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Old April 16th, 2014, 07:02 PM   #1
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The Red Line and The Rat Line

The Red Line and The Rat Line

Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels

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’.

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.

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Old April 16th, 2014, 07:17 PM   #2
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Good old Seymour Hersh........need we say more ?..........LOL
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Old April 16th, 2014, 07:42 PM   #3
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And now this. No one in the U.S. wanted to touch his frontal assault on Barack Obama. His London Review of Books piece was pretty blunt but, still, it is not so explosive, nor so vaguely documented that an editor with half a brain would shy away. Wince a bit, maybe. But Remnick winced and fought with Hersh a lot over years. Why not again? It strains credibility to think the New Yorker was afraid to take on the President. It slaughtered Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Bush.

Maybe Remnick tired of Hersh's ever-brassy behavior. He always makes things worse when he gives interviews and speeches and goes well beyond what he writes. Of Obama he commented in a recent interview: "I have not read enough... Freud to know what the hell is going on with him but there is something wrong with the guy."

In the end, it is tough to figure why the New Yorker would not trust the reporting of the "troublemaker." Journalists are supposed to be troublemakers. Remnick, you owe an explanation.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert...b_4520034.html






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Old April 17th, 2014, 07:34 PM   #4
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Bump.



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Old April 17th, 2014, 09:05 PM   #5
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Bump.



Bump, eh?

Quote:
How easy is it to make sarin?

“It’s not hard to make sarin. You could mix it in the backyard. Two chemicals melded together.” — Seymour Hersh interviewed on CNN, December 9, 2013.

The idea that the chemical warfare agent, sarin, is easy to make is central to Seymour Hersh’s claim that the August 21 attacks killing hundreds of Syrians could have been carried out by the rebel group, the Al Nusra Front. (With unquestioning confidence in the reliability of his source(s), Hersh rests this claim on classified intelligence reports none of which he claims to have seen.)

Hersh’s backyard sarin production appears to be concocted from fiction. The only non-state actor known to have engaged in large-scale sarin production was the Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo. They invested $30 million in this endeavor which included the creation of a production facility.

The plant was a free-standing three-story building, staffed by workers with chemistry and chemical-engineering expertise who designed and built proper process controls. It was a complex, expensive operation, and its production capacity was approximately 2 gallons of sarin per batch.


Dan Kaszeta, a former officer in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps and former member of the U.S. Secret Service, estimates that the August attack would have required one ton of sarin — far more than Aum Shinrikyo was able to produce even with their dedicated facility.

Hersh says “there’s two inert substances” used for producing sarin. But Kaszeta points out that the precursors are neither easy to obtain nor inert. Methylphosphonyl difluoride is both reactive and corrosive and as a Schedule 1 substance under the Chemical Weapons Convention, is tightly controlled.

Even if the precursors are obtainable, anyone trying to make sarin in an at-home lab would face a challenge because, in many ways, the ingredients are more dangerous than the final product. An intermediate step in the production, for example, requires the use of hydrogen fluoride gas at a high temperature. Hydrogen fluoride is nasty stuff, and a lot of it is needed to make sarin. Even in its more stable liquid form, the smallest leak would destroy all the chemistry equipment and almost everything else in a modern kitchen. Anyone trying to combine these ingredients may kill or seriously harm himself and anyone nearby.


Amy E. Smithson, a researcher on chemical and biological weapons at the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington, who investigated the Aum Shinrikyo attacks in Japan emphasized that in assessing the capacity of non-state actors to use chemical weapons there is a huge gulf between the “theoretical possibility” and the “operational reality.” And keep in mind that Aum Shinrikyo was operating in the tranquility of peacetime Japan — it’s obstacles were all technical with none from the battlefield.

“By almost any standard, Aum was a terrorist nightmare – a cult flush with money and technical skills led by a con-man guru with an apocalyptic vision, an obsession with chemical and biological weaponry, and no qualms about killing,” Smithson writes.

But by almost any standard, Aum Shinrikyo’s chemical weapons program, and an earlier attempt to develop biological agents, failed to produce anything close to the killing power the group desired.

The cult started off by trying to simply acquire chemical weapons from a rogue U.S. operation peddling nerve gas on the black market – but found itself dealing with a front for the U.S. Customs Service.

For terrorists, the lesson here is plain: Worldwide law enforcement and intelligence agencies represent no small obstacle.

When Aum Shinrikyo then turned to producing its own stockpiles of chemicals in 1993, it soon ran into complex problems involved in dispersing nerve gas in ways that kill lots of people.

“Weaponizing” chemical agents requires munitions that disperse the substances in droplets, which can kill on skin contact, or vapor, which can be lethal if inhaled. But most explosive devices within the technological reach of terrorists would either destroy most of the chemical agents upon detonation or fail to effectively disperse them.

Spraying also can effectively disperse chemical agents. But most experts believe that 90 percent of any agent sprayed outdoors will not reach its intended targets in lethal form, given the vagaries of temperature, sunlight, wind and rain. Pumping chemical or biological agents into a building’s indoor ventilation system is no easy task either, requiring detailed knowledge of how air is distributed from floor to floor.

In Aum Shinrikyo’s first attempt to attack a rival group by spraying sarin gas from a moving van, Smithson notes, “the sprayer completely malfunctioned and sprayed backwards.” The second attempt ended up exposing the group’s security chief to the toxic nerve agent.

When the cult finally executed its climactic subway attack, its dispersal method of choice was poking holes in plastic bags with sharpened umbrella points. Noxious fumes then seeped from the bags into the subway cars.

The resulting chaos and death shocked the world. “Rescue crews found pandemonium, with scores of commuters stumbling about, vision-impaired and struggling to breathe,” Smithson writes. “Casualties littered the sidewalks and subway station exits. Some foaming at the mouth, some vomiting and others prone and convulsing.”

But in the final analysis, she notes, 85 percent of the 5,510 people treated at Tokyo hospitals and clinics were simply worried, not harmed. Twelve ultimately died from sarin exposure, about 40 others were seriously injured, and slightly less than 1,000 were “moderately ill.”
How easy is it to make sarin?

Last edited by imaginethat; April 17th, 2014 at 09:09 PM.
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Old April 17th, 2014, 09:17 PM   #6
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From the Hersh article in the OP --

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.’



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Old April 17th, 2014, 09:33 PM   #7
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From the Hersh article in the OP --

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.’



Dodge.
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Old April 17th, 2014, 09:37 PM   #8
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Chevy.



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Old April 17th, 2014, 11:19 PM   #9
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Nope. The reality is Great Wall...

Trump for President...
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Old April 10th, 2017, 11:34 AM   #10
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Bump, as appropriate.



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