Prominent American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh says US President Barack Obama did not tell the whole story about a chemical weapons attack near the Syrian capital, Damascus in August.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, in a new report published in the London Review of Books, wrote that the administration of President Obama was aware of the fact that the militants fighting against the Syrian government had the ability to make chemical weapons but did not inform the public about it.
“Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts,” he wrote in the article.
Hersh added that the US president refused to acknowledge that the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliated group, according to classified US intelligence reports, had mastered the mechanics of producing Sarin gas. Sarin is a nerve agent which based on the findings of a UN investigation team was used in the chemical rocket attack near Damascus.
“When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.”
Obama in a televised speech on 10 September accused the Syrian government of carrying out the chemical attack which killed hundreds of people including women and children.
“We know the Assad regime was responsible … And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.” said Obama.
President Obama was going to war with Syria but he was doing so without knowing for sure who did what in the early morning of 21 August, Hersh went on to add.
The American investigative journalist said that military and intelligence officials were angry with “the deliberate manipulation of intelligence” over the incident.
Hersh said that a high-level intelligence officer described the Obama administration’s assurances of Syrian government’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, the officer wrote in an email to a colleague.
He wrote that another senior intelligence official told him that “the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analyzed in real time, as the attack was happening.”
The Syrian government has vehemently denied the US allegations. It blames the foreign-backed Takfiri militants for carrying out the deadly chemical attack.