Over the weekend, the newest, and by far the most disturbing, revelations surrounding the Benghazi attack were revealed. Several sources have pointed to the possibility that a major CIA gun-running operation aimed at arming anti-Assad Al-Qaeda-affiliated forces was in danger of being exposed. If true, the information casts an even more devastating pall over the Benghazi terrorist attack and the administration's botched handling of the region.
The decision to stand down as the Benghazi terrorist attack was underway was met with extreme opposition from the inside. The Washington Times's James Robbins, citing a source inside the military, reveals that General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, who got the same emails requesting help received by the White House, put a rapid response team together and notified the Pentagon it was ready to go. He was ordered to stay put. “His response was to screw it, he was going to help anyhow," writes Robbins. “Within 30 seconds to a minute after making the move to respond, his second in command apprehended General Ham and told him that he was now relieved of his command."
If true, Ham has apparently decided he wants no part of the responsibility for the decision not to help those in harm’s way. He is not alone. As the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol revealed late Friday, a spokesperson, "presumably at the direction of CIA director David Petraeus," released the following statement: "No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.”
Obama himself is stonewalling. During a Friday interview in Denver, the president revealed he was determined to postpone any revelation about Benghazi until after the election. “The election has nothing to do with four brave Americans getting killed and us wanting to find out exactly what happened," said Obama in answer to questions about possible denials of aid, and whether it's fair that Americans will have to wait until after the election to find out the results of an investigation. On Saturday, Obama upped the ante, telling "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough that "if we find out there was a big breakdown and somebody didn’t do their job, they’ll be held accountable. Ultimately as Commander-in-Chief I am responsible and I don’t shy away from that responsibility."
Several sources have come up with explosive answers accounting for the administration’s reticence.
According to WND's Aaron Klein, “Egyptian security officials” revealed that Ambassador Christopher Stevens “played a central role in recruiting jihadists to fight Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria." Stevens was reportedly a key contact for Saudi Arabian officials, who wanted to recruit fighters from North Africa and Libya, and send them to Syria by way of Turkey. The recruits were ostensibly screened by U.S. security organizations, and anyone thought to have engaged in fighting against Americans, including those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, were not sent to engage Assad's regime.
Yet as Klein further notes, reality is far different. The rebels the administration armed to fight Gaddafi, as well as those we may have armed to fight Assad, do include al-Qaeda members, and fighters from other jihadist groups as well.
As to the nature of the arms themselves, an October 6 report by the New York Times' Robert Worth reveals that "Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been funneling money and small arms to Syria's rebels but have refused to provide heavier weapons, such as shoulder-fired missiles, that could allow opposition fighters to bring down government aircraft, take out armored vehicles and turn the war's tide." The reason they have refused to provide more lethal weapons to the rebels is partly because "they have been discouraged by the United States, which fears the heavier weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists."
Yet as Business Insider reveals "there's growing evidence that U.S. agents--particularly murdered ambassador Chris Stevens--were at least aware of heavy weapons moving from Libya to jihadist Syrian rebels" (italic mine) and that, beginning in March 2011, Stevens was "working directly with Abdelhakim Belhadj of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group--a group that has now disbanded, with some fighters reportedly participating in the attack that took Stevens' life." In November 2011, the Daily Telegraph reported that “Belhadj, head of the Tripoli Military Council and the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, 'met with Free Syrian Army leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey,' said a military official working with Mr Belhadj." Reportedly, many of the militia groups that helped oust Gaddafi were eager to export their revolution to Syria.
Three days after the attack in Benghazi, it was revealed that "a Libyan ship carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria…has docked in Turkey," with a cargo that "weighed 400 tons and included SA-7 surface-to-air anti-craft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades." Business Insider speculates the weapons came "most likely from Muammar Gaddafi's stock of about 20,000 portable heat-seeking missiles--the bulk of them SA-7s--that the Libyan leader obtained from the former Eastern bloc."
The Insider then reaches a devastating conclusion. “And if the new Libyan government was sending seasoned Islamic fighters and 400 tons of heavy weapons to Syria through a port in southern Turkey--a deal brokered by Stevens' primary Libyan contact (meaning Belhadj) during the Libyan revolution--then the governments of Turkey and the U.S. surely knew about it."
But not just Turkey and the U.S. Canada Free Press columnist Doug Hagmann, citing a "well placed source with extensive knowledge about the attack," claims that "Russia was fully aware of this operation and warned the U.S. not to engage in the destabilization of Syria, as doing so would endanger (Russian) national security interests." He further asserts that Stevens' final meeting in Benghazi on September 11 was with "his Turkish counterpart, who reportedly warned Stevens that the (gun-running) operation was compromised."
That the administration was helping to arm the worst elements in the region -- jihadist rebels also at war with the United States -- may explain the administration's vigorous stonewalling to date. Far from just a diplomatic mission in Libya, the evidence suggests that one of the explicit functions of the U.S. "consulate" was to oversee the transfer of Libyan weapons from the Gaddafi regime's stockpile, including to the opposition in Syria.
“In short, it seems President Obama has been engaged in gun-walking on a massive scale," Center for Security Policy president Frank Gaffney explains in the Washington Times. "The effect has been to equip America's enemies to wage jihad not only against regimes it once claimed were our friends, but inevitably against us and our allies, as well. That would explain his administration's desperate, and now-failing, bid to mislead the voters through the serial deflections of Benghazigate."
But with the mainstream media refusing to press Obama and other administration officials on the facts surrounding the attack, it is unlikely there will be a breakthrough any time soon. If more concrete information emerges, it will certainly be after the election. In that case, win or lose, the Obama administration will face much more limited consequences for its lethal decisions.
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