'Sunnistan?' Tom Friedman Endorses Sectarian State

Guardian reporter Martin Chulov, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and former National Counterterrorism Center director Matt Olsen the roots of ISIS, and their future in Iraq.
6:47 | 12/14/14

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Transcript for 'Sunnistan?' Tom Friedman Endorses Sectarian State
Now, our "Closer look," a rare inside look at the terror group Isis. Chilling new details from a top commander, who says he was there when the group was formed. Isis began inside a U.S. Military prison in southern Iraq, called camp bucca, a site where I have reported from in the past. Where the U.S. Detained hundreds of extremists. A reporter interviewed that Isis commander as part of an extraordinary article in "The guardian." He joins us from Beirut. Martin, tell us what that commander said. He said that he and jihadists like him, were all within 100 meters of the entire Al Qaeda leadership, he said that it was the breeding ground for Isis as we know it now, they used that time in prison to network, to organize and to plot for what might come. He didn't know that a decade down the track the man amongst them, who was very active in prison life would emerge as the leader of this formidable terrorist organization. What did he say about the leader at the time when he was in that prison with him? He said, he was a man who had clear leadership skills, who seemed to be plotting from the very beginning. He set himself up as a arbitrator for disputes within the camp, he conciliated, he was given more or less open access around the Sunni area of the prison by the American military, his jailers were enamored by him. They saw him as a calming influence. He was released after nine months in late 2004. One of the things that's so extraordinary about your article is, this Isis commander is having second thoughts, wants to get away from Isis but can't. Yeah, he said to me in the early days in 2004, and a bit beyond that, shoot at American tanks in ramadi, it was almost fun, it was almost an adventure. He was railing against an occupation, this was a broad Sunni revolt in his mind. As opposed to an islamic theocracy in the making. He said a decade later, with this organization, imposing a very hard line interpretation of sharia law across the region he doesn't want to be a part of it anymore. He thinks that Isis interpret religion in a wrong way. He thinks brutal imposition isn't the way forward. Yet, at the same time, he doesn't feel as though he can leave, he's still very active within the upper echelons of Isis. And he thinks that if he does leave, he'll be killed, so he feels trapped by his circumstances. Thanks very much, martin. Let's dig into this now with our experts, ABC's contributor and former director of the national counterterrorism center Matthew Olsen and Tom Friedman, author and columnist for "The New York times." Welcome, gentlemen. Tom, your reaction to that report from camp bucca. This is one quote from that piece, Isis can't be stopped now. This is the commander speaking. This is out of the control of any man. Isis can only be stopped by the Sunni muslims under its rule. I think that's really the question for American strategy I ISTs going forward. Under Isis' rule, the tribes and residents of big towns like mosul to rise up against them. I think we have to go back -- As in the past. In the anbar uprising. Then, the strategy was -- we'll help you clear out the Jihadis, then you hold it and build it. I think we have to reverse the strategy. The strategy today has to be build, then clear and hold. These Sunni muslims under Isis control are not going to take a promise from Baghdad anymore. I think we to have to create a federally semiautonomous region, promise the Sunnis rise up, they won't be under a pro-iranian government in Baghdad. Matt Olsen, you were involved if looking at Isis. 30,000 fighters, does this kind of plan work? I agree with Tom, on a general level, the Numbers are big, by some estimates, ths-@mñ group is not invincible. We have seen that recently with the air strikes over 1,000 u.s.-led coalition air strikes over the past few months and they have shown this group isn't invincible. Turned back the momentum that Isis had over the summer. Do you really think that means they're not invincible? The air strikes, everybody in the military, everybody in the government are going to say that's not going to do it. You have to do something on the ground. That seemed to stop it. Look at mosul, a terrific new York times story about that, they described mosul as a life of deprivation, confusion for the city's roughly 1 million remaining people. Fears they're training, sell their weapons to the jihadists or run. There's no question about that in my mind, Martha. But there's one fundamental rule of the middle east, is that middle east only puts a smile on your face when it starts with them. When they own it, it's self-sustaining. When we own it, it's not self-sustaining. Matt Olsen, I want to talk, this is always on people's minds, the threat to the homeland, Isis, I doubt think either of you believe it's a threat to the homeland yet, but yet we hear things. Sure. At a strategic level, Isis, their leader has talked about the U.S. Being a strategic enemy, but right now, it's really a potential threat to us here at home. The most likely scenario of an attack would be an isolated individual inspired by their propaganda, perhaps a fighter who returns from Syria, a relatively small-scale attack. Left unchecked, it could down the road we could see Isis posing a greater threat. I'm still astonished by those Numbers, 20,000, 30,000. Much larger than Al Qaeda in the old days in Iraq. Up next -- the latest on

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