The Real Syria Story No One Wants You to Know About

RSFP

The conflict in Syria and the flashpoint of Daraa, a town near the Syria-Jordan border where the CIA, working with the Muslim Brotherhood, attacked police and set the stage for a conflict that has so far claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Syrians. The proxy war is designed to take down a secular government and replace it with a Salafist principality controlled by the Brotherhood, a longtime CIA and British intelligence asset. ~ Notes HERE

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Seymour Hersh Cracks ‘RussiaGate’ as CIA-Planted Lie — Revenge Against Trump

Seymour Hersh Cracks ‘RussiaGate’ as CIA-Planted Lie — Revenge Against Trump

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 03.08.2017

Seymour Hersh Cracks ‘RussiaGate’ as CIA-Planted Lie — Revenge Against Trump

Eric ZUESSE

During the later portion of a phone-call, by the world’s greatest investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, Hersh has now presented “a narrative [from his investigation] of how that whole fucking thing began,” including who actually is behind the ‘RussiaGate’ lies, and of why they are spreading these lies.

In a youtube video upload-dated August 1st, he reveals from his inside FBI and Washington DC Police Department sources — now, long before the Justice Department’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be presenting his official ‘findings’ to the nation — that the charges that Russia had anything to do with the leaks from the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign to Wikileaks, that those charges spread by the press, were a CIA-planted lie, and that what Wikileaks had gotten was only leaks (including at least from the murdered DNC-staffer Seth Rich), and were not from any outsider (including ’the Russians’), but that Rich didn’t get killed for that, but was instead shot in the back during a brutal robbery, which occurred in the high-crime DC neighborhood where he lived. Here is the video, and here is the transcript of it:

I’ll tell you what I know:

(Mumble) comes off an FBI report, don’t ask me how, I can figure out, I’ve been around long enough:

The kid gets — I don’t think he was murdered [because of this] I don’t think he was murdered because of what he knew, the kid was a nice boy, 27, he was not an ITS person, he learned stuff, he was a data-programmer, but he learned stuff, and so he was living on one street, somewhere, he was living in a very rough neighborhood, and in the exact area where he lived, there had been about, I am sure you know, there had been about 8 or 9 or 10, violent robberies, most of them with somebody brandishing a gun, and I am sure you know, his [the kid’s] hands were marked up, the cops concluded [HERSH SAW THE POLICE REPORT] he fought off the people, he tried to run, and they shot him twice in the back with a 22, small-caliber, and then the kid that did it ran, he got scared. So, the cops do this, here’s what nobody knows, what I am telling you, now maybe you do know something about it: When you have a death like that, DC cops, as you’re [dealing now with a person who is] dead, you generally don’t zip and go, yep I know, what’s the motive, what’s going on, you have to get to the kid’s apartment and see what you can find. If he’s dead, you don’t need a warrant, but most cops get a warrant because they don’t know if the guy has a roommate, so they get a warrant, I’m just telling you, there is such a thing. They go in and can’t do much with his computer, [to find the] password, the cops don’t know much about it, so the cops have a cyber unit in DC, and they’re more sophisticated, they come in and look at it. The idea is maybe he has had a series of exchanges with somebody who said ‘I am going to kill you motherfucker’ over a girl, and they can’t get in, the cyber guys are a little better, but they can’t make sense of it, so they call the FBI cyber unit. The DC unit, the Russian[-monitoring] and field office is a hot-shit unit. The guy running the Washington field office, he’s like a three-star at an army-base, he’s ready [mumble], you know what I mean, he’s going to do a top job. There’s a cyber unit there that’s excellent. What you get in a warrant, the public information you get in a warrant doesn’t include the affidavits underlying why you are going in, what the reason was. That’s almost never available, I can tell you that — the thesis of a warrant as a public document 99% of the time. So they call in the feds, the feds get through, and here’s what they find [HERSH SAW THE FBI REPORT]. This is according to the FBI report. What they find is, first of all you have to know some basic facts, one of the basic facts is there is no DNC or protected email that exists beyond May 22nd, the last email from either one of those groups. So, what the report says, is:

(2:50-) At some time in late spring, which we’re talking about in June 21st, I don’t know, just late spring early summer, he makes contact with Wikileaks, that’s in his computer, and he makes contact. Now, I have to be careful because I met Julian [Assange] in Europe ten twelve years [ago], I stay the fuck away from people like that. He has invited me and when I am in London, I always get a message, ‘come see me at the Ecuadorean’ [Embassy], and I am fucking not going there. I have enough trouble without getting photographed. He’s under total surveillance by everybody.

They found, what he had done, he [Seth Rich] had submitted a series of documents, emails from DNC — and, by the way, all this shit about the DNC, you know, was it a ‘hack’ or wasn’t it a ‘hack’ — whatever happened, it was the Democrats themselves wrote this shit, you know what I mean? All I know is that, he offered a sample, he sends a sample, you know, I am sure dozens of emails, and said ‘I want money’. Later Wikileaks did get the password [SETH RICH DID SELL WIKILEAKS ACCESS INTO HIS COMPUTER.] He had a drop-box, a [password-]protected drop-box, which isn’t hard to do. I mean you don’t have to be a whiz at IT [information technology], he was not a dumb kid. They got access to the drop-box. This is all from the FBI report. He also let people know with whom he was dealing, I don’t know how he dealt, I’ll tell you all about Wikileaks in a second, with Wikileaks the mechanism, but according to the FBI report, he shared his box with a couple of friends, so ‘If anything happens to me, it’s not going to solve your problem’, okay? I don’t know what that means. But, anyway, Wikileaks got access. And, before he was killed, I can tell you right now, [Obama’s CIA Director John] Brennan’s an asshole. I’ve known all these people for years, Clapper is sort of a better guy but no rocket-scientist, the NSA guys are fuckin’ morons, and the trouble with all those guys is, the only way they’ll get hired by SAIC, is if they’ll deliver some [government] contracts, it’s the only reason they stayed in. With Trump, they’re gone, they’re going to live on their pension, they’re not going to make it [to great wealth]. I’ve gotta to tell you, guys in that job, they don’t want to live on their pension. They want to be on [corporate] boards like their [mumble] thousand bucks [cut].

I have somebody on the inside, you know I’ve been around a long time, somebody who will go and read a file for me, who, this person is unbelievably accurate and careful, he’s a very high-level guy, he’ll do a favor, you’re just going to have to trust me, I have what they call in my business, long-form journalism, I have a narrative, of how that whole fucking thing began.

(5:50-) It’s a Brennan operation. It was an American disinformation, and the fucking President, at one point when they even started telling the press — they were back[ground]-briefing the press, the head of the NSA was going and telling the press, the fucking cocksucker Rogers, telling the press that we [they] even know who in the Russian military intelligence service leaked it. All bullshit. They were telling. I worked at the New York Times those fucking years, they’re smart guys, but they’re totally beholden on [to] sources. If the President or the head of the CIA tells them something, they actually believe it. I retired at the Times at the end of the Vietnam War 1972, because they were just locked-in. So that’s what the Times is, these guys run the fuckin’ Times, and Trump’s not wrong, I wish he would calm down, get a better press secretary, you know, not be so — Trump’s not wrong to think they all fucking lied about him.

