U.S. Backing of Russian Plan on Syria Leaves Israel Wary - Jodi Rudoren (New York Times)
There was pessimism in Israel that Syrian President Assad would actually turn over and ultimately destroy his chemical stockpile.
Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said he expected that Assad would turn the Russian plan into an "epic, mammoth filibuster."
U.S. Weapons Reaching Syrian Rebels - Ernesto Londono and Greg Miller (Washington Post)
The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria over the past two weeks,
marking a major escalation in the U.S. role in Syria's civil war, U.S. officials said.
The arms shipments are limited to light weapons and other munitions that can be tracked, as well as vehicles, communications equipment and combat medical kits.
New Route for Smuggling Weapons: The Jordan-Israel Border - Asaf Gabor (Maariv-Hebrew-12Sep13)
The new fence along Israel's border with Egypt has blocked the smuggling of weapons into Israel, but smugglers are finding new routes via Jordan.
"The Bedouin tribes in Sinai have made contact with local elements along the Israel-Jordan border, the Dead Sea, and the Jordan Valley, and are transferring weapons to them," a military source said.
"Numerous weapons are being apprehended by [Israeli] security forces....In most cases, the weapons were headed to groups within the PA such as the Tanzim which operate in Palestinian refugee camps."
Poll: 62 Percent of Palestinians Justify Suicide Bombing - Jessica Chasmar (Washington Times)
62% of Palestinian Muslims say that suicide bombing is often or sometimes justified "in order to defend Islam from its enemies," according to a new Pew Research survey.
"Support for suicide bombing and other violence aimed at civilian targets is most widespread in the Palestinian territories," the report said.
Most Muslims in other countries said suicide bombings are "never" justified.
Arizona Bomb Techs Training with Counterparts in Israel - (NBC News)
A special team of bomb squad members from Pima County (Tucson), Arizona, was recently in Israel where they worked alongside their counterparts from the Israel Police to improve techniques and tactics they use along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Deputy John Morris said, "The simplicity of the training the Israelis taught us was just an eye opener."
"Israel is about the size of Pima County. Israel alone recorded double the calls the entire United States reported."
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- Syria: No Talk of "Transferring Control" of Chemical Weapons - Albert Aji and Sylvie Corbet
Negotiations have begun on a proposed UN resolution that would put Syria's chemical weapons under international control and end a diplomatic stalemate over a deadly poison gas attack, a French official said Wednesday.
In Damascus, Cabinet Minister Ali Haidar was asked about the difficulties of implementing the transfer and relinquishment of Syria's chemical weapons in the midst of a raging civil war. He replied: "There was no talk about moving and transferring control. There was talk about putting these weapons under international supervision."
A French official said Russia objected not only to making the resolution militarily enforceable, but also to blaming the Aug. 21 chemical attack on the Syrian government and demanding that those responsible be taken before an international criminal court. (AP)
See also U.S. and Russia Far Apart on Eve of Talks Over Syria - Michael D. Shear and Michael R. Gordon
The Obama administration is pressing for a "self-enforcing" resolution in the UN that would authorize military action if President Assad of Syria balked at turning over his nation's huge chemical stockpiles. But the Russians want a nonbinding statement and say the U.S. has to withdraw the threat of force. (New York Times)
- UN Report Will Point to Assad Regime in Massive Chemical Attack - Colum Lynch
UN inspectors have collected a "wealth" of evidence on the use of nerve agents that points to Syrian President Assad using chemical weapons against his own people, according to a senior Western official. The inspection team is expected on Monday to present its report on the Aug. 21 nerve agent attack in Damascus.
According to three UN-based diplomats, the report will not directly accuse the Syrian regime of gassing its own people, but it will provide a strong circumstantial case - based on an examination of spent rocket casings, ammunition, and laboratory tests of soil, blood, and urine samples - that points strongly in the direction of Syrian government culpability.
- UN Probe of Syria Confirms 8 Massacres by Assad Regime and Supporters, 1 by Rebels
Evidence confirms at least eight massacres have been perpetrated in Syria by President Assad's regime and supporters and one by rebels over the past year and a half, the UN Human Rights Council commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria said Wednesday.
In each of the incidents since April 2012, "the intentional mass killing and identity of the perpetrator were confirmed to the commission's evidentiary standards." (AP-Washington Post)
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- Israel Will Act to Prevent Transfer of Syrian Chemical Weapons to Hizbullah - Atilla Somfalvi
Israeli officials made clear Wednesday that the red lines it set in reference to Assad have not changed. If Syria tries to deliver chemical weapons, or weapons that tip the scales in favor of Hizbullah, Israel will act to prevent their transfer.
