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On September 10, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published its 22-page report on the chemical attacks in suburban Damascus. http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/09/10/attacks-ghouta-0 That paper follows similar reports by the U.S. State Department, the Government of France, but offers a wealth of information and details missing in the governmental assessments.
HRW: Doubts Raised About Number of Areas Targeted, All Rockets Launched from Regime-Controlled Territory
Details of the HRW report have caused this writer to reassess some earlier conclusions, but it has also reinforced some other doubts raised about the accuracy and completeness of the U.S. and French reports. The HRW study does not back up the U.S. report that the deadliest attacks on eastern Damascus were launched from a "regime controlled" area, the number of neighborhoods attacked, or the number of rockets launched. Most fundamentally, it casts doubt on the conclusions drawn that the deadliest of these attacks had to be carried out by regime forces using military weapons.
One issue which HRW has helped to correct previous confusion regards the types of ordinance used. It had been previously thought that large numbers of rockets, each carrying a relatively small amount of Sarin were required to produce fatalities that number upwards of hundreds killed to 1426 claimed by the Kerry Report. Earlier assessments that many dozens of rockets had to used were predicated upon information that each rocket held only 1-2 liters of Sarin each. This report now makes it clear that there were in fact two types of chemical rockets used on separate neighborhoods, and that by far the deadlier attacks were carried out with a small number -- as few as eight -- crude but deadly improvised rockets of the type that have been previously used by militias inside Syria and by insurgent groups in several Mideast countries.
In contrast, the neighborhood in western Damascus targeted with standard Syrian Army munitions suffered relatively light casualties, and HRW finds there is no evidence of the type of military ordinance used there ever having been employed before in the civil war. The neighborhood closest to the military airbase and headquarters of the 4th Armored Brigade was attacked by seven or eight 140mm artillery rockets, a standard type of Soviet-era munition. Each of these rounds is relatively accurate but capable of carrying only 2 liters of Sarin over a range of up to about six miles. According to HRW, fewer than one-in-six of the fatalities occurred in that area where these military munitions were used.
However, according to the HRW Report, at least 8 larger improvised gas rockets (333mm in diameter) impacted in the eastern part of the city. Improvised Rocket-Assisted Munitions (IRAMs), these bigger, deadlier, but clumsier devices are not standard military ordinance. During the same night, these improvised rockets were fired into the eastern Damascus suburbs in the area of Zamalka, and this type is estimated by HRW’s experts to have a capacity to carry upwards of 50 liters of Sarin in each warhead. While it carries a far larger amount of poisonous agent, and are proportionately more deadly over a larger area, these improvised devices are described as having poor flight characteristics with a more limited range and poor accuracy, except very close to the target:
The rocket is of a non-aerodynamic design . . . indicat(ing) that the rocket would be relatively short ranged and not capable of accurate targeting.
Improvised Rocket-Assisted Munition (IRAM)of Same Type Used in 8/21 Damascus Attack:
HRW Report Silent About State Dept. Allegation that All Attacks Launched from Regime-Controlled Territory
1) HRW Map of Targeted Damascus Neighborhoods (highlighted in Red)
One interesting aspect of the HRW report is that while the authors cite witnesses as stating that the smaller, more accurate rockets were observed to have come from the direction of Syrian military bases, the report is silent as to where the larger, deadlier improvised rockets were launched.* Nonetheless, the HRW paper specifies that the improvised devices killed far more people:
Human Rights Watch has collected the names of 80 individuals believed to have been killed in the August 21 strikes in Moadamiya in Western Ghouta. Two sources told Human Rights Watch that 103 people were killed in the Moadamiya attack.28 Because the attack on Eastern Ghouta involved a much larger affected area, and several small clinics where victims were brought, a total death toll is more difficult to establish. A member of the Zamalka media center, stated during an interview with Human Rights Watch on September 4, and in a separate interview with local journalists on the same day, that the local council in Zamalka had registered the full names of 734 persons who were killed during the attack in Zamalka neighborhood.
