What was US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, doing in Benghazi without adequate security that led to his murder? What was so important that caused him travel from Tripoli to insecure Benghazi on 9/11?
There is speculation that he was in Benghazi to arrange the transportation of weapons from post-Gaddafi, crisis-stricken, and unruly, Libya to war-torn Syria. The altruistic reasoning behind the transfer of weapons is to make Libya more stable by denuding it of its weapon stockpile while helping the Syrian rebels overturn the Assad regime.
Catherine Herridge of Fox News, researching shipping records, confirmed that a Libyan ship, the ‘Al Entisar,’ sailed from Libya and entered the Turkish port of Iskenderun, thirty five miles from the Syrian border, on September 6. This was just five days before Stevens was killed.
On 9/11, Stevens’ last official duty was a meeting with Ali Sait Akin, the Turkish Consul-General, at the US Consulate. This was the main reason for the Ambassador’s visit to Benghazi.
At the end of his meeting, he escorted his Turkish guest to the gates of the compound. This was one hour before the start of the terror attack that left him and three other Americans dead.
Retired Admiral and former head of the Pacific Fleet, James Lyons, claims that “one of Stevens’ main missions in Libya was to facilitate the transfer of much of Gaddafi’s military equipment, including the deadly SA7 portable SAMS (hand-held anti-aircraft missiles) to Islamists and other Al-Qaeda affiliated groups fighting the Assad regime in Syria.”
Former CIA Director, Porter Goss, told Fox News that there was no question that some of the weapons that flooded Libya during the uprising are making their way to Syria and that the CIA knows about it.
A former CIA officer and now Senior fellow at the center of Security Policy, Clare Lopez, claims that two large warehouse-type buildings linked to the US Consulate in Benghazi were raided during the 9/11 terror attack and they may have contained weapons.
All this was confirmed by the New York Times who reported on October 14 that “most of the arms shipped to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Basher Assad are going to hardline Islamist jihadists and not to the more secular opposition groups that the West want to bolster.”
Is the Obama Administration engaged in gun-running between Libya and Syria? Somehow, America’s and Israel’s enemies are being strengthened with a huge arsenal that may be used against us in the future.
With this is mind, is it not time to question and investigate a dangerous covert policy that puts us in jeopardy?
Although the State Department denies that Stevens was involved in weapon transfers we are reminded that Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, announced in November 2011, in Tripoli, that the US was committing $40 million “to help Libya secure and recover its weapons stockpiles.”
Surely it is time to ask for a progress report and the official records of this mission to date? What weapons have been recovered, and where are they now? Are they securely in American hands? Or have they been shipped to dangerous extremists in Syria?
A shady character by the name of Abdelhakim Belhadj, a tribal war-lord, is the leader of the Al-Qaeda affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. He has been linked to weapons shipments. What was his involvement in the Al Entisar shipment? Who does he know in the Obama Administration? What are his connections with those fighting the Assad regime in Syria? Qatar is the prime funders of this weapon transfer. Some of that money goes to Belhadj.
Relating to the September 5 ‘Al Entisar’ shipment, the Times of London reported that the ship carried 400 tons of cargo that included the largest consignment of weapons to Syrian rebels. The inventory included surface to air anti-aircraft missiles.
Apparently there was an angry exchange between the Free Syrian Army and the Muslim Brotherhood over who got the weapons. It is evident that anti-Assad fighters now possess anti-aircraft missiles. The question is, who has them? A Syrian helicopter was shown on TV worldwide being shot down by such a missile on October 17.
The supply of weapons from Libya to Syria via Turkey links neatly into the new geo-political map. The close relationship between America and Turkey, forged in the last four years has done no favors for Israel.
An Israeli warship was prevented from participating in a NATO joint naval exercise due to Turkey’s insistence. Israel was disinvited to a NATO Summit in Chicago in May 2012. Erdogan objected to Israel participating in an international counter-terror conference. As ‘The Algemeiner’ reported on July 15, 2012, “The US was so concerned about offending Turkey that Under-Secretary of State, Maria Otero, did not invite Israel to be among the countries that have been victims to terror attacks.”. Obama has done little to stop Turkey pursuing provocative legal steps against Israel about the Mavi Marmara incident in which people linked to the Turkish terror group IHH attacked Israeli soldiers with clubs and knives leading to an on-board battle that left nine dead. Istanbul has now opened a show trial against leading IDF officers in abstentia.
It is unlikely that America did not know about the weapon shipment on the ‘Al Entisar’. Was Stevens killed while coordinating yet another shipment with his Turkish counterpart in Benghazi? And was he killed by Libyan terrorists because he was depriving them of their weapon supplies?
