Obama No Longer Trusts Erdogan After The Ratline


Report: U.S. Transferring Nuclear Weapons From Turkey to Romania

BY: Natalie Johnson  
August 19, 2016 11:48 am

Turkish soldiers secure the area as supporters of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan protest in Istanbul’s Taksim square / AP
BY: Natalie Johnson Follow @nataliejohnsonn
August 19, 2016 11:48 am

The United States has reportedly begun relocating nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey to Romania amid heightened tensions between Washington and Ankara.

An unnamed source told EurActiv that the U.S. no longer trusted Turkey, a NATO ally, to host the weapons following last month’s failed military coup. The weapons are reportedly being transferred to Romania’s Deveselu air base.

It’s not easy to move 20-plus nukes,” another anonymous source told Euractiv, emphasizing technical and political barriers.

The Romanian foreign ministry “firmly” denied that U.S. nuclear weapons were being relocated to the country.

The possible transfer underscores ongoing strain between the Obama administration and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the attempted coup.

The U.S. has roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons based at the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, some 60 miles from the Syrian border, which have been there since the Cold War, according to a report from the Stimson Center.

The Stimson report says it remains unclear whether the U.S. could have maintained control of its weapons if the coup had ignited a prolonged civil conflict in Turkey, Euractiv noted.

During the July 15 coup attempt, the power at the Incirlik base was shutoff and Erdogan’s government barred U.S. aircraft from taking off. Turkish officials two days later arrested the base commander, as well as 11 other service members from Incirlik, on accusations of complying with the coup.

Update: Several experts have come out since the publication of the EurActiv article to question its sources and reporting, the American Interest noted Friday. Arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis, for example, took to Twitter to challenge the story.

The story everyone is citing on US B61s being moved to Romania was written by a guy who doesn’t know what a B61 is. https://t.co/y3GW1mVPeX

— Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) August 19, 2016
They consulted one person, a generalist who said it was bunk, and Romania, which denied it. Then published anyway. https://t.co/UIrgzm5mtv
— Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) August 19, 2016
Other experts questioned the prospect of the U.S. transferring its nuclear weapons from Turkey to Romania in a BalkanInsight report.

Do We Trust Our Nukes With Erdogan?

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US nuclear bombs at Turkey base at risk of seizure: Report

WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse
DHA photo

DHA photo

Dozens of U.S. nuclear weapons stored at a Turkish air base near Syria are at risk of being captured by “terrorists or other hostile forces,” a Washington think tank claimed on Aug. 15.

Critics have long been alarmed by the United States’ estimated stockpile of about 50 nuclear bombs at İncirlik in the southern province of Adana, just 110 kilometers from the border with war-torn Syria.The issue took on fresh urgency last month following the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey, in which the base’s Turkish commander was arrested on suspicion of being a member of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), believed to have masterminded the failed takeover.

“Whether the U.S. could have maintained control of the weapons in the event of a protracted civil conflict in Turkey is an unanswerable question,” said the report from the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan think tank working to promote peace.

İncirlik is a vital base for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, with the strategically located facility affording drones and warplanes fast access to ISIL targets.

But the Pentagon in March ordered families of U.S. troops and civilian personnel stationed in southern Turkey to quit the region due to security fears.

“From a security point of view, it’s a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America’s nuclear weapons stationed at İncirlik Air Base in Turkey,” report co-author Laicie Heeley said.

“There are significant safeguards in place. … But safeguards are just that, they don’t eliminate risk. In the event of a coup, we can’t say for certain that we would have been able to maintain control,” she told AFP.

While the Pentagon does not discuss where it stores nuclear assets, the bombs are believed to be kept at İncirlik as a deterrent to Russia and to demonstrate the U.S.’ commitment to NATO, the 28-member military alliance that includes Turkey.

The İncirlik nuclear issue has been the subject of renewed debate in the U.S. since the failed putsch attempt.

“While we’ve avoided disaster so far, we have ample evidence that the security of U.S. nuclear weapons stored in Turkey can change literally overnight,” Steve Andreasen, who was director for defense policy and arms control on the White House National Security Council staff from 1993 to 2001, wrote in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times last week.

Kori Schake, a fellow at the California-based Hoover Institution, noted in a written debate in the New York Times that “American nuclear forces cannot be used without codes, making the weapons impossible to set off without authorization.”

“The fact that nuclear weapons are stationed in Turkey does not make them vulnerable to capture and use, even if the country were to turn hostile to the U.S.,” she said.

The Pentagon declined to comment on questions arising from the Stimson study.
“We do not discuss the location of strategic assets. The [Department of Defense] has taken appropriate steps to maintain the safety and security of our personnel, their families, and our facilities, and we will continue to do so,” it said in a statement.

The İncirlik concerns were highlighted as part of a broader paper into the Pentagon’s nuclear modernization program, through which the U.S. would spend hundreds of billions of dollars to update its atomic arsenal.

The authors argue that a particular type of bomb – the B61 gravity bomb – should be immediately removed from Europe, where 180 of the weapons are kept in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey.

How Secure Are Our NATO Nukes?


Turkish troops “surround” airbase which stockpiles US, NATO nuclear weapons

ADANA (Web Desk) – Thousands of Turkish troops, citizens and police ‘surrounded’ the Incirlik air base it operates with the United States — and where a large stockpile of NATO nuclear weapons is held — ahead of a visit by a senior US official.

Reports out of Turkey suggest all entrances to the air base have been blocked by heavy vehicles and police sent to secure its peremiter.