HRW states that witnesses counted some seven or eight of the smaller but more accurate 140mm rockets launched into the southwestern neighborhoods of Moadamiya near the military airfield at Mezzeh. The report states:
Two witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the August 21 rocket attack on their area came from the direction of the Mezzeh Military Airport and the nearby Syrian 4th Armored Division base, which are located respectively four kilometers and five to seven kilometers from the site of the attack, and thus within the range of possible launching sites.
The other Sarin gas strikes were in a distant neighborhood identified as Zamalka, 16 kilometers to the East on the other side of Damascus. It becomes clear that these improvised rockets could not have been launched from the same site, as they simply do not have the range to reach any of the eastern targets, particularly the easternmost neighborhood of Duma that is 20 kilometers away from the Mezzah airfield and army base:
Human Rights Watch confirm(s) at least four strike sites in Zamalka where at least eight 330mm rockets struck on August 21. This is unlikely to be a complete account of the number of rockets used in the attack . . . The 330mm surface-to-surface rocket that appears to be associated with the August 21 attack on Eastern Ghouta is of a type not listed in standard, specialized, international or declassified reference materials. It is a rocket type that has not been documented before the outbreak of the current Syrian conflict . . .
< . . .>
Our analysis does not exclude the possibility that additional weapons delivery systems were used in the Eastern and Western Ghouta attacks that have not yet been identified and analyzed. However, the two analyzed by Human Rights Watch are the only known rocket systems identified as associated with the attacks, according to local activists who have closely inspected both the affected areas.
I therefore must revise my earlier assessment, and now acknowledge that in the Eastern suburbs it is entirely possible for just a handful of these larger rockets to have killed several hundreds of people by area saturation with large amounts of poison gas. Please, see, http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023576617
Something else that HRW tells us is that the large improvised rockets had to have been launched from relatively close range only a few kilometers away. Here, my earlier thinking appears to be confirmed. The State Dept. report alleges that all the rockets fired that night were from “regime-controlled territory”. However, when we look at the State Department map, below, and compare it with the HRW map, a couple things become clear. First, the area in the pink (regime-controlled) is at least six or seven miles from Duma, which the State Dept. identified as the easternmost target. Therefore, either the map or the State Department’s statement that it located the launching site for the larger rockets in western Damascus appears to be incorrect. Furthermore, HRW casts doubt on the conclusion drawn by the State Dept. that all the gas rockets were launched from inside the indicated government-controlled area. Finally, HRW was unable to confirm most of alleged target areas identified by the Kerry report, of which the State Department shows 12 (see 2nd map, at bottom of article) and the HRW could only confirm two.
2) State Department Report Map:
That brings us to the final question raised here. Why would the Syrian Army use crude, improvised munitions when as the French Report points out, it has large numbers of other types of modern chemical munitions and rockets, some of them with ranges that reach out to 75 kilometers and further with greater accuracy.
Indeed, this just reinforces persistent doubts that the Syrian Army units under the control of the Assad regime used these improvised munitions that killed most of the victims on 8/21. As Brown Moses Blog pointed out in June, these things were introduced into Syria last year and have previously been used there with conventional high explosive warheads by Hezbollah militias. Below, we see an IRAM that was previously identified by that source as having been used by a militia, not the Syrian military. One can see that it is closely related to the type, shown above, used in the Damascus gas attack. http://brown-moses.blogspot.com/2013/06/diy-weapons-in-syria-hezbollah-deploys.html
IRAM Used Inside Syria by Militia Prior to 8/21
The HRW report and other new evidence do not support the conclusion drawn that the Syrian regime controlled all the gas rockets launched that night. While video has been presented that the military has tested or had demonstrated this type of rocket, by no means is it established beyond a reasonable doubt that it was units under orders of the civilian authorities that actually carried out the attack on Zamalka using improvised rockets.
It appears, contrary to the assertions made, that a lot of people in the Mideast besides the Syrian military have cobbled together their own IRAMs and could have both the means and motive to have used them in Eastern Damascus that terrible night. Details of the HRW report raise additional questions about the accuracy of key parts of the State Department report, including the location and number of targets, and that the Syrian military, alone, had the means to carry out the 8/21 attacks.
