The administration buried intelligence on the fundamentalist group/rebel group al-Nusra.
It was seen, Hersh says, as an alarming threat by May, with the U.S. being aware of al-Nusra member able to make and use sarin, and yet the group – associated with the rebel opposition in Syria – was never considered a suspect in the sarin attacks. Hersh refers to a top-secret June cable sent to the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency that said al-Nusra could acquire and use sarin.
But the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of the Defense Intelligence Agency could not find the document in question, even when given its specific codes: "Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, told a press conference: ‘It’s very important to note that only the [Assad] regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin.’For those who don't know Hersh, he's the reporter who exposed the Mei-lei massacre in Vietnam and a Pulitzer Prize winner. He was very active during the Bush years, hounding the president with numerous exposes about the Iraq war based on insider information from military sources that angered many conservatives. After pretty much disappearing for Obama's first term he recently popped up and accused the administration of lying about everything regarding the bin Laden raid. A story which made nary a ripple.
So this of course should be a huge allegation, but not unsurprisingly it's getting very little play in the mainstream media or even on Fox so far (Hersh claims the media is coddling the president in a dangerous fashion).
The interesting thing about it is how it might play with allegations that were swirling around the time of Obama's threat to bomb Assad. Consider this story put out by Iranian FARS propaganda service, on the question of al-Nusra's use of chem-weapons and where they might have obtained them:
"The chemical weapons used in the attack on Khan al-Assal area had been prepared by former Iraqi Military Industries Brigadier General Adnan al-Dulaimi and supplied to Ba'ath-affiliated terrorists of the Nusra Front in Aleppo through Turkey's cooperation and via the Turkish town of Antakya in Hatay Province," an informed source, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of his life, told FNA on April 6.
The source who has been an aide to Izzat Ibrahim - the most senior member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle who is still on the run and heads the outlawed Ba'ath party after the apprehension and execution of Iraq's former Dictator Saddam Hussein - defected from the group a few months ago, but holds substantiating documents on Izzat Ibrahim's plans.
Gen. Adnan al-Dulaimi was a key man in Saddam's chemical weapons production projects. After the fall of the dictator and when the Ba'ath party was divided into the two branches of Yunes al-Ahmad and Izzat Ibrahim, he joined the latter group and was deployed in Northwestern Iraq, which is a bastion of Ba'ath terrorists, to produce chemical substances.
"The 80mm mortar shells which landed in Khan al-Assal and killed dozens of people were armed with the latest product of Dulaimi's hidden laboratories sent to the Nusra members for testing," the source added. "Also at his order, several former Iraqi military industries engineers trained the Syrian terrorists on how to use these chemical weapons," the source said, adding that all plans in this connection were prepared by Adnan al-Dulaimi and staged after the approval of Izzat Ibrahim.It's not beyond the pale to think the Iranians planted a story on Izzat al-Duri, who was a top level lieutenant to Saddam Hussein who for for some reason remains free despite a 25 million dollar bounty. Some have speculated that he might possess some kind of get-out-of-jail free card to use if caught, such as access to WMD weapons or embarrassing information. So this would fit with the former.
Others consider him a bumbler whose reputation has been blown well beyond his capabilities and that various factions simply use him as a bogeyman for political reasons. Whatever the case it is strange that he's never been caught. It's also strange that few in America know who he is. Imagine a former bigwig in the Nazi party still running around loose years after Hitler's regime was crushed. People would know.
Yet nobody knows. Applying some speculative logic let's say the al-Nusra gang does possess Sarin and did use it to kill innocent Syrians. In doing so, they would have crossed the 'red line' set by Obama in 2012, forcing some kind of US action. The action wasn't forced immediately though, since there were reports of at least two previous attacks prior to the major one near Damascus that killed over 1000, where nothing was done whatsoever. Up until that point America was only providing 'non-lethal' aid to the Syrian rebels (assuming there was no gun-running operation between Benghazi and Turkey as some have suggested).
The attack that killed over 1000 had to force some action--but where was the action to be directed? If the government were to come out and say al-Nusra launched the attacks that would force them to explain why the United States was aligning itself with WMD-using AQ-connected terrorists. Some could even claim the United States was tangentially responsible by helping the rebels.
Such would also require a presidential explanation of why America doesn't hesitate to use drones all around the globe to combat AQ factions except in Iraq and Syria. Finally, admitting al-Duri was involved would possibly tie Saddam's former Ba'athist regime to the very WMDs Obama claims they didn't have, which produced the worst foreign policy mistake ever. Some political inconveniences, for sure.
Again, who knows. Hersh's sources might be feeding him some BS because they don't like Obama or because they are still mad that forces were aligned for an attack then cut off. But it's no easier to believe the administration after some of the whoppers told about Benghazi, the IRS scandal and Obamacare. Whether Hersh's story fades away quickly during the holiday season or shines a new light on the recent report that chemicals were used just last week in Syria--on the same day the Nobel-winning OPCW declared that Assad's chemical arsenal was completely destroyed, remains to be seen.
But one thing is reasonably predictable. If this story does get legs Hersh will be heading under the bus with it, background or not. There is no loyalty with these Chicago guys. If history repeats itself being audited would be the least of his troubles. How about rounded up and pressured to divulge his anonymous leakers so they can be prosecuted as have many others during the last five years. Is it possible the Justice Department is already in possession of his emails, web cam views, cell phone calls or text regarding his sources? Sounds crazy, but it's already happened with James Rosen and the AP. Yeah, Hersh is old school and might have taken care to do his work face-to-face, but technology is everywhere.