Would the Obama administration blame the Assad regime if ISIS shot at U.S. planes in Syria? Without the help of credible reports – one by Yossef Bodansky and the other by Seymour Hersh – that last year’s chemical attack in Syria was actually caused by Turkey and carried out by rebels so that Obama could declare the ‘red line’ crossed to justify an attack on Assad, it might seem like a far-fetched notion. With those reports, targeting Assad for ISIS’s actions could actually be seen as consistent behavior.
For starters, let’s take a look at a New York Times article by Peter Baker published just two days ago. According to the author, Obama met with visitors prior to delivering his September 10th speech on ISIS / ISIL / Islamic State / Un-Islamic State. Of Obama, the author wrote:
…he (Obama) vowed to retaliate against President Bashar al-Assad if Syrian forces shot at American planes, and prickliness as he mocked critics of his more reticent approach to the exercise of American power.
A bit later…
He (Obama) made clear the intricacy of the situation, though, as he contemplated the possibility that Mr. Assad might order his forces to fire at American planes entering Syrian airspace. If he dared to do that, Mr. Obama said he would order American forces to wipe out Syria’s air defense system, which he noted would be easier than striking ISIS because its locations are better known. He went on to say that such an action by Mr. Assad would lead to his overthrow, according to one account.
As you keep that reality percolating, consider Bodansky’s piece published on September 1, 2013. This was at a time when U.S. politicians were desperately herding the cats of political consensus to justify an attack on Assad in response to the August 21st chemical attack. Bodansky wrote:
On August 13-14, 2013, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major and irregular military surge. Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and representatives of Qatari, Turkish, and US Intelligence [“Mukhabarat Amriki”] took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their foreign sponsors. Very senior opposition commanders who had arrived from Istanbul briefed the regional commanders of an imminent escalation in the fighting due to “a war-changing development” which would, in turn, lead to a US-led bombing of Syria.
Several months later, Bodansky’s bombshell was followed by an even bigger one from Seymour Hersh in an article entitled, “The Red Line and the Rat Line”, which provided more intricate detail but more than backed up Bodansky’s findings. Hersh wrote that Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was growing increasingly frustrated with the Obama administration for not having declared the infamous red line crossed on multiple occasions already. The August 21st attack was to be the unambiguous final straw.
Well… we all know how that worked out.
According to Hersh, there was also a Benghazi connection that added to Erdogan’s frustrations with Obama. In early 2012, a weapons trafficking operation was allegedly being run out of Benghazi (the ‘Rat line’). Funded by Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, CIA Director David Petraeus was responsible for overseeing logistics. Weapons were to be shipped from Benghazi to Turkey and then on to Syria. As Hersh tells it, the Benghazi attacks of September 11, 2012 put an end to the operation, which greatly angered Erdogan.
Hersh concludes his must-read piece thusly:
Barring a major change in policy by Obama, Turkey’s meddling in the Syrian civil war is likely to go on. ‘I asked my colleagues if there was any way to stop Erdoğan’s continued support for the rebels, especially now that it’s going so wrong,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The answer was: “We’re screwed.” We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoğan, but Turkey is a special case. They’re a Nato ally. The Turks don’t trust the West. They can’t live with us if we take any active role against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous. The Turks would say: “We hate you for telling us what we can and can’t do.”’
Obama has established a new red line, not for ISIS but for Assad. That red line is U.S. planes being shot at. There is very strong evidence that the previous red line – chemical weapons – was crossed not by Assad but by Turkey, Qatar, and ISIS in order to blame Assad. It clearly didn’t work because the U.S. is now having to fight ISIS due to events beyond Obama’s control.
Players are increasingly desperate.
It is curious that Obama would telegraph what the U.S. would do if Assad shot at U.S. planes. There’s no way of knowing if that is meant as a wink and a nod to ISIS but…
…speaking of curious, does ISIS read the New York Times?