Similar IRAMs have been manufactured and used by a variety of groups, including al-Qaeda, across the region as we see here:
* Note that the Sept. 10 HRW study does not repeat initial reports from opposition activists that located the possible launch point of the rockets that struck Zamalka as the October War Museum, which is a mere 1.25 miles northwest of Zamalka, where most of the casualties occurred: "Activists in the area told him that 18 missiles, carrying what they said was a chemical agent, fired from the direction of the October War Panorama, a military museum in Damascus city, and of Mezzeh military airport, hit Zamalka, Ayn Tarma, Douma, and Moadamiya." http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/08/21/syria-witnesses-describe-alleged-chemical-attacks
Posted by leveymg | Sat Sep 14, 2013, 09:47 AM (10 replies)
RESPONSE TO POST: "The American people’s reply to Putin" by Dana Milbank
Posted by leveymg | Thu Sep 12, 2013, 11:00 PM (1 replies)
In our case, it was the future that we had to give up. But, what the hell - we're totally exceptional, aren't we?
Well, maybe it is a good thing that the American building boom ran out before we erected megatowers in the Grand Canyon. Kinda cool, anyway - at least the cars and clothes of the future that never came, anyway.
Posted by leveymg | Thu Sep 12, 2013, 10:54 PM (0 replies)
I seem to recall those who tried to cover the US invasion from the "wrong" angle got blown up or put
on the No-Fly List. The Embedded or Dead approach to war journalism
RESPONSE TO POST: "Wonder if US will be as keen to show video of dead innocents from their bombing Syria"
Posted by leveymg | Sun Sep 8, 2013, 07:13 PM (1 replies)
The transcript of the President's press conference at the G20 Summit was just released. It's unfortunately a very long transcript and he went on at length about the situation in Syria and the Administration's plans for dealing with it. However, there appears to be a very, very important acknowledgement by Obama buried in the tail end of his statements.
Toward the end of his statements and questions & answers with reporters at the G20 Summit, in response to cross-talk with "Major Garrett": http://swampland.time.com/2013/09/06/admitting-public-opposition-on-syria-obama-vows-to-push-forward-transcript/
That sounds like an acknowledgement to me that Obama is fully aware of the possibility -- perhaps, probability -- that the attack of August 21 was NOT ordered by Assad or the other civilian leaders, but may have been an unauthorized lauch by the military commander of the unit that carried out the attack.
So, we must ask, how can he expect that it will be either effective or even morally justifiable for the US to launch a punative attack against the Syrian government with the goal of regime change under these circumstances?
Posted by leveymg | Fri Sep 6, 2013, 03:54 PM (52 replies)
Photos of devices allegedly used to carry Sarin gas show they appear to be homemade and are clearly incapable of accurately reaching targets 5-10 miles away. That is crucially important because the State Department report asserts that the gas barrage was launched from gov't controlled territory. But the map (below) that accompanied that report shows that several of the targets were miles away from the area in pink shown to be under the control of government forces.
These rockets have only the crudest stabilizers, no guidance systems, and would be highly inaccurate at any significant distance, which is why they are unlikely to have been the weapon used in the attack of 8/21, if the US target map is accurate along with the statement that they were launched from government-held territory.
Here's a rocket similar to the ones described as being used in the attack:
Here's the State Dept. map of the 12 alleged targets in the North Damascus suburbs. Note the distances of some of the targeted neighborhoods from government-held territory (in pink):
Something is clearly wrong either with the State Department report or accounts that say that these types of rockets were used to deliver the Sarin gas that night.
On edit: Here's a photo from the Daily Mail showing a UN inspector taking samples nearby the same type of rocket:
NOTE: I am the OP. I am relying on this information contained in the State Dept. report:
Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.
According to a Foreign Policy article:http://killerapps.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/08/28/were_syria_s_nerve_gas_rockets_based_on_an_american_design
(T)hese rockets have now became a cornerstone of the West's case that the Syrian military was behind the nerve gas massacre of more than a thousands people in the Damascus suburbs last week. U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice tweeted earlier in the week that only the Assad regime "has capacity to launch CW with rockets." An American intelligence official told Foreign Policy on Tuesday that the rockets found at the scene of the attack on the East Ghouta region were a strong indicator that the strike involved chemical weapons. The rockets were largely intact -- rather than completely destroyed, as they would be if they been carrying high-explosive warheads.
