“It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots…who randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” -- Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaLive coverage: Gillum clashes with DeSantis in Florida debate Sanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa Republicans bail on Coffman to invest in Miami seat MORE Vox.com Interview Jan. 2015. 

Team Obama’s tendency to not use words that describe killings in sectarian ways gets it in trouble. Feb. 10, the  White House: “There were people other than just Jews who were in that deli.” State Department: “I remember the victims specifically there were not all victims of one background or one nationality.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Just cite the Department’s remarks the day following the Jan. 9 attack on the supermarket: “We condemn in the strongest terms ‎yesterday’s cowardly anti-Semitic assault against the innocent people in the kosher supermarket,” State told The Jerusalem Post. The attack confirmed fears of France’s Jewish community because there were several preceding assaults on Jewish institutions.

The White House and State used Twitter feeds to clarify. White House: “Terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism. POTUS [President of the United States] didn’t intend to suggest otherwise.” State: “We have always been clear that the attack on the kosher grocery store was an anti-Semitic attack that took the lives of innocent people.”

Washington Post journalist, Jennifer Rubin, calls “appalling” the denial of “Jew-hatred” as a motivation for assault on the kosher market. Neither Rubin’s critique nor mine suggests the Obama administration is anti-Semitic. But clumsy wording to the press raises questions about its difficulties speaking clearly about the threat of violent Jihadism.

Remember the flap comparing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with a basketball team of junior varsity (JV) players, i.e., players who have not yet made it to the senior level? The JV team began to score more points than the varsity, e.g., al Qaeda of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Team Obama shifted to a different script in the president’s exclusive with Chuck Todd for his inaugural program on Meet the Press, Sept. 7, 2014.

They had an intense discussion about Obama’s strategy for dealing with ISIS, and the president stated, “We’re going to defeat them.” Todd then said that Obama’s response was a “long way from when you described them as a JV team.” Obama said his comment about extremists being a JV team [made in the 2012 campaign and referenced on Jan. 7, 2014], “wasn’t specifically referring to” ISIS.

The White House on Aug. 25 claimed that in Obama’s Jan. 7 comment the “President was not singling out” ISIS in that interview, but rather extremist groups in general. On Sept. 7, Obama reiterated that statement, earning a “false” from PolitiFact; “fumbled” from FactCheck.org; and an award of Four Pinocchios from Glenn Kessler, Fact Checker of The Washington Post.

On Feb. 16, the killing of Egyptians Copts in Libya: “In Washington, the White House released a statement…made no mention of the victims' religion, referring to them only as ‘Egyptian citizens’ or ‘innocents.’” In contrast, Pope Francis said “Today I read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians. Their only words were: ‘Jesus, help me! They were killed simply because they were Christians.”

Examples above are “sins of commission,” but they may not be as serious as ignoring prospective killings when publicity could deter them. Amnesty International describes the growing Iranian presence in Iraq. Shia militias are encircling Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty, Iraq and are working with the Badr Corps, Special Forces of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). An increase in Iranian militia surveillance of Camp Liberty indicates preparation for attack. The reconnaissance bears striking similarity to activities preceding the Sept 1, 2013 Camp Ashraf, Iraq assault, where the dissidents were former residents.  

The White House and State are silent, despite commitments to provide diplomatic cover for the dissidents. Washington’s eagerness to put its involvement in Iraq behind shuts its eyes to sectarian reign in Iraq, as it falls under the sway of militias and the IRGC, a particular threat to Camp Liberty. While the press is silent, international and Capitol Hill attention is on the rise on behalf of the dissidents. 

The International Committee in Search of Justice—an organization of over 4.000 parliamentarians on both sides of the Atlantic—sent a letter to Members in conjunction with UN Security Council consideration of a session on Iraq. Congress passed a bill explicitly mentioning Camp Liberty. The president’s letter of Oct. 14 linking nuclear talks with Iran to coordination between Tehran and Washington about Iraq offers a window to discuss Camp Liberty. In any event, Tehran is a dangerous and unnecessary ally for USA in Iraq.

Tanter is president of the Iran Policy Committee and was a member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration. His latest book is "Arab Rebels and Iranian Dissidents."