Wednesday, August 28, 2013

  • Wednesday, August 28, 2013
From Ian:

‘A pity they both can’t lose’
The US is in a similar situation. It needs to rush, while the outrage over Assad’s alleged chemical attack remains fresh, but it needs time to assemble itself. Once the obligatory moves to the UN have been made and the machinery of war is in place, the US should offer Bashar Assad an ultimatum. It could even be sugar-coated. Everyone detests the usage of chemical weapons, President Barack Obama could say. They are a heinous weapon. You claim the rebels have used them against your forces. We have evidence of your forces using them against civilians. In the interest of world security we offer you three days to surrender all chemical weapons materials to a UN team. So that they do not fall into the wrong hands. So that the weapons are safe. If you do not comply, we will be left with no alternative but to strike.
Iran’s role
As a US-led strike on Syria appears increasingly likely, Israel will be watching closely too. Not wanting to become embroiled in the conflict of its hostile northern neighbor, Israel can only hope that the international community punishes Assad for ordering the use of chemical weapons against his own people, and stops him from using them again.
Only swift action will send a clear message, not only to Syria, but also to Iran. Perhaps just as important is the moral message the civilized world is sending itself.
It is bad enough that the international community has been silent for so long about the civil war in Syria, which has claimed the lives of well over 100,000 people.
Syria strikes imminent, and right
The reason why this effectively guarantees military action, and why military action is right, is that the West simply cannot allow a precedent to be set in which the use of chemical weapons is brushed over and ignored. This does not, and must not, mean boots on the ground. Ultimately, the Arab world should sort this out, not us.
But we can do something. Extensive cruise missile strikes against Assad's military infrastructure (plus a nice little one on his presidential palace) should be sufficient to make a very necessary point.
Analysis: Syria should not be equated with Libya nor Iraq
Samore says that Kosovo, not Libya or Iraq, provides the best template for comparison to the Syrian crisis. And indeed, the US administration has been studying NATO’s 1999 intervention in the Yugoslav conflict closely in recent days.
“The big differences with Libya and Iraq are the facts on the ground,” Samore said. “But it’s based fundamentally on the principle that outside actors can intervene in a local conflict against a government, if that government has failed to protect its people.”
Syria said to clear out security installations ahead of attack
According to activists quoted in a report in the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya media channel, Syria was abandoning command centers and government security offices — sites that it suspects will be targeted in a possible Western strike. New facilities were being set up in secret locations, some of which were reportedly within walking distance of the former centers, and in alternative sites, such as in schools. Trucks were deployed to vacate some of the regime’s main security centers.
Report: Assad is in Iran
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and members of his family are in Tehran, after they arrived at Homeini Airport in the presidential plane Tuesday night, sources in Iran's foreign ministry told the website of Lebanese newsaper a-Nahar. The news did not receive confirmation from other official sources.
Arab League: Syrian Government Responsible for Chemical Attack
In a statement issued after a meeting in Cairo, the 22-member organization said it held the Syrian government, led by President Bashar Al-Assad, fully responsible for last week's gas attack in which hundreds were killed.
The League said it "demands that all the perpetrators of this heinous crime be presented for international trials,” reported Reuters.
Syria: Was Chemical Weapons Massacre a Mistake?
“It’s quite likely that there was a kind of operational mistake here,” the unnamed senior Israeli source told the New York Times. “I don’t think they wanted to kill so many people, especially so many children. Maybe they were trying to hit one place or to get one effect and they got a much greater effect than they thought.”
Israeli experts who were briefed on the attack reportedly said they believe the chemical used was a “cocktail” that included sarin gas. The mix of several components may have been far more deadly than Assad’s troops realized.
Netanyahu: Israel Will ‘Respond in Strength’ to Any Attack
“The State of Israel is ready for any scenario,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “We are not part of the civil war in Syria but if we identify any attempt whatsoever to harm us, we will respond and we will respond in strength.”
Jittery Israelis overrun gas mask distribution points
Thousands of Israelis failed in their attempts to obtain gas masks on Wednesday as growing numbers of citizens flooded post offices and IDF Home Front Command distribution centers ahead of an expected US strike on Syria.
Human Rights Lawyer: Syrian Atrocities Due to Cuddling [sic - JPress meant "coddling"]
