Syria: embarassment in Turkey after Us journalist revelations

Investigative piece by Hersh, 2013 massacre to spur US attack

09 April, 20:24

    Bodies of Syrian children after a poisonous gas attack on August 21, 2013 in Damascus suburbs Bodies of Syrian children after a poisonous gas attack on August 21, 2013 in Damascus suburbs

    (ANSAmed) - ANKARA - A recently published reconstruction of the August 21, 2013, chemical attack blamed on Syrian regime forces has sparked heated debate in the US and Western nations. According to alleged intelligence revelations, rebel forces assisted by the Turkish government were the ones to use sarin gas on a Damascus suburb to provoke a US attack on Syria. The journalist to make the claim was the Pulitzer-prize winning Seymour Hersh, and his investigative piece was reported on in Turkish media on Wednesday. Hersh's reconstruction - which caused both Ankara and Washington to issue immediate denials - is based on revelations made by an unnamed US secret agent. Hersh (who won a Pulitzer in 1970 for a reportage on the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam by US troops) claims that the August 2013 attack was a trap orchestrated by Turkish intelligence to convince US president Barack Obama to order an attack on Damascus. The US president had repeatedly referred to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime as a 'red line' beyond which military force would be used. Despite Damascus's denial of involvement and its placing of the blame (with the support of Russia and Iran) on rebel forces, Hersh said that the US president gave the Pentagon orders to ready an attack by September 2. Two days before, however, a report by the British secret services - Hersh wrote - showed the Americans that the deadly sarin gas used in Damascus was not of the same kind as that in the regime arsenal. Thus, on August 31, Obama began cautiously backing away from any potential use of military force and said that Congress would be deciding on the matter (it subsequently voted against it). The White House then initiated a chemical disarmament program for Syria with Russian involvement and no military action was taken. The unnamed former US secret agent said that military intelligence had learned that the sarin gas had got into rebel hands from Turkey, and that Ankara had provided training in the use of chemical weapons. Erdogan, who at the beginning of the Syrian conflict broke off ties with his former ally Assad and backed the mostly Sunni rebel fighters, has been accused by the Turkish opposition of backing jihadist groups with links to Al-Qaeda. In late March, a recording appeared on YouTube of an alleged secret meeting of Turkish leaders discussing possible military intervention in Syria. In the meeting, secret services chief Hakan Fidan, who has links to Erdogan, said that he was prepared to send his men to Syria to launch missiles at Turkish territory to justify an attack by the Turkish army. (ANSAmed).

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