The unusual nigh-time move sparked rumours of a second coup attempt on Turkish social media, with concerned citizens rushing to the air base to join the blockade.

The move comes less than a week after a top US Army general was accused by Turkish media of ‘leading’ the uprising against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month.

The Incirlik air base, located in an urban neighborhood in the southern Turkey city of Adana, reopened following a meeting with “security officials.” Incirlik air base is used by US and NATO forces to launch air strikes and drone attacks on Syria and Iraq. The US stores an estimated 50 hydrogen nuclear bombs at the air base.

About 7,000 troops and police used armored cars and large trucks to block the gates earlier Sunday following intelligence that raised suspicion another coup was being plotted following the failed July 15th coup, Ihlas News Agency reported.

Turkey’s US Base Heading Towards Chaos

Turkey: US Air Base, Nuclear Bombs Surrounded By Citizens, Troops & Trucks

Published on
Sunday, July 31, 2016
byCommon Dreams

Thousands of Turkish troops, citizens and police ‘surrounded’ the Incirlik air base it operates with the United States Saturday night — blocking all entrances to the air base with heavy vehicles and security forces sent to secure its perimeter.

Turkish authorities restored access to and from the key US air base early Sunday, local media reported, the day the U.S. top military official is scheduled to visit the country and tour the base.
The Incirlik air base, located in an urban neighborhood in the southern Turkey city of Adana, reopened following a meeting with “security officials.” Incirlik air base is used by US and NATO forces to launch air strikes and drone attacks on Syria and Iraq. The US stores an estimated 50 hydrogen nuclear bombs at the air base.

7,000 troops and police used armored cars and large trucks to block the gates earlier Sunday following intelligence that raised suspicion another coup was being plotted following the failed July 15th coup, Ihlas News Agency reported. The blockade lasted four hours, the agency said.
DEVELOPING: Turkey ‘surrounds’ #NATO nuclear base #Incirlik https://t.co/pjgGdAv6tH pic.twitter.com/aSXF0bTg5F

— TRUNEWS™ (@TRUNEWS) July 31, 2016
After the July 15th coup attempt, the Washington Post reported:
(Pentagon Press Secretary Peter) Cook declined to address a question about whether it is a good idea to have nuclear weapons stored in Turkey at this point.

“We’ve taken all those steps that we need to take to make sure that everything that we control in Turkey is safe and secure,” he said, after declining to discuss specifics about “strategic assets” like the the nuclear weapons.

The B61 bombs in storage at Incirlik are designed to be carried on a variety of high-speed jets, including the F-15E Strike Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Each bomb is typically just under 12 feet long and weighs about 700 pounds, according to U.S. military specifications. They are stored in underground storage vaults inside aircraft hangars, and use control devices known as Permissive Action Links that make them difficult to use without authorization.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford is due to fly in for an inspection tour of the air base later today. He is also expected to hold talks with the Turkish government in Ankara.
YourAnonNews: RT Primit1v3: The nuclear weapons at #Incirlik can be adjusted to over 10x the power of the bomb tha… pic.twitter.com/vb4ARdbaRc

— Anonymous (@CovertAnonymous) July 31, 2016
#Incirlik holds more than 25% of the nuclear weapons in the #NATO stockpile https://t.co/089cre85zm #Turkey
— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) July 31, 2016
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Turkey’s Loyalty To Obama Goes To Hell


‘Not Our Friends’: Erdogan Stokes Anti-US, Anti-NATO Fervor in Turkey

Sputnik

NATO finds itself in quite the predicament as one of its most important strategic partners continues to accuse the United States of aiding and sympathizing with Gulenists who attempted to overthrow the Erdogan government.

On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned West for refusing to show solidarity with Ankara in the wake of a failed attempt to overthrow the government saying that NATO ‘allies’ that are more concerned about the fate of coup supporters than the survival of Turkey are not friends of Ankara.

Erdogan blasted the West for criticizing the massive purge of Turkey’s military and other state institutions which has seen 60,000 people detained, removed or suspended over suspected links with the coup and for cancelling 50,000 civilian passports which many worry is but a prelude to an expansion of the reign of terror inside the country.

“The attitude of many countries and their officials over the coup attempt in Turkey is shameful in the name of democracy,” Erdogan told hundreds of supporters at the presidential palace in Ankara.
“Any country and any leader who does not worry about the life of Turkish people and our democracy as much as they worry about the fate of coupists are not our friends,” said Erdogan, who narrowly escaped capture and perhaps death on the night of the coup.

The statements come in response to US National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s statement on Thursday that the purges were harming the fight against Daesh in Syria and Iraq by stripping away key Turkish officers who had worked closely with the United States.

Comments made at Erdogan’s rally on Friday follow remarks made earlier in the day blasting four-star US General and CENTCOM commander Joseph Votel for criticizing Turkey’s post-coup attempt purge saying “Who are you? Know your place.” Erdogan went on to hint once more that the United States planned the failed government overthrow bid.

My people know who is behind this scheme… they know who the superior intelligence behind it is, and with these statements you are revealing yourselves, you are giving yourselves away.”

The remarks come at a troubling time only one day after over 5,000 protesters yelling “death to the US” marched towards NATO’s critical Incirlik Air Base which houses between 50 and 90 US tactical nuclear weapons before security officials successfully dispersed the raging demonstrators.

Last Sunday, a massive fire broke out near another key NATO base in Izmir with T24 News reporting that officials suspected “anti-American sabotage” as the cause of the blaze. The incident occurred only hours after leading pro-Erdogan Islamist newspaper Yani Safek posted the picture of another top US General, Commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) John F. Campbell, under the headline “The Man Behind the Failed Coup in Turkey.”

