksy tactics. The only actions he takes are the ones that make the US weaker and pushes us closer to socialism. He desperately wants to be our leader for life.

  • Javed Mir

    –the origins of ISIS–

    First a monster is nurtured. When it gets oversized, causes destruction all around and then even the creator cannot control its creature.

  • The Greatest Freedom

    Under Obama USA has a new motto : In chaos we thrive. Obomba’s presidency is a reality eraser. A wishful narcissist’s dream

  • Certainly. To point out the US’s role under the Obama administration is not to negate the US’s role under the Bush administration (hence nothing “off base” about it).

    • LindaI

      For clarity and avoidance of a showing a possible political agenda, the author might have pointed that out.

      • Not everyone is incapable of thinking outside of the paradigm of “Dems vs. Reps”, and it is hardly necessary to anticipate that those who are would draw so fallacious a conclusion by including a disclaimer every time an administration of one of these parties is criticized that this does not constitute an endorsement of the other.

  • Mel MC Miller

    Not surprising @ that time, and now. BHO defiant between saving his place in History and naively of an Enemy who his own 1st thought, was so grossly in error, and he failed to heed those who know by current & past experience better than he even has any concept of @all.

    Intel knew then what Flynn and others r saying now.

    I take the allegations against the Intel Community as nothing more than an attempt Our Public off balance to get them off the subject of BHO’s faults in his “Amateur, I’ll conceived JV assessment of ISIS”;

    and a continuing effort of trying to do the same to Aid &Abet HRC’s to evade Charges;




    Gen. Patreaus;




    BHO is “Playin’ the Young all the way to Life Long Americn Voters, as though he’s distancing himself from HRC over;

    Four Benghazi Avoidable Deaths, but like ISIS, he and HRC made another Bad Decision,

    HRC accepting Money from QATAR, MOR, ALG, OMAN, UAE, others WHILE Secretary of State.

    HRC taking $$$ from FOREIGN COUNTRIES while a part of the U.S. Government as Secretary of State, is forbidden by Our Constitution 4Obvi reasons, besides Foreigners getting RETURN FAVORS FOR $ they Paid to HRC, and Undue Unfluence in U.S. Elections, the same as LOBBYING does here in the U.S. using Paid Politicians 2Do the Same for CORPORATIONS, SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS, & DEEP POCKET PPL;

    Thereby bypassing “WTP”, the “Sole Priority of CotUS”; “We The People”, by Hijacking that away from US Using $$$ VIA Career Pro Politicians TO rETURN tHEIR fAVORS FOR $.

    Don’t fall 4BHO’s “Faking it” He’s ALL FOR HRC!

  • Kurt Meyer

    Obama knew exactly what would happen. The intent is to create chaos and power voids in all of the Arab countries. ISIS is America’s mercenary army working to fulfill Israel’s domination of the Middle East. America is now THE Evil Empire. Thanks to Russia for throttling back America’s Death and Destruction Machine.

  • jjwestP07

    Obama’s rebels attacked U.S only friend the Kurds a few days ago.

  • jjwestP07

    We have had the last 5 presidents democrat and republican forcing Globalism and a New World Order on us.They are to blame. Hillary is more of the same