UPDATE:

The media-coverage of this matter is focusing on allegations that Seth Rich was murdered in order to silence him. All such media-coverage ignores much of what Hersh said on the phone (where Hersh makes clear that Rich was, indeed, murdered in a regular robbery), and therefore should be viewed as an example of what the Washington Post and others in the mainstream press call ‘fake news’, but which actually applies to themselves, on both the left and right, above all.

The purpose of those distorting ‘news’ stories might be a desire, on the part of both the Democratic Party aristocrats and the Republican Party aristocrats, to distract the public’s attention away from the far deeper understanding that drives the “narrative” that Hersh, in that clip, is describing: rot by the U.S. aristocracy, which controls both of America’s political Parties, to deceive the American public. The objective is to protect the aristocracy. That’s not publishable; it is American samizdat. Corruption rules America. The public do not. This fact is what Hersh is describing in his “narrative”.

washingtonsblog.com

CIA Director Pompeo Admits Convincing Trump Over Disproven Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria

Global Research, July 16, 2017
Activist Post 15 July 2017

Ever since the tragic and stupid launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria by the United States took place in April, the entire incident has been represented as a one-man show by the corporate and even by the alternative media. The corporate press, which virtually never gives Trump a break on any issue real or imagined, was strangely approving of The Donald after his war crime while his detractors in the alternative media were presenting the act as that of a madman who is frighteningly close to the red button.

On June 25, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh released a bombshell article revealing a number of facets regarding the alleged chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria and the resulting volley of Tomahawk missiles fired by the United States at the al-Sha’aryat airbase in response. Hersh’s article provides the reader with what many of us already knew and wrote about at the time; i.e. that the Syrian military did not conduct a chemical weapons attack and that the United States was fully aware of that fact. Still, the U.S. government opted to use the attack as a justification for launching 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase that resulted in the deaths of Syrian soldiers, civilians, and children from the nearby village.

Hersh’s article shows that not all key personnel were on board with the decision to launch Tomahawk missiles at al-Sha’aryat or even of the whole Syria/Iraq mission. The article reveals real concerns amongst knowledgeable personnel that the Russians will not continue to act as the cooler heads and that Russia has long wanted peace in the region. Most notably, it reveals the fact that there is a “secret agenda” moving forward in regards to Syria, Iraq, and Russia. Hersh’s article also points to the President as the individual who made the decision to launch attacks in Syria, against the advice of the military and intelligence community. In fact, Hersh’s article makes the entire incident appear as if it were the Trump show from beginning to end.

While Hersh’s article provides valuable information, it is becoming more and more evident that what Hersh came across was either an intentional leak or, perhaps even more accurate, only part of the story.

I wrote at the time that what is most likely here is not the situation that Hersh presents. It is more likely that the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus colluded with their corporate media department and capitalized on this incident and Trump’s narcissism and perceived political necessity. It is more likely that “advisors” like Trump’s rabid Zionist son-in-law who has been given frightening levels of access to the President and the government in an official capacity as Trump’s senior advisor, simply told the President that launching missiles was what he was expected to do by the Deep State and Trump complied. Trump could also have been told by advisors that the story was already out and the narrative already accepted and therefore he had to do something to appease the pro-war leftists, Democrats, and Republicans.

In this regard, Hersh’s article is possibly a limited hangout operation, not on the part of Hersh, but on the part of the intelligence community who wish to do more damage to the President’s public support and his ability to act independently of the “deep state.” It is their ability to announce the tragic massive fraud of Khan Sheikhoun while looking like the level heads and the good guys of the situation. Trump, of course, comes off looking like the lone assassin, the lone madman so eaten up with narcissism that he is putting the country at risk. But while Trump is undeniably a narcissist and he is undeniably putting the country at risk, it is the fact that he is listening to and obeying the deep state apparatus that is the danger, not that he is ignoring them.

While most of the above is informed speculation, it is also put into proper historical context, not only in the Trump administration but also in the history of other administrations over the past several decades, most notably that of Kennedy and Nixon, neither of which point to a promising end for Trump.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo

Backing up my own suspicions is the current Director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo. In a recent speech to the INSA Leadership Dinner on July 11, Pompeo was giving a typical dinner speech about the harrowing world of the intelligence community, how tough it is to have his position, the importance of it, etc. During the course of the speech, however, Pompeo let a very interesting tidbit slip. Pompeo said:

I got a call from the President one afternoon back in April. He wanted to talk about some disturbing images that were coming in from Syria. I’m sure you saw many of them yourselves—scenes of innocent civilians writhing in agony, the apparent victims of a chemical weapons attack.

The President had a very direct message for me: Find out what happened. So we immediately assembled a crack team of Agency experts. They began piecing together the evidence, working closely with some outstanding partners from across the Intelligence Community.

The next day the President called his cabinet together. As we sat down, he turned to me and asked what we had learned. I told him that the IC had concluded that a chemical weapon had indeed been used in the attack, and that it had been launched by the Syrian regime.

The President paused a moment and said: Pompeo, are you sure? I’ll admit that the question took my breath away. But I knew how solid the evidence was, and I was able to look him in the eye and say, Mr. President, we have high confidence in our assessment.

The President never looked back. Based on the Intelligence Community’s judgment, he made one of the most consequential decisions of his young administration, launching a strike against the very airfield where the attack originated.

So I can assure you that when it comes to having the confidence of the Commander in Chief, CIA and the Intelligence Community are in great shape.

In other words, Pompeo is directly contradicting Hersh’s sources, saying it was not Trump who led the show but the intelligence community. Of course, Trump, being President is ultimately responsible for making the wrong decision but notice that, according to Pompeo himself, Trump demanded answers as to whom committed the attack. It was the intelligence community that came back to the President with assurances Assad was responsible.

Obviously, given all of the evidence surrounding Khan Sheikhoun, the idea that Assad committed a chemical weapons attack is ludicrous. It simply did not happen. The United States has no evidence that the incident was what it claims and all of the evidence produced by the Syrians, Russians, and independent researchers points to the contrary, even toward the fact that the entire incident may have been planned to set up the Syrian government so as to provide justification for an attack on Syria by the United States.

So what Pompeo is admitting to is, at best, providing the President with faulty intelligence. However, we know from the Hersh leaks that the intelligence community was already well aware of the fact that the Syrian government did not commit a chemical weapons attack. With that in mind, it appears that Pompeo has admitted to lying to Trump regarding the guilty party in Khan Sheikhoun and the existence of chemical weapons. At the very least, he managed to create a paper trail that leads right to the door of the CIA.

Is anyone surprised?

Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 andvolume 2The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President, and Resisting The Empire: The Plan To Destroy Syria And How The Future Of The World Depends On The OutcomeTurbeville has published over 1000 articles on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s radio show Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST atUCYTV. His website is BrandonTurbeville.com He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

Featured image from Activist Post

Are There any Limits to U.S. Hypocrisy?

By Anna Jagerun

June 28, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Having ordered the attack on the al-Shayrat air field near the western Syrian city of Homs, U.S. President Donald Trump knew that the Syrian government hadn’t used any chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun. At the same time the current U.S. administration was making every effort to develop an information campaign against Damascus.

This was reported by Welt am Sonntag, a German Sunday newspaper. An American investigative journalist and political writer Seymour Hersh stressed that actually the Syrian Air Force had targeted a two-story building, where extremists from various terrorist groups held meetings. According to Hersh, a bomb, dropped by the Syrian aircraft in Khan Shaykhun, caused a number of detonations. The explosion led to the formation of a cloud of noxious vapour. Washington was knowledgeable about that.