In the wake of the failed coup bid, Turkey’s Labor Minister Suleyman Soylu rushed for a live interview with HaberTurk to say that “the US is behind the coup” and only hours after the State Department condemned this statement as “harmful to bilateral relations” the country’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim accused the United States of harboring alleged coup mastermind Fethullah Gulen and said Turkey would go to war with “any” country that sides with the Pennsylvania-based cleric.

As the United States relationship with Ankara in tatters forcing Washington to imagine the implications of Turkey potentially abandoning NATO, if the US isn’t forced to demand their eviction before that, US General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rushed to Ankara on Friday to attempt to quell tensions.

However, with polls before the failed coup showing that only 17% of Turks welcome the United States in the country and with the Erdogan regime’s flippant willingness to accuse Washington of plotting a coup against, festering anti-Western sentiments threaten to explode in Turkey at any time and analysts wonder if the Turkish President will, or even can, put the genie back in the bottle.

Turkey Takes US Nuclear Base


Erdogan locks US airmen, nuclear arms in Incirlik

Some 1,500 US airmen and their families have been locked in the southern Turkish air base of Incirlik together with a stock if tactical nuclear bombs since President Reccep Erdogan crushed an attempted coup on Saturday, July 16. In the four days up until Wednesday, July 20, therefore, no air strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq have been staged that Turkish base.

This extraordinary situation, reported here by debkafile’s military sources, whereby a large group of American military personnel are held virtual captive by an allied government, was almost certainly raised in the phone call that took place Tuesday between President Barack Obama and Erdogan. But the most outlandish aspect of this affair is that no American official has raised it in public – nor even by the administrations most vocal critics at the Republican convention which nominated Donald Trump as presidential candidate.

The situation only rated a brief mention in some Russian publications under the heading: “Turkish investigators enter & search Incirlik air base where US nukes are housed.”

Our military sources report that deep bunkers located near the base’s running strips house B61 tactical nuclear gravity bombs.

In the course of the massive sweep-cum-purge Erdogan is conducting in every corner of the country, hundreds of police officers accompanied by Ministry of Justice and Attorney General Office investigators are the only people permitted to enter the strategic air base, and only emergency cases may leave, after coordinating with the Turkish authorities.

The base is under virtual siege by large police contingents, cut off from electric power for several days except for local generators which will soon run out of fuel. This pressure appears to be Erdogan’s method of turning hundreds of Americans on the base into hostages to force Washington into extraditing Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of orchestrating the failed coup from his place of asylum in Pennsylvania.

The victims of Erdogan’s strategy of extortion are several US units deployed in Incirlik under squadron command. They include engineering, communication, logistics, air control, a military hospital with medical and operational facilities, air transportation and more.

The Turkish squadron and base commander, Brigadier Gen. Bekir Ercan, is under arrest, suspected of a senior role in planning and executing the coup, by assigning the aircraft and helicopters to support it, responsibility for the disappearance of a large number of aircraft and aiding the defection of air crews to Greece.

He is one of the more than 6,000 military personnel including fellow generals arrested on suspicion of active complicity in the coup plot.

By Wednesday, more than 50,000 people had been rounded up, sacked or suspended from their jobs by Turkey’s government in the wake of last week’s failed coup, including 9,000 police officers, the suspension of about 3,000 judges and widening Tuesday to include teachers, university deans and the media who are accused of links with Gulen.

However, fears for the fate of the US airmen trapped in Incirlik and the tactical nukes were exacerbated by the comments of two top officials of the Erdogan regime Tuesday.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim insinuated that the Americans may be viewed as partners, at least passive ones, in the conspiracy, in view of the use the plotters made of Incirlik for sending aircraft based there and arming them for the missions of intercepting the President’s airplane (which was never realized) and bombing the Parliament building in Ankara (which was).

The Turkish Labor Minister, Süleyman Soylu, was more explicit: “This coup has America behind,” he twitted in his Twitter account.
The Obama administration’s caution over the s
cary Incirlik impasse appears to derive from trepidation, shared by Riyadh, Cairo and Jerusalem, that the autocratic Turkish ruler’s Stalinist purge reaching into all branches of government and all walks of Turkish society is part and parcel of a comprehensive Muslim revolution underway in Turkey. An incautious word from Washington may quicken the process.

Building Up The Ten Nuclear Horns (Daniel 7)


Turkey coup attempt raises fears over safety of US nuclear stockpile

Julian Borger

Sunday 17 July 2016 13.04 EDT Last modified on Sunday 17 July 2016 15.50 EDT

The attempted coup in Turkey on Friday and the subsequent closure of the Incirlik airbase in the south of the country have raised fresh questions about the wisdom of the US stationing the biggest stockpile of nuclear weapons in Europe at such a vulnerable site.

Even before the abortive putsch, the potential terrorist threat to the base, 68 miles from the Syrian border, led to a significant upgrade in the security perimeter around the designated Nato area, where an estimated 50 B61 nuclear bombs are stored in 21 vaults. Friday’s events have increased concerns over whether any such security enhancements can mitigate the risks of holding on to such a dangerous arsenal in such a volatile location.

The Turkish government claimed that some of the coup plotters were based at Incirlik and flew aircraft out of the shared base. It consequently closed air traffic out of the base and cut off its power supply, temporarily stopping US air operations against Islamic State extremists in Syria.

“I think the key lesson is that the benefits of storing nuclear weapons in Turkey are minimal but the risks have increased significantly over the past five years,” said Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists. “I would say that the security situation in Turkey and in the base area no longer meet the safety requirements that the United States should have for storage of nuclear weapons. You only get so many warnings before something goes terribly wrong. It’s time to withdraw the weapons.”

