Ex-Intelligence Chief: U.S. Displaying 'Willful Ignorance' Regarding Middle East

Susan Jones | March 30, 2015 | 5:31am EDT
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Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(CNSNews.com) - Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Obama, says there is "incredible policy confusion" in Washington regarding the Middle East, where the United States sides with Saudi Arabia and Sunni Muslims in some cases, but then sides with Iran and the Shi'ites in other cases -- all while trying to strike a nuclear deal with Iran, a country he said can't be trusted.

"So, let me just start by saying as an intelligence officer, intelligence has to be part of the calculus of every strategic level of decision. And, right now, I don't -- my sense of where the policy is at is sort of, and I hate to say it like this, but it's almost a policy of willful ignorance," Flynn told "Fox News Sunday."

"And to me, we have some major problems that we are dealing with, and here we are talking to Iran about a nuclear deal with this almost complete breakdown of order in the Middle East."

Later in the interview, Flynn said U.S. policy in the  Middle East is not only confusing the American people, but "it's probably confusing to many in government."

"It is a state of confusion," he repeated. "And like I said, I can't say it any stronger: I almost feel like our policy is a policy of willful ignorance rather than facing the reality that we actually have right now."

Flynn noted that the old order has completely broken down in the Middle East, and "a new Middle East is essentially struggling to be born."

First, Iran is "clearly on the march," advancing its interests in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East. 

He also mentioned the takeover of Islam by radical extremists, both Shi'ite and Sunni: "We have to acknowledge that they do not like our way of life. In fact, they have stated that they want to see the destruction of our way of life."

"And I think that at the end of the day, we have just this incredible policy confusion, never mind what our strategy is to execute that policy."

Host Chris Wallace asked Flynn how close we are to seeing a "sectarian regional war in the Middle East."

"We're not close, we're there," Flynn responded. "I mean, this is what's going on." He said the United States has to "face reality" and not expect its policies to be carried out just because we "say something."

Flynn made it clear that he doesn't trust Iran, and he opposes a nuclear deal.

"One of the things that we have to keep in mind on Iran is, Iran is also a country with ballistic missiles, cyber capabilities. They are also still a state-sponsor of terrorism. And here we are dealing with them as though we're going to give them a carte blanche," he said.

"I will tell you that we have to make sure that we step back and understand the full breadth and scale and scope of what's happening in the Middle East before we cut a deal with Iran. I think it's dangerous...I think it's very dangerous."

Flynn said he doubts the U.S. will have "as much information as we're going to need to be able to verify" any nuclear deal with Iran. "We have not had a lot of luck in that in the last 30 years, if not in the last couple of years.

"And I -- so, I don't trust Iran. And I have seen a lot -- what I know, Chris, about what I've seen over certainly the last 10 years, if not the last 30, they are not a nation to be trusted."

Asked what he would tell President Obama if he were still head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Flynn responded, "I would say stop all engines on this nuclear deal. Take a step back. Really take a deep dive look at everything going on in the Middle East. It's not just the Middle East. It's all of North Africa. It's parts of West Africa. It's Central Asia.

"Chris, this is a growing threat. It has clear consequences on our national security. We -- if it's not existential today, we should not wait for it to be existential. In my belief, my experience, my judgment, we have to stop what we're doing and take a hard look at everything going on in the Middle East right now, because it's not going in the right direction."

President Obama nominated Flynn to serve as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in April 2012. He served in that position for two years, from July 2012 until August 2014.

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