Israel’s senior intelligence analyst said on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar Assad has used chemical weapons against the rebels, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted there is no proof.
“To the best of our understanding, there was use of lethal chemical weapons. Which chemical weapons? Probably sarin,” Brigadier-General Itai Brun told a Tel Aviv security conference.
President Barack Obama has said that he would order military action in Syria if chemical weapons are used.
Videos of Syrian civilians, many of them children, suffering from the effects of chemical weapons have surfaced at least three times this year. Britain and France also have said that they have been used.
But the American government wants documented proof and whatever else they can come up with to get out of acting on its word. Obama talked himself not a corner because it has become clear that no matter what happens in Syria, everyone loses in the nears-term.
Kerry not only rejected Israeli intelligence but also tried to throw the responsibility on NATO.
“We should also carefully and collectively consider how NATO is prepared to respond to protect its members from a Syrian threat, including any potential chemical weapons threat,” Kerry said at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.
That is a clever way of taking the monkey off of Obama’s back, but it is pretty nervy to reject Israeli intelligence. First of all, Israel and Syria are next –door neighbors. Secondly, you can bet your bottom shekel that Israel has more intelligent agents than the United States who know Syrian turf and speak the language.
Thirdly, the United States has a history of making itself look silly by rejecting Israeli intelligence. Several years ago, Israel warned American officials that Iran was secretly working on its nuclear power program, but Washington categorically rejected the information. Its own bright-eyed experts knew 100 percent that Iran had dropped its plans for making a nuclear weapon.
Around two years ago, the U.S. government said, well, y’know, it looks like the Israelis are right again. And now the world is paying the price.
But just to be sure, how does General Brun know for a fact that Assad’s forces have unleashed the unthinkable?
He showed previously published pictures of a child, either dead or wounded, and said foam seemed to be coming out of the mouth.
But that still is not the hard proof the United States is demanding.
Brun is certain he is right. “The very fact that they have used chemical weapons without any appropriate reaction is a very worrying development, because it might signal that this is legitimate” he said.
Enter John Kerry. He knows that Israel has no proof of the use of chemical weapons because he talked with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who “was not in a position to confirm that in the conversation that I had.”
“I don’t know yet what the facts are,” Kerry added. “I don’t think anybody knows what they are.” Not even Gen. Brun?
No one knows what the context of the Prime Minister’s remarks were. Nor does anyone know if Prime Minister Netanyahu would prefer not to fall into a trap of telling the Secreatru of State and than being told to keep quiet. Or perhaps Netanyahu does not want to put Obama in a corner right now, despite Gen. Brun’s comments.
Meanwhile, the White House keeps pounding the podium that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and continues to wag fingers, saying woe to Assad if he is proven to have deployed them.
Back in the State Department, reporters are siding with Israel’s version.
At Tuesday’s daily media briefing, reporters peppered acting spokesman Patrick Ventrell with questions.
Asked about General Brun’s statements and about British and French claims of the use of chemical weapons, Ventrell said, “The bottom line is [to] continue to support an investigation of all credible allegations of chemical weapons used to establish the facts of exactly what did or didn’t happen. ”
The reporter shot back, “You are saying that we are supporting these investigations, but we all know the Syrian regime has been refusing UN team. How you are going to able to investigate it if the regime is not allowing you to do that? Or how long you are going to use this rhetoric even though nothing is happening on the ground?”
After a non-committal answer, another journalist asked Ventrell is he thought “Israelis are making it up with respect to the chemicals since you didn’t concur with the report?”
And another asked, “How come it’s taking you so much longer than some of your allies to make this determination? Because three of your allies now, three of your closest, have gone on and said that they believe, in fact, chemical weapons are being used. What is – do they have greater technical know-how than the United States now?
And guess what Ventrell said? Right, nothing much, to wit:
“I’m not going to get into intelligence assessments here from this podium, but at this time we are continuing to monitor and we’re continuing to look at all available evidence….
“I think we’ve done what we can on this one. Do we have other topics?”
WARNING: The video below, released by Syrian rebels in December and showing chemical wounds, contains graphic images that may be offensive.Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu
About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.
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