There are thought to be a total of 180 B61 bombs in Europe, in Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands as well as Turkey. The tactical weapons are legacies of the cold war and largely seen as militarily obsolete. However, in the absence of a Nato consensus on removing them, they remain in place as tokens of US commitment to Europe’s defence. Recently they have been earmarked for an expensive upgrade as the era of post-cold-war non-proliferation comes to a halt.

Ian Kearns, the director of the European Leadership Network thinktank, said: “If they are stationed at a place base that intelligence suggests is a target of terrorists attacks and prone to instability, it is no longer reasonable to keep them there.”

The coup and the involvement of Incirlik also raises wider questions about Turkey’s role in Nato.
“It says a lot about the ability of Turkey to operate in coalition operations if its army can’t be trusted,” said Aaron Stein, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council thinktank. “To have rogue air force commanders flying around Turkey poses a lot of scenarios that Nato hasn’t planned for.”
Stein added: “The fundamental understanding of Turkey as of 48 hours ago was that it was a difficult ally to work with, with a risk of autocratic backslide, but it was stable. Now its a difficult ally, with the autocratic backslide maybe going into fast-forward. And it’s unstable.”

Russia Ready To Start Nuclear War (Revelation 15:2)

Putin “Prepared to Use Tactical Nuclear Weapons” If Turkey/Saudi Invade Syria

putin-watches-thumb
This article was written by Paul Joseph Watson and originally published at Infowars.com.

Editor’s Comment: The potential for WWIII remains quite high. The agenda for long term control of the middle east has obviously been strong enough to keep wars rolling in the region for several decades now. And there is no indication that ending – and all the players have been coming to the surface.

It is entirely clear that the civil war in Syria, and the parallel rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, is anything but a local problem, and has much more to do with the global chessboard and the dangerous moves to endgame. Will Syria prove to be the lynchpin of global chaos and full-scale world war?

Report: Putin Threatens Turkey With Tactical Nukes

by Paul Joseph Watson

Award-winning Iran-Contra journalist Robert Parry has been told by a source close to Vladimir Putin that Russia has threatened Turkey with the use of tactical nuclear weapons if it launches a joint invasion of Syria with Saudi Arabia.
Writing for Consortium News, Parry warns that the risk of the United States and its allies escalating the conflict in Syria to rescue rebels who are now on the verge of defeat could spark “World War III”.
“If Turkey (with hundreds of thousands of troops massed near the Syrian border) and Saudi Arabia (with its sophisticated air force) follow through on threats and intervene militarily to save their rebel clients, who include Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, from a powerful Russian-backed Syrian government offensive, then Russia will have to decide what to do to protect its 20,000 or so military personnel inside Syria,” writes Parry.
“A source close to Russian President Vladimir Putin told me that the Russians have warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to save their troops in the face of a Turkish-Saudi onslaught. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, any such conflict could quickly escalate into a full-scale nuclear confrontation.
Parry’s background suggests the information should be treated seriously. He covered the Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press and Newsweek and was later given a George Polk award for his work on intelligence matters.
According to Parry, although President Obama has “sought to calm Erdogan down and made clear that the U.S. military would not join the invasion,” he has been “unwilling to flatly prohibit such an intervention”.
Moscow’s alleged threat to repel a Turkish invasion of Syria with nuclear weapons follows comments by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in which he warned of a new world war if the United States and its allies send ground troops into Syria.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia have both signaled they are considering a ground invasion of Syria in order to aid refugees and so-called “moderate rebels” fighting against the Assad regime.
Last week, Turkish officials called for a “safe zone” to be established within Syria to allow refugees to flee Russia’s advance, although the United States argued that such a corridor could not be set up without a no fly zone.
Saudi Arabia is currently conducting the biggest wargames the region has seen for a quarter of a century. Northern Thunder involves 150,000 troops from 20 countries and is viewed by some as a precursor to a possible invasion of Syria.
Earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN that President Bashar al-Assad will have to be removed “by force” if the political process fails.
Despite official denials that the kingdom possesses nuclear weapons, Saudi political analyst told RT’s Arabic network last week that the Saudis have indeed obtained the bomb and that tests will be conducted soon.

World War 3 Will Begin In the Middle East (Revelation 16)

World War 3 Could Very Easily Turn Into The Very First Nuclear War In The Middle East
Northern-Thunder1-1
By Michael Snyder, on February 21st, 2016

Saudi Arabia already has nukes, Iran probably does, and the Russians are one of the two great nuclear powers on the entire planet. So if Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their Sunni allies do decide to conduct a full-blown ground invasion of Syria, could someone ultimately decide to use nuclear weapons when their backs get pushed up against a wall? As you read this article, there are thousands of military vehicles and hundreds of thousands of troops massed along the southern border of Turkey and the northern border of Saudi Arabia. If the command is given and those forces start streaming toward Damascus, it is inevitable that the Syrians, the Iranians, Hezbollah and the Russians would fight back. It would literally be the start of World War 3, and the Saudis and the Turks are trying very hard to convince the United States to be involved. But the truth is that we don’t want any part of this conflict, because it could very easily become the very first nuclear war in the history of the Middle East.

Perhaps you didn’t know that the Saudis already have nukes. Of course the official position is that they don’t, but it is a fact that they were the ones that funded the development of Pakistan’s nuclear program. It is an open secret that the Saudis have the bomb, but nobody is really supposed to talk about it.

