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Syria ‘a festering wound’ that fostered ISIS, says former Saudi intelligence chief

July 1st, 2014
02:59 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Syria, “a festering wound that collects the worst bacteria in the world,” is largely responsible for the strength of groups like ISIS, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

“My personal view is that the conflict in Syria particularly has been a main source of this growth in these terrorist activities.”

A day after the leader of ISIS declared an Islamic “caliphate,” the group is calling on Muslims around the world to unite around its “Islamic state.”

Saudi Arabia – Iraq’s neighbor and regional Sunni power – believes that will never happen, but is nonetheless sounding the alarm.

“It's a terrorist organization that has specialized in brutal killings,” al-Faisal said. “So it is a danger to the whole area and I think to the rest of the world.”

One would be hard-pressed to find a political leader or even battlefield commander who will tell you that Iraq’s crisis can be resolved without a political solution, and Saudi Arabia is no exception.

The Kingdom is clearly no fan of ISIS, but also has “great distaste,” as Amanpour put it, for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite.

“The problem in Iraq is more than ISIS. It is a popular uprising by the people stretching from the borders in Syria across to Mosul against the government of al-Maliki.”

“By all accounts, the president of Maliki [sic] does not represent all Iraqis. And therefore finding one that can unify the various social and political structure of Iraq is the most important priority now.”

Had “certain measures been taken a few years back,” he said, “we would not be in this situation today.”

Amanpour asked al-Faisal to clarify.

“Well, I go back to the previous election, five years ago in Iraq, when one of the parties that won the plurality in that election was superseded and through the pressure of both, at that time, the United States and Iran, the coalition that chose Maliki became the government.”

“And so it goes back to those days. It's not just a creation of a few months back.”

Had “certain measures been taken a few years back,” he said, “we would not be in this situation today.”

Amanpour asked al-Faisal to clarify.

“Well, I go back to the previous election, five years ago in Iraq, when one of the parties that won the plurality in that election was superseded and through the pressure of both, at that time, the United States and Iran, the coalition that chose Maliki became the government.”

“And so it goes back to those days. It's not just a creation of a few months back.”

Meanwhile in Syria, al-Faisal seemed to suggest that ISIS’s rise was proof that there should have been more forceful intervention early in the conflict.

“From the beginning, the Kingdom took the position that you have to support the moderate opposition in Syria in order to give it the prestige and the standing among the Syrian people so that it can meet not only the challenge of the Assad brutality, but also these groups that have come into Syria that I describe as bacteria.”

“And we've seen in many cases where this moderate opposition actually fighting on both fronts against the Assad regime and these extremist groups.”

“Finally, I think the United States has come around, I hope, to the view that supporting the moderate opposition by giving it defensive weapons. You're not going to ask the United States to give tanks and aircraft, no.”

“You want to give them means to defend themselves against the tanks and the aircraft of Bashar al-Assad. If you do that, then the moderate opposition can meet these challenges.”


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Latest Episode • Syria
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Lies

    This is a blunt spinoff by the Saudi's to take no responsibility of what they have done in Syria. ISIS was created by the Saudi's with help from Turkey. Follow the trail of money and support. Money came from Saudi's and logistical support from Turkey. Medias show how fighter land in Hatay and given money , uniform and AK47 and sent to Syria. Saudi's intent is to remove Asaad and Maliki at any cost as they are both Iran friendly. Al-Faisal is trying to remove Saudi's traces from the bloodshed. They provided all the money and logistical support to ISIS, Jabhat-Al Nusra adn other groups who as brutal killers as ISIS. This interview is a lie and propaganda. The cover up has started as they know they will not win in Syria at least.

    July 2, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Reply
  2. ashok

    Forces like ISIS are easier to create than to contain and control. At some stage, they turn upon their masters.

    July 2, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  3. Gee Kay

    when Saudis will pay for their crimes against humanity. Behind every terrorist act Saudi money. This man is a liar and terrorist supporter. He called saudi imbecile terrorists as volunteers.

    July 2, 2014 at 6:19 pm | Reply
  4. Mark

    It is clear now that the only way to stop the Saudis is to show them some US teeth. I mean, openly and publicly threaten the Saudis for example by parking a couple aircraft carriers in the Gulf and in the Red Sea. The US should also threaten with oil sanctions, including a threat to remove them from SWIFT, just like it was done with Iran.

    It is past time to force the hand of those Saudi lunatics – they are the real heretics.

    July 4, 2014 at 1:13 am | Reply
    • Imtias

      Mark, It is baby talk, You don't see the larger picture. Saudi & Americans are worlds biggest terrorists working neck to neck. The world will be a peaceful place once the world stops relying on fossil fuel.

      July 7, 2014 at 7:24 am | Reply
  5. anonym

    Sounds these commenters are the humble pawns of Evil regime Iran. You stupids, you'd better understand, no matter what, Assad's slaughter caused ISIS, and whatever you insist on your rotten visionary ideas you will see more terrible results.

    July 6, 2014 at 10:56 pm | Reply
  6. Sander

    Mostly disturbing in this situation is the lack of decisiveness in the middle-east about taking united steps against a common threat.

    The Saoudi, Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain air forces are all well equipped to take action. Especially if supported by international intelligence under UN flag they are very capable to deal with ISIS.
    Then there is also Iran and Turkey, both also capable military.

    Most of all, these are all local countries, from the middle-east. Then why should a strange force like the US have the obligation to protect Iraqi and Syrian citizens? The first obligation is to those who stand close by, and do have the means to act against it.

    The lack of unity between the Arab nations, Iran and Turkey is to blame on much of the troubles in the region.

    And then there is Israel. An all different story and a misfit in my opinion. It does not contribute to anything but their own security and wealth.

    August 10, 2014 at 8:29 am | Reply

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