Or so it seems, with the obscenities in Syria growing ever greater. Reports — as yet not fully confirmed — have surfaced that Assad used gas against people — sleeping people including children — in the rebel-held area of Ghouta, killing over 1,000. This is the most horrendous charge against him yet. Previously reports were of perhaps 40 killed in any given attack.
And the world? The world, disinclined to be involved, will do nothing.
The US is concerned that the only way at this point to successfully secure Assad’s chemical weapons would be via a full scale invasion, something that is not going to happen — not the least of which because the Pentagon has estimated this would cost about $1 billion per month. Air attacks have been ruled out because of the danger of spreading toxins in the air.
As an analyst put it in the JPost, “Assad may have determined that the toxicity of his war is too much for the Americans to handle.”
What the White House has done is to call for a UN probe of the incident. But the UN, while expressing “concern” and calling for the need for “clarification,” is not likely to set in place a full official probe — in good part because China and Russia stand in the way. There are UN agents in Syria for other reasons.
According to Minister of International, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz (Likud), speaking on Israel Radio yesterday, Israeli intelligence does believe there was a gas attack on Wednesday, although he did not indicate anything confirming what the rebels are claiming in terms of numbers.
Steinitz was highly critical of what he called the “lip service” of the international community” which “has failed to take any significant action to stop Assad from butchering his people. The U.N. is still busy investigating things that happened six months or a year ago, instead of investigating what happened yesterday. Moreover, investigating whether chemical weapons were used without looking into who used them is ridiculous.”
A day earlier Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon had commented on the situation in Syria in the course of a meeting with his counterpart, Chuck Hagel.
Without confirming what happened on Wednesday, Ya’alon said that Assad has used gas several time, an indication of his desperation: he has lost control of 60% of his country.
Describing the war as a regional life and death struggle between Allawites and Sunnis, the defense minister said there was no end in sight. Even if Assad were to be taken out, retribution by rebels would continue for some time thereafter.
What he predicts, and he is hardly the only one, is an ultimate breakdown of Syria into three ethnic enclaves: “the Kurds in the northeast of the country, who have links to Iraqi Kurds, Allawites in the coastal region linked to Damascus via a corridor, and Sunnis in the north.
I emphasize here once again the significance of the regional nature of the struggle in Syria, as elsewhere. Sunnis from outside of Syria join those within, Kurds in Syria connect with those outside, Lebanon has been drawn in via Hezbollah. The old Middle East is falling apart.
Consider this: Israel is standing with the Gulf states, and most notably Saudi Arabia, in supporting the military in Egypt, while the US is, in effect, standing with Turkey, Qatar and Iran, which are on the side of the Brotherhood.
And this: there have been rallies by Israeli Arabs in support of the Brotherhood in Egypt. A hint as to what we’re coping with in regard to an increasingly radical population inside our borders.
I will note here that there are experts expressing doubts as to whether a gas such as sarin really was used on Wednesday. They are pointing out anomalies in the pictures being released — such as the fact that those handling the dead are not wearing any protective gear. There are alternatives to the use of gas that might have caused multiple deaths, such as riot control agents used in a small space in high concentration, which can cause suffocation.
In any event, as Assad’s use of gas has been confirmed multiple times, Obama is being criticized here in Israel and elsewhere for the disparity between his “red line” threats and his lack of decisive action. The US is perceived increasingly as a paper tiger without genuine deterrence power.
And of course the connection is made with Obama’s words regarding Iran as a nuclear power, and the expectation that ultimately he will do nothing. Netanyahu says Iran is watching.
In terms of what is going on in the region, with its multiple complications:
The Israel Project on Terrorism has put out an article about attempts to sneak weapons out of Syria in order to bring them to Judea and Samaria for use by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), which has ties to Syrian intelligence.
What does this make? Reason 3,002, perhaps, for Israel to not surrender any land to the PA for a state. Anyone who imagines that a Palestinian state would be either truly demilitarized or peaceful is deluded.
That’s to our east, but consider what’s going on to our southwest, in Gaza (emphasis added):
“Contrary to what the Shin Bet and Military Intelligence had expected, after the disengagement [Israeli pullout from Gaza] Gaza began exporting terror to Sinai rather than the other way around. ‘We thought Sinai was the source of all evil for Gaza, but it turned out that things were exactly the opposite,’ a senior intelligence official said. ‘The Egyptians understood the situation much faster than we did.’
“Experienced Palestinian terrorists from Gaza have gone to Sinai and hooked up with Bedouin groups there, bringing a great deal of knowhow with them, he explained.
“Moreover, over the last two years, Gaza has become a base for Salafis from all over the Arab world seeking military training. The senior official said that most of the training camps are run by Mumtaz Dughmush, the head of Jaish al-Islam. The group gets money from individuals and organizations abroad that support global jihad, and its courses last several weeks. Its trainees then go on to Sinai, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.”
What happens when we pull out. And the reason why the military in Egypt has bombed the tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai.
Four Katyusha rockets were fired from Lebanon late yesterday. Two landed in northern Israel, but there were no casualties. No one has claimed credit, but according to IDF intelligence it was not Hezbollah but rather a Sunni jihadist group that is responsible. This is being seen as an attempt to lure Israel into the war, and, presumably for this reason, Israel has not returned fire.
With all of the truly serious and dangerous problems with which Israel must cope, we have to be saddled right now with a ridiculous “peace process” as well???
Of course, our behavior is the most serious and dangerous of all: We are building houses! I know how bad this is, because that beacon of peace and truth, Hanan Ashrawi of the PLO says so. Right?
I recently came across a description of her that I found really neat:
“Hanan Ashrawi is to truth as cigarettes are to health.” I’ll second that.
As to the negotiations, I share what the PA is saying (since no one else is talking, per the request from Kerry).
It is the aforementioned Ashrawi who claims, strangely, that Israel has asked the US participants to leave the room during negotiations “to exploit their power over the Palestinians,” without the Americans witnessing this. A very strange claim indeed, as Indyk, who represents the US in the talks, is not on Israel’s side.
Said Ashrawi, “These are not two-way negotiations.” Ah, but only two-way negotiations can succeed. A third party cannot coerced “peace.”
Then there is Abbas, who told a delegation from the Meretz party visiting Ramallah that there has been absolutely no progress in the peace talks.
I allude above to the ineffectiveness of the UN. But it’s not just ineffectiveness, it’s endemic bias. See here an article about UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, backtracking on an earlier statement and now claiming that Israel suffers no bias in the UN:
My apologies: a recalcitrant computer has delayed this posting and required me to make it shorter than I would have preferred. Now, Shabbat preparations call…
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
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