Frank Gaffney of the Center For Security Policy On Why To Stay Out Of Syria
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HH: Joined now by Frank Gaffney, president of the Center For Security Policy, www.securefreedom.org. Frank Gaffney, my first question to you is did the announcement that AIPAC is going to storm the Hill next week in support of intervention, and the New York Times story on the Israel government’s surprise you, that the Israeli government also supporting intervention? Did those stories surprise you?
FG: No, Hugh, I’m afraid that AIPAC, and sort of the organized Jewish lobby more generally, has been Obama’s poodle, basically, since he came to office. I think that they have long since lost the bubble on what’s in the interest of American Jewry, let alone Israel. And I think this is in keeping with that. You know, they didn’t fight Chuck Hagel’s nomination, they didn’t fight Samantha Power’s nomination, they haven’t said beans about the peace process, even when John Kerry threatened Israel with de-legitimation if they don’t make sweeping concessions to the Palestinians in the nature of a second state. All of this is evidence, I think, of a kind of rot that I fear is going to do two things. One, I believe this will put Israel in greater jeopardy, not less, and two, that it’s going to create an image in a lot of other Americans’ minds which you can be will be exploited by enemies of Israel, and I’m certainly not one, that the Jews are making us go to war in Syria. And that ain’t good for any of us. I really don’t think this is advisable.
HH: All right, now the Israeli government is also, according to the New York Times, urging that the President strike Syria. Does that surprise you? Or do you not believe that report?
FG: Again, no, I think it is consistent with the posture that the Netanyahu government has taken, basically, since President Obama came to office, and that is do whatever is necessary to stay on good terms with Obama. I’d like to think that at least they recognize that Obama is very hostile to Israel, but I am afraid that it is at least in part borne of this notion that if they just stay on his good side, then he won’t be too beastly to them. I don’t think it’s going to work out that way. I think he’s going to be beastly to them as he will before he’s done.
HH: Now I have been canvassing all of the center-right’s people this week, and trying to keep my eye on the news at the same time. And I just was, Brian Todd was just on CNN talking about possible retaliatory actions if we strike Syria. I am afraid, Frank Gaffney, that if we don’t, Khamenei will say I wonder what the real red line is, let’s see what…you know, as you know better than anyone, you and Ledeen, the Iranians use to go and assassinate people when no one stood up to them. They would send their killers everywhere. What signal would Khamenei take, Frank, because I have been persuaded we have to do this because of Khamenei.
FG: Look, can I say, first of all, how appreciative I am that you’re taking national security really seriously? I mean, you do more than just about anybody in talk radio, but the fact that you’re devoting this kind of time, your time, as well as your audience’s time, to a real debate about this is extremely laudatory, even if you’ve got this absolutely wrong.
FG: You’re making the effort to inform us, and frankly, that’s not happening much in Washington these days.
HH: No, by the way, that’s exactly the way people should respond on this debate. They should just, okay, we’ve got to listen to each other, so tell me more.
FG: To your point, you are hanging your hat on being able to influence the Khamenei regime and its strategy for becoming even more of a threat in the future. I see absolutely no evidence that their behavior has been modulated in the least. Have they stopped assassinating people? Well, not since I’ve noticed. I mean, they did try to blow up the Saudi ambassador here a year or two ago in Washington.
HH: Yes, they did.
FG: And it’s, the problem, fundamentally, Hugh, the problem is this. They’ve already understood this president has no stomach for enforcing a red line against them. They already know. They’re good to go. I frankly think they probably already have got nuclear weapons, but if they don’t, there’s no, nothing standing in the way of them doing it. And our getting embroiled in a civil war in Syria, which would divert not only our attention, but also our military’s diminished resources, you’re absolutely right, we need to make a spot around the President acknowledging he’s been hollowing out our military. Indeed he has. We go waste it in a strike, and believe me, it’s not going to be the Goldilocks strike. It will turn into an escalating problem, because not least, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, if their resolution makes it through, it’s, I gather what you want, you’re going to have us committing to changing the momentum on the battlefield.
HH: We’ll come back and talk about that. Frank’s going nowhere. He’s coming back, and we’ll take our calls.
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HH: Frank, Fox News, the reason we were off the mark there, we were watching a report on Fox News just now that the Pentagon has been asked to revise the Syrian retaliation plan more than 50 times. Now that is a talking point in your favor, I know. But it also suggests they’re getting very serious about deposing Assad, and as we went to break, you’re worried about that. Tell people why.
