Syria: Not a ‘slam dunk’

William Polk, former State Department planner, writes in the Atlantic:

Much was made of the belief that the gas had been delivered by rocket. However, as The New York Times correspondent Ben Hubbard reported (April 27, 2013) “”Near the attack sites, activists found spent rockets that appeared to have been homemade and suspected that they delivered the gas.” Would the regular army’s chemical warfare command have used “homemade” rockets? That report seemed to point to some faction within the opposition rather than to the government.

Several days into the crisis, we have been given a different source of information. This is from Israel. For many years, Israel is known to have directed a major communications effort against Syria. Its program, known as Unit 8200 is Mossad’s equivalent of NSA. It chose to share what it claimed was a key intercept with outsiders. First, a former officer told the German news magazine Focus (according to The Guardian,August 28, 2013) that Israel had intercepted a conversation between Syrian officers discussing the attack. The same Information was given to Israeli press (see “American Operation, Israeli Intelligence” in the August 27 Yediot Ahronoth,) It also shared this information with the American government. Three Israeli senior officers were reported to have been sent to Washington to brief NSC Director Susan Rice. What was said was picked up by some observers. Foreign Policy magazine reported (August 28, “Intercepted Calls Prove Syrian Army Used Nerve Gas, U.S. Spies Say”) that “in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Minister of Defense exchanged what Israeli intelligence described as “panicked phone calls” with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answer for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people.”

But, as more information emerged, doubts began to be expressed. As Matt Apuzzo reported (AP, August 29, “AP sources: Intelligence on weapons no ‘slam dunk.’”), according to a senior US intelligence official, the intercept “discussing the strike was among low level staff, with no direct evidence tying the attack to an Assad insider or even a senior commander.” Reminding his readers of the famous saying by the then head of the CIA, George Tenet, in 2002 that the intelligence against Saddam Husain was “slam dunk,” when in fact it was completely erroneous, the AP correspondent warned that the Syrian attack of last week “could be tied to al-Qaida-backed rebels later.”

Two things should be borne in mind on these reports: the first is that Israel has had a long-standing goal of the break-up or weakening of Syria which is the last remaining firmly anti-Israeli Arab state. (the rationale behind this policy was laid out by Edward Luttwak in the OpEd section of the August 24, 2013 New York Times). It also explains why Israel actively had sought “regime change” in Iraq. The second consideration is that Israeli intelligence has also been known to fabricate intercepts as, for example, it did during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

So, unless or until more conclusive evidence is available, the request by Mr. Ban (“U.N. seeks more time for its inspectors,”International Herald Tribune, August 29, 2013) for more time appears to be prudent. Despite what Messrs Biden and Kerry have said, I believe a court would conclude that the case against the Syrian government was “not proven.”

This is all sounding so painfully familiar, but at least I can say that most people don’t seem to be falling for it. Not that it will stop the war machine, of course, but it’s something. So strange to watch all these administration officials and other noted war hawks on teevee, trying to communicate a sense of urgency to the public. What’s so urgent? Israel’s war fetish? The latest gas pipeline?


When you’ve lied to your own people about so much for so long, it’s downright silly that you expect us to believe you now. You tell us we can’t afford to pay Social Security payments for old people, but we have all the money in the world for defense contracts. We’re not supposed to notice the contradiction?–KbM

2 thoughts on “Syria: Not a ‘slam dunk’

  1. The evidence is mounting against Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia who controls much of the Kingdom’s military and intelligence components. It seems that the good Prince had a hand in not only giving Syrian rebels Sarin gas, but also in supplying them with the rockets. Bandar and Saudi Arabia hate the Shi’ites. That would be Iran, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Assad, and the Shi’ites living in northern Saudi Arabia, and in Yemen. Most of the same folks that Israel hates. Israel and Saudi Arabia are bestest friends with the U.S. of A. One might believe that there is some conspiracy afoot?

Comments are closed.