Military to Military: Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligence

Those old enough to remember when President Clinton's penis was a big news item will also remember the "Peace Dividend," that the world was going to be able to cash now that that nasty cold war was over. But guess what? Those spies didn't want to come in from the Cold, so while the planet is heating up, the political environment is dropping to sub-zero temperatures. It's deja vu all over again.

Military to Military: Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligence

Postby admin » Mon Nov 07, 2016 11:00 pm

Military to Military – Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligence sharing in the Syrian war
by London Review of Books, Vol. 38 No. 1
7 January 2016.

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped.

The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment, put together by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya.
A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an ‘all-source’ appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.’ The assessment was bleak: there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists.

Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn’t doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. ‘If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,’ Flynn told me. ‘We understood Isis’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.’ The DIA’s reporting, he said, ‘got enormous pushback’ from the Obama administration. ‘I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.’

‘Our policy of arming the opposition to Assad was unsuccessful and actually having a negative impact,’ the former JCS adviser said. ‘The Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists. The administration’s policy was contradictory. They wanted Assad to go but the opposition was dominated by extremists. So who was going to replace him? To say Assad’s got to go is fine, but if you follow that through – therefore anyone is better. It’s the “anybody else is better” issue that the JCS had with Obama’s policy.’ The Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama’s policy would have ‘had a zero chance of success’. So in the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.

Germany, Israel and Russia were in contact with the Syrian army, and able to exercise some influence over Assad’s decisions – it was through them that US intelligence would be shared. Each had its reasons for co-operating with Assad: Germany feared what might happen among its own population of six million Muslims if Islamic State expanded; Israel was concerned with border security; Russia had an alliance of very long standing with Syria, and was worried by the threat to its only naval base on the Mediterranean, at Tartus. ‘We weren’t intent on deviating from Obama’s stated policies,’ the adviser said. ‘But sharing our assessments via the military-to-military relationships with other countries could prove productive. It was clear that Assad needed better tactical intelligence and operational advice. The JCS concluded that if those needs were met, the overall fight against Islamist terrorism would be enhanced. Obama didn’t know, but Obama doesn’t know what the JCS does in every circumstance and that’s true of all presidents.’

Once the flow of US intelligence began, Germany, Israel and Russia started passing on information about the whereabouts and intent of radical jihadist groups to the Syrian army; in return, Syria provided information about its own capabilities and intentions. There was no direct contact between the US and the Syrian military; instead, the adviser said, ‘we provided the information – including long-range analyses on Syria’s future put together by contractors or one of our war colleges – and these countries could do with it what they chose, including sharing it with Assad. We were saying to the Germans and the others: “Here’s some information that’s pretty interesting and our interest is mutual.” End of conversation. The JCS could conclude that something beneficial would arise from it – but it was a military to military thing, and not some sort of a sinister Joint Chiefs’ plot to go around Obama and support Assad. It was a lot cleverer than that. If Assad remains in power, it will not be because we did it. It’s because he was smart enough to use the intelligence and sound tactical advice we provided to others.’

The public history of relations between the US and Syria over the past few decades has been one of enmity. Assad condemned the 9/11 attacks, but opposed the Iraq War. George W. Bush repeatedly linked Syria to the three members of his ‘axis of evil’ – Iraq, Iran and North Korea – throughout his presidency. State Department cables made public by WikiLeaks show that the Bush administration tried to destabilise Syria and that these efforts continued into the Obama years. In December 2006, William Roebuck, then in charge of the US embassy in Damascus, filed an analysis of the ‘vulnerabilities’ of the Assad government and listed methods ‘that will improve the likelihood’ of opportunities for destabilisation. He recommended that Washington work with Saudi Arabia and Egypt to increase sectarian tension and focus on publicising ‘Syrian efforts against extremist groups’ – dissident Kurds and radical Sunni factions – ‘in a way that suggests weakness, signs of instability, and uncontrolled blowback’; and that the ‘isolation of Syria’ should be encouraged through US support of the National Salvation Front, led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice president whose government-in-exile in Riyadh was sponsored by the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood. Another 2006 cable showed that the embassy had spent $5 million financing dissidents who ran as independent candidates for the People’s Assembly; the payments were kept up even after it became clear that Syrian intelligence knew what was going on. A 2010 cable warned that funding for a London-based television network run by a Syrian opposition group would be viewed by the Syrian government ‘as a covert and hostile gesture toward the regime’.

But there is also a parallel history of shadowy co-operation between Syria and the US during the same period. The two countries collaborated against al-Qaida, their common enemy. A longtime consultant to the Joint Special Operations Command said that, after 9/11, ‘Bashar was, for years, extremely helpful to us while, in my view, we were churlish in return, and clumsy in our use of the gold he gave us. That quiet co-operation continued among some elements, even after the [Bush administration’s] decision to vilify him.’ In 2002 Assad authorised Syrian intelligence to turn over hundreds of internal files on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and Germany. Later that year, Syrian intelligence foiled an attack by al-Qaida on the headquarters of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, and Assad agreed to provide the CIA with the name of a vital al-Qaida informant. In violation of this agreement, the CIA contacted the informant directly; he rejected the approach, and broke off relations with his Syrian handlers. Assad also secretly turned over to the US relatives of Saddam Hussein who had sought refuge in Syria, and – like America’s allies in Jordan, Egypt, Thailand and elsewhere – tortured suspected terrorists for the CIA in a Damascus prison.

It was this history of co-operation that made it seem possible in 2013 that Damascus would agree to the new indirect intelligence-sharing arrangement with the US. The Joint Chiefs let it be known that in return the US would require four things: Assad must restrain Hizbullah from attacking Israel; he must renew the stalled negotiations with Israel to reach a settlement on the Golan Heights; he must agree to accept Russian and other outside military advisers; and he must commit to holding open elections after the war with a wide range of factions included. ‘We had positive feedback from the Israelis, who were willing to entertain the idea, but they needed to know what the reaction would be from Iran and Syria,’ the JCS adviser told me. ‘The Syrians told us that Assad would not make a decision unilaterally – he needed to have support from his military and Alawite allies. Assad’s worry was that Israel would say yes and then not uphold its end of the bargain.’ A senior adviser to the Kremlin on Middle East affairs told me that in late 2012, after suffering a series of battlefield setbacks and military defections, Assad had approached Israel via a contact in Moscow and offered to reopen the talks on the Golan Heights. The Israelis had rejected the offer. ‘They said, “Assad is finished,”’ the Russian official told me. ‘“He’s close to the end.”’ He said the Turks had told Moscow the same thing. By mid-2013, however, the Syrians believed the worst was behind them, and wanted assurances that the Americans and others were serious about their offers of help.

In the early stages of the talks, the adviser said, the Joint Chiefs tried to establish what Assad needed as a sign of their good intentions. The answer was sent through one of Assad’s friends: ‘Bring him the head of Prince Bandar.’ The Joint Chiefs did not oblige. Bandar bin Sultan had served Saudi Arabia for decades in intelligence and national security affairs, and spent more than twenty years as ambassador in Washington. In recent years, he has been known as an advocate for Assad’s removal from office by any means. Reportedly in poor health, he resigned last year as director of the Saudi National Security Council, but Saudi Arabia continues to be a major provider of funds to the Syrian opposition, estimated by US intelligence last year at $700 million.

In July 2013, the Joint Chiefs found a more direct way of demonstrating to Assad how serious they were about helping him. By then the CIA-sponsored secret flow of arms from Libya to the Syrian opposition, via Turkey, had been underway for more than a year (it started sometime after Gaddafi’s death on 20 October 2011).​* The operation was largely run out of a covert CIA annex in Benghazi, with State Department acquiescence. On 11 September 2012 the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed during an anti-American demonstration that led to the burning down of the US consulate in Benghazi; reporters for the Washington Post found copies of the ambassador’s schedule in the building’s ruins. It showed that on 10 September Stevens had met with the chief of the CIA’s annex operation. The next day, shortly before he died, he met a representative from Al-Marfa Shipping and Maritime Services, a Tripoli-based company which, the JCS adviser said, was known by the Joint Staff to be handling the weapons shipments.]

By the late summer of 2013, the DIA’s assessment had been circulated widely, but although many in the American intelligence community were aware that the Syrian opposition was dominated by extremists the CIA-sponsored weapons kept coming, presenting a continuing problem for Assad’s army. Gaddafi’s stockpile had created an international arms bazaar, though prices were high. ‘There was no way to stop the arms shipments that had been authorised by the president,’ the JCS adviser said. ‘The solution involved an appeal to the pocketbook. The CIA was approached by a representative from the Joint Chiefs with a suggestion: there were far less costly weapons available in Turkish arsenals that could reach the Syrian rebels within days, and without a boat ride.’ But it wasn’t only the CIA that benefited. ‘We worked with Turks we trusted who were not loyal to Erdoğan,’ the adviser said, ‘and got them to ship the jihadists in Syria all the obsolete weapons in the arsenal, including M1 carbines that hadn’t been seen since the Korean War and lots of Soviet arms. It was a message Assad could understand: “We have the power to diminish a presidential policy in its tracks.”’

The flow of US intelligence to the Syrian army, and the downgrading of the quality of the arms being supplied to the rebels, came at a critical juncture. The Syrian army had suffered heavy losses in the spring of 2013 in fighting against Jabhat al-Nusra and other extremist groups as it failed to hold the provincial capital of Raqqa. Sporadic Syrian army and air-force raids continued in the area for months, with little success, until it was decided to withdraw from Raqqa and other hard to defend, lightly populated areas in the north and west and focus instead on consolidating the government’s hold on Damascus and the heavily populated areas linking the capital to Latakia in the north-east. But as the army gained in strength with the Joint Chiefs’ support, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey escalated their financing and arming of Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State, which by the end of 2013 had made enormous gains on both sides of the Syria/Iraq border. The remaining non-fundamentalist rebels found themselves fighting – and losing – pitched battles against the extremists. In January 2014, IS took complete control of Raqqa and the tribal areas around it from al-Nusra and established the city as its base. Assad still controlled 80 per cent of the Syrian population, but he had lost a vast amount of territory.

CIA efforts to train the moderate rebel forces were also failing badly. ‘The CIA’s training camp was in Jordan and was controlled by a Syrian tribal group,’ the JCS adviser said. There was a suspicion that some of those who signed up for training were actually Syrian army regulars minus their uniforms. This had happened before, at the height of the Iraqi war, when hundreds of Shia militia members showed up at American training camps for new uniforms, weapons and a few days of training, and then disappeared into the desert. A separate training programme, set up by the Pentagon in Turkey, fared no better. The Pentagon acknowledged in September that only ‘four or five’ of its recruits were still battling Islamic State; a few days later 70 of them defected to Jabhat al-Nusra immediately after crossing the border into Syria.

In January 2014, despairing at the lack of progress, John Brennan, the director of the CIA, summoned American and Sunni Arab intelligence chiefs from throughout the Middle East to a secret meeting in Washington, with the aim of persuading Saudi Arabia to stop supporting extremist fighters in Syria. ‘The Saudis told us they were happy to listen,’ the JCS adviser said, ‘so everyone sat around in Washington to hear Brennan tell them that they had to get on board with the so-called moderates. His message was that if everyone in the region stopped supporting al-Nusra and Isis their ammunition and weapons would dry up, and the moderates would win out.’ Brennan’s message was ignored by the Saudis, the adviser said, who ‘went back home and increased their efforts with the extremists and asked us for more technical support. And we say OK, and so it turns out that we end up reinforcing the extremists.’

But the Saudis were far from the only problem: American intelligence had accumulated intercept and human intelligence demonstrating that the Erdoğan government had been supporting Jabhat al-Nusra for years, and was now doing the same for Islamic State. ‘We can handle the Saudis,’ the adviser said. ‘We can handle the Muslim Brotherhood. You can argue that the whole balance in the Middle East is based on a form of mutually assured destruction between Israel and the rest of the Middle East, and Turkey can disrupt the balance – which is Erdoğan’s dream. We told him we wanted him to shut down the pipeline of foreign jihadists flowing into Turkey. But he is dreaming big – of restoring the Ottoman Empire – and he did not realise the extent to which he could be successful in this.’

One of the constants in US affairs since the fall of the Soviet Union has been a military-to-military relationship with Russia. After 1991 the US spent billions of dollars to help Russia secure its nuclear weapons complex, including a highly secret joint operation to remove weapons-grade uranium from unsecured storage depots in Kazakhstan. Joint programmes to monitor the security of weapons-grade materials continued for the next two decades. During the American war on Afghanistan, Russia provided overflight rights for US cargo carriers and tankers, as well as access for the flow of weapons, ammunition, food and water the US war machine needed daily. Russia’s military provided intelligence on Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts and helped the US negotiate rights to use an airbase in Kyrgyzstan. The Joint Chiefs have been in communication with their Russian counterparts throughout the Syrian war, and the ties between the two militaries start at the top. In August, a few weeks before his retirement as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Dempsey made a farewell visit to the headquarters of the Irish Defence Forces in Dublin and told his audience there that he had made a point while in office to keep in touch with the chief of the Russian General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov. ‘I’ve actually suggested to him that we not end our careers as we began them,’ Dempsey said – one a tank commander in West Germany, the other in the east.

When it comes to tackling Islamic State, Russia and the US have much to offer each other. Many in the IS leadership and rank and file fought for more than a decade against Russia in the two Chechen wars that began in 1994, and the Putin government is heavily invested in combating Islamist terrorism. ‘Russia knows the Isis leadership,’ the JCS adviser said, ‘and has insights into its operational techniques, and has much intelligence to share.’ In return, he said, ‘we’ve got excellent trainers with years of experience in training foreign fighters – experience that Russia does not have.’ The adviser would not discuss what American intelligence is also believed to have: an ability to obtain targeting data, often by paying huge sums of cash, from sources within rebel militias.

A former White House adviser on Russian affairs told me that before 9/11 Putin ‘used to say to us: “We have the same nightmares about different places.” He was referring to his problems with the caliphate in Chechnya and our early issues with al-Qaida. These days, after the Metrojet bombing over Sinai and the massacres in Paris and elsewhere, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that we actually have the same nightmares about the same places.’

Yet the Obama administration continues to condemn Russia for its support of Assad. A retired senior diplomat who served at the US embassy in Moscow expressed sympathy for Obama’s dilemma as the leader of the Western coalition opposed to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine: ‘Ukraine is a serious issue and Obama has been handling it firmly with sanctions. But our policy vis-à-vis Russia is too often unfocused. But it’s not about us in Syria. It’s about making sure Bashar does not lose. The reality is that Putin does not want to see the chaos in Syria spread to Jordan or Lebanon, as it has to Iraq, and he does not want to see Syria end up in the hands of Isis. The most counterproductive thing Obama has done, and it has hurt our efforts to end the fighting a lot, was to say: “Assad must go as a premise for negotiation.”’ He also echoed a view held by some in the Pentagon when he alluded to a collateral factor behind Russia’s decision to launch airstrikes in support of the Syrian army on 30 September: Putin’s desire to prevent Assad from suffering the same fate as Gaddafi. He had been told that Putin had watched a video of Gaddafi’s savage death three times, a video that shows him being sodomised with a bayonet. The JCS adviser also told me of a US intelligence assessment which concluded that Putin had been appalled by Gaddafi’s fate: ‘Putin blamed himself for letting Gaddafi go, for not playing a strong role behind the scenes’ at the UN when the Western coalition was lobbying to be allowed to undertake the airstrikes that destroyed the regime. ‘Putin believed that unless he got engaged Bashar would suffer the same fate – mutilated – and he’d see the destruction of his allies in Syria.’





In a speech on 22 November, Obama declared that the ‘principal targets’ of the Russian airstrikes ‘have been the moderate opposition’. It’s a line that the administration – along with most of the mainstream American media – has rarely strayed from. The Russians insist that they are targeting all rebel groups that threaten Syria’s stability – including Islamic State. The Kremlin adviser on the Middle East explained in an interview that the first round of Russian airstrikes was aimed at bolstering security around a Russian airbase in Latakia, an Alawite stronghold. The strategic goal, he said, has been to establish a jihadist-free corridor from Damascus to Latakia and the Russian naval base at Tartus and then to shift the focus of bombing gradually to the south and east, with a greater concentration of bombing missions over IS-held territory. Russian strikes on IS targets in and near Raqqa were reported as early as the beginning of October; in November there were further strikes on IS positions near the historic city of Palmyra and in Idlib province, a bitterly contested stronghold on the Turkish border.

Russian incursions into Turkish airspace began soon after Putin authorised the bombings, and the Russian air force deployed electronic jamming systems that interfered with Turkish radar. The message being sent to the Turkish air force, the JCS adviser said, was: ‘We’re going to fly our fighter planes where we want and when we want and jam your radar. Do not fuck with us. Putin was letting the Turks know what they were up against.’ Russia’s aggression led to Turkish complaints and Russian denials, along with more aggressive border patrolling by the Turkish air force. There were no significant incidents until 24 November, when two Turkish F-16 fighters, apparently acting under more aggressive rules of engagement, shot down a Russian Su-24M jet that had crossed into Turkish airspace for no more than 17 seconds. In the days after the fighter was shot down, Obama expressed support for Erdoğan, and after they met in private on 1 December he told a press conference that his administration remained ‘very much committed to Turkey’s security and its sovereignty’. He said that as long as Russia remained allied with Assad, ‘a lot of Russian resources are still going to be targeted at opposition groups … that we support … So I don’t think we should be under any illusions that somehow Russia starts hitting only Isil targets. That’s not happening now. It was never happening. It’s not going to be happening in the next several weeks.’

