Seymour Hersh: Assad Innocent
• Investigative report demolishes claim that Syrian military gassed own civilians.
By Pete Papaherakles —
A renowned investigative journalist has revealed in a worldwide exposé, which received almost no attention in the United States, that the Obama administration has known all along—and the establishment media has covered up—the fact that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad never gassed his own people in August 2013. This news comes as Secretary of State John Kerry continues to lie to the American people and the world about Syria in order to gin up support for an overthrow of the government in that Middle Eastern country.
In “The Red Line and the Rat Line,” which was published on April 4 in London Review of Books, which “has the largest circulation of any literary magazine in Europe,” Pulitzer Prize recipient Seymour M. Hersh explains that a sample of the sarin gas used in the August 21 attacks on Ghouta, Syria, was provided to British intelligence at Porton Down, the defense laboratory in Wiltshire, England. Analysis by the Brits proved conclusively that the gas did not match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal.
After the August 21 chemical attack, a “monster strike” was being organized at the Pentagon, which was to have included B-52s loaded with 2,000-pound bombs. It was set up for the purpose of completely destroying Assad’s military, the electric power grid, oil and gas depots, all known logistics and weapons depots, command and control facilities and all known military and intelligence buildings. Britain and France were also ready to provide fighter jets, ships and submarines.
In the final days of August, Obama had given the Joint Chiefs of Staff a deadline for the attack to begin no later than Monday morning, September 2. That’s why it came as a surprise to many when on August 31 Obama announced that the attack would be put on hold and asked Congress to vote on it.
Russia, which insisted from the start that Assad was innocent, had its military intelligence operatives recover samples of the chemical agent from Syria and pass them on to British military intelligence, which then sent the material to Porton Down. The sample turned out negative against all sarin batches known to be in Syria’s possession.
So who was behind it?
Hersh points the finger squarely at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.
Pete Papaherakles discusses this article on the 4/18 edition of the AFP Editors Roundtable (5:55 – 20:22)
• Sarin gas attack on Syria carried out by terrorists, orchestrated by Turkey
• Obama calls off massive U.S. military assault because truth discovered
By Pete Papaherakles
Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in a major report titled “The Red Line and the Rat Line,” published on April 4 in London Review of Books, explained how the escalation of events in Syria stemmed from developments in Libya.
In January 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the September 11, 2012 assault on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which described in a highly classified annex a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama administration and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan pertaining to what has come to be called “the rat line.” It involved getting arms from Libya’s arsenals into Syria through Turkey. Funding would come from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), with support from Britain’s MI6, would do the gunrunning through Australian front companies and retired American soldiers to manage procurement and shipping.
The operation was run by former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman David Petraeus, who was CIA director at the time, but would soon resign due to an illicit affair with his female biographer.
The Benghazi consulate had no political role whatsoever. Its only mission was to provide cover for moving arms, which is the reason it was attacked.
After the attack, Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role and the gunrunning got out of control, but that did not stop Turkey from handing terrorists who were in Syria illegal weapons such as surface-to-air missile launchers. There was much concern in Washington that the terrorists could use these weapons to take down commercial aircraft.
By the end of 2012, the terrorists were losing the war. Erdogan was angry and feeling betrayed by the U.S. for withdrawing its “rat line” support.
In the spring of 2013, the U.S. learned that Turkey was working with terrorists to develop chemical weapons and to train them in their use.
Erdogan knew that if he stopped helping the terrorists the war in Syria would be over. The Saudis could not arm the rebels sufficiently due to transport problems, so Erdogan’s only hope was to instigate an event that would force the U.S. to enforce its “red line” dictate and bring on its full military might. The problem for Erdogan was, Obama didn’t respond, because he couldn’t pin any weapons attacks directly on Assad.
According to Hersh, on May 16, 2013, Erdogan met Obama at the White House where he desperately pleaded his case. Obama agreed that Assad had to go and acknowledged that chemical weapons had been used in Syria in March and April of that year, but said he needed specific information in order to implicate Assad. The red line was still intact.
Complicating matters for Erdogan, in May of that year, ten members of the al-Nusra rebel group were arrested in southern Turkey trying to transport 5 lbs. of sarin gas. The mainstream media failed to report this, and ultimately, five of the terrorists were released after brief detention. The others were released pending a trial.
Just weeks before the August 21 gas attack in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, a highly classified briefing was sent to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel describing Erdogan’s desperation.
The briefing focused on the fact that the CIA’s withdrawal from the “rat line” had left Erdogan exposed militarily and politically. Supplies to Syria could only go through Turkey, not Lebanon or Jordan. If Syria were to win, Erdogan’s dreams of conquest would turn into a nightmare of hostile radicals at his border. It further stated that Turkey had expressed “the need to do something that would precipitate a U.S. military response.”
After the chemical attack, U.S. intelligence sensed that Syria couldn’t have carried out the attack and Turkey was suspect, but no one knew how it was done.
Ultimately, it was Dempsey and the joint chiefs who convinced Obama to change course by telling him “that the Middle East would go up in smoke” if the attack was carried out.
As intercepts and other intelligence kept coming in after the attacks, the evidence was found to support the suspicions. “We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdogan’s people to push Obama over the red line,” said Hersh’s former intelligence official. “They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors were there.”
The inspectors had come to Damascus on August 18 to investigate previous gas attacks.
“The deal was to do something spectacular,” he told Hersh. “Our senior military officers have been told by the [Defense Intelligence Agency] and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey—that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it. . . . Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but that all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success.”
Hersh added that Erdogan thought his problems in Syria would soon be over: “Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria, or at least that was the idea. But it did not work out that way.”
Pete Papaherakles is a writer and political cartoonist for AFP and is also AFP’s outreach director. Pete is interested in getting AFP writers and editors on the podium at patriotic events. Call him at 202-544-5977 if you know of an event you think AFP should attend.