The attack became an ideal occasion for the U.S. to make further accusations against Damascus. After a short time, the world media started to spread staged footage and photos from Khan Shaykhun. Those materials showed injured people, who were allegedly dying in a suspected sarin chemical attack.

Permanent representatives of a number of Western countries to the UN also made every effort to put all responsibility for the incident on the Syrian government, headed by President Bashar al-Assad. Thus, Nikki R. Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, at a Security Council meeting even showed photos, allegedly proving the ‘crimes’ of the Syrian authorities against Syrians.

In addition, the U.S., France, Britain proposed the UN SC draft several resolutions on the Syrian gas attack. The documents were aimed to provide an international investigation with flight plans and logs, the names of all helicopter squadron commanders and to provide access to air bases where investigators believe attacks using chemicals were launched.

It also should be mentioned that despite Syria’s readiness to cooperate with the specialists from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an official investigation into the incident in Khan Shaykhun has not been launched yet. Moreover, Western countries continue to expand sanctions against Syria to escalate the economic situation in the country and drag it into an endless war.

Seymour Hersh, referring to information received from a senior adviser in the U.S. intelligence services, reported that Washington had no evidence that the Syrian Army used sarin gas. The CIA also informed the White House that no poisonous substances were found in the al-Shayrat air field, and al-Assad had no reason to commit political suicide.

According to many Syrian experts, it is possible that the world will soon become aware of the United States’ participation in other major scandals and incidents in Syria.

This article was first published by Dissident Voice

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Click for Spanish, German, Dutch, Danish, French, translation- Note- Translation may take a moment to load.

Trump‘s Red Line

President Donald Trump ignored important intelligence reports when he decided to attack Syria after he saw pictures of dying children. Seymour M. Hersh investigated the case of the alleged Sarin gas attack.

On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.

The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack,  including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.“

Within hours of the April 4 bombing, the world’s media was saturated with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close association with the Syrian opposition.

The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the attack, describing Assad’s “heinous actions” as being a consequence of the Obama administration’s “weakness and irresolution” in addressing what he said was Syria’s past use of chemical weapons.

To the dismay of many senior members of his national security team, Trump could not be swayed over the next 48 hours of intense briefings and decision-making. In a series of interviews, I learned of the total disconnect between the president and many of his military advisers and intelligence officials, as well as officers on the ground in the region who had an entirely different understanding of the nature of Syria’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun. I was provided with evidence of that disconnect, in the form of transcripts of real-time communications, immediately following the Syrian attack on April 4. In an important pre-strike process known as deconfliction, U.S. and Russian officers routinely supply one another with advance details of planned flight paths and target coordinates, to ensure that there is no risk of collision or accidental encounter (the Russians speak on behalf of the Syrian military). This information is supplied daily to the American AWACS surveillance planes that monitor the flights once airborne. Deconfliction’s success and importance can be measured by the fact that there has yet to be one collision, or even a near miss, among the high-powered supersonic American, Allied, Russian and Syrian fighter bombers.

Russian and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the carefully planned flight path to and from Khan Shiekhoun on April 4 directly, in English, to the deconfliction monitors aboard the AWACS plane, which was on patrol near the Turkish border, 60 miles or more to the north.

The Syrian target at Khan Sheikhoun, as shared with the Americans at Doha, was depicted as a two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town. Russian intelligence, which is shared when necessary with Syria and the U.S. as part of their joint fight against jihadist groups, had established that a high-level meeting of jihadist leaders was to take place in the building, including representatives of Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida-affiliated group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The two groups had recently joined forces, and controlled the town and surrounding area. Russian intelligence depicted the cinder-block building as a command and control center that housed a grocery and other commercial premises on its ground floor with other essential shops nearby, including a fabric shop and an electronics store.

“The rebels control the population by controlling the distribution of goods that people need to live – food, water, cooking oil, propane gas, fertilizers for growing their crops, and insecticides to protect the crops,” a senior adviser to the American intelligence community, who has served in senior positions in the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, told me. The basement was used as storage for rockets, weapons and ammunition, as well as products that could be distributed for free to the community, among them medicines and chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial. The meeting place – a regional headquarters – was on the floor above. “It was an established meeting place,” the senior adviser said. “A long-time facility that would have had security, weapons, communications, files and a map center.” The Russians were intent on confirming their intelligence and deployed a drone for days above the site to monitor communications and develop what is known in the intelligence community as a POL – a pattern of life. The goal was to take note of those going in and out of the building, and to track weapons being moved back and forth, including rockets and ammunition.

One reason for the Russian message to Washington about the intended target was to ensure that any CIA asset or informant who had managed to work his way into the jihadist leadership was forewarned not to attend the meeting. I was told that the Russians passed the warning directly to the CIA. “They were playing the game right,” the senior adviser said. The Russian guidance noted that the jihadist meeting was coming at a time of acute pressure for the insurgents: Presumably Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham were desperately seeking a path forward in the new political climate. In the last few days of March, Trump and two of his key national security aides – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley – had made statements acknowledging that, as the New York Times put it, the White House “has abandoned the goal” of pressuring Assad “to leave power, marking a sharp departure from the Middle East policy that guided the Obama administration for more than five years.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a press briefing on March 31 that “there is a political reality that we have to accept,” implying that Assad was there to stay.

Russian and Syrian intelligence officials, who coordinate operations closely with the American command posts, made it clear that the planned strike on Khan Sheikhoun was special because of the high-value target. “It was a red-hot change. The mission was out of the ordinary – scrub the sked,” the senior adviser told me. “Every operations officer in the region” – in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and NSA – “had to know there was something going on. The Russians gave the Syrian Air Force a guided bomb and that was a rarity. They’re skimpy with their guided bombs and rarely share them with the Syrian Air Force. And the Syrians assigned their best pilot to the mission, with the best wingman.” The advance intelligence on the target, as supplied by the Russians, was given the highest possible score inside the American community.

The Execute Order governing U.S. military operations in theater, which was issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  provide instructions that demarcate the relationship between the American and Russian forces operating in Syria. “It’s like an ops order – ‘Here’s what you are authorized to do,’” the adviser said. “We do not share operational control with the Russians. We don’t do combined operations with them, or activities directly in support of one of their operations.  But coordination is permitted. We keep each other apprised of what’s happening and within this package is the mutual exchange of intelligence.  If we get a hot tip that could help the Russians do their mission, that’s coordination; and the Russians do the same for us. When we get a hot tip about a command and control facility,” the adviser added, referring to the target in Khan Sheikhoun, “we do what we can to help them act on it.” “This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the adviser said. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?”

The target was struck at 6:55 a.m. on April 4, just before midnight in Washington. A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered  a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the senior adviser said, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist leaders, and an unknown number of drivers and security aides. There is no confirmed count of the number of civilians killed by the poisonous gases that were released by the secondary explosions, although opposition activists reported that there were more than 80 dead, and outlets such as CNN have put the figure as high as 92. A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that “eight patients showed symptoms – including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation – which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds.” MSF also visited other hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there “smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.” In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.

