How the West Gassed Thousands to Death in Damascus

21 Apr

By Tony Cartalucci
Global Research, April 19, 2014
New Eastern Outlook
Region: Middle East & North Africa
Theme: Media Disinformation, US NATO War Agenda
In-depth Report: SYRIA: NATO’S NEXT WAR?

The bombshell report by Pulitzer Prize-winning veteran journalist Seymour Hersh titled, “The Red Line and the Rat Line,” contains many shocking revelations for those following the West’s version of reality regarding the Syrian conflict. It particularly sheds new light on the August 2013 chemical attack that left over a thousand dead (US estimates) and thousands more affected.

It reveals that not only was the Syrian government not behind the attack, but that it was a false flag operation designed specifically to serve as an impetus for Western military intervention. It also reveals that the West’s desire to intervene in the wake of the chemical attack was not to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons as was stated to the public, but instead was intended to completely destroy the Syrian military and save its militant proxies who were already well on their way to losing the war.

However, for all the revelations it contains, it provides only a glimpse into the greater conspiracy the West has been engaged in, grossly understating the unfolding truth of the West’s role behind the devastating conflict that is consuming Syria. To understand the entire picture, one must examine Hersh’s work stretching back as far as 2007.

Hersh’s Syrian Trilogy

Taken alone, Hersh’s latest report is damning. Taken together with two previous pieces, spanning a total of 7 years of analysis and investigative journalism, Hersh’s work paints a picture of a West engaged in a diabolical, premeditated conspiracy to mire Syria in a sectarian bloodbath for the purpose of achieving regime change in Damascus and undermining neighboring Iran. It becomes clear upon reading Hersh’s work, that the chemical attack in Damascus was not only perpetrated by the West, but was done to trigger a greater war on top of the carnage the West has already intentionally sown.

Hersh’s first piece published in the New Yorker in March 2007 titled, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” reveals that the current conflict in Syria was in fact first engineered during the Bush administration. It states in no uncertain terms that (emphasis added):

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

The same report would reveal that the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel had already begun funding Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood to begin preparations for the impending conflict, and that analysts within the US intelligence community foresaw a humanitarian catastrophe in the making, spurred by the arming of large groups of sectarian extremists.

Hersh’s second piece would come in the aftermath of the August 2013 chemical attack in Damascus. Published in December of 2013, Hersh’s piece titled, “Whose Sarin?” stated (emphasis added):

Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

The lengthy report goes on in detail, covering the manner in which Western leaders intentionally manipulated or even outright fabricated intelligence to justify military intervention in Syria – eerily similar to the lies told to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the escalation of the war in Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

The report also reveals that Al Nusra, Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, was identified by US intelligence agencies long ago for possessing chemical weapons. These are the same terrorists Hersh warned about in his 2007 article, and mentioned again as being at the center of Western designs in his most recent piece.

The West’s Coverup…

In an attempt to counter Hersh’s report in 2013, the Western media conducted a smear campaign against him and his work. It centered around “weapons expert” Eliot Higgins – an unemployed blogger with no military training who watches YouTube videos – coupled with the commentary of Dan Kaszeta, an expert-for-hire who currently heads the security contractor firm, “Strongpoint Security.”

The entirety of their argument was not who, but how the attack was carried out, proving nothing beyond the fact that the false flag operation was executed very convincingly. Higgins, in a post published by Foreign Policy arrogantly titled, “Sy Hersh’s Chemical Misfire,” claims (emphasis added):

I asked chemical weapons specialist Dan Kaszeta for his opinion on that. He compared the possibility of Jabhat al-Nusra using chemical weapons to another terrorist attack involving sarin: the 1996 gassing of the Tokyo subway by the Aum Shinrikyo cult.

“The 1994 to 1996 Japanese experience tells us that even a very large and sophisticated effort comprising many millions of dollars, a dedicated large facility, and a lot of skilled labor results only in liters of sarin, not tons,” Kaszeta said. “Even if the Aug. 21 attack is limited to the eight Volcano rockets that we seem to be talking about, we’re looking at an industrial effort two orders of magnitude larger than the Aum Shinrikyo effort. This is a nontrivial and very costly undertaking, and I highly doubt whether any of the possible nonstate actors involved here have the factory to have produced it. Where is this factory? Where is the waste stream? Where are the dozens of skilled people — not just one al Qaeda member — needed to produce this amount of material?”

Of course, to call Al Nusra a nonstate actor is entirely untruthful. Al Nusra and other extremist networks inside of Syria have had the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel’s backing since at least as early as 2007. Since 2011, Qatar and Turkey have also played immense roles in supporting Al Nusra – with NATO-member Turkey providing them sanctuary and even logistical support.

Higgins and his “expert” ask where the factories, waste streams, and skilled people are – the answer is somewhere within one of the many axis nations supporting Al Nusra. They have the capacity to both manufacturer the gas and transport it into Syria – or conversely – provide Al Nusra with the supplies and personal to do it inside of Syria.

And this, in fact, is precisely what Hersh proves in his latest article, not through YouTube videos and paid-for commentary from security contractors, but from sources within the US government itself.

Hersh beings his latest piece, “The Red Line and the Rat Line,” by quoting US defense officials who claimed (emphasis added):

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.’

Hersh also reports that (emphasis added):

‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF [Al Nusrah Front] 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.’

Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators constitute the “the factories, waste streams, and skilled people” used to enable Al Nusra to carry out the attack. Hersh’s report also reveals that training had been given to Al Nusra in the handling of chemical agents by Turkey:

‘The MIT [Turkey's national intelligence agency] 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.

