The blogosphere is all abuzz about CQ National Security Editor Jeff Stein'srecent interview
with Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, who has been tapped by incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to head the Intelligence Committee.
Apparently Reyes doesn't know Shiite:
To his credit, Reyes, a kindly, thoughtful man who also sits on the Armed Service Committee, does see the undertows drawing the region into chaos.
For example, he knows that the 1,400- year-old split in Islam between Sunnis and Shiites not only fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq, it drives the competition for supremacy across the Middle East between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.
That's more than two key Republicans on the Intelligence Committee knew when I interviewed them last summer. Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and Terry Everett, R-Ala., both back for another term, were flummoxed by such basic questions, as were several top counterterrorism officials at the FBI.
I thought it only right now to pose the same questions to a Democrat, especially one who will take charge of the Intelligence panel come January. The former border patrol agent also sits on the Armed Services Committee.
Reyes stumbled when I asked him a simple question about al Qaeda at the end of a 40-minute interview in his office last week. Members of the Intelligence Committee, mind you, are paid $165,200 a year to know more than basic facts about our foes in the Middle East.
After the jump, Reyes fumbles and tries to recover.
Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?
"Al Qaeda, they have both," Reyes said. "You're talking about predominately?"
"Sure," I said, not knowing what else to say.
"Predominantly — probably Shiite," he ventured.
He couldn't have been more wrong.
Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they'd slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.
That's because the extremist Sunnis who make up a l Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.
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After CNN picked up the story, Reyes provided a statement to the network:
"As a Member of the Intelligence Committee since before 9/11, I'm acutely aware of al Qaeda's desire to harm Americans. The Intelligence Committee will keep its eye on the ball, and focus on the pressing security and intelligence issues facing us."
Okay, so just to be clear, Reyes does know they want to hurt us. He might not know exactly who they are, but he knows they mean us harm.