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(36,988 posts)
Sun Apr 6, 2014, 03:33 PM Apr 2014

The Red Line and the Rat Line Seymour M. Hersh

In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.​* Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.

For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbours, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.’

The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: ‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW … Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.’ The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.’ (Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’)


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(46,416 posts)
1. You'd think this would be seized upon by Repubs, since it partially
Sun Apr 6, 2014, 05:55 PM
Apr 2014

involves Benghazi and Hillary Clinton supposedly lying in her testimony about arms from Libya going through Turkey and into Syria (and supposedly the US abandoned its involvement in this "rat line" after the Stevens attack, sez Hersh). Some of this is plausible, some of it is not. Hard to know what to believe when taken as a whole.


(36,988 posts)
4. I know Hersh is old school
Mon Apr 7, 2014, 02:13 AM
Apr 2014

and gets two sources for his stories before he writes it. He still could get misdirected to fuel misinformation by his sources which is the DOD. However if we take this at face value we get an interesting slant to what is going on and even if part is misinformation we get another slant reading between the lines on what the misinformation is trying to achieve.

We do know Wesley Clark was told by DOD about the countries they wanted to take down a few years back.

Thought it was an interesting read.


(46,416 posts)
7. Some of it isn't logical. Why would President Obama allow
Mon Apr 7, 2014, 11:28 AM
Apr 2014

John Kerry to run around making "Munich Moment" speeches and let him make his case for war on intel that stated that Assad was definitely behind the attacks, when Obama and defense intelligence knew otherwise? He'd be making a fool of Kerry, and I doubt he'd do that. Why would the joint chiefs and DIA only share intel with the President and WH staff and NOT Hagel (who is their boss), and then Obama lies to Hagel (I assume that's the "civilian leadership at the Pentagon" that Hersh refers to) that the real reason to call off the strikes was because "the middle east would blow up"? If any of this were true, both Kerry and Hagel should have resigned, because everyone's either lying to them or withholding vital information.


(46,416 posts)
9. Right, but that was Cheney, and that was Homeland Security guy.
Mon Apr 7, 2014, 11:45 AM
Apr 2014

Obama isn't that devious, and we're talking Secretaries of State and Defense not being in the loop? That would be crazy.


(39,405 posts)
13. a lot of our policy decisions are made on a pay to play basis, so I could see them getting their
Mon Apr 7, 2014, 07:53 PM
Apr 2014

marching orders without being in on the decision-making.


(10,575 posts)
2. Usual suspects, usual methods
Sun Apr 6, 2014, 06:18 PM
Apr 2014

The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light.


It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria.


The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.)


(385 posts)
3. this sincere explanation plays into sincere foreign policy implanted iby mass media
Mon Apr 7, 2014, 01:55 AM
Apr 2014

foreign policy is run by long term imperatives not by daily chemical tests. In the long run Israels best benefit is for a long civil war with neither side winning. So we support rebels just enough to fight but not to win.

civilian deaths are uncountable as they were in Iraq and Afghanistan or over drone terror bombings.


(36,988 posts)
5. Democracy Now just interviewed him
Mon Apr 7, 2014, 10:40 AM
Apr 2014

video is available now
transcript coming later

Was Turkey behind last year’s Syrian chemical weapons attack? That is the question raised in a new exposé by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh on the intelligence debate over the deaths of hundreds of Syrians in Ghouta last year. The United States, and much of the international community, blamed forces loyal to the Assad government, almost leading to a U.S. attack on Syria. But Hersh reveals the U.S. intelligence community feared Turkey was supplying sarin gas to Syrian rebels in the months before the attack took place — information never made public as President Obama made the case for launching a strike. Hersh joins us to discuss his findings.

....I gonna have to say its the real deal after the interview.


(84,711 posts)
10. The Video & Transcript at Democracy Now is good watch and listen..
Mon Apr 7, 2014, 01:29 PM
Apr 2014

I often find Hersh easier to watch than to read.

Think it's fascinating that Russia was correct about the Sarin being used by the militant groups and not by Assad. There was a lot of push back around here about Assad being the one to blame and the war drums were beating heavy.

I remember watching the the TV Generals on CNN/MSNBC and it seemed to me they were not anxious to start bombing Syria. They would talk on and on about how it could be done...but, they would warn. It was then that I wondered if weren't going to be in another big mess where the truth would come out later after the damage was done.

The Bengazi Raid that he says stopped the RAT Line for CIA..was confusing. Did Hersh mean that it stopped the CIA's oversee of what was being shipped through the line...or that the CIA pulled out of surveillance and that allowed the the operations to intensify. Sy says that after the RAT LINE was closed down all kinds of new equipment, "Manpads" etc. started showing up in Syria. Did he mean the new equipment was from from Turkey or that the RAT LINE from Libya was still functioning but CIA wasn't involved.


(36,988 posts)
11. What I see is real evidence of 'the deep state''
Mon Apr 7, 2014, 02:14 PM
Apr 2014

and 'deep events'

I have come to believe that most structural deep events are interrelated, and that the study of any one of them helps understand others.

Their interrelationship leads to two levels of history in America, and two levels of historical narrative: official or archival history, which ignores or marginalizes deep events, and a second level – called deep history by its practitioners or “conspiracy theory” by its critics – which incorporates them.

As an example of an officially ignored or distorted deep event that is the usual official line or narrative that most of the population has to buy into.

Examples of deep history are the JFK assassination, MLK assassination, the October surprise.. etc.

What Hersh is describing is another 'deep event'



(9,893 posts)
14. The way I read it is that the CIA (and British Intelligence) was keeping the Turks,
Tue Apr 8, 2014, 10:59 PM
Apr 2014

Saudis and Qataris from sending the most deadly items to the Islamic extremists among the Syrian Sunni rebels. Those MANPADS are made to shoot down decent-sized airplanes, both military and civilian. If those weapons aren't used in Syria, they could be used elsewhere against us or one of our allies. Obama did not want the Islamists to get their hands on them.

Once the CIA pulled out at the end of the Benghazi attacks, and presumably the Brits, too, if they were still around, the whole operation was run by the Turks, Saudis and Qataris who have no problems giving the most effective weapons to Sunni extremists if there is any hope that those weapons will be used again Shia, like Hezbollah, Iranian forces or Assad's Alawites, who are related to the Shia.

In this case, the CIA was the adult supervision, an unusual circumstance.

What is more frightening to me is that Sunni Islamic extremists now know how to make a crude form of sarin, and that our supposed friends are willing to supply them with precursor chemicals. I don't run around screaming "terra, terra, terra," but I do think that there are some extremists out there who really would like to do us, as in American citizens, bodily harm. And sometimes they have very good reasons to be very angry. However, using poison gas is one of the most horrid ways in which to attack people, and the thought that Osama wanna-bees can make it in their garages is disturbing.



(36,392 posts)
17. I always assumed the worst about Bush, and Sy Hersh did nothing to ease my fears
Wed Apr 9, 2014, 12:10 PM
Apr 2014

I wish his expose's during Cheney's term had not been so accurate. then this would be easier to write off.

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