Hersh’s Immense Work is Still Incomplete

But this is only part of the story. While Hersh lcaims Turkey was training terrorists on Syria’s northern borders to carry out the attack, it has been revealed that the United States itself was too, as well as training Saudi-backed terrorists staging in Jordan to the south of Syria. CNN’s December 2012 report titled, “Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons,” stated that:

The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.

The training, which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

Though Hersh’s article suggests that the chemical attack was a false flag operation carried out by terrorists from Turkey with Turkish backing, it is just as likely, if not more so keeping in mind logistical considerations, that terrorists out of Jordan with US-Saudi backing carried out the attack instead.

Washington’s initial eagerness and expediency to launch a war against Syria may have been blunted by resistance within the US Department of Defense as suggested by Hersh, but was certainly laid to rest by an utter lack of public confidence, with the proposed war with Syria perceived as the most unpopular conflict in US history. Slate’s “Least Popular War Ever?” stated:

As Secretary of State John Kerry made the Obama administration’s most forceful statement yet on Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds just 9 percent of Americans supporting intervention in Syria, with about 60 percent opposed.

Hersh also reveals that not only was the US eager to militarily intervene based on flawed and fabricated intelligence, but that it was eagerly expanding the scope of its intervention – from disarming Syria of its chemical stockpiles, to decimating all of Syria’s military – to give the militants it was backing an upper-hand in a conflict they were sorely losing. Hersh’s report states:

It [US target list in Syria] 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.

If Turkey Carried Out the Damascus Attack, America Helped…

Turkey has been a NATO member since 1952 – and its involvement in Syria has most certainly not been unilateral. Its role in handing weapons, funding, and support to militants along the Turkish-Syrian border has been admittedly augmented by US CIA officers. In June of 2012, the New York Times in an article titled, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” claimed:

A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.

The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.

The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said.

The New York Times in their March 2013 article titled, “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With C.I.A. Aid,” admits that:

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.

The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

A June 2013 LA Times article titled, “U.S. has secretly provided arms training to Syria rebels since 2012,” admitted:

CIA agents and special operations troops have trained the rebels in anti-tank and antiaircraft weaponry in Jordan and Turkey.

The LA Times continued:

CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels with anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons since late last year, months before President Obama approved plans to begin directly arming them, according to U.S. officials and rebel commanders.

The covert U.S. training at bases in Jordan and Turkey, along with Obama’s decision this month to supply arms and ammunition to the rebels, has raised hope among the beleaguered Syrian opposition that Washington ultimately will provide heavier weapons as well. So far, the rebels say they lack the weapons they need to regain the offensive in the country’s bitter civil war.

If Turkey aided and abetted terrorists in carrying out a false-flag chemical weapons attack in Damascus, it is inconceivable that the US CIA did not know about it, and very unlikely they did not participate, however indirectly.

Ultimately, Hersh’s work is incomplete, and leaves the impression that Turkey went rogue, carrying out an attack to bring an unwilling US into a war they did not desire. In reality, to this day, the United States is still openly backing and arming militants it itself has designated as terrorist organizations, providing them with increasingly deadly armaments that will perpeuate the bloodbath they themselves, on record, began engineering as early as 2007.

What Hersh’s work reveals, however immense, is but one of several grotesque tentacles breaking the surface of very murky waters beneath which lurks a leviathan of state-sponsored terrorism that is responsible for the gassing of thousands, and the deaths of tens of thousands within and along Syria’s borders, and a region now teetering on the edge of a much larger and more costly war. It illustrates how the world is run by “the bad guys” who perpetrate crimes against humanity not only with absolute impunity, but with so-called international agencies covering up their tracks.

The United Nations is expected to be utterly silent over these revelations, while it continues to disingenuously wring its hands over a humanitarian crisis the West is both intentionally creating and then leveraging for geopolitical gain. What the world is left with is the need for a “non-international” response – one multipolar in nature, with Syria’s allies assisting in anti-terror operations and humanitarian relief conducted through Damascus. It may fall short of what could be accomplish if and when the nations of the West decide to genuinely commit to peace in Syria, but it is a far better alternative to capitulating to the West’s now naked conspiracy against the Syrian people.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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US Guantanamo Detainee Killed in Syria While Leading NATO-Backed Death Squad

18 Apr

By Tony Cartalucci
Global Research, April 17, 2014
New Eastern Outlook

The Long War Journal reported in its post, “Former Guantanamo detainee killed while leading jihadist group in Syria,” that:

Ibrahim Bin Shakaran, a Moroccan who spent more than three years at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility before being released to Moroccan custody, has been killed while leading a jihadist group that fights Syrian government forces.

Bin Shakaran, who is also known as Abu Ahmad al Maghribi, Abu Ahmad al Muhajir, and Brahim Benchekroune, was “martyred, Insha’Allah, in battles for Hilltop # 45 in Latakia,” according to Kavkaz Center, a propaganda arm of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.

Bin Shakaran led a jihadist group known as Sham al Islam, which is based in Latakia and is comprised primarily of fighters from Morocco, according to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Bin Shakaran created the group “not only to recruit fighters for the Syria war, but also to establish a jihadist organization within Morocco itself.”

Sham al Islam has been fighting alongside the al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, as well as Ahrar al Sham and the Army of the Emigrants and Supporters in an ongoing offensive in the coastal province of Latakia.

Curiously absent from The Long War Journal’s report is any mention of how Bin Shakaran made it into northern Syria in the first place. Clearly this is because it would involve mentioning Turkey, a long-standing NATO member, with NATO being the organization that invaded and occupied Afghanistan, and whom Bin Shakaran had been fighting and ultimately fled from before being captured.