Why is range, accuracy and sophistication of the rockets and delivery devices important? Sarin is not very effective over a large area unless the liquid is delivered in an aerosol form at just above ground level.* With crude rockets and warheads, that means that large numbers (many hundreds) of such weapons would have had to have been used in massed barrages to produce the level of mortality claimed. Because they are inaccurate beyond a short range, and cannot be aimed for mass barrages at long distance, these rockets may not have been effective for use in the way described in the report. We have not yet seen any evidence produced by the US government that these weapons are even capable of being used as the State Department claims.
*The best detailed treatise on Sarin, its manufacture, characteristics, and its effects and forensic details, is by Dan Kazseta, a US Army Chemical Corps veteran and consultant, available here (fairly long, but all informative): http://newsmotion.org/author/noreplybloggercom-brown-moses?page=1
Posted by leveymg | Sun Sep 1, 2013, 02:24 PM (169 replies)
and gave us this guy:
NIXON: He's tanned, rested and ready for '16.
Posted by leveymg | Fri Aug 30, 2013, 11:21 PM (0 replies)
This afternoon, nine days after the event, the U.S. Government issued its first official account of events in the northern Damascus suburbs. The State Department released a report, U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013, that alleges the following: http://www.c-span.org/uploadedFiles/Content/Documents/USGassessmentonSyria%281%29.pdf
The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting. Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence . . .
The State Dept Report is missing something essential -- any specific evidence of command authorization for the attack. That is essential to a finding of governmental culpability that must be present if the US or anyone else is going to launch a punative military action against Syria.
Here's what the "declassified" document just released does not contain: any specific information, or reference to specific information, that in any way ties officials at the Minister of Defense or higher level in the planning and execution of this attack. What it does say is that the the Syrian Minister of Defense upon learning of the attack ordered it to cease.
Furthermore, the specific information provided by other sources shows that the Minister of Defense personally spoke with the unit commander after the attack, and the Minister is characterized as being panicked by the news he receives. Foreign Policy’s magazine The Cable reported on August 27: http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/08/27/exclusive_us_spies_say_intercepted_calls_prove_syrias_army_used_nerve_gas
“Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they’re certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime — and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.”
That report goes on to express the uncertainties that have arisen in assigning culpability for the incident:
But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? "It's unclear where control lies," one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable. "Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?"
Nor are U.S. analysts sure of the Syrian military's rationale for launching the strike -- if it had a rationale at all. Perhaps it was a lone general putting a long-standing battle plan in motion; perhaps it was a miscalculation by the Assad government. Whatever the reason, the attack has triggered worldwide outrage, and put the Obama administration on the brink of launching a strike of its own in Syria. "We don't know exactly why it happened," the intelligence official added. "We just know it was pretty fucking stupid."
The UK National Post-Telegraph reflected that assessment that there is no certainty as whether this attack was ordered from above or the unauthorized work of a lower-ranking officer in the field:http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/08/28/intercepted-phone-call-helped-convince-u-s-that-syrian-regime-was-responsible-for-deadly-chemical-attack/
A report about the new evidence was published on Foreign Policy, an international affairs website, as President Barack Obama announced that the United States has “concluded” that the Syrian government carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians. Yet U.S. intelligence officials say questions remain about whether it was an officially sanctioned attack or the work of an over-zealous officer.
The intercepted message does not conclusively establish who gave the order to use chemical weapons and could mean it was a mistake, analysts suggested.
Furthermore, another factor to consider is the accuracy of the assessments that have been produced. the source of the key intercepts was IDF Unit 8200, the Israeli NSA. This is from a report the following day in The Guardian (08/28): http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/28/israeli-intelligence-intercepted-syria-chemical-talk
The bulk of evidence proving the Assad regime's deployment of chemical weapons – which would provide legal grounds essential to justify any western military action – has been provided by Israeli military intelligence, the German magazine Focus has reported.
