* Bumped Up *

Regular readers of NoQuarter know that I am no hawk in favor of starting a war with Iran. I think it would be foolish and self-destructive for us and Israel. But when you look at what happened in Benghazi, it is clear that the elimination of the CIA base there serves the interests of Iran and not Al Qaeda. Why do I think that?

Let’s start with the fact that the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi was not a “Consulate.” Although that term has been widely used in the aftermath of the attack, I ask you one simple question–WHERE WERE THE CONSULAR OFFICERS? A CONSULATE is a place where foreigners go to get visas to visit the United States. The U.S. Diplomats who process those requests/applications are known officially as “CONSULAR AFFAIRS” Officers. There were no REPEAT no Consular Affairs officers detailed to or based in Benghazi.

So what we had was a diplomatic mission that appears to have been set up solely for the purpose of providing Diplomatic cover to the CIA operation, which we now know, was operating out of the location known as the “Annex.” What was the CIA doing?

The cover story circulating is that CIA was buying up and destroying “manpads.” A manpad is a nifty nickname for a hand held surface-to-air missile like a Stinger or SAM. The press has reported on this:

A joint military-civilian team made up of U.K., French, U.S. and Libyan personnel have been in country since last August helping to track down the large numbers of weapons left by Gadhafi’s regime.

The U.S. government estimates Gadhafi’s forces had about 20,000 MANPADS in their armory at the time of the regime’s collapse, raising fears that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations.

But those manpads were never a serious threat.

Why? No NATO aircraft were fired on with manpads during the short war to oust Qaddafi. If such weapon systems were as plentiful and operationally ready as the public story tries to pretend, then we would have seen the NATO planes regularly engaged. They were not.

So what was going on at that annex? There are reports out of Syria that one of the rebel forces fighting to oust Bashir Assad are manned by Libyans. What if the CIA base in Benghazi was a recruiting and training center for fighters who were then sent to Turkey and on to Syria? Any evidence for that? Here is CNN in July of this year:

Their war for freedom in Libya may be over, but almost a year after they won the battle for the Libyan capital, a group of fighters have a new battlefield: Syria.

Under the command of one of Libya’s most well known rebel commanders, Al-Mahdi al-Harati, more than 30 Libyan fighters have made their way into Syria to support the Free Syrian Army rebels in their war against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Al-Harati, who commanded the Tripoli Revolutionary brigade — which was the first group of rebels to enter the Libyan capital last August — has been in Syria for months leading some of his former men and Syrian military defectors who have joined his “Liwaa al-Umma” or “The Banner of the Nation” brigade.

Guess who Ambassador Stevens was meeting shortly before his home came under attack? Turkey’s Ambassador to Libya. What in the hell is Turkey’s Ambassador to Libya doing in Benghazi? How about inspecting the training facility and coordinating with the U.S. Government on the movement of Libyan fighters from Libya to Syria via Turkey?

Iran, who supports Syria’s Assad, has a very effective intelligence organization. Once they learned that Libya was supplying fighters in Syria, do you think there is any chance that they (the Iranians) would want to shutdown that operation? Iran and Libya do have a history. Iran, for example, is believed to have paid Libya to carry out the bombing of Pan Am 103. Iran still has intel operators on the ground in Libya.

Here are some interesting questions.

1. Did Iran infiltrate the fighters being trained by the United States and, in the process, gather intel that they subsequently used to target both the “Consulate” and the CIA Annex?

2. Did Iran prepare a cover for action and plant information on Facebook and other social media sites claiming credit for the attack in the name of Ansar Al Sharia?

This much is certain–the attack on 9-11 was pre-planned and pre-ordained. The results? The U.S. mission and intelligence operation in Benghazi was destroyed in total. A logical question to ask–whose interest was served? While we cannot rule out a Sunni-jihadi strike, there is a plausible case to be made that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards pulled off an absolutely brilliant strike and kicked our American ass.

Was this an act of war? Yes. But let me ask you a question–if the United States trained third country nationals who carried out the assassinations of scientists in Iran, would that be an act of war? If the United States imposed severe economic sanctions that harm the Iranian economy, is that an act of war?

My point–if we start down the road of “who threw the first punch,” our hands are not clean and Iran can make a valid case that they are protecting themselves as well. Not excusing them, just explaining.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.