Hersh on Syria CW

Seymour Hersh has written a new piece exploring the facts and politics of the crisis last August/September concerning chemical weapon attacks within Syria, and President Obama’s consideration of military strikes to enforce his “red line.” The piece is published in the London Review of Books.  The piece makes for a fascinating read and, because it’s Hersh, will probably be quite influential.

According to Hersh’s narrative, the CW attack at Ghouta, which was the catalyst for the crisis, was perpetrated not by Syrian government forces, but by Syrian opposition forces allied with Turkey, and supplied with sarin gas munitions with the help of the Turkish government. This is a very provocative claim. To me, though, it makes a lot of sense. It never made sense to me that Assad would at that moment authorize the use of CW. It would have been a really stupid tactical decision, knowing as he must have that it would seriously ratchet up international pressure on him, and might lead to a potentially disastrous Western intervention – as compared to relatively low if any military advantage to be derived from the use of CW.  But then when the UN report came out it seemed to, at least on the basis of circumstantial evidence, support the conclusion that the CW shells had come from regime positions.

So now I’m not really sure what to believe. Seems like more work needs to be done to really get to the bottom of what happened. Although, with the passage of time and a war still going on, further clarity on the facts may be elusive.


11 Comments on “Hersh on Syria CW”

  1. Arend Meerburg, former diplomat of The Netherlands says:

    Does Turkey have CW? If so ( I never heard of this) would Turkey use these with a Turkish DG in the OPCW?

  2. Don Bacon says:

    Chief United Nations investigator Ake Sellstrom, who led a team of inspectors to Syria, reported in December that chemical weapons were likely used in five out of seven attacks they had examined, but did not assign blame.

    There is nothing in the UN report about “technical evidence of high-grade sarin.

    Charles Duelfer, former Chief U.S. Weapons Inspector, has been quoted:
    The Syrian regime has been developing chemical weapons for decades; it has been Damascus’s strategy for offsetting the threat posed by the Israeli nuclear program. As a result, Duelfer said, the regime has acquired some extremely sophisticated systems for maintaining its stockpiles — adding chemical stabilizers to its toxic agents, for example, and creating binary munitions that mix the precursors to create a toxic agent after the rocket or mortar has been fired. “[I]f they find little bits of rockets or artillery shells with that degree of sophistication, it will point toward the Syrian military,” Duelfer said.

    But the UN report didn’t address any “degree of sophistication” in the Sarin. No appraisal of stabilizers, for example.

    Instead, Sellstrom has come out with some unscientific generic comments which are not a part of the UN report. Sellstrom, without categorically saying which side was to blame, then said in January that it was “difficult to see” how the opposition could have weaponized the toxins used.

    The US intelligence community, to its credit, was never used as a source of intelligence for US administrations push for bombing Syria in retaliation for this false-flag attack.

    What is hard for me to believe is that nobody has pointed a finger at Saudi Arabia and Prince Bandar. Oh well, I’ll go with Turkey. It definitely wasn’t Syria. That theory defies all reason and evidence.

  3. Johnboy says:

    I suppose there are two ways to interpret Hersh’s article:
    a) His sources are CIA spooks who are trying to create “plausible deniability” by spreading the idea that, sure, sure, the CIA *once* had a rat-run that flowed from Libya thru Turkey to Syria, but they dropped it after Benghazi – even though that story is a bit pile of hooey.

    Hersh is therefore being used to hide the fact that this rat-run is still very much a CIA operation but – hey, Presto! – the spooks have now made Erdogan the fall-guy!

    b) His sources are CIA spooks who really are outraged that Erdogan has Gone Rogue On Them, and are thoroughly alarmed that he is now driving up ‘n’ down that rat-run like some circus-act in a clown-car.

    Hersh is therefore a useful conduit for spreading the word that the CIA has really does have nothing to do with any of this, no matter how unsavoury its actions might have been pre-Benghazi.

    I’m not sure which one to believe, though Option B seems outlandish (after all, why would Erdogan do something so foolhardy as to piss in the CIA’s pocket? That’s never been a sure-fire key to longevity for anyone).

    Except…. something that nags at the back of my mind….. when Obama released his (heavily redacted) Reasons For Believing That It Was Assad That Had Done Did It.

    Such documents are always released as “US Intelligence Assessments”, but not that one: it was released as a “White House Assessment”, which strongly suggests that the CIA etc., wouldn’t touch the intel with a ten-foot-pole.

    Which itself is very hard to reconcile with this being a CIA-run False Flag Operation.

    After all, if you are going to all the trouble of planting a False Flag then it’s in your interests to go around hoppin’ up ‘n’ down, hootin’ ‘n’ hollerin’ about it……

    • Cyrus says:

      The very fact that there is any question about the responsibility for the CW attack is all the more reason why we should not countenance bombings and military intervention on such basis. It is far too easy to manipulate the information

      • yan says:

        That seems to me also to be the most important lesson to be taken from the whole Syria-gas affair. It also seems to me to be a lesson that is very easily forgotten at such times when there is a rush to war.

  4. Cheryl Rofer says:

    For all you folks who want to believe Hersh’s single source, one question: Where is the facility that manufactured the sarin or precursors that the rebels supposedly used on Ghouta? It would need to be capable of production of ton amounts, and the manufacture of these chemicals requires very specialized equipment and protective gear. So that should be findable by export controls and possibly by overhead photography.

    But Hersh relies on a single source – this article quotes five sources, but four of them appear only once each – and never asks any questions about exactly how this was done.

    You can’t do this stuff just by talking about it.

    • Johnboy says:

      Yes, you appear to be correct: there is one primary source, plus four other dudes who Hersh then went to in order to collaborate a particular claim or accusation.

      But the source of all those claims and accusations is just that first guy; there is no real sign that any of the other four added to the picture; they merely “confirmed or denied”.

      Yeah, I’m not convinced by such “evidence”, but note what Hersh doesn’t say: he doesn’t say that he approached any of those additional sources only to be told “Nah, that’s a load of nonsense. You’ve been talking to conspiracy theorists again, hey, Hershie?”

      Maybe that *did* happen, and Hersh left those conversations out of the story.

      Or maybe that *didn’t* happen i.e. everyone who is anyone in the US intelligence community knows that Assad was stitched up by a Turkish-inspired false flag, and so confirming the story was as easy as pulling out his phonebook and working the phones.

      I’m unconvinced, since it is quite plausible that spooks would see a reporter like Hersh as a *great* way to spread misinformation: they need only feed him something that isn’t true, then sit back and watch it spread like wild-fire.

      Then again….. he’s also a GREAT way of ringing alarm bells if the intelligence community really is getting alarmed at the way in which control of events is slipping out of their hands

      • Cheryl Rofer says:

        There is no indication that Hersh confirmed anything; the five sources are quoted on different issues. So we don’t know who the first guy is or his agenda. Extremely poor journalism.

      • Don Bacon says:

        There is no need for more than one source to prove a fact. In law, the testimony of two ore more people is not necessarily more reliable than the testimony of one. An outside observer must make a judgment as to the facts from the testimony presented.

  5. yousaf says:

    Too bad Hersh didn’t claim that he got the evidence from some alleged laptop — then everyone would believe him.

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