- Palestinian Fires at IDF Soldiers Guarding Worshippers at Joseph's Tomb
A Palestinian man opened fire at IDF troops guarding hundreds of Jewish worshipers at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus in the West Bank on Thursday.
The soldiers returned fire, wounding the Palestinian. The IDF Spokesman's Office said: "Shots were fired during a large and violent riot in which Palestinians also threw rocks at security forces who responded with riot dispersal means. The IDF identified the suspected shooter and fired towards him in self-defense." Some 1,400 worshippers were visiting Joseph's Tomb ahead of Yom Kippur, which begins Friday.
- Sinai Bomb Update: Six Soldiers Dead in Twin Bomb Attack
Six soldiers were killed on Wednesday morning in a double suicide car bomb attack at a military intelligence headquarters and a nearby military checkpoint in the northern Sinai town of Rafah. Ten soldiers and seven civilians were also wounded, army spokesperson Ahmed Ali said. After the initial blast, which shattered the main gate of the military facility, assailants fired rocket-propelled grenades at the building, state TV said.
A second suicide car bomb hit a nearby army checkpoint minutes after the first attack.
- U.S. Ties in Persian Gulf at Risk as Obama Allows Space for Russian-Syrian Plan - Loveday Morris
The U.S. risks damaging relations with Persian Gulf states as it warily embraces a Russian initiative for Syria to relinquish its chemical arsenal, analysts say, with Sunni monarchies fearful that the U.S. pullback from military strikes will bolster President Assad and the influence in the region of his ally Iran.
Saudi Arabia, which is spearheading military support for the Syrian rebels, had publicly backed the idea of U.S. strikes, and the rebels themselves had said they hoped to capitalize on any action to gain ground against government forces.
For Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, the fight to oust Assad plays into a wider regional struggle against the influence of Shiite Iran. Many in the region fear that capitulating to Russia's plan may bolster Assad and his allies. Kuwait and Qatar are among those that have signed a White House-sponsored statement condemning Syria for the chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 and calling for a robust international response.
The U.S. is finding its traditional alliances in the region weakened in the wake of the Arab Spring. The Gulf countries, long mistrustful of the Muslim Brotherhood, have backed Egypt's new interim government, while the U.S. has greeted it with caution. (Washington Post)
- Lack of Alternatives to Assad Helps Explain U.S. Reluctance to Intervene in Syria
It's not clear who would replace Assad if he were driven from power.
Inside Syria the rebels are divided, with fighters linked to al-Qaeda becoming increasingly dominant.
"Should Assad one day fall from power, it is extremely unlikely that moderates and hard-liners would come to a long-term agreement because of completely diverging interests," said Charles Lister at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center.
"The most likely scenario is the Iraq scenario, complete chaos and banditry," said Joshua Landis from the University of Oklahoma.
"The idea that somehow you destroy Assad and there will be another central Syrian state is entirely wishful thinking." (AP-Washington Post)
- Peace Talks: Behind the Palestinian Leaks - Khaled Abu Toameh
Palestinian officials in Ramallah have been competing with each other to release statements regarding the secret peace talks with Israel, seeking to hold Israel responsible for the expected failure of the U.S.-sponsored talks. The Palestinian statements and threats are aimed at prompting the U.S. to pressure Israel to comply with the PA's demands. The Palestinians hope the presence of a U.S. envoy at the negotiating table would help pressure Israel, and they are disappointed that U.S. envoy Martin Indyk has attended only one out of five sessions. Furthermore, Palestinian comments about Israeli "intransigence" are aimed at holding Israel fully responsible for the failure of the talks.
But these statements have proven counter-productive. The more Palestinian officials talk about the "futility" and "ineffectiveness" of the peace talks, the more opposition grows to the negotiations with Israel. Why should any Palestinians be in favor of the peace talks when their leaders are declaring, almost daily, that the negotiations are just a waste of time?
Chemical Disarmament Hard Even in Peacetime - William J. Broad and C.J. Chivers (New York Times)
- Syria's chemical weapons complex includes factories, bunkers, storage depots and thousands of munitions, all of which would have to be inspected and secured. But monitoring and securing unconventional weapons have proved challenging in places like Iraq, North Korea and Iran - even in peacetime.
- "I'm very concerned about the fine print," said Dr. Amy E. Smithson, an expert on chemical weapons at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, D.C.
"It's a gargantuan task for the inspectors to mothball production, install padlocks, inventory the bulk agent as well as the munitions. Then a lot of it has to be destroyed - in a war zone."
- "What I'm saying is, 'Beware of this deal,'" Dr. Smithson added. "It's deceptively attractive."
- Experts also said large numbers of foreign troops would almost certainly be needed to safeguard inspectors working in the midst of the civil war.
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