MEMO TO THE U.S. CONGRESS ON OBAMA GUN-RUNNING TO SYRIA:
It’s Already Happening
by William F. Wertz, Jr.
July 1, 2013 (EIRNS)—This release was issued today by the Lyndon LaRouche Political Action Committee.
June 29—Three recent articles published by Reuters (June 18) and the New York Times (June 22 and June 29) now confirm what LaRouche PAC has asserted for months: Contrary to law and without authorization, the Obama Administration has been running guns from Benghazi to Syria, starting several months prior to the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission and CIA annex on Sept. 11, 2012.
The guns were being run, and continue to be run, by a cut-out of the February 17th Brigade, a “former” member by the name of Abdul Basit Haroun. Haroun is a close associate of the head of the February 17th Brigade Ismael Al-Sallabi and the commander of the February 17th Brigade Fawzi Bukatef, both of whom are quoted in the first two of above-cited articles in defense of Haroun’s gun-running.
The February 17th Brigade, founded by the Emir of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), Abdelhakim Belhadj, is the militia that was hired by the U.S. to protect the mission in Benghazi. When the attack occurred the February 17th Brigade was nowhere to be found.
The most recent New York Times article confirms that Qatar has been shipping weapons to Syria since 2011, including at least one shipment of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles (MANPADS) from Libya.
Prior to these articles, there was already an abundance of evidence strongly suggesting that the Obama administration,under the auspices of John Brennan, had been running guns to the Syrian opposition from Benghazi since at since 2011. We provide that evidence below.
Following President Obama’s June 16 announcement of his decision to openly provide weapons to the Syrian opposition, several bills have been submitted in the Congress to prevent him from doing so, arguing that such a decision requires the approval of Congress in accordance with the War Powers Resolution and the U.S. Constitution. Legislation introduced by Rep. Walter Jones threatens that to provide weapons thus is an impeachable offense. It has also been reported that a number of Congressional committees have rejected proposals by the Administration to fund the arming of the Syrian opposition with funds already allocated for intelligence purposes.
Yet President Obama has already been providing weapons to the Syrian opposition, including weapons from Libya, in collusion with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the U.A.E., Turkey, and Jordan for over a year. In doing so, he has already committed an impeachable offense in violating the U.S. Constitution. And in the case of weapons shipped to Libya, and from Libya to Syria, he has violated the UN arms embargo.
As perhaps even John Kerry will recall, during the 1980s, when the U.S. Congress cut off funding to the Contras in Nicaragua, Vice President Bush prevailed upon his good friend Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan to secretly fund the Contras. This is the same Prince Bandar who funded the first two 9/11 hijackers to arrive in the U.S. And it is the same Prince Bandar, now Director of Intelligence in Saudi Arabia, who has been arming al-Qaeda in Syria.
Obama and his current CIA Director, John Brennan, have been using that same Iran-Contra method, first to illegally arm the al-Qaeda affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in Libya, headed by Abdelhakim Belhadj, and then to arm the al-Qaeda-dominated opposition in Syria. As the authors of the book Benghazi: The Definitive Report point out, “From Oliver North to John Brennan, this is just the way that the system works regardless of the administration. The dead bodies they leave in their wake … are, at the end of the day, just collateral damage in a war waged by those with political ambitions.”
The Evidence of Obama’s Gunrunning
On March 7, 2011, the London Independent reported that Obama asked Saudi Arabia to supply arms to the Libyan opposition. He did this despite the fact that the UN Security Council had unanimously imposed an arms embargo to and from Libya on Feb. 26, 2011.
In addition, in the Spring of 2011, Obama approved the provision of weapons by Qatar and the U.A.E. to the Libyan opposition, according to the New York Times (Dec. 5, 2012). Those weapons did not go to the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC), but directly to the LIFG, according to an Oct. 17, 2011 Wall Street Journal article.
The UN Panel of Experts confirmed that Qatar and the U.A.E. violated the UN arms embargo, in reports to the President of the Security Council on March 20, 2012, Feb. 15, 2013, and April 9, 2013.
In respect to Qatar, the UN report states that despite that country’s denials, “the Panel stands by its findings that Qatar supplied arms and ammunition to the opposition during the uprising in breach of the arms embargo.” The report also points to the collusion of NATO in violating the UN-imposed no-fly zone and arms embargo. Citing flights organized by the U.A.E., the report states that the flights “received deconfliction numbers from NATO, the existence of the no-fly zone and the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council in resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011) notwithstanding.”
The report confirms that, since the overthrow of Qaddafi, “The Syrian Arab Republic has presented a prominent destination for Libyan fighters. A number of them have joined brigades as individuals or through networks to support the Syrian opposition.” … [M]ilitary mat,riel has also been sent out from Libya to the Syrian Arab Republic through networks and routes passing through either Turkey or northern Lebanon…. Transfers of military mat,riel have been organized from various locations in Libya, including Misrata and Benghazi. The significant size of some shipments and the logistics involved suggest that representatives of the Libyan local authorities might have at least been aware of the transfers, if not actually directly involved.”
