At the time the US administration said that Assad had crossed a red line and, with the support of other western powers, Obama prepared a major military assault against the Butcher of Damascus until the US president suddenly backed down and settled for the compromise of chemical weapons inspections.

Hersh claims that this retreat happened after the UK Porton Down defence laboratory reported that a sample of the sarin didn’t match the batches of chemical weapons known to be held by the Syrian army.  Quoting sources, Hersh claims the following:

  • A June 2013 US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report stated that al Nusra had ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’ and its chemical weapons ambitions would be difficult to disrupt.
  • Last May, local police in southern Turkey announced that more than ten members of al Nusra had been arrested with two kilograms of sarin. The terrorists were progressively released from custody and Turkey’s ambassador to Moscow later told reporters that the recovered ‘sarin’ was ‘anti-freeze’,
  • Many of the weapons secretly supplied to Syrian rebels in 2012 by the US via Libya fell into the hands of jihadists rather than pro-democracy forces (that is terrorists who, among their crimes, have declared fatwas against Syria’s Kurds).
  • However, following the jihadist assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi, the US stopped supplying arms to Syrian rebels via Libya and this left Erdogan worried. He feared that the rebels might lose, he would not get a client state in Syria, and the jihadists he was sponsoring might turn on him (just as Osama Bin Laden eventually turned on the US, his one-time sponsor).
  • Hersh argues that Erdogan needed an incident to provoke a US military intervention. “In spring 2013″, he writes, “US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability”.
  • Hersh quotes a ‘former defence department official’ as saying: ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey – that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’

Critics of Hersh, including Michael Rubin, have questioned the journalist’s sources and refer to their possible links to the Syrian regime. There is no doubt that the tyrant Assad is capable of ordering chemical attacks and, indeed, has probably done so. However, in relation to the August atrocity which killed hundreds of people, a question mark hangs over why Assad would do this at such a tactically inopportune time.

Could Erdogan be responsible? Hersh’s article does not prove his case. But can it be completely ruled out? The recently leaked tape of a meeting between MIT head Hakan Fidan, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and a senior general suggests that Erodgan’s administration has few moral scruples. The three men discuss creating a pretext for Turkey to invade Syria. Fidan apparently says he can deploy four agents to do the job: “I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey; we can also prepare an attack on Suleiman Shah Tomb if necessary.”

The Turkish authorities do not deny that this meeting took place but say the tape has been distorted. Erdoğan responded by banning You Tube. It remains unclear who gassed Damascus and this writer does not claim to know. Nevertheless there is much evidence that the Turkish prime minister is a key sponsor of jihadists who are involved with chemical weapons and are a deadly enemy of Syria’s Kurds.

Published by The Kurdistan Tribune