Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

CIA, MI6 and Turkey's rogue game in Syria: Claims Ankara worked with the US and UK to smuggle Gaddafi's weapons to jihadi fighters and Jabhat al-Nusra were aided by Turkish intelligence in sarin gas attacks

A Syrian rebel fighter aims at Syrian government forces during skirmishes in Aleppo (AP)
A Syrian rebel fighter aims at Syrian government forces during skirmishes in Aleppo (AP)

The United States' Secretary of State John Kerry and its UN ambassador, Samantha Power have been pushing for more assistance to be given to the Syrian rebels.

This is despite strong evidence that the Syrian armed opposition are, more than ever, dominated by jihadi fighters similar in their beliefs and methods to al-Qa'ida. The recent attack by rebel forces around Latakia, northern Syria, which initially had a measure of success, was led by Chechen and Moroccan jihadis.

The US has done its best to keep secret its role in supplying the Syrian armed opposition, operating through proxies and front companies. It is this which makes Seymour Hersh's article "The Red Line and The Rat Line: Obama, Erdogan and the Syrian rebels" published last week in the London Review of Books, so interesting.

Attention has focussed on whether the Syrian jihadi group, Jabhat al-Nusra, aided by Turkish intelligence, could have been behind the sarin gas attacks in Damascus last 21 August, in an attempt to provoke the US into full-scale military intervention to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. "We now know it was a covert action planned by [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan's people to push Obama over the red line," a former senior US intelligence officer is quoted as saying.

Critics vehemently respond that all the evidence points to the Syrian government launching the chemical attack and that even with Turkish assistance, Jabhat al-Nusra did not have the capacity to use sarin.

Syria rebels 'may have used chemical weapons' 

A second and little-regarded theme of Hersh's article is what the CIA called the rat line, the supply chain for the Syrian rebels overseen by the US in covert cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The information about this comes from a highly classified and hitherto secret annex to the report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee on the attack by Libyan militiamen on the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September 2012 in which US ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed.

The annex deals with an operation in which the CIA, in cooperation with MI6, arranged the dispatch of arms from Mu'ammer Gaddafi's arsenals to Turkey and then across the 500-mile long Turkish southern frontier with Syria.

The annex refers to an agreement reached in early 2012 between Obama and Erdogan with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar supplying funding. Front companies, purporting to be Australian, were set up, employing former US soldiers who were in charge of obtaining and transporting the weapons.