The internet swung into action within hours, and gruesome photographs of the victims flooded television networks and YouTube. U.S. intelligence was tasked with establishing what had happened. Among the pieces of information received was an intercept of Syrian communications collected before the attack by an allied nation. The intercept, which had a particularly strong effect on some of Trump’s aides, did not mention nerve gas or sarin, but it did quote a Syrian general discussing a “special” weapon and the need for a highly skilled pilot to man the attack plane. The reference, as those in the American intelligence community understood, and many of the inexperienced aides and family members close to Trump may not have, was to a Russian-supplied bomb with its built-in guidance system. “If you’ve already decided it was a gas attack, you will then inevitably read the talk about a special weapon as involving a sarin bomb,” the adviser said. “Did the Syrians plan the attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Absolutely. Do we have intercepts to prove it? Absolutely. Did they plan to use sarin? No. But the president did not say: ‘We have a problem and let’s look into it.’ He wanted to bomb the shit out of Syria.”

At the UN the next day, Ambassador Haley created a media sensation when she displayed photographs of the dead and accused Russia of being complicit. “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” she asked. NBC News, in a typical report that day, quoted American officials as confirming that nerve gas had been used and Haley tied the attack directly to Syrian President Assad. “We know that yesterday’s attack was a new low even for the barbaric Assad regime,” she said. There was irony in America’s rush to blame Syria and criticize Russia for its support of Syria’s denial of any use of gas in Khan Sheikhoun, as Ambassador Haley and others in Washington did. “What doesn’t occur to most Americans” the adviser said, “is if there had been a Syrian nerve gas attack authorized by Bashar, the Russians would be 10 times as upset as anyone in the West. Russia’s strategy against ISIS, which involves getting American cooperation, would have been destroyed and Bashar would be responsible for pissing off Russia, with unknown consequences for him. Bashar would do that? When he’s on the verge of winning the war? Are you kidding me?”

Trump, a constant watcher of television news, said, while King Abdullah of Jordan was sitting next to him in the Oval Office, that what had happened was “horrible, horrible” and a “terrible affront to humanity.” Asked if his administration would change its policy toward the Assad government, he said: “You will see.” He gave a hint of the response to come at the subsequent news conference with King Abdullah: “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies – babies, little babies – with a chemical gas that is so lethal  … that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line . … That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact … It’s very, very possible … that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

Within hours of viewing the photos, the adviser said, Trump instructed the national defense apparatus to plan for retaliation against Syria. “He did this before he talked to anybody about it. The planners then asked the CIA and DIA if there was any evidence that Syria had sarin stored at a nearby airport or somewhere in the area. Their military had to have it somewhere in the area in order to bomb with it.” “The answer was, ‘We have no evidence that Syria had sarin or used it,’” the adviser said. “The CIA also told them that there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian SU-24 bombers had taken off on April 4] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide.” Everyone involved, except perhaps the president, also understood that a highly skilled United Nations team had spent more than a year in the aftermath of an alleged sarin attack in 2013 by Syria, removing what was said to be all chemical weapons from a dozen Syrian chemical weapons depots.

At this point, the adviser said, the president’s national security planners were more than a little rattled: “No one knew the provenance of the photographs. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.” The intelligence made clear that a Syrian Air Force SU-24 fighter bomber had used a conventional weapon to hit its target: There had been no chemical warhead. And yet it was impossible for the experts to persuade the president of this once he had made up his mind. “The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity,” the senior adviser said. “It’s typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit.’”

The national security advisers understood their dilemma: Trump wanted to respond to the affront to humanity committed by Syria and he did not want to be dissuaded. They were dealing with a man they considered to be not unkind and not stupid, but his limitations when it came to national security decisions were severe. “Everyone close to him knows his proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts,” the adviser said. “He doesn’t read anything and has no real historical knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He’s a risk-taker. He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world; he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: ‘Do it.”’

On April 6, Trump convened a meeting of national security officials at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The meeting was not to decide what to do, but how best to do it – or, as some wanted, how to do the least and keep Trump happy. “The boss knew before the meeting that they didn’t have the intelligence, but that was not the issue,” the adviser said. “The meeting was about, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do,’ and then he gets the options.”

The available intelligence was not relevant. The most experienced man at the table was Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general who had the president’s respect and understood, perhaps, how quickly that could evaporate. Mike Pompeo, the CIA director whose agency had consistently reported that it had no evidence of a Syrian chemical bomb, was not present. Secretary of State Tillerson was admired on the inside for his willingness to work long hours and his avid reading of diplomatic cables and reports, but he knew little about waging war and the management of a bombing raid. Those present were in a bind, the adviser said. “The president was emotionally energized by the disaster and he wanted options.” He got four of them, in order of extremity. Option one was to do nothing. All involved, the adviser said, understood that was a non-starter. Option two was a slap on the wrist: to bomb an airfield in Syria, but only after alerting the Russians and, through them, the Syrians, to avoid too many casualties. A few of the planners called this the “gorilla option”: America would glower and beat its chest to provoke fear and demonstrate resolve, but cause little significant damage. The third option was to adopt the strike package that had been presented to Obama in 2013, and which he ultimately chose not to pursue. The plan called for the massive bombing of the main Syrian airfields and command and control centers using B1 and B52 aircraft launched from their bases in the U.S. Option four was “decapitation”: to remove Assad by bombing his palace in Damascus, as well as his command and control network and all of the underground bunkers he could possibly retreat to in a crisis.

“Trump ruled out option one off the bat,” the senior adviser said, and the assassination of Assad was never considered. “But he said, in essence: ‘You’re the military and I want military action.’” The president was also initially opposed to the idea of giving the Russians advance warning before the strike, but reluctantly accepted it. “We gave him the Goldilocks option – not too hot, not too cold, but just right.” The discussion had its bizarre moments. Tillerson wondered at the Mar-a-Lago meeting why the president could not simply call in the B52 bombers and pulverize the air base. He was told that B52s were very vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in the area and using such planes would require suppression fire that could kill some Russian defenders.  “What is that?” Tillerson asked. Well, sir, he was told, that means we would have to destroy the upgraded SAM sites along the B52 flight path, and those are manned by Russians, and we possibly would be confronted with a much more difficult situation. “The lesson here was: Thank God for the military men at the meeting,” the adviser said. “They did the best they could when confronted with a decision that had already been made.”

Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles were fired from two U.S. Navy destroyers on duty in the Mediterranean, the Ross and the Porter, at Shayrat Air Base near the government-controlled city of Homs. The strike was as successful as hoped, in terms of doing minimal damage. The missiles have a light payload – roughly 220 pounds of HBX, the military’s modern version of TNT. The airfield’s gasoline storage tanks, a primary target, were pulverized, the senior adviser said, triggering a huge fire and clouds of smoke that interfered with the guidance system of following missiles. As many as 24 missiles missed their targets and only a few of the Tomahawks actually penetrated into hangars, destroying nine Syrian aircraft, many fewer than claimed by the Trump administration. I was told that none of the nine was operational: such damaged aircraft are what the Air Force calls hangar queens. “They were sacrificial lambs,” the senior adviser said. Most of the important personnel and operational fighter planes had been flown to nearby bases hours before the raid began. The two runways and parking places for aircraft, which had also been targeted, were repaired and back in operation within eight hours or so. All in all, it was little more than an expensive fireworks display.

“It was a totally Trump show from beginning to end,” the senior adviser said. “A few of the president’s senior national security advisers viewed the mission as a minimized bad presidential decision, and one that they had an obligation to carry out. But I don’t think our national security people are going to allow themselves to be hustled into a bad decision again. If Trump had gone for option three, there might have been some immediate resignations.”

