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.
“In addition, we have learned that on August 13-14, 2013, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major, irregular military surge,” the analysts said.
“Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and Qatari, Turkish and U.S. intelligence officials took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, now used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army and their foreign sponsors.”
The analysts claimed that senior opposition commanders who came from Istanbul pre-briefed the regional commanders on an “imminent escalation in the fighting due to ‘a war-changing development,’ which, in turn, would lead to a U.S.-led bombing of Syria.”
The analysts said that the opposition leaders then were ordered to prepare their forces to “exploit the U.S. bombing” and march into Damascus to remove the al-Assad government.
The Obama administration refuses to admit that the Syrian opposition possesses or has the capability of delivering chemical weapons.
The VIPS memo to Obama reinforces separate videos, which show foreign fighters associated with the Syrian opposition firing artillery canisters of poison gas. One video shows Nadeem Baloosh, a member of an al-Qaida-affiliated group Riyadh al-Abdeen, admitting to the use of chemical weapons.
In the video clip, al-Abdeen, who is in the Latakia area of Syria, said that his forces used “chemicals which produce lethal and deadly gases that I possess.” He added that they decided to use them against women and children.
As WND recently reported, a 100-page report on an investigation turned over to the U.N. by Russia concludes that the Syrian rebels – not the Syrian government – used the nerve agent Sarin in an attack in the Syrian city of Aleppo last March.
Sources familiar with the content of the documentation said that deadly Sarin gas was manufactured in a Sunni-controlled region of Iraq and then transported to Turkey for use by the Syrian opposition, whose ranks have swelled with members of al-Qaida-affiliated groups.
The documentation is said to have pointed specifically to a Saddam-era general working under the outlawed Iraqi Ba’ath party leader, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.
Al-Douri was a top aide to Saddam Hussein before he was deposed as president.
The general, Adnan al-Dulaimi, then supplied the Sarin to Ba’ath-affiliated foreign fighters of the Sunni and Saudi Arabian-backed Jabhat al-Nusra Front in Aleppo, with Turkey’s cooperation through the Turkish town of Antakya in Hatay Province.
The analysts suggested that the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has every reason to get Washington involved in another war in the Middle East region.
“But with outspoken urging coming from Israel and those Americans who lobby for Israeli interests, this priority Israeli objective is becoming crystal clear,” the former intelligence analysts said.
They referred to a New York Times article that addressed Israeli motivation.
“For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis,” the Times article said.
“This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win – we’ll settle for a tie,” the Times quoted Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York, as saying. “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death. That’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.”
The former U.S. analysts said that in looking this way, the Israelis believe that U.S. military intervention will insure that there is “no early resolution of the conflict in Syria. The longer Sunni and Shia are at each other’s throats in Syria and in the wider region, the safer Israel calculates that it is.”
F. Michael Maloof, senior staff writer for the WND/ G2Bulletin, is a former security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He can be contacted at [email protected].