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Seymour Hersh Links Turkey to

Benghazi, Syria and Sarin
by Pierce Nahigyan (http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/author/pierce-nahigyan/)
May 6, 2014 5 Comments

Seymour Hersh at the 2004 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award (Institute for Policy

A recent report by journalist Seymour Hersh claims to uncover new information about the U.S.
and Turkeys involvement in the Syrian civil war. Combined with Turkeys shutdown of
YouTube and Twitter over rumors of government corruption, Hershs allegations further
condemn the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoan for political and military manipulation.
Yet the sins of Erdoans administration seem to be an outgrowth of Americas own
self-destructive foreign policy.

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The Sarin Attack

On August 21, 2013, a lethal nerve agent was released on the Syrian town of Ghouta outside
Damascus. The town was host to a faction of rebels fighting the government of President Bashar
al-Assad, one of many engaged in a brutal civil war stretching back to early 2011.
More than a thousand Syrians were killed after exposure to the deadly gas, what was later
classified by the UK Defense Science Technology Laboratory as kitchen grade sarin
(http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-chemical-weapons-who-was-behind-the-east-ghoutaattacks/5362741). On September 10, President Obama publicly denounced the attack and
Assad, whom he asserted was the man behind it. We know the Assad regime was responsible,
he said on national television (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/09
/10/remarks-president-address-nation-syria). And that is why, after careful deliberation, I
determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the
Assad regimes use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.
President Obama had previously warned that, should the Syrian government engage in
chemical warfare, they would be treading over a dangerous red line, provoking military
intervention by the United States. One year before the sarin attack, almost to the day
(http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/08/20/remarks-president-white-housepress-corps), Obama told reporter Chuck Todd, We have been very clear to the Assad
regimethat a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving
around or being utilized.
The case seemed cut and dry: American intelligence confirmed that Assad was guilty of
chemical warfare, putting him in violation of international law. But that case, according to
Hersh, was made through a deliberate manipulation of intelligence (http://www.lrb.co.uk
/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin). That a deadly gas had been used was
unquestionable, but a biased narrative was cherry picked from the available evidence to cast
the Assad regime as the perpetrator.
How was the evidence picked? Obama pointed to the fact that, prior to the attack, the U.S. had
intercepted chatter about the Syrian army distributing gas masks and mobilizing its chemical
weapons personnel. While the Syrian army had performed this exercise, it had done so in
December 2012eight months prior to the attack. Recovered munitions from the gas site
matched 330mm caliber artillery rockets, which were linked to the Syrian government because
such weapons had not been previously documented or reported to be in possession of the
insurgency. Yet Theodore Postol, a professor of technology and national security at MIT,
reviewed the photos of the rocket and concluded that it was an improvised munition,
something you could produce in a modestly capable machine shop and did not match the
smaller rocket used by the Syrian military. Most importantly, the Washington narrative ignored
al-Nusra, the Islamist rebel group designated by the U.S. and the U.N. as a terrorist
Al-Nusras stated goal is to establish sharia law in Syria (http://www.aljazeera.com
/news/middleeast/2013/12/al-qaeda-leader-syria-speaks-al-jazeera20131218155917935989.html). They have carried out multiple suicide attacks against secular
rebel groups and have been linked to small-scale chemical weapons attacks during the war.
Furthermore, al-Nusra was known to be operating in Eastern Ghouta in late May and to have

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acquired Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed, formerly of the Iraqi military, who had a track record of making
mustard gas in Iraq and[was] implicated in making and using sarin.
Direct evidence linking al-Nusra to the Ghouta chemical attack does not exist, but neither does
direct evidence linking the attack to the Syrian government. Nevertheless, Obama pushed hard
for American intervention in Syria, with the sarin attack the cornerstone of his argument. The
parallels to Americas previous cornerstones of Middle Eastern war, weapons of mass
destruction, cannot be overstated.
Turkey, the Rat Line and Benghazi
In Mid-April, the London Review of Books published The Red Line and the Rat Line
Seymour Hershs investigation into Americas covert operations in Syria.
According to Hersh, America has supplied Syria with weapons and materiel by channeling them
through Libya and Turkey. This process was overseen in part by the American consulate in
Libya, located in Benghazi.
In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report detailing the assault on the
Benghazi consulate that occurred in September 2012. A highly classified annex to the report
(distributed to only eight members of Congress) further details the agreement made between
President Obama and Prime Minister Erdoan to transport military supplies from Libya
through Turkey and into the hands of Syrian rebels. This back channel, what is known as a rat
line, was authorized in early 2012 but has yet to be publicly acknowledged by the Obama
administration. The Director of National Intelligence also denies the existence of a Turkish rat
According to Hershs sources, the rat line was funded by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and
executed by the CIA in conjunction with the UKs MI6. The CIA is required by law to inform
Congress of such covert missions, but not when they involve foreign agencies. This
collaboration between the CIA and MI6 was thus classified as a liaison operation, overseen by
CIA Director David Petraeus prior to his resignation, and used Libyan front companies to ship
packages to Turkey.
The reason for the attack on the Benghazi consulate remains a mystery, but according to a
former intelligence official, The consulates only mission was to provide cover for the moving of
arms. It had no real political role.
The Benghazi attack was a tragedy, but it was also a political disasterpublicly and privately.
The U.S. lost control of the rat line shortly afterwards, but even prior to the deaths of four U.S.
personnel, weapons were being put into the hands of Syrian jihadists. Syrias rebel groups are
not a homogenous lot and many have been affiliated with al Qaeda. The rat line did not
When America ended its CIA mission, it left Turkey with a lingering connection to Syrias
radical insurgents and the question of what to do next. No matter how the civil war ends,
Turkeys relationship with both the Syrian government and its rebel factions will come under

