Daines: Obama Administration’s Refusal to Acknowledge ‘Islamic Extremism’ Jeopardizes American Strategy in Middle East

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Steve Daines today took the Obama administration to task for its lack of strategy in addressing the rising threat of extreme Islamic terrorism in the Middle East.

“The Obama administration’s refusal to acknowledge ISIS for what it is — extreme, radical Islamic terrorism — directly jeopardizes our nation’s efforts to extinguish this growing threat in the Middle East,” Daines stated. “It is irresponsible that Secretary Kerry would rather label these terrorists as ‘adventurers and thrill-seekers’ than extremists driven by a radical ideology. The President’s clear lack of strategy in dealing with this threat was on full display today, and the American people should be gravely concerned.” 

During a hearing held this morning by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, Daines pressed Secretary of State John Kerry for answers about why the Obama administration refuses to categorize ISIS and other self-identified Islamic terrorist groups as “Islamic extremists” or “Islamic terrorists.”

In the hearing, Kerry downplayed the ideology that fundamentally drives ISIS leaders and fighters, audaciously characterizing many individuals that are members of ISIS as “thrill-seekers,” “adventurers,” “thugs” and “opportunists” rather than radical Islamist extremists.

“I think there is a concern that we lack this moral clarity that many leaders around the world have, that we aren’t hearing this from the President,” Daines stated.

Kerry proceeded to dismiss these concerns – instead arguing that “there fundamentally isn’t” anything Islamic about ISIS.

“Make no mistake, I think you’re working too hard to create something that isn’t anything,” Kerry stated. “I prefer to call it [ISIS] Daesh, because then you avoid this notion that there’s anything Islamic about it, which there fundamentally isn’t.”

Kerry failed to note that “Daesh” is the Arabic acronym for ISIS, which directly translates to the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (Syria or the Levant).

Video of Senator Daines’ exchange with Sec. Kerry may be viewed here.

Video is available for download here.

Daines also criticized the State Department’s recent suggestion that the root cause of terrorism in the Middle East is economic and not ideological.

“State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf made the comments that implied that the way to confront terrorism was through jobs programs or somehow that this is fundamentally a governance issue. It was her words, in terms of root cause,” Daines stated. “Is the administration’s belief that the root cause of this terrorism is economic, versus ideological or religious?”

Secretary Kerry proceeded to defend Harf’s comments, and doubled down on his statements that issues other than extreme ideology drive ISIS.