The Long War Journal also makes mention of the Kavkaz Center, calling it “a propaganda arm of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.” Only the Kavkaz Center had been backed by the now defunct US National Endowment for Democracy-funded ”Russian-Chechen Friendship Society.” While The Long War Journal poses as a stalwart fighter of terrorism, its Western-backed counterpart, the Kavkaz Center is promoting terrorism in Russia.

“The Long War Journal” itself is a project of the Neo-Con Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). The FDD has counted among its membership US politicians and policy makers such as current US Vice President Joseph Biden, William Kristol, Steve Forbes, Charles Krauthammer, Paula Dobriansky – many of whom were signatories of the now notorious Project for a New American Century and who had been the chief proponents of the so-called “War on Terror” and the two costly conflicts fought in its name – the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The detention center in Guantanamo is part of the “War on Terror’s” legacy, a continuous point of contention between the US government and rights activists, and clearly a failure in its alleged role of keeping dangerous terrorists off the battlefield.

A Pattern That Fits Conspiracy

What Bin Shakaran’s case appears to prove, is that Guantanamo, and the larger “anti-terror” network maintained by the United States is instead redirecting terrorists from NATO theaters of operation to conflict zones NATO is currently unable to directly intervene in. In Bin Shakaran’s case, that conflict zone is northern Syria. Bin Shakaran is joined by fellow US detainees like Abdel Hakim Belhadj, who was fighting NATO troops in Afghanistan, was briefly captured in Malaysia and tortured by the CIA in Thailand, before then leading a NATO-backed assault on the Libyan government of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

Other members of Bin Shakaran’s militant group were also Guantanamo inmates. This includes Moroccan-born Mohammed al Alami who Reuters reported on in their article, “Former Guantanamo prisoner killed in Syria after joining Islamist brigade.” In it, Reuters stated:

A former prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base died fighting for anti-government rebels in Syria, according to an Islamist opposition group which posted a video of his funeral on YouTube.

Reuters would add:

Alami, was the second known former Guantanamo detainee to be killed this year, Zelin added. A Saudi second-in-command of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was killed in a U.S. drone attack in Yemen in July.

Throngs of terrorists, whose leaders are former inmates held in US custody, harbored, funded, and armed within NATO territory, and sent into Syria with NATO air and artillery cover fits the pattern of a conspiracy rather than a series of very unlikely coincidences.

It was in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” that prophetically stated (emphasis added):
“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

It is more clear than ever, with the West’s own warmongering policy makers admitting terrorists kept at their detention centers are now spearheading the fighting in a war of their own design, that the conspiracy described by Seymour Hersh in 2007 had been executed in earnest in 2011 and is continuing today.

The US and its axis partners are not waging a “War on Terror,” they are waging a “War of Terror.” While they will attempt to portray the appearance of Bin Shakaran and others in Syria as the unfortunate result of poorly planned policy, it was, by their own admission, all part of the plan, years before the so-called “Syrian Arab Spring” began.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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U.S. Efforts to Arm Jihadis in Syria: The Scandal Behind the Benghazi Undercover CIA Facility

16 Apr

Beyond Partisan Politics: Pulitzer-Prize Winning Reporter Sy Hersh Says Benghazi Is A Huge Scandal … But Not For The Reason You Think

By Washington’s Blog
Global Research, April 15, 2014
Washington’s Blog

Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh – who broke the stories of the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam and the Iraq prison torture scandals, which rightfully disgraced the Nixon and Bush administrations’ war-fighting tactics – reported last week:

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.

That’s the part you’ve heard about: failure to protect the personnel at the embassy.

But then Hersh breaks the deeper story wide open:

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.’

Hersh isn’t the first to report on this major scandal.

We’ve extensively documented that the bigger story behind the murder of ambassador Chris Stevens at the Benghazi embassy in Libya is that the embassy was the center of U.S. efforts to arm jihadis in Syria who are trying to topple the Syrian government.

We’ve also noted that this is not a partisan issue … both parties greenlighted regime change in Syria years ago, and both parties have tried to cover up what was really going on in Benghazi.

Last August, CNN touched on the weapons smuggling aspect of Benghazi.

The Wall Street Journal, Telegraph and other sources confirm that the US consulate in Benghazi wasmainly being used for a secret CIA operation.

They say that the State Department presence in Benghazi “provided diplomatic cover” for the previously hidden CIA mission. WND alleges that it was not a real consulate. And former CIA officer Philip Giraldiconfirms:

Benghazi has been described as a U.S. consulate, but it was not. It was an information office that had no diplomatic status. There was a small staff of actual State Department information officers plus local translators. The much larger CIA base was located in a separate building a mile away. It was protected by a not completely reliable local militia. Base management would have no say in the movement of the ambassador and would not be party to his plans, nor would it clear its own operations with the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. In Benghazi, the CIA’s operating directive would have been focused on two objectives: monitoring the local al-Qaeda affiliate group, Ansar al-Sharia, and tracking down weapons liberated from Colonel Gaddafi’s arsenal. Staff consisted of CIA paramilitaries who were working in cooperation with the local militia. The ambassador would not be privy to operational details and would only know in general what the agency was up to. When the ambassador’s party was attacked, the paramilitaries at the CIA base came to the rescue before being driven back into their own compound, where two officers were subsequently killed in a mortar attack.

Reuters notes that the CIA mission involved finding and repurchasing heavy weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals.