That is why it was so alarming what Saudi political analyst Dahham Al-‘Anzi told RT just recently…
Earlier this week a Saudi political analyst told RT’s Arab network the kingdom has a nuclear weapon.
Dahham Al-‘Anzi made the claim while saying Saudi Arabia is engaged in an effort to “minimize the Iranian threat in the Levant and Syria.”

Although Saudi Arabia has officially denied it has a nuclear weapons program and has publicly stated it opposes nuclear weapons in the Middle East, it has funded a military nuclear program and received scientific assistance from the United States and Pakistan.

If the fur started flying in Syria and Russia and Iran decided to start bombing Saudi airbases, would Saudi Arabia resort to using their nukes?

Let’s hope not.

In the event of a massive ground invasion by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies, it is actually more likely that Russia may decide to be the first one to use nukes. An invasion force of hundreds of thousands of troops would vastly outnumber the relatively small Russian force that is already inside Syria, and so the Russians may feel that the only way that they can keep the Sunni powers out of Damascus is to use tactical nukes.

Russia has more tactical nukes that anyone else in the world by far, and there are some reports that indicate that Russia may be prepared to use them in Syria. For example, former Associated Press reporter Robert Parry, the author of America’s Stolen Narrative, says that a source has told him that the Russians have already warned Turkey that this could potentially happen…

If Turkey (with hundreds of thousands of troops massed near the Syrian border) and Saudi Arabia (with its sophisticated air force) follow through on threats and intervene militarily to save their rebel clients, who include Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, from a powerful Russian-backed Syrian government offensive, then Russia will have to decide what to do to protect its 20,000 or so military personnel inside Syria.

A source close to Russian President Vladimir Putin told me that the Russians have warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to save their troops in the face of a Turkish-Saudi onslaught. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, any such conflict could quickly escalate into a full-scale nuclear confrontation.

Given Erdogan’s megalomania or mental instability and the aggressiveness and inexperience of Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman (defense minister and son of King Salman), the only person who probably can stop a Turkish-Saudi invasion is President Obama. But I’m told that he has been unwilling to flatly prohibit such an intervention, though he has sought to calm Erdogan down and made clear that the U.S. military would not join the invasion.

Are you starting to understand how serious this is?

With all of the talk of a potential invasion in recent days, the Russians are on high alert and are rapidly preparing for a direct conflict with both Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The following comes from Infowars…

Still, the Russians are taking no chances and they have put all their forces into high alert. They have very publicly dispatched a Tu-214r – her most advanced ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft. You can think of the Tu-214R as an “AWACS for the ground”, the kind of aircraft you use to monitor a major ground battle (the regular Russian A-50Ms are already monitoring the Syrian airspace). In southern Russia, the Aerospace forces have organized large-scale exercises involving a large number of aircraft which would be used in a war against Turkey: SU-34s. The Airborne Forces are ready. The naval task forces off the Syrian coast is being augmented. The delivery of weapons has accelerated. The bottom line is simple and obvious: the Russians are not making any threats – they are preparing for war. In fact, by now they are ready.

In addition, it is important to remember that it is quite likely that the Iranians have nuclear weapons as well.

Of course the U.S. government and the Iranian government both insist that Iran does not have nukes, but many of those in the know insist otherwise.

For instance, you may want to consider what retired U.S. Army Major General Paul Vallely and U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Dennis B. Haney are saying. The following comes from an article that was authored by Jerome Corsi of WND…

In a joint statement, Vallely and Haney say an accumulation of available evidence shows a coalition of Russia, China and North Korea have assisted Iran since 1979 in achieving a nuclear weapon, despite sanctions, under the guise of a domestic nuclear energy program.

Vallely explained to WND that he and Haney have taken a systematic approach to evaluating each component needed to deliver a nuclear weapon, from the development and testing of a ballistic missile system, to the design of a nuclear weapons warhead, to the development of the weapons-grade uranium needed to produce a bomb.

“To come to our conclusion that Iran is a nuclear weapons power right now, we supplemented publicly available research, plus information from intelligence sources, including Iranian resistance groups such as the National Council of Resistance of IRAN, NCRI,” Vallely explained.

I happen to agree with Vallely and Haney. I cannot prove it, but all of the intel that I have received indicates that Iran already has nukes.

Hopefully I will not be proven accurate any time soon.

It had been hoped that a cease-fire could be negotiated that would at least temporarily defuse tensions in Syria. Unfortunately, it does not look like the shooting is going to stop, and this is going to put immense pressure on both Saudi Arabia and Turkey to do something to rescue the radical Sunni militants that are on the verge of defeat. The Saudis, the Turks and their allies have poured enormous amounts of money and resources into this war over the past five years, and now they are faced with the choice of either accepting defeat or directly intervening in this conflict themselves.

But in order to conduct a full-fledged ground invasion, they are going to need justification for doing so. There are some that are suggesting that we could soon see a false flag attack that would provide that justification, so that is something to watch out for.

I can’t remember a time when our planet has been so close to World War 3 potentially beginning.
And if it does break out, I believe that it is quite likely that nuclear weapons will be used.

