Syrian Army Defector: There Were Dozens of Chemical Attacks, Hizbullah Has Chemical Weapons - Phil Sands and Suha Maayeh (National-UAE)
Brig.-Gen. Zaher Saket, a former commander of chemical warfare in the Syrian army's 5th division who defected, said poison gas had been used on 14 occasions while he was serving in the armed forces. He had been informed of 20 other times after his defection, he said.
"If the regular army does not have the capacity to storm and destroy the Free Syrian Army, and is not capable of attacking a city or a village, the regime will use chemical weapons," he said.
"Some of the chemical weapons shipments are already with Hizbullah," he added.
Report: Syria's Rebels Are Killing Assad's Soldiers by a Factor of 2 to 1 - Micah Zenko (Foreign Policy)
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) breaks down the Syrian deaths in the civil war as follows:
Civilians 40,146, rebels 21,850, pro-regime soldiers and militia 45,469, Hizbullah 171, unidentified 2,726, total 110,371.
White House: Obama to Host Netanyahu on September 30 (AFP)
Prime Minister Netanyahu will visit the White House on Sept. 30.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama and Netanyahu would discuss final status talks with the Palestinians, Iran's nuclear challenge, Syria's civil war and the chemical weapons crisis.
Before then, Obama will meet Palestinian President Abbas at the UN, Palestinian sources said.
U.S.-Led Sinai Peacekeepers under Siege as Egypt Battles Islamists - Inna Lazareva (Telegraph-UK)
American-led peace-keeping troops in Sinai are living in a state of siege as fighting between the Egyptian army and militant Islamists threatens the viability of their mission.
Conditions for the 1,660-strong team, including almost 700 Americans, who were put in place under the 1979 Camp David peace accord, have become "very tense and very dangerous," according to Egyptian sources. Other troops come from France, Italy, Australia and Canada.
"They are sitting there like sitting ducks," Zalman Shoval, special envoy for the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Daily Telegraph.
See also Israeli Security Delegation in Cairo to Discuss Sinai (Ma'an News-PA)
British Airways Apologizes over "Palestinian Territories" Marker over Israel on In-Flight Map - Sebastian Salek (Independent-UK)
British Airways has apologized for displaying an in-flight map with the words "Palestinian Territories" covering part of Israel on flights between Heathrow and Israel.
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- Former CIA Deputy: No Way Will Assad Give Up His Nerve Gas - Shane Harris
"I think this is the Syrians playing for time," Michael Morell, the recently-retired deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told Foreign Policy. "I do not believe that they would seriously consider giving up their chemical weapons." "Be a skeptic that [Assad] is at all serious about this." "Chemical weapons are easy to hide and easy to move around," Morell said. (Foreign Policy)
See also below Observations: Don't Hold Your Breath for Syrian Chemical Weapons to Be Destroyed - Ely Karmon (Ha'aretz)
- Obama Wants to Test Iran Leader's Interest in Dialogue
President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appears to want to open a dialogue with the U.S. and that he is willing to test whether this is the case. Last weekend, Obama revealed he and Rouhani had exchanged letters about the U.S.-Iran standoff. "There is an opportunity here for diplomacy," Obama said. "And I hope the Iranians take advantage of it." (VOA News)
- West Lobbies UN Nuclear Meeting to Reject Arab Push on Israel - Fredrik Dahl
The U.S. said on Tuesday an Arab push to single out Israel for criticism over its assumed nuclear arsenal would hurt diplomatic efforts to ban weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Arab states have proposed a resolution at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear agency, expressing concern about "Israeli nuclear capabilities."
U.S. and Israeli officials have said a nuclear arms-free zone in the Middle East could not be a reality until there was broad Arab-Israeli peace and Iran curbed its nuclear program. The Arab resolution "does not advance our shared goal of progress toward a WMD-free zone in the Middle East," U.S. Ambassador Joseph Macmanus said. "Instead, it undermines efforts at constructive dialogue toward that common objective." (Reuters)
- Israeli General: Assad Could Survive in Syria for Years - Dan Williams
Syrian President Assad could cling to power for years despite having lost overall control of his country, Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan,
Israel's top commander on the frontier with Syria, told Yediot Ahronot on Wednesday.
"I don't see any force toppling him tomorrow morning - though he deserves to pass from this world, and the quicker that happens, the better," Golan said. He added that Assad's army had suffered 15,000 fatalities, fired off 40-50% of its long-range missiles and seen some of its anti-aircraft batteries overrun by insurgents.