In this image shot with an extreme telephoto lens and through haze from the outskirts of Suruc at the Turkey-Syria border, Turkish forces armoured vehicles patrol the border as a black banner with white writing is seen atop of a building at the eastern side of the town of Kobani, Syria, where fighting had ben intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab and its surrounding areas have been under attack since mid-September, with militants capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages. The flag is indicating that the jihadists may have regrouped and broken through the Kurdish lines.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
In this image shot with an extreme telephoto lens and through haze from the outskirts of Suruc at the Turkey-Syria border, Turkish forces armoured vehicles patrol the border as a black banner with white writing is seen atop of a building at the eastern side of the town of Kobani, Syria (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani after an air strike, seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border on October 7, 2014 near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey. (Photo by Stringer/Getty Images)
Protesters run away from tear gas during a pro-Kurdish demonstration in solidarity with the people of Kobani, near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border on October 7, 2014 near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey. (Photo by Stringer/Getty Images)
An aid worker gives a loaf of bread to the newly arrived Syrian Kurdish refugees as they walk with their belongings after crossing into Turkey from the Syrian border town Kobani on October 7, 2014 near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey. (Photo by Stringer/Getty Images)
A newly arrived Syrian Kurdish refugee girl cries as she sits in the back of a truck after crossing into Turkey from the Syrian border town of Kobani on October 7, 2014 near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Turkey. (Photo by Stringer/Getty Images)
A Turkish Kurd, standing in the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, use binoculars to watch the fighting between militants of the Islamic State group and Kurdish forces in Kobani, Syria, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab and its surrounding areas have been under attack since mid-September, with militants capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Turkish Kurds walk as tanks in the background hold their positions on a hilltop in the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, overlooking Kobani in Syria where fighting had ben intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab and its surrounding areas have been under attack since mid-September, with militants capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Turkish soldiers stand atop and around their tanks as they hold their positions on a hilltop in the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, overlooking Kobani in Syria where fighting had ben intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State,group Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab and its surrounding areas have been under attack since mid-September, with militants capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Turkish soldiers take positions, a few hundreds meters from the border line as fighting intensifis between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State, in Kobani in Syria, in the background, in Mursitpinar near Suruc, Turkey, Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. Turkey's parliament approved Thursday a motion that gives the government new powers to launch military incursions into Syria and Iraq and to allow foreign forces to use its territory for possible operations against the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Smokes rise after a mortar shell landed in the south of the city center of Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, seen from the Turkish side of border as thousands of new Syrian refugees from Kobani arrive in Suruc, Turkey, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeted Islamic State fighters pressing their offensive against a Kurdish town near the Syrian-Turkish border on Tuesday in an attempt to halt the militants' advance, activists said.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
A Turkish soldier holds a lost baby as he looks for its mother, as thousands of new Syrian refugees from Kobani arrive at the Turkey-Syria border crossing of Yumurtalik near Suruc, Turkey, Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Syrian Kurdish women wait for transport as thousands of new Syrian refugees from Kobani arrive at the Turkey-Syria border crossing of Yumurtalik near Suruc, Turkey, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeted Islamic State fighters pressing their offensive against a Kurdish town near the Syrian-Turkish border on Tuesday in an attempt to halt the militants' advance, activists said.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Syrian Kurdish wait for transport as thousands of new Syrian refugees from Kobani arrive at the Turkey-Syria border crossing of Yumurtalik near Suruc, Turkey, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeted Islamic State fighters pressing their offensive against a Kurdish town near the Syrian-Turkish border on Tuesday in an attempt to halt the militants' advance, activists said.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Narin Mustafa, 26, holds her 10-day-old baby girl Merva as thousands of new Syrian refugees from Kobani in Syria arrive at the Turkey-Syria border crossing of Yumurtalik near Suruc, Turkey, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeted Islamic State fighters pressing their offensive against a Kurdish town near the Syrian-Turkish border on Tuesday in an attempt to halt the militants' advance, activists said.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
A Turkish Kurdish woman uses binoculars to watch the fighting between Islamic militants and Kurdish forces to the west of Kobani, Syria, at the Turkey-Syria border near Suruc, Turkey, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeted fighters, vehicles and artillery pieces of the Islamic State group on both sides of the Syria-Iraq frontier Tuesday, including around a beleaguered Kurdish town near the Syrian-Turkish border that is under assault by the militants, activists said. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Turkish soldiers watch the fighting between Islamic militants and Kurdish forces to the west of Kobani, Syria, at the Turkey-Syria border near Suruc, Turkey, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeted fighters, vehicles and artillery pieces of the Islamic State group on both sides of the Syria-Iraq frontier Tuesday, including around a beleaguered Kurdish town near the Syrian-Turkish border that is under assault by the militants, activists said. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Turkish soldiers patrol as the fighting between Islamic militants and Kurdish forces to the west of Kobani, Syria,continues at the Turkey-Syria border near Suruc, Turkey, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeted fighters, vehicles and artillery pieces of the Islamic State group on both sides of the Syria-Iraq frontier Tuesday, including around a beleaguered Kurdish town near the Syrian-Turkish border that is under assault by the militants, activists said. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Turkish Kurds watch the fighting between Islamic militants and Kurdish forces to the west of Kobani, Syria, at the Turkey-Syria border near Suruc, Turkey, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeted fighters, vehicles and artillery pieces of the Islamic State group on both sides of the Syria-Iraq frontier Tuesday, including around a beleaguered Kurdish town near the Syrian-Turkish border that is under assault by the militants, activists said. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Smoke rises after a shell lands in Kobani in Syria as fighting intensifies between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab and its surrounding areas have been under attack since mid-September, with militants capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke from a fire rises after a shell landed in Kobani in Syria as fighting intensifies between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab and its surrounding areas have been under attack since mid-September, with militants capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
CORRECTS TYPE OF AIRCRAFT In this Sept. 23, 2014 photo provided by the U.S Air Force, a F-15 strike Eagle taxis in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility prior to strike operations in Syria. U.S. coalition-led warplanes struck Islamic State group militants near the northern Syrian town of Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, near the Turkish border for the first time Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, activists and a Kurdish official said. The coalition, which began its aerial campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria early Tuesday, aims to roll back and ultimately crush the extremist group, which has created a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Russ Scalf)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees ride in the back of a truck after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A woman holds a child after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1, 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees wait to be pickuped after crossing from Syria into Turkey in Suruc October 1, 2014 south of Sanliurfa, Turkey. Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) fighters are reportedly advancing with heavy weaponry on the strategic Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which they have surrounded on three sides. Several hundred thousand refugees are reportedly in Kobani and aid agencies are bracing for a massive exodus into Turkey. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees are picked up after crossing from Syria into Turkey in Suruc October 1, 2014 south of Sanliurfa, Turkey. Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) fighters are reportedly advancing with heavy weaponry on the strategic Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which they have surrounded on three sides. Several hundred thousand refugees are reportedly in Kobani and aid agencies are bracing for a massive exodus into Turkey. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A man lifts a sack on a truck full of refugees after they had crossed the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A man carries a bag after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A man lifts a child into the back of a truck after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1, 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A woman carries a bag after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1, 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A man pulls a sack after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1, 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A man drinks water after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1, 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A woman sta2nds beside a washing machine after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1, 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A man squats beside his motocycle after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1, 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A refugee gestures from the back of a truck after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1, 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees gather in a field after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1, 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A man carries some belongings while crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1, 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Men wait for relatives and friends after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees stand in a field after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A man wears a blanket after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees cross the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Men wait for relatives and friends after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A woman carries carpets after crossing after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees lift belongings into the back of a truck after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees carry their belongings to a truck after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees lift their belongings over the fence as they cross the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: A man carries a box after crossing after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees ride in the back of a truck after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Two men on a motocycle looks at a phone at a checkpoint near the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees climb onto a truck to sit to be transported away after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees stand beside their belongings after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees sit with their belongings after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees sit with their belongings after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees sit with their belongings after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 01: Refugees ride in the back of a truck after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey on October 1 , 2014 near Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish troops are engaged in a battle against fighters of the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and ISIL) to defend the strategic nearby Kurdish border town of Kobani (also called Ayn Al-Arab), which ISIS has surrounded on three sides. The Turkish Parliament is due to vote on a measure on October 2, which would allow Turkish ground forces to enter Syria, creating a buffer zone to protect fleeing refugees from the ISIS advance. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