The Rat Line: Turkey, Obama, And ISIS (Ezekiel 17)

Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels
In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.[*] Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.
Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.
For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbours, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.’
The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons.On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: ‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW … Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.’ The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.’ (Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’)
Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention. The others, including the ringleader, Haytham Qassab, for whom the prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 25 years, were released pending trial. In the meantime the Turkish press has been rife with speculation that the Erdoğan administration has been covering up the extent of its involvement with the rebels. In a news conference last summer, Aydin Sezgin, Turkey’s ambassador to Moscow, dismissed the arrests and claimed to reporters that the recovered ‘sarin’ was merely ‘anti-freeze’.
The DIA paper took the arrests as evidence that al-Nusra was expanding its access to chemical weapons. It said Qassab had ‘self-identified’ as a member of al-Nusra, and that he was directly connected to Abd-al-Ghani, the ‘ANF emir for military manufacturing’. Qassab and his associate Khalid Ousta worked with Halit Unalkaya, an employee of a Turkish firm called Zirve Export, who provided ‘price quotes for bulk quantities of sarin precursors’. Abd-al-Ghani’s plan was for two associates to ‘perfect a process for making sarin, then go to Syria to train others to begin large scale production at an unidentified lab in Syria’. The DIA paper said that one of his operatives had purchased a precursor on the ‘Baghdad chemical market’, which ‘has supported at least seven CW efforts since 2004’.
A series of chemical weapon attacks in March and April 2013 was investigated over the next few months by a special UN mission to Syria. A person with close knowledge of the UN’s activity in Syria told me that there was evidence linking the Syrian opposition to the first gas attack, on 19 March in Khan Al-Assal, a village near Aleppo. In its final report in December, the mission said that at least 19 civilians and one Syrian soldier were among the fatalities, along with scores of injured. It had no mandate to assign responsibility for the attack, but the person with knowledge of the UN’s activities said: ‘Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.’
In the months before the attacks began, a former senior Defense Department official told me, the DIA was circulating a daily classified report known as SYRUP on all intelligence related to the Syrian conflict, including material on chemical weapons. But in the spring, distribution of the part of the report concerning chemical weapons was severely curtailed on the orders of Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff. ‘Something was in there that triggered a shit fit by McDonough,’ the former Defense Department official said. ‘One day it was a huge deal, and then, after the March and April sarin attacks’ – he snapped his fingers – ‘it’s no longer there.’ The decision to restrict distribution was made as the joint chiefs ordered intensive contingency planning for a possible ground invasion of Syria whose primary objective would be the elimination of chemical weapons.
The former intelligence official said that many in the US national security establishment had long been troubled by the president’s red line: ‘The joint chiefs asked the White House, “What does red line mean? How does that translate into military orders? Troops on the ground? Massive strike? Limited strike?” They tasked military intelligence to study how we could carry out the threat. They learned nothing more about the president’s reasoning.’
In the aftermath of the 21 August attack Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up targets for bombing. Early in the process, the former intelligence official said, ‘the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently “painful” to the Assad regime.’ The original targets included only military sites and nothing by way of civilian infrastructure. Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed. ‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The Pentagon planners said we can’t use only Tomahawks to strike at Syria’s missile sites because their warheads are buried too far below ground, so the two B-52 air wings with two-thousand pound bombs were assigned to the mission. Then we’ll need standby search-and-rescue teams to recover downed pilots and drones for target selection. It became huge.’ The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had’, the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.
Britain and France were both to play a part. On 29 August, the day Parliament voted against Cameron’s bid to join the intervention, the Guardian reported that he had already ordered six RAF Typhoon fighter jets to be deployed to Cyprus, and had volunteered a submarine capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. The French air force – a crucial player in the 2011 strikes on Libya – was deeply committed, according to an account in Le Nouvel Observateur; François Hollande had ordered several Rafale fighter-bombers to join the American assault. Their targets were reported to be in western Syria.
By the last days of August the president had given the Joint Chiefs a fixed deadline for the launch. ‘H hour was to begin no later than Monday morning [2 September], a massive assault to neutralise Assad,’ the former intelligence official said. So it was a surprise to many when during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on 31 August Obama said that the attack would be put on hold, and he would turn to Congress and put it to a vote.
At this stage, Obama’s premise – that only the Syrian army was capable of deploying sarin – was unravelling. Within a few days of the 21 August attack, the former intelligence official told me, Russian military intelligence operatives had recovered samples of the chemical agent from Ghouta. They analysed it and passed it on to British military intelligence; this was the material sent to Porton Down. (A spokesperson for Porton Down said: ‘Many of the samples analysed in the UK tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.’ MI6 said that it doesn’t comment on intelligence matters.)
The former intelligence official said the Russian who delivered the sample to the UK was ‘a good source – someone with access, knowledge and a record of being trustworthy’. After the first reported uses of chemical weapons in Syria last year, American and allied intelligence agencies ‘made an effort to find the answer as to what if anything, was used – and its source’, the former intelligence official said. ‘We use data exchanged as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The DIA’s baseline consisted of knowing the composition of each batch of Soviet-manufactured chemical weapons. But we didn’t know which batches the Assad government currently had in its arsenal. Within days of the Damascus incident we asked a source in the Syrian government to give us a list of the batches the government currently had. This is why we could confirm the difference so quickly.’
The process hadn’t worked as smoothly in the spring, the former intelligence official said, because the studies done by Western intelligence ‘were inconclusive as to the type of gas it was. The word “sarin” didn’t come up. There was a great deal of discussion about this, but since no one could conclude what gas it was, you could not say that Assad had crossed the president’s red line.’ By 21 August, the former intelligence official went on, ‘the Syrian opposition clearly had learned from this and announced that “sarin” from the Syrian army had been used, before any analysis could be made, and the press and White House jumped at it. Since it now was sarin, “It had to be Assad.”’
