Roy Gutman Responds to Ehsani2’s critique of his articles arguing that Assad built ISIS and Staged al-Qaida Bombings

Response to Ehsani2
By Roy Gutman – @Roy_Gutman

Dear Josh,

I have carefully read the letter “Ehsani2″ wrote and that you posted on Syria Comment. I would like to respond.

Isis soldiers beheading five people charged with "spying for Syria's New Army and the Crusade forces. [sic]." Their heads were displayed on metal pegs (Facebook/Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)

ISIS soldiers beheading five people charged with “spying for Syria’s New Army and the Crusade forces. [sic].” Their heads were displayed on metal pegs (Facebook/Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – June 2016)

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.

Kind regards,
Roy Gutman

Comments (8)

Syrialover said:

Look at this! More factual gems unearthed from history.

Some fantastic stuff from pre-2011 being revealed that gives titanium strength force to statements that Assad was a keen facilitator for terror groups, including the base groups for ISIS in Iraq.


Iraq broke off diplomatic relations with Syria in fury over Assad assisting the flow of foreign jihadists into Iraq.

Iraq PM Maliki formally complained to the world that Assad was helping feed the flow of al quaeda into Iraq, then harbouring those responsible for major terror bombings in Baghdad.

“Ninety percent of terrorists from different Arabic nationalities infiltrated Iraq through Syrian territory,” Maliki said during a visit by the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, aimed at cooling the row.”


December 18th, 2016, 11:32 am


Hayssam said:

An assertion amounts not to an evidence. The burden of proof is incumbent upon he who makes the allegation. When you propose that “Assad staged al-Qaeda bombings” or insinuate that he somehow helped create ISIS it is only natural that Mr. Ehsani2, myself, and many others would demand an ironclad evidence for your implausible claims and not just hearsay.

December 18th, 2016, 11:38 am


Syrialover said:


This story from 2005, which I can now recall reading back then – possibly on SyriaComment!

“The road from Syria, on the road with Iraq’s insurgents”

December 18th, 2016, 11:41 am


Syrialover said:

If you want more of the above, here it is:

December 18th, 2016, 11:52 am


Ghufran said:

Too little too late to try to rewrite the history of the Syrian war and provide cover for those who transformed a potential genuine reformist movement into an islamist thuggery bloody campaign headed by religious zealots and terrorists. Islamist jihadists are the whores used by all but there are people like Mr. Gutman who prefer to depoly one eye to see the events. Being Jewish does not disqualify any journalist from reporting on the Syrian war or expressing an opinion but jewish reporters should not be upset if their narrative is challenged and their hostility towards Iran is exposed especially when everybody’s hands including Israel’s got dirty in the Syrian war. There is a reason why “rebels” attacked air defense installations and assassinated scientists, military pilots and rocket engineers in the early days of this ” revolution” even before air force was a factor in this war. There is a number of journalists who are bitterly against Iran and / or Russia, and others who are feverishly pro Israel. Biased reporters often use standard language and references to hide their bias and discredit others who fail to do the same but in the noble search for the truth, facts are more important than style. Yes the regime dealt with and used islamists but that was after NATO (lead by the US)invaded Iraq in 2003 using false intelligence and manufactured “evidence”, so if you want to be objective you have to admit that western intervention not regional governments was the decisive factor in the creation of Isis. To suggest that isis was created by the regime or that the regime gave weapons to the opposition to kill regime soldiers is a stretch to say the least. Do not let the rebels get off the hook just because you dislike iran, the opposition is as guilty as the regime in this war, I say that the rebels’ move towards fascism and terrorism was more of a choice than a natural outcome of regime’s brutality. On the issue of Israel, Israel and islamist rebels are bedfellows and they share the same tactical objective and the same enemies, for NOW !!

December 18th, 2016, 12:40 pm


Willy Van Damme said:

A statement from a prime minister (Maliki) is a statement, not a proof of something. After all Maliki at that moment was eating out of the hands of the US. Roy Gutman’s claims are stupid.

December 18th, 2016, 6:07 pm


Nope said:

Nice try, Mr. Gutman…but you don’t discredit the arguments against you. You’re actually using fallacies to try and counter what you deem fallacies, LOL

December 18th, 2016, 9:19 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Dear Roy Gutman,

As a casual Jewish-American observer of the Middle East, I am aware of a few facts:

1.) Since Day 1 of the Syrian rebellion, Assad made the horrendous claim that unarmed demonstrators were “terrorists” and proceeded, with the help of his sabihah thugs, to murder anyone daring to speak out against the self-elected, Syrian Fuhrer.

2.) Assad made this “terrorist” claim, at the very beginning, knowing that it was his last card to play: obscuring the deep differences between those begging for freedom and the murderous Islamic cretins he couldn’t prevent (or didn’t want to prevent) from taking over his country, thus creating a diversion that you and others fell for.

3.) Assad employed other state actors knee deep in terrorism to protect his hold on power, namely Iran, Hezbollah and Russia.

After 500,000 dead, 11 million displaced and Syria becoming a pile of stone and rubble, I can’t feel too sorry for the Russian ambassador. That’s just one person.

December 19th, 2016, 10:55 pm


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