The Kremlin adviser on the Middle East, like the Joint Chiefs and the DIA, dismisses the ‘moderates’ who have Obama’s support, seeing them as extremist Islamist groups that fight alongside Jabhat al-Nusra and IS (‘There’s no need to play with words and split terrorists into moderate and not moderate,’ Putin said in a speech on 22 October).
The American generals see them as exhausted militias that have been forced to make an accommodation with Jabhat al-Nusra or IS in order to survive. At the end of 2014, Jürgen Todenhöfer, a German journalist who was allowed to spend ten days touring IS-held territory in Iraq and Syria, told CNN that the IS leadership ‘are all laughing about the Free Syrian Army. They don’t take them for serious. They say: “The best arms sellers we have are the FSA. If they get a good weapon, they sell it to us.” They didn’t take them for serious. They take for serious Assad. They take for serious, of course, the bombs. But they fear nothing, and FSA doesn’t play a role.’

Putin’s bombing campaign provoked a series of anti-Russia articles in the American press. On 25 October, the New York Times reported, citing Obama administration officials, that Russian submarines and spy ships were ‘aggressively’ operating near the undersea cables that carry much of the world’s internet traffic – although, as the article went on to acknowledge, there was ‘no evidence yet’ of any Russian attempt actually to interfere with that traffic. Ten days earlier the Times published a summary of Russian intrusions into its former Soviet satellite republics, and described the Russian bombing in Syria as being ‘in some respects a return to the ambitious military moves of the Soviet past’. The report did not note that the Assad administration had invited Russia to intervene, nor did it mention the US bombing raids inside Syria that had been underway since the previous September, without Syria’s approval. An October op-ed in the same paper by Michael McFaul, Obama’s ambassador to Russia between 2012 and 2014, declared that the Russian air campaign was attacking ‘everyone except the Islamic State’. The anti-Russia stories did not abate after the Metrojet disaster, for which Islamic State claimed credit. Few in the US government and media questioned why IS would target a Russian airliner, along with its 224 passengers and crew, if Moscow’s air force was attacking only the Syrian ‘moderates’.


Economic sanctions, meanwhile, are still in effect against Russia for what a large number of Americans consider Putin’s war crimes in Ukraine, as are US Treasury Department sanctions against Syria and against those Americans who do business there. The New York Times, in a report on sanctions in late November, revived an old and groundless assertion, saying that the Treasury’s actions ‘emphasise an argument that the administration has increasingly been making about Mr Assad as it seeks to press Russia to abandon its backing for him: that although he professes to be at war with Islamist terrorists, he has a symbiotic relationship with the Islamic State that has allowed it to thrive while he has clung to power.’

The four core elements of Obama’s Syria policy remain intact today: an insistence that Assad must go; that no anti-IS coalition with Russia is possible; that Turkey is a steadfast ally in the war against terrorism; and that there really are significant moderate opposition forces for the US to support. The Paris attacks on 13 November that killed 130 people did not change the White House’s public stance, although many European leaders, including François Hollande, advocated greater co-operation with Russia and agreed to co-ordinate more closely with its air force; there was also talk of the need to be more flexible about the timing of Assad’s exit from power. On 24 November, Hollande flew to Washington to discuss how France and the US could collaborate more closely in the fight against Islamic State. At a joint press conference at the White House, Obama said he and Hollande had agreed that ‘Russia’s strikes against the moderate opposition only bolster the Assad regime, whose brutality has helped to fuel the rise’ of IS. Hollande didn’t go that far but he said that the diplomatic process in Vienna would ‘lead to Bashar al-Assad’s departure … a government of unity is required.’ The press conference failed to deal with the far more urgent impasse between the two men on the matter of Erdoğan. Obama defended Turkey’s right to defend its borders; Hollande said it was ‘a matter of urgency’ for Turkey to take action against terrorists. The JCS adviser told me that one of Hollande’s main goals in flying to Washington had been to try to persuade Obama to join the EU in a mutual declaration of war against Islamic State. Obama said no. The Europeans had pointedly not gone to Nato, to which Turkey belongs, for such a declaration. ‘Turkey is the problem,’ the JCS adviser said.

Assad, naturally, doesn’t accept that a group of foreign leaders should be deciding on his future. Imad Moustapha, now Syria’s ambassador to China, was dean of the IT faculty at the University of Damascus, and a close aide of Assad’s, when he was appointed in 2004 as the Syrian ambassador to the US, a post he held for seven years. Moustapha is known still to be close to Assad, and can be trusted to reflect what he thinks. He told me that for Assad to surrender power would mean capitulating to ‘armed terrorist groups’ and that ministers in a national unity government – such as was being proposed by the Europeans – would be seen to be beholden to the foreign powers that appointed them. These powers could remind the new president ‘that they could easily replace him as they did before to the predecessor … Assad owes it to his people: he could not leave because the historic enemies of Syria are demanding his departure.’

Moustapha also brought up China, an ally of Assad that has allegedly committed more than $30 billion to postwar reconstruction in Syria. China, too, is worried about Islamic State. ‘China regards the Syrian crisis from three perspectives,’ he said: international law and legitimacy; global strategic positioning; and the activities of jihadist Uighurs, from Xinjiang province in China’s far west. Xinjiang borders eight nations – Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India – and, in China’s view, serves as a funnel for terrorism around the world and within China. Many Uighur fighters now in Syria are known to be members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement – an often violent separatist organisation that seeks to establish an Islamist Uighur state in Xinjiang. ‘The fact that they have been aided by Turkish intelligence to move from China into Syria through Turkey has caused a tremendous amount of tension between the Chinese and Turkish intelligence,’ Moustapha said. ‘China is concerned that the Turkish role of supporting the Uighur fighters in Syria may be extended in the future to support Turkey’s agenda in Xinjiang. We are already providing the Chinese intelligence service with information regarding these terrorists and the routes they crossed from on travelling into Syria.’

Moustapha’s concerns were echoed by a Washington foreign affairs analyst who has closely followed the passage of jihadists through Turkey and into Syria. The analyst, whose views are routinely sought by senior government officials, told me that‘Erdoğan has been bringing Uighurs into Syria by special transport while his government has been agitating in favour of their struggle in China. Uighur and Burmese Muslim terrorists who escape into Thailand somehow get Turkish passports and are then flown to Turkey for transit into Syria.’ He added that there was also what amounted to another ‘rat line’ that was funnelling Uighurs – estimates range from a few hundred to many thousands over the years – from China into Kazakhstan for eventual relay to Turkey, and then to IS territory in Syria. ‘US intelligence,’ he said, ‘is not getting good information about these activities because those insiders who are unhappy with the policy are not talking to them.’ He also said it was ‘not clear’ that the officials responsible for Syrian policy in the State Department and White House ‘get it’. Anthony Davis of IHS-Jane’s Defence Weekly estimated in October that as many as five thousand Uighur would-be fighters have arrived in Turkey since 2013, with perhaps two thousand moving on to Syria. Moustapha said he has information that ‘up to 860 Uighur fighters are currently in Syria.’

China’s growing concern about the Uighur problem and its link to Syria and Islamic State have preoccupied Christina Lin, a scholar who dealt with Chinese issues a decade ago while serving in the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld. ‘I grew up in Taiwan and came to the Pentagon as a critic of China,’ Lin told me. ‘I used to demonise the Chinese as ideologues, and they are not perfect. But over the years as I see them opening up and evolving, I have begun to change my perspective. I see China as a potential partner for various global challenges especially in the Middle East. There are many places – Syria for one – where the United States and China must co-operate in regional security and counterterrorism.’ A few weeks earlier, she said, China and India, Cold War enemies that ‘hated each other more than China and the United States hated each other, conducted a series of joint counterterrorism exercises. And today China and Russia both want to co-operate on terrorism issues with the United States.’ As China sees it, Lin suggests, Uighur militants who have made their way to Syria are being trained by Islamic State in survival techniques intended to aid them on covert return trips to the Chinese mainland, for future terrorist attacks there. ‘If Assad fails,’ Lin wrote in a paper published in September, ‘jihadi fighters from Russia’s Chechnya, China’s Xinjiang and India’s Kashmir will then turn their eyes towards the home front to continue jihad, supported by a new and well-sourced Syrian operating base in the heart of the Middle East.’

General Dempsey and his colleagues on the Joint Chiefs of Staff kept their dissent out of bureaucratic channels, and survived in office. General Michael Flynn did not. ‘Flynn incurred the wrath of the White House by insisting on telling the truth about Syria,’ said Patrick Lang, a retired army colonel who served for nearly a decade as the chief Middle East civilian intelligence officer for the DIA. ‘He thought truth was the best thing and they shoved him out. He wouldn’t shut up.’ Flynn told me his problems went beyond Syria. ‘I was shaking things up at the DIA – and not just moving deckchairs on the Titanic. It was radical reform. I felt that the civilian leadership did not want to hear the truth. I suffered for it, but I’m OK with that.’ In a recent interview in Der Spiegel, Flynn was blunt about Russia’s entry into the Syrian war: ‘We have to work constructively with Russia. Whether we like it or not, Russia made a decision to be there and to act militarily. They are there, and this has dramatically changed the dynamic. So you can’t say Russia is bad; they have to go home. It’s not going to happen. Get real.’

Few in the US Congress share this view. One exception is Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii and member of the House Armed Services Committee who, as a major in the Army National Guard, served two tours in the Middle East. In an interview on CNN in October she said: ‘The US and the CIA should stop this illegal and counterproductive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad and should stay focused on fighting against … the Islamic extremist groups.’

‘Does it not concern you,’ the interviewer asked, ‘that Assad’s regime has been brutal, killing at least 200,000 and maybe 300,000 of his own people?’

‘The things that are being said about Assad right now,’ Gabbard responded, ‘are the same that were said about Gaddafi, they are the same things that were said about Saddam Hussein by those who were advocating for the US to … overthrow those regimes … If it happens here in Syria … we will end up in a situation with far greater suffering, with far greater persecution of religious minorities and Christians in Syria, and our enemy will be far stronger.’

‘So what you are saying,’ the interviewer asked, ‘is that the Russian military involvement in the air and on-the-ground Iranian involvement – they are actually doing the US a favour?’

‘They are working toward defeating our common enemy,’ Gabbard replied.

Gabbard later told me that many of her colleagues in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, have thanked her privately for speaking out. ‘There are a lot of people in the general public, and even in the Congress, who need to have things clearly explained to them,’ Gabbard said. ‘But it’s hard when there’s so much deception about what is going on. The truth is not out.’
It’s unusual for a politician to challenge her party’s foreign policy directly and on the record. For someone on the inside, with access to the most secret intelligence, speaking openly and critically can be a career-ender. Informed dissent can be transmitted by means of a trust relationship between a reporter and those on the inside, but it almost invariably includes no signature. The dissent exists, however. The longtime consultant to the Joint Special Operations Command could not hide his contempt when I asked him for his view of the US’s Syria policy. ‘The solution in Syria is right before our nose,’ he said. ‘Our primary threat is Isis and all of us – the United States, Russia and China – need to work together. Bashar will remain in office and, after the country is stabilised there will be an election. There is no other option.’

The military’s indirect pathway to Assad disappeared with Dempsey’s retirement in September. His replacement as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Joseph Dunford, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in July, two months before assuming office. ‘If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia,’ Dunford said. ‘If you look at their behaviour, it’s nothing short of alarming.’ In October, as chairman, Dunford dismissed the Russian bombing efforts in Syria, telling the same committee that Russia ‘is not fighting’ IS. He added that America must ‘work with Turkish partners to secure the northern border of Syria’ and ‘do all we can to enable vetted Syrian opposition forces’ – i.e. the ‘moderates’ – to fight the extremists.


Obama now has a more compliant Pentagon. There will be no more indirect challenges from the military leadership to his policy of disdain for Assad and support for Erdoğan. Dempsey and his associates remain mystified by Obama’s continued public defence of Erdoğan, given the American intelligence community’s strong case against him – and the evidence that Obama, in private, accepts that case. ‘We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria,’ the president told Erdoğan’s intelligence chief at a tense meeting at the White House (as I reported in the LRB of 17 April 2014). The Joint Chiefs and the DIA were constantly telling Washington’s leadership of the jihadist threat in Syria, and of Turkey’s support for it. The message was never listened to. Why not?

–––––––––––

The author

Seymour M. Hersh. – lapresse.caSeymour Myron “Sy” Hersh (born April 8, 1937) is an American investigative journalist and political writer based in Washington, D.C. He is a contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters. He has also won two National Magazine Awards and is a five-time Polk winner and recipient of the 2004 George Orwell Award.[5]

He first gained recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War, for which he received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. In 2004 he reported on the US military‘s mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. / The Indicter source: Wikipedia. Seymour M. Hersh photo at presse.ca
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 18761
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Military to Military: Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligenc

Postby admin » Tue Nov 08, 2016 12:45 am

US military leadership resisted Obama's bid for regime change in Syria, Libya
by Gareth Porter
4 January 2016

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Bureaucratic self-interest trumped US military’s conviction that American security is being endangered by Obama’s policy of regime change

Seymour Hersh’s recent revelations about an effort by the US military leadership in 2013 to bolster the Syrian army against jihadist forces in Syria shed important new light on the internal bureaucratic politics surrounding regime change in US Middle East policy. Hersh’s account makes it clear that the Obama administration’s policy of regime change in both Libya and Syria provoked pushback from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

That account and another report on a similar episode in 2011 suggest that the US military has a range of means by which it can oppose administration policies that it regards as unacceptable. But it also shows that the military leadership failed to alter the course of US policy, and raises the question whether it was willing to use all the means available to stop the funnelling of arms to al-Nusra Front and other extremist groups in Syria.

Hersh details a JCS initiative in the summer of 2013 to share intelligence on Islamic State and al-Qaeda organisations with other German, Russian and Israeli militaries, in the belief that the information would find its way to the Syrian army. Hersh reports that the military leadership did not inform the White House and the State Department about the “military to military” intelligence sharing on the jihadist forces in Syria, reflecting the hardball bureaucratic politics practised within the national security institutions.

The 2013 initiative approved by the chairman of the JCS, General Martin Dempsey, was not the first active effort by the US military to mitigate Obama administration regime change policies. In 2011, the JCS had been strongly opposed to the effort to depose the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya led by then secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

When the Obama administration began its effort to overthrow Gaddafi, it did not call publicly for regime change and instead asserted that it was merely seeking to avert mass killings that administration officials had suggested might approach genocidal levels. But the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which had been given the lead role in assessing the situation in Libya, found no evidence to support such fears and concluded that it was based on nothing more than “speculative arguments”.

The JCS warned that overthrowing the Gaddafi regime would serve no US security interest, but would instead open the way for forces aligned with al-Qaeda to take over the country. After the Obama administration went ahead with a NATO air assault against the Gaddafi regime the US military sought to head off the destruction of the entire Libyan government. General Carter Ham, the commander of AFRICOM, the US regional command for Africa gave the State Department a proposal for a ceasefire to which Gaddafi had agreed. It would have resulted in Gaddafi’s resignation but retain the Libyan military’s capacity to hold off jihadist forces and rescind the sanctions against Gaddafi’s family.

But the State Department refused any negotiation with Gaddafi on the proposal. Immediately after hearing that Gaddafi had been captured by rebel forces and killed, Clinton famously joked in a television interview, “We came, we saw, he died” and laughed.

By then the administration was already embarked on yet another regime change policy in Syria. Although Clinton led the public advocacy of the policy, then CIA director David Petraeus, who had taken over the agency in early September 2011, was a major ally. He immediately began working on a major covert operation to arm rebel forces in Syria. The CIA operation used ostensibly independent companies in Libya to ship arms from Libyan government warehouses to Syria and southern Turkey. These were then distributed in consultation with the United States through networks run by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The plan went into operation within days of Gaddafi’s death on October 20, 2011 just before NATO officially ended its operation at the end of that month, as the DIA later reported to the JCS.

But the result of the operation was to accelerate the dominance of al-Qaeda and their Islamist allies. The Turks, Qataris and Saudis were funnelling arms to al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al-Nusra Front or other closely related extremist groups. That should not have surprised the Obama administration. The same thing had happened in Libya in spring 2011 after the Obama administration had endorsed a Qatari plan to send arms to Libyan rebels. The White House had quickly learned that the Qataris had sent the arms to the most extremist elements in the Libyan opposition.

The original Petraeus covert operation ended with the torching of the US consulate in Benghazi in September 2012 in which Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed. It was superseded by a new programme under which Qatar and Saudi Arabia financed the transfer of weapons from other sources that were supposed to be distributed in cooperation with CIA officials at a base in southern Turkey. But “thousands of tons of weapons” were still going to groups fighting alongside the jihadists or who actually joined them as Vice-President Joe Biden revealed in 2014.

