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NEW YORK – By piecing together recently revealed WikiLeaks emails with evidence that has emerged over the past several years, it’s become increasingly clear that President Obama and his secretary of state at the time, Hillary Clinton in 2011, armed the Free Syrian Army rebels in an effort to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad, mirroring a strategy already under way in Libya to help al-Qaida-affiliated militia overthrow Moammar Gadhafi.

A consequence of the strategy was the emergence of ISIS out of the loosely coordinated Free Syrian Army coalition as well as the disastrous Benghazi attack in which a U.S. ambassador was murdered.

Various WikiLeaks emails examined by WND indicate the Free Syrian Army was among the first splinter rebel groups Clinton and Obama armed. The Obama administration apparently was hoping to replicate the regime-change strategy in which it armed al-Qaida-affiliated militia in Libya, including Ansar al-Sharia, the group responsible for the Sept. 11, 2012, attack at Benghazi.

The WikiLeaks email evidence shows a shift in policy in which Clinton and Obama appear to have decided in 2011 to topple the governments of Gadhafi in Libya and Assad in Syria, even if it meant arming radical Islamic terrorist groups that traced back to al-Qaida.

The Obama administration’s betrayal is exposed in “See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad,” by former DHS officer Philip Haney and WND Editor Art Moore

As WND reported last week, WikiLeaks emails back up Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s assertion that U.S.-led coalition forces have given support to terror groups, including ISIS in Syria.

The claim derived further support from a recording leaked to the New York Times of Secretary of State John Kerry admitting the Obama administration not only hoped ISIS would depose the Assad regime, it also gave arms to the jihadist army and its allies to carry out the task.

Blumenthal recommends Free Syria Army to Clinton

Hacked emails to Hillary Clinton from longtime adviser Sidney Blumenthal that were published in October by WikiLeaks tell the story.

On June 20, 2011, Blumenthal sent a confidential email to Clinton at the State Department that included an article by David W. Lesch, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Trinity University in San Antonio. Lesch argued a strategy of regime change could be effected in Syria if the U.S. could find opposition groups in Syria capable of establishing “a Benghazi-like refuge from which to launch a rebellion and to which aid can be sent.”

In a subsequent confidential email July 24, 2012, Blumenthal further advised Clinton that the “growing success of the rebel forces of the Free Syria Army” caused him to believe the Assad regime was increasingly vulnerable to being toppled.

In an email Feb. 24, 2012, Blumenthal characterized the FSA as “loosely organized and uncoordinated,” noting it was “for the most part, local militias, many of them civilian based, that are simply calling themselves the FSA to appear to be part of a whole.”

Blumenthal commented in the email that the armed resistance to Assad “is not well funded or well armed.”

On Feb. 28, 2012, Jacob Sullivan, a State Department senior policy adviser to Secretary Clinton, forwarded to Clinton an opinion piece published in the New York Times by foreign correspondent Roger Cohen suggesting the strategy Obama and Clinton had used to topple Gadhafi in Libya should be used to bring down Assad in Syria.

“As the Bosnian war showed, the basis for any settlement must be a rough equality of forces. So I say step up the efforts, already quietly ongoing, to get weapons to the Free Syrian Army. Train those forces, just as the rebels were trained in Libya,” Cohen wrote. “Payback time has come around: The United States warned Assad about allowing Al Qaeda fighters to transit Syria to Iraq. Now matériel and special forces with the ability to train a ragtag army can transit Iraq – and other neighboring states – into Syria.”

Then, on Sept. 18, 2012, one week after the Benghazi terror attack, Blumenthal, in a confidential memo, alerted Clinton to the possibility of the FSA military taking over Damascus.

The prospect caused Assad’s wife and close relatives to urge Assad to flee Syria to avoid “the fate of Assad’s former ally Muammar al Qaddafi of Libya, who was captured and killed by rebel forces while attempting to flee his home territory in Sirte.”

Clinton sought to arm Free Syrian Army

In an Aug. 17, 2014, email released by WikiLeaks, Clinton, after her service as secretary of state, suggested to adviser John Podesta: “At the same time, we should return to plans to provide the FSA [Free Syrian Army], with some group of moderate forces, with equipment that will allow them to deal with a weakened ISIL, and stepped up operations against the Syrian regime.”

Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute, tied the statement to the Obama administration’s plan to equip Syrian fighters, either the Free Syrian Army or “other moderate forces,” to a U.S.-led operation in coordination with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to steer weapons to Syria, “ostensibly to fight both Assad and ISIS.”

McCarthy noted, however, that Clinton’s 2014 memo to Podesta asserted the Saudi and Qatari governments both supported ISIS and other “radical Sunni groups.”

In September 2013, WND reported Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had relied on the work of Elizabeth O’Bagy, a 26-year-old graduate student, to argue in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Obama administration should send weapons to arm the “moderate” Free Syrian Army to oppose the Assad government in Syria.

In that article, WND detailed the extensive lobbying efforts conducted in Washington to advance the FSA as a “moderate group,” despite clear evidence the al-Nusra Front – operating under the FSA umbrella – had been declared a terrorist organization by the State Department; had pledged allegiance to al-Qaida’s top leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri; and was the group of choice for foreign jihadi fighters pouring into Syria.

Clinton ‘changed sides in war on terror’

WND reported in 2015 the Obama White House and the State Department under the management of Hillary Clinton “changed sides in the war on terror” in 2011 by implementing a policy of facilitating the delivery of weapons to the al-Qaida-dominated rebel militias in Libya attempting to oust Gadhafi, the Citizens Commission on Benghazi concluded in its interim report.

The April 22, 2014, report, “How America Changed sides in the War on Terror,” alleges “the U.S. was fully aware of and facilitating the delivery of weapons to the Al Qaeda-dominated rebel militias throughout the 2011 rebellion.”

The report asserted the agenda of al-Qaida-affiliated jihadis in the region, including the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and other Islamic terror groups represented among the rebel forces, was well known to U.S. officials responsible for Libya policy.

“The rebels made no secret of their Al Qaeda affiliation, openly flying and speaking in front of the black flag of Islamic jihad, according to author John Rosenthal and multiple media reports,” the interim report said. “And yet, the White House and senior Congressional members deliberately and knowingly pursued a policy that provided material support to terrorist organizations in order to topple a ruler who had been working closely with the West actively to suppress Al Qaeda.”

The report concluded: “The result in Libya, across much of North Africa, and beyond has been utter chaos, disruption of Libya’s oil industry, the spread of dangerous weapons (including surface-to-air missiles), and the empowerment of jihadist organizations like Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The report identified a key al-Qaida operative who played a major role moving U.S. arms into both Libya and Syria as Abdul Hakim Belhaj, (aka Abdallah al Sadeq). Belhaj was a veteran jihad fighter of Iraq and Afghanistan; commander of the al-Qaida franchise militia, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), aka Libyan Islamic Movement for Change; a post-revolution military commander of Tripoli; and the Libyan delegation leader to the Free Syrian Army in late 2011.

In September 2014, WND reported Elizabeth O’Bagy, who had been fired from her job with a Washington think-tank after her exposure by WND as a source for Kerry’s argument that the FSA is a “moderate” rebel force in Syria, had also arranged for McCain a trip to Syria in May 2013 in which senator met with Belhaj, who was then represented as a leader of the FSA.

In November 2013, WND reported trusted Libyan expatriates had claimed Belhaj was at large in Libya. The expatriates identified Belhaj as an al-Qaida operative, noting he was at the top of a list of Libyan terrorists banned by the European Union from obtaining entrance visas and was the principal organizer of the terrorist attack in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2011, in which Ambassador Stevens was murdered.

McCarthy reported Aug. 2 Ambassador Stevens had “moved an enormous shipment of weapons from Benghazi to the Syrian ‘rebels’ in Turkey,” as the Obama administration was working in 2011 to determine which Syrian “rebel” forces should be armed.

McCarthy pointed to a New York Times article in 2012, some three months before the Benghazi massacre, that reported CIA operatives were secretly in Turkey helping the Obama administration to decide which Syrian opposition fighters would receive arms clandestinely from the United States to fight the Syrian government.

The Times further reported the weapons including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons were being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries, including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

McCarthy further noted that before becoming ambassador, Christopher Stevens was the Obama administration’s official liaison to Gadhafi’s Islamist opposition in Libya, including its al-Qaida-linked groups. Among them were the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, with Stevens working directly with Belhaj.

The Obama administration’s betrayal is exposed in “See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad,” by former DHS officer Philip Haney and WND Editor Art Moore

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