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Award-winning US journalist says Turkey behind sarin attack

Hersh alleges Turkey conducted red-flag operation to trigger US military intervention

Gulf News

Dubai: The London Review of Book published on April 4 an essay written by Pulitzer Prize Winner Seymour Hersh, alleging Turkey has been playing ‘dirty games’ in Syria to advance its interests.

Hersh asserts Turkey carried out ‘red-flag’ operation by supplying Islamist rebels with sarin gas to use on Syrian civilians in an attempt to implicate the Syrian regime and trigger a US military intervention in Syria.

To be sure, Hersh has a long list of reputable credentials, giving such an incredulous assertion an air of legitimacy.

Among his award-winning works was his exposition of US atrocities during the Vietnam war as well as US crimes in Iraq with the Abu Ghraib scandal.

In his latest essay on Syria called “The Red Line and the Rat Line”, Hersh highlights Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “known” support for the Al Qaida-affiliated Al Nusra Front in Syria among other rebel factions.

Citing an unnamed senior US intelligence official, Hersh writes that Turkey believed ‘they could get Al 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’.

US President Barack Obama last year said that the use of chemical weapons in the Syria conflict would be a ‘red line’ that would force the US to act militarily. The murky attack which occurred on August 21 of last year killed more than 1,000 civilians, including women and children — shocking the entire world.

In its aftermath, it looked as if the US was poised for an attack as warships were deployed off Syria’s coast and the world closely watched with anticipation. However, the US did not strike Syria and slowly over the course of the next few months backtracked significantly in its rhetoric against removal of Al Assad or any type of military intervention.

Since then, the gas attack has faded into the background as one of the many atrocities of the Syrian civil war that has claimed to date 150,000 lives. The government alleged the opposition was behind it while the opposition claimed it was an attack by an ‘emboldened’ Syrian regime, flouting US threats to intervene militarily.

In the days after the attack a US official cited by the Wall Street Journal said there were “strong indications” that the government had carried out a chemical weapons attack.

Hersh, however, seems adamant to point the finger at Turkey. Again citing an unnamed American foreign policy expert, Hersh recounts a meeting in Washington following the gas attack between US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and the at-the-time National Security Advisor Tom Donilon who were having dinner with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, along with his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Hakan Fidan the head of the Turkish Intelligence Agency.

According to the expert, Erdogan had sought the meeting to demonstrate that Obama’s red line had been crossed.

Hersh writes, “Obama then pointed at Fidan and said: ‘We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.’”

According to Hersh, this effectively implicates Turkey’s role in the gas attack.

However, Obama’s attributed comments did not necessarily have to be about the sarin gas attack, as it could be interpreted as any of Turkey’s well-known assistance to Syrian rebels.

While the real perpetrators of the attack may never be known, it is clear that the attack begs more questions than answers. Unfortunately, 1,300 civilians lost their lives on that fated day, which is a mere drop in the bucket of the total number of Syrians killed by the conflict.

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