The 8200 unit of the Israeli Defence Forces, which specialises in electronic surveillance, intercepted a conversation between Syrian officials regarding the use of chemical weapons, an unnamed former Mossad official told Focus. The content of the conversation was relayed to the US, the ex-official said.
The 8200 unit collects and analyses electronic data, including wiretapped telephone calls and emails. It is the largest unit in the IDF.
Israel has invested in intelligence assets in Syria for decades, according to a senior government official. "We have an historic intelligence effort in the field, for obvious reasons," he said.
Israel and the US had a "close and co-operative relationship in the intelligence field", he added, but declined to comment specifically on the Focus report.
Senior Israeli security officials arrived in Washington on Monday to share the latest results of intelligence-gathering, and to review the Syrian crisis with national security adviser Susan Rice.
Finally, we observe, Susan Rice and the Administration have been sitting on these Israeli-based intercepts for five days. Why does this report lack any direct reference to the Israeli NSA-based information which formed the basis for White House decisions. The Obama Administration can not credibly claim a need to protect sources and methods, particularly when in this case they have already been publicly described in several news media reports in the United States, the UK, and Israel.
Why are we, the American people who must bear the responsibility for the costs and consequences, intended and unintended, of Obama's reprisal attack, not being shown this critical evidence?
Posted by leveymg | Fri Aug 30, 2013, 08:03 PM (18 replies)
They almost did it again - manipulated the US into a direct military role in Mideast conflict. Tonight, the US is once more poised to launch yet another Shock and Awe-style missile strike, again on the basis of a selective reading of intelligence, most of it provided by Israel.
The NYT reports this evening:
WASHINGTON — President Obama is prepared to move ahead with a limited military strike on Syria, administration officials said on Thursday, even with a rejection of such action by Britain’s Parliament, an increasingly restive Congress, and lacking an endorsement from the United Nations Security Council.
That news comes on the heels of revelations yesterday that the original source of intercepts of Syrian communications on which the Obama Administration is basing its decision to launch unilateral attacks on Syria is Israeli intelligence, specifically IDF Unit 8200, the Israeli NSA. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/28/israeli-intelligence-intercepted-syria-chemical-talk
Certain Obama officials have been pushing direct US military intervention since March 2011, while similar urgings for action against neighboring Mideast countries goes back at least 15 years before that to release in 1996 of a neocon manifesto, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm written for the then newly installed conservative Likud Party of Benjamin Netanyahu (has Bibi been in and out of the top office for that long, now?). The best-known authors of that planning paper were Richard Perle, the Wurmsers, and Doug Feith, who went on to establish the notorious Pentagon Office of Special Plans (OSP), the DoD unit under Undersecretary for Intelligence Steven Cambone that fabricated much of the intelligence to justify Bush's invasion of Iraq.
"A Clean Break" is a remarkably candid and concise document that accurately predicted U.S. and Israeli policy and actions in the region, particularly events in Syria involving external agitation of internal ethnic conflict, foreign military responses, and Israel "drawing attention" to Syria's WMDs -- all events that have finally come to fruition during the last couple weeks.
The 1996 document extracted below explicitly states that Syria's WMD along with Turkish and Jordanian-sponsored ethnic conflict inside Syria will serve as a pretext for western intervention, leading to the possible breakup of Syria, while at the same time PM Netanyahu should reject U.S. pressures to accept land for peace. That is exactly what has come to pass in 2013.
As A Clean Break makes clear, serial regime change in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and then Iran has long been the goal of a core group of Washington power players in both parties going back to that era. Here's the plan to transform the Mideast (and the U.S.) so as to expand Israel's regional hegemony, along with Turkey and Jordan, with Saudi Arabia the silent partner of the Rightwing parties in Israel, the US, and the UK. This plan of serial regime change was later euphemistically termed, "The Arab Spring", when conditions were deemed ripe for overthrow of a string of governments of states surrounding Israel.