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Protection was needed in the form of U.S. intervention and Turkish leaders sought a way to pull
the U.S. back into the war.
On August 18, 2013, UN inspectors were near Damascus investigating the alleged use of
chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal (http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world
/un-inspectors-arrive-in-damascus-on-chemical-arms-probe/article5035151.ece). During their
three-day investigation, it would have been an exceptionally inopportune moment for the
Syrian government to deploy sarin gas in nearby Ghouta.
Indeed, the longer American analysts study the August 21 gas attack, the greater their sense that
the Syrian government did not perpetrate it. But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it
happen? asks Hershs source. The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the
pieces to make it happen.
The assessment of the Defense Intelligence Agency is that the sarin was supplied by Turkey to
elements in Ghouta with the intent of push[ing] Obama over the red line. Intercepted
transmissions from Turkish operators in the aftermath of the attack are jubilant, and the
success of their covert mission must have seemed well in hand. Obamas implicit call to war in
the coming month was proof of that.
But America didnt go to war with Syria. Turkey would need to find another way in.
YouTube and the False Flag
On March 27, the Turkish Telecommunications Authority (TIB) blocked the video sharing site
YouTube. This was in response to a posted video that purported to have confidential audio of a
conversation among Turkeys top authorities, including Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan, Deputy
Chief of Military Staff Yasar Guler, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Prime Minister
As of this writing, Reuters has not verified its authenticity (http://www.reuters.com/article
/2014/03/27/us-syria-crisis-turkey-idUSBREA2Q17420140327), but both Davutoglu and
Erdoan have admitted it is genuine. But whereas Davutoglu has said the tape has been edited,
Erdoan has only railed against the villainous leaking (http://www.bbc.com/news/worldeurope-26773702) of a national security meeting.
The subject of the meeting, as translated by the International Business Times, was possible
intervention in Syrias civil war (http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/turkey-youtube-ban-full-transcriptleaked-syria-war-conversation-between-erdogan-officials-1442161). To justify intervention,
Fidan suggests sending men from Syria to attack Turkey.

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Hakan Fidan Ill send 4 men from Syria, if thats what it takes. Ill make up a cause of
war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey; we can also prepare an attack on Suleiman
Shah Tomb if necessary.
Feridun Sinirliolu: Thats what I told back there. For one thing, the situation is
different. An operation on ISIL has solid ground on international law. Were going to
portray this is Al-Qaeda, theres no distress there if its a matter regarding Al-Qaeda.
And if it comes to defending Suleiman Shah Tomb, thats a matter of protecting our
Yaar Gler: We dont have any problems with that.
Hakan Fidan: Second after it happens, itll cause a great internal commotion (several
bombing events is bound to happen within). The border is not under control
What Fidan proposes is known as a false flag attack, a mission wherein the enemy is actually
disguised members of ones own country sent in to incite a panic. Suleiman Shah is the
grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire; though his tomb is located near Aleppo,
Syria, it is guarded by the Turkish military. Islamist rebels in Syria have threatened to destroy it
in the past and Erdoan has publicly threatened retaliation if they do.
But if ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) dont, the voice allegedly belonging to Fidan
knows what to do: I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land [in the vicinity of the tomb].
Thats not a problem. Justification can be created.
Erdoan has accused YouTube of giving saboteurs a platform for dissent and banned access to
the website nationwide. The ban was temporarily lifted on April 5 but the ruling was reversed by
the GlbaCriminal Court of First Instance. Two days later, Google filed a protest
Turkish courts.
The Horror
(http://www.todayszaman.com/news-344074-us-turkey-reject-hersh-article-on-saringas-attack-in-syria.html). Both countries point out that Hersh has but one unnamed
intelligence source supplying most of his information and reaffirm that each is the others ally.
Hershs unnamed intelligence source could have predicted that:
We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoan, but Turkey is a special case. Theyre
a Nato ally. The Turks dont trust the West. They cant live with us if we take any active role
against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoans role with the
gas, itd be disastrous.
The countries have said that this conspiracy of Hershs is too horrific to be believed. Im sure
Mr. Hersh is used to it. Hes been hearing that since 1969.
Chemical Weapons (http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/tag/chemical-weapons/), False
Flag Attacks (http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/tag/false-flag-attacks/), Seymour Hersh
(http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/tag/seymour-hersh/), Syria

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(http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/tag/syria/), Turkey
(http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/tag/turkey-world-news/), US Foreign Policy



Pierce Nahigyan
Pierce Nahigyan is a freelance journalist living in Long Beach, California. His work
has appeared in several publications, including NationofChange, the Los Angeles
Post-Examiner and SHK Magazine. A graduate of Northwestern University, he
holds a B.A. in Sociology and History.
More articles by this author (http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/author/pierce-nahigyan/)

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