Regarding the "Whose Sarin?" question posed by Seymour Hersh’s recent article in the London Review of Books, it is known that Assad has sarin, that the Islamic fundamentalist rebels have it, but other players, unmentioned in the article, also have it, and they had good motives for carrying out such an attack. Putting a focus on fundamentalists as possible suspects in the Syrian gas attacks helps justify the need for the US to change tactics and ally with Assad against the jihadists.
Hersh quotes his intelligence sources who claim that the way the Obama administration distorted intelligence on the gas attacks was consistent with the Gulf of Tonkin approach the US took when they falsified intelligence to publically justify putting troops on the ground in Vietnam. Statements made by US officials in August that Assad was the only one with sarin have proven to be outright fabrications. According to Hersh, many US intelligence reports confirmed that jihadist rebels in Syria could make sarin and that they were gaining strength over our “moderate” rebel allies, posing a major threat to US interests in the region.
If Obama weakened Assad by bombing, it would oblige the US to carry out a campaign against the fundamentalists at the same time, to prevent the Islamist ascension that happened in Libya as well as that of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The fundamentalists understood this and knew that if they launched the attack, making it look like Assad did it and the US took him out, they would quickly become enemy number two. Reports from Al Jazeera at the time talked of rebels heading to the hills when it seemed certain that Obama would go to war without congressional approval. In effect, it would have a self-destructive outcome for the fundamentalists to carry out this attack.
Hersh further provides excellent evidence that it was unlikely that Assad was responsible for the August sarin attacks. As far as motives go, since UN inspectors were visiting Syria at the time of the August attack, Assad would have nothing to gain and all to lose by mounting a deadly gas attack at that moment.
Undiscussed in Hersh’s article are the motives of the other players in this conflict who also have sarin. We can presume that if the fundamentalist rebels know how to make sarin, the US does too. Israel, according to CIA documents is presumed to have an advanced chemical weapons facility at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert. Israel has been a staunch US ally in the aiding of “moderate” rebels in their fight against Assad. It certainly would help both Israel and Obama’s agenda to get the PR traction he needed to justify an all-out attack on Assad. With on-the-ground supply lines already activated, it would not be impossible to transport the chemicals needed to mix sarin and launch a Gulf of Tonkin-like maneuver.
We may never know who really carried out the heinous sarin attacks in Syria. The fact is that practically everyone involved in this the conflict can make sarin. The much more important question is who had the most to gain by the gas attacks at that moment. The August gas attack crossed the red-line Obama drew in the sand. Whoever did it knew that a US military response was waiting around the corner. However, with all guns cocked and ready to go, Obama had a sudden, dramatic and seemingly mysterious change of heart. Did his intelligence forces finally convince him that weakening Assad might be a bad idea?
Hersh claims that his sources’ were motivated to speak to him because of their commitment to truth and their frustration in seeing Obama “cherry pick” intelligence to make a political case for war. Yet, their leaks to Hersh, pointing out that the fundamentalists have sarin, are aptly timed. Recent news reports of the victories won by the Islamic Front over the US-favored rebels show how the US could now consider the Islamist rebels a greater threat to US interests than secular Assad. A number of articles, also fed by anonymous governmental sources, have begun to sprout up in the US press. The recent NY Times piece entitled, ‘Jihadist Groups Gain in Turmoil Across Middle East’, lays the groundwork for Americans to begin to embrace the man we have spent two years trying to get rid of and battle instead the sarin possessed Islamists. Likewise, the leaks to Hersh make it easier for the US to switch horses in mid-stream and push for peace talks with Assad.