New reports suggest that Ankara has worked with the US and Britain to smuggle Libya’s guns to Syria to help militant groups who have not reached triumph in fighting Syrian armed forces. America has done its best to keep secret its role in supplying the Syrian armed opposition, operating through proxies and front companies. It is this which makes Seymour Hersh’s article “The Red Line and The Rat Line: Obama, Erdogan and the Syrian rebels” published last week in the London Review of Books, so interesting, The Independent reported on Sunday.
A little-regarded theme of Hersh’s article is what the CIA called the rat line, the supply chain for the Syrian militants overseen by the US in covert cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The information about this comes from a highly classified and hitherto secret annex to the report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee on the attack by Libyan militiamen on the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September 2012 in which US ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed.
The CIA, in cooperation with MI6, arranged the dispatch of arms from Libya’s arsenals to Turkey and then across the 500-mile long Turkish southern frontier with Syria.
The annex refers to an agreement reached in early 2012 between Obama and Erdogan with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar supplying funding. Front companies, purporting to be Australian, were set up, employing former US soldiers who were in charge of obtaining and transporting the weapons.
According to Hersh, the MI6 presence enabled the CIA to avoid reporting the operation to Congress, as required by law, since it could be presented as a liaison mission.
The US’s Secretary of State John Kerry and its UN ambassador, Samantha Power have been pushing for more assistance to be given to the Syrian militants. This is despite strong evidence that the Syrian armed opposition are, more than ever, dominated by extremists similar in their beliefs and methods to al-Qaeda. The recent attack by militant forces around Latakia, northern Syria, which initially had a measure of success, was led by Chechen and Moroccan extremist groups.
Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, Western powers and their regional allies – especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey – are supporting the militants operating inside the country.
More than 150,000 people have reportedly been killed and millions displaced due to the turmoil that has gripped Syria for over three years