Retired Lt. General William Boykin said in January that Stevens was in Benghazi as part of an effort to arm the Syrian opposition:

More supposition was that he was now funneling guns to the rebel forces in Syria, using essentially the Turks to facilitate that. Was that occurring, (a), and if so, was it a legal covert action?

Boykin said Stevens was “given a directive to support the Syrian rebels” and the State Department’s Special Mission Compound in Benghazi “would be the hub of that activity.”

Business Insider reports that Stevens may have been linked with Syrian terrorists:

There’s growing evidence that U.S. agents—particularly murdered ambassador Chris Stevens—were at least aware of heavy weapons moving from Libya to jihadist Syrian rebels.

In March 2011 Stevens became the official U.S. liaison to the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan opposition, working directly with Abdelhakim Belhadj of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group—a group that has now disbanded, with some fighters reportedly participating in the attack that took Stevens’ life.

In November 2011 The Telegraph reported that Belhadj, acting as head of the Tripoli Military Council, “met with Free Syrian Army [FSA] leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey” in an effort by the new Libyan government to provide money and weapons to the growing insurgency in Syria.

Last month The Times of London reported that a Libyan ship “carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria … has docked in Turkey.” The shipment reportedly weighed 400 tons and included SA-7 surface-to-air anti-craft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

***

Reuters reports that Syrian rebels have been using those heavy weapons to shoot downSyrian helicopters and fighter jets.

The ship’s captain was “a Libyan from Benghazi and the head of an organization called the Libyan National Council for Relief and Support,” which was presumably established by the new government.

That means that Ambassador Stevens had only one person—Belhadj—between himself and the Benghazi man who brought heavy weapons to Syria.

Furthermore, we know that jihadists are the best fighters in the Syrian opposition, but where did they come from?

Last week The Telegraph reported that a FSA commander called them “Libyans” when he explained that the FSA doesn’t “want these extremist people here.”

And if the new Libyan government was sending seasoned Islamic fighters and 400 tons of heavy weapons to Syria through a port in southern Turkey—a deal brokered by Stevens’ primary Libyan contact during the Libyan revolution—then the governments of Turkey and the U.S. surely knew about it.

Furthermore there was a CIA post in Benghazi, located 1.2 miles from the U.S. consulate, used as “a base for, among other things, collecting information on the proliferation of weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, including surface-to-air missiles” … and that its security features “were more advanced than those at rented villa where Stevens died.”

And we know that the CIA has been funneling weapons to the rebels in southern Turkey. The question is whether the CIA has been involved in handing out the heavy weapons from Libya.

In other words, ambassador Stevens may have been a key player in deploying Libyan terrorists and arms to fight the Syrian government.

Other sources also discuss that the U.S. consulate in Benghazi as mainly being used as a CIA operation to ship fighters and arms to Syria.

Many have speculated that – if normal security measures weren’t taken to protect the Benghazi consulate or to rescue ambassador Stevens – it was because the CIA was trying to keep an extremely low profile to protect its cover of being a normal State Department operation.

That is what I think really happened at Benghazi.

Was CIA Chief David Petraeus’ Firing Due to Benghazi?

CIA boss David Petraeus suddenly resigned, admitting to an affair. But Petraeus was scheduled to testify under oath the next week before power House and Senate committees regarding the Benghazi consulate. Many speculate that it wasn’t an affair – but the desire to avoid testifying on Benghazi – which was the real reason for Petraeus’ sudden resignation. And see this.

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The Red Line and the Rat Line. Erdogan of Turkey behind the use of chemical attack in Syria in Aug 2013

7 Apr

By: Seymour M. Hersh, on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels
4 Apr 2014

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.

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.)

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 Davutoglu, 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.

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 Davutoglu 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 Erdoğan and his associates, 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 [Erdoğan], 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.”’

Seymour Myron Hersh (born April 8, 1937) is an American investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular 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.”

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Syria’s Victory, Setback For US-NATO, Turning Point For Western Global Hegemony

5 Apr

By Tony Cartalucci
Global Research, March 31, 2014
New Eastern Outlook

Since 2011, Syria has been the target of an attempted foreign-backed regime change. Riding on the momentum of the US-engineered “Arab Spring,” protesters took to the streets across Syria, serving as cover for armed militants the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia – on record – had been preparing since at least as early as 2007.

It was in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” that prophetically stated (emphasis added):

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

Syria’s destabilization was ongoing alongside other Arab nations, including Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. In Tunisia and Egypt, the fallout was political, with limited street violence. In Libya, the fallout was absolute – the nation utterly decimated by so-called “freedom fighters” later revealed as Al Qaeda militants of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

The West’s blitzkrieg across North Africa and the Middle East took many nations by surprise. Their inability to respond effectively to orchestrated “color revolution” have resulted in 3 years of regional destabilization, regime change, and even war.

In Syria however, the government and the people held on, and then, began fighting back.

It was clear by January 2013 that Syria’s security forces had turned the tide against the foreign-backed militants who had for 2 years been flowing across their border and sowing deadly chaos across the Middle Eastern nation. Irreversible gains were being made everywhere from the north near Syria’s largest city Aleppo, all along the Lebanese border, and particularly in the southern city of Daraa, the so-called “birthplace” of the “uprising.”

The Western media continued portraying the situation in Syria as fluid, with the Syrian government teetering and their militant proxies on the verge of making a breakthrough. In reality, desperation had set in across Washington, London, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv. Attempts to provoke a wider war with direct Israeli attacks on Syrian territory were carried out but with no effect, and by August of 2013, the West had grown so desperate to directly intervene to salvage their floundering proxy forces, they even staged a false-flag chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus. Much to the West’s dismay, the false-flag attack not only failed to provide them with the pretext needed for direct intervention, it severely and perhaps irreparably hobbled their credibility and international standing.

