On Monday, the day prior to the publication date of his book about his time in the Obama Administration, Worthy Fights, USA Today posted a video interview with Leon Panetta, former Obama CIA director and Defense Secretary. Panetta reiterated the charges he made on "60 Minutes" one week ago that the Obama-caused lack of American action created a vacuum which enabled the development of ISIS.
While the book is already receiving criticism from the State Department and Vice President Biden, Panetta said he has high regard for President Obama but he was determined to write a book that was "honest.
In the USA Today interview Panetta lays out the presidential errors which helped ISIS to develop:
- By not pushing the Iraqi government harder to allow a residual U.S. force to remain when troops withdrew in 2011, a deal he says could have been negotiated with more effort. That "created a vacuum in terms of the ability of that country to better protect itself, and it's out of that vacuum that ISIS began to breed." Islamic State also is known as ISIS and ISIL.
- By rejecting the advice of top aides — including Panetta and then-secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — to begin arming Syrian rebels in 2012. If the U.S. had done so, "I do think we would be in a better position to kind of know whether or not there is some moderate element in the rebel forces that are confronting (Syrian President Bashar) Assad."
- By warning Assad not to use chemical weapons against his own people, then failing to act when that "red line" was crossed in 2013. Before ordering airstrikes, Obama said he wanted to seek congressional authorization, which predictably didn't happen.
- The reversal cost the United States credibility then and is complicating efforts to enlist international allies now to join a coalition against the Islamic State, Panetta says. "There's a little question mark to, is the United States going to stick this out? Is the United States going to be there when we need them?"
Panetta's comments echo those written in the Obama administration memoirs of Hillary Clinton and that of his predecessor at Defense Bob Gates.