Shape-Shifting on Syria
In 2009, the current administration flattered and cajoled Bashar Assad, returning the U.S. Ambassador to Damascus and partially lifting sanctions on the regime (including on aircraft engines, which had major implications later as the war intensified). For the next two years, a stream of American politicos visited and chatted up Assad; this was the period of the famous "Rose in the Desert" paean to Asma Assad in Vogue magazine and dinner with the Kerrys. They called Bashar Assad a "reformer"and hoped for change.FLASHBACK: Harvard Group Honored Bashar al-Assad's Wife in 2011
There was no change, and in August 2011 the Administration demanded that Assad resign, shifting America's desired outcome from an "improved Assad" to "no Assad."
According to The New York Times, the Harvard Arab Alumni Association (HAAA) honored Mrs. Assad at a dinner in Damascus two years ago.The Democrats’ ‘Smart Power’ Lies in Ruins
Prior to the dinner the group posted this announcement on its website:
We are greatly honored to hold our Arab World Conference under the esteemed patronage of Her Excellency Mrs. Asma al-Assad, the First Lady of Syria, and are privileged that Her Excellency will deliver the conference's keynote address. A thought-provoking, inspiring and tireless leader and advocate, the First Lady's address will certainly be the highlight of our event.
Democrats Suddenly Realize What They Miscalculated About the World: EverythingBarry Rubin: Turning Point: Obama and Israel, The Next Three Years
As we await Congress’s decision on authorizing the use of U.S. military force in Syria, Democrats are suddenly realizing that their foreign-policy brain-trust completely misjudged the world.
Being nicer to countries like Russia will not make them nicer to you. The United Nations is not an effective tool for resolving crises. Some foreign leaders are beyond persuasion and diplomacy. There is no “international community” ready to work together to solve problems, and there probably never will be.
It is not every day that one can announce a shift in world history, but this day is today. And we are now in a new era in the Middle East and the world. This is not a joke--definitely not a joke--and as you will see, it is not an exaggeration.Syria Debate Shows America’s Moral Collapse
Let me explain. For the last seven weeks I have been in the United States, mostly in Washington D.C. I have spoken and listened to many people. As a result, I am in a position to describe for you with a high degree of accuracy what the policy will be for the next 3.5 years, and perhaps for many more.
The administration has crossed a line to, in simple terms, backing the "'bad guys."
Why are we so determined to remain indifferent in the face of men, women and children convulsing to death from Sarin gas? I have no satisfactory answer, but during this period of the High Holy Days, we are obliged, in my view, to confront this question as we reflect on our moral health. After all, we Jews have spent the last seven decades asking whether more could have been done to avert the Holocaust. Could we not have bombed the railway lines to the concentration camps? Could we not have smuggled more weapons to resistance fighters, both Jewish and non-Jewish? Well, yes, we could have done much more, but we also could have done a lot less. Imagine if the current crop of politicians currently dominating the Syrian debate, from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to the leader of the British Labor Party, Ed Miliband, had been in office instead of Roosevelt and Churchill. (On second thought, don’t.)Jewish Groups Support ‘Strong Response’ to Syria’s Use of Chemical Weapons
The umbrella organization representing more than 50 Jewish groups on Tuesday issued a statement saying that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his people requires a “strong response.”Netanyahu: We Have an Iron Dome – and an Iron Will
Prior to the statement by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the White House held a conference call to brief Jewish leaders on the situation in Syria.
“The use of such indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction represents moral challenges that require a strong response,” the Conference of Presidents said.
“We need to see to [our] security. This is our first obligation, as well as mine as Prime Minister, and this is a challenge for us because the reality around is challenging,” Netanyahu began.Peres: Assad will Disappear – One Way or the Other
“In the end, our lives depend on an iron wall. We are building an iron wall, an Iron Dome, and we have an iron will,” he declared.
“These are the things that give us the strength to defend ourselves and also to tell those who would attack us: it is not worth your while. These are the fundamentals that protect the State of Israel. Everything else is happening here now.”
However, he continued, intervention may not be the right path. "War is a very serious business and I would suggest to every leader to think as much as they can before rather than afterwards,” he said, adding, “I admire President Obama's attempt to examine every possibility to bring this horrible situation to an end.”Report: Syrian Forensic Chief Defects with Evidence of Chemical Weapon Use
Peres echoed other Israeli leaders in saying that Israel has no plans to intervene in Syria, but is prepared for any attack. An attack is unlikely, he added, explaining, “If Syria attacks us we will overcome them and that is why I believe it won’t happen… We have one of the best security infrastructures and one of the best militaries in the modern world.”
The Syrian opposition has stated today (Tuesday) that Abdul Tawwab Shahrour, head of the forensic medicine committee in Aleppo, has defected to Turkey.Former Iranian President: Assad Attacked His Own People with Gas
According to Syrian opposition representatives, Shahrour is in possession of evidence pointing to the use of chemical weapons by the Bashar al-Assad regime in an attack that occurred earlier this year. More than 20 people were killed in an attack at the Khan al-Assal district near Aleppo on March 19. The Assad regime has previously denied allegations that it used chemical weapons during the attack.
