By Guy Taylor
The Washington Times
Monday, December 9, 2013
The Obama administration quashed intelligence reports that suggested an al Qaeda-linked group could have been responsible for the sarin gas attack carried out in Syria last August, according to a news report published in London on Sunday.
In threatening a U.S. military strike on Syria during the weeks that followed after the Aug. 21 chemical attack, President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry cited "definitive" evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad had been responsible for the incident.
What they kept secret, according to an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, was the belief of U.S. spy agencies that military forces loyal to Mr. Assad were not ones in Syria's civil war to have access to sarin.
"In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal 'Operations Order' — a planning document that precedes a ground invasion — citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al Qaeda, had master the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity," Mr. Hersh wrote in the London Review of Books.
The al-Nusra Front was officially designated a "foreign terrorist organization by the Obama administration last year and should have been a suspect, according to the Hersh article.
Instead, in order to solidify a White House narrative that Mr. Assad had crossed Mr. Obama's "red line" by using chemical weapons, the Obama administration "cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad," the article claims.
As of Monday, the White House had not responded to the article, which provides backing for Russian claims that the Syrian rebels were behind the deadly August attack
U.S. officials have said more than 1,400 people, the majority of them innocent civilians, were killed in the attack.