After the meeting, with the Tomahawks on their way, Trump spoke to the nation from Mar-a-Lago, and accused Assad of using nerve gas to choke out “the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many … No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” The next few days were his most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war. Trump, who had campaigned as someone who advocated making peace with Assad, was bombing Syria 11 weeks after taking office, and was hailed for doing so by Republicans, Democrats and the media alike. One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word “beautiful” to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.” A review of the top 100 American newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Five days later, the Trump administration gathered the national media for a background briefing on the Syrian operation that was conducted by a senior White House official who was not to be identified. The gist of the briefing was that Russia’s heated and persistent denial of any sarin use in the Khan Sheikhoun bombing was a lie because President Trump had said sarin had been used. That assertion, which was not challenged or disputed by any of the reporters present, became the basis for a series of further criticisms:

– The continued lying by the Trump administration about Syria’s use of sarin led to widespread belief in the American media and public  that Russia had  chosen to be involved in a corrupt disinformation and cover-up campaign on the part of Syria.

– Russia’s military forces had been co-located with Syria’s at the Shayrat airfield (as they are throughout Syria), raising the possibility that Russia had advance notice of Syria’s determination to use sarin at Khan Sheikhoun and did nothing to stop it.

– Syria’s use of sarin and Russia’s defense of that use strongly suggested that Syria withheld stocks of the nerve agent from the UN disarmament team that spent much of 2014 inspecting and removing all declared chemical warfare agents from 12 Syrian chemical weapons depots, pursuant to the agreement worked out by the Obama administration and Russia after Syria’s alleged, but still unproven, use of sarin the year before against a rebel redoubt in a suburb of Damascus.

The briefer, to his credit, was careful to use the words “think,” “suggest” and “believe” at least 10 times during the 30-minute event. But he also said that his briefing was based on data that had been declassified by “our colleagues in the intelligence community.” What the briefer did not say, and may not have known, was that much of the classified information in the community made the point that Syria had not used sarin in the April 4 bombing attack.

The mainstream press responded the way the White House had hoped it would: Stories attacking Russia’s alleged cover-up of Syria’s sarin use dominated the news and many media outlets ignored the briefer’s myriad caveats. There was a sense of renewed Cold War. The New York Times, for example – America’s leading newspaper – put the following headline on its account: “White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syria Chemical Attack.” The Times’ account did note a Russian denial, but what was described by the briefer as “declassified information” suddenly became a “declassified intelligence report.” Yet there was no formal intelligence report stating that Syria had used sarin, merely a “summary based on declassified information about the attacks,” as the briefer referred to it.

The crisis slid into the background by the end of April, as Russia, Syria and the United States remained focused on annihilating ISIS and the militias of al-Qaida. Some of those who had worked through the crisis, however, were left with lingering concerns. “The Salafists and jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve gas ploy,” the senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told me, referring to the flare up of tensions between Syria, Russia and America. “The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.”

The White House did not answer specific questions about the bombing of Khan Sheikhoun and the airport of Shayrat. These questions were send via e-mail to the White House on June 15 and never answered.   

Seymour M. Hersh

https://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article165905578/Trump-s-Red-Line.html

 

Dr. Mohammad Abdo Al-Ibrahim

alibrahim56@hotmail.com

http://syriatimes.sy/index.php/the-chemical-attack-on-ghouta

Fakery, Fakery, and More Fakery

“I think if it is accurate, I think it’s a disgrace to all of media, to all of journalism. I think that we have gone to a place where if the media can’t be trusted to report the news, then that’s a dangerous place for America.”

So says Sarah Huckabee-Sanders. The video the White House press secretary was referring to apparently is Project Veritas’  “American Pravda” report. That video–(in case you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here )–shows some private comments made by a CNN producer named John Bonifield, who apparently did not know he was being filmed. In the conversation, recorded covertly, Bonifield admits that CNN’s Russia coverage is “mostly bullshit” and that President Trump is right when he accuses the media of engaging in “witch hunting.” He also says the Russia coverage has been driven by ratings.

As for Huckabee-Sanders, her comments, shown in the video above, were made on Tuesday, June 27, one day after the Veritas video was uploaded.

“And I think if that is the place that certain outlets are going, particularly for the purpose of spiking ratings, and if that’s coming directly from the top, I think that’s even more scary and certainly more disgraceful,” she said.

It’s hard to ague with words such as these. Certainly reporting by the mainstream media has been disgraceful–not just on Russia but in a number of other areas as well. And certainly this malfeasance on the part of the media has taken us to a dangerous place in America.

But Huckabee-Sanders’ comments came less than 24 hours after her colleague in the Trump administration, Sean Spicer, made a preposterous accusation against the Syrian government while providing no evidence to back it up. According to Spicer, the US “has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

Spicer added, by way of warning, that if “Mr. Assad  conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

This is the Trump administration–the same administration that has been accusing the media of purveying fake news.

On April 6, US forces launched Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base over claims made by the media that Syria had carried out a chemical weapons attack in Idlib Province, killing dozens of people. This was one day after the New York Times had reported on what it referred to as the “worst chemical attack in years in Syria.”

“Dozens of people, including children, died–some writhing, choking, gasping or foaming at the mouth–after breathing in poison that possibly contained a nerve agent or other banned chemicals, according to witnesses, doctors and rescue workers,” the Times’ April 5 report said.

One of the reporters sharing a byline on that story was Michael R. Gordon, the same New York Times reporter who, along with Judith Miller, had reported on Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction back in 2002.

It’s almost like a revolving wheel, isn’t it?

And so now we have the White House claiming Assad is plotting to kill children–where pray tell did they get this information? Hard to say for sure, but certainly it’s possible it was fed to them by the Israelis. And the gullible idiots in the Trump administration either believed it…or simply followed orders and had Spicer go out, hold a press conference, accuse the Syrian president of mass murder, and threaten to attack the country again.

As I have said in previous posts, everything in America these days is centered around fakery. Even the people who accuse others of being fakes, are fakes themselves. The irate reporter who accuses Huckabee-Sanders of being “inflammatory” in the video above? What a charming segment! It’s almost like watching two fakes argue over who is the more talented.

A report published several days ago by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh suggests that the “chemical weapons attack” which prompted Trump’s April 6 attack upon Syria was not a deliberate chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, as was reported, but in fact a bombing of a jihadist meeting site and which used a conventional bomb dropped from the air.

The meeting, consisting of high level operatives from Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, was held in a two story cinder block building that was used for a variety of purposes including storage of fertilizers, weapons and ammunition, propane, cooking oil, insecticides, medicine, and chlorine-based decontaminants. Moreover, according to Hersh’s sources, the Americans even knew in advance that the attack was going to take place because the Russians had tipped them off to it (this was back when the Americans and the Russians in Syria were still speaking with, and coordinating their military movements with, each other).

The bombing of the building, says Hersh, “triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground.”

So this is what was portrayed in the media as a deliberate chemical attack by the Assad government. Hersh’s sources claim President Trump was advised as to the true details of the attack but that he deliberately chose to ignore it. Whether this is a self-serving statement on the part of an anonymous intelligence agent would be hard to say for sure, but here, in any event. is how Hersh reports it:

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.”