Syria’s Triumph Hidden No More

Recent gains by Syria against the West’s proxy militant invaders could be seen most clearly in Yabroud this month, 80 kilometers northwest of Damascus and a strategic city for militant campaigns carried out against both Syrians and Lebanese across the nearby border. The city of Yabroud was considered firmly in the hands of militants throughout the duration of conflict. With the restoration of order in Yabroud, and with militant factions folding en masse, it appears that large-scale military operations against Syria have largely drawn to a close and are shifting instead toward a low-intensity terrorist campaign.

The West is unable to portray their militant proxies as a viable opposition force, politically, socially, and now strategically. Syrian forces have pushed the militants to the very borders of Syria.

Just today, Turkey resorted to firing on, and claims to have shot down a Syrian warplane as Syrian forces battled militants along the border. In the southern city of Daraa near the Syrian-Jordanian border, the so-called “Southern Front” comprised of allegedly 49 militant factions and claiming to have up to 30,000 fighters in its rank, had doubt cast on it even from Western sources calling the force, “an alliance on paper.”

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace provided a disturbing report of continued military support for terrorists flooding into Syria from Jordan, armed and funded by the United States and Saudi Arabia – even as both feigned chastisement recently of Qatar for doing the very same. In its report titled, “Does the “Southern Front” Exist?” it claimed:

According to several sources, there has still been an uptick in support to rebels in the south since late February, with large amounts of money spent on rebel salaries and Saudi trucks moving cargo toward the Jordan-Syria border. But without a major increase in support and, probably, the addition of qualitative weapons like antiair missiles, it is hard to imagine that the rebels can advance very far—or that they will be able to unite around a single leadership.

It appears to be the last desperate push by a depleted force against a well entrenched and capable Syrian military. While the West is no doubt still trying to fuel unrest in Syria, it appears that gains by the Syrian military have reached a tipping point that no amount of indirect support can turn back. Short of direct large-scale military intervention by Western forces, the proxy war has been effectively lost.

What Syria’s Victory Means for Western Hegemony

The modern pursuit of Western hegemony stems back to the end of the Cold War when Wall Street and London believed it was possible to reorder the planet under their control in the absence of any significant opposing superpower. Color revolutions across Eastern Europe, the plundering of Russia in the 1990′s, the first Iraq War, and the breakup of the Balkans seemed to suggest this reordering was well underway. However, Russia, China, India, and other developing nations sprung back too quickly and the West’s ambitions were slowly put in check.

Today, with the West ousted from Iraq, mired in Afghanistan, its machinations revealed in Libya as marauding aggressors, and confounded in both Syria and Ukraine, not only does it seem Western ambitions are in check, but may in fact be in danger of being reversed altogether.

The failure of the West in Syria sends a message to other targets of Western meddling. There is no need to compromise nor negotiate, nor any need to pander to the conventions the West has put in place to tie the hands of their intended targets. In fact, by doing so, a nation only makes itself more vulnerable as they attempt to adhere to rules the West insists others follow but willfully violates itself.

While the West compounds its growing impotence globally by insisting on the continued pursuit of its failed unipolar model built on achieving global hegemony, nations like Russia and China insist on mutual partnerships with other nations in a multipolar world – neither dictating nor violating the sovereignty of any nation beyond its borders.

The West’s failure in Syria is an indicator that its power and influence is on the decline and provides a modern illustration of the dangers historically faced by empire as it overreaches. Even if the West was able to overturn its failures in Syria, its reputation and legitimacy has been hobbled to such a degree that any geopolitical push beyond Syria would be all but impossible.

The West’s columnists and policy scribes lament over the “retreat” of Western primacy – but it is only in “retreat” because it chooses to be a belligerent in the first place. A nation playing a positive, constructive role internationally can still be influential if it respects those it is interacting with and effects change by setting an appealing example. For the West and its centuries of subjugating others, this concept is not only alien, but apparently less preferable than the collapsing order they are currently presiding over.

Syria’s emerging victory means that while the West may despoil other nations in the near and intermediate future, the vector sum of its power and influence will be perpetual decline.

For Syria and other nations facing the same potential destabilization within their own borders, a costly lesson has been learned about attempting to appease and accommodate Western ambitions. Establishing the moral high-ground early on, and having the means through domestic media targeting international audiences like Iran’s Press TV or Russia’s RT to tell their side of the story to the world, allows a targeted nation the ability to stand its ground, and if necessary, fight back. Attempting to use the very system the West put in place to achieve global primacy – including the UN, its human rights racket, and the international media – is to play the West’s game, by their rules, and entirely on their terms at a clear and immense disadvantage.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”

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NATO’s Turkey Providing Air Support for Al Qaeda in Northern Syria

26 Mar

By Mimi Al Laham
Global Research, March 25, 2014
Syria News and Land Destroyer Report

The downing of a Syrian jet by Turkey was not an isolated incident but part of a major offensive by Al Qaeda affiliated groups Jabhat Al Nusra (designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department) and Ahrar Al Sham against a northwestern Syrian-Turkish border crossing. Turkey has been supporting Al Qaeda’s attack on the Kassab border crossing, the only crossing that was still held by the Syrian military. While the AFP did report that the group involved in the attack was the AlQaeda faction Jabhat Al Nusra , this fact has not made it to any mainstream media headline.

