New report claims al-Qaeda-Benghazi link known day after attack

One day after the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded the assault had been planned 10 days earlier by an al-Qaeda affiliate, according to documents released Monday by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.

“The attack on the American consulate in Benghazi was planned and executed by The Brigades of the Captive Omar Abdul Rahman,” said a preliminary intelligence report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, obtained through a lawsuit following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The group, which also conducted attacks against the Red Cross in Benghazi, was established by Abdul Baset Azuz, a “violent radical” sent by al-Qaeda to set up bases in Libya, the defense agency report said.

The attack was planned on Sept. 1, 2012, with the intent “to kill as many Americans as possible to seek revenge” for the killing of a militant in Pakistan and to memorialize the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the report said.

Four Americans were killed in the Benghazi attack, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The incident became politically controversial because the White House initially described the attack as the result of a spontaneous protest. Republican critics said the White House intentionally played down that it was a terrorist attack, because it occurred so close to President Obama’s re-election.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who’s now seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, was to appear this week before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, but the hearing was canceled after Clinton and the committee chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., failed to agree on whether all the documents Gowdy requested had been given to the panel.

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Other documents released by Judicial Watch show that U.S. personnel in Libya had been monitoring weapons transfers from Benghazi to opposition forces in Syria, where al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood had taken the lead against Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war. In late August 2012, the weapons included 500 sniper rifles, 300 rocket-propelled grenades and 400 howitzer missiles sent to small Syrian ports that handle little cargo, according to one of the reports.

The documents also predicted “dire consequences” of the Syrian civil war: that al-Qaeda’s well-established network in Syria, together with the ongoing conflict there and the influx of weapons and fighters, would lead to a resurgence for al-Qaeda in Iraq. That group, which had been defeated in Iraq by U.S. forces allied with Sunni tribes, did make a resurgence last year, when it broke with al-Qaeda, changed its name to the Islamic State and conquered huge swaths of Iraq and Syria.

“These documents are jaw-dropping,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “If the American people had known the truth – that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other top administration officials knew that the Benghazi attack was an al-Qaeda terrorist attack from the get-go – and yet lied and covered this fact up – Mitt Romney might very well be president.”

Messages to the White House, the State Department and Clinton’s campaign spokesman were not immediately answered.

Salwa Bugaighis carries a wreath with a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens as she and others pay their respects to the victims of an attack on the U.S. consulate, on Sept. 17, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11 during the attack.Salwa Bugaighis carries a wreath with a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens as she and others pay their respects to the victims of an attack on the U.S. consulate, on Sept. 17, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11 during the attack. (Photo: Mohammad Hannon, AP)
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Salwa Bugaighis carries a wreath with a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens as she and others pay their respects to the victims of an attack on the U.S. consulate, on Sept. 17, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11 during the attack. Libyan military guards check a burned-out building at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 14, 2012. Glass, debris and overturned furniture are strewn inside a room at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 12, 2012, a day after the attack. A man walks through a damaged room. A man investigates the inside of the U.S. consulate. A person looks at a destroyed vehicle at the entrance of the American consulate building. An empty bullet casing lies on the ground near a destroyed vehicle. A man looks at documents at the U.S. consulate. People inspect the destroyed consulate. A man walks past the U.S. consulate. A building was burned during the attack. A destroyed car rests outside a burned building at the U.S. consulate. Vehicles belonging to Libyan investigators’ cars are parked in front of the U.S. consulate on Sept. 15, 2012.
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The Benghazi attack occurred less than two months before Obama’s bid for reelection in a tight race against Romney. The White House and State Department at first blamed the attack on protests to an anti-Islam film that sparked protests across the Muslim world, but later admitted there was no protest in Benghazi before the attack.

Administration officials later said conflicting information, including false media accounts, caused a delay of more than a week to identify the attack as pre-planned act of terrorism. Conservative critics have charged that information was withheld to preserve Obama’s claims at campaign events that al-Qaeda was “on the run.”

“These documents show that the Benghazi cover-up has continued for years and is only unraveling through our independent lawsuits,” Fitton said. “The Benghazi scandal just got a whole lot worse for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”

A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee said in January 2014 that talking points used by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice in Sunday talk shows after the attack contained erroneous information, although they reflected what the intelligence community believed at the time.

Oren Dorell, USA TODAY 8:26 a.m. EDT May 19, 2015

Find this story at 19 May 2015

Copyright usatoday.com

Military intel predicted rise of ISIS in 2012, detailed arms shipments from Benghazi to Syria

Seventeen months before President Obama dismissed the Islamic State as a “JV team,” a Defense Intelligence Agency report predicted the rise of the terror group and likely establishment of a caliphate if its momentum was not reversed.

While the report was circulated to the CIA, State Department and senior military leaders, among others, it’s not known whether Obama was ever briefed on the document.

The DIA report, which was reviewed by Fox News, was obtained through a federal lawsuit by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch. Documents from the lawsuit also reveal a host of new details about events leading up to the 2012 Benghazi terror attack — and how the movement of weapons from Libya to Syria fueled the violence there.

The report on the growing threat posed by what is now known as the Islamic State was sent on Aug. 5, 2012.

The report warned the continued deterioration of security conditions would have “dire consequences on the Iraqi situation,” and huge benefits for ISIS — which grew out of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

“This creates the ideal atmosphere for AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq) to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi,” the document states, adding “ISI (Islamic State of Iraq) could also declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”

ISIS would, in June 2014, go on to declare a caliphate in territory spanning Iraq and Syria, in turn drawing more foreign fighters to their cause from around the world.

CLICK TO READ THE DOCUMENTS GIVEN TO JUDICIAL WATCH FROM THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT AND STATE DEPARTMENT.

Also among the documents is a heavily redacted DIA report that details weapons operations inside Libya before the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi. The Oct. 5, 2012 report leaves no doubt that U.S. intelligence agencies were fully aware that lethal weapons were being shipped from Benghazi to Syrian ports.

The report said: “Weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles were shipped from the Port of Benghazi, Libya to the Port of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The weapons shipped during late-August 2012 were Sniper rifles, RPG’s, and 125 mm and 155 mm howitzers missiles.”

Current and former intelligence and administration officials have consistently skirted questions about weapons shipments, and what role the movement played in arming extremist groups the U.S. government is now trying to defeat in Syria and Iraq.

In an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier broadcast May 11, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, deflected questions:

Baier: Were CIA officers tracking the movement of weapons from Libya to Syria?

Morell: I can’t talk about that.

Baier: You can’t talk about it?

Morell: I can’t talk about it.

Baier: Even if they weren’t moving the weapons themselves, are you saying categorically that the U.S. government and the CIA played no role whatsoever in the movement of weapons from Libya …

Morell: Yes.

Baier: — to Syria?

Morell: We played no role. Now whether we were watching other people do it, I can’t talk about it.

While the DIA report was not a finished intelligence assessment, such Intelligence Information Reports (IIRs) are vetted before distribution, a former Pentagon official said.

The October 2012 report may also be problematic for Hillary Clinton, who likewise skirted the weapons issue during her only congressional testimony on Benghazi in January 2013. In an exchange with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who is now a Republican candidate for president, the former secretary of state said, “I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody’s ever raised that with me.”

Referring to Fox News’ ongoing reporting that a weapons ship, Al Entisar, had moved weapons from Libya to Turkey with a final destination of Syria in September 2012, Paul responded, “It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that they may have weapons.” He asked whether the CIA annex which came under attack on Sept. 11, 2012 was involved in those shipments.

Clinton answered: “Well, senator, you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex. I will see what information is available.”

In a follow-up letter, the State Department Office of Legislative Affairs provided a narrow response to the senator’s question, and did not speak to the larger issue of weapons moving from Libya to Syria.

“The United States is not involved in any transfer of weapons to Turkey,” the February 2013 letter from Thomas B. Gibbons, acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, said.

Heavily redacted congressional testimony, declassified after the House intelligence committee Benghazi investigation concluded, shows conflicting accounts were apparently given to lawmakers.

On Nov. 15 2012, Morell and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified “Yes” on whether the U.S. intelligence community was aware arms were moving from Libya to Syria. This line of questioning by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who is now the intelligence committee chairman, was shut down by his predecessor Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who said not everyone in the classified hearing was “cleared” to hear the testimony, which means they did not have a high enough security clearance.

An outside analyst told Fox News that Rogers’ comments suggest intelligence related to the movement of weapons was a “read on,” and limited to a very small number of recipients.

Six months later, on May 22, 2013, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, now chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked if the CIA was “monitoring arms that others were sending into Syria.” Morell said, “No, sir.”

The Judicial Watch documents also contain a DIA report from Sept. 12, 2012. It indicates that within 24 hours of the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty at the CIA annex, there were strong indicators that the attack was planned at least a week in advance, and was retaliation for a June 2012 drone strike that killed an Al Qaeda strategist — there is no discussion of a demonstration or an anti-Islam video, which were initially cited by the Obama administration as contributing factors.

“The attack was planned ten or more days prior to approximately 01 September 2012. The intention was to attack the consulate and to kill as many Americans as possible to seek revenge for the US killing of Aboyahiye (Alaliby) in Pakistan and in memorial of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings.”

The DIA report also states a little-known group, “Brigades of the Captive Omar Abdul Rahman,” claimed responsibility, though the group has not figured prominently in previous congressional investigations. The document goes on to say the group’s leader is Abdul Baset, known by the name Azuz, “sent by (Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri) to set up Al Qaeda bases in Libya.”

“The Obama administration says it was a coincidence that it occurred on 9/11. In fact, their intelligence said it wasn’t a coincidence and in fact specifically the attack occurred because it was 9/11,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told Fox News.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

By Catherine HerridgePublished May 18, 2015FoxNews.com

Find this story at 18 May 2015

©2015 FOX News Network, LLC.

Turkish military says MIT shipped weapons to al-Qaeda

Secret official documents about the searching of three trucks belonging to Turkey’s national intelligence service (MIT) have been leaked online, once again corroborating suspicions that Ankara has not been playing a clean game in Syria. According to the authenticated documents, the trucks were found to be transporting missiles, mortars and anti-aircraft ammunition. The Gendarmerie General Command, which authored the reports, alleged, “The trucks were carrying weapons and supplies to the al-Qaeda terror organization.” But Turkish readers could not see the documents in the news bulletins and newspapers that shared them, because the government immediately obtained a court injunction banning all reporting about the affair.

When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was prime minister, he had said, “You cannot stop the MIT truck. You cannot search it. You don’t have the authority. These trucks were taking humanitarian assistance to Turkmens.”

Since then, Erdogan and his hand-picked new Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have repeated at every opportunity that the trucks were carrying assistance to Turkmens. Public prosecutor Aziz Takci, who had ordered the trucks to be searched, was removed from his post and 13 soldiers involved in the search were taken to court on charges of espionage. Their indictments call for prison terms of up to 20 years.

In scores of documents leaked by a group of hackers, the Gendarmerie Command notes that rocket warheads were found in the trucks’ cargo.

According to the documents that circulated on the Internet before the ban came into effect, this was the summary of the incident:

On Jan. 19, 2014, after receiving a tip that three trucks were carrying weapons and explosives to al-Qaeda in Syria, the Adana Provincial Gendarmerie Command obtained search warrants.
The Adana prosecutor called for the search and seizure of all evidence.
Security forces stopped the trucks at the Ceyhan toll gates, where MIT personnel tried to prevent the search.
While the trucks were being escorted to Seyhan Gendarmerie Command for an extensive search, MIT personnel accompanying the trucks in an Audi vehicle blocked the road to stop the trucks. When MIT personnel seized the keys from the trucks’ ignitions, an altercation ensued. MIT personnel instructed the truck drivers to pretend their trucks had malfunctioned and committed physical violence against gendarmerie personnel.
The search was carried out and videotaped despite the efforts of the governor and MIT personnel to prevent it.
Six metallic containers were found in the three trucks. In the first container, 25-30 missiles or rockets and 10-15 crates loaded with ammunition were found. In the second container, 20-25 missiles or rockets, 20-25 crates of mortar ammunition and Douchka anti-aircraft ammunition in five or six sacks were discovered. The boxes had markings in the Cyrillic alphabet.
It was noted that the MIT personnel swore at the prosecutor and denigrated the gendarmerie soldiers doing the search, saying, “Look at those idiots. They are looking for ammunition with picks and shovels. Let someone who knows do it. Trucks are full of bombs that might explode.”
The governor of Adana, Huseyin Avni Cos, arrived at the scene and declared, “The trucks are moving with the prime minister’s orders” and vowed not to let them be interfered with no matter what.
With a letter of guarantee sent by the regional director of MIT, co-signed by the governor, the trucks were handed back to MIT.
Driver Murat Kislakci said in his deposition, “This cargo was loaded into our trucks from a foreign airplane at Ankara Esenboga Airport. We are taking them to Reyhanli [on the Syrian border]. Two men [MIT personnel] in the Audi are accompanying us. At Reyhanli, we hand over the trucks to two people in the Audi. They check us into a hotel. The trucks move to cross the border. We carried similar loads several times before. We were working for the state. In Ankara, we were leaving our trucks at an MIT location. They used to tell us to come back at 7 a.m. I know the cargo belongs to MIT. We were at ease; this was an affair of state. This was the first time we collected cargo from the airport and for the first time we were allowed to stand by our trucks during the loading.”
After accusations of espionage by the government and pro-government media, the chief of general staff ordered the military prosecutor to investigate,. On July 21, the military prosecutor declared the operation was not espionage. The same prosecutor said this incident was a military affair and should be investigated not by the public prosecutor, but the military. The civilian court did not retract its decision.
The government cover-up

Though the scandal is tearing the country apart, the government opted for its favorite tactic of covering it up. A court in Adana banned written, visual and Internet media outlets from any reporting and commenting on the stopping of the trucks and the search. All online content about the incident has been deleted.

The court case against the 13 gendarmerie elements accused of espionage has also been controversial. The public prosecutor, who in his indictment said the accused were involved in a plot to have Turkey tried at the International Criminal Court, veered off course. Without citing any evidence, the indictment charged that there was collusion between the Syrian government, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS). The prosecutor deviated from the case at hand and charged that the killing by IS of three people at Nigde last year was actually carried out by the Syrian state.

At the moment, a total blackout prevails over revelations, which are bound to have serious international repercussions.

Author Fehim TaştekinPosted January 15, 2015

Find this story at 15 January 2015

©2015 Al-Monitor

ISIL suspect: MİT helped us smuggle arms to radical groups in Syria

Mehmet Aşkar, one of the 11 suspected members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) currently being tried by the niğde High Criminal court, has said that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) helped them smuggle arms to opposition groups in Syria during the early stages of the country’s civil war, a Turkish daily has reported.
According to a story published in the Cumhuriyet daily on Monday, Turkish authorities are trying to divert public attention from the case because the prosecutor’s dossier has details which reveal the involvement of MİT in arms smuggling.
The 11 suspects in the case include a Syrian Turkmen who is allegedly linked with the anti-regime Free Syrian Army (FSA) and radical groups such as ISIL and al-Qaeda affiliates. Haisam Toubaljeh, also known as Heysem Topalca and who is also a suspect in the Reyhanlı attack case, according to Hürriyet, is believed to have been involved in numerous cases of smuggling as well as a transfer of rocket warheads to Syria that was intercepted in November 2013 by security forces in the southern city of Adana.
Aşkar said in the dossier that he had given his vehicle to Topalca in 2011 in the Yayladağı district of Hatay province when Topalca told Aşkar that he was planning to bring arms from Syria to Turkey and then send them to rebel groups in Syria. Aşkar added that Topalca had told him that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had seized some towns in northern Syria, blocking the previous routes that the rebel groups had used to transfer arms.
Cumhuriyet reported that Aşkar was told by Topalca that the smuggling would not be a problem in Turkey because he had contacts. Aşkar, Topalca and certain other Turkmens then took the arms to a village near the Syrian border in Hatay province. When they reached the village, Turkish gendarmerie teams carrying a jammer device asked them why they were in a military zone. Aşkar quoted Topalca as saying that they had permission to be there. “Topalca and the gendarmes made some telephone calls that I couldn’t hear. Without any checks on my vehicle, which was loaded with arms, we were taken to the border with a military escort,” Aşkar said. He then added that his vehicle, along with another that had joined them on the way, was taken by people who crossed from the Syrian side to collect the vehicles. According to Aşkar, Topalca told him that there were 100 rifles belonging to NATO in the vehicle and that the smuggling had been conducted with the approval and support of MİT.
This is not the only time that MİT has been accused of smuggling arms to Syria. In another incident, on Jan. 19, 2014, gendarmes were ordered by a prosecutor to stop trucks near the Syrian border in Adana on the suspicion that they were carrying arms to opposition groups in Syria, including al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. The government, apparently infuriated, quickly retaliated, removing the prosecutor from his post and blocking further investigation.
In November 2013, Turkish gendarmes seized a total of 935 rocket warheads from a truck in Adana near the Syrian border. The warheads had been manufactured in Adana and Konya provinces and, it is alleged, were being delivered to al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria.

Niğde court adjourns trial of ISIL suspects until March 5

The Niğde High Criminal Court has adjourned the trial of the 11 suspects, including the three suspects allegedly involved in an attack on Turkish security forces by ISIL in March of last year, after the first hearing held on Monday because no lawyers had been appointed to defend the suspects.
Judge Birol Küçük also asked for a reconsideration of the location of the trial due to security concerns. The Niğde Police Department warned the court that there was a risk of “provocation” if the trial were held in the province given that parliamentary elections, slated for June 7, are approaching.
Two security force members and one civilian were killed when the suspected ISIL members opened fire on a checkpoint manned by gendarmes and police officers in the Central Anatolian province of Niğde in March 2014. The three suspected ISIL attackers, Çendrim Ramadani, Benyamin Xu and Muhammad Zakiri, were arrested and put in an Ankara jail following the attack.
The police note to the court also stated that there were rumors of a prisoner swap between Turkey and ISIL and that a circulation of these rumors would be likely to result in increased public interest in the hearing. The authorities have refrained from responding to media reports that one of the three gunmen was released as part of an alleged swap with the extremist group under which as many as 180 captured militants were handed over to ISIL in mid-September in return for 49 people who were captured by the terrorist group in June from the Turkish Consulate General in Mosul.
The suspects, who attended the trial from Sincan Prison in Ankara via a video link, rejected the appointment of a lawyer, saying “God is our lawyer.” The prisoners stood behind the interpreters during the trial on Monday with their faces obscured and their voices were not clear, increasing the suspicions that a swap had taken place.

February 09, 2015, Monday/ 14:08:23/ TODAY’S ZAMAN / ISTANBUL

Find this story at 9 February 2015

© Feza Gazetecilik A.Ş. 2007

MI6, the CIA and Turkey’s rogue game in Syria

World View: New claims say Ankara worked with the US and Britain to smuggle Gaddafi’s guns to rebel groups

The US’s Secretary of State John Kerry and its UN ambassador, Samantha Power have been pushing for more assistance to be given to the Syrian rebels. This is despite strong evidence that the Syrian armed opposition are, more than ever, dominated by jihadi fighters similar in their beliefs and methods to al-Qa’ida. The recent attack by rebel forces around Latakia, northern Syria, which initially had a measure of success, was led by Chechen and Moroccan jihadis.
America has done its best to keep secret its role in supplying the Syrian armed opposition, operating through proxies and front companies. It is this which makes Seymour Hersh’s article “The Red Line and The Rat Line: Obama, Erdogan and the Syrian rebels” published last week in the London Review of Books, so interesting.

Attention has focussed on whether the Syrian jihadi group, Jabhat al-Nusra, aided by Turkish intelligence, could have been behind the sarin gas attacks in Damascus last 21 August, in an attempt to provoke the US into full-scale military intervention to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. “We now know it was a covert action planned by [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s people to push Obama over the red line,” a former senior US intelligence officer is quoted as saying.

Critics vehemently respond that all the evidence points to the Syrian government launching the chemical attack and that even with Turkish assistance, Jabhat al-Nusra did not have the capacity to use sarin.

A second and little-regarded theme of Hersh’s article is what the CIA called the rat line, the supply chain for the Syrian rebels overseen by the US in covert cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The information about this comes from a highly classified and hitherto secret annex to the report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee on the attack by Libyan militiamen on the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September 2012 in which US ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed. The annex deals with an operation in which the CIA, in cooperation with MI6, arranged the dispatch of arms from Mu’ammer Gaddafi’s arsenals to Turkey and then across the 500-mile long Turkish southern frontier with Syria. The annex refers to an agreement reached in early 2012 between Obama and Erdogan with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar supplying funding. Front companies, purporting to be Australian, were set up, employing former US soldiers who were in charge of obtaining and transporting the weapons. According to Hersh, the MI6 presence enabled the CIA to avoid reporting the operation to Congress, as required by law, since it could be presented as a liaison mission.

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The US involvement in the rat line ended unhappily when its consulate was stormed by Libyan militiamen. The US diplomatic presence in Benghazi had been dwarfed by that of the CIA and, when US personnel were airlifted out of the city in the aftermath of the attack, only seven were reportedly from the State Department and 23 were CIA officers. The disaster in Benghazi, which soon ballooned into a political battle between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, severely loosened US control of what arms were going to which rebel movements in Syria.

This happened at the moment when Assad’s forces were starting to gain the upper hand and al-Qa’ida-type groups were becoming the cutting edge of the rebel military.

The failure of the rebels to win in 2012 left their foreign backers with a problem. At the time of the fall of Gaddafi they had all become over-confident, demanding the removal of Assad when he still held all Syria’s 14 provincial capitals. “They were too far up the tree to get down,” according to one observer. To accept anything other than the departure of Assad would have looked like a humiliating defeat.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar went on supplying money while Sunni states turned a blind eye to the recruitment of jihadis and to preachers stirring up sectarian hatred against the Shia. But for Turkey the situation was worse. Efforts to project its power were faltering and all its chosen proxies – from Egypt to Iraq – were in trouble. It was evident that al-Qa’ida-type fighters, including Jahat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and Ahrar al-Sham were highly dependent on Turkish border crossings for supplies, recruits and the ability to reach safety. The heaviest intra-rebel battles were for control of these crossings. Turkey’s military intelligence, MIT, and the paramilitary Gendarmerie played a growing role in directing and training jihadis and Jabhat al-Nusra in particular.

The Hersh article alleges that the MIT went further and instructed Jabhat al-Nusra on how to stage a sarin gas attack in Damascus that would cross Obama’s red line and lead to the US launching an all-out air attack. Vehement arguments rage over whether this happened. That a senior US intelligence officer is quoted by America’s leading investigative journalist as believing that it did, is already damaging Turkey.

Part of the US intelligence community is deeply suspicious of Erdogan’s actions in Syria. It may also be starting to strike home in the US and Europe that aid to the armed rebellion in Syria means destabilising Iraq. When Isis brings suicide bombers from across the Turkish border into Syria it can as easily direct them to Baghdad as Aleppo.

The Pentagon is much more cautious than the State Department about the risks of putting greater military pressure on Assad, seeing it as the first step in a military entanglement along the lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel are the main opponents of a greater US military role. Both sides in the US have agreed to a programme under which 600 Syrian rebels would be trained every month and jihadis would be weeded out. A problem here is that the secular moderate faction of committed Syrian opposition fighters does not really exist. As always, there is a dispute over what weapons should be supplied, with the rebels, Saudis and Qataris insisting that portable anti-aircraft missiles would make all the difference. This is largely fantasy, the main problem being that the rebel military forces are fragmented into hundreds of war bands.

It is curious that the US military has been so much quicker to learn the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya than civilians like Kerry and Power. The killing of Ambassador Stevens shows what happens when the US gets even peripherally involved in a violent, messy crisis like Syria where it does not control many of the players or much of the field.

Meanwhile, a telling argument against Turkey having orchestrated the sarin gas attacks in Damascus is that to do so would have required a level of competence out of keeping with its shambolic interventions in Syria over the past three years.

PATRICK COCKBURN
Sunday 13 April 2014

Find this story at 13 April 2014

© independent.co.uk

Israelis tried to send arms to Iran via Greece, probe finds

Israeli arms dealers tried to send spare parts for F-4 Phantom aircraft via Greece to Iran in violation of an arms embargo, according to a secret probe by the US government agency Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) carried out in cooperation with the drugs and weapons unit of Greece’s Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE).

According to the probe, which Kathimerini has had access to, the operation was carried out in two phases – one in December 2012 and the second in April 2013. In both cases, officials traced containers packed with the F-4 parts on Greek territory. The cargo had been sent by courier from the Israeli town of Binyamina-Giv’at Ada and had been destined for Iran, which has a large fleet of F-4 aircraft, via a Greek company registered under the name Tassos Karras SA in Votanikos, near central Athens. SDOE officials established that the firm was a ghost company, while the company’s contact number was found to belong to a British national residing in Thessaloniki who could not be located.

According to HSI memos, the cargo appears to have been sent by arms dealers based in Israel, seeking to supply Iran in contravention of an arms embargo, and using Greece as a transit nation.

Last November, an Athens court ruled against the confiscation of the consignments and ordered that they be delivered to US authorities.

The US imposed sanctions against Iran in 1979, after a revolution which overthrew the Shah, extending them in 1995 to include firms dealing with the Iranian government. Several governments and multinationals have since followed suit.

ekathimerini.com , Sunday February 16, 2014 (15:23)

Find this story at 16 February 2014

© 2014, H KAΘHMEPINH

Revealed: UK Government let British company export nerve gas chemicals to Syria; UK accused of ‘breath-taking laxity’ over export licence for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride

The Government was accused of “breathtaking laxity” in its arms controls last night after it emerged that officials authorised the export to Syria of two chemicals capable of being used to make a nerve agent such as sarin a year ago.

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, will today be asked by MPs to explain why a British company was granted export licences for the dual-use substances for six months in 2012 while Syria’s civil war was raging and concern was rife that the regime could use chemical weapons on its own people. The disclosure of the licences for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride, which can both be used as precursor chemicals in the manufacture of nerve gas, came as the US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had evidence that sarin gas was used in last month’s atrocity in Damascus.

Mr Kerry announced that traces of the nerve agent, found in hair and blood samples taken from victims of the attack in the Syrian capital which claimed more than 1,400 lives, were part of a case being built by the Obama administration for military intervention as it launched a full-scale political offensive on Sunday to persuade a sceptical Congress to approve a military strike against Syria.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills insisted that although the licences were granted to an unnamed UK chemical company in January 2012, the substances were not sent to Syria before the permits were eventually revoked last July in response to tightened European Union sanctions.

In a previously unpublicised letter to MPs last year, Mr Cable acknowledged that his officials had authorised the export of an unspecified quantity of the chemicals in the knowledge that they were listed on an international schedule of chemical weapon precursors.

Downing Street insisted today that Britain’s system for approving arms exports to Syria is working even though licences for two chemicals capable of being used in making nerve gas were approved by the Government and blocked only by EU sanctions.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “You see the system working, with materials not exported. The facts are that the licences were revoked and the exports did not take place. The Prime Minister’s view is that that demonstrates that the system is working. There is a sanctions regime, which is a very active part.”

Critics of the Business Secretary, whose department said it had accepted assurances from the exporting company that the chemicals would be used in the manufacture of metal window frames and shower enclosures, said it appeared the substances had only stayed out of Syria by chance.

The shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna told The Independent: “It will be a relief that the chemicals concerned were never actually delivered. But, in light of the fact the Assad regime had already been violently oppressing internal dissent for many months by the beginning of 2012 and the intelligence now indicates use of chemical weapons on multiple occasions, a full explanation is needed as to why the export of these chemicals was approved in the first place.”

The Labour MP Thomas Docherty, a member of the Commons Arms Export Controls Committee, will today table parliamentary questions demanding to know why the licences were granted and to whom.

He said: “This would seem to be a case of breath-taking laxity – the Government has had a very lucky escape indeed that these chemicals were not sent to Syria.

“What was Mr Cable’s department doing authorising the sale of chemicals which by their own admission had a dual use as precursors for chemical weapons at a time when the Syria’s war was long under way?”

The licences for the two chemicals were granted on 17 and 18 January last year for “use in industrial processes” after being assessed by Department for Business officials to judge if “there was a clear risk that they might be used for internal repression or be diverted for such an end”, according to the letter sent by Mr Cable to the arms controls committee.

Mr Cable said: “The licences were granted because at the time there were no grounds for refusal.”

Although the export deal, first reported by The Sunday Mail in Scotland, was outlawed by the EU on 17 June last year in a package of sanctions against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the licences were not revoked until 30 July. Chemical weapons experts said that although the two substances have a variety of uses such as the fluoridation of drinking water, sodium and potassium fluoride are also key to producing the chemical effect which makes a nerve agent such as sarin so toxic.

Western intelligence has long suspected the Syrian regime of using front companies to divert dual-use materials imported for industrial purposes into its weapons programmes. It is believed that chemical weapons including sarin have been used in the Syrian conflict on 14 occasions since 2012.

Mr Cable’s department last night insisted it was satisfied that the export licence was correctly granted. A spokesman said: “The UK Government operates one of the most rigorous arms export control regimes in the world.

“The exporter and recipient company demonstrated that the chemicals were for a legitimate civilian end-use – which was for metal finishing of aluminium profiles used in making aluminium showers and aluminium window frames.”

Cahal Milmo, Andy McSmith, Nikhil Kumar
Monday, 2 September 2013

Find this story at 2 September 2013

© independent.co.uk

UK ‘approved nerve gas chemical exports to Syria’

British companies were given government licences in January 2012 to export chemicals that could have been used to make nerve gas in Syria, ten months after civil broke out in the country, it was revealed Sunday.

The UK government approved licences for British firms in January 2012 to export chemicals to Syria that could have been used to produce nerve gas, it emerged Sunday.

Export licences for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride were granted ten months after the country descended into civil war, reports first published in the Scottish Sunday Mail revealed.

The licences specified that the chemicals should be used in industrial processes, but fluoride is also a key element in the production of chemical weapons such as sarin – thought to be the nerve gas used in the Assad regime’s alleged August 21 attack in a suburb of Damascus.

Although the licences were revoked six months later, this was due to EU-imposed sanctions on the Assad regime, rather than a decision by the UK government.

The issuing of the licences, by the Department for Innovation, Business and Skills, was confirmed by a little-publicised letter sent in September 2012 by Business Secretary Vince Cable to the House of Commons’ Arms Export Controls Committee.

US Government map of areas reportedly affected by Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack

In the letter, Cable admits that licences were “issued on 17 and 18 January 2012 and authorised the export of dual-use chemicals to a private company for use in industrial processes. The chemicals were sodium fluoride and potassium fluoride”.

The letter stresses that the chemicals “were to be used for metal finishing of aluminium profiles used for making aluminium showers” but admits that “they could also be used as precursor chemicals in the manufacture of chemical weapons”.

UK government ‘has very serious questions to answer’

The revelations come at a time when the US and France are pushing for military action against the Assad regime in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons. Britain, however, ruled itself out of taking part in any armed intervention in Syria following a surprise vote against such a move in the House of Commons last week.

While the August 21 attack, which according to the US killed at least 1,429 Syrians, took place months after the licences were approved, Syria has been suspected of using chemical weapons many times in the past.

Opposition MPs are now calling on the coalition government and Vince Cable in particular to explain the decision to sanction the exports.

“The chair of the joint intelligence committee confirmed last week that their assessment was that the Syrian regime had used lethal chemical weapons on 14 occasions from 2012,” said Labour’s shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna.

“There are, therefore, very serious questions to answer as to why, in January 2012, export licences for chemicals to Syria which could be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons were approved.

“It will be a relief that the chemicals concerned were never actually delivered. But, in light of the fact the Assad regime had already been violently oppressing internal dissent for many months by the beginning of 2012 and the intelligence now indicates use of chemical weapons on multiple occasions, a full explanation is needed as to why the export of these chemicals was approved in the first place,” Umunna added.

Umunna’s statement follows comments made by Vince Cable last Wednesday, after the UK announced it was suspending export licences to Egypt because of the ongoing political turmoil.

Cable insisted that: “The UK position is clear: we will not grant export licences where there is a clear risk that goods might be used for internal repression.

He added: “The government takes its export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most rigorous arms export control regimes in the world.”

By Sam Ball (text)

Find this story at 2 September 2013

© AFP

Revealed: Britain sold nerve gas chemicals to Syria 10 months after ‘civil unrest’ began

FURIOUS politicians have demanded Prime Minister David Cameron explain why chemical export licences were granted to firms last January – 10 months after the Syrian uprising began.

BRITAIN allowed firms to sell chemicals to Syria capable of being used to make nerve gas, the Sunday Mail can reveal today.

Export licences for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride were granted months after the bloody civil war in the Middle East began.

The chemical is capable of being used to make weapons such as sarin, thought to be the nerve gas used in the attack on a rebel-held Damascus suburb which killed nearly 1500 people, including 426 children, 10 days ago.

President Bashar Assad’s forces have been blamed for the attack, leading to calls for an armed response from the West.

British MPs voted against joining America in a strike. But last night, President Barack Obama said he will seek the approval of Congress to take military action.

The chemical export licences were granted by Business Secretary Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills last January – 10 months after the Syrian uprising began.

They were only revoked six months later, when the European Union imposed tough sanctions on Assad’s regime.

Yesterday, politicians and anti-arms trade campaigners urged Prime Minister David Cameron to explain why the licences were granted.

Dunfermline and West Fife Labour MP Thomas Docherty, who sits on the House of Commons’ Committees on Arms Export Controls, plans to lodge Parliamentary questions tomorrow and write to Cable.

He said: “At best it has been negligent and at worst reckless to export material that could have been used to create chemical weapons.

“MPs will be horrified and furious that the UK Government has been allowing the sale of these ingredients to Syria.

“What the hell were they doing granting a licence in the first place?

“I would like to know what investigations have been carried out to establish if any of this
material exported to Syria was subsequently used in the attacks on its own people.”

The SNP’s leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson MP, said: “I will be raising this in Parliament as soon as possible to find out what examination the UK Government made of where these chemicals were going and what they were to be used for.

“Approving the sale of chemicals which can be converted into lethal weapons during a civil war is a very serious issue.

“We need to know who these chemicals were sold to, why they were sold, and whether the UK Government were aware that the chemicals could potentially be used for chemical weapons.

“The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria makes a full explanation around these shady deals even more important.”

A man holds the body of a dead child
Reuters

Mark Bitel of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (Scotland) said: “The UK Government claims to have an ethical policy on arms exports, but when it comes down to practice the reality is very different.

“The Government is hypocritical to talk about chemical weapons if it’s granting licences to companies to export to regimes such as Syria.

“We saw David Cameron, in the wake of the Arab Spring, rushing off to the Middle East with arms companies to promote business.”

Some details emerged in July of the UK’s sale of the chemicals to Syria but the crucial dates of the exports were withheld.

The Government have refused to identify the licence holders or say whether the licences were issued to one or two companies.

The chemicals are in powder form and highly toxic. The licences specified that they should be used for making aluminium structures such as window frames.

Professor Alastair Hay, an expert in environmental toxicology at Leeds University, said: “They have a variety of industrial uses.

“But when you’re making a nerve agent, you attach a fluoride element and that’s what gives it
its toxic properties.

“Fluoride is key to making these munitions.

“Whether these elements were used by Syria to make nerve agents is something only subsequent investigation will reveal.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “The UK Government operates one of the most rigorous arms export control regimes in the world.

“An export licence would not be granted where we assess there is a clear risk the goods might be used for internal repression, provoke or prolong conflict within a country, be used aggressively against another country or risk our national security.

“When circumstances change or new information comes to light, we can – and do – revoke licences where the proposed export is no longer consistent with the criteria.”

Assad’s regime have denied blame for the nerve gas attack, saying the accusations are “full of lies”. They have pointed the finger at rebels.

UN weapons inspectors investigating the atrocity left Damascus just before dawn yesterday and crossed into Lebanon after gathering evidence for four days.

They are now travelling to the Dutch HQ of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons.

It could take up to two weeks for the results of tests on samples taken from victims of the attack, as well as from water, soil and shrapnel, to be revealed.

On Thursday night, Cameron referred to a Joint Intelligence Committee report on Assad’s use of chemical weapons as he tried in vain to persuade MPs to back military action. The report said the regime had used chemical weapons at least 14 times since last year.

Russian president Vladimir Putin yesterday attacked America’s stance and urged Obama to show evidence to the UN that Assad’s regime was guilty.

Russia and Iran are Syria’s staunchest allies. The Russians have given arms and military backing to Assad during the civil war which has claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Putin said it would be “utter nonsense” for Syria to provoke opponents and spark military
retaliation from the West by using chemical weapons.

But the White House, backed by the French government, remain convinced of Assad’s guilt, and Obama proposes “limited, narrow” military action to punish the regime.

He has the power to order a strike, but last night said he would seek approval from Congress.

Obama called the chemical attack “an assault on human dignity” and said: “We are prepared to strike whenever we choose.”

He added: “Our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive. It will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now.

“And I’m prepared to give that order.”

Some fear an attack on Syria will spark retaliation against US allies in the region, such
as Jordan, Turkey and Israel.

General Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British Army, described the Commons vote as a “victory for common sense and democracy”.

He added that the “drumbeat for war” had dwindled among the British public in recent days.

By Russell Findlay, Billy Briggs
1 Sep 2013 07:21

Find this story at 1 September 2013

© www.dailyrecord.co.uk

MPs to ask firms to explain how UK taxes helped dictators build arsenals

Among questionable ethical deals was £35m lent to Robert Mugabe and spent on BAE’s Hawk fighter jets

Robert Mugabe bought five BAE systems Hawk jets between 1989 and 1992 and deployed them in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photograph: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s arms industry and other companies are to be called before MPs to explain why taxpayer funds ended up helping Robert Mugabe to buy five Hawk fighter jets and 1,030 police Land Rovers which he later used to suppress dissent.

The bosses of the world’s biggest multinational defence and oil companies, including BAE Systems and BP, will be asked to account for why hundreds of millions of pounds of government money was used to help military dictators build up their arsenals, and facilitated environmental and human rights abuses across the world.

An official all-party inquiry into the government Export Credits Guarantee Department’s (ECGD) underwriting of the loans will begin to call witnesses next week, the Guardian has learned.

The all-party parliamentary group on international corporate responsibility will investigate more than 40 years of the government’s involvement in supporting dubious practices overseas. The actions of the ECGD have led to it being christened the “department for dodgy deals” by the Jubilee Debt Campaign.

Among the catalogue of ethically questionable deals was £35m lent to Zimbabwe to buy five Hawk fighter jets from BAE Systems between 1989 and 1992.

Zimbabwe, which was already heavily indebted at the time of the loans, spent £49m repaying the cost of the Hawks, according to a response to a freedom of information request from the Jubilee Debt Campaign seen by the Guardian.

Mugabe’s government deployed the jets in the 1998-2002 war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s most deadly conflict in modern history, which led to 5.4m deaths.

At the time of deployment the British government approved Zimbabwe’s purchase of spare parts worth £5m-£10m despite concerns the aircraft were being used in the deadly Congo war, according to the journal Africana Bulletin.

The department also supplied Mugabe with £21m of loan guarantees to help him import 1,030 police Land Rovers and other military equipment. The vehicles were sent to Zimbabwe after Mugabe promised that they would be used “with due respect for human rights”. He specifically pledged not to use them for riot control, but Amnesty International said they were used to crush demonstrations.

The Land Rovers were sent to Zimbabwe in the late 1990s, before Mugabe began taking over white farmers’ land in 1999. Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, later banned the shipments.

The ECGD also supported the notorious al-Yamamah “oil for arms” deal with Saudi Arabia, for which BAE Systems was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office amid allegations of bribery and corruption. The inquiry was eventually dropped following the intervention of the then prime minister, Tony Blair.

The government loans also allowed the former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, and his predecessor Anwar Sadat, to buy arms, including helicopters and missiles, and helped Argentina buy two Type 42 Destroyers and two Lynx helicopters, which were later used in the invasion of the Falklands.

As well as arms, the department has provided funds for the world’s largest and riskiest oil-drilling project, in the Atlantic Ocean, and a 1,760km BP joint venture oil pipeline through the Caucasus.

The inquiry will this week begin asking arms and oil industry executives to provide evidence to parliament after pressure for the ECGD to clean up its act. The cross-party group of MPs will also call on former politicians to explain why they signed the deals. More than 100 MPs signed an early day motion calling for the ECGD to commit itself to transparent and open dealings in the future.

The ECGD, which is part of the business department and has changed its name to UK Export Finance (UKEF), was often used by arms companies to get a state-backed guarantee to recompense their banks if the deal fell through or the debtor failed to make repayments. In the 1980s the ECGD had 4,000 staff in branches across the country and offered backing for 40% of Britain’s exports.

Lisa Nandy, a Labour MP and chair of the all party group, said the department had committed “billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money” to projects that had been the subject of “countless criticisms” for human rights and environmental abuses.

“It is vital that we bring together all stakeholders and interested parties through this inquiry to look seriously at the allegations levelled at this department,” she said.

“This Department commits billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money each year. It has a responsibility to spend that money in a way that is ethical and effective. In the past it appears that this responsibility has not been taken seriously enough.”

“In a time of recession, business needs support from government but that support must be of long-term benefit for everyone: safeguarding human rights, protecting the environment and, at the very least, not exacerbating poverty.”

Tim Jones, policy officer at Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: “We welcome the launch of this inquiry. Vince Cable’s ‘Department for Dodgy Deals’ has a notorious track record of backing loans for undemocratic and damaging projects. UK Export Finance claims it is owed £2.3 billion. This includes loans for General Mubarak’s Egyptian army to buy British defence equipment, Argentina’s 1970s military dictatorship to buy British warships, and Robert Mugabe’s police to buy British Land Rovers. Vince Cable needs to implement Liberal Democrat policy and audit the debt, cancel that which is unjust, and reform UK Export Finance so no more dodgy deals are backed in the future.”

The inquiry has no legal power to force industry executives or former politicians to provide evidence.

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