Hersh’s report was published by the German newspaper Die Welt. A commentary on it has also been published by Jonathan Cook, who makes some valid observations of his own–namely that those attempting to make a case for Assad’s use of chemical weapons must concede certain particulars that are highly implausible. Among these are that:

  1. Assad is so crazed and self-destructive – or at the very least so totally incapable of controlling his senior commanders, who must themselves be crazed and self-destructive – that he has on several occasions ordered the use of chemical weapons against civilians. And he has chosen to do it at the worst possible moments for his own and his regime’s survival, and when such attacks were entirely unnecessary.
  2. That Putin is equally deranged and so willing to risk an end-of-times conflagration with the US that he has on more than one occasion either sanctioned or turned a blind eye to the use of sarin by Assad’s regime. And he has done nothing to penalise Assad afterwards, when things went wrong.

He also makes a point about Hersh’s critics–i.e. that to validate their case they must assume that Hersh “has decided to jettison all the investigatory skills he has amassed over many decades as a journalist to accept at face value any unsubstantiated rumours his long-established contacts in the security services have thrown his way.”

Russia’s response to the Trump administration’s latest fantasia on Syria came from Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

“We heard about this statement,” Peskov told reporters. “We do not know what is the basis for this. And of course we categorically disagree with the ‘another attack’ wording.

“We also consider any similar threats to the legitimate leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic unacceptable,” he added.

“Unacceptable” is pretty strong language for Russian officials, who aren’t especially prone to making “inflammatory” statements. America, long touted for its supposed freedom of the press, is indeed in a “dangerous place.”  Huckabee-Sanders has at least that much right. It would be ironic if World War III, and possible planetary annihilation, were triggered by a long jet stream of fake news streaking across the sky, but that seems like a distinct possibility at this point.

Of course, none of this is intended to be “inflammatory” toward the poor, hardworking reporters at CNN who, naturally, are “only trying to do their job.”

Seymour Hersh leaks the true story about the pseudo-chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun (MUST READ)

source

June 26, 2017

Trump with his aides at Mar-a-Lago
Trump with his aides at Mar-a-Lago

Quelle: picture alliance/ASSOCIATED PRESS/AP Content

Intelligence officials doubted the alleged Sarin gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun. WELT AM SONNTAG presents a chat protocol of a security advisor and an active American soldier on duty at a key base in the region.

Intelligence officials doubted the alleged Sarin gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun. WELT AM SONNTAG presents a chat protocol of a security advisor and an active American soldier on duty at a key base in the region.  This conversation was provided to Seymour Hersh. It is betweeen a security adviser and an active US American soldier on duty on a key operational base about the events in Khan Sheikhoun. We have made abbreviations: American soldier (AS) and Security Advisor (SA). WELT AM SONNTAG is aware of the location of the deployment. For security reasons, certain details of military operations have been omitted.

(Note: emphasis in the text added by me, the Saker)

April 6, 2017

American Soldier: We got a fuckin‘ problem

Security-Adviser: What happened? Is it the Trump ignoring the Intel and going to try to hit the Syrians? And that we’re pissing on the Russians?

AS: This is bad…Things are spooling up.

SA: You may not have seen trumps press conference yesterday. He’s bought into the media story without asking to see the Intel. We are likely to get our asses kicked by the Russians. Fucking dangerous. Where are the godamn adults? The failure of the chain of command to tell the President the truth, whether he wants to hear it or not, will go down in history as one of our worst moments.

AS: I don’t know. None of this makes any sense. We KNOW that there was no chemical attack. The Syrians struck a weapons cache (a legitimate military target) and there was collateral damage. That’s it. They did not conduct any sort of a chemical attack.
Anzeige

AS: And now we’re shoving a shit load of TLAMs (tomahawks) up their ass.

SA: There has been a hidden agenda all along. This is about trying to ultimately go after Iran. What the people around Trump do not understand is that the Russians are not a paper tiger and that they have more robust military capability than we do.

AS: I don’t know what the Russians are going to do. They might hang back and let the Syrians defend their own borders, or they might provide some sort of tepid support, or they might blow us the fuck out of the airspace and back into Iraq. I honestly don’t know what to expect right now. I feel like anything is possible. The russian air defense system is capable of taking out our TLAMs. this is a big fucking deal…we are still all systems go…

SA: You are so right. Russia is not going to take this lying down

SA: Who is pushing this? Is it coming from Votel (General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of United States Central Command, editor‘s note) ?

AS: I don’t know. It’s from someone big though. . . . This is a big fucking deal.

AS: It has to be POTUS.

AS: They [the russians] are weighing their options. Indications are they are going to be passive supporters of syria and not engage their systems unless their own assets are threatened..in other words, the sky is fucking blue.’

April 7, 2017

SA: What are the Russians doing or saying Am I correct that we did little real damage to Russia or Syria?

AS: We didn’t hit a damn thing, thankfully. They retrograded all their aircraft and personnel. We basically gave them a very expensive fireworks display.

AS: They knew where ships were and watched the entire strike from launch to end game.

AS: The Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real Intel and know the truth about the weapons depot strike.

AS: They are correct.

AS: I guess it really didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump. Fuck.

AS: No one is talking about the entire reason we’re in Iraq and Syria in the first place. That mission is fucked now.

SA: Are any of your colleagues pissed or is everyone going along with it and saying this is OK

AS: It’s a mad house. . . .Hell we even told the Russians an hour before impact

SA: But they clearly knew it was coming

AS: Oh of course

AS: Now Fox is saying we chose to hit the Syrian airfield because it is where the chemical attacks were launched from. Wow. Can’t make this shit up.

SA: They are. I mean, making it up

AS: It’s so fuckin evil

SA: Amen!!!

April 8, 2017

AS: Russians are being extremely reasonable. Despite what the news is reporting they are still trying to deconflict and coordinate the air campaign.

SA: I don’t think the russia yet understands how crazy Trump is over this. And i don’t think we appreciate how much damage the Russians can do to us.

AS: They’re showing amazing restraint and been unbelievably calm. They seem mostly interested in de-escalating everything. They don’t want to lose our support in the help with destroying Isis.

SA: But I get the get the feeling are simply trying this approach for as long as they feel it might work. If we keep pushing this current aggressive stance they’re going to hit back.’


Seymour Hersh’s analysis of what really happened.

Source: https://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article165905578/Trump-s-Red-Line.html

Trump‘s Red Line

On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.

The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack, including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.“

Within hours of the April 4 bombing, the world’s media was saturated with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close association with the Syrian opposition.

The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the attack, describing Assad’s “heinous actions” as being a consequence of the Obama administration’s “weakness and irresolution” in addressing what he said was Syria’s past use of chemical weapons.

To the dismay of many senior members of his national security team, Trump could not be swayed over the next 48 hours of intense briefings and decision-making. In a series of interviews, I learned of the total disconnect between the president and many of his military advisers and intelligence officials, as well as officers on the ground in the region who had an entirely different understanding of the nature of Syria’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun. I was provided with evidence of that disconnect, in the form of transcripts of real-time communications, immediately following the Syrian attack on April 4. In an important pre-strike process known as deconfliction, U.S. and Russian officers routinely supply one another with advance details of planned flight paths and target coordinates, to ensure that there is no risk of collision or accidental encounter (the Russians speak on behalf of the Syrian military). This information is supplied daily to the American AWACS surveillance planes that monitor the flights once airborne. Deconfliction’s success and importance can be measured by the fact that there has yet to be one collision, or even a near miss, among the high-powered supersonic American, Allied, Russian and Syrian fighter bombers.