During the same month that Qaddafi was assassinated, October 2011, according to the Daily Telegraph and other sources, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the head of the Libyan TNC, and Burhan Ghalioun, the head of the Syrian National Council, reached an agreement for military support to the Syrian opposition from Libya. The Emir of the LIFG, Abdelhakim Belhadj, then traveled to Turkey in November 2011 to meet with the Syrian Free Army to provide training and weapons.
That same month, according to the website Albawaba.com and the truthseeker.co.uk, 600 LIFG terrorists went to Syria to commence military training and operations. They were led by Mahdi al-Harati, deputy commander of the Tripoli Military Council under Belhadj. Then, according to Ahmed Manai, President of the Tunisian Institute of Internatonal Relations, and a member of the Committee on Arab Observers in Syria, on Dec. 11, 2011, an agreement was signed in Tripoli among Jalil, Belhadj, Rashid al-Ghannushi (head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia), Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad Jabber bin Jassim al-Thani, and the number two of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, to provide weapons and fighters to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Stevens Secures MANPADS; Brennan Exports Them
According to Benghazi: The Definitive Report, by Brandon Webb and Jack Murphy (New York: William Morrow, February 2013), the operation was run by now-CIA Director John Brennan outside of the traditional command structure, with Obama’s approval.
The book reports that the United States had been facilitating, or, at the very least allowing, large weapons transfers from Libya to rebel fighters in Syria. The authors maintain that this did not fall under the purview of a Foreign Services officer in the State Department, such as Ambassador Stevens, but rather, “Stevens likely helped consolidate as many weapons as possible after the war to safeguard them, at which point Brennan exported them overseas to start another conflict.”
On Feb. 2, 2012, Andrew J. Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, said in a speech that the United States was engaged in Libya in the most extensive effort to combat the proliferation of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) in U.S. history. Libya had acquired 20,000 MANPADS, and, according to Shapiro, only 5,000 could be accounted for as of that date. He further reported that many of the weapons were taken by militias, and that many of the militias remain reluctant to relinquish them. Furthermore, he said that “we cannot rule out that some weapons may have leaked out of Libya.”
In August 2011, the LIFG’s Belhadj led the takeover of Tripoli, thanks to the backing of Qatar, and became the commander of the Tripoli Military Council, in charge of coordinating defense on a national level, under the TNC. On Sept. 4, 2011, he was appointed to the Supreme Security Council. One week after he was appointed to command the Tripoli Military Council, Belhadj (founder of the February 17th Brigade), Ismael al-Sallabi (head of the February 17th Brigade), and TNC head Jalil went to Qatar, where they met with the financiers of the revolution and NATO officials, according to Kronos Advisory, LLC.
On Sept. 27, 2011, ABC News reported that Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch had taken pictures in Libya of pickup truckloads of missiles being carted off by the Libya opposition. He said: “I myself could have removed several hundred if I wanted to, and people can literally drive up with pickup trucks or even 18 wheelers and take away whatever they want. Every time I arrive at one of these weapons facilities, the first thing we notice going missing is the surface-to-air missiles.” Richard Clark, former White House counterterrorism advisor and now a consultant to ABC News, said, “I think the probability of al-Qaeda being able to smuggle some of the Stinger-like missiles out of Libya is probably pretty high.”
UN Panel of Experts Documents Two Shipments
On April 27, 2012, according to the UN Panel of Experts report, Lebanese authorities seized a shipment of arms and ammunition destined for the opposition forces in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Panel inspected the shipment and concluded that “the shipment consisted of Libyan arms and ammunition that were transferred to the Luftfallah II in breach of the arms embargo.” The shipment included “SA-24 short range surface-to-air missiles and SA-7b manportable air defense systems, anti-tank guided missiles,” etc.
Yet already on Sept. 14, 2012, three days after Stevens was killed, the Times of London reported that a Libyan ship carrying weapons, including SAM-73 surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) for the Syrian opposition, had docked in Turkey. The UN has confirmed that the ship was the al-Entisar. It sailed from Benghazi to Iskenderun, Turkey, where it docked on Aug. 25, 2012, returning to Benghazi on Sept. 3.
Both of these documented shipments to Syria from Libya, and undoubtedly others, occurred after Obama reportedly signed a secret order authorizing the CIA to help coordinate the shipment of weapons by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the Syrian opposition (See below).
So, on the one hand, beginning in August 2011, the U.S. and U.K. were reportedly trying to secure the MANPADS in Libya; but on the other, the Obama Administration, which approved the illegal provision of weapons by Qatar and the U.A.E. to the LIFG, had enlisted those allies to provide arms and jihadists in the effort to overthrow Assad.
