Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mideast Media Sampler 4/30/13: New York Times Now Agrees Syria Using Chemical Weapons, But...

by David Gerstman, contributing blogger at Legal Insurrection

1) The proof?  

Yesterday I noted that the New York Times seemed eager to relegate an article about the administration's reluctance to believe that Assad had employed chemical weapons to the ash heap of history. In a new editorial, Ill-considered advice on Syria, the New York Times view has changed a bit. Why? 
#Syria chemical weapons found in blood samples nearly impossible to fake, US intel sources say. Updated story:wired.com/dangerroom/201…
— Noah Shachtman (@dangerroom) April 25, 2013
In today's editorial, the editors write: 
The failure to act now could be misread by Mr. Assad as well as leaders in Iran and North Korea, whose nuclear programs are on America’s radar. But Mr. Obama should only act if he has compelling documentation that the sarin gas was used in an attack by Syrian forces and was not the result of an accident or fertilizer. The Financial Times reported the evidence is based on two separate samples taken from victims of the attacks. With the civil war in Syria now in its third year and the death toll at more than 70,000, the situation has deteriorated. Mr. Assad remains in power, sectarian divisions have intensified and fleeing refugees are destabilizing neighboring countries. 
Most worrisome, jihadis linked to Al Qaeda have become the dominant fighting force and, as Ben Hubbard reported in The Times, there are few rebel groups that both share the political vision of the United States and have the military might to push it forward. 
Unlike last week when the Times dismissed any proofs of Syrian chemical usage, this week the paper's editors are less certain that the evidence can be ignored. Still they're insistent that there isn't enough to justify American involvement. What's more? The New York Times is concerned that helping the rebels will strengthen those affiliated with Al Qaeda. (The New York Times never harbored any doubts about the Muslim Brotherhood. Implicitly, it appears that the New York Times reflects the view of the administration - as observed by Barry Rubin - that sees Al Qaeda, alone, as a threat to America but not less militant Islamists.) Still the Times is correct that it hurts American credibility if the President declares a "red line" and then refuses to act on it. Of course, there are ways to try to evade that. 
Obama Unveils New 'Red Line' for Syria's Chemical Weapons wired.com/dangerroom/201…
— Noah Shachtman (@dangerroom) April 26, 2013

Bush admin politicized the WMD intelligence to invade Iraq. Obama maybe 'intelligicizing' the WMD politics to avoid Syria.
— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) April 25, 2013
2) The terrorist on the motorcycle 

If you recall, the first strike of November's Pillar of Defense offensive, was the killing of Ahmed Jabari as he rode on his motorcycle. Now Israel, has hit another terrorist riding on his motorcycle. The New York Times reports Israeli Airstrike Kills Palestinian in Gaza
The Israeli military described the target in Gaza, Haitham al-Mishal, as a “key terror figure” who manufactured and traded in weapons, including rockets and explosive devices, and worked with all the militant organizations in the Gaza Strip. The military added that Mr. Mishal had been involved in the firing of rockets at the southern Israeli resort of Eilat earlier this month, although Palestinian officials said he was a police officer. It was the first Israeli strike against a militant in Gaza, the Palestinian coastal enclave, since a cease-fire ended eight days of fierce cross-border fighting in November. It remains to be seen how Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, and other groups there will react. 
The AP also reported
After months of relative calm, the truce has begun to unravel. Palestinian militants have sporadically fired rockets into southern Israel in recent weeks. The Israeli air force has responded with strikes on training sites and suspected weapons storage sites in Gaza. Until Tuesday, there had been no casualties.
Always reliable, Meryl Yourish offered an incisive critique of the way the AP framed the story: 
Boom. And the AP, of course, plays up the airstrike as a far more serious “test” of the truce that Hamas is supposed to be abiding by. The rocket attacks? Well, they’re always explained away as something out of Hamas’ control, done by Salafi terrorists. And then, when the Salafi terrorists are taken out, the AP publishes a sympathetic story about the grieving family members at the funeral.

3) Israeli stabbed to death

The Jerusalem Post reports
An Israeli was killed in a terror attack at the Tapuah junction in the northern West Bank on Tuesday morning, when he was attacked by a Palestinian man at a hitchhiking spot at the junction. The Palestinian terrorist came up from behind the victim, identified as Evyatar Borovsky, and then stabbed him in the chest, Judea and Samaria Division Capt. Barak Raz told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
This Ongoing War provides some background information: 
YNet's report reminds us of a previous stabbing at the same location in January 2013 (we wrote about it here). Then, the victim was a teenage boy who survived with light to moderate injuries. The attacker, a terrorist in his twenties from Ramallah, was apprehended. 
The IDF security checkpoint near Tapuah Junction was removed at some point in recent months. Haaretz quotes Gershon Mesika, the head of the Shomron Regional Council, saying this morning that security-related incidents (their reporter means to say acts of terrorism) at Tapuah Junction "have recently increased five-fold". There's evidently a connection but Haaretz refrains from stating it. 
EoZ: "Moderate" Fatah behind terrorist murder in Tapuach Junction: From YNet:A 31-year-old Israeli man was mu... tinyurl.com/c8dk6zz
— ElderOfZiyon (@elderofziyon) April 30, 2013

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