By spring 2013, al-Nusra Front and its Islamic extremist allies were already in control of wide areas in the north and in the Damascus suburbs. The Islamic State had separated from al-Nusra Front and established its own territory south of the Turkish border. The secular armed opposition had ceased to exist as a significant force. The “Free Syrian Army”, the nominal command of those forces, was actually a fiction within Syria, as was reported by specialists on the Syrian conflict. But despite the absence of a real “moderate opposition”, the Obama administration continued to support the flood of arms to the forces fighting to overthrow Assad.

In mid-2013, as Hersh recounts, the DIA issued an intelligence assessment warning that the administration’s regime change policy might well result in a repeat of what was already happening in Libya: chaos and jihadist domination. The JCS also pulled off a clever manoeuvre to ensure that the jihadists and their allies were getting only obsolete weapons. A JCS representative convinced the CIA to obtain much cheaper arms from Turkish stocks controlled by officials sympathetic to the CIA’s viewpoint on Syria.

But the JCS failed to alter the administration’s policy of continuing to support the flow of arms into Syria. Did the military leadership really use all of its leverage to oppose the policy?

In 2013, some officials on the US National Security Council staff pushed for a relatively modest form of pressure on Qatar to get it to back off its continued supply of arms to extremists, including al-Nusra Front, by pulling out a US fighter squadron from the US air base at al-Udeid in Qatar. But as the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, the Pentagon, obviously reflecting the JCS position, vetoed the proposal, arguing that the forward headquarters of the Central Command at the airbase was “vital” to US operations in the Middle East.

The political implications of the episode are clear: bureaucratic self-interest trumped the military’s conviction that US security is being endangered. No matter how strongly the JCS may have felt about the recklessness of administration policy, they were not prepared to sacrifice their access to military bases in Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Turkey to pressure their Middle Eastern allies.

- Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Defence Secretary Ashton Carter (L) and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford Jr. prepares to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the US military strategy in the Middle East on 27 October, 2015 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC (AGP).
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 18761
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Military to Military: Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligenc

Postby admin » Tue Nov 08, 2016 12:53 am

Secret tapes undermine Hillary Clinton on Libyan war: Joint Chiefs, key lawmaker held own talks with Moammar Gadhafi regime
by Jeffrey Scott Shapiro and Kelly Riddell
The Washington Times
January 28, 2015

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


First of three parts

Top Pentagon officials and a senior Democrat in Congress so distrusted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2011 march to war in Libya that they opened their own diplomatic channels with the Gadhafi regime in an effort to halt the escalating crisis, according to secret audio recordings recovered from Tripoli.

The tapes, reviewed by The Washington Times and authenticated by the participants, chronicle U.S. officials’ unfiltered conversations with Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s son and a top Libyan leader, including criticisms that Mrs. Clinton had developed tunnel vision and led the U.S. into an unnecessary war without adequately weighing the intelligence community’s concerns.

“You should see these internal State Department reports that are produced in the State Department that go out to the Congress. They’re just full of stupid, stupid facts,” an American intermediary specifically dispatched by the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Gadhafi regime in July 2011, saying the State Department was controlling what intelligence would be reported to U.S. officials.


At the time, the Gadhafi regime was fighting a civil war that grew out of the Arab Spring, battling Islamist-backed rebels who wanted to dethrone the longtime dictator. Mrs. Clinton argued that Gadhafi might engage in genocide and create a humanitarian crisis and ultimately persuaded President Obama, NATO allies and the United Nations to authorize military intervention.

Gadhafi’s son and heir apparent, Seif Gadhafi, told American officials in the secret conversations that he was worried Mrs. Clinton was using false pretenses to justify unseating his father and insisted that the regime had no intention of harming a mass of civilians. He compared Mrs. Clinton’s campaign for war to that of the George W. Bush administration’s now debunked weapons of mass destruction accusations, which were used to lobby Congress to invade Iraq, the tapes show.

“It was like the WMDs in Iraq. It was based on a false report,” Gadhafi said in a May 2011 phone call to Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat serving at the time. “Libyan airplanes bombing demonstrators, Libyan airplanes bombing districts in Tripoli, Libyan army killed thousands, etc., etc., and now the whole world found there is no single evidence that such things happened in Libya.”

Seif Gadhafi also warned that many of the U.S.-supported armed rebels were “not freedom fighters” but rather jihadists whom he described as “gangsters and terrorists.”


“And now you have NATO supporting them with ships, with airplanes, helicopters, arms, training, communication,” he said in one recorded conversation with U.S. officials. “We ask the American government send a fact-finding mission to Libya. I want you to see everything with your own eyes.”

The surreptitiously taped conversations reveal an extraordinary departure from traditional policy, in which the U.S. government speaks to foreign governments with one voice coordinated by the State Department.

Instead, the tapes show that the Pentagon’s senior uniformed leadership and a congressman from Mrs. Clinton’s own party conveyed sentiments to the Libyan regime that undercut or conflicted with the secretary of state’s own message at the time.

“If this story is true, it would be highly unusual for the Pentagon to conduct a separate set of diplomatic negotiations, given the way we operated when I was secretary of state,” James A. Baker III, who served under President George H.W. Bush, told The Times. “In our administration, the president made sure that we all sang from the same hymnal.”

Mr. Kucinich, who challenged Mrs. Clinton and Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, acknowledged that he undertook his own conversations with the Gadhafi regime. He said he feared Mrs. Clinton was using emotion to sell a war against Libya that wasn’t warranted, and he wanted to get all the information he could to share with his congressional colleagues.

“I had facts that indicated America was headed once again into an intervention that was going to be disastrous,” Mr. Kucinich told The Times. “What was being said at the State Department — if you look at the charge at the time — it wasn’t so much about what happened as it was about what would happen. So there was a distortion of events that were occurring in Libya to justify an intervention which was essentially wrong and illegal.”

Mr. Kucinich wrote a letter to Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton in August explaining his communications in a last-ditch effort to stop the war.

“I have been contacted by an intermediary in Libya who has indicated that President Muammar Gadhafi is willing to negotiate an end to the conflict under conditions which would seem to favor Administration policy,” Mr. Kucinich wrote on Aug. 24.

Neither the White House nor the State Department responded to his letter, he said.


A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton declined to provide any comment about the recordings.

The State Department also declined to answer questions about separate contacts from the Pentagon and Mr. Kucinich with the Gadhafi regime, but said the goal of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama was regime change in Libya.

“U.S. policy during the revolution supported regime change through peaceful means, in line with UNSCR 1973 policy and NATO mission goals,” the State Department said. “We consistently emphasized at the time that Moammar Gadhafi had to step down and leave Libya as an essential component of the transition.”

‘President is not getting accurate information’

Both inside and outside the Obama administration, Mrs. Clinton was among the most vocal early proponents of using U.S. military force to unseat Gadhafi. Joining her in making the case were French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and her successor as secretary of state, John F. Kerry.

Mrs. Clinton’s main argument was that Gadhafi was about to engage in a genocide against civilians in Benghazi, where the rebels held their center of power. But defense intelligence officials could not corroborate those concerns and in fact assessed that Gadhafi was unlikely to risk world outrage by inflicting mass casualties, officials told The Times. As a result, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, strongly opposed Mrs. Clinton’s recommendation to use force.

In July 2013, the Joint Chiefs found a more direct way of demonstrating to Assad how serious they were about helping him. By then the CIA-sponsored secret flow of arms from Libya to the Syrian opposition, via Turkey, had been underway for more than a year (it started sometime after Gaddafi’s death on 20 October 2011).​ The operation was largely run out of a covert CIA annex in Benghazi, with State Department acquiescence. On 11 September 2012 the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed during an anti-American demonstration that led to the burning down of the US consulate in Benghazi; reporters for the Washington Post found copies of the ambassador’s schedule in the building’s ruins. It showed that on 10 September Stevens had met with the chief of the CIA’s annex operation. The next day, shortly before he died, he met a representative from Al-Marfa Shipping and Maritime Services, a Tripoli-based company which, the JCS adviser said, was known by the Joint Staff to be handling the weapons shipments.

-- Military to Military – Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligence sharing in the Syrian war, by London Review of Books


If Mrs. Clinton runs for president next year, her style of leadership as it relates to foreign policy will be viewed through the one war that she personally championed as secretary of state. Among the key questions every candidate faces is how they will assess U.S. intelligence and solicit the advice of the military leadership.

Numerous U.S. officials interviewed by The Times confirmed that Mrs. Clinton, and not Mr. Obama, led the charge to use NATO military force to unseat Gadhafi as Libya’s leader and that she repeatedly dismissed the warnings offered by career military and intelligence officials.

In the recovered recordings, a U.S. intelligence liaison working for the Pentagon told a Gadhafi aide that Mr. Obama privately informed members of Congress that Libya “is all Secretary Clinton’s matter” and that the nation’s highest-ranking generals were concerned that the president was being misinformed.

The Pentagon liaison indicated on the tapes that Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., a top aide to Adm. Mullen, “does not trust the reports that are coming out of the State Department and CIA, but there’s nothing he can do about it.”

In one conversation to the Libyans, the American intelligence asset said, “I can tell you that the president is not getting accurate information, so at some point someone has to get accurate information to him. I think about a way through former Secretary Gates or maybe to Adm. Mullen to get him information.” The recordings are consistent with what many high-ranking intelligence, military and academic sources told The Times:

Mrs. Clinton was headstrong to enter the Libyan crisis, ignoring the Pentagon’s warnings that no U.S. interests were at stake and regional stability could be threatened. Instead, she relied heavily on the assurances of the Libyan rebels and her own memory of Rwanda, where U.S. inaction may have led to the genocide of at least 500,000 people.

“Neither the intervention decision nor the regime change decision was an intelligence-heavy decision,” said one senior intelligence official directly involved with the administration’s decision-making, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “People weren’t on the edge of their seats, intelligence wasn’t driving the decision one way or another.”

Instead of relying on the Defense Department or the intelligence community for analysis, officials told The Times, the White House trusted Mrs. Clinton’s charge, which was then supported by Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice and National Security Council member Samantha Power, as reason enough for war.

“Susan Rice was involved in the Rwanda crisis in 1994, Samantha Power wrote very moving books about what happened in Rwanda, and Hillary Clinton was also in the background of that crisis as well,” said Allen Lynch, a professor of international relations at the University of Virginia. “I think they have all carried this with them as a kind of guilt complex.”

Humanitarian crisis was not imminent

In 2003, Gadhafi agreed to dismantle his weapons of mass destruction and denounce terrorism to re-establish relations with the West. He later made reparations to the families of those who died in the bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

News media frequently described the apparent transformation as Libya “coming in from the cold.”

Still, he ruled Libya with an iron grip, and by February 2011 civil war raged throughout the country. Loyalist forces mobilized tanks and troops toward Benghazi, creating a panicked mass exodus of civilians toward Egypt.

Mrs. Clinton met with Libyan rebel spokesman Mahmoud Jibril in the Paris Westin hotel in mid-March so she could vet the rebel cause to unseat Gadhafi. Forty-five minutes after speaking with Mr. Jibril, Mrs. Clinton was convinced that a military intervention was needed.

“I talked extensively about the dreams of a democratic civil state where all Libyans are equal a political participatory system with no exclusions of any Libyans, even the followers of Gadhafi who did not commit crimes against the Libyan people, and how the international community should protect civilians from a possible genocide like the one [that] took place in Rwanda,” Mr. Jibril told The Times. “I felt by the end of the meeting, I passed the test. Benghazi was saved.”

So on March 17, 2011, the U.S. supported U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 for military intervention in Libya to help protect its people from Gadhafi’s forthcoming march on Benghazi, where he threatened he would “show no mercy” to resisters.

“In this particular country — Libya — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale,” Mr. Obama declared in an address to the nation on March 28. “We had a unique ability to stop that violence: An international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves.”

Yet Human Rights Watch did not see the humanitarian crisis as imminent.

“At that point, we did not see the imminence of massacres that would rise to genocidelike levels,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division for Human Rights Watch. “Gadhafi’s forces killed hundreds of overwhelmingly unarmed protesters. There were threats of Libyan forces approaching Benghazi, but we didn’t feel that rose to the level of imminent genocidelike atrocities.”


Instead, she said, the U.S. government was trying to be at the forefront of the Arab Spring, when many dictator-led countries were turning to democracy.

“I think the dynamic for the U.S. government was: Things are changing fast, Tunisia has fallen, Egypt has fallen, and we’d better be on the front of this, supporting a new government and not being seen as supporting the old government,” Ms. Whitson said.

Clinton blocks Gadhafi outreach

On the day the U.N. resolution was passed, Mrs. Clinton ordered a general within the Pentagon to refuse to take a call with Gadhafi’s son Seif and other high-level members within the regime, to help negotiate a resolution, the secret recordings reveal.

A day later, on March 18, Gadhafi called for a cease-fire, another action the administration dismissed.
Soon, a call was set up between the former U.S. ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, and Gadhafi confidant Mohammed Ismael during which Mr. Ismael confirmed that the regime’s highest-ranking generals were under orders not to fire upon protesters.

“I told him we were not targeting civilians and Seif told him that,” Mr. Ismael told The Times in an telephone interview this month, recounting the fateful conversation.

While Mrs. Clinton urged the Pentagon to cease its communications with the Gadhafi regime, the intelligence asset working with the Joint Chiefs remained in contact for months afterward.

“Everything I am getting from the State Department is that they do not care about being part of this. Secretary Clinton does not want to negotiate at all,” the Pentagon intelligence asset told Seif Gadhafi and his adviser on the recordings.

Communication was so torn between the Libyan regime and the State Department that they had no point of contact within the department to even communicate whether they were willing to accept the U.N.’s mandates, former Libyan officials said.

Mrs. Clinton eventually named Mr. Cretz as the official U.S. point of contact for the Gadhafi regime. Mr. Cretz, the former ambassador to Libya, was removed from the country in 2010 amid Libyan anger over derogatory comments he made regarding Gadhafi released by Wikileaks. As a result, Mr. Cretz was not trusted or liked by the family.

Shutting the Gadhafis out of the conversation allowed Mrs. Clinton to pursue a solitary point of view, said a senior Pentagon official directly involved with the intervention.

“The decision to invade [Libya] had already been made, so everything coming out of the State Department at that time was to reinforce that decision,” the official explained, speaking only on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.


As a result, the Pentagon went its own way and established communications with Seif Gadhafi through one of his friends, a U.S. businessman, who acted as an intermediary. The goal was to identify a clear path and strategy forward in Libya — something that wasn’t articulated by the White House or State Department at the time, officials said.

“Our big thing was: ‘What’s a good way out of this, what’s a bridge to post-Gadhafi conflict once the military stops and the civilians take over, what’s it going to look like?’” said a senior military official involved in the planning, who requested anonymity. “We had a hard time coming up with that because once again nobody knew what the lay of the clans and stuff was going to be.

“The impression we got from both the businessman and from Seif was that the situation is bad, but this [NATO intervention] is even worse,” the official said, confirming the sentiments expressed on the audio recordings. “All of these things don’t have to happen this way, and it will be better for Libya in the long run both economically and politically if they didn’t.”

Pentagon looks for a way out

The Pentagon wasn’t alone in questioning the intervention.

The week the U.N. resolution authorizing military force was passed, Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, expressed his own concerns.

“We have a military operation that’s been put to play, but we do not have a clear diplomatic policy or clear statement of foreign policy. We know we don’t like the Gadhafi regime, but we do not have a picture of who the opposition movement really is. We got a vote from the Security Council but we had five key abstentions in that vote.”

Five of the 15 countries on the U.N. Security Council abstained from voting on the decision in Libya because they had concerns that the NATO intervention would make things worse. Mrs. Clinton worked to avoid having them exercise their veto by personally calling representatives from Security Council member states.

Germany and Brazil published statements on March 18, 2011, explaining their reasons for abstention.

“We weighed the risks of a military operation as a whole, not just for Libya but, of course, also with respect to the consequences for the entire region and that is why we abstained,” Germany said.
Brazil wrote, “We are not convinced that the use of force as contemplated in the present resolution will lead to the realization of our most important objective — the immediate end of violence and the protection of civilians.

We are also concerned that such measures may have the unintended effect of exacerbating tensions on the ground and causing more harm than good to the very same civilians we are committed to protecting.”

Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., told The Times that history has proved those concerns correct.

“The U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya was meant to create a no-fly zone to prevent bombing of civilians,” said Mr. Kislyak. “NATO countries that participated in this intervention were supposed to patrol the area. However, in a short amount of time the NATO flights — initially meant to stop violence on the ground — went far beyond the scope of the Security Council-mandated task and created even more violence in Libya.”

On March 19, the U.S. military, supported by France and Britain, fired off more than 110 Tomahawk missiles, hitting about 20 Libyan air and missile defense targets. Within weeks, a NATO airstrike killed one of Gaddafi’s sons and three grandsons at the family’s Tripoli compound, sparking debate about whether the colonel and his family were legitimate targets under the U.N. resolution.


Mr. Gates, the defense secretary, said the compound was targeted because it included command-and-control facilities.