FG: Well, Hugh, you and others, many of whom are good friends of mine, and with whom I agree on a lot of things, have created what I believe is a delusional outcome, namely that when we go to war on behalf of the so-called opposition, and help them overthrow Bashar Assad and his regime, and run whatever retaliatory response we get in the course of that, which probably means more war, probably, I would argue, more regional war, not just confined to Syria, but that when we do all that, the guys that are going to come out of this on top are the so-called Free Syrian Army. And actually, if you know enough about it to be following the unfolding saga about these guys, it turns out it’s a subset of the Free Syrian Army that might be pro-secular, might be pro-democratic, might be pro-Western, but are absolutely unlikely to succeed as the dominant force in the country, at least probably for the rest of our lives for the simple reason that far more numerous, far better armed, far more disciplined and ruthless and combat hardened, are the Islamists. Best case as a result, Hugh, you get out of this the Muslim Brotherhood. Worst case, you get al Qaeda. And…
HH: All right, let me get some calls…
FG: …not in favor of turning over Syria to al Qaeda. We’ve already switched sides in this war, for God’s sake. I don’t think that’s an advisable thing to do, and the American people don’t want to do it, either.
HH: John in Minneapolis, your comment or question for Frank Gaffney.
John: Hi, Hugh. Yeah, I agree completely with Frank. What I was going to say is we’ve got perfect examples recently. Going back to Gaza, they were allowed to elect Hamas. Going to Egypt, they elected Muslim Brotherhood. Libya is chaotic right now we got rid of Qaddafi. I mean, there’s example after example. Even Iraq’s not stable, and look at the investment there.
HH: All right, thank you, John. Let me also go to Steve in Los Angeles. He has a question for Frank. Steve, go ahead.
Steve: Hey, hi again, Hugh. And Frank, it’s a pleasure to talk to you. Hugh had Jack Keane on, and boy, you know, I was going back and forth until I heard him, and he really thinks there’s a viable group that we can support. What do you think of Jack Keane’s observation?
FG: Well, I’m a great admirer of Jack Keane, and I’m afraid in this case, as we talked about, I think it was last night, Hugh, he is relying upon this young graduate student by the name of Elizabeth O’Bagy, who it turns out works for the Syrian opposition…
FG: …who gets a cut of contracts anytime she brings more business to the so-called Syrian Emergency Task Force. And you know, if there’s another source of information about the relative strength of these competing factions, I’d be all ears. But when the Secretary of State and John McCain and Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, and just this morning, National Public Radio all cite this young woman as the savant of what we’re dealing with here, I don’t feel too comfortable with it, I must say, especially since she’s not acknowledging the conflict of interest.
HH: And Frank, I want to follow up on that. I saw your Tweet on that. Steve, thank you for reminding me about this. I saw your Tweet on it this morning. And that’s a serious charge about a conflict of interest. How do you know that?
FG: It is a matter of public record, Hugh, that she is associated with, as the political director, of this group called the Syrian Emergency Task Force, which is run by a fellow by the name of Mouaz Mustafa, who until, I don’t know, five or six years ago, was an intern in Blanche Lincoln’s office. This is kind of like the Children’s Crusade, if I can just say…
HH: Oh, my gosh.
FG: But the point is that she’s been called it. Neil Cavuto did it the other day. The Wall Street Journal today had to issue a sort of a backhanded clarification that they failed to acknowledge that she works for the opposition. And all I’m saying is she’s entitled to work for the opposition. We’re entitled to know she’s working for the people that she’s trying to get us to help. And I don’t think that’s a basis for going to war.
HH: Yeah, the reason I bring it up is because…once I saw, because I follow your Tweet feed, obviously. Everyone should, @frankgaffney. And when you pointed it out, I went to the Center For the Study of War’s website, and I read their conflict of interest policy. Kim Kagan is very high in my esteem, very high, as is Fred. And their adamant statement on their conflicts is you can’t do that and work at the Center for the Study of War.
FG: Yeah, it’s a little curious. She seems to be running government contracts through ISW, and you know, she’s got this relationship. And she claims that it isn’t affecting her judgment. I don’t know. I just want to know that she is working for the Syrian opposition. And again, Hugh, the point is I’m willing to accept that there are some people in this Syrian opposition that might not be so bad. It’s just the problem that they A) swear fealty to the al-Nusra Front, which is al Qaeda, and two, there’s going to be a problem, because I believe they won’t win.
HH: Okay, I’ve got to get one more question is, Frank, before we run out of time. Is there anything the President can say on Tuesday night to change your mind?
FG: Hugh, if his lips are moving, he’s lying.
HH: (laughing) I guess the answer is no, then.
FG: The only thing that would make me give him the benefit of maybe a little doubt is if he says, as Jimmy Carter did in December of 1979, I’ve got this all wrong, the Soviets then invaded Afghanistan, and he turned around his hollowing out of the military, if this president said now, I’ve got this all wrong, we are going into a full-scale rebuilding of our military capabilities, and then we’re going to take on the Iranians as well as the Syrians, then we can talk. But he’s not going to do that, and if he did, he’d be lying.
HH: But at least he knows what he’s got to do to get Frank Gaffney’s vote in Congress.
HH: Frank Gaffney, president of the Center For Security Policy, great to speak with you as always.
End of interview.