Image: Excerpt from AFP reporting Al Qaeda forces involved in the Kassab cross-border assault.
Jabhat Al Nusra, are also actively being given safe haven by Turkey. The map below shows the Al Qaeda Camp within the Turkish border from which the attack on the Kassab border crossing came. AlQaeda militants also brazenly videotaped themselves walking right through the Turkish Kassab border gate into Syria without any harassment from Turkish guards.

Another Al Qaeda offshoot fighting along side Jabhat Al Nusra in the offensive is ‘Ahrar Al Sham’. While the rebel group is not yet designated Al Qaeda by the US State Department, the group was founded by Abu Khaled as-Suri, Al Zawahiri’s ambassador to Syria. Ahrar Al Sham was described as ‘Al Qaeda worth befriending’ by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Washington’s premier think tank. Charles Lister, a fellow at of the Brookings Institution, tweets video of Ahrar Al Sha’am taking part in the attack on Latakia.

Image: Al Qaeda rockets fall on Latakia province, killing 7 and injuring 30.
It was reported that Turkey had begun shelling inside Syrian soil to back the offensive on the border point. Turkish artillery and tanks targeted Syrian positions, and Turkish special forces have been observed in the region. A Lebanon based satelite channel Al Mayadeen TV reported that the Syrian Army launched a counterattack on the border point Nabie Al Murr with Turkey , along with dense artillery cover. In response to the Syrian defensive measures against the AlQaeda attack, Turkey downed a Syrian jet that was firing on the Al Qaeda militants from Syrian airspace. Turkey’s claims that the Syrian jet violated Turkish airspace is contradicted by the fact the plane crashed over Syrian territory as shown in a video posted by Al Qaeda in the area. The pilot managed to safely eject and was picked up in Syria, and was even interviewedby Syrian state TV.The Al Qaeda attack and takeover of the Kassab border crossing has caused up to 2000 to 6000 Armenian Syrians to flee the area. Mass looting and destruction of religious sites was reported by residents (similar to criminal acts carried out in the recently liberated city of Yabroud). Armenians are once again refugees due to the Turkish government like their ancestors who fled the Armenian Holocaust decades ago.
There has been no mention on the BBC of NATO’s open support for Al Qaeda groups. The attack comes in the backdrop of mass rallies against Turkish President Erdogan, who recently banned Twitter.

The battles in Latakia are ongoing, with the Syrian military inflicting heavy losses on Al Qaeda militants.

Syrian activist and blogger Mimi Al Laham can be followed at http://www.youtube.com/Syriangirlpartisan, http://www.facebook.com/partisangirl, & http://www.twitter.com/partisangirlImageImageImageImage

Turkey at the Crossroads

24 Mar

Image

By Sungur Savran
Global Research, March 23, 2014
Gercek and Socialist Project

So it has come to this! As the whole world is aware, the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken the step of banning Twitter! The government is probably sounding the reaction of the public and planning to ban YouTube as well, since that has been the site where all the wiretapped conversations have been posted.

These leaked recordings of conversations between the prime minister, other government members, a motley of prominent capitalists, and leading journalists have, in our opinion, definitively demonstrated the depth of the corruption, degeneration, manipulation of the judiciary and heavy-handed interference in the day to day functioning of the media the government has been engaged in for years now. Thus the Twitter decision is only the last link to date in a long chain of violations of the most basic democratic rights. However, its sheer brazenness signals a qualitative change and should not be underestimated.

This move is also the apex of a series of measures adopted by the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government for the last three months. Ever since the earth-shaking corruption probe of 17 December 2013, in which four government ministers were indicted for having engaged in graft and bribe along with their sons and a host of capitalists, in particular contractors mouth-fed with ground rent flowing from the fountains of the endless urban transformation projects of the recent years, the government’s sole activity has practically become the blackening of evidence and the whitewashing of revealed cases of corruption. Public prosecutors that had been trying to look into these cases have been removed from their posts.

Police officials who had been carrying out their duties have been sidelined. Basing itself on the so far subservient AKP majority, the government has rushed through parliament laws that make it possible for it to control the judiciary and to ban internet traffic (the Twitter ban case is the first spectacular fruit of that law) and is preparing another piece of legislation to grant unprecedented powers to MIT, the national intelligence agency controlled by its henchmen. But the leaked tapes posted on YouTube have caused immense damage to the credibility of the government in the eyes of the wider public. The veracity of some of these was confirmed by Erdogan himself, but the most lethal cassette was dismissed as “montage.” In this audio tape, Erdogan is heard, in a succession of conversations taped on the very day when his ministers were being hounded for their part in the corruption, urging his son to stash away stunning sums of money, reaching up to a billion dollars, kept illicitly in their Istanbul home.

All this has surely taken its toll on Erdogan’s prestige internationally and at home, but public opinion polls suggest that the pious conservative majority that has granted him landslide victories in election after election in the past has still not given up on him. So we are witnessing a sight in which a once powerful political leader is desperately swimming in an open gutter to what he believes is salvation on the shores of the local elections of 30 March. In effect he has such great confidence in the elections as panacea that he had only a week ago declared that his government would shut down Twitter and YouTube after the elections. However, an impending catastrophe has obviously forced his hand to move earlier. That catastrophe would be one or several cassettes, this time video tapes as well as audio tapes, concerning variously the alleged cold-blooded murder of a political rival ordered by Erdogan, visual evidence that hundreds of millions of dollars were in fact stashed away on 17 December and/or visual evidence of sexual behaviour on the part of either Erdogan himself or his ministers impossible to stomach by the devoutly Muslim electorate of the AKP.