Even after the conflict began, U.S. military leaders kept looking for a way out and a way to avoid the power vacuum that would be left in the region if Gadhafi fell.

As the intelligence asset working with the Joint Chiefs kept his contacts going, one U.S. general made an attempt to negotiate directly with his Libyan military counterparts, according to interviews conducted by The Times with officials directly familiar with the overture.

Army Gen. Carter Ham, the head of the U.S. African Command, sought to set up a 72-hour truce with the regime, according to an intermediary called in to help.

Retired Navy Rear Adm. Charles Kubic, who was acting as a business consultant in Libya at the time, said he was approached by senior Libyan military leaders to propose the truce. He took the plan to Lt. Col. Brian Linvill, the U.S. AFRICOM point of contact for Libya. Col. Linvill passed the proposal to Gen. Ham, who agreed to participate.

“The Libyans would stop all combat operations and withdraw all military forces to the outskirts of the cities and assume a defensive posture. Then to insure the credibility with the international community, the Libyans would accept recipients from the African Union to make sure the truce was honored,” Mr. Kubic said, describing the offers.

“[Gadhafi] came back and said he was willing to step down and permit a transition government, but he had two conditions,” Mr. Kubic said. “First was to insure there was a military force left over after he left Libya capable to go after al Qaeda. Secondly, he wanted to have the sanctions against him and his family and those loyal to him lifted and free passage. At that point in time, everybody thought that was reasonable.”

But not the State Department.

Gen. Ham was ordered to stand down two days after the negotiation began, Mr. Kubic said. The orders were given at the behest of the State Department
, according to those familiar with the plan in the Pentagon. Gen. Ham declined to comment when questioned by The Times.

“If their goal was to get Gadhafi out of power, then why not give a 72-hour truce a try?” Mr. Kubic asked. “It wasn’t enough to get him out of power; they wanted him dead.”

Libyan officials were willing to negotiate a departure from power but felt the continued NATO bombings were forcing the regime into combat to defend itself, the recordings indicated.

“If they put us in a corner, we have no choice but to fight until the end,” Mr. Ismael said on one of the recordings. “What more can they do? Bomb us with a nuclear bomb? They have done everything.”

Under immense foreign firepower, the Gadhafi regime’s grip on Libya began to slip in early April and the rebels’ resolve was strengthened. Gadhafi pleaded with the U.S. to stop the NATO airstrikes.

Regime change real agenda

Indeed, the U.S. position in Libya had changed. First, it was presented to the public as way to stop an impending humanitarian crisis but evolved into expelling the Gadhafis.

CIA Director Leon E. Panetta says in his book “Worthy Fights” that the goal of the Libyan conflict was for regime change. Mr. Panetta wrote that at the end of his first week as secretary of defense in July 2011, he visited Iraq and Afghanistan “for both substance and symbolism.”

“In Afghanistan I misstated our position on how fast we’d be bringing troops home, and I said what everyone in Washington knew, but we couldn’t officially acknowledge: That our goal in Libya was regime change.”

But that wasn’t the official war cry.

Instead: “It was ‘We’re worried a humanitarian crisis might occur,’” said a senior military official, reflecting on the conflict. “Once you’ve got everybody nodding up and down on that, watch out because you can justify almost anything under the auspices of working to prevent a humanitarian crisis.
Gadhafi had enough craziness about him, the rest of the world nodded on.”

But they might not be so quick to approve again, officials say.

“It may be impossible to get the same kind of resolution in similar circumstances, and we already saw that in Syria where the Russians were very suspicious when Western powers went to the U.N.,” said Richard Northern, who served as the British ambassador to Libya during part of the conflict. “Anything the Western powers did in the Middle East is now viewed by the Russians with suspicion, and it will probably reduce the level of authority they’re willing to give in connection to humanitarian crises.”

Mr. Kucinich, who took several steps to end the war in Libya, said he is sickened about what transpired.

He sponsored a June 3 resolution in the House of Representatives to end the Libyan war, but Republican support for the bill was diluted after Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, proposed a softer alternative resolution demanding that the president justify his case for war within 14 days.

“There was a distortion of events that were occurring in Libya to justify an intervention which was essentially wrong and illegal because [the administration] gained the support of the U.N. Security Council through misrepresentation,” said Mr. Kucinich. “The die was cast there for the overthrow of the Gadhafi government. The die was cast. They weren’t looking for any information.

“What’s interesting about all this is, if you listen to Seif Gaddafi’s account, even as they were being bombed they still trusted America, which really says a lot,” said Mr. Kucinich. “It says a lot about how people who are being bombed through the covert involvement or backdoor involvement of the U.S. will still trust the U.S. It’s heart-breaking, really. It really breaks your heart when you see trust that is so cynically manipulated.”


In August, Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli was overrun, signaling the end of his 42-year reign and forcing him into hiding. Two months later, Gadhafi, 69, was killed in his hometown of Sirte. His son Seif was captured by the Zintan tribe and remains in solitary confinement in a Zintan prison cell.

ONE of Britain’s top human rights lawyers who represented Julian Assange and war criminals has died in an apparent suicide.

Married dad of two John Jones QC, 48, who worked alongside Hollywood actor George Clooney’s wife Amal, passed away on Monday.

He acted for Wikileaks founder Assange, 44, holed-up for four years in the Ecuador Embassy in London, when the Swedish government initially tried to extradite him for questioning on rape charges.

Mr Jones and Amal, colleagues at renowned civil rights legal firm Doughty Street in central London, were currently trying to save the lives of Colonel Gaddafi’s son Saif and Libyan spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi.

-- Britain’s top human rights lawyer who represented Julian Assange and worked alongside George Clooney’s wife Amal dies in apparent suicide, by Neil Syson


Since Gadhafi was removed from power, Libya has been in a constant state of chaos, with factional infighting and no uniting leader. On Tuesday, an attack on a luxury hotel in Tripoli killed nine people, including one American. A group calling itself the Islamic State-Tripoli Province took responsibility for the attack, indicating a growing presence of anti-American terrorist groups within the country.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 18761
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Military to Military: Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligenc

Postby admin » Tue Nov 08, 2016 1:58 am

Hillary Clinton’s ‘WMD’ moment: U.S. intelligence saw false narrative in Libya
by Kelly Riddell and Jeffrey Scott Shapiro
The Washington Times
January 29, 2015

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Second of three parts

The intelligence community gathered no specific evidence of an impending genocide in Libya in spring 2011, undercutting Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s primary argument for using the U.S. military to remove Col. Moammar Gadhafi from power, an event that has left his country in chaos, according to officials with direct knowledge of the dispute.

Defense officials, speaking in detail for the first time about their assessments of the Libyan civil war four years ago, told The Washington Times that Mrs. Clinton’s strong advocacy for intervention against the Libyan regime rested more on speculative arguments of what might happen to civilians than on facts reported from the ground.

The Defense Intelligence Agency ran the Libya intelligence operation.

“It was an intelligence-light decision,” said one senior U.S. intelligence official directly familiar with the Libyan matter, who spoke to The Washington Times only on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The official’s sentiments were echoed by nearly a dozen other key players inside the intelligence and military communities who described to The Times a frustrating period during which the concerns of senior military leaders, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, were repeatedly cast aside.

Speculative arguments often trumped reporting from the ground, the officials added.

The intelligence community wasn’t the only one concerned that Mrs. Clinton was selling the war on exaggerated pretenses.

In secretly tape-recorded conversations, an emissary sent by the Pentagon and Democratic Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich openly discussed with Gadhafi regime officials in 2011 concerns that there was a false narrative being used to sell the war, The Washington Times reported Thursday.

In one pointed conversation, the officials suggested Mrs. Clinton was engaging in the same misleading tactics as the George W. Bush administration when it went to war with Iraq in 2003 claiming the country had large stocks weapons of mass destruction, a claim that proved to be inaccurate.

“It was like the WMDs in Iraq. It was based on a false report,” Seif Gadhafi, the son of the Libyan leader, said in a May 2011 phone call with Mr. Kucinich. “Libyan airplanes bombing demonstrators, Libyan airplanes bombing districts in Tripoli, Libyan army killed thousands, etc., etc., and now the whole world found there is no single evidence that such things happened in Libya.”

The gap between Mrs. Clinton’s rhetoric warning of a Rwanda-like slaughter of civilians in Libya and the facts gathered by career intelligence staff is taking on significance as the former secretary of state prepares another bid for the White House and her national security credentials are re-examined.

Predictions of genocide

When the Arab Spring fervor touched off a civil war in Libya in early 2011, U.S. officials were caught off guard. The CIA had little information about the rebels leading the fight, the Libyans who set up an interim government or Gadhafi’s own intentions in repressing the rebellion, officials said.

In fact, intelligence agencies didn’t even have a good estimate of how many civilians were living in Benghazi, which was expected to be the conflict’s flashpoint, officials told The Times.

The DIA was put into the lead role for assessing the situation, and a separate working group within the Pentagon’s joint chiefs quickly gathered valuable insights from an American asset who was in direct contact with the Gadhafi regime, including the leader’s son Seif and Mohammad Ismael, Seif Gadhafi’s chief of staff.

Soon, however, the information being gathered by the intelligence community was at loggerheads with claims of the main supporters for war with Libya, which included French President Nicolas Sarkozy; Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat; and three powerful women close to President Obama: Mrs. Clinton; Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and adviser Samantha Powers.

Mrs. Clinton ultimately became the most powerful advocate for using U.S. military force to dethrone Gadhafi, both in her closed-door meetings with Mr. Obama, who ultimately made the decision, and in public with allies and the news media.

Her argument was best summed up in comments she made in March 2011, when she warned that Gadhafi was on the cusp of a genocide against civilians in Benghazi on par with those in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s when her husband, Bill, was president.

“Imagine we were sitting here and Benghazi had been overrun, a city of 700,000 people, and tens of thousands of people had been slaughtered, hundreds of thousands had fled either with nowhere to go, or overwhelming Egypt while it’s in its own difficult transition,” Mrs. Clinton told ABC News on March 27 after the U.S. signed off on a U.N. resolution granting military intervention.

If “we were sitting here, the cries would be, ‘Why did the United States not do anything?’” she predicted.

Few objective indicators

The intelligence community had few facts to back up Mrs. Clinton’s audacious predictions, officials told The Times.

In fact, the Pentagon’s judgment was that Gadhafi was unlikely to risk world outrage by inflicting large civilian casualties as he cracked down on the rebels based in Benghazi, the officials said.

The specific intelligence was that Gadhafi had sent a relatively small — by Western standards — cadre of about 2,000 troops armed with 12 tanks to target armed rebels in Benghazi. Ground intelligence indicated that the Gadhafi forces were defeating the rebels, killing about 400 and wounding many more.

In comparison, 10,000 people have been killed at the hands of Boko Haram in Nigeria in the past year alone. Estimates of the number of people killed in Rwanda, mostly Tutsi civilians, range from 500,000 to 1 million over a 100-day period. The Bosnia war lasted, at varying levels of intensity, for three years and claimed at least 100,000 lives, with some estimates reaching 200,000.


Some accounts said the Libyan forces were attacking unarmed protesters, but no genocide was reported, the officials said. There was strong evidence that most civilians fled Benghazi ahead of the expected battle, officials said.

Furthermore, defense officials had direct information from their intelligence asset in contact with the regime that Gadhafi gave specific orders not to attack civilians and to narrowly focus the war on the armed rebels, according to the asset, who survived the war.

All spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity but confirmed Col. Gadhafi’s order.

Defense officials said the Gadhafi forces were serious about routing the uprising and that some collateral damage to civilians remained possible, though they were unable to give the White House specifics. No intelligence suggested that a genocide was imminent, the officials said.

“Gadhafi was serious, but I wouldn’t classify it as Rwanda,” said an unidentified defense official close to the intelligence available at the time.

Political issue

Mrs. Clinton is keeping mum these days about Libya as she mulls a run for president, in part because the subsequent assault on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi by an Islamist militia and her reaction to the incident have come under harsh criticism.

Along with other administration officials, Mrs. Clinton falsely blamed that attack, which killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, on an anti-Islam video. She also famously asked, “What difference does it make” whether the attack was planned terrorism or a spontaneous protest as she had claimed.

Her official representative declined to comment for this report.

The State Department confirmed that its primary goal in 2011 was regime change, meaning ousting Gadhafi from power. But it deferred comment to Mrs. Clinton about the specifics on intelligence and her own public statements.

Mr. Kerry, who succeeded Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state, backed the Libya intervention with similar language. He told The New York Times that “the memory of Rwanda, alongside Iraq in ‘91, made it clear that the United States needed to act but needed international support.”

With the benefit of hindsight, diplomatic analysts frown on such comparisons to Rwanda and say the rhetoric in 2011 was simply overstated.

“We are prone to think in terms of analogies, and the analogy in Rwanda was one that administration officials like Hillary Clinton and others used, and I think it was an inappropriate analogy because you cannot say Libya was Rwanda,” said Paul Miller, who served as an adviser on security matters for Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush.

“[Libya] was a war between an autocratic government and a bunch of tribes, and amidst that kind of war there will be a humanitarian crisis, there will be innocent people killed. But that is very different than a straight genocide against a group,” Mr. Miller said.

The notion that a genocide was imminent was rooted in Gadhafi’s Feb. 22, 2011, speech in which he pledged to “sanitize Libya an inch at a time” and “clear them of these rats.”


Civilian deaths vs. genocide

Supporters of the intervention argued that Gadhafi’s use of the words “rats” and “cleans” resembled the genocidal language used by Hutu leaders and militias in Rwanda in 1994. Rwandan radio was calling on Hutus to “cut down the tall trees” and “crush the cockroaches.”

A month later, Gadhafi delivered another speech in which he made it clear that only those standing against him with arms would face reprisal.

“If you read [Gadhafi’s comments] closely, they were clearly directed only at the rebels who were going to stand and fight,” said Alan Kuperman, a public policy professor at the University of Texas who composed an exhaustive study on the Libyan civil war.

“If you threw down your weapons, you were considered harmless. If you ran away, you were considered harmless. And if you were just a civilian, you were considered harmless,” Mr. Kuperman said. “Rebels were going to be targeted, and those were the ‘rats’ he was talking about.”


Human rights groups offered a similar assessment. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, both of which were tracking the crisis before the U.S. intervention, said there was no way to determine that spring whether Benghazi would develop into a Rwanda-type crisis.

“We can’t definitively predict whether the State Department’s claims of an impending crisis on the scale of the Rwanda genocide would have come to pass,” Robyn Shepherd, a spokeswoman at Amnesty International, said in an email statement. “What we can confirm is that Libyan forces were committing serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

Amnesty recorded acts in which Gadhafi’s regime “deliberately killed and injured scores of unarmed protesters” and “launched indiscriminate attacks and attacks targeting civilians in their efforts to regain control of Misrata and territory in the east.”

But academics argued that such acts were not unusual coming from a dictator trying to defend his throne in the midst of a civil war.

“I never came across any evidence that indicated intention or actions consistent with an imminent bloodbath,” said Mr. Kuperman. “I found nothing in terms of reports on troop movements, nothing in terms of threats from his regime or actions anywhere else.”

Mrs. Clinton’s defenders could argue that Americans will never know whether a genocide would have occurred because the U.S. did the right thing and intervened before it could happen. They also are certain to note that the final decision rested not with Mrs. Clinton but with Mr. Obama.

Paul: ‘Hillary’s War’

What is not in dispute is that the intelligence community’s assessment and the military leadership’s concerns were not given full credence, and that almost certainly will provide fodder to Mrs. Clinton’s critics to attack her leadership style.

“I think there was a rush headlong toward war in Libya and [the State Department and the administration] weren’t listening to anyone saying anything otherwise, including the Defense Department and intelligence communities, who were saying, ‘Hold on a minute. This may not be a good idea,’” said Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican and a presidential contender himself.

“Hillary’s judgment has to be questioned. Her eagerness for war in Libya should preclude her from being considered the next commander in chief,” he said.

Mr. Paul, who has a libertarian flair, has begun calling Libya “Hillary’s War.” What remains to be seen in the months ahead is whether Mrs. Clinton embraces the moniker as she begins her campaign.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 18761
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Military to Military: Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligenc

Postby admin » Tue Nov 08, 2016 2:08 am

Secret Benghazi report reveals Hillary’s Libya war push armed al Qaeda-tied terrorists
by Jeffrey Scott Shapiro
The Washington Times
February 1, 2015

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Last of three parts

Libyan officials were deeply concerned in 2011, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was trying to remove Moammar Gadhafi from power, that weapons were being funneled to NATO-backed rebels with ties to al Qaeda, fearing that well-armed insurgents could create a safe haven for terrorists, according to secret intelligence reports obtained by The Washington Times.

The reports included a 16-page list of weapons that Libyans supposedly tracked to the rebels from Western sources or their allies in the region. The memos were corroborated by a U.S. intelligence asset familiar with the documents as well as former top Gadhafi regime official Mohammed Ismael.


“NATO has given permission to a number of weapons-loaded aircraft to land at Benghazi airport and some Tunisian airports,” the intelligence report said, identifying masses of weapons including tanks and surface-to-air missiles.

