Monday, September 16, 2013

Arlene Kushner on Troubling Issues Surrounding The US-Russian Agreement on Syria

From Arlene Kushner:
September 16, 2013

More, Always More

There is much to follow through on, but first the joy:
Wednesday night begins the week-long holiday of Sukkot, the season of our joy.  It's my favorite holiday. We build and decorate sukkot, temporary structures in which we are supposed to live, depending on the protection of Heaven
Credit: lightofzion
And we daily do blessings (except for Shabbat), waving a lulav -- (from the left in the picture) willow, palm, and myrtle, held with an etrog -- citron. 
Lulav and Esrog.
Credit: jewishjournal
A time of celebration and gratitude and faith.  A time of family and fun.  It is because this is a time of joy that we sing Hallel -- a collection of psalms of praise.
Hey!  I feel easier already, anticipating this.
Perhaps I'll post again tomorrow (and perhaps not); there will then be a hiatus of some days, although I may post in the middle of the Sukkot week.
Here I wish all celebrating Sukkot a Chag Sameach.
I have no desire to repeat the major points made yesterday with regard to Obama, Russia and Syria. But there will need to be regular follow up on-going.  Here I share some additional insights and new information.  This material makes the situation look worse and worse...
An editorial in the Wall Street Journal points out that (emphasis added):
"...already the Russians are disputing U.S. information about where and how much poison gas Assad holds. There are a hundred ways to cheat on this agreement, starting with the declaration.

"Meanwhile, Russia got Mr. Obama to concede that all of this will go to the United Nations for approval without any mention of enforcement. If Assad does cheat, the U.S. would have to go back to the Security Council again for another resolution to use force, which the Russians will veto."
The WSJ points out that now Obama says his goal was to make sure this doesn't happen again, which is not what he said previously -- there was supposed to be price paid for what Assad did...."Assad will have violated what Mr. Obama repeatedly called 'international norms'—killing at least 1,400 people including 400 children—and then get a pass for promising not to do again what he claims he didn't do but Mr. Kerry says he did at least 14 times."
Then this, from ABC:
"Despite Russia's close relationship and influence with Syria, there is not yet any indication that the Assad government will sign off on the details of the agreement. It contains requirements that are above and beyond the normal criteria for countries bound by the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria agreed to join earlier this week under pressure from Moscow.

"Although Russia has accepted the U.S. intelligence estimate that Syria has about 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons and precursors, the two sides have not agreed on the number of sites where they are manufactured and stored.

"U.S. officials say they believe Syria maintains roughly 45 sites associated with chemical weapons, about half of which have 'exploitable quantities' of chemicals. The Russian estimate is considerably lower, but U.S. officials would not say by how much. This could be an issue in determining where the inspectors are to work.

"Details about the composition of the inspection teams and their security must still be determined. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which technically is in charge of the inspections, has never mounted an operation as complex as this and will require assistance from outside parties to conduct the work. Nationalities of inspectors as well as the guards who will provide security for them must still be determined."
Read: Glance: US-Russia Agreement on Syria Weapons
Jeffrey Goldberg says:
  1. So long as he [Assad] doesn’t use chemical weapons on his people, he’ll be safe from armed Western intervention. Roughly 98 percent of the people who have died in the Syrian civil war so far have not been killed with chemical weapons, so obviously Assad and his regime have figured out ways to cause mass death in conventional ways. It’s safe to assume that he’ll increase the tempo of attacks on rebels and civilians, knowing now that he can do so with impunity. Obama won’t be outlining any further 'red lines,' it would seem.

  2. By partnering with Russia and the West on the disarmament process, a process that is meant to last into 2014 (and most likely won’t be finished for years, even if it is carried out in good faith, which is a big 'if'), Assad has made himself indispensable. A post-Assad regime wouldn’t necessarily be party to this agreement, and might not even go through the motions. Syria, post-Assad, might very well be more fractured and chaotic than it is now, which is to say, even less of an environment in which United Nations weapons inspectors could safely go about their work. The U.S. now needs Assad in place for the duration. He’s the guy, after all, whose lieutenants know where the chemical weapons are.
As to Assad safely stepping up attacks, this is already happening.  See, for example from the Washington Post (emphasis added):
"As negotiations to avert a U.S. strike against Syria ramped up last week, so, too, did the action on the ground. Warplanes dropped bombs over far-flung Syrian towns that hadn’t seen airstrikes in weeks, government forces went on the attack in the hotly contested suburbs of Damascus, rebels launched an offensive in the south, and a historic Christian town changed hands at least four times.

"At the close of a week hailed in Moscow and Washington as a triumph of diplomacy over war, more than 1,000 people died in the fighting in Syria."
I've long understood that the world is insane, but here is your proof positive.
And to make matters more obscene yet:
"At a base near Tehran, Iranian forces are training Shiite militiamen from across the Arab world to do battle in Syria—showing the widening role of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria's bloody war.

"The busloads of Shiite militiamen from Iraq, Syria and other Arab states have been arriving at the Iranian base in recent weeks, under cover of darkness, for instruction in urban warfare and the teachings of Iran's clerics, according to Iranian military figures and residents in the area. The fighters' mission: Fortify the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad against Sunni rebels, the U.S. and Israel.

"The fighters 'are told that the war in Syria is akin to [an] epic battle for Shiite Islam, and if they die they will be martyrs of the highest rank,' says an Iranian military officer briefed on the training camp, which is 15 miles outside Tehran and called Amir Al-Momenin, or Commander of the Faithful...

