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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘israel middle east’

Syria Using Chemical Weapons: Will the US Act?

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

News item:

The Syrian regime has used lethal chemical weapons, mostly sarin gas, against armed rebels several times in the past few weeks, and is continuing to do so, the head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence Research Branch, Brig. Gen. ltay Baron, said on Monday.

Baron said that photographs showing victims with foam coming out of their mouths and contracted pupils were signs that deadly gas had been used.

Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Baron confirmed that “to the best of its [the IDF’s] knowledge,” weapons of mass destruction had definitely been used by the Syrian regime, a development which the United States and others say they are still trying to determine.

In his briefing, Baron said the lack of an “appropriate international response” to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons was “very worrying” and was leading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his forces to believe that there were no consequences to their use of WMDs.

This follows on a report that appeared last week:

Britain and France have informed the United Nations that there is credible evidence that Syria has used chemical weapons on more than one occasion since December, according to senior diplomats and officials briefed on the accounts.

In letters to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the two European powers said soil samples, witness interviews and opposition sources support charges that nerve agents were used in and around the cities of Aleppo, Homs and possibly Damascus, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, expressed serious concern over evidence of chemical weapon use, but left open the possibility that it was the rebels that had used them. But there is no evidence that the rebels have control of such weapons, while there is plenty that the regime does and has been preparing to use them.

Chemical weapons are difficult to use effectively and so far have not lived up to their destructive potential. Huge quantities of poison gases like chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas were used during WWI, leading to perhaps 1,000,000 casualties and less than 100,000 fatalities — a horrendous number in absolute terms, but not when compared to the overall carnage. Iraq used mustard gas and nerve agents against Iran during their war in the 1980′s, causing perhaps 100,000 casualties and 20,000 immediate deaths.

There is something deeply terrifying about these weapons, even more so than the far more potent and dangerous nuclear bombs, which have the potential to kill millions in a single attack. It has been reported that Israel informed its enemies that it would consider nuclear retaliation in response to a chemical attack, and Egypt, Syria and Iraq — all of which had developed chemical warfare capability and had used it in other conflicts — apparently believed it, and did not employ them against Israel in several wars. Such is the power of deterrence.

Last August, President Obama said that the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil war would cross a “red line” that would bring about some form of active intervention by the U.S. and its allies:

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus,” Obama said. “That would change my equation. . . . We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans.”

The president’s remarks represented his strongest language to date on how the United States might respond to contain Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. In July, he warned that Assad would be “held accountable by the international community” if he made the “tragic mistake” of deploying chemical munitions.

Immediately afterwards, an anonymous official softened the statement a bit:

On Monday, an administration official said that Obama did not intend to flag any change in policy in his latest remarks and that the appetite for military intervention remains low.

A Little Village in the Hills and the Monsters it Spawns

Monday, March 18th, 2013

If you want to affect how people think about an issue, putting your case onto the cover of the New York Times Magazine must be one of the most effective things to do. And, given the intense competition, one of the hardest. So if the editors of the NYT (108 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization; 30 million unique visitors per month to its website; the largest local metropolitan newspaper in the United States – according to Wikipedia) give you the cover of the prestigious Magazine, it’s a massive vote of confidence, a huge privilege, a platform of the most effective kind that (probably) can’t be bought for money.

Friends have pointed us to this week’s NYT Magazine cover story, published Sunday. It’s devoted to a Palestinian Arab village set in the hills a few kilometers north of where we live in Jerusalem. It’s a place the author calls “spirited,” where “on warm summer evenings, life… could feel almost idyllic. Everyone knows everyone.” He says “a pilgrimage” to this magical place “has achieved a measure of cachet among young European activists, the way a stint with the Zapatistas did in Mexico in the 1990s”.

How can you not be captivated?But there is much wrong with the picture he conjures up. We know this because for years we have been tracking the media’s romance with the community called Nabi Saleh. Sitting here and looking over the online version of it, we are furious with anger about what the article says, and what the writer and his editors carefully avoid saying.

Start with some background: the Wikipedia entry for Nabi Saleh describes the village of some 550 people in notably gentle terms. Centered on an old religious shrine to the prophet Shelah whom we encounter in Genesis as the son of Judah and grandson of the patriarch Jacob, it was a hamlet of a mere five houses in the late nineteenth century when the Turks ruled the area. It grew slowly under the Jordanian military occupation that started in 1948; then declined when Israel took control of Judea and Samaria in 1967, and flourished and multiplied in the past two decades. Today, it’s the scene of weekly protest demonstrations and, to judge from Wikipedia’s English-language version, a place where things are done to passive inhabitants for no apparent reason.

Now if you go to the Arabic-language version of Wikipedia, you see a quite different emphasis. It’s not at all a direct translation of the English version. It’s created by different people for a different audience and different sensibilities. The Arabic Wikipedia entry depicts Nabi Saleh as a place of “popular resistance” that boasts of having taken a prominent role in two Intifadas, providing “hundreds of prisoners” and 17 so-called “martyrs on the altar of freedom.” The most prominent of the prisoners (Wikipedia’s description) is a woman called Ahlam. Her surname is shared with almost every other inhabitant of the village: Tamimi.

But it is Bassem Tamimi who is the focus of the article. He calls the Intifada launched by Yasser Arafat in 2000 “the big mistake… Politically, we went backward.”The NYT writer helps us understand what kind of backward he means:

Much of the international good will gained over the previous decade was squandered. Taking up arms wasn’t, for Bassem, a moral error so much as a strategic one. He and everyone else I spoke with in the village insisted they had the right to armed resistance; they just don’t think it works.

Or to say it another way: they are entitled to kill the Israelis and have done so again and again, but it’s not effective. A different kind of warfare therefore needs to be adopted.

Half-way through the essay, he introduces a figure who embodies that “big mistake”:

In 1993, Bassem told me, his cousin Said Tamimi killed a settler near Ramallah. Eight years later, another villager, Ahlam Tamimi escorted a bomber to a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed, eight of them minors. Ahlam, who now lives in exile in Jordan, and Said, who is in prison in Israel, remain much-loved in Nabi Saleh.

That’s all he writes about Ahlam Tamimi but we can tell you more. She is a Jordanian who was 21 years old and the news-reader on official Palestinian Authority television when she signed on with Hamas to become a terrorist. She engineered, planned and helped execute a massacre in the center of Jerusalem on a hot summer afternoon in 2001. She chose the target, a restaurant filled with Jewish children. And she brought the bomb. The outcome (15 killed, a sixteenth still in a vegetative state today, 130 injured) was so uplifting to her that she has gone on camera again and again to say, smiling into the camera lens, how proud she is of what she did. She is entirely free of regret. A convicted felon and a mass-murderer convicted on multiple homicide charges, she has never denied the role she embraced and justifies it fully.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/this-ongoing-war/a-little-village-in-the-hills-and-the-monsters-it-spawns/2013/03/18/

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