A covert understanding between America and Turkey to facilitate the transport of sophisticated military hardware to Syrian rebels, that include Islamist jihadi terrorists, opens a Pandora’s box of dangers and implications for Israel and for America. How does Israel cope with lethal weapons and terrorist insurgents over our eastern border, armed with military hardware shipped from Libya? What power and freedom of action will these dangerous characters enjoy if Assad is overthrown and yet another Islamic regime takes over Syria? The idea of our planes and helicopters coming into the sights of a jihadi terrorist with an SA7 is frightening.
Even worse, what if one or more of these deadly weapons were smuggled into the West Bank overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport in central Israel? Which airline would fly to Israel tomorrow if a terrorist downs a British Airways flight over Israel’s international airport today?
Then came the news that the most lethal and effective anti-Assad fighting force in Syria is the Nusra Front, which is a direct offshoot of Al-Qaida in Iraq. Al-Qaeda, its affiliates, Islamic terror groups, and jihadists are proven enemies of Israel and America. Providing them, directly or indirectly, with deadly weapons that may be used to kill Israelis and Americans is surely a dangerous ploy. However much the international community wants to see the end of the brutal Assad regime in Syria, it would be foolhardy to allow trained anti-West Islamic terrorists to be the recipients of sophisticated weapons. The cause may be just, but the execution could be fatal later.
We see Libya disintegrated into lawlessness with no central government and with heavily armed gangs controlling large parts of that country. The Syrian war will surely fracture any cohesiveness in that country as power goes to those with the heaviest military capability.
If the outcome of the laughingly named “Arab Spring” has proven anything it is that a secular Syria will be replaced with a radical Islamic faction, and this will add to the instability of the region leaving Israel prone to attack from the east.
The American disposition for arming dubious groups is nothing new. President Reagan supplied arms to Iran. The altruistic reasoning behind that wrong move was an attempt to obtain the release of fifty two Americans held hostage in Tehran in November 1979. This was a covert operation. Reagan denied his arms dealing with the Ayatollahs, but was forced to admit it when the evidence became overwhelming.
A plane crash in Nicaragua revealed America’s covert arming and training of the Contras in that country. This brutal group conducted grotesque terror and massacre against civilians.
These two covert activities cut Reagan’s image to shreds. After Oliver North became the fall guy, Reagan was forced to apologize for what became known as the Irangate Affair.
Rumors swirled about the CIA covert links to Osama Bin Laden in order to push Russia out of Afghanistan. A simple search on Wikipedia reveals US involvement with Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Mujahedeen.
Seymour Hersh exposed in the New York Times of January 26, 1992, that “The Reagan Administration secretly decided to provide highly classified intelligence to Iraq in the spring of 1982 -- more than two years earlier than previously disclosed -- while also permitting the sale of American-made arms to Baghdad in a successful effort to help President Saddam Hussein avert imminent defeat in the war with Iran, former intelligence and State Department officials say.”
More recent exposure was given by Daily Mail journalist, William Lowther, who in his November 6, 2012 article headlined “Rumsfeld ‘helped Iraq get chemical weapons.’” In his article he tells how US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, as envoy for President Reagan, made it possible for Sadaam Hussein to buy supplies, including anthrax and bubonic plague, from American firms. The extraordinary details have come to light because thousands of State Department documents dealing with the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war have just been declassified and released under the Freedom of Information Act. It has long been suspected that the reason Jonathan Pollard is languishing in isolation in an American jail is because he provided Israel with sensitive information relating to the covert WMD deal with Iraq.
It remains to be seen who supplied weapons to the terrorists that killed the four Americans in Benghazi. One thing is for sure. Throwing weapons at unlawful people in the chaotic background of civil war, or regime change, is a risky form of altruism. It is naïve give your enemy weapons because you want to remove a tyrant. In the hostile Middle East the motto is “the enemy of my enemy is my enemy” and not the mistaken version so prevalent elsewhere. When you have a brawl between the Boston Strangler and Jack the Ripper it’s best not to take sides. The weapon you provide to one of the violent actors may be used against you one day.
Lessons, it seems, have not been learned. Those involved in the weapons trade between Libya and Syria needs to give full disclosure. Its control must be strictly enforced. The risks are simply too great to let the chips fall where they may. They may have fallen on America in Benghazi. They may yet fall on Israel.
Barry Shaw is the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative.’ www.israelnarrative.com
He is also the Special Consultant on Delegitimization Issues to The Strategic Dialogue Center at the Netanya Academic College.