Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump hyped a debunked talking point from a Breitbart News article to claim that he was correct to insinuate that the Obama administration supports terrorists. However, the memo cited in the Breitbart article never says that the U.S. and Al Qaeda worked together, and in fact Breitbart News' interpretation has been “widely debunked.”
Trump Tweets Article To Claim He’s “Right” About Obama Supporting Terrorists
Trump Tweets Breitbart News Article Claiming “He’s Right” That The Obama Administration Supported Terrorists. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted a Breitbart News article to claim he was “right” to insinuate that President Obama may be sympathetic to terrorists:
Breitbart News: “The Obama Administration Was Actively Supporting Al Qaeda.” Breitbart claimed that in 2012, “Hillary Clinton received a classified intelligence report stating that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq.” From the June 14 Breitbart article:
Hillary Clinton received a classified intelligence report stating that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.
The memo made clear that Al Qaeda in Iraq was speaking through Muhammad Al Adnani, who is now the senior spokesman for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Western and Gulf states were supporting the terrorist group to try to overthrow Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, who was being propped up by the Russians, Iranians, and Chinese.
In August 2012, a “SECRET” classified memo was sent to various top Obama administration officials and agencies, including to the State Department and to Clinton’s office personally. [Breitbart News, 6/14/16]
Memo Cited By Breitbart Doesn’t Say The US Was Supporting Al Qaeda
Memo Cited By Breitbart Says That “The West” And “Al Qaeda” Both “Support The Opposition” To The Syrian Regime, But Makes No Mention Of Working Together. The August 2012 memo cited by Breitbart News and Trump explains that “THE WEST,” including the U.S., and “AL QAEDA – IRAQ (AQI)" both “supported the Syrian opposition.” However, the memo makes no mention of the terrorist group and the U.S. working together to defeat the Syrian regime:
THE GENERAL SITUATION:
A. INTERNALLY, EVENTS ARE TAKING A CLEAR SECTARIAN DIRECTION.
B. THE SALAFIST, THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA.
C. THE WEST, GULF COUNTRIES, AND TURKEY SUPPORT THE OPPOSITION; WHILE RUSSIA, CHINA, AND IRAN SUPPORT THE REGIME.
AL QAEDA – IRAQ (AQI):
A. AQI IS FAMILIAR WITH SYRIA. AQI TRAINED IN SYRIA AND THEN INFILTRATED INTO IRAQ.
B. AQI SUPPORTED THE SYRIAN OPPOSITION FROM THE BEGINNING, BOTH IDEOLOGICALLY AND THROUGH THE MEDIA. AQI DECLARED ITS OPPOSITION OF ASSAD’S GOVERNMENT BECAUSE IT CONSIDERED IT A SECTARIAN REGIME TARGETING SUNNIS. [August 2012]
Breitbart’s Interpretation Has Been “Widely Debunked”
ThinkProgress: Breitbart’s “Interpretation Of The Memo Was Widely Debunked At The Time.” ThinkProgress detailed how Breitbart’s “interpretation of the memo was widely debunked at the time,” citing Middle East scholar Juan Cole who ridiculed “the idea that the memo proves that the U.S. was supporting ISIS as ‘an unfounded conspiracy theory.’” From the June 15 report:
The publication of Breitbart’s article is unusual since its interpretation of the memo was widely debunked at the time.
Middle East scholar Juan Cole derided the idea that the memo proves that the U.S. was supporting ISIS as “an unfounded conspiracy theory.” Rather, it was a “correct assessment of where things were going in Syria.” The memo states that “those powers (e.g. Turkey and the Gulf monarchies) supporting the opposition wanted to see the declaration of a Salafi (hard line Sunni) breakaway statelet, in order to put pressure on the al-Assad regime.”
It does not say the United States supports an Islamic State and “warns that any such development could lead to the break-up of Iraq, an eventuality that the authors clearly felt was undesirable.” [ThinkProgress, 6/15/16]
The Guardian: “The Breitbart Report Is A Faulty Reading Of” The Memo. The Guardian noted that “The Breitbart report is a faulty reading of an internal intelligence document from 2012,” because the conservative news outlet was “conflating the opposition and the insurgency.” From the June 15 Guardian post
[T]he Breitbart report does not support the claim that Trump earlier said he didn’t make but now appears to have taken ownership of.The Breitbart report is a faulty reading of an internal intelligence document from 2012 about the security situation in Syria. The document notes that “the West” is supporting the Syrian opposition. It also notes that al-Qaeda is part of the insurgency. Incorrectly conflating the opposition and the insurgency, the Breitbart report concludes that the Obama administration supports al-Qaeda in Syria. [The Guardian, 6/15/16]
The U.S. Was Not “Acting Side By Side With Al Qaeda”
NY Times: The U.S. Was Not “Acting Side By Side With Al Qaeda,” They Were “Rivals … For Influence Over The Course Of The Revolt.” New York Times’ Cairo bureau chief and Middle East correspondent David Kirkpatrick explained in a post the same month the memo cited by Breitbart News was sent that the U.S. was not “acting side by side with Al Qaeda.” Kirkpatrick pointed out that “A group as numerically tiny as Al Qaeda could never by itself steer a movement as large as the Syrian revolt. And even if Al Qaeda or other anti-Western militants are seeking to exploit or direct the Syrian uprising — why wouldn’t they? — that merely makes them rivals to the West for influence over the course of the revolt.” From the August 21, 2012, blog post:
Reports from Western officials, militant Islamist Web sites, neighboring countries and, to a limited extent, inside the Syrian opposition indicate that Al Qaeda and homegrown militants are joining the fight and competing for influence. And that poses a vexing question for American policy makers and politicians. So far, all sides of the debate in Washington have called for supporting the insurgency, and the only question is how much. The Obama administration talks of diplomacy and economic sanctions, while some Republicans push to provide weapons to the insurgents. Is the United States acting side by side with Al Qaeda?
The short answer is no. A group as numerically tiny as Al Qaeda could never by itself steer a movement as large as the Syrian revolt. And even if Al Qaeda or other anti-Western militants are seeking to exploit or direct the Syrian uprising — why wouldn’t they? — that merely makes them rivals to the West for influence over the course of the revolt. [The New York Times, 8/21/12]