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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Did Turkey Try to Engineer Our Intervention in the Syrian Civil War?

The turnaround in Washington on intervention in the Syrian Civil War was one of the remarkable stories of 2013.  To illustrate, in late 2012 I attended a conference in which former CIA director Mike Hayden said that we probably needed to get involved in the war in support of the rebels.  One year later, after a year of stories about how Al Qaida-inspired groups had taken over the rebel movement, Hayden said that probably the least bad outcome was Assad winning.  

As you'll recall, last summer it was revealed the Assad regime had used sarin gas on a rebel-controlled village.  This crossed President Obama's "red line" on intervention.  Then after some vaciliating, he took the issue to Congress, which rejected intervention.  The Russians then made a deal to monitor Damascus's disposal of chemical weapons, which we accepted. 

The following long piece by the famous report Sy Hersh argues that the administration started to have doubts about the Assad regime's use of sarin.  (It never made sense either strategically or tactically, but war has a way of getting out of hand.)  The piece strongly hints that the Turks may have engineered this with its controlled rebels to get us to step up our covert intervention, or to bomb Syria.

One comment about piece, which has created a lot of buzz:  nothing new, it seems to me, on the doubts about who used the sarin.  But I do know one thing, and this contradicts his reporting:  last year the principal deputy of the director of national intelligence (PDDNI) made an unclassified speech to private sector analysts at the ODNI.   This senior officer bragged about how the intelligence community proved to the White House how the Assad regime used  WMD on its own people.  PDDNI considered this to be a major success story for the IC, and even suggested it did much to fix the intelligence failures over WMD in Iraq.  Clearly, the IC believed the Assad regime used sarin, unlike what Hersh suggests here.
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