Seymour Hersh: Obama Lied About Syria

President didn't mention that jihadists may have gassed Syrians
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2013 6:08 PM CST
President Barack Obama speaks about the economy and growing economic inequality, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, at the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus in Washington.    (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

(Newser) – President Obama lied about the chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of Syrians in August—or at least spoke way out of school, writes Seymour Hersh in the London Review of Books. "In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts," writes Hersh. "Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin," which the UN says was used in the attack. What Hersh found out:

  • The Obama administration talked as if it had monitored Assad's movements to organize the sarin strike in real time. In fact, they knew nothing in real time and never proved it later.
  • "The immediate assumption was that Assad had done it," a former senior intelligence official told Hersh. "There was a lot of political pressure to bring Obama to the table to help the rebels, and there was wishful thinking that this [tying Assad to the sarin attack] would force Obama’s hand."
  • Highly classified US intelligence reports had already stated that al-Nusra, a powerful jihadist group linked to al-Qaeda, knew how to produce sarin. But the Obama administration never admitted that al-Nusra may have gassed innocent Syrians.
  • Al-Nusra is the most influential among 1,200 Syrian opposition groups, and the Free Syrian Army has been complaining about their attacks. In other words, the FSA is "more worried about the crazies than it is about Assad," said a senior intelligence consultant.
So did Obama back away from military strikes—and agree to Russia's proposal to dismantle chemical weapons—because he realized al-Nusra might be to blame? "It appears possible that at some point he was directly confronted with contradictory information: evidence strong enough to persuade him to cancel his attack plan, and take the criticism sure to come from Republicans," writes Hersh. Click for his full piece. (Read more chemical attack stories.)

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