Last year, the U.S. came very close to involving itself in another unpopular war in the Middle East by attacking Syria over its government’s reported use of sarin gas on its people and the rebels it was fighting. And, just like Iraq, had we attacked we would have later found out the justification would have been a lie and one that we knew about.
Legendary reporter Seymour Hersh investigated the situation and found what is probably shocking revelations to many. Here are some of the highlights.
The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’…
…the first gas attack, on 19 March in Khan Al-Assal, a village near Aleppo…the person with knowledge of the UN’s activities said: ‘Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.’
This information came out rather quickly last year but was mostly ignored in the rhetoric by U.S. officials since they had to maintain their tough stance for image reasons, which is ridiculous when you think about it.
It should be noted that both Russia and the Syrian government were helping to clear things up during this period as well, which is why engaging other countries in a logical and more empathetic way actually works:
Russian military intelligence operatives had recovered samples of the chemical agent from Ghouta. They analysed it and passed it on to British military intelligence…Within days of the Damascus incident we asked a source in the Syrian government to give us a list of the batches the government currently had. This is why we could confirm the difference so quickly.’
The most damaging revelation in Hersh’s report is the role of Turkey and how they helped the rebels make and use the sarin gas that was found to have killed so many. Turkey wanted the U.S. to attack and did what they could to make sure it happened by driving Obama over his “red line”. The problem for Turkey is that the U.S. figured this out before firing the first shot.
The UK defence staff who relayed the Porton Down findings to the joint chiefs were sending the Americans a message, the former intelligence official said: ‘We’re being set up here.’
As intercepts and other data related to the 21 August attacks were gathered, the intelligence community saw evidence to support its suspicions. ‘We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA 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.’ Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. ‘Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts.
Hersh’s report contains a lot more information and is well worth the read for anyone wanting to know a lot more of this story. Stellar reporting on his part as usual.