Chuck Todd is the host of America’s longest running television series, “Meet the Press.” Sometime ago he interviewed the President on his program.
Mr. Todd has an interesting explanation as to why the president insists on calling ISIS, ISIL. The terrorist group called themselves ISIS until they shortened their name to IS, meaning “Islamic State.”
ISIS stands for “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” These are the two countries in which the organization has been most successful, now controlling over 50% of Syria and substantial areas of Iraq.
ISIL stands for “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.” This is a name the terrorists have never used, though it’s doubtful they will object to it as it actually makes them seem even more important than they already are.
The term “Levant” embraces a wider territory than just Iraq and Syria. It includes those two countries and, in addition, Lebanon and Jordan. ISIS has no territory in either country. It would find Lebanon a very difficult country to conquer as it would come up against another terrorist group, Hezbollah, which is Shia Muslim.
So why does President Obama insist on ISIL?
Chuck Todd believes it has a lot to do with the mistakes the Obama Administration has made in Syria and his reluctance to face up to them.
An alternative theory, put forward on Fox by Harris Faulkner, is that using ISIL instead of ISIS gives the terror group a boost, implying they will soon control those countries, too, as they seek to expand their Islamic State. This could suggest the president has some sympathy with them and their aims.
However, after watching PBS’s “Frontline” this week, Chuck Todd’s explanation has greater credibility. (“Obama at War” should still be available at PBS.org and may be shown again on your local PBS station or PBS World.)
The one-hour documentary chronicled the mistakes the Administration made in Syria that led directly to the creation of ISIS (ISIL!).
It was early in 2011, during the euphoria of the Arab Spring, that demonstrations against the Assad regime began. When President Assad’s forces cracked down on the demonstrators it triggered off the civil war, which has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.
Because the Administration decided not to support the “moderate” rebels, Sunni Muslims (the majority) in Syria needed protection from the ruling Shia. This provided an opportunity for ISIS.
American weakness soon became obvious when the American president drew a line, making it clear that if Assad used chemical weapons there would be serious consequences. The world has watched the Syrian government use chemical weapons more than once, witnessing children in their death throes from chlorine bombs and Washington has repeatedly failed to do anything. This double mindedness has been to America’s shame!
“I would say, Mr. President, that you are going to go down in history if you continue like this, as somebody who has tarnished the reputation of the United States. You have created many more enemies in the Middle East and you have unwittingly assisted global terrorism,” claimed Murhaf Jouejati, a member of the Syrian opposition to President Assad.
(Presumably, this program was produced prior to the recent summit in Washington DC with no-show Gulf Arab leaders. Even America’s traditional allies in the Middle East no longer trust the US over its dealings with Iran.)
Perhaps it is out of guilt that the Administration has allowed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syrians to resettle in the US, even though this poses a potential security risk at home.
But it’s no wonder the President of the United States does not want to mention Syria and prefers ISIL to ISIS.
His confused Middle East policy also helps us understand why he will not use the term “Islamic extremists,” thereby showing a link between religion and terrorism.
This would suggest the alternative theory is correct – that he wants to give a boost to ISIS. The Bible tells us that “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).
Whatever the explanation, the western world is in trouble. The next twenty months could be very challenging ones for the West, as this double minded foreign policy plays out. A lot more can happen in the next few months.