That report, which was prepared in English so it could be passed by a U.S. intelligence asset to key members of Congress, identified specific air and sea shipments observed by Libyan intelligence moving weapons to the rebels trying to unseat the Gadhafi regime.

“There is a close link between al Qaeda, Jihadi organizations, and the opposition in Libya,” the report warned.

In the documents and separately recorded conversations with U.S. emissaries, Libyan officials expressed particular concern that the weapons and training given the rebels would spread throughout the region, in particular turning the city of Benghazi into a future terrorist haven.


Those fears would be realized a little over a year later when a band of jihadist insurgents attacked the State Department diplomatic post in Benghazi and a related CIA compound, killing four Americans including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Today, more than three years after Gadhafi fell from power and was killed, Benghazi and much of the rest of Libya remain in chaos, riddled with violence among rival tribes and thriving jihadi groups.

Mrs. Clinton, now considering a run for president, was the moving force inside the Obama administration to encourage U.S. military intervention to unseat Gadhafi in Libya. The latest documents and audio recordings are likely to give her Republican critics on Capitol Hill fresh ammunition to question whether she had an adequate plan and whether her efforts led to the tragedy in Benghazi a year later and the general lawlessness and chaos that have gripped Libya since.

The Times reported last week that U.S. intelligence did not support the story that Mrs. Clinton used to sell the war in Libya, mainly that there was an imminent danger of a genocide to be carried out by the Gadhafi regime. The intelligence community, in fact, had come to the opposite conclusion: that Gadhafi would not risk world outrage by killing civilians en masse even as he tried to crush the rebellion in his country.

The Times also reported that the Pentagon and a key Democrat so distrusted Mrs. Clinton’s decision-making on Libya that they opened their own secret diplomatic conversations with the Gadhafi regime, going around the State Department.

In one conversation recorded in summer 2011 between Libyan officials and an intelligence asset dispatched by the Pentagon as a back-door channel, the asset told Mr. Ismael, who served then as Gadhafi’s chief of staff, that U.S. officials were considering taking some of the Libyan dictator’s frozen money assets and sending it to the rebels.

“I’m in contact with some of the people over in Benghazi and they’ve told me point blank that their first use of this money is, is to buy military training, weapons and mercenaries,” the Pentagon intelligence asset told Mr. Ismael on July 24, 2011.

In a separate conversation with Dennis J. Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat serving in the House, Gadhafi’s eldest son, Seif, told the congressman that Libyan intelligence had observed Qatar, a major U.S. ally in the region, facilitating weapons shipments. Qatar has steadfastly and repeatedly denied arming the rebels.

“The Qataris have spent more than $100 million on this, and they have an agreement with the rebels that the moment you rule Libya you pay us back,” Seif Gadhafi told Mr. Kucinich in a conversation recorded in May 2011.

“So, it’s your position that your government has been trying to defend itself against an insurrection brought about by jihadists who were joined by gangsters, terrorists and that there’s basically about 1,000 people who were joined by NATO?” Mr. Kucinich asked.

“Yes,” Seif Gadhafi replied.

“You’re saying that this relates to internal matters, matters internal to the region relating of a power struggle in which they then turned their attention to Libya to try to engulf Libya in their own desire for increasing their power?” Mr. Kucinich asked.

“For the Qataris, they are doing this with every country, with every country,” Mr. Gadhafi said. “This is their plan, I mean in public. This is their own agenda. I mean, it’s not something hidden, or something, you know, private. But now, we have, and plus the French and British have also have their own agenda, you know, commercial interests, political interests, they have their own interests. They told us, especially the French, and the Qataris and the British: We want those people to share the power with you, our own people, the heads of rebels.”


The recorded conversations also included concerns that the U.S. might try to arm the rebels despite a U.N. arms embargo on Libya.

On March 27, 2011, days after the intervention began, Mrs. Clinton argued that the arms embargo could be disregarded if shipping weapons to rebels would help protect civilians, but defense officials in the United Kingdom disagreed with her interpretation of international law.

“We’re not arming the rebels. We’re not planning to arm the rebels,” British Defense Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC the day Mrs. Clinton hinted otherwise.

Likewise, Qatari officials sent a letter Feb. 2, 2012, to the United Nations about the Libyan uprising, “categorically” denying that they had “supplied the revolutionaries with arms and ammunitions” as some had reported.

Attempts to contact the Qatari Embassy in Washington for comment Sunday were unsuccessful, but the classified Libyan intelligence report indicates that Qatar sent tanks, missiles, trucks and military advisers to the rebels.

Distrust between Libya and Qatar had simmered for years before the civil war in Libya erupted. Mr. Ismael told The Times in an interview that the Qataris had a grudge against the Gadhafi regime because it did not give them natural gas and oil concessions that were promised in 2007.

The Libyan intelligence reports provided to the Pentagon’s emissary detailed specific weapons shipments they said came from Qatar.

“On 15th of March the ship loaded with arm[s] arrived to the seaport of Tobruk. On 4th April 2011 two Qatari aircraft laden with a number of tanks, [ground-attack] missiles and heavy trucks was arranged. On 11th April 2011 a number of boats departed Benghazi for Misrata, the shipment comprised assistance including SAM-7 [anti-aircraft] missiles. On 22nd April 2011, 800 rifles were sent from Benghazi to Misrata,” the report said.

Whether such shipments were supposed to stay with NATO or go to the rebels remains in dispute. But academic analysts say the Libyan concerns that arming the rebels would benefit terrorists were shared widely.

NATO allies knew of the dangerous jihadi elements operating in Benghazi before the 2011 intervention began, according to Noman Benotman, president of the British-based Quilliam Foundation, a think tank dedicated to combating Islamic extremism.

Mr. Benotman also was a leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group but left the organization prior to the 2011 revolution.

“A lot of jihadists that had been locked up by the regime were released after the revolution started. They picked up many of the guns that were coming into the country and fought, but they were not fighting for democracy — they were fighting their own revolution, trying to build a state based on a vicious, violent, radical, Islamic ideology. They took advantage of the situation,” he said.

“There were pro-democracy demonstrators participating in the revolution, of course, but there was also crystal-clear evidence of jihadists and jihadist tactics in Benghazi before the NATO intervention started, so no one can say there were no jihadists there,” he said.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 18761
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Military to Military: Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligenc

Postby admin » Tue Nov 08, 2016 2:42 am

US Vice President Joe Biden Apologises After Calling Sunni Allies 'Largest Problem in Syria'
by Maria Khan
October 5, 2014

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


US Vice President Joe Biden has once again got himself in hot water, this time with key Sunni allies, after blaming them for indirectly facilitating the growth of the Islamic State militants in Syria.

My constant cry was that our biggest problem is our allies — our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. We could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them. So what happened? Now all of a sudden ... they have seen the Lord, [and] the President's been able to put together a coalition of our Sunni neighbors, because America can't once again go into a Muslim nation and be seen as the aggressor.
- US Vice President Joe Biden


When a student at the Harvard's John F. Kennedy Forum last Thursday (2 October) asked Biden: "In retrospect do you believe the United States should have acted earlier in Syria, and if not, why is now the right moment?" Biden replied:

"The answer is 'no' for two reasons. My constant cry was that our biggest problem is our allies — our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria."

Following his controversial remarks at the Forum, Biden was heard in a video posted online on the White House YouTube channel saying, "the Turks were great friends," and so were the Saudis and the Emiratis, however, on the topic of Syria and the efforts to bring down President Bashar Assad, Biden remarked:

"What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad — except that the people who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world."

Without directly blaming America's allies in the region for arming the militant groups, Biden further built on his allegation by saying:

"Now you think I'm exaggerating. Take a look! Where did all of this go? All of a sudden everybody's awakened because [of] this outfit called ISIL [or ISIS], which was Al Qaeda in Iraq [and then they] found open space in territory in eastern Syria.

"We could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them. So what happened? Now all of a sudden — I don't want to be too facetious — but they have seen the Lord, [and] the President's been able to put together a coalition of our Sunni neighbors, because America can't once again go into a Muslim nation and be seen as the aggressor. It has to be led by Sunnis to go and attack a Sunni organization."

We have press reports that the CIA was a major conduit for the transfer of weapons from Libya to Syria – a role, no doubt, facilitated by US Ambassador Christopher Stevens who was killed in Benghazi by unknown extremists. The Obama administration finds itself condemned for what it has done and what it has not done, when the real problem is that nothing has worked to bring peace or strengthen a moderate rebel leadership.
- Sharmine Narwani, Blogger


While a majority of the American media ignored Biden's remarks, blogger Sharmine Narwani criticized the Obama administration for blaming its own errors on others in an article titled 'Biden: Turks, Saudis, UAE funded and armed Al Nusra and Al Qaeda':

"We have press reports that the CIA was a major conduit for the transfer of weapons from Libya to Syria – a role, no doubt, facilitated by US Ambassador Christopher Stevens who was killed in Benghazi by unknown extremists. The Obama administration finds itself condemned for what it has done and what it has not done, when the real problem is that nothing has worked to bring peace or strengthen a moderate rebel leadership."

Biden is now heard apologizing to America's Sunni allies after a major backlash from the Arab media.

Gulf News reports, "General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received a telephone call from US Vice President Joseph Biden on Sunday, apologising for the comments he made."

Biden reportedly also called up Erdogan the same day to give clarifications over his comments.

According to a statement released by the US embassy in Ankara, "the Vice President apologized for any implication that Turkey or other Allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria."
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 18761
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Military to Military: Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligenc

Postby admin » Tue Nov 08, 2016 2:57 am

The Free Syrian Army Doesn’t Exist
by Aron Lund
March 16th, 2013

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Is the FSA losing influence in Syria? How many people are in the FSA? Is the FSA receiving enough guns from the West, or too many? Will the FSA participate in elections after the fall of Bahar el-Assad? What is the ideology of the FSA? What’s the FSA’s view of Israel? Is Jabhat el-Nosra now bigger than the FSA? What does the FSA think about the Kurds? Who is the leader of the FSA? How much control does the central command of the FSA really have over their fighters?

All these and similar questions keep popping up in news articles and op-ed chinstrokers in the Western media, and in much of the Arabic media too.

They all deal with important issues, but they disregard an important fact: the FSA doesn’t really exist.

The original FSA: a branding operation

The FSA was created by Col. Riad el-Asaad and a few other Syrian military defectors in July 2011, in what may or may not have been a Turkish intelligence operation. To be clear, there’s no doubting the sincerity of the first batch of fighters, or suggest that they would have acted otherwise without foreign support. But these original FSA commanders were confined to the closely guarded Apaydın camp in Turkey, and kept separate from civilian Syrian refugees. Turkish authorities are known to have screened visitors and journalists before deciding whether they could talk to the officers. While this is not in itself evidence of a Turkish intelligence connection, it does suggest that this original FSA faction could not, how shall we say, operate with full autonomy from its political environment.

From summer onwards, new rebel factions started popping up in hundreds of little villages and city neighborhoods inside Syria, as an ever-growing number of local demonstrators were provoked into self-defense. The most important recruiting tool for this nascent insurgency was not the FSA and its trickle of videotaped communiqués on YouTube. Rather, it was Bashar el-Assad’s decision to send his army on a psychotic rampage through the Syrian Sunni Arab countryside. As the corpses piled up, more and more civilians started looking for guns and ammo, and the rebel movement took off with a vengeance.

While the new groups almost invariably grew out of a local context, and organized entirely on their own, most of them also declared themselves to be part of the FSA. They adopted its logotype, and would often publicly pledge allegiance to Col. Riad el-Asaad. As a branding operation, the FSA was a extraordinary success – but in most cases, the new “FSA brigades” had no connection whatsoever to their purported supreme commander in Turkey. In reality, what was emerging was a sprawling leaderless resistance of local fighters who shared only some common goals and an assemblage of FSA-inspired symbols.

The heyday of the FSA was in early/mid 2012, when new factions were being declared at a rate of several per week. But by mid-2012, the brand seemed to have run its course, as people soured on Col. Asaad and his exiles. The FSA term slowly began to slip out of use. By the end of the year, most of the big armed groups in Syria had stopped using it altogether, and one by one, they dropped or redesigned the old FSA symbols from their websites, logotypes, shoulder patches and letterheads. Their symbolic connection to the FSA leaders in Turkey was broken – and since no connection at all had existed outside the world of symbols, that was the end of that story.

The FSA brand name today

Today, the FSA brand name remains in use within the Syrian opposition, but mostly as a term for the armed uprising in general. It’s quite similar to how a French person would have employed the term “La Résistance” during WW2 – not in reference to a specific organization fighting against Hitler, but as an umbrella term for them all. With time, many people inside and outside Syria have started to use the FSA term to distinguish mainstream non-ideological or soft-Islamist groups from salafi factions. The salafis themselves used to be divided on the issue, but they aren’t anymore. The more ideological ones (like Jabhat el-nosra and Ahrar el-Sham) never used it, but at the start of the uprising, others did (like Liwa el-Islam and Suqour el-Sham).

One can’t disregard the fact that many Syrian opposition fighters will casually refer to themselves as FSA members, or that some armed factions actually self-designate as “a brigade of the FSA”. But that does not mean that they belong to some Syria-wide FSA command hierarchy: it’s still just a label, typically intended to market these groups as part of the opposition mainstream.

With time, then, the generally understood definition of the FSA term has gradually narrowed from its original scope, which encompassed almost the entire insurgency. Today, it is understood to apply mostly to army defectors (ex-Baathists), non-ideological fighters, and more moderate Islamists. But the dividing line is not really a question of ideology or organization, it is political. The FSA label is increasingly being used in the media as shorthand for those factions which receive Gulf/Western support and are open to collaboration with the USA and other Western nations.

That still doesn’t describe an actual organization, but at least it’s closer to a working definition of what the “FSA” would mean in a Syrian opposition context – a definition that can’t really decide what it includes, but which clearly excludes most of the anti-Western salafis, all of the hardcore salafi-jihadis, and, for example, the Kurdish YPG militia.

Free Syrian Armies

But is there no FSA organization at all? Oh, of course: there are many. Syria and Turkey currently host a whole bunch of defected officers who claim to be leaders of the FSA, or who are described as such by the media. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

– First, there’s Col. Riad el-Asaad and his associates (such as Malik el-Kurdi, Ahmed el-Hejazi, and others) from the original FSA faction. This was the original FSA leadership, with a clearly defined command structure at the top. It just never got around to having any fighters. Nowadays, Col. Asaad has left the army camp in Turkey, moving back and forth across the border, but he seems to have been confined to the margins of rebel politics. He wasn’t even invited to the most recent rebel unity conferences. Never a quitter, though, he continues to give interviews as top FSA leader.

– Second, there’s his old rival, Brig. Gen. Mostafa el-Sheikh, who heads the FSA Military Council. After US, Qatari, Turkish and other pressure, Sheikh went into a joint FSA structure with Riad el-Asaad in March 2012, but that didn’t work out. After celebrating their newfound unity, both men continued to do their own thing. Sheikh remains active as a minor player in rebel politics, and an associate of his, Louai Meqdad, is frequently quoted in the media as “the FSA spokesperson”.

– Third, there’s Col. Qasem Saadeddine, who is the leader of a military council in the Homs Governorate (there are at least two such councils, and neither of them seems to function). In early 2012, he declared the creation of a unified internal command for the FSA, supposedly backed by five regional military councils, which would snatch command from the hands of Riad al-Asaad and the exiles. The whole thing almost instantly collapsed back into just representing Saadeddine and his sidekicks, but he’s still using the title.

– Fourth, there’s a Turkey-based guy called Bassam al-Dada, who is nowadays often quoted in the media as “the political advisor of the FSA”. No one seems to be quite sure which commander or group it is that Dada is advising, but he’s getting a lot of media attention anyway.

– Fifth, do you remember that thing about a “new name for the FSA”? In September 2012, the Syrian National Army was declared by Gen. Mohammed Hussein el-Hajj Ali, on the premise that it would absorb the FSA and all other armed groups into a single command structure. This was a huge project which actually got a lot of commanders to sign on, but it imploded just days after its creation, partly because Col. Riad el-Asaad and various Islamists sabotaged it by withholding support. It hasn’t been heard from since.

– Sixth, there’s also Gen. Adnan Selou, who defected in June 2012. A month later, he declared himself “Supreme Commander of the Joint Military Leadership”.

– Seventh, there’s a slightly mysterious American NGO called the Syrian Support Group (SSG). Many Syrians seem to believe that this is a CIA front, which is certainly possible, but I’ve seen no evidence either way. Since 2012, the SSG has been marketing a select set of pro-Western commanders in the so-called Military Council structure, by presenting them as the “real FSA” to the Western media. Most well-known among these commanders is Abdeljabbar el-Ogeidi, a mid-size leader in the Aleppo region.