The UK defence staff who relayed the Porton Down findings to the joint chiefs were sending the Americans a message, the former intelligence official said: ‘We’re being set up here.’ (This account made sense of a terse message a senior official in the CIA sent in late August: ‘It was not the result of the current regime. UK & US know this.’) By then the attack was a few days away and American, British and French planes, ships and submarines were at the ready.
The officer ultimately responsible for the planning and execution of the attack was General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs. From the beginning of the crisis, the former intelligence official said, the joint chiefs had been sceptical of the administration’s argument that it had the facts to back up its belief in Assad’s guilt. They pressed the DIA and other agencies for more substantial evidence. ‘There was no way they thought Syria would use nerve gas at that stage, because Assad was winning the war,’ the former intelligence official said. Dempsey had irritated many in the Obama administration by repeatedly warning Congress over the summer of the danger of American military involvement in Syria. Last April, after an optimistic assessment of rebel progress by the secretary of state, John Kerry, in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ‘there’s a risk that this conflict has become stalemated.’
Dempsey’s initial view after 21 August was that a US strike on Syria – under the assumption that the Assad government was responsible for the sarin attack – would be a military blunder, the former intelligence official said. The Porton Down report caused the joint chiefs to go to the president with a more serious worry: that the attack sought by the White House would be an unjustified act of aggression. It was the joint chiefs who led Obama to change course. The official White House explanation for the turnabout – the story the press corps told – was that the president, during a walk in the Rose Garden with Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, suddenly decided to seek approval for the strike from a bitterly divided Congress with which he’d been in conflict for years. The former Defense Department official told me that the White House provided a different explanation to members of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon: the bombing had been called off because there was intelligence ‘that the Middle East would go up in smoke’ if it was carried out.
The president’s decision to go to Congress was initially seen by senior aides in the White House, the former intelligence official said, as a replay of George W. Bush’s gambit in the autumn of 2002 before the invasion of Iraq: ‘When it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, Congress, which had endorsed the Iraqi war, and the White House both shared the blame and repeatedly cited faulty intelligence. If the current Congress were to vote to endorse the strike, the White House could again have it both ways – wallop Syria with a massive attack and validate the president’s red line commitment, while also being able to share the blame with Congress if it came out that the Syrian military wasn’t behind the attack.’ The turnabout came as a surprise even to the Democratic leadership in Congress. In September the Wall Street Journal reported that three days before his Rose Garden speech Obama had telephoned Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, ‘to talk through the options’. She later told colleagues, according to the Journal, that she hadn’t asked the president to put the bombing to a congressional vote.
Obama’s move for congressional approval quickly became a dead end. ‘Congress was not going to let this go by,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Congress made it known that, unlike the authorisation for the Iraq war, there would be substantive hearings.’ At this point, there was a sense of desperation in the White House, the former intelligence official said. ‘And so out comes Plan B. Call off the bombing strike and Assad would agree to unilaterally sign the chemical warfare treaty and agree to the destruction of all of chemical weapons under UN supervision.’ At a press conference in London on 9 September, Kerry was still talking about intervention: ‘The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting.’ But when a reporter asked if there was anything Assad could do to stop the bombing, Kerry said: ‘Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week … But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.’ As the New York Times reported the next day, the Russian-brokered deal that emerged shortly afterwards had first been discussed by Obama and Putin in the summer of 2012. Although the strike plans were shelved, the administration didn’t change its public assessment of the justification for going to war. ‘There is zero tolerance at that level for the existence of error,’ the former intelligence official said of the senior officials in the White House. ‘They could not afford to say: “We were wrong.”’ (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The Assad regime, and only the Assad regime, could have been responsible for the chemical weapons attack that took place on 21 August.’)
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The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the oppositionMany of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.’)
In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)
The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.
The annex didn’t tell the whole story of what happened in Benghazi before the attack, nor did it explain why the American consulate was attacked. ‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’
Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. ‘The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,’ the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. ‘The Obama administration,’ Warrick wrote, ‘has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.’ Two Middle Eastern intelligence officials fingered Qatar as the source, and a former US intelligence analyst speculated that the manpads could have been obtained from Syrian military outposts overrun by the rebels. There was no indication that the rebels’ possession of manpads was likely the unintended consequence of a covert US programme that was no longer under US control.
By the end of 2012, it was believed throughout the American intelligence community that the rebels were losing the war. ‘Erdoğan was pissed,’ the former intelligence official said, ‘and felt he was left hanging on the vine. It was his money and the cut-off was seen as a betrayal.’ In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability. ‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training – including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there. Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’
There was no public sign of discord when Erdoğan and Obama met on 16 May 2013 at the White House. At a later press conference Obama said that they had agreed that Assad ‘needs to go’. Asked whether he thought Syria had crossed the red line, Obama acknowledged that there was evidence such weapons had been used, but added, ‘it is important for us to make sure that we’re able to get more specific information about what exactly is happening there.’ The red line was still intact.
An American foreign policy expert who speaks regularly with officials in Washington and Ankara told me about a working dinner Obama held for Erdoğan during his May visit. The meal was dominated by the Turks’ insistence that Syria had crossed the red line and their complaints that Obama was reluctant to do anything about it. Obama was accompanied by John Kerry and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser who would soon leave the job. Erdoğan was joined by Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, and Hakan Fidan, the head of the MIT. Fidan is known to be fiercely loyal to Erdoğan, and has been seen as a consistent backer of the radical rebel opposition in Syria.