The "Clean Break" document was submitted to then PM Benjamin Netanyahu. It is remarkably prescient, and has come to pass through the wars and covert operations waged by the past two U.S. Administrations, with a few bumps in the road, almost exactly as planned 17 year ago.
Ironically, as alluded to below (and developed at greater length in later sections of the document not excerpted below,) make clear, the ultimate point of neocon regime change is to invert the relationship of Israel with the US, and to make the former autonomous of the constraints imposed by the latter. The U.S. is the ultimate target of Right-wing regime change planned in Israel by the same Neocons advising Netanyahu's Likud Party who went on to carry out the Iraq War WMD fabrications: http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm
A Clean Break:
A New Strategy for Securing the Realm
Following is a report prepared by The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies’ "Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000." The main substantive ideas in this paper emerge from a discussion in which prominent opinion makers, including Richard Perle, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser participated. The report, entitled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," is the framework for a series of follow-up reports on strategy.
Israel has a large problem. Labor Zionism, which for 70 years has dominated the Zionist movement, has generated a stalled and shackled economy. Efforts to salvage Israel’s socialist institutions—which include pursuing supranational over national sovereignty and pursuing a peace process that embraces the slogan, "New Middle East"—undermine the legitimacy of the nation and lead Israel into strategic paralysis and the previous government’s "peace process." That peace process obscured the evidence of eroding national critical mass— including a palpable sense of national exhaustion—and forfeited strategic initiative. The loss of national critical mass was illustrated best by Israel’s efforts to draw in the United States to sell unpopular policies domestically, to agree to negotiate sovereignty over its capital, and to respond with resignation to a spate of terror so intense and tragic that it deterred Israelis from engaging in normal daily functions, such as commuting to work in buses.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s government comes in with a new set of ideas. While there are those who will counsel continuity, Israel has the opportunity to make a clean break; it can forge a peace process and strategy based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism, the starting point of which must be economic reform. To secure the nation’s streets and borders in the immediate future, Israel can:
* Work closely with Turkey and Jordan to contain, destabilize, and roll-back some of its most dangerous threats. This implies clean break from the slogan, "comprehensive peace" to a traditional concept of strategy based on balance of power.
* Change the nature of its relations with the Palestinians, including upholding the right of hot pursuit for self defense into all Palestinian areas and nurturing alternatives to Arafat’s exclusive grip on Palestinian society.
* Forge a new basis for relations with the United States—stressing self-reliance, maturity, strategic cooperation on areas of mutual concern, and furthering values inherent to the West. This can only be done if Israel takes serious steps to terminate aid, which prevents economic reform.
This report is written with key passages of a possible speech marked TEXT, that highlight the clean break which the new government has an opportunity to make. The body of the report is the commentary explaining the purpose and laying out the strategic context of the passages.
A New Approach to Peace
Early adoption of a bold, new perspective on peace and security is imperative for the new prime minister. While the previous government, and many abroad, may emphasize "land for peace"— which placed Israel in the position of cultural, economic, political, diplomatic, and military retreat — the new government can promote Western values and traditions. Such an approach, which will be well received in the United States, includes "peace for peace," "peace through strength" and self reliance: the balance of power.
A new strategy to seize the initiative can be introduced:
We have for four years pursued peace based on a New Middle East. We in Israel cannot play innocents abroad in a world that is not innocent. Peace depends on the character and behavior of our foes. We live in a dangerous neighborhood, with fragile states and bitter rivalries. Displaying moral ambivalence between the effort to build a Jewish state and the desire to annihilate it by trading "land for peace" will not secure "peace now." Our claim to the land —to which we have clung for hope for 2000 years--is legitimate and noble. It is not within our own power, no matter how much we concede, to make peace unilaterally. Only the unconditional acceptance by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, "peace for peace," is a solid basis for the future.
Israel’s quest for peace emerges from, and does not replace, the pursuit of its ideals. The Jewish people’s hunger for human rights — burned into their identity by a 2000-year old dream to live free in their own land — informs the concept of peace and reflects continuity of values with Western and Jewish tradition. Israel can now embrace negotiations, but as means, not ends, to pursue those ideals and demonstrate national steadfastness. It can challenge police states; enforce compliance of agreements; and insist on minimal standards of accountability.