The Politics Behind the Thriller

All this filth has been revealed as a result of the irreversible break between the two major pillars of the Islamic historical bloc that has ruled over Turkey for a dozen years. Fethullah Gulen, an imam in exile in Pennsylvania, and his community of disciples, wielding an international empire of missionary schools, as well as businesses, a strong media presence, and considerable influence through its schools and boarding houses on pious youth at the domestic level, have now abandoned Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP. Throughout the years of bloodless civil war that pitted the newly rising Islamic bourgeoisie against the older, more established pro-Western secular wing of the same class, Gulen had formed an informal coalition with Erdogan. In return for the political support he extended to the AKP, he had spread his net far and wide in the judiciary, the police force and possibly the armed forces. The two partners fell out because they represent different strategic choices: while Erdogan comes from the National Vision movement of Erbakan, the historic leader of political Islam in Turkey, but moved to a tactical alliance with the U.S. and the EU especially in the first years of his rule, Gulen has historically represented a different kind of orientation, making a strategic alliance with the U.S. and Israel the pillar of his quest for power. We had drawn attention to the potential danger this posed for the Islamic historical bloc in power on this very web site in an article on Middle Eastern politics in 2010 (“The Other Fateful Triangle”) in the context of a discussion on the Freedom Flotilla sailing toward Gaza, but raided by the Israeli military. This is what we said:

“So it is clear that the Erdogan government is constitutionally unfit for a full-scale defence of Palestinian rights. But even if Erdogan himself and his co-thinkers were prepared to break completely with Israel and hence the U.S., the nature of the Islamist movement in Turkey would not allow them to go forward. In a move of extreme significance, Fethullah Gulen, the leader of the religious congregation that was alluded to above, talked to the Wall Street Journal days after the Israeli assault on the flotilla. Gulen condemned the whole Freedom Flotilla enterprise, and defended Israel’s right to decide what goods should be allowed into Gaza. And he went on to chide the ‘defying of authority’ on the part of the Turkish actors in the drama (all this in a newspaper controlled by sworn enemies within the U.S. establishment of the AKP). This read as a real cold shower for Islamists of all stripes in Turkey, and clearly implies that Gulen will withdraw his support from behind the AKP should Erdogan and co-thinkers opt for a break with Israel and the USA. This would, in all probability, reduce the AKP to a shadow of its former self.”

The AKP has not had “a break with Israel and the USA,” at least not fully. But it is a secret around the block that, for a host of reasons which would take us too far away from the central topic of this article, the U.S., through the auspices of its ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, has set out to concoct an alternative to Tayyip Erdogan composed of a motley of forces ranging from the present president of the republic, Abdullah Gul, through the historic party of the secular wing of the bourgeoisie, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), to sectors of, if not the entire, fascist movement. Gulen happens to be seen as the éminence grise behind this new coalition! The forces that leaked the lethal wiretaps to the internet are, in all probability, Gulen’s men who had formerly been brought to strategically important posts in the police force and the judiciary.

The fact that the U.S. sides with Gulen and his cohort in this melee does not imply that Erdogan is entitled to wear the mantle of “anti-imperialism,” although he does make noises in that direction, complaining of his pet enemy “the interest rate lobby,” an oblique reference to an alliance between Wall Street and the secular wing of the Turkish bourgeoisie, insinuating U.S. meddling in Turkish domestic affairs and calling his struggle against the “putschists” of Gulen a “second war of independence,” with reference to the first one waged in the early 1920s by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republic.

Despite this posturing, it is immensely difficult, if not impossible, for Erdogan to challenge the U.S. and the EU. Only recently, on the vital question of Ukraine the AKP government silently sided with the U.S. and the EU against Russia. Turkey’s potential role in this conflict cannot be exaggerated: the opening or otherwise of the straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles to NATO warships may prove to be a vital element in deciding the outcome of this potentially explosive dispute. It is really not Erdogan who has clearly adopted an anti-U.S. position. It is rather the U.S. that has opted for an anti-Erdogan orientation. And this not because Erdogan really poses a danger for the U.S., but because he is no longer the unchallengeable leader of one of the key countries of the region. His authority and prestige have been irredeemably tarnished by the people’s rebellion that goes by the name of Gezi Park in summer 2013. Erdogan had been so popular with the imperialist leaders because he promised and delivered economic and political stability for Turkey in a region where that is the scarcest commodity. Since the popular revolt of summer 2013, that reputation has been razed to the ground. All his allies have started to abandon Erdogan. The U.S. has simply decided not to bet on the losing horse.

The Emergence of Three Fronts

All in all, behind the suspense lies a political struggle unto death between two factions of the Islamic historical bloc, to which corresponds a rift between two wings of the Islamic bourgeoisie organized in two different employers’ organizations, called MUSIAD for the AKP supporters and TUSKON for the Gulen supporters. This is now a civil war of the bourgeoisie within the earlier civil war. The realignment of forces will be very painful. And the decision made by the pro-Western secular wing of the bourgeoisie, which itself wields the strongest employers’ association, TUSIAD, and of the armed forces will probably be decisive.

In the initial stages of the conflict the battle lines seemed pretty clearly drawn. As against Erdogan and all his partisans who have gained so much during his decade of rule that they cannot bring themselves to parting ways with him, there was formed, at the social level, the alliance of TUSKON, the Gulenist bourgeoisie, with TUSIAD, the pro-Western secular one. This corresponded, at the political level, to the earlier mentioned coalition between the CHP, the Gulenists, Mustafa Sarıgul (a strongman controlled by some of the major pro-Western-secular groups of finance-capital who is now candidate for mayor of Istanbul), and elements of the right breaking with the AKP. This coalition is meant to be so comprehensive that, given the appropriate circumstances, it will eventually move to include sectors of the AKP breaking with Erdogan, starting with the party number two, Abdullah Gul, currently president of the republic. The part the fascist movement is expected to play in this coalition is something yet to be seen. Three months into the crisis, the political coalition is still in place, but the social coalition is teetering.

