It was the intelligence community that convinced President Donald Trump to bomb the Syrian base, Al Shayrat, with 59 Tomahawk missiles. Last April, intelligence agencies assured the real estate tycoon that the one responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, which killed more than 80 civilians, was Bashar Assad’s Syrian army. It wasn’t a solitary action by the American president, as is often reported, but an attack against Syria promoted in the first instance by the CIA. CIA Director Mike Pompeo made it known in a speech he gave on July 11 at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance annual conference, at which all the agencies of the United States intelligence community convene.
In the Words of Mike Pompeo
“I got a call from the president one afternoon back in April. He wanted to talk about some disturbing images that were coming in from Syria. I’m sure you saw many of them yourselves —scenes of innocent civilians writhing in agony, the apparent victims of a chemical weapons attack,” Pompeo told the audience. “The president had a very direct message for me: Find out what happened. So we immediately assembled a crack team of agency experts. They began piecing together the evidence, working closely with some outstanding partners from across the intelligence community. The next day, the president called his cabinet together. As we sat down, he turned to me and asked what we had learned. I told him that the IC had concluded that a chemical weapon had indeed been used in the attack, and that it had been launched by the Syrian regime.”
That Was Not a Trump Show
The CIA director’s words suggest that President Trump based his subsequent decisions on the reconstruction of events provided by the agency itself: “The president paused a moment and said: ‘Pompeo, are you sure?’ I’ll admit that the question took my breath away. But I knew how solid the evidence was, and I was able to look him in the eye and say, ‘Mr. President, we have high confidence in our assessment.’ The President never looked back. Based on the intelligence community’s judgment, he made one of the most consequential decisions of his young administration, launching a strike against the very airfield where the attack originated,” Pompeo said.
Of course, the responsibility for attacking the Syrian base ultimately falls on Trump, but this back story negates the theory that it was the real estate tycoon’s own initiative, being the showman that he is. Meanwhile, many analysts and observers have strongly questioned the narrative provided by U.S. intelligence. Was it really Assad who used chemical weapons that time? According to experts and analysts, the story went differently.
It Was Not Assad who Used the Chemical Weapons
In an article on June 25 in the German newspaper Die Welt, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Seymour Hersh accused the White House of attacking Syria under false pretense and without evidence. Based on information from the U.S. intelligence community, Hersh has reconstructed what happened, concluding that there was no evidence of a chemical attack and that the U.S. reaction was unfounded.
“This was not a chemical weapons strike. That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon ... would be wearing hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death ... It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?” argued the Pulitzer winning reporter in his article. On the other hand, the scant evidence presented against Assad from April until now has seemed rather weak and unconvincing.