"Just over a year ago, U.S. officials publicly described Mr. Assad's fall as imminent. That would have been a major blow for Iran: Syria is Iran's most important Arab ally and serves as a land bridge for Iranian arms and cash to Lebanese and Palestinian militias fighting Israel. Last summer, after Syrian rebels captured large sections of the important northern city of Aleppo, the senior command of the Revolutionary Guards sprang into action, according to U.S. officials and Guards members in Iran. Under its overseas commander, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the military unit established 'operation rooms' to control cooperation between Tehran, Syrian forces and fighters from Hezbollah...

"Qasem Soleimani is now running Syria," says Col. Ahmed Hamada, an officer with the rebel Free Syrian Army, based in its command near the northern city of Aleppo. "Bashar is just his mayor."
This is perhaps the most frightening information of all.  It points very very clearly to what Netanyahu is always warning about, with regard to the connection of the situation in Syria to Iran.
And it makes the case solid for why Netanyahu wants to see the Assad regime come down, with rebels victorious.  Have Obama's concessions to Russia now given a boost to Iran?  Rhetorical question. The answer is, obviously! 
Just for the record, this is the same Iran with whom Obama hopes to have diplomatic dialogue.
But I'm not finished yet (emphasis added):
"Syrian President Bashar Assad has two biological weapons bases, developing anthrax and other devastating biological agents, and yet the US-Russia deal aimed at stripping his regime of chemical weapons makes no provisions for his biological weapons capability, Israeli TV reported Sunday night.

"There is 'not a word' about biological weapons in the agreement that US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday, Channel 10 news said.
Assad has two biological weapons bases, one of them subterranean and a second in a coastal location, producing anthrax and other agents, the report said.
"In an unclassified report in April, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assessed that Syria could be capable of producing limited biological weapons...

"The Cordesman report noted that 'using advanced agents – such as the most lethal forms of anthrax – can have the effectiveness of small theater nuclear weapons.'

"On Friday, Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) wrote to President Barack Obama to warn that 'omitting Assad’s bioweapons from any agreement would represent a gaping hole in the plan.' Such weaponry, in the hands of Assad or his allies, wrote Cornyn, 'represent a direct security threat' to the US and its allies. If Hezbollah and other terror groups got hold of this materiel, he warned, “this would be a direct threat to the United States and our allies, particularly Israel.'"
Here I sit in Jerusalem, citing information (directly above) coming from an Israeli source. And I wonder how the Americans who read this will respond. 
This, in particular, should be publicized broadly in the US.  Obama must be held accountable.  It is not as if the issue of biological weapons slipped by -- reportedly he was warned.  But to attempt to interject this into the "agreement" in Geneva might have upset matters, and, after all, Obama had his own rear end to consider.  No?
Are Americans ready to be incensed yet?  Are they enraged and disgusted by the man in the White House?
There is another take on Syria I wanted to share, but I'm going to save it: This is with regard to a break-up of Syria into areas for the Alawites (40% of the country), the Sunnis (40%) and the Kurds (20%).  Barry Rubin has just written about this possibility, and Jonathan Spyer has addressed it. 
I do not know if there is validity to Goldberg's thesis (above) that Assad will be protected now because only he knows where the chemical weapons are stored  But a division of the country may ultimately be inevitable, if the war cannot be won by any faction. 
There is much to consider with regard to the break up of various states in the region, and we will be returning to this.
Now, very briefly:  I had mentioned yesterday that Kerry's focus in his meeting with Netanyahu was the Syria deal.  But we shouldn't imagine that he didn't mention the "peace process" at all.  Certainly he did -- with all the usual pap about how it's more important than ever now, and how he is getting positive messages from the Palestinian Arabs, etc. etc. 
Wearisome is hardly the word for this nonsense.  But this is something we will have to continue to monitor. 
What is encouraging is the increased strength of the right wing of the coalition, which is sending strong messages to Netanyahu about not relinquishing land to the Arabs (Heaven forbid!):
"A group of 16 coalition MKs, many from the Likud, on Sunday pleaded with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to give up territory to the Palestinians. In a letter sent to the prime minister during his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the MKs called on Netanyahu "not to return to the Oslo Accord template or cede any more parts of the homeland to the Palestinian Authority."

"The letter was drafted by Coalition Chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud-Beitenu) and MK Orit Struck (Habayit Hayehudi), and was signed by deputy ministers Zeev Elkin, Tzipi Hotovely, Ofir Akunis, Eli Ben-Dahan and Avraham Wortzman.

"'I will remain coalition chairman so long as we go down the right path of construction and settling throughout all of Israel,' Levin said."
What I'm actually reading is that the PA's demands continue to increase.  In their dreams!
It's a new year. A year of growing strength and standing up for Israel's rights.
Coming full circle:  When we sleep in the sukkah, indeed we are reminded of our own vulnerability and our need to depend upon Heaven.  The lesson could not be more apt this year!  For only Heaven can extricate us from this political morass.  Incredibly, it is little Israel that sees clearly, and little Israel that other nations of the world now look to (with the Saudis practically begging us to hit Iran).  Little Israel must look to Heaven.
What is remarkable is that Israelis are ranked as the 11th happiest people in the world (well ahead of Americans).  In spite of everything. We're doing something right! 
Perhaps it's faith, perhaps knowing what matters, perhaps a sense of closeness. Or hope.
Speaking of hope...
I included this for my posting before Rosh Hashana, but its upbeat message of new beginnings is very appropriate here, and so I repeat it:
The Fountainheads: Dip Your Apple in the Honey

A nod to the Daily Alert, which provided several sources for this posting.
© 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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