– Eighth, in September 2012, a group of Military Council commanders and assorted rebel leaders gathered to create a Joint Command of the Revolutionary Military Councils. This was set up by the salafi sheikh Adnan el-Arour and a couple of his sidekicks, including people associated with Mostafa el-Sheikh (see above). Sponsorship also probably came from Qatar, and there were at the very least some quiet nods of support from the USA. This group didn’t use the FSA name, but the media still decided it was the FSA. It quickly ran into internal problems, and has now been succeeded by:

– Ninth, in December 2012, a Saudi-backed conference in Antalya, Turkey, set up a General Staff of the Supreme Joint Military Command Council, led by Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss. This group doesn’t formally use the FSA name, but the media has invariably described Idriss as “the newly appointed leader of the FSA”, thereby giving the term another lease on life. The General Staff got the support of most of the factions that had already been receiving Western and Gulf State support in some way.

So, what do all of these groups have in common? Two things: all of them keep appearing in the media as representatives and leaders of the FSA, and none of them have any boots on the ground.

Well, to be fair: some of these commanders may enjoy the formal allegiance of a few tiny factions inside Syria, either paid for by foreign sponsors, or adopted through political alliances. For example, Riad el-Asaad has belatedly attached himself to the Muslim Brotherhood, and is now showing up at their conferences to grant an FSA stamp of approval to Ikhwani armed units. But that doesn’t really make him a significant rebel commander.

Salim Idriss and the General Staff

A semi-exception to the rule is the General Staff of Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss, which is the most recent attempt to create a mainstream Western/Gulf-backed military leadership. Call it FSA if you want to.

The General Staff has received a formal pledge of allegiance from many commanders who themselves have a substantial personal following. Examples include Ahmed el-Sheikh of the Suqour el-Sham salafi group in Idleb, and his local partner-cum-rival Jamal Maarouf of the Shuhada Souriya faction. If all the factions which have declared in favor of Idriss were added up, they’d count at least 50,000 men, perhaps many more. But in reality, of course, they only follow their own leaders, and won’t take orders from Idriss. The elaborate command structure which has been released by the General Staff is a figment of the imagination, intended to create the impression of a unified organization that isn’t there.

Still, no matter how shallow and ephemeral their allegiance to Brig. Gen. Idriss may be, no other opposition figure can point to a similar show of support from the armed movement inside Syria. The reason for this widespread endorsement of Brig. Gen. Idriss isn’t his personal charm, good looks or presumed brilliance as a military strategist – it’s a lot simpler than that. See, there was an immediate payoff for attending the Antalya conference and pledging allegiance to Brig. Gen. Idriss and his General Staff: You got guns.

Just when the Antalya conference to create the General Staff was held, in December 2012, fresh shipments of weapons & ammo started pouring into northern Syria, secretly shipped in from Croatia and other sources (this has been well covered by bloggers like Brown Moses and correspondents like C. J. Chivers). And what do you know, both the General Staff’s Antalya conference and these Croatian guns seem to have been paid for by Saudi Arabia. Coincidence? Not likely. Judging from who’s been seen firing the weapons, they seem to have been distributed more or less among the commanders who endorsed the General Staff. And that was always the idea: The General Staff was set up as a flag to rally the Western/Gulf-backed factions around, and probably also a funding channel and an arms distribution network, rather than as an actual command hierarchy. Idriss’s foreign sponsors do of course hope that it will eventually solidify into the latter, but we haven’t seen it happen yet.

What we talk about when we talk about the FSA

So, to conclude: The FSA term is now used by the media in mostly four ways:

1. Many lazy reporters use the FSA name to describe Syria’s leading, secular guerrilla group. That group doesn’t exist, so please stop making it up.

2. Other (non-lazy) reporters will often feel compelled to use the FSA term when referring to certain self-designated FSA leaders and spokespersons (like Riad el-Asaad, Bassam el-Dada, Qasem Saadeddine, etc). This is fine – in fact, it’s even a journalistic necessity, since quotes should of course be properly attributed. But one should also make an attempt to clarify to readers/viewers what this purported “FSA” representative actually represents. It’s not likely to be a calculable percentage of the rebel force inside Syria. (If you want that, it’s better to talk to commanders or press officials of the rebel groups who do the actual fighting on the ground. Many of them have posted phone numbers, e-mail addresses and Skype IDs to their websites and Facebook pages, and they’re generally eager to communicate with reporters.)

3. Some will also use the FSA term to mean Syria’s armed opposition in general, or perhaps specifically the Western/Gulf-funded segments of it. That’s OK, but then you should also make note of the fact that you’re not talking about a real organization, or even an alliance with a joint leadership or common ideology. The lack of clarity on this point has misinformed public opinion for about a year now, and that needs to stop.

4. And finally, many reporters will use the FSA term to refer to those rebels inside Syria that do in fact themselves use the FSA label. This is technically correct, I suppose, but it would be a lot more helpful to identify such factions by their full names or by the names of their commanders. That they also happen to use the FSA label tells us virtually nothing about who they are or what they’re fighting for, but it does create the false impression that FSA faction X in Aleppo is somehow linked to FSA faction Y in Deraa, and to FSA spokesperson Z in Istanbul. In 95 percent of cases, that’s not true.

Shorter version of the above: Let’s say it again, the FSA doesn’t exist – at least not as commonly perceived. Global Syria coverage would be a lot less confusing if journalists didn’t persist in pretending that it does.

There are of course insurgent alliances that actually do exist. For example, we’ve recently seen the creation of the Syrian Islamic Front (homegrown Syrian salafis, who don’t take Western money, and don’t call themselves FSA), and there’s the Syrian Liberation Front (a loose collection of Western/Gulf-funded salafis and more moderate Islamists. Before creating the SLF, these groups used to call themselves FSA, and they still tend to be lumped in with the FSA by many news reporters), the Shields of the Revolution (Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, who themselves occasionally use the FSA term), or the locally based Ansar el-Islam Gathering (an Islamist coalition in Damascus, members of which used to call themselves FSA, but don’t anymore).

But these groups have so far received near-zero coverage in the Western media. All we ever hear about is the FSA and Jabhat al-Nosra, as if these two organizations represented two rival wings of the insurgency. Since only one of them actually exists, it would be one wing at best, and that doesn’t fly.

My modest proposal

So here’s my suggestion to journalists and editors who, like me, are writing about the Syrian war from a distance:

Instead of saying that the “FSA” has conquered this or that village, just report the names of the groups involved. If they say that they’re the “Fulan ibn Fulan Battalion of the FSA”, then write the full name, not just “the FSA”. The distinguishing “Fulan ibn Fulan” part is more likely to be operationally relevant than the semi-fictional alliance name they’ve tagged to the end of their name.

And, if the recent video statement on “a glorious battle of conquest” from the “Joint Command of the Super Power Islamic Hawks Battalion of the Free Syrian Army (Idleb Wing)” seems a little over the top, you could just stick to reality. Better write: “According to photographic evidence seen by this reporter, it seems like ten guys from a tiny village outside Idleb have recently been lobbing mortar shells at a blurry target in the distance while shouting ’Allahu Akbar’.”

Or, if information’s missing, as is often the case, just attribute the action by using a non-specific identifier – e.g. rebels, revolutionaries, insurgents, terrorists, paramilitary opposition factions, armed groups, freedom fighters, anti-Assad guerrillas, or whatever you think they really are.

This kind of calibration might take a little bit more research than simply slapping the FSA label on every opposition member with a gun in Syria. But at least your articles won’t be, you know – wrong.

Truth be told

All this said, I wish that the FSA did exist.

A unified rebel leadership would spare Syria much of the bloodshed that lies ahead. Not just because an organized rebel army would pack more of a punch in the struggle against Bashar el-Assad’s fascist dictatorship, and could put a leash on the most unpleasant salafi extremist factions. But also – and this matters a lot more than the fate of either Assad or al-Qaida – because only a functioning opposition leadership will be able to minimize the period of Lebanon-style armed anarchy and sectarian bloodshed that lies ahead for Syria, and help reestablish a central government when Assad’s is gone for good.

Unfortunately, my mere wishing won’t make it so. But neither will sloppy and distorted news reporting.

— Aron Lund

Aron Lund is author of a report on Syrian jihadism for the Swedish Institute of Foreign Affairs, a shorter version of which is at Foreign Policy: “Holy Warriors: A field guide to Syria’s jihadi groups,” He also is author of Drömmen om Damaskus (“The Dream of Damascus”) and a regular contributor to Syria Comment.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 18761
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Military to Military: Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligenc

Postby admin » Tue Nov 08, 2016 3:08 am

Qatar’s Ties to Militants Strain Alliance: The Persian Gulf state’s relationships in the region are both useful and a worry to the U.S.
by Jay Solomon and Nour Malas
Feb. 23, 2015

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


DOHA, Qatar—During President Barack Obama’s first term, some members of his National Security Council lobbied to pull a U.S. fighter squadron out of an air base in Qatar to protest the emirate’s support of militant groups in the Mideast.

The Pentagon pushed back, according to former U.S. officials involved in the discussion, saying a regional military command the U.S. maintains at the base was vital to American operations in the region. The issue was decided in late 2013 when the U.S. extended its lease on the base and didn’t pull out any planes.

The episode, not previously reported, reflects long-standing divisions within the Obama administration over America’s widening alliance with Qatar. The problem is that the very traits making the Persian Gulf emirate a valuable ally are also a source of worry: Qatar’s relationships with Islamist groups.

Secretary of State John Kerry has formed a tight partnership with Qatari diplomats, using them as conduits for messages to Hamas in the Palestinian territories, to Afghanistan’s Taliban and to jihadist rebel groups in Syria and Libya, according to State Department officials. Mr. Kerry has lauded Qatar’s role in seeking to negotiate an end to Israeli-Hamas fighting last summer.

U.S. officials also have praised Qatar for using its channels to broker the release of Westerners held hostage, including U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was swapped last year for five captured Taliban commanders.

Champions of the U.S.-Qatar alliance, especially in the Defense and State departments, say Qatar is indispensable to the struggle against Islamic State, the group also called ISIS or ISIL. U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State often launch from the air base in Qatar, al-Udeid, said American officials, who added that Qatar’s air force has provided surveillance and logistical support.

But Qatar also has given financial or diplomatic support to Mideast rebel groups, including some that seek to establish Islamic law or have ties to al Qaeda, according to U.S. and Arab officials as well as Western diplomats in the region. The support includes providing sanctuary to leaders of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which Qatar acknowledges.

For years, Islamist rebel fighters from Libya and Syria traveled to Qatar and returned with suitcases full of money, according to rebels who were interviewed and to Persian Gulf government officials. American officials said the U.S. has uncovered Qatari connections—such as involvement by members of the emirate’s elite business, religious and academic circles—in financing for Hamas, al Qaeda and Islamic State.


In September, the U.S. Treasury Department said publicly that an Islamic State commander had received $2 million in cash from an unnamed Qatari businessman. The following month, a Treasury official publicly criticized Qatar for failing to act against what he called terrorist financiers living in the emirate.

Last week, Qatar protested when Egypt bombed Islamic State forces in Libya who had beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians. An Egyptian diplomat responded by publicly accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism, which Qatar denied.

Visit from the emir

A chance to air these issues comes Tuesday as Qatar’s emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, meets with President Obama at the White House.

In interviews, senior Qatari officials denied their government funds or has funded terrorist organizations. They said Qatar has a right to have diplomatic ties with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements that they said have broad support in the Arab public. (The U.S. lists Hamas as a terrorist organization but not the Brotherhood.)

“We are not a bloc-mentality-belonging country. We create platforms for dialogue,” said Qatar’s foreign minister, Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah. “If this approach allows us to bring long-lasting peace and security in our region, we will not be affected by any criticism.”

Washington’s ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, said the U.S. relationship with the emirate “is a fundamentally good one, and we share a number of important interests. We don’t agree on everything, but we are always frank with each other about‎ where we disagree and why.”

U.S. and Arab officials say there are signs Qatar has begun paring back support for the most extreme militant groups following repeated warnings from Washington and certain Arab states. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates pulled their ambassadors from Doha in March 2014 to protest Qatar’s foreign policy, but have since returned the diplomats to their posts.

Washington and the American oil industry played leading roles in Qatar’s emergence on the global stage. Qatar was among the less wealthy Gulf states in the 1980s, before the export of its plentiful natural gas was made possible by technologies developed by U.S. oil companies that later became Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips. 

“The American companies were really the ones who took a big bet on Qatar when others wouldn’t,” said Mr. Attiyah. “That’s part of the core of our special relationship.”

Qatar now has the world’s highest per capita income, says the International Monetary Fund. Several U.S. universities, including Georgetown, Northwestern and Cornell, have opened campuses in Doha.


In 2003, the Pentagon moved the regional headquarters of the U.S. Central Command to Qatar’s al-Udeid air base, a move that gave the emirate a sense of security from potentially hostile neighbors.

Qatar also invests in the U.S. Last month, Qatar’s finance minister said his government would invest $35 billion in the U.S. over five years, in areas such as technology and infrastructure.

The “Arab Spring” protests of late 2010 and 2011 deepened Washington’s alliance with Qatar but also exposed divisions in the two countries’ visions for the Mideast. Qatar began promoting a brand of pro-Islamist foreign policy that confused Washington and alienated some Arab allies.

One Gulf-region government official described a Sheraton hotel in Doha as a hangout for Islamists from Libya, Syria, Egypt and the Palestinian territories. A spokesman for Sheraton owner Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. noted that the hotel hosts hundreds of international travelers daily and said, “We do not do business with terrorists nor condone or facilitate any activity that is antithetical to our company values.” He said the firm works with law enforcement, including retaining passport information for all guests.

Nusra Front

According to U.S. and regional Arab government officials, commanders of the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s arm in Syria, began visiting Doha in 2012 for meetings with senior Qatari military officials and financiers. Nusra is fighting to overthrow Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime, a regional rival of Qatar.

Syrian rebels and Persian Gulf government officials said Qatar cultivates a relationship with Nusra in part to maintain the emirate’s role in negotiations to free hostages held by militants in Syria and Lebanon. Over the past year, Qatar has gained the release of hostages including United Nationspeacekeepers, Greek Orthodox nuns and a U.S. freelance journalist. Arab and U.N. officials have said the releases involve ransoms, which Qatar denies.

Some Qatari officials view Nusra as a crucial fighting force against the Syrian regime and don’t consider it terrorist.

The U.S. in 2012 tipped off Lebanese officials that a Qatari sheik, Abd al-Aziz bin Khalifa al-Attiyah, was visiting Beirut to pass funds to Nusra, according to Lebanese and U.S. officials. A Lebanese official said that on one trip, Sheik Attiyah, who is a cousin of Qatar’s current foreign minister, was driven to the Lebanon-Syria border town of Aarsal and there distributed money for Syrian rebel fighters.

Lebanese security forces arrested Sheik Attiyah on terrorism charges in 2012, but he was freed after a Qatari protest, Lebanese and Qatari officials said. This past June, a Beirut military court sentenced him in absentia to seven years in prison on the charges.

A London attorney for Sheik Attiyah, Cameron Doley, called the charges “completely and utterly untrue.” Qatari government officials also said Mr. Attiyah wasn’t involved in terrorism and described his arrest as political. Officials of the Lebanese government and the security directorate that carried out the arrest declined to comment.

U.S. officials have been pressing Qatar to arrest a former Qatari central-bank official who was sanctioned by the U.S. and the U.N. for an alleged role as a terrorism financier and as a lieutenant of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Qatar detained the official, Khalifa Muhammad Turki al-Subaiy, in 2008 for six months after a Bahrain court convicted him on terrorism charges. He was released later that year, drawing a string of inquiries from the U.S. ambassador, according to State Department cables released by WikiLeaks.

Mr. Subaiy couldn’t be reached for comment. In September, the Treasury alleged that two Jordanians with Qatari IDs had worked with Mr. Subaiy to transfer cash to al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. The Jordanians couldn’t be reached for comment.

In October, the Treasury’s top counterterrorism official publicly criticized Qatar for inaction on Mr. Subaiy and a second alleged al Qaeda financier, Abd al-Rahman al-Nuaymi. “There are U.S.- and U.N.-designated terrorist financiers in Qatar that have not been acted against under Qatari law,” said David Cohen, then a Treasury undersecretary.

Mr. Nuaymi, who also couldn’t be reached for comment, has in the past denied funding terrorism and called charges against him politically motivated.

Living in Doha

Qatari officials confirmed that Messrs. Subaiy and Nuaymi remain free in Doha but said they are under surveillance and their bank accounts are frozen. “We know that there is a problem, and we are building a case to take those involved to court,” said Qatar’s ambassador to Washington, Mohammad al-Kuwari. “We’re committed to working with the U.S. on these cases.”

The idea of pulling some U.S. fighter planes out of Qatar’s al-Udeid to signal displeasure with Qatar’s foreign policy—a proposal made several years ago by some National Security Council members—prompted a wrenching internal debate pitting U.S. ideals against pragmatism. One senior defense official at the time opposed the idea, saying it threatened to undermine a key Mideast relationship while having little effect on Qatar’s policy.

A senior administration official said, “Whether or not that was a view expressed or considered by an individual in the past, it was never a serious policy consideration in a broader context.”

In recent months, U.S. and Qatari officials said there has been an uptick in Qatari moves against alleged terrorist financiers. They said the emirate has expelled a Jordanian associate of Mr. Nuaymi and shut a social-media website the U.S. believed was used in raising money for al-Qaeda-linked militants in Syria.

