By F. Michael Maloof:
Former U.S. intelligence analysts claim current intelligence analysts have told them Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was not responsible for the Aug. 21 poison gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, which killed 1,429 people, of whom more than 400 where children.
They claim the “growing body of evidence” reveals the incident was a pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters.
“The aim is reported to have been to create the kind of incident that would bring the United States into the war,” one former U.S. intelligence analysts said.
The analysts referred to a meeting a week before the Aug. 21 incident in which opposition military commanders ordered preparations for an “imminent escalation” due to a “war-changing development” that would be followed by the “U.S.-led bombing of Syria.”
In addition, the former U.S. analysts said that Israel welcomed limited U.S. military action but not so much that it would strengthen rebel groups, which are “increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.”
In an open memorandum to U.S. President Barack Obama, who is contemplating a strike on Syria’s military in response to this incident, members of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, or VIPS, said that even British officials are aware that it wasn’t al-Assad who committed the atrocity.
The British Parliament recently voted not to engage British military forces, even though British Prime Minister David Cameron sought such an endorsement in support of the Obama administration.
Following the vote, Cameron said there would be no British participation in any military action against the Syrian government.
The veteran former U.S. intelligence analysts who remain in contact with current U.S. intelligence officials said they believe Obama wasn’t informed in order to preserve “plausible denial.”
Formed in January 2003, VIPS is a group of current and former U.S. intelligence community officials. Members include analysts from CIA, the State Department’s Intelligence Bureau, or INR, and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Those signing the memorandum were Thomas Drake, former senior executive of the National Security Agency; Philip Giraldi, retired Central Intelligence Agency officer; Matthew Hoh, former Marine Corps captain with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan; Larry Johnson, retired CIA and State Department official; W. Patrick Lang, former senior executive and Defense Intelligence Officer; David MacMichael, who was on the National Intelligence Council; and Ray McGovern, former U.S. Army infantry intelligence office and CIA analyst.
Other signers of the memo were Elizabeth Murray, former deputy national intelligence officer; Todd Pierce, former U.S. Army judge advocate; Sam Provance, former sergeant, U.S. Army in Iraq; Coleen Rowley, former Division Council and FBI special agent; and Ann Write, retired U.S. Army colonel and foreign service officer.
The memorandum, with a subject line titled “Is Syria a Trap?” pointed out that the weight of the Obama’s evidence is reminiscent of intelligence used by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in a Feb. 5, 2003, speech before the United Nations, in which he “peddled fraudulent intelligence” – according to the memo – to support the March 18, 2003, U.S. military attack on Iraq for its weapons of mass destruction.
“Then, also, we chose to give President (George W.) Bush the benefit of the doubt, thinking he was being misled – or, at the least, very poorly advised,” the analysts said.
“Our sources confirm that a chemical incident of some sort did cause fatalities and injuries on Aug. 21 in a suburb of Damascus,” the analysts said, suggesting that they maintain contact with current U.S. intelligence community analysts. “They insist, however, that the incident was not the result of an attack by the Syrian Army using military-grade chemical weapons from its arsenal.”
In an apparent direct attack on CIA Director John Brennan, the former high-ranking analysts said that he was “perpetrating a pre-Iraq-War-type fraud on members of Congress, the media, the public – and perhaps even you,” referring to Obama.
“We have observed John Brennan closely over recent years, and, sadly, we find what our former colleagues are now telling us easy to believe,” the memo said.
“Sadder still,” it said, “this goes in spades for those of us who have worked with him personally; we give him zero credence. And that goes, as well, for his titular boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has admitted he gave ‘clearly erroneous’ sworn testimony to Congress denying NSA eavesdropping on Americans.”
In claiming that the Aug. 21 chemical weapons incident was a provocation of the Syrian opposition, the former U.S. analysts said that the growing body of evidence came mostly from sources affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its supporters.
They said that these reports revealed that canisters containing chemical agents were brought into a suburb of Damascus, where they were then opened.
“We are unaware of any reliable evidence that a Syrian military rocket capable of carrying a chemical agent was fired into the area,” the analysts said. “In fact, we are aware of no reliable physical evidence to support the claim that this was a result of a strike by a Syrian military unit with expertise in chemical weapons.
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