Russian and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the carefully planned flight path to and from Khan Shiekhoun on April 4 directly, in English, to the deconfliction monitors aboard the AWACS plane, which was on patrol near the Turkish border, 60 miles or more to the north.

The Syrian target at Khan Sheikhoun, as shared with the Americans at Doha, was depicted as a two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town. Russian intelligence, which is shared when necessary with Syria and the U.S. as part of their joint fight against jihadist groups, had established that a high-level meeting of jihadist leaders was to take place in the building, including representatives of Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida-affiliated group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The two groups had recently joined forces, and controlled the town and surrounding area. Russian intelligence depicted the cinder-block building as a command and control center that housed a grocery and other commercial premises on its ground floor with other essential shops nearby, including a fabric shop and an electronics store.

“The rebels control the population by controlling the distribution of goods that people need to live – food, water, cooking oil, propane gas, fertilizers for growing their crops, and insecticides to protect the crops,” a senior adviser to the American intelligence community, who has served in senior positions in the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, told me. The basement was used as storage for rockets, weapons and ammunition, as well as products that could be distributed for free to the community, among them medicines and chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial. The meeting place – a regional headquarters – was on the floor above. “It was an established meeting place,” the senior adviser said. “A long-time facility that would have had security, weapons, communications, files and a map center.” The Russians were intent on confirming their intelligence and deployed a drone for days above the site to monitor communications and develop what is known in the intelligence community as a POL – a pattern of life. The goal was to take note of those going in and out of the building, and to track weapons being moved back and forth, including rockets and ammunition.

One reason for the Russian message to Washington about the intended target was to ensure that any CIA asset or informant who had managed to work his way into the jihadist leadership was forewarned not to attend the meeting. I was told that the Russians passed the warning directly to the CIA. “They were playing the game right,” the senior adviser said. The Russian guidance noted that the jihadist meeting was coming at a time of acute pressure for the insurgents: Presumably Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham were desperately seeking a path forward in the new political climate. In the last few days of March, Trump and two of his key national security aides – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley – had made statements acknowledging that, as the New York Times put it, the White House “has abandoned the goal” of pressuring Assad “to leave power, marking a sharp departure from the Middle East policy that guided the Obama administration for more than five years.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a press briefing on March 31 that “there is a political reality that we have to accept,” implying that Assad was there to stay.

Russian and Syrian intelligence officials, who coordinate operations closely with the American command posts, made it clear that the planned strike on Khan Sheikhoun was special because of the high-value target. “It was a red-hot change. The mission was out of the ordinary – scrub the sked,” the senior adviser told me. “Every operations officer in the region” – in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and NSA – “had to know there was something going on. The Russians gave the Syrian Air Force a guided bomb and that was a rarity. They’re skimpy with their guided bombs and rarely share them with the Syrian Air Force. And the Syrians assigned their best pilot to the mission, with the best wingman.” The advance intelligence on the target, as supplied by the Russians, was given the highest possible score inside the American community.

The Execute Order governing U.S. military operations in theater, which was issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provide instructions that demarcate the relationship between the American and Russian forces operating in Syria. “It’s like an ops order – ‘Here’s what you are authorized to do,’” the adviser said. “We do not share operational control with the Russians. We don’t do combined operations with them, or activities directly in support of one of their operations. But coordination is permitted. We keep each other apprised of what’s happening and within this package is the mutual exchange of intelligence. If we get a hot tip that could help the Russians do their mission, that’s coordination; and the Russians do the same for us. When we get a hot tip about a command and control facility,” the adviser added, referring to the target in Khan Sheikhoun, “we do what we can to help them act on it.” “This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the adviser said. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?”

The target was struck at 6:55 a.m. on April 4, just before midnight in Washington. A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the senior adviser said, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist leaders, and an unknown number of drivers and security aides. There is no confirmed count of the number of civilians killed by the poisonous gases that were released by the secondary explosions, although opposition activists reported that there were more than 80 dead, and outlets such as CNN have put the figure as high as 92. A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that “eight patients showed symptoms – including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation – which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds.” MSF also visited other hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there “smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.” In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.

The internet swung into action within hours, and gruesome photographs of the victims flooded television networks and YouTube. U.S. intelligence was tasked with establishing what had happened. Among the pieces of information received was an intercept of Syrian communications collected before the attack by an allied nation. The intercept, which had a particularly strong effect on some of Trump’s aides, did not mention nerve gas or sarin, but it did quote a Syrian general discussing a “special” weapon and the need for a highly skilled pilot to man the attack plane. The reference, as those in the American intelligence community understood, and many of the inexperienced aides and family members close to Trump may not have, was to a Russian-supplied bomb with its built-in guidance system. “If you’ve already decided it was a gas attack, you will then inevitably read the talk about a special weapon as involving a sarin bomb,” the adviser said. “Did the Syrians plan the attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Absolutely. Do we have intercepts to prove it? Absolutely. Did they plan to use sarin? No. But the president did not say: ‘We have a problem and let’s look into it.’ He wanted to bomb the shit out of Syria.”

At the UN the next day, Ambassador Haley created a media sensation when she displayed photographs of the dead and accused Russia of being complicit. “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” she asked. NBC News, in a typical report that day, quoted American officials as confirming that nerve gas had been used and Haley tied the attack directly to Syrian President Assad. “We know that yesterday’s attack was a new low even for the barbaric Assad regime,” she said. There was irony in America’s rush to blame Syria and criticize Russia for its support of Syria’s denial of any use of gas in Khan Sheikhoun, as Ambassador Haley and others in Washington did. “What doesn’t occur to most Americans” the adviser said, “is if there had been a Syrian nerve gas attack authorized by Bashar, the Russians would be 10 times as upset as anyone in the West. Russia’s strategy against ISIS, which involves getting American cooperation, would have been destroyed and Bashar would be responsible for pissing off Russia, with unknown consequences for him. Bashar would do that? When he’s on the verge of winning the war? Are you kidding me?”

Trump, a constant watcher of television news, said, while King Abdullah of Jordan was sitting next to him in the Oval Office, that what had happened was “horrible, horrible” and a “terrible affront to humanity.” Asked if his administration would change its policy toward the Assad government, he said: “You will see.” He gave a hint of the response to come at the subsequent news conference with King Abdullah: “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies – babies, little babies – with a chemical gas that is so lethal … that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line . … That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact … It’s very, very possible … that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

Within hours of viewing the photos, the adviser said, Trump instructed the national defense apparatus to plan for retaliation against Syria. “He did this before he talked to anybody about it. The planners then asked the CIA and DIA if there was any evidence that Syria had sarin stored at a nearby airport or somewhere in the area. Their military had to have it somewhere in the area in order to bomb with it.” “The answer was, ‘We have no evidence that Syria had sarin or used it,’” the adviser said. “The CIA also told them that there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian SU-24 bombers had taken off on April 4] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide.” Everyone involved, except perhaps the president, also understood that a highly skilled United Nations team had spent more than a year in the aftermath of an alleged sarin attack in 2013 by Syria, removing what was said to be all chemical weapons from a dozen Syrian chemical weapons depots.

At this point, the adviser said, the president’s national security planners were more than a little rattled: “No one knew the provenance of the photographs. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.” The intelligence made clear that a Syrian Air Force SU-24 fighter bomber had used a conventional weapon to hit its target: There had been no chemical warhead. And yet it was impossible for the experts to persuade the president of this once he had made up his mind. “The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity,” the senior adviser said. “It’s typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit.’”