Qatar has moved to mend its ties with Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and other Gulf countries. In November, Qatar’s emir met in Jidda with Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah and other regional monarchs, agreeing to end their feud and work to stabilize the region, said Arab officials.

But Qatar has resisted pressure from the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to evict Hamas’s top leadership, according to U.S. and Arab diplomats. U.S. officials believe that many of the Qatari nationals involved in fundraising for Syrian rebels remain active. Mr. Kerry regularly raises his concerns about Qatar’s ties to extremist groups in his meeting with Doha’s diplomats, a U.S. official said.

“The Qataris need to know they can’t have it both ways,” said Dennis Ross, who was Mr. Obama’s top Mideast adviser in his first term. “But so far, they see that they can.”

—Julian E. Barnes contributed to this article.

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com and Nour Malas at nour.malas@wsj.com
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 18761
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Military to Military: Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligenc

Postby admin » Wed Nov 09, 2016 1:40 am

The Red Line and the Rat Line: Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels
by London Review of Books
Vol. 36 No. 8
17 April 2014

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.​* Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.

For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbours, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.’

The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. 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’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: ‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW … Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.’ The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.’ (Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’)

Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention. The others, including the ringleader, Haytham Qassab, for whom the prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 25 years, were released pending trial. In the meantime the Turkish press has been rife with speculation that the Erdoğan administration has been covering up the extent of its involvement with the rebels. In a news conference last summer, Aydin Sezgin, Turkey’s ambassador to Moscow, dismissed the arrests and claimed to reporters that the recovered ‘sarin’ was merely ‘anti-freeze’.

Folio Society Christmas gifts

The DIA paper took the arrests as evidence that al-Nusra was expanding its access to chemical weapons. It said Qassab had ‘self-identified’ as a member of al-Nusra, and that he was directly connected to Abd-al-Ghani, the ‘ANF emir for military manufacturing’. Qassab and his associate Khalid Ousta worked with Halit Unalkaya, an employee of a Turkish firm called Zirve Export, who provided ‘price quotes for bulk quantities of sarin precursors’. Abd-al-Ghani’s plan was for two associates to ‘perfect a process for making sarin, then go to Syria to train others to begin large scale production at an unidentified lab in Syria’. The DIA paper said that one of his operatives had purchased a precursor on the ‘Baghdad chemical market’, which ‘has supported at least seven CW efforts since 2004’.

A series of chemical weapon attacks in March and April 2013 was investigated over the next few months by a special UN mission to Syria. A person with close knowledge of the UN’s activity in Syria told me that there was evidence linking the Syrian opposition to the first gas attack, on 19 March in Khan Al-Assal, a village near Aleppo. In its final report in December, the mission said that at least 19 civilians and one Syrian soldier were among the fatalities, along with scores of injured. It had no mandate to assign responsibility for the attack, but 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.’

In the months before the attacks began, a former senior Defense Department official told me, the DIA was circulating a daily classified report known as SYRUP on all intelligence related to the Syrian conflict, including material on chemical weapons. But in the spring, distribution of the part of the report concerning chemical weapons was severely curtailed on the orders of Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff. ‘Something was in there that triggered a shit fit by McDonough,’ the former Defense Department official said. ‘One day it was a huge deal, and then, after the March and April sarin attacks’ – he snapped his fingers – ‘it’s no longer there.’ The decision to restrict distribution was made as the joint chiefs ordered intensive contingency planning for a possible ground invasion of Syria whose primary objective would be the elimination of chemical weapons.

The former intelligence official said that many in the US national security establishment had long been troubled by the president’s red line: ‘The joint chiefs asked the White House, “What does red line mean? How does that translate into military orders? Troops on the ground? Massive strike? Limited strike?” They tasked military intelligence to study how we could carry out the threat. They learned nothing more about the president’s reasoning.’

In the aftermath of the 21 August attack Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up targets for bombing. Early in the process, the former intelligence official said, ‘the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently “painful” to the Assad regime.’ The original targets included only military sites and nothing by way of civilian infrastructure. Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed. ‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The Pentagon planners said we can’t use only Tomahawks to strike at Syria’s missile sites because their warheads are buried too far below ground, so the two B-52 air wings with two-thousand pound bombs were assigned to the mission. Then we’ll need standby search-and-rescue teams to recover downed pilots and drones for target selection. It became huge.’ The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had’, the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.

Britain and France were both to play a part. On 29 August, the day Parliament voted against Cameron’s bid to join the intervention, the Guardian reported that he had already ordered six RAF Typhoon fighter jets to be deployed to Cyprus, and had volunteered a submarine capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. The French air force – a crucial player in the 2011 strikes on Libya – was deeply committed, according to an account in Le Nouvel Observateur; François Hollande had ordered several Rafale fighter-bombers to join the American assault. Their targets were reported to be in western Syria.

By the last days of August the president had given the Joint Chiefs a fixed deadline for the launch. ‘H hour was to begin no later than Monday morning [2 September], a massive assault to neutralise Assad,’ the former intelligence official said. So it was a surprise to many when during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on 31 August Obama said that the attack would be put on hold, and he would turn to Congress and put it to a vote.

At this stage, Obama’s premise – that only the Syrian army was capable of deploying sarin – was unravelling. Within a few days of the 21 August attack, the former intelligence official told me, Russian military intelligence operatives had recovered samples of the chemical agent from Ghouta. They analysed it and passed it on to British military intelligence; this was the material sent to Porton Down. (A spokesperson for Porton Down said: ‘Many of the samples analysed in the UK tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.’ MI6 said that it doesn’t comment on intelligence matters.)

Give a gift for the mind

The former intelligence official said the Russian who delivered the sample to the UK was ‘a good source – someone with access, knowledge and a record of being trustworthy’. After the first reported uses of chemical weapons in Syria last year, American and allied intelligence agencies ‘made an effort to find the answer as to what if anything, was used – and its source’, the former intelligence official said. ‘We use data exchanged as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The DIA’s baseline consisted of knowing the composition of each batch of Soviet-manufactured chemical weapons. But we didn’t know which batches the Assad government currently had in its arsenal. 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 process hadn’t worked as smoothly in the spring, the former intelligence official said, because the studies done by Western intelligence ‘were inconclusive as to the type of gas it was. The word “sarin” didn’t come up. There was a great deal of discussion about this, but since no one could conclude what gas it was, you could not say that Assad had crossed the president’s red line.’ By 21 August, the former intelligence official went on, ‘the Syrian opposition clearly had learned from this and announced that “sarin” from the Syrian army had been used, before any analysis could be made, and the press and White House jumped at it. Since it now was sarin, “It had to be Assad.”’

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.’ (This account made sense of a terse message a senior official in the CIA sent in late August: ‘It was not the result of the current regime. UK & US know this.’) By then the attack was a few days away and American, British and French planes, ships and submarines were at the ready.

The officer ultimately responsible for the planning and execution of the attack was General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs. From the beginning of the crisis, the former intelligence official said, the joint chiefs had been sceptical of the administration’s argument that it had the facts to back up its belief in Assad’s guilt. They pressed the DIA and other agencies for more substantial evidence. ‘There was no way they thought Syria would use nerve gas at that stage, because Assad was winning the war,’ the former intelligence official said. Dempsey had irritated many in the Obama administration by repeatedly warning Congress over the summer of the danger of American military involvement in Syria. Last April, after an optimistic assessment of rebel progress by the secretary of state, John Kerry, in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ‘there’s a risk that this conflict has become stalemated.’

Dempsey’s initial view after 21 August was that a US strike on Syria – under the assumption that the Assad government was responsible for the sarin attack – would be a military blunder, the former intelligence official said. The Porton Down report caused the joint chiefs to go to the president with a more serious worry: that the attack sought by the White House would be an unjustified act of aggression. It was the joint chiefs who led Obama to change course. The official White House explanation for the turnabout – the story the press corps told – was that the president, during a walk in the Rose Garden with Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, suddenly decided to seek approval for the strike from a bitterly divided Congress with which he’d been in conflict for years. The former Defense Department official told me that the White House provided a different explanation to members of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon: the bombing had been called off because there was intelligence ‘that the Middle East would go up in smoke’ if it was carried out.

The president’s decision to go to Congress was initially seen by senior aides in the White House, the former intelligence official said, as a replay of George W. Bush’s gambit in the autumn of 2002 before the invasion of Iraq: ‘When it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, Congress, which had endorsed the Iraqi war, and the White House both shared the blame and repeatedly cited faulty intelligence. If the current Congress were to vote to endorse the strike, the White House could again have it both ways – wallop Syria with a massive attack and validate the president’s red line commitment, while also being able to share the blame with Congress if it came out that the Syrian military wasn’t behind the attack.’ The turnabout came as a surprise even to the Democratic leadership in Congress. In September the Wall Street Journal reported that three days before his Rose Garden speech Obama had telephoned Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, ‘to talk through the options’. She later told colleagues, according to the Journal, that she hadn’t asked the president to put the bombing to a congressional vote.

Obama’s move for congressional approval quickly became a dead end. ‘Congress was not going to let this go by,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Congress made it known that, unlike the authorisation for the Iraq war, there would be substantive hearings.’ At this point, there was a sense of desperation in the White House, the former intelligence official said. ‘And so out comes Plan B. Call off the bombing strike and Assad would agree to unilaterally sign the chemical warfare treaty and agree to the destruction of all of chemical weapons under UN supervision.’ At a press conference in London on 9 September, Kerry was still talking about intervention: ‘The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting.’ But when a reporter asked if there was anything Assad could do to stop the bombing, Kerry said: ‘Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week … But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.’ As the New York Times reported the next day, the Russian-brokered deal that emerged shortly afterwards had first been discussed by Obama and Putin in the summer of 2012. Although the strike plans were shelved, the administration didn’t change its public assessment of the justification for going to war. ‘There is zero tolerance at that level for the existence of error,’ the former intelligence official said of the senior officials in the White House. ‘They could not afford to say: “We were wrong.”’ (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The Assad regime, and only the Assad regime, could have been responsible for the chemical weapons attack that took place on 21 August.’)

*

The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.’)

In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)

The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.

The annex didn’t tell the whole story of what happened in Benghazi before the attack, nor did it explain why the American consulate was attacked. ‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’

Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. ‘The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,’ the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. ‘The Obama administration,’ Warrick wrote, ‘has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.’ Two Middle Eastern intelligence officials fingered Qatar as the source, and a former US intelligence analyst speculated that the manpads could have been obtained from Syrian military outposts overrun by the rebels. There was no indication that the rebels’ possession of manpads was likely the unintended consequence of a covert US programme that was no longer under US control.

By the end of 2012, it was believed throughout the American intelligence community that the rebels were losing the war. ‘Erdoğan was pissed,’ the former intelligence official said, ‘and felt he was left hanging on the vine. It was his money and the cut-off was seen as a betrayal.’ In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability. ‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training – including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there. Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’

There was no public sign of discord when Erdoğan and Obama met on 16 May 2013 at the White House. At a later press conference Obama said that they had agreed that Assad ‘needs to go’. Asked whether he thought Syria had crossed the red line, Obama acknowledged that there was evidence such weapons had been used, but added, ‘it is important for us to make sure that we’re able to get more specific information about what exactly is happening there.’ The red line was still intact.

An American foreign policy expert who speaks regularly with officials in Washington and Ankara told me about a working dinner Obama held for Erdoğan during his May visit. The meal was dominated by the Turks’ insistence that Syria had crossed the red line and their complaints that Obama was reluctant to do anything about it. Obama was accompanied by John Kerry and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser who would soon leave the job. Erdoğan was joined by Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, and Hakan Fidan, the head of the MIT. Fidan is known to be fiercely loyal to Erdoğan, and has been seen as a consistent backer of the radical rebel opposition in Syria.

Give a gift for the mind

The foreign policy expert told me that the account he heard originated with Donilon. (It was later corroborated by a former US official, who learned of it from a senior Turkish diplomat.) According to the expert, Erdoğan had sought the meeting to demonstrate to Obama that the red line had been crossed, and had brought Fidan along to state the case. When Erdoğan tried to draw Fidan into the conversation, and Fidan began speaking, Obama cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ Erdoğan tried to bring Fidan in a second time, and Obama again cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ At that point, an exasperated Erdoğan said, ‘But your red line has been crossed!’ and, the expert told me, ‘Donilon said Erdoğan “fucking waved his finger at the president inside the White House”.’ Obama then pointed at Fidan and said: ‘We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.’ (Donilon, who joined the Council on Foreign Relations last July, didn’t respond to questions about this story. The Turkish Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to questions about the dinner. A spokesperson for the National Security Council confirmed that the dinner took place and provided a photograph showing Obama, Kerry, Donilon, Erdoğan, Fidan and Davutoğlu sitting at a table. ‘Beyond that,’ she said, ‘I’m not going to read out the details of their discussions.’)

But Erdoğan did not leave empty handed. Obama was still permitting Turkey to continue to exploit a loophole in a presidential executive order prohibiting the export of gold to Iran, part of the US sanctions regime against the country. In March 2012, responding to sanctions of Iranian banks by the EU, the SWIFT electronic payment system, which facilitates cross-border payments, expelled dozens of Iranian financial institutions, severely restricting the country’s ability to conduct international trade. The US followed with the executive order in July, but left what came to be known as a ‘golden loophole’: gold shipments to private Iranian entities could continue. Turkey is a major purchaser of Iranian oil and gas, and it took advantage of the loophole by depositing its energy payments in Turkish lira in an Iranian account in Turkey; these funds were then used to purchase Turkish gold for export to confederates in Iran. Gold to the value of $13 billion reportedly entered Iran in this way between March 2012 and July 2013.

The programme quickly became a cash cow for corrupt politicians and traders in Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. ‘The middlemen did what they always do,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Take 15 per cent. The CIA had estimated that there was as much as two billion dollars in skim. Gold and Turkish lira were sticking to fingers.’ The illicit skimming flared into a public ‘gas for gold’ scandal in Turkey in December, and resulted in charges against two dozen people, including prominent businessmen and relatives of government officials, as well as the resignations of three ministers, one of whom called for Erdoğan to resign. The chief executive of a Turkish state-controlled bank that was in the middle of the scandal insisted that more than $4.5 million in cash found by police in shoeboxes during a search of his home was for charitable donations.

Late last year Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz reported in Foreign Policy that the Obama administration closed the golden loophole in January 2013, but ‘lobbied to make sure the legislation … did not take effect for six months’. They speculated that the administration wanted to use the delay as an incentive to bring Iran to the bargaining table over its nuclear programme, or to placate its Turkish ally in the Syrian civil war. The delay permitted Iran to ‘accrue billions of dollars more in gold, further undermining the sanctions regime’.

*

The American decision to end CIA support of the weapons shipments into Syria left Erdoğan exposed politically and militarily. ‘One of the issues at that May summit was the fact that Turkey is the only avenue to supply the rebels in Syria,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘It can’t come through Jordan because the terrain in the south is wide open and the Syrians are all over it. And it can’t come through the valleys and hills of Lebanon – you can’t be sure who you’d meet on the other side.’ Without US military support for the rebels, the former intelligence official said, ‘Erdoğan’s dream of having a client state in Syria is evaporating and he thinks we’re the reason why. When Syria wins the war, he knows the rebels are just as likely to turn on him – where else can they go? So now he will have thousands of radicals in his backyard.’

A US intelligence consultant told me that a few weeks before 21 August he saw a highly classified briefing prepared for Dempsey and the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, which described ‘the acute anxiety’ of the Erdoğan administration about the rebels’ dwindling prospects. The analysis warned that the Turkish leadership had expressed ‘the need to do something that would precipitate a US military response’. By late summer, the Syrian army still had the advantage over the rebels, the former intelligence official said, and only American air power could turn the tide. In the autumn, the former intelligence official went on, the US intelligence analysts who kept working on the events of 21 August ‘sensed that Syria had not done the gas attack. But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it happen? The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the pieces to make it happen.’

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. 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.’ Erdoğan’s 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.’

The post-attack intelligence on Turkey did not make its way to the White House. ‘Nobody wants to talk about all this,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘There is great reluctance to contradict the president, although no all-source intelligence community analysis supported his leap to convict. There has not been one single piece of additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack produced by the White House since the bombing raid was called off. My government can’t say anything because we have acted so irresponsibly. And since we blamed Assad, we can’t go back and blame Erdoğan.’

Turkey’s willingness to manipulate events in Syria to its own purposes seemed to be demonstrated late last month, a few days before a round of local elections, when a recording, allegedly of a government national security meeting, was posted to YouTube. It included discussion of a false-flag operation that would justify an incursion by the Turkish military in Syria. The operation centred on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the revered Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, which is near Aleppo and was ceded to Turkey in 1921, when Syria was under French rule. One of the Islamist rebel factions was threatening to destroy the tomb as a site of idolatry, and the Erdoğan administration was publicly threatening retaliation if harm came to it. According to a Reuters report of the leaked conversation, a voice alleged to be Fidan’s spoke of creating a provocation: ‘Now look, my commander, if there is to be justification, the justification is I send four men to the other side. I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land [in the vicinity of the tomb]. That’s not a problem. Justification can be created.’ The Turkish government acknowledged that there had been a national security meeting about threats emanating from Syria, but said the recording had been manipulated. The government subsequently blocked public access to YouTube.

