UK Intelligence Spun 2013 Syria Chemical Attack, Leaked Docs Show – Kit Klarenberg 9/19/23


US officials suppressed internal assessments that Al Qaeda’s Syrian wing had an “advanced” sarin production cell even as the US publicly blamed the Assad government for a 2013 chemical weapons attack, a report reveals.

Leaked documents obtained by The Grayzone show a shadowy British intelligence contractor helped sell the story that Assad was responsible – and nearly triggered Western intervention.

On September 13, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published a US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) appraisal detailing the chemical weapons arsenal possessed by the Al Qaeda-aligned Syrian armed opposition group known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The document claims the terror group acquired the ability to produce sarin through Saudi Arabia and Turkey, both sponsors of the Syrian proxy war, and was attempting to achieve “large scale production” of the highly toxic nerve agent. The memo lamented that al-Nusra’s “relative freedom of operation” in the country meant its “[chemical weapons] aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.”

The disclosures raise serious questions about the infamous 2013 chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, including whether the estimated 280 to 1700 people killed were in fact massacred by al-Nusra, and not Syrian loyalist forces. The revelations also cast significant doubt on claims that the government of Bashar Al-Assad was responsible for other alleged chemical attacks during the Syrian crisis.

As Hersh notes, the incident in Ghouta nearly triggered Western military intervention in Syria, which likely would have resembled the NATO operation which led to the destruction of Libya two years earlier. It would’ve been a war based on deceit comparable to the false claims that precipitated the illegal US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The role of British intelligence in attempting to escalate the conflict has been overlooked to this point. Now, never-before-seen official documents obtained by The Grayzone illustrate the crucial role UK intelligence played in the failed push to launch a NATO invasion of Syria.

‘High confidence’ intelligence assessment fails

While the Obama White House claimed to possess incontrovertible proof that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack in Ghouta, it stubbornly refused to disclose any. By contrast, communications intercepted by German spies suggested Assad neither ordered nor had any knowledge of the attack. Meanwhile, “multiple” US officials told AP that intelligence implicating Syrian forces was “not a slam dunk.”

The choice of wording was widely understood to be a deliberate reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet’s insistence that intelligence showed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in 2002. Apparently, American spies did not want to be blamed for triggering an invasion on false pretenses this time around.

The DIA’s internal assessment explicitly states that Al-Nusra maintained sarin production facilities, describing the “al-Nusrah Front associated sarin production cell” as “the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre 9/11 effort.”

According to Hersh, the report in question never reached the White House. An anonymous senior intelligence official reportedly told the journalist that in the name of “political expediency,” evidence implicating al-Nusra was deliberately withheld from President Obama, who repeatedly insisted that no such proof existed:

“We do not believe that, given the delivery systems, using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks. We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out.”

Intelligence officials in Britain struck a similar tone. On August 27 2013, London’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) published an assessment on Ghouta which maintained that there are “no plausible alternative scenarios” to the idea that Syrian government forces were responsible for the incident.

The assessment offered no evidence to support the charge, citing only unspecified “highly sensitive” intelligence. While the group acknowledged that a number of opposition groups were seeking chemical weapons, it insisted that “none currently has the capability to conduct [an] attack on this scale,” and that there was “no credible intelligence or other evidence to substantiate” claims that opposition groups possessed chemical weapons. But the newly-released DIA documents completely contradict that assertion….

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