The foreign policy expert told me that the account he heard originated with Donilon. (It was later corroborated by a former US official, who learned of it from a senior Turkish diplomat.) According to the expert, Erdoğan had sought the meeting to demonstrate to Obama that the red line had been crossed, and had brought Fidan along to state the case. When Erdoğan tried to draw Fidan into the conversation, and Fidan began speaking, Obama cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ Erdoğan tried to bring Fidan in a second time, and Obama again cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ At that point, an exasperated Erdoğan said, ‘But your red line has been crossed!’ and, the expert told me, ‘Donilon said Erdoğan “fucking waved his finger at the president inside the White House”.’ Obama then pointed at Fidan and said: ‘We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.’ (Donilon, who joined the Council on Foreign Relations last July, didn’t respond to questions about this story. The Turkish Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to questions about the dinner. A spokesperson for the National Security Council confirmed that the dinner took place and provided a photograph showing Obama, Kerry, Donilon, Erdoğan, Fidan and Davutoğlu sitting at a table. ‘Beyond that,’ she said, ‘I’m not going to read out the details of their discussions.’)
But Erdoğan did not leave empty handed. Obama was still permitting Turkey to continue to exploit a loophole in a presidential executive order prohibiting the export of gold to Iran, part of the US sanctions regime against the country. In March 2012, responding to sanctions of Iranian banks by the EU, the SWIFT electronic payment system, which facilitates cross-border payments, expelled dozens of Iranian financial institutions, severely restricting the country’s ability to conduct international trade. The US followed with the executive order in July, but left what came to be known as a ‘golden loophole’: gold shipments to private Iranian entities could continue. Turkey is a major purchaser of Iranian oil and gas, and it took advantage of the loophole by depositing its energy payments in Turkish lira in an Iranian account in Turkey; these funds were then used to purchase Turkish gold for export to confederates in Iran. Gold to the value of $13 billion reportedly entered Iran in this way between March 2012 and July 2013.
The programme quickly became a cash cow for corrupt politicians and traders in Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. ‘The middlemen did what they always do,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Take 15 per cent. The CIA had estimated that there was as much as two billion dollars in skim. Gold and Turkish lira were sticking to fingers.’ The illicit skimming flared into a public ‘gas for gold’ scandal in Turkey in December, and resulted in charges against two dozen people, including prominent businessmen and relatives of government officials, as well as the resignations of three ministers, one of whom called for Erdoğan to resign. The chief executive of a Turkish state-controlled bank that was in the middle of the scandal insisted that more than $4.5 million in cash found by police in shoeboxes during a search of his home was for charitable donations.
Late last year Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz reported in Foreign Policy that the Obama administration closed the golden loophole in January 2013, but ‘lobbied to make sure the legislation … did not take effect for six months’. They speculated that the administration wanted to use the delay as an incentive to bring Iran to the bargaining table over its nuclear programme, or to placate its Turkish ally in the Syrian civil war. The delay permitted Iran to ‘accrue billions of dollars more in gold, further undermining the sanctions regime’.
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The American decision to end CIA support of the weapons shipments into Syria left Erdoğan exposed politically and militarily. ‘One of the issues at that May summit was the fact that Turkey is the only avenue to supply the rebels in Syria,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘It can’t come through Jordan because the terrain in the south is wide open and the Syrians are all over it. And it can’t come through the valleys and hills of Lebanon – you can’t be sure who you’d meet on the other side.’ Without US military support for the rebels, the former intelligence official said, ‘Erdoğan’s dream of having a client state in Syria is evaporating and he thinks we’re the reason why. When Syria wins the war, he knows the rebels are just as likely to turn on him – where else can they go? So now he will have thousands of radicals in his backyard.’
A US intelligence consultant told me that a few weeks before 21 August he saw a highly classified briefing prepared for Dempsey and the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, which described ‘the acute anxiety’ of the Erdoğan administration about the rebels’ dwindling prospects. The analysis warned that the Turkish leadership had expressed ‘the need to do something that would precipitate a US military response’. By late summer, the Syrian army still had the advantage over the rebels, the former intelligence official said, and only American air power could turn the tide. In the autumn, the former intelligence official went on, the US intelligence analysts who kept working on the events of 21 August ‘sensed that Syria had not done the gas attack. But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it happen? The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the pieces to make it happen.’
As intercepts and other data related to the 21 August attacks were gathered, the intelligence community saw evidence to support its suspicions. ‘We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey – that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’ Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. ‘Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but that all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success.’ Erdoğan’s problems in Syria would soon be over: ‘Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria, or at least that was the idea. But it did not work out that way.’
The post-attack intelligence on Turkey did not make its way to the White House. ‘Nobody wants to talk about all this,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘There is great reluctance to contradict the president, although no all-source intelligence community analysis supported his leap to convict. There has not been one single piece of additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack produced by the White House since the bombing raid was called off. My government can’t say anything because we have acted so irresponsibly. And since we blamed Assad, we can’t go back and blame Erdoğan.’
Turkey’s willingness to manipulate events in Syria to its own purposes seemed to be demonstrated late last month, a few days before a round of local elections, when a recording, allegedly of a government national security meeting, was posted to YouTube. It included discussion of a false-flag operation that would justify an incursion by the Turkish military in Syria. The operation centred on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the revered Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, which is near Aleppo and was ceded to Turkey in 1921, when Syria was under French rule. One of the Islamist rebel factions was threatening to destroy the tomb as a site of idolatry, and the Erdoğan administration was publicly threatening retaliation if harm came to it. According to a Reuters report of the leaked conversation, a voice alleged to be Fidan’s spoke of creating a provocation: ‘Now look, my commander, if there is to be justification, the justification is I send four men to the other side. I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land [in the vicinity of the tomb]. That’s not a problem. Justification can be created.’ The Turkish government acknowledged that there had been a national security meeting about threats emanating from Syria, but said the recording had been manipulated. The government subsequently blocked public access to YouTube.
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.”’