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Monday, April 22, 2013

Mideast Media Sampler 4/22/13 Is Syria Using Chemical Weapons (And Will Obama Admit It?)

by David Gerstman, contributing blogger at Legal Insurrection

1) The red line?

Back in December, NBC News reported that Syria had loaded chemical weapons onto planes and was prepared to use them against civilians.
Syria prepared to use chemical weapons against own people; military awaits final orders, US officials tell @nbcnews nbcnews.to/RCH3Cz
— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) December 5, 2012
Late last week the Washington Post reported Britain, France claim Syria used chemical weapons:

The European reports are in part aimed at countering accusations by the Syrian government that opposition forces had used chemical weapons during fighting in the town of Khan al-Asal near Aleppo on March 19, killing 26 people, including regime troops. Syrian rebels have said that government forces used chemical weapons in the incident. 
James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told a Senate panel Thursday that allegations that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons are still being evaluated. 
A U.S. conclusion that the evidence is valid would increase pressure on President Obama to step up assistance to the Syrian opposition. Obama has called any use of chemical weapons in Syria a “game changer.”
But as Jennifer Rubin notes that British and French claim ...
... is not what the U.S. administration wants to hear. (“James R. Clapper Jr., director of national intelligence, told a Senate panel Thursday that accusations that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons are still being evaluated.”) It is obvious even at the U.N. that the United States is trying to avoid pinning the facts down.(“diplomats say the United States has responded more cautiously. The United States, said one Security Council diplomat, has been ‘less activist on this’ than Britain and France.”) I bet. 
This is as foolhardy as it is shameful. The president was definitive, and if he really didn’t mean what he said, then he shouldn’t have said it. The U.S. dodging now signals to Tehran and Pyongyang that even when we draw a “red line,” we may not really mean it. That imperils our ability to force Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program and to contain Kim Jong Un. It is symptomatic of this administration in which every line is apparently written in sand. Neither Damascus nor Tehran (not to mention Jerusalem) believes we will take military action if needed to prevent acquisition or use of WMD’s in the Middle East.
From a different angle , (and before the British and French charges were reported) David Pollock wrote an op-ed Syria's Forgotten Front looking at ways to keep Israel out of the conflict.
Over the past 18 months, my colleagues and I have traveled extensively in the region and conducted interviews with hundreds of armed and unarmed Syrian opposition leaders and activists. Three surveys we conducted for the firm Pechter Polls revealed intense animosity toward both Iran and Hezbollah. This disdain means that the Syrian opposition will most likely want to keep Hezbollah forces far from any rebel-held territory, something that would please Israel. 
In addition to Israel’s agreement not to deploy proxies in Syria, American and international Jewish charities could agree to step up the humanitarian assistance that they are already providing to Syrian civilians on a small scale. These efforts are generally being carried out quietly, for fear that too much publicity might provoke a public relations backlash. 
Besides food and shelter, there is one medical donation that would have a huge symbolic impact: atropine, an antidote against the chemical weapons that many believe Mr. Assad is starting to use against his own population. This kind of aid would definitively refute the false but widely held conspiracy theory among Syrians that Israel, and its legendary lobby, still secretly support the Assad regime. It would chip away at Syrians’ entrenched mistrust of Israel.
If the claims about the chemical weapons have indeed been confirmed, the atropine would be an excellent idea. Still, I wonder if, even that, will easily change hearts and minds.
EoZ: Hezbollah's body count in Syria is rising: From Ya Libnan:The funeral of four more Hezbollah members tha... tinyurl.com/bvyy59l
— ElderOfZiyon (@elderofziyon) April 21, 2013
2) Wow, it was reported in the Sunday Times

How does an exclusive make news? Report something fantastic or too good to be true and other news outlets will pick it up exercising a minimum of caution. Yesterday the Sunday Times reported, Israel to corral Iran with Turkish airbase. (Full article behind the paywall.)

Other media outlets quickly picked up the story including the Times of Israel (h/t The IsraeLink). The Times of Israel reported ‘Israel seeks Turkish airbase to enable Iran strike’:
When National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror arrives in Turkey on Sunday to discuss compensation for flotilla victims, he will also be seeking to lay the groundwork for the stationing of Israeli fighter jets in an airbase near Ankara, ahead of a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, the Sunday Times reported. 
“Until the recent crisis, Turkey was our biggest aircraft carrier,” an Israeli military source told the London-based publication. “Using the Turkish airbases could make the difference between success and failure once a showdown with Iran gets underway.”
It's a pretty impressive scoop. If it's true.

There are reasons to doubt its veracity though.

For one thing is it conceivable that Erdogan's Turkey would allow such open cooperation with Israel? Furthermore, when you see a report about Israel from the Sunday Times, check to see who the author is. If the author is Uzi Mahnaimi, it is probably woven out of lots of speculation.

Meryl YourishDaled AmosIsrael MatzavHonest Reporting and Israelly Cool have shown that this guy is wholly unreliable, especially when the topic Israel and Iran.

Even after the administration boasted that the Israeli apology was an important step to restoring relations between the two countries, Turkey continues to defy the United States and demand more from Israel.

3) Israeli innovation

Earlier this Israel 21c reported that IBM is celebrating its 40th year in Israel:
While today it seems obvious that major corporations with heavy investments in R&D would want to have a division in Israel, in 1972, when IBM Research opened its Israel office, that was hardly the case. In fact, it was more a matter of IBM not wanting to lose one of its top scientists, Israeli-born Prof. Josef Raviv, who wanted to move back home. 
Raviv convinced IBM to let him “hire three to four scientists in the desert,” Oded Cohn, director of IBM Research in Israel, tells ISRAEL21c. That’s grown to a staff of 500 in Haifa today and another 500 employees around the country. 
Some of IBM’s most cutting-edge innovations have been developed in the Holy Land. IBM Research in Israel was an early pioneer in the development of ultrasound equipment to detect liver cancer, for example, and was involved in R&D on IBM’s large RS/6000 workstations used in the 1990s.
But it's not just IBM that has benefited from Israeli innovation.
65 years of innovation.This is the definitive list of Israel’s inventions. #ZIONISMtimesofisrael.com/65-years-of-in…
— ADAM:ISRAELRADIOGUY (@israelradioguy) April 22, 2013

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