International attorney Richard D. Heideman said that massacres in Syria, including the recent use of deadly gas by the government against its own citizens, are a result of the constant and consistent protection from responsibility which the Syrian regime has enjoyed in the international community.
“The Syrian state violence, not just of recent days, but stretching back two years, are the direct result and byproduct of the ongoing impunity enjoyed by the Syrian Arab republic while conducting terrorist activities stretching back decades,” said Heideman, the lead counsel on behalf of American victims of Syrian terrorism, who has received on behalf of his clients the highest judgments awarded by US Federal Courts against the Syrian Arab Republic as a state sponsor of terror. “The world didn’t care when it assisted in the hijacking of planes, when it helped and assisted terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and acted as a conduit for Iran to smuggle weapons to Lebanon to be used against Israel, and it still doesn’t seem to care when it kills 100,000 of its own people.”
NGO Monitor: HRW Hedges on Syrian Atrocities; Accuses Israel of War Crimes
In each of these four examples, HRW accuses Israel conclusively of “war crimes” without any qualifications or disclaimers. And, in each of these four examples, as well as dozens of others over the past decade, HRW levels the harsh accusations despite lacking factual and evidentiary basis for its claims, and without the expertise necessary to draw its speculative conclusions. In fact, later research by NGO Monitor and others showed that, in each of these examples and in almost every case, HRW was wrong about the facts, about the technology and science, and about the legal interpretations.
Iran Threatens War That Will “Engulf the Whole Region” if Syria Attacked
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi, indicated it was equally resolved to defend Assad.
“We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region,” Araqchi told a news conference. “These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region.”
UN, Iran agree to restart talks in September
Iran and the UN nuclear agency have agreed to restart talks focused on the agency’s attempts to probe suspicions that Tehran worked on atomic weapons, diplomats said Wednesday, in the first such meeting since Iran’s hard-line president was replaced by a more moderate successor.
The diplomats told The Associated Press that the negotiations will resume September 27, with the main focus on gaining access to a section of a military site that the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency has long tried to access.
Hezbollah Places Beirut Stronghold Under Security Lockdown
Following two major bombings in Hezbollah’s largest stronghold in Beirut in less than two months, the group has decided to place the area under security lockdown, Al-Monitor reported Tuesday.
According to the report, the group has set up checkpoints, with explosives detection devices and bomb-sniffing dogs at all entrances linking it to Beirut.
Under these procedures, an unnamed correspondent in Beirut reported, every car entering the southern suburbs has to spend nearly two hours before being able to cross the checkpoints set up by Hezbollah.
Five Hamas members arrested over Egyptian police massacre
Five members of Hamas were arrested in northern Sinai recently for involvement in the killing of 25 Egyptian policemen, Arab media reported on Wednesday.
Quoting “a knowledgeable source” in the city of El-Arish, the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that 11 suspects were arrested four days ago near the border city of Rafah. Three of the suspect are local residents, three carry foreign passports, and five are Hamas members, the daily claimed.
Don’t count on Turkey
Considering Turkey’s interest in seeing an end to the violence in Syria, its membership in NATO, and the reported friendship between Obama and Erdogan, it seems logical to expect that Turkey will play a major role in the coming operation. The American-built Incirlik Air Base on Turkey’s southern coast was designed for a moment like this.
But there are number of reasons why Erdogan’s fervent saber rattling will not likely not be matched by his country’s participation:
Israel-Turkey relations sink to new low
The breakdown in once-close military ties could be critical if the international community, led by the US, decides to attack in response to the alleged Syrian use of chemical weapons last week. A US strike could trigger a retaliatory response by Syria against either of its neighbors, both close US allies.
But officials in both countries confirm that political and military contacts are now limited. They say reconciliation talks meant to repair diplomatic ties have collapsed quietly, and military ties, once the centerpiece of the alliance, are minimal at best. The dire state of affairs was reflected last week when Turkey’s Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claimed that Israel was behind the recent military coup in Egypt, prompting condemnations from Israel and the US.
Bernard-Henri Lévy: My Response to the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Why do you think that Erdogan mentioned you by name and held you responsible for the overthrow of the government in Egypt?
He's out of his mind. He's come unhinged, flipped out. Sorry, but in France, in the United States, people can't stop laughing.

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