The reason is that certain forces that fought Erdogan tooth and nail during his decades in power are now having second thoughts in the new situation. We believe that these forces, wielding the greatest foresight within the ranks of the ruling classes, clearly see two things. First, the state apparatus is in shambles. Since 2007, the Erdogan government had been attacking the armed forces, keeping top generals and admirals in jail pending trials for plotting a coup against the government. Consequently the armed forces were enfeebled materially and damaged in its reputation. To this has been added since 17 December a hounding of top police chiefs and public prosecutors. This struggle within the state is continuing at full speed, a struggle we have dubbed the “crisis of the state.”

Secondly, this self-same country experienced a very widespread people’s revolt only last summer. We know from historical example, and so do the major actors of the bourgeoisie, that this rebellion may erupt again at any moment, though not necessarily under the same form. Should that prove to be the case, the state apparatus will find itself in great difficulty to quell the revolt, both because the repressive apparatus is in a disastrous state and because the revelations through the Internet and everything else that the people have learned about the functioning of the system lately have dealt an immense blow to the overall legitimacy of the system.

That is why certain forces are now treacherously propping up, albeit temporarily, a failing Erdogan. It was first the armed forces which moved to bargain the release of the generals and their civilian supporters in jail in return for keeping silent on the cases of corruption and the like. The first stage of this agreement has now been completed, the major figures having been released. Then came the unsolicited visit paid to the prime minister by Mustafa Koc, the head of the top capitalist group of the country, himself under tax scrutiny in the recent period as retribution for allegedly supporting the Gezi people. What was discussed in that secretive meeting, fully concealed from the public for several days, between the single most powerful figures, respectively, of the economic and political scene in the country is anyone’s guess. Our conjecture is that Koc tried to cajole Erdogan into stepping sideways into the presidency of the republic, mainly an honorary and symbolic post, in return for not tampering with politics in the future. We also are of the opinion that the release of the generals on 9-11 March is a direct product of this meeting held on 2 March. It has to be noted that in addition to this bizarre coalition, Erdogan is also being propped up by the Kurdish movement, which, despite protestations to the contrary, clearly stood on his side both during the Gezi rebellion and in the period since 17 December. The reason is the so-called “solution process” promised by Erdogan to the Kurdish question. The Kurds are extremely suspicious of the political position on the Kurdish question of the major forces that oppose Erdogan.

So two fronts are emerging in the horizon. One is a project that aims to bring together a motley crowd of forces to bring down Erdogan, including his erstwhile partner Gulen as a coalition force. The other is a hasty bricolage of essentially opposing forces, composed of Erdogan, the army, and the pro-Western secular wing of the bourgeoisie. It must be said that the alliances may change any moment, since both camps are composed of forces that were at each other’s throats until very recently.

The Third Front

There is, however, another potential front in Turkish politics. This is the spectrum of the variegated forces that created the people’s revolt triggered by the Gezi Park events of last summer. It brings together all the modern forces of society that oppose reactionary AKP politics, from women and LGBT to environmentalists and the self-styled “anti-capitalist Muslims,” as well as a sector of the vanguard of the proletariat in its broad definition, the whole gamut of socialist parties and movements, the so-called “nationalists of the left” along with left-wing liberals, and, last but certainly not least, the millions, even tens of millions of Alevis, who are waging a struggle for their very survival in the face of the openly sectarian Sunni policies of Erdogan, both abroad in neighbouring Syria and at home. It is true that the first wave of the rebellion came to an end in late September 2013, but that the spirit is alive and the mass of people is ready to explode was proved palpably during the sad funeral procession of Berkin Elvan, the 14-year old boy who had been shot in his head by the police with a tear gas canister while buying bread for family breakfast during the Gezi revolt and died in mid-March, after 269 days of vegetation. A crowd of 500 thousand to one million angry people filled the streets of Istanbul and police reported that, overall, more than 2 million people came out in 53 of the 81 provinces of the country. (Compare this to the official figures for the Gezi rebellion when, according to the extremely conservative statistics of the Ministry of the Interior, three and a half million people came out in 80 of the 81 provinces.) People are so enraged with all that has happened that the mass movement may be triggered off any moment by any kind of event.

To work for this is the categorical duty of all socialists. We find ourselves in the minority in the movement for criticizing the futile prioritization of electoral politics at the expense of a mass mobilization strategy. The latter strategy is the only one capable of moving Turkey beyond the reactionary framework to which both ruling class coalitions discussed above condemn Turkey. Only an independent class policy can help overcome the problems faced by the working classes and the oppressed. If a revival of the Gezi spirit can be united with class politics, which we believe will be on the order of the day in the near future because of the impending economic crisis, and the struggle of the Kurdish people, then this will be the prelude to a full emancipation of the labouring and oppressed population.

In any case, if and when Erdogan falls, the people will surely come out into the streets in their hundreds of thousands or even millions in every corner of the country. That is when a real festival of the people promises to begin. •

Sungur Savran is based in Istanbul and is one of the editors of the newspaper Gercek (Truth) and the theoretical journal Devrimci Marksizm (Revolutionary Marxism), both published in Turkish, and of the web site RedMed.

 

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