According to the Syrian opposition, Shahrour has both documents and eyewitness accounts proving the use of chemical weapons during the events and contradicting the Assad regime's version of the events, which he intends to reveal at a news conference.
“The Syrian people are experiencing harsh conditions. On the one hand, they are bombed with chemicals by their own government, and on the other hand, they can expect American bombs,” concluded the former Iranian president.Obama garners bipartisan support for Syria strike
Not only has Iran defended Assad throughout the civil war in Syria, the Islamic Republic has provided him with military support during his fight against rebels trying to topple his regime.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner emerged from a White House meeting and told reporters: “This is something that the United States, as a country, needs to do. I’m going to support the president’s call for action. I believe that my colleagues should support this call for action.”Senate resolution sets deadline, bars ground forces in Syria
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also said they will support Obama because the U.S. has a compelling national security interest to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the draft resolution that the Foreign Relations Committee will vote on Wednesday.U.S. Air Force Lacks Preparedness for Syria Strike
The measure would set a time limit of 60 days for any mission, and it says the president can extend that for 30 days more unless Congress has a vote of disapproval.
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the committee, and Sen. Bob Corker, the top Republican, agreed on the measure late Tuesday. The White House had no immediate reaction to the draft resolution before Obama departed for Sweden and then Russia, to attend the G-20 summit.
General Mark Welsh has said recent cutbacks to the U.S. Air Force have limited it's readiness to carry out a major offensive.Iran will not tolerate fall of Assad, establishes joint ‘war room’ with Syria, Hezbollah
Welsh was quoted by the Journal of the U.S. Air Force on August 28.
Emphasizing cuts including the grounding of tactical combat squadrons earlier this year, Welsh said the Air Force would carry out any mission assigned to it but added, "We are not going to be as ready as we would like."
The trio aim to provide a coordinated response to any American aggression against Syria or Iran, which Mashregh News said would include counterattacking with missiles aimed at Israel and American assets in the region.‘The fire is approaching’: Syria and its allies threaten regional war
According to the Fars News Agency, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a warning recently during his recent meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “The Islamic Republic will defend Syria,” FNA reported that message read, “because of its support for the resistance front against the Zionist regime [Israel], and is vehemently opposed to any intervention by foreign forces in Syrian internal affairs.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia fighting side-by-side with Assad against the rebels, will strike back at American ships if an attack takes place.Hamas dismisses talk of strike by Egypt against Gaza
“The resistance [Hezbollah] and the armed forces are now one body,” said a senior Syrian official on Monday. “In my assessment, Hezbollah will side with Syria in certain operations targeting warships in the Mediterranean.”
The threat is not an idle one. During the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, a land-based missile launched by Hezbollah struck an Israeli warship off the Lebanese coast, killing four sailors and severely damaging the vessel.
Hamas officials on Tuesday urged Palestinians to ignore rumors to the effect that the Egyptian army is preparing a military offensive against the Gaza Strip.Five Reporters Killed, 80 Detained Since Morsi's Ouster
“The talk about a possible Egyptian military operation in the Gaza Strip is baseless,” a Hamas official said. “We urge our people not to pay attention to the rumors flying around.”
A Palestinian journalist in Gaza City said that there was “increased talk” about a possible Egyptian military strike in the Gaza Strip.
Reporters Without Borders has issued a scathing report on the treatment of reporters in Egypt since the removal of President Mohamed Morsi in early July:11 Brotherhood members sentenced to life in prison
Since 3 July, a total of five journalists have been killed, 80 journalists have been arbitrarily detained (with seven still held) and at least 40 news providers have been physically attacked by the police or by pro-Morsi or pro-army demonstrators.
A Suez military court has given 11 Muslim Brotherhood supporters life sentences relating to charges of violence following the dispersal of pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-ins in Cairo and Giza last month.Iran Is *Really* Good at Evading Sanctions
The 11 defendants were given 25-year sentences.
Forty-five others were given five years each, while eight defendants were acquitted of charges of assualting army troops, burning military vehicles, throwing Molotov cocktails and attacking churches in Suez governorate.
What is obvious is that sanctions have forced Iran’s efforts to go underground, adapt, and become more intricate as time goes by. Sanctions are successful in the specific sense that the more strict they become and consistently they are enforced, the harder it is for Iran to achieve its goals. It is not enough, however, to simply add companies to the sanctions list. Authorities must rigorously enforce sanctions by going after the individuals and companies who help evade them, seizing their assets, and even arresting and extraditing those involved. They must also constantly update their lists to reflect the ever-changing corporate structure of Iran’s overseas procurement networks.
Nothing is straightforward in these operations, except the Iranian leaders’ dedication to their goal of acquiring nuclear weapons. And whether sanctions will successfully deter them or it will require different measures to do so is still very much an open question.