The national security advisers understood their dilemma: Trump wanted to respond to the affront to humanity committed by Syria and he did not want to be dissuaded. They were dealing with a man they considered to be not unkind and not stupid, but his limitations when it came to national security decisions were severe. “Everyone close to him knows his proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts,” the adviser said. “He doesn’t read anything and has no real historical knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He’s a risk-taker. He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world; he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: ‘Do it.”’

On April 6, Trump convened a meeting of national security officials at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The meeting was not to decide what to do, but how best to do it – or, as some wanted, how to do the least and keep Trump happy. “The boss knew before the meeting that they didn’t have the intelligence, but that was not the issue,” the adviser said. “The meeting was about, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do,’ and then he gets the options.”

The available intelligence was not relevant. The most experienced man at the table was Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general who had the president’s respect and understood, perhaps, how quickly that could evaporate. Mike Pompeo, the CIA director whose agency had consistently reported that it had no evidence of a Syrian chemical bomb, was not present. Secretary of State Tillerson was admired on the inside for his willingness to work long hours and his avid reading of diplomatic cables and reports, but he knew little about waging war and the management of a bombing raid. Those present were in a bind, the adviser said. “The president was emotionally energized by the disaster and he wanted options.” He got four of them, in order of extremity. Option one was to do nothing. All involved, the adviser said, understood that was a non-starter. Option two was a slap on the wrist: to bomb an airfield in Syria, but only after alerting the Russians and, through them, the Syrians, to avoid too many casualties. A few of the planners called this the “gorilla option”: America would glower and beat its chest to provoke fear and demonstrate resolve, but cause little significant damage. The third option was to adopt the strike package that had been presented to Obama in 2013, and which he ultimately chose not to pursue. The plan called for the massive bombing of the main Syrian airfields and command and control centers using B1 and B52 aircraft launched from their bases in the U.S. Option four was “decapitation”: to remove Assad by bombing his palace in Damascus, as well as his command and control network and all of the underground bunkers he could possibly retreat to in a crisis.

“Trump ruled out option one off the bat,” the senior adviser said, and the assassination of Assad was never considered. “But he said, in essence: ‘You’re the military and I want military action.’” The president was also initially opposed to the idea of giving the Russians advance warning before the strike, but reluctantly accepted it. “We gave him the Goldilocks option – not too hot, not too cold, but just right.” The discussion had its bizarre moments. Tillerson wondered at the Mar-a-Lago meeting why the president could not simply call in the B52 bombers and pulverize the air base. He was told that B52s were very vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in the area and using such planes would require suppression fire that could kill some Russian defenders. “What is that?” Tillerson asked. Well, sir, he was told, that means we would have to destroy the upgraded SAM sites along the B52 flight path, and those are manned by Russians, and we possibly would be confronted with a much more difficult situation. “The lesson here was: Thank God for the military men at the meeting,” the adviser said. “They did the best they could when confronted with a decision that had already been made.”

Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles were fired from two U.S. Navy destroyers on duty in the Mediterranean, the Ross and the Porter, at Shayrat Air Base near the government-controlled city of Homs. The strike was as successful as hoped, in terms of doing minimal damage. The missiles have a light payload – roughly 220 pounds of HBX, the military’s modern version of TNT. The airfield’s gasoline storage tanks, a primary target, were pulverized, the senior adviser said, triggering a huge fire and clouds of smoke that interfered with the guidance system of following missiles. As many as 24 missiles missed their targets and only a few of the Tomahawks actually penetrated into hangars, destroying nine Syrian aircraft, many fewer than claimed by the Trump administration. I was told that none of the nine was operational: such damaged aircraft are what the Air Force calls hangar queens. “They were sacrificial lambs,” the senior adviser said. Most of the important personnel and operational fighter planes had been flown to nearby bases hours before the raid began. The two runways and parking places for aircraft, which had also been targeted, were repaired and back in operation within eight hours or so. All in all, it was little more than an expensive fireworks display.

“It was a totally Trump show from beginning to end,” the senior adviser said. “A few of the president’s senior national security advisers viewed the mission as a minimized bad presidential decision, and one that they had an obligation to carry out. But I don’t think our national security people are going to allow themselves to be hustled into a bad decision again. If Trump had gone for option three, there might have been some immediate resignations.”

After the meeting, with the Tomahawks on their way, Trump spoke to the nation from Mar-a-Lago, and accused Assad of using nerve gas to choke out “the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many … No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” The next few days were his most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war. Trump, who had campaigned as someone who advocated making peace with Assad, was bombing Syria 11 weeks after taking office, and was hailed for doing so by Republicans, Democrats and the media alike. One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word “beautiful” to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.” A review of the top 100 American newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Five days later, the Trump administration gathered the national media for a background briefing on the Syrian operation that was conducted by a senior White House official who was not to be identified. The gist of the briefing was that Russia’s heated and persistent denial of any sarin use in the Khan Sheikhoun bombing was a lie because President Trump had said sarin had been used. That assertion, which was not challenged or disputed by any of the reporters present, became the basis for a series of further criticisms:

– The continued lying by the Trump administration about Syria’s use of sarin led to widespread belief in the American media and public that Russia had chosen to be involved in a corrupt disinformation and cover-up campaign on the part of Syria.

– Russia’s military forces had been co-located with Syria’s at the Shayrat airfield (as they are throughout Syria), raising the possibility that Russia had advance notice of Syria’s determination to use sarin at Khan Sheikhoun and did nothing to stop it.

– Syria’s use of sarin and Russia’s defense of that use strongly suggested that Syria withheld stocks of the nerve agent from the UN disarmament team that spent much of 2014 inspecting and removing all declared chemical warfare agents from 12 Syrian chemical weapons depots, pursuant to the agreement worked out by the Obama administration and Russia after Syria’s alleged, but still unproven, use of sarin the year before against a rebel redoubt in a suburb of Damascus.

The briefer, to his credit, was careful to use the words “think,” “suggest” and “believe” at least 10 times during the 30-minute event. But he also said that his briefing was based on data that had been declassified by “our colleagues in the intelligence community.” What the briefer did not say, and may not have known, was that much of the classified information in the community made the point that Syria had not used sarin in the April 4 bombing attack.

The mainstream press responded the way the White House had hoped it would: Stories attacking Russia’s alleged cover-up of Syria’s sarin use dominated the news and many media outlets ignored the briefer’s myriad caveats. There was a sense of renewed Cold War. The New York Times, for example – America’s leading newspaper – put the following headline on its account: “White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syria Chemical Attack.” The Times’ account did note a Russian denial, but what was described by the briefer as “declassified information” suddenly became a “declassified intelligence report.” Yet there was no formal intelligence report stating that Syria had used sarin, merely a “summary based on declassified information about the attacks,” as the briefer referred to it.

The crisis slid into the background by the end of April, as Russia, Syria and the United States remained focused on annihilating ISIS and the militias of al-Qaida. Some of those who had worked through the crisis, however, were left with lingering concerns. “The Salafists and jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve gas ploy,” the senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told me, referring to the flare up of tensions between Syria, Russia and America. “The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.”

The White House did not answer specific questions about the bombing of Khan Sheikhoun and the airport of Shayrat. These questions were send via e-mail to the White House on June 15 and never answered.

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