Securing the Northern Border
Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which American can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including by:
* striking Syria’s drug-money and counterfeiting infrastructure in Lebanon, all of which focuses on Razi Qanan.
* paralleling Syria’s behavior by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces.
* striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper.
Israel also can take this opportunity to remind the world of the nature of the Syrian regime. Syria repeatedly breaks its word. It violated numerous agreements with the Turks, and has betrayed the United States by continuing to occupy Lebanon in violation of the Taef agreement in 1989. Instead, Syria staged a sham election, installed a quisling regime, and forced Lebanon to sign a "Brotherhood Agreement" in 1991, that terminated Lebanese sovereignty. And Syria has begun colonizing Lebanon with hundreds of thousands of Syrians, while killing tens of thousands of its own citizens at a time, as it did in only three days in 1983 in Hama.
Under Syrian tutelage, the Lebanese drug trade, for which local Syrian military officers receive protection payments, flourishes. Syria’s regime supports the terrorist groups operationally and financially in Lebanon and on its soil. Indeed, the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon has become for terror what the Silicon Valley has become for computers. The Bekaa Valley has become one of the main distribution sources, if not production points, of the "supernote" — counterfeit US currency so well done that it is impossible to detect.
Negotiations with repressive regimes like Syria’s require cautious realism. One cannot sensibly assume the other side’s good faith. It is dangerous for Israel to deal naively with a regime murderous of its own people, openly aggressive toward its neighbors, criminally involved with international drug traffickers and counterfeiters, and supportive of the most deadly terrorist organizations.
Given the nature of the regime in Damascus, it is both natural and moral that Israel abandon the slogan "comprehensive peace" and move to contain Syria, drawing attention to its weapons of mass destruction program, and rejecting "land for peace" deals on the Golan Heights.
Moving to a Traditional Balance of Power Strategy
We must distinguish soberly and clearly friend from foe. We must make sure that our friends across the Middle East never doubt the solidity or value of our friendship.
Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions. Jordan has challenged Syria's regional ambitions recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites in Iraq. This has triggered a Jordanian-Syrian rivalry to which Asad has responded by stepping up efforts to destabilize the Hashemite Kingdom, including using infiltrations. Syria recently signaled that it and Iran might prefer a weak, but barely surviving Saddam, if only to undermine and humiliate Jordan in its efforts to remove Saddam.
But Syria enters this conflict with potential weaknesses: Damascus is too preoccupied with dealing with the threatened new regional equation to permit distractions of the Lebanese flank. And Damascus fears that the 'natural axis' with Israel on one side, central Iraq and Turkey on the other, and Jordan, in the center would squeeze and detach Syria from the Saudi Peninsula. For Syria, this could be the prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East which would threaten Syria's territorial integrity.
Since Iraq's future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly, it would be understandable that Israel has an interest in supporting the Hashemites in their efforts to redefine Iraq, including such measures as: visiting Jordan as the first official state visit, even before a visit to the United States, of the new Netanyahu government; supporting King Hussein by providing him with some tangible security measures to protect his regime against Syrian subversion; encouraging — through influence in the U.S. business community — investment in Jordan to structurally shift Jordan’s economy away from dependence on Iraq; and diverting Syria’s attention by using Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize Syrian control of Lebanon.
Most important, it is understandable that Israel has an interest supporting diplomatically, militarily and operationally Turkey’s and Jordan’s actions against Syria, such as securing tribal alliances with Arab tribes that cross into Syrian territory and are hostile to the Syrian ruling elite.
King Hussein may have ideas for Israel in bringing its Lebanon problem under control. The predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najf, Iraq rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah, Iran, and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet’s family, the direct descendants of which — and < . . .>
Posted by leveymg | Thu Aug 29, 2013, 09:21 PM (5 replies)
The more we spend on secret domestic spying and covert action abroad, the weaker the U.S. becomes. It's been going that way for decades.
Posted by leveymg | Thu Aug 29, 2013, 05:00 PM (0 replies)