Is Trump really wrong about Obama and ISIS?

Whatever you think of controversial US presidential candidate Donald Trump, one of his traits is breaking political stereotypes, perhaps to the extent of insanity for some. A few days ago, he said his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama founded the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The statement came as a shock, as it goes beyond fierce criticisms by Republicans such as senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham that Obama’s weak policies created the environment that gave birth to ISIS. Trump clarified on Twitter: “Ratings challenged @CNN reports so seriously that I call President Obama (and Clinton) ‘the founder’ of ISIS... THEY DON’T GET SARCASM?”

Grain of truth

However, sarcasm aside, Trump was not far from the truth. Obama’s weak, confused, hesitant and malicious policies on Iraq and Syria did contribute to the birth of ISIS. However, its emergence in Iraq and then Syria is not due to Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011, as the decision to do so was made toward the end of George W. Bush’s presidency.

Policies such as prohibiting the proper arming of the Syrian resistance, and pursuing any country that wants to do so - in addition to the lenient reactions to the crimes of the Syrian regime and Iranian militias - created an atmosphere of anger and desperation. Al-Nusra Front was the first to take advantage of this atmosphere, followed by ISIS.

Trump was not from the truth. Obama’s weak, confused, hesitant and malicious policies on Iraq and Syria did contribute to the birth of ISIS

Mshari Al Thaydi

If Obama had been decisive about his famous red line regarding the regime’s use of chemical weapons, and if he had supported the resistance from the start, Syrian nationalists would not have been weakened in the face of extremists. This does not exonerate Muslims from their own cultural problems. Many Muslims have discussed this and will continue to do so.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s wild imagination took Trump’s accusation seriously. Nasrallah accused the United States of founding ISIS, not limiting the accusation to Obama. Nasrallah thinks the aim is to harm the ‘axis of resistance,’ primarily Hezbollah. So for him, Obama - the nicest U.S. president to Iran and to the ‘axis of resistance’ - founded ISIS and Al-Qaeda to harm the sacred axis led by Tehran, with which Obama has strived to reconcile.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Aug. 15, 2016.


Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.


Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:52 - GMT 06:52
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