Barring a major change in policy by Obama, Turkey’s meddling in the Syrian civil war is likely to go on. ‘I asked my colleagues if there was any way to stop Erdoğan’s continued support for the rebels, especially now that it’s going so wrong,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The answer was: “We’re screwed.” We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoğan, but Turkey is a special case. They’re a Nato ally. The Turks don’t trust the West. They can’t live with us if we take any active role against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous. The Turks would say: “We hate you for telling us what we can and can’t do.”’

4 April
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 18761
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Military to Military: Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligenc

Postby admin » Thu Nov 10, 2016 12:47 am

How Neocons Destabilized Europe: The neocon prescription of endless “regime change” is spreading chaos across the Middle East and now into Europe, yet the neocons still control the mainstream U.S. narrative and thus have diagnosed the problem as not enough “regime change.”
by Robert Parry
September 08, 2015

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


The refugee chaos that is now pushing deep into Europe – dramatized by gut-wrenching photos of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey – started with the cavalier ambitions of American neocons and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks who planned to remake the Middle East and other parts of the world through “regime change.”

Instead of the promised wonders of “democracy promotion” and “human rights,” what these “anti-realists” have accomplished is to spread death, destruction and destabilization across the Middle East and parts of Africa and now into Ukraine and the heart of Europe. Yet, since these neocon forces still control the Official Narrative, their explanations get top billing – such as that there hasn’t been enough “regime change.”

For instance, The Washington Post’s neocon editorial page editor Fred Hiatt on Monday blamed “realists” for the cascading catastrophes. Hiatt castigated them and President Barack Obama for not intervening more aggressively in Syria to depose President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime neocon target for “regime change.”

But the truth is that this accelerating spread of human suffering can be traced back directly to the unchecked influence of the neocons and their liberal fellow-travelers who have resisted political compromise and, in the case of Syria, blocked any realistic efforts to work out a power-sharing agreement between Assad and his political opponents, those who are not terrorists.

In early 2014, the neocons and liberal hawks sabotaged Syrian peace talks in Geneva by blocking Iran’s participation and turning the peace conference into a one-sided shouting match where U.S.-funded opposition leaders yelled at Assad’s representatives who then went home. All the while, the Post’s editors and their friends kept egging Obama to start bombing Assad’s forces.

The madness of this neocon approach grew more obvious in the summer of 2014 when the Islamic State, an Al Qaeda spinoff which had been slaughtering suspected pro-government people in Syria, expanded its bloody campaign of beheadings back into Iraq where this hyper-brutal movement first emerged as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” in response to the 2003 U.S. invasion.

It should have been clear by mid-2014 that if the neocons had gotten their way and Obama had conducted a massive U.S. bombing campaign to devastate Assad’s military, the black flag of Sunni terrorism might well be flying above the Syrian capital of Damascus while its streets would run red with blood.

But now a year later, the likes of Hiatt still have not absorbed that lesson — and the spreading chaos from neocon strategies is destabilizing Europe. As shocking and disturbing as that is, none of it should have come as much of a surprise, since the neocons have always brought chaos and dislocations in their wake.

When I first encountered the neocons in the 1980s, they had been given Central America to play with. President Ronald Reagan had credentialed many of them, bringing into the U.S. government neocon luminaries such as Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan. But Reagan mostly kept them out of the big-power realms: the Mideast and Europe.

Those strategic areas went to the “adults,” people like James Baker, George Shultz, Philip Habib and Brent Scowcroft. The poor Central Americans, as they tried to shed generations of repression and backwardness imposed by brutal right-wing oligarchies, faced U.S. neocon ideologues who unleashed death squads and even genocide against peasants, students and workers.

The result – not surprisingly – was a flood of refugees, especially from El Salvador and Guatemala, northward to the United States. The neocon “success” in the 1980s, crushing progressive social movements and reinforcing the oligarchic controls, left most countries of Central America in the grip of corrupt regimes and crime syndicates, periodically driving more waves of what Reagan called “feet people” through Mexico to the southern U.S. border.

Messing Up the Mideast

But the neocons weren’t satisfied sitting at the kids’ table. Even during the Reagan administration, they tried to squeeze themselves among the “adults” at the grown-ups’ table. For instance, neocons, such as Robert McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz, pushed Israel-friendly policies toward Iran, which the Israelis then saw as a counterweight to Iraq. That strategy led eventually to the Iran-Contra Affair, the worst scandal of the Reagan administration. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “When Israel /Neocons Favored Iran.”]

However, the right-wing and mainstream U.S. media never liked the complex Iran-Contra story and thus exposure of the many levels of the scandal’s criminality was avoided. Democrats also preferred compromise to confrontation. So, most of the key neocons survived the Iran-Contra fallout, leaving their ranks still firmly in place for the next phase of their rise to power.

In the 1990s, the neocons built up a well-funded infrastructure of think tanks and media outlets, benefiting from both the largesse of military contractors donating to think tanks and government-funded operations like the National Endowment for Democracy, headed by neocon Carl Gershman.

The neocons gained more political momentum from the U.S. military might displayed during the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. Many Americans began to see war as fun, almost like a video game in which “enemy” forces get obliterated from afar. On TV news shows, tough-talking pundits were all the rage. If you wanted to be taken seriously, you couldn’t go wrong taking the most macho position, what I sometimes call the “er-er-er” growling effect.

Combined with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the notion that U.S. military supremacy was unmatched and unchallengeable gave rise to neocon theories about turning “diplomacy” into nothing more than the delivery of U.S. ultimatums. In the Middle East, that was a view shared by Israeli hardliners, who had grown tired of negotiating with the Palestinians and other Arabs.

Instead of talk, there would be “regime change” for any government that would not fall into line. This strategy was articulated in 1996 when a group of American neocons, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, went to work for Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign in Israel and compiled a strategy paper, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.”

Iraq was first on the neocon hit list, but next came Syria and Iran. The overriding idea was that once the regimes assisting the Palestinians and Hezbollah were removed or neutralized, then Israel could dictate peace terms to the Palestinians who would have no choice but to accept what was on the table.

In 1998, the neocon Project for the New American Century, founded by neocons Robert Kagan and William Kristol, called for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but President Bill Clinton balked at something that extreme. The situation changed, however, when President George W. Bush took office and the 9/11 attacks terrified and infuriated the American public.

Suddenly, the neocons had a Commander-in-Chief who agreed with the need to eliminate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein – and Americans were easily persuaded although Iraq and Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

The Death of ‘Realism’

The 2003 Iraq invasion sounded the death knell for foreign policy “realism” in Official Washington. Aging or dead, the old adult voices were silent or ignored. From Congress and the Executive Branch to the think tanks and the mainstream news media, almost all the “opinion leaders” were neocons and many liberals fell into line behind Bush’s case for war.

And, even though the Iraq War “group think” was almost entirely wrong, both on the WMD justifications for war and the “cakewalk” expectations for remaking Iraq, almost no one who promoted the fiasco suffered punishment for either the illegality of the invasion or the absence of sanity in promoting such a harebrained scheme.

Instead of negative repercussions, the Iraq War backers – the neocons and their liberal-hawk accomplices – essentially solidified their control over U.S. foreign policy and the major news media. From The New York Times and The Washington Post to the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, the “regime change” agenda continued to hold sway.

It didn’t even matter when the sectarian warfare unleashed in Iraq left hundreds of thousands dead, displaced millions and gave rise to Al Qaeda’s ruthless Iraq affiliate. Not even the 2008 election of Barack Obama, an Iraq War opponent, changed this overall dynamic.

Rather than standing up to this new foreign policy establishment, Obama bowed to it, retaining key players from President Bush’s national security team, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates and General David Petraeus, and by hiring hawkish Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, who became Secretary of State, and Samantha Power at the National Security Council.

Thus, the cult of “regime change” did not just survive the Iraq disaster; it thrived. Whenever a difficult foreign problem emerged, the go-to solution was still “regime change,” accompanied by the usual demonizing of a targeted leader, support for the “democratic opposition” and calls for military intervention. President Obama, arguably a “closet realist,” found himself as the foot-dragger-in-chief as he reluctantly was pulled along on one “regime change” crusade after another.

In 2011, for instance, Secretary of State Clinton and National Security Council aide Power persuaded Obama to join with some hot-for-war European leaders to achieve “regime change” in Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi had gone on the offensive against groups in eastern Libya that he identified as Islamic terrorists.

But Clinton and Power saw the case as a test for their theories of “humanitarian warfare” – or “regime change” to remove a “bad guy” like Gaddafi from power. Obama soon signed on and, with the U.S. military providing crucial technological support, a devastating bombing campaign destroyed Gaddafi’s army, drove him from Tripoli, and ultimately led to his torture-murder.

‘We Came, We Saw, He Died’

Secretary Clinton scurried to secure credit for this “regime change.” According to one email chain in August 2011, her longtime friend and personal adviser Sidney Blumenthal praised the bombing campaign to destroy Gaddafi’s army and hailed the dictator’s impending ouster.

“First, brava! This is a historic moment and you will be credited for realizing it,” Blumenthal wrote on Aug. 22, 2011. “When Qaddafi himself is finally removed, you should of course make a public statement before the cameras wherever you are, even in the driveway of your vacation home. … You must go on camera. You must establish yourself in the historical record at this moment. … The most important phrase is: ‘successful strategy.’”

Clinton forwarded Blumenthal’s advice to Jake Sullivan, a close State Department aide. “Pls read below,” she wrote. “Sid makes a good case for what I should say, but it’s premised on being said after Q[addafi] goes, which will make it more dramatic. That’s my hesitancy, since I’m not sure how many chances I’ll get.”

Sullivan responded, saying “it might make sense for you to do an op-ed to run right after he falls, making this point. … You can reinforce the op-ed in all your appearances, but it makes sense to lay down something definitive, almost like the Clinton Doctrine.”

However, when Gaddafi abandoned Tripoli that day, President Obama seized the moment to make a triumphant announcement. Clinton’s opportunity to highlight her joy at the Libyan “regime change” had to wait until Oct. 20, 2011, when Gaddafi was captured, tortured and murdered.

In a TV interview, Clinton celebrated the news when it appeared on her cell phone and paraphrased Julius Caesar’s famous line after Roman forces achieved a resounding victory in 46 B.C. and he declared, “veni, vidi, vici” – “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Clinton’s reprise of Caesar’s boast went: “We came; we saw; he died.” She then laughed and clapped her hands.

Presumably, the “Clinton Doctrine” would have been a policy of “liberal interventionism” to achieve “regime change” in countries where there is some crisis in which the leader seeks to put down an internal security threat and where the United States objects to the action.

But the problem with Clinton’s boasting about the “Clinton Doctrine” was that the Libyan adventure quickly turned sour with the Islamic terrorists, whom Gaddafi had warned about, seizing wide swaths of territory and turning it into another Iraq-like badlands.

On Sept. 11, 2012, this reality hit home when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was overrun and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American diplomatic personnel were killed. It turned out that Gaddafi wasn’t entirely wrong about the nature of his opposition.

Eventually, the extremist violence in Libya grew so out of control that the United States and European countries abandoned their embassies in Tripoli. Since then, Islamic State terrorists have begun decapitating Coptic Christians on Libyan beaches and slaughtering other “heretics.” Amid the anarchy, Libya has become a route for desperate migrants seeking passage across the Mediterranean to Europe.

A War on Assad

Parallel to the “regime change” in Libya was a similar enterprise in Syria in which the neocons and liberal interventionists pressed for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, whose government in 2011 cracked down on what had quickly become a violent rebellion led by extremist elements, though the Western propaganda portrayed the opposition as “moderate” and “peaceful.”

For the first years of the Syrian civil war, the pretense remained that these “moderate” rebels were facing unjustified repression and the only answer was “regime change” in Damascus. Assad’s claim that the opposition included many Islamic extremists was largely dismissed as were Gaddafi’s alarms in Libya.

On Aug. 21, 2013, a sarin gas attack outside Damascus killed hundreds of civilians and the U.S. State Department and the mainstream news media immediately blamed Assad’s forces amid demands for military retaliation against the Syrian army.

Despite doubts within the U.S. intelligence community about Assad’s responsibility for the sarin attack, which some analysts saw instead as a provocation by anti-Assad terrorists, the clamor from Official Washington’s neocons and liberal interventionists for war was intense and any doubts were brushed aside.

But President Obama, aware of the uncertainty within the U.S. intelligence community, held back from a military strike and eventually worked out a deal, brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Assad agreed to surrender his entire chemical-weapons arsenal while still denying any role in the sarin attack.

Though the case pinning the sarin attack on the Syrian government eventually fell apart – with evidence pointing to a “false flag” operation by Sunni radicals to trick the United States into intervening on their side – Official Washington’s “group think” refused to reconsider the initial rush to judgment. In Monday’s column, Hiatt still references Assad’s “savagery of chemical weapons.”

Any suggestion that the only realistic option in Syria is a power-sharing compromise that would include Assad – who is viewed as the protector of Syria’s Christian, Shiite and Alawite minorities – is rejected out of hand with the slogan, “Assad must go!”

The neocons have created a conventional wisdom which holds that the Syrian crisis would have been prevented if only Obama had followed the neocons’ 2011 prescription of another U.S. intervention to force another “regime change.” Yet, the far more likely outcome would have been either another indefinite and bloody U.S. military occupation of Syria or the black flag of Islamic terrorism flying over Damascus.

Get Putin

Another villain who emerged from the 2013 failure to bomb Syria was Russian President Putin, who infuriated the neocons by his work with Obama on Syria’s surrender of its chemical weapons and who further annoyed the neocons by helping to get the Iranians to negotiate seriously on constraining their nuclear program. Despite the “regime change” disasters in Iraq and Libya, the neocons wanted to wave the “regime change” wand again over Syria and Iran.

Putin got his comeuppance when U.S. neocons, including NED President Carl Gershman and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland (Robert Kagan’s wife), helped orchestrate a “regime change” in Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2014, overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych and putting in a fiercely anti-Russian regime on Russia’s border.

As thrilled as the neocons were with their “victory” in Kiev and their success in demonizing Putin in the mainstream U.S. news media, Ukraine followed the now-predictable post-regime-change descent into a vicious civil war. Western Ukrainians waged a brutal “anti-terrorist operation” against ethnic Russians in the east who resisted the U.S.-backed coup.

Thousands of Ukrainians died and millions were displaced as Ukraine’s national economy teetered toward collapse. Yet, the neocons and their liberal-hawk friends again showed their propaganda skills by pinning the blame for everything on “Russian aggression” and Putin.

Though Obama was apparently caught off-guard by the Ukrainian “regime change,” he soon joined in denouncing Putin and Russia. The European Union also got behind U.S.-demanded sanctions against Russia despite the harm those sanctions also inflicted on Europe’s already shaky economy. Europe’s stability is now under additional strain because of the flows of refugees from the war zones of the Middle East.

A Dozen Years of Chaos

So, we can now look at the consequences and costs of the past dozen years under the spell of neocon/liberal-hawk “regime change” strategies. According to many estimates, the death toll in Iraq, Syria and Libya has exceeded one million with several million more refugees flooding into – and stretching the resources – of fragile Mideast countries.

Hundreds of thousands of other refugees and migrants have fled to Europe, putting major strains on the Continent’s social structures already stressed by the severe recession that followed the 2008 Wall Street crash. Even without the refugee crisis, Greece and other southern European countries would be struggling to meet their citizens’ needs.

Stepping back for a moment and assessing the full impact of neoconservative policies, you might be amazed at how widely they have spread chaos across a large swath of the globe. Who would have thought that the neocons would have succeeded in destabilizing not only the Mideast but Europe as well.

And, as Europe struggles, the export markets of China are squeezed, spreading economic instability to that crucial economy and, with its market shocks, the reverberations rumbling back to the United States, too.

We now see the human tragedies of neocon/liberal-hawk ideologies captured in the suffering of the Syrians and other refugees flooding Europe and the death of children drowning as their desperate families flee the chaos created by “regime change.” But will the neocon/liberal-hawk grip on Official Washington finally be broken? Will a debate even be allowed about the dangers of “regime change” prescriptions in the future?

Not if the likes of The Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt have anything to say about it. The truth is that Hiatt and other neocons retain their dominance of the mainstream U.S. news media, so all that one can expect from the various MSM outlets is more neocon propaganda, blaming the chaos not on their policy of “regime change” but on the failure to undertake even more “regime change.”

The one hope is that many Americans will not be fooled this time and that a belated “realism” will finally return to U.S. geopolitical strategies that will look for obtainable compromises to restore some political order to places such as Syria, Libya and Ukraine. Rather than more and more tough-guy/gal confrontations, maybe there will finally be some serious efforts at reconciliation.

But the other reality is that the interventionist forces have rooted themselves deeply in Official Washington, inside NATO, within the mainstream news media and even in European institutions. It will not be easy to rid the world of the grave dangers created by neocon policies.

© 2016 Consortium News
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 18761
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to THE COMING WAR WITH RUSSIA

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest