Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Syria Updates April 15 , 2014 -- Connecting various dots -- Pulitzer-Prize Winning Reporter Sy Hersh: Benghazi Is a HUGE Scandal … But Not For the Reason You Think -- A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria............ Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Head Of Saudi Intelligence, Has Been Sacked -- Failures in Syria campaign and tensions with the US the reasons for his downfall ? With the Syrian Military consolidating gains and poised to launch an assault on the City of Homs , is it game over or are more games still afoot ?

Jordan: Combat vehicles from Syria destroyed

Syria says vehicles did not belong to its forces after raid carried out by Jordanian fighter jets.

Last updated: 16 Apr 2014 23:37
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The Syrian state news agency said no Syrian military vehicles were involved in Wednesday's attack [AP]
Jordanian fighter jets have destroyed a number of combat vehicles trying to cross into the kingdom from neighbouring Syria, according to the army.
A Syrian military source told state television in Damascus, however, that the vehicles that were struck on Wednesday did not belong to Syria's armed forces.
The attack was the first time Jordan has used fighter jets to deal with such infiltrations.
"Royal air force jet fighters today destroyed a number of vehicles that attempted to cross into Jordan from Syria," the Jordanian army said in a statement.
"The camouflaged vehicles tried to enter from an area with rugged terrain.
"The fighter jets fired warning shots, but they were ignored, prompting them to destroy the vehicles. The army will not tolerate such actions."
The statement did not say how many vehicles were in the convoy, nor did it offer casualty figures, the AP news agency reported. It also did not specify whether the vehicles were targeted on Syrian or Jordanian soil.
A military official told the AFP news agency in Amman that three vehicles, which were wheeled, tried to enter the kingdom near Ruwaished, in northern Jordan.
Photographs released through AP did not appear to include camouflaged vehicles.
A Syrian military statement said: "No military or armoured vehicles belonging to the Syrian army moved towards the Jordanian border, and so what was targeted by the Jordanian air force does not belong to the Syrian army."
Jordan's border guards in recent weeks clashed with and arrested several people as they attempted to cross from Syria into the kingdom.
The kingdom has struggled to cope with hosting more than 500,000 Syrian refugees uprooted by the conflict.
King Abdullah II has vowed to protect Jordan from the Syrian war. Jordan hosts a US military force, including F-16 fighter jets and Patriot missile interceptors.


Pulitzer-Prize Winning Reporter Sy Hersh: Benghazi Is a HUGE Scandal … But Not For the Reason You Think

Beyond Partisan Politics: What Benghazi Is Really About

Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh – who broke the stories of the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam and the Iraq prison torture scandals, which rightfully disgraced the Nixon and Bush administrations’ war-fighting tactics – reported last week:
In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up.
That’s the part you’ve heard about: failure to protect the personnel at the embassy.
But then Hersh breaks the deeper story wide open:
A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)
The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.
The annex didn’t tell the whole story of what happened in Benghazi before the attack, nor did it explain why the American consulate was attacked. ‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’
Hersh isn’t the first to report on this major scandal.
We’ve extensively documented that the bigger story behind the murder of ambassador Chris Stevens at the Benghazi embassy in Libya is that the embassy was the center of U.S. efforts to arm jihadis in Syria who are trying to topple the Syrian government.
We’ve also noted that this is not a partisan issue … both parties greenlighted regime change in Syria years ago, and both parties have tried to cover up what was really going on in Benghazi.
Last August, CNN touched on the weapons smuggling aspect of Benghazi.
The Wall Street JournalTelegraph and other sources confirm that the US consulate in Benghazi wasmainly being used for a secret CIA operation.
They say that the State Department presence in Benghazi “provided diplomatic cover” for the previously hidden CIA mission. WND alleges that it was not a real consulate.  And former CIA officer Philip Giraldi confirms:
Benghazi has been described as a U.S. consulate, but it was not. It was an information office that had no diplomatic status. There was a small staff of actual State Department information officers plus local translators. The much larger CIA base was located in a separate building a mile away. It was protected by a not completely reliable local militia. Base management would have no say in the movement of the ambassador and would not be party to his plans, nor would it clear its own operations with the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. In Benghazi, the CIA’s operating directive would have been focused on two objectives: monitoring the local al-Qaeda affiliate group, Ansar al-Sharia, and tracking down weapons liberated from Colonel Gaddafi’s arsenal. Staff consisted of CIA paramilitaries who were working in cooperation with the local militia. The ambassador would not be privy to operational details and would only know in general what the agency was up to. When the ambassador’s party was attacked, the paramilitaries at the CIA base came to the rescue before being driven back into their own compound, where two officers were subsequently killed in a mortar attack.
Retired Lt. General William Boykin said in January that Stevens was in Benghazi as part of an effort to arm the Syrian opposition:
More supposition was that he was now funneling guns to the rebel forces in Syria, using essentially the Turks to facilitate that. Was that occurring, (a), and if so, was it a legal covert action?
Boykin said Stevens was “given a directive to support the Syrian rebels” and the State Department’s Special Mission Compound in Benghazi “would be the hub of that activity.”
Business Insider reports that Stevens may have been linked with Syrian terrorists:
There’s growing evidence that U.S. agents—particularly murdered ambassador Chris Stevens—were at least aware of heavy weapons moving from Libya to jihadist Syrian rebels.
In March 2011 Stevens became the official U.S. liaison to the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan opposition, working directly with Abdelhakim Belhadj of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group—a group that has now disbanded, with some fighters reportedly participating in the attack that took Stevens’ life.
In November 2011 The Telegraph reported that Belhadj, acting as head of the Tripoli Military Council, “met with Free Syrian Army [FSA] leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey” in an effort by the new Libyan government to provide money and weapons to the growing insurgency in Syria.
Last month The Times of London reported that a Libyan ship “carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria … has docked in Turkey.” The shipment reportedly weighed 400 tons and included SA-7 surface-to-air anti-craft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.
Reuters reports that Syrian rebels have been using those heavy weapons to shoot downSyrian helicopters and fighter jets.
The ship’s captain was “a Libyan from Benghazi and the head of an organization called the Libyan National Council for Relief and Support,” which was presumably established by the new government.
That means that Ambassador Stevens had only one person—Belhadj—between himself and the Benghazi man who brought heavy weapons to Syria.
Furthermore, we know that jihadists are the best fighters in the Syrian opposition, but where did they come from?
Last week The Telegraph reported that a FSA commander called them “Libyans” when he explained that the FSA doesn’t “want these extremist people here.”
And if the new Libyan government was sending seasoned Islamic fighters and 400 tons of heavy weapons to Syria through a port in southern Turkey—a deal brokered by Stevens’ primary Libyan contact during the Libyan revolution—then the governments of Turkey and the U.S. surely knew about it.
Furthermore there was a CIA post in Benghazi, located 1.2 miles from the U.S. consulate, used as “a base for, among other things, collecting information on the proliferation of weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, including surface-to-air missiles” … and that its security features “were more advanced than those at rented villa where Stevens died.”
And we know that the CIA has been funneling weapons to the rebels in southern Turkey. The question is whether the CIA has been involved in handing out the heavy weapons from Libya.
In other words, ambassador Stevens may have been a key player in deploying Libyan terrorists and arms to fight the Syrian government.
Other sources also discuss that the U.S. consulate in Benghazi as mainly being used as a CIA operation to ship fighters and arms to Syria.
Many have speculated that – if normal security measures weren’t taken to protect the Benghazi consulate or to rescue ambassador Stevens – it was because the CIA was trying to keep an extremely low profile to protect its cover of being a normal State Department operation.
That is what I think really happened at Benghazi.

Was CIA Chief David Petraeus’ Firing Due to Benghazi?

CIA boss David Petraeus suddenly resigned, admitting to an affair. But Petraeus was scheduled to testify under oath the next week before power House and Senate committees regarding the Benghazi consulate. Many speculate that it wasn’t an affair – but the desire to avoid testifying on Benghazi – which was the real reason for Petraeus’ sudden resignation.  And see this.



Was Turkey Behind Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack?

16/04/2014 by Don Quijones
As the world’s attention is focused on unfolding events in Ukraine, a much clearer picture is gradually emerging about what happened in last year’s chemical weapons attack in Syria.
The big question is: Was Turkey behind the attack? That is the question raised in anew exposé by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh on the intelligence debate over the deaths of hundreds of Syrians in Ghouta last year.

The United States, and much of the international community, blamed forces loyal to the Assad government, almost leading to a U.S. attack on Syria. But Hersh reveals that the U.S. intelligence community feared Turkey was supplying sarin gas to Syrian rebels in the months before the attack took place — information never made public as President Obama made the case for launching a strike.
Hersh discusses his findings — findings which once again have been almost universally ignored by the international mainstream media — in the following interview withDemocracy Now.



Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Head Of Saudi Intelligence, Has Been Sacked

Tyler Durden's picture

In the aftermath of the disastrous, for both the US and Saudi Arabia, false flag campaign to replace the Syrian regime with one which would be amenable to allowing a Qatari gas pipeline to pass underneath the Al-Qaeda rebel infested country, there were numerous rumors that the reign of Saudi's infamous former ambassador to the US and current intelligence chief, Prince Bandar "Bush" bin Sultan - the man who we suggested was the puppetmaster behind the entire failed operation - had come to an end. Some two months ago,Shia Post reported that "News sources announced that the chief of the Saudi spying apparatus Bandar bin Sultan has been dismissed... Since creation of crisis in Syria by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, Bandar bin Sultan’s name has been heard time and again in tandem with the Syrian crisis."
Moments ago, in a tersely worded statement from the Saudi Press Agency, it was indeed confirmed that, perhaps in response to his failed handling of the Syrian conflict, Prince Bandar has indeed been sacked.
A royal order announced here today that Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz was relieved of his post as Chief of General Intelligence upon his request and that General Staff Yousif bin Ali Al-Idreesi was assigned to act as Chief of General Intelligence. The royal order will be carried out by the concerned authorities with immediate effect.
Hardly surprising, here is the explanation why the person who was once one of America's most bosom allies in the Middle East, just got the boot:
Bandar bin Sultan is one of the main mindsets and players of regional insecurity especially in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. His supports for terrorist groups acting in Syria are not hidden to anybody. This Saudi prince has very close relations with the armed terrorists in Syria. Recently he had lashed out at the Al-Saud family over its way of backing terrorists. These criticisms have annoyed Saudi monarch Abdullah.

Nevertheless, perhaps one of the reasons for firing Bandar bin Sultan was the issue raised by some Saudi authorities as Riyadh’s “failure of foreign policy” regarding the Syrian crisis. Some of the political pundits have said that Sultan’s performance of the recent months have even worried Washington. Now, it is expected that with the designation of Mohammad bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz as the new chief of the Saudi security, the Washington-Riyadh ties will be normalized since this figure of the Saudi royal family is trusted by the US officials.

Apart from all surmises, Bandar bin Sultan is considered as one of the successors of the monarchial regime. Bandar has been regarded as a powerful figure in the war of power among the Saudi princes. It seems that his obstinacy in decision-making was another cause of King Abdullah’s fear of his power. This fear has reached the extent that the senile Saudi king has made up his mind to sack Bandar bin Sultan from the most important security apparatus of the country in a bid to alleviate part of the internal criticisms and promote Mohammad bin Nayef’s position. Furthermore, changes in the Saudi security apparatus will pave the way for maintaining the demands of the US regime; especially that, according to some news sources, Mohammad bin Nayef’s appointment has been done after the US officials’ order.
But don't cry for the Prince - his net worth is estimated to be well in the billions.

Syria game still afoot - or game over ? 

Anti War 

Canada Plans Possible Invasion of Syria

Classified Documents Show Military Preparing to Attack

by Jason Ditz, April 14, 2014
Documents from the Canadian government show that the nation’s military and diplomats have been secretly working on plans to invade Syria for quite some time, cobbling together five distinct scenarios that they could use to justify such an attack.
Canadian officials have publicly insisted for months they have “no plans” to be brought into the Syrian Civil War, but the internal documents, classified and heavily redacted, detail preparations for both an intervention and a long-term presence to back pro-West rebels as an alternative to al-Qaeda.
Canada has no history of unilateral interventions of this sort, so it is likely that the planning presumes the nation getting sucked into a war in Syria as some part of a NATO occupation, though the redactions in the documents make it entirely unclear.
The preparations also reveal that Canada has been working at training myriad rebel factions in “leadership skills” in anticipation of eventually backing them as a new government.

Syria Seizes Villages Near Lebanon Border

Retakes Christian Village of Maaloula

by Jason Ditz, April 14, 2014
Pressing the offensive in the territory along the border with Lebanon, Syria’s militaryseized three more villages, including Sarkha, Jibbeh, and the Christian village ofMaaloula.
Maaloula has been in the headlines off and on over the past year, with Jabhat al-Nusra seizing the ancient town, sieging the convent there, and kidnapping a group of nuns from there.
Syria’s military has expelled the rebels from the border crossings to Lebanon in recent weeks, and today’s advance seems to be a mop-up mission, as they chase out the last pockets of rebel resistance from the area.
Though Syria’s government is couching this as a turning point in the war, it seems to only be one in the region, as the rebels have been expanding their own hold in the Latakia Province recently, and the situation may simply be nearing an equilibrium where no side can seriously challenge the others’ territory.


Syrian army launches assault on HomsApril 16, 2014 12:41 AM
Syrian army soldiers sitting on their tank while on patrol in Maaloula village, northeast of the capital Damascus, Syria, April 14, 2014 . (AP Photo/SANA)
Syrian army soldiers sitting on their tank while on patrol in Maaloula village, northeast of the capital Damascus, Syria, April 14, 2014 . (AP Photo/SANA)
DAMASCUS: Syrian army troops backed by pro-regime militiamen entered rebel-held neighborhoods of Homs Tuesday after seizing the last village in the mountainous Qalamoun region on Lebanon’s border.

The attacks come a day after Syrian troops swept through some of the last remaining opposition strongholds in the countryside north of Damascus. Government forces captured three villages, including the ancient Christian hamlet of Maaloula, as part of an attempt to sever rebel supply routes across the frontier.

Another town in the area, Aasal al-Ward, fell into government hands Tuesday, state TV and the anti-regime Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based Observatory said the regime and its allies now enjoyed “quasi-total” control over the Qalamoun region.

The Syrian army, backed by fighters from Hezbollah, launched an offensive in the rugged region in November. It has captured all but a few opposition strongholds in the area since then, strengthening its grip on the border while also boosting the defenses of Damascus.

Regime forces and paramilitaries also achieved advances in Homs, after a U.N. operation earlier this year evacuated some 1,400 people trapped inside the besieged neighborhoods, though around 1,300 people, mostly fighters, remained behind.

“The Syrian army and the [pro-regime militia] National Defense Forces have achieved key successes in the Old City of Homs,” Syrian state television said. It added that troops were advancing in several besieged neighborhoods and had “killed a number of terrorists,” using the regime’s term for opponents of President Bashar Assad.

Activists on the ground and the Observatory both confirmed the offensive.

“They have entered into one [besieged] area, Wadi al-Sayeh, which lies between Jouret al-Shiyah and the Old City,” Abu Bilal, an activist trapped inside the blockade, told AFP via the Internet.

“This is the first time the regime has entered the besieged areas since it took Khaldieh” district in summer 2013, he added.
Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman said regime forces began the advance a day earlier after being reinforced by NDF forces.

Homs, which is Syria’s third-largest city, is referred to by opposition supporters as the “capital of the revolution” for the large protests held there when the uprising began in March 2011.

Most of the central city is now under regime control and rebel-held pockets have been under a government siege for nearly two years, leading to dwindling food and medical supplies.

Elsewhere, fierce clashes pitting regime troops and their allies against rebel militias raged in Aleppo, Hama, Idlib, Latakia and Deraa provinces, as well as in the suburbs of Damascus.

Two mortar bombs landed near schools in predominantly Christian districts of the capital, killing one child and wounding 41 other people, state media said.

Syria’s official news agency SANA said one of the shells struck a school in the Bab Touma neighborhood, killing one child and wounding 36 others. In a separate attack, another mortar bomb exploded near the Mar Elias Church in the nearby Dweilaa district, wounding five people. The church compound also includes a school.

The Damascus suburbs of Mliha, Daraya and Moadamieh all saw clashes, while in the northern city of Aleppo, fighting raged in several areas, including near the Air Force Intelligence headquarters, while the rebels disabled a regime tank in the Sheikh Said neighborhood, the Observatory said.

In the south, a Grad rocket slammed into an area on the edge of the Druze-majority city of Swaida near an Army recruitment center, activists and the Observatory said.

No casualties were reported in the attack.

The Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, issued a statement late Monday in which it vowed to target military and paramilitary targets in the province, in retaliation for the regime’s campaign against villages and towns in neighboring Deraa province.

An anti-regime activist group from Swaida said the rocket strike would “serve only the interest of the regime,” after a recent spell of outrage against the authorities there erupted into street protests.

Tensions have risen after armed residents of the city demanded, and received, the ouster of the Military Intelligence chief for Swaida and Deraa.

Monday’s nationwide death toll, according to the Observatory, stood at 269 people, of whom 202 were fighters from the various sides.

Riyadh: Reported poison gas use a challenge to worldApril 16, 2014 12:08 AM
Associated Press
In this Friday, April 11, 2014 image made from amateur video, provided by Shams News Network, a loosely organized anti-Assad group based in and out of Syria that claim not to have any connection to Syrian opposition parties or any other states, and is consistent with independent AP reporting, shows a child crying as he sits on a bed with others, in Kfar Zeita, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Damascus, Syria. Syrian government media and rebel forces said Saturday, April 12, 2014 that poison gas had been used in the village on Friday, injuring scores of people, while blaming each other for the attack. (AP Photo/Shams News Network)
In this Friday, April 11, 2014 image made from amateur video, provided by Shams News Network, a loosely organized anti-Assad group based in and out of Syria that claim not to have any connection to Syrian opposition parties or any other states, and is consistent with independent AP reporting, shows a child crying as he sits on a bed with others, in Kfar Zeita, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Damascus, Syria. Syrian government media and rebel forces said Saturday, April 12, 2014 that poi
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Tuesday that the “grave news” that President Bashar Assad’s forces had carried out two poison gas attacks last week was a challenge to “international will.” Rebels and the Syrian government have blamed each other for the alleged poison gas attacks Friday and Saturday on rebel-held Kfar Zeita village in the central province of Hama. Both sides said chlorine gas had been used.

“These continuous violations by the Damascus regime require the international community to take firm action against the continuous defiance of international, Arab and Islamic will,” Prince Saud said at a news conference in Riyadh.

The reported gas attacks posed a clear challenge to the Security Council decision to dismantle Assad’s chemical arsenal, he said.

Saudi Arabia is a leading backer of rebels fighting against Assad, who is a close ally of the kingdom’s main rival Iran. It has supplied rebels with training, weapons and cash and worked to mobilize international support for them.

Asked about the possibility of supplying anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels, Prince Saud said it was necessary to change the balance of military power on the ground in Syria but did not give further details.

“The only way the regime would listen to calls for peace is if he [Assad] is forced to agree that we cannot reach a military solution for his desire to quell the revolution,” he said.

Chlorine gas, a deadly agent widely used in World War I, has industrial uses and is not on a list of chemical weapons that Assad declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog last year for destruction.

“Chlorine was not part of the declared stockpile, but chlorine is a chemical weapon under the chemical weapon convention,” said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, CEO of SecureBio, a U.K.-based consultancy firm.

De Bretton-Gordon said that while chlorine gas was readily available in Syria, the attacks consisted of chlorine containers being dropped from helicopters.

“As far as I am aware, the opposition does not have helicopters,” he said.