Roy Gutman Responds to Ehsani2’s critique of his articles arguing that Assad built ISIS and Staged al-Qaida Bombings
Posted by Joshua on Sunday, December 18th, 2016
Response to Ehsani2
By Roy Gutman – @
I have carefully read the letter “Ehsani2″ wrote and that you posted on Syria Comment. I would like to respond.
First, I welcome a discussion about the content of my articles published by the Daily Beast: 1 How ISIS Returned to Syria; 2 How Assad Staged al Qaeda Bombings; 3 Assad Henchman: Here’s How We Built ISIS
The subject of the series, the Assad regime’s role in the rise of radical Jihadist groups in Syria, is of utmost seriousness, and the failure of U.S. intelligence to debrief high level security defectors who witnessed the regime’s actions from the inside is news in itself. You will note that I named my sources throughout the articles, so that anyone can double-check my work. The objective in reporting and writing a series such as this is not only to put the facts before the public but to do it in a way that is credible and replicable.
A critic of my story can go to the same sources, attempt to disprove the facts my sources have cited, prove that I misquoted my sources or provide an alternative explanation after demonstrating that my sources deliberately misled me. That failing, the story stands.
Far from discrediting the story or the sources, “Ehsani2’s” letter does just the opposite. Any number of claims in the letter are based on anonymous sources. Moreover he himself is an anonymous commentator. This doesn’t illuminate the discussion but raises major questions about his comments.
So first of all Ehsani2 should write under his own name and not hide behind a pseudonym. Second he should state his credentials, his affiliations if he has any link or even friendly with the government I have written about. And he should name his sources. I don’t make claims based on anonymous sources, nor should he.
Second, you as the editor, should edit the comment so that they are pertinent. He can’t just assert that an element in this carefully reported series is “preposterous”: he should prove it. Your anonymous writer uses that term three times in his 3,000 word message.
Instead of examining my sources, analyzing the events they describe and determining whether my sources are valid observers, Ehsani2 devotes a significant portion of his letter to issues that have nothing to do with the series. His attempt to discredit Mr. Barabandi’s statements— based on an article he wrote but that was not quoted in my reporting — makes no sense. The references to the late Ahmed Chalabi are completely extraneous to the series.
He refers to one of my sources, the former chief of criminal investigations, as “an opposition source.” Gen. Al Ali’s political views are not the issue. Was he a valid observer of the attempt to blow him up or not? If he is, and I quoted him accurately, then the anecdote stands. If it’s not correct, please prove it. Quoting James Clapper — which I already did in my article — doesn’t disprove Gen Al Ali’s assertions. Indeed, the sub-theme of the article is that U.S. intelligence did not interview Gen. Al Ali but should have.
On the bombing of the Crisis Group, If Ehsani2 thinks the sources I quote are wrong, again he prove it. But you can’t discredit named sources with anonymous sources, certainly not if you’re an anonymous commentator. I don’t quote anonymous diplomats from unnamed European countries, and I find it incredible that an anonymous contributor asks the reader to accept anonymous assertions as factual.
I note that in one respect, Ehsani2 appears to accept the contention of the story that Syrian intelligence penetrated the Jihadists who traveled to Iraq to fight U.S. forces there and then returned to Syria. But who are his sources even for that? And what are the implications of that penetration? Tell us more, please.
Towards the end of his message, he refers to anonymous “loyalists and leadership insiders” who believe the national uprising was radicalized early on, hijacked by Islamists. But this sounds self-serving. First, who are the loyalists and insiders? what makes them “believe” what they believe, and are they telling the truth or just giving a cover story? My series quotes former intelligence officials by name as saying the regime deliberately militarized the uprising and facilitated the rise of Islamist groups. If Ehsani2 can’t disprove the assertions of my sources with solid and sourced information of his own, the assertions of my sources stand.