Obama Signs “Finding;” Involvement of Senior White House Officials
Sometime in early 2012, or perhaps earlier, Obama signed a “finding” that permitted the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support to the Syrian opposition, Reuters reported on Aug. 1, 2012. The news agency added that the U.S. was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar near the Syrian border, in Adana, Turkey, which is five miles east of Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a presence.
The arms airlift expanded after the November Presidential elections, according to the New York Times of March 24, 2013 (“Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, with Aid from CIA”): “More than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes land[ed] at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.”
The CIA has been directly involved in this operation, the Times reported: “From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia.
“Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been shipping military materials via Turkey to the opposition since early and late 2012. Simultaneously, arms and equipment were being purchased by Saudi Arabia in Croatia and flown to Jordan on Jordanian cargo planes for rebels working in southern Syria and for retransfer to Turkey for rebels groups operating from there.
“On a string of nights from April 26 through May 4 , a Qatari Air Force C-17a huge American-made cargo plane made six landings in Turkey, at Esenboga Airport. By Aug. 8 the Qataris had made 14 more cargo flights. All came from Al Udeid Air Base 4 in Qatar, a hub for American military logistics in the Middle East.
“American officials have confirmed that senior White House officials were regularly briefed on the shipments.
“Through the fall [of 2012], the Qatari Air Force cargo fleet became even more busy, running flights almost every other day in October…. Soon other players joined the airlift: In November, three Royal Jordanian Air Force C-130s landed in Esenboga, in a hint at what would become a stepped-up Jordanian and Saudi role. Within three weeks, two other Jordanian cargo planes began making a round-trip run between Amman, the capital of Jordan, and Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, where … the aircraft were picking up a large Saudi purchase of infantry arms from a Croatian-controlled stockpile.”
The Jordanian planes bore the logo of the Jordanian International Air Cargo firm, which, the article reports, is a front company for Jordan’s Air Force.
A Gun-Runner Confesses
On June 18, 2013 Reuters published an interview with Abdul Basit Haroun (“Adventures of a Libyan Weapons Dealer in Syria”) in which he admitted that he is involved in shipping weapons from Benghazi, Libya to Syria. Haroun said that his first shipment of weapons to Syria was successfully delivered aboard the Entisar in August 2012. An earlier shipment on the Luftfallah II was intercepted on April 27, 2012 by Lebanese authorities. According to Haroun, he now delivers weapons to Syria on chartered flights to neighboring countries, and then smuggles them over the border to Syria.
On June 22, the New York Times published an article entitled “In Turnabout, Syria Rebels Get Libyan Weapons” that reports that the chartered flights are being financed and provided by Qatar: “Many of the same people who chased [Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi] to his grave are busy shuttling his former arms stockpiles to rebels in Syria…. Evidence gathered in Syria, along with flight-control data and interviews with militia members, smugglers, rebels, analysts and officials in several countries, offers a profile of a complex and active multinational effort, financed largely by Qatar, to transport arms from Libya to Syria’s opposition fighters.”
The Reuters article then quotes Ismail al-Sallabi, the head of the Feb. 17th Brigade, who says: “Abdel Basit Haroun was with us in the February 17 brigade before he quit to form his own brigade.” Haroun said that he can collect weapons from around Libya and arrange for them to be delivered to the Syrian rebels because of his contacts in Libya and abroad. “They know we are sending guns to Syria. Everyone knows.”
According to the article, Haroun runs his operation with an associate, who helps him coordinate about a dozen people in Libyan cities collecting the weapons. Both said several flights had been chartered to Jordan or Turkey to deliver the weapons. Haroun’s associate runs a relief organization, the Libyan National Council for Relief and Support. Haroun said he had no control over which groups received the weapons. However, both he and his associate traveled with their first successful delivery in August 2012 over the Syrian border, to ensure it reached its destination.
The New York Times quotes Fawzi Bukatef, who was the commander of the February 17th Brigade in Benghazi, that the Libyan militias have been shipping weapons to Syrian rebels for more than a year.
The article also states that the weapons are sent on ships or Qatar Emiri Air Force flights to a network of intelligence agenices and Syrian oppostion leaders in Turkey. Qatari C-17 cargo aircraft have made at least three documented stops in Libya this year, the Times writes, including flights from Mitiga airport in Tripoli on Jan. 15 and Feb. 1 and another that departed Benghazi on April 16. The planes returned to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The cargo was then flown to Ankara, Turkey.
Al Udeid Air Base, as of 2010, was the home of 10,000 U.S. personnel and 100 Qataris.
Another article in the New York Times on June 29 entitled “Taking Outsize Role in Syria, Qatar Funnels Arms to Rebels,” further confirms that Qatar has been shipping arms to the Syrian rebels since 2011. “Qatar’s covert efforts to back the Syrian rebels began at the same time that it was increasing its support for opposition fighters in Libya.” The article further confirms that “a shipment of Eastern bloc missiles [MANPADS] had come from former Qaddafi stockpiles.”