According to Hersh, the MI6 presence enabled the CIA to avoid reporting the operation to Congress, as required by law, since it could be presented as a liaison mission.

The US involvement in the rat line ended unhappily when its consulate was stormed by Libyan militiamen. The US diplomatic presence in Benghazi had been dwarfed by that of the CIA and, when US personnel were airlifted out of the city in the aftermath of the attack, only seven were reportedly from the State Department and 23 were CIA officers. The disaster in Benghazi, which soon ballooned into a political battle between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, severely loosened US control of what arms were going to which rebel movements in Syria.

This happened at the moment when Assad's forces were starting to gain the upper hand and al-Qa'ida-type groups were becoming the cutting edge of the rebel military.

The failure of the rebels to win in 2012 left their foreign backers with a problem. At the time of the fall of Gaddafi they had all become over-confident, demanding the removal of Assad when he still held all Syria's 14 provincial capitals. "They were too far up the tree to get down," according to one observer. To accept anything other than the departure of Assad would have looked like a humiliating defeat.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar went on supplying money while Sunni states turned a blind eye to the recruitment of jihadis and to preachers stirring up sectarian hatred against the Shia. But for Turkey the situation was worse. Efforts to project its power were faltering and all its chosen proxies – from Egypt to Iraq – were in trouble.

It was evident that al-Qa'ida-type fighters, including Jahat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and Ahrar al-Sham were highly dependent on Turkish border crossings for supplies, recruits and the ability to reach safety. The heaviest intra-rebel battles were for control of these crossings. Turkey's military intelligence, MIT, and the paramilitary Gendarmerie played a growing role in directing and training jihadis and Jabhat al-Nusra in particular.

The Hersh article alleges that the MIT went further and instructed Jabhat al-Nusra on how to stage a sarin gas attack in Damascus that would cross Obama's red line and lead to the US launching an all-out air attack. Vehement arguments rage over whether this happened. That a senior US intelligence officer is quoted by America's leading investigative journalist as believing that it did, is already damaging Turkey.

Part of the US intelligence community is deeply suspicious of Erdogan's actions in Syria. It may also be starting to strike home in the US and Europe that aid to the armed rebellion in Syria means destabilising Iraq. When Isis brings suicide bombers from across the Turkish border into Syria it can as easily direct them to Baghdad as Aleppo.

The Pentagon is much more cautious than the State Department about the risks of putting greater military pressure on Assad, seeing it as the first step in a military entanglement along the lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel are the main opponents of a greater US military role.

Both sides in the US have agreed to a programme under which 600 Syrian rebels would be trained every month and jihadis would be weeded out. A problem here is that the secular moderate faction of committed Syrian opposition fighters does not really exist. As always, there is a dispute over what weapons should be supplied, with the rebels, Saudis and Qataris insisting that portable anti-aircraft missiles would make all the difference. This is largely fantasy, the main problem being that the rebel military forces are fragmented into hundreds of war bands.

It is curious that the US military has been so much quicker to learn the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya than civilians like Kerry and Power. The killing of Ambassador Stevens shows what happens when the US gets even peripherally involved in a violent, messy crisis like Syria where it does not control many of the players or much of the field.

Meanwhile, a telling argument against Turkey having orchestrated the sarin gas attacks in Damascus is that to do so would have required a level of competence out of keeping with its shambolic interventions in Syria over the past three years.

Source: Independent

Further reading

Syria rebels 'may have used chemical weapons'

Turkey accused of colluding with Isis to oppose Syrian Kurds

Isis: Wahhabists of Saudi Arabia and Qatar find they have created a monster

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of Iraq

Turkey blocks YouTube as alleged leaks of Syria security talks are uploaded

Why the global 'war on terror' went wrong

Is Saudi Arabia regretting its support for al-Qa’ida groups?

Syrian rebel commander Abu Sakkar filmed cutting out soldier's heart and eating it 

Al-Qa’ida rebels move weaponry ahead of expected US air strikes

Syria, the Saudi Arabia connection: The Prince with close ties to US

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