Golan warned against exaggerating the threat from the radical Sunni jihadis who Israel estimates make up around 10% of those fighting Assad.
"The Global Jihad is a bad enemy, but it is a relatively primitive enemy that does not enjoy the backing of a regional power." (Reuters)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Cool to Reported Iranian Concession on Fordo - Boaz Bismuth
In response to reports that Iranian President Rouhani is considering decommissioning the nuclear facility in Fordo, Strategic Affairs, Intelligence and International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz told Army Radio Tuesday that it would do little to change Iran's nuclearization. "Most of the centrifuges are not there; without Fordo they might be able to produce 6, not 7, nuclear bombs." (Israel Hayom)
- IDF: No Safe Haven for Armed West Bank Gunmen - Ron Ben-Yishai
For the third time over the past few weeks, IDF forces on Tuesday encountered armed and organized resistance during a nighttime operation to arrest terror suspects in Jenin.
The IDF said the wanted terrorist, who was killed, was Hussam Sayeed al-Tubasi, an Islamic Jihad member and arms dealer who also threw explosive devices at IDF forces on a number of occasions.
IDF Central Command head Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon warned that areas in refugee camps in Jenin, Kalandiya, and Nablus were becoming havens for Palestinian terrorists.
"The principle according to which we reach terrorists everywhere is crucial," he said. "They want to limit our operational freedom, and we want to prevent this. We cannot allow a situation whereby the Palestinian terrorists have safe places where they can get organized and use as bases from which they leave to carry out terror attacks."
He said the gunmen behind the attacks on Israeli soldiers were Tanzim and Islamic Jihad members who do not accept the authority of the PA regime in Ramallah. (Ynet News)
- America, Syria and Israel - Martin Kramer
Israelis got a preview this past week of what the Middle East would look like during a possible Iran crisis, and they didn't like what they saw.
What Israelis found alarming was the way Mr. Obama shifted the burden of decision. Every one of his Syrian maneuvers was viewed as a dry run for his conduct in a likely future crisis over Iran's nuclear drive.
Israelis always imagined they would go to Mr. Obama with a crucial piece of highly sensitive intelligence on Iranian progress, and he would make good on his promise to block Iran with a swift presidential decision. So his punt to Congress over what John Kerry called an "unbelievably small" strike left Israelis rubbing their eyes. If this is now standard operating procedure in Washington, can Israel afford to wait if action against Iran becomes urgent?
The Syrian episode has shown how dead-set both Congress and U.S. public opinion are against U.S. military action in the Middle East. Bottom line: The chance that Israel may need to act first against Iran has gone up.
The writer is president of Shalem College in Jerusalem.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Why Is Turkey Sheltering a Dangerous Hamas Operative? - Jonathan Schanzer
Turkey, a member of NATO, is an important base of operations for at least one high-ranking member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Turkey currently serves as the home for Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri, founder of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades in the West Bank.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told a U.S. audience that Hamas was not a terrorist group, and he has repeatedly vowed to visit Gaza. Ankara has also provided Hamas with as much as $300 million in financial support.
Veteran Israeli analyst of Palestinian affairs Ehud Yaari has noted that Turkey is allowing Arouri to direct efforts to rebuild Hamas' terrorism infrastructure in the West Bank. If Arouri really has, as Yaari writes, "taken sole control of the movement's activities in the West Bank," Turkey appears to have in effect taken over from Damascus and become Hamas' West Bank headquarters. To the letter of the law, Turkey could meet criteria as a state sponsor of terrorism.
- Is Sinai Exhausting the Egyptian Army or Besieging the Muslim Brotherhood? - Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Egyptian defense minister and commander of the armed forces Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has mobilized the biggest number of troops the Sinai Peninsula has witnessed since the war in 1973. One of the factors that led to Egypt's losing control over Sinai during the Mubarak era is that he overlooked Hamas' smuggling operations and the digging of tunnels. Hamas has now seen Egyptian troops advance quickly in the Sinai and succeed in destroying tunnels.
As a result, Hamas has stopped criticizing the current Egyptian government and ordered its leaders not to criticize Sisi and not to call what happened in Egypt a "coup." It even warned mosque preachers not to criticize Sisi or support the Brotherhood in public.
Hamas' retreat from supporting the Brotherhood in Egypt, Sisi's adoption of an "iron fist" policy when confronting armed groups in Sinai, and the Brotherhood's failure to attain huge support from the Egyptians or from foreign parties are all factors that make the battle of governing Egypt proceed in one path.
Don't Hold Your Breath for Syrian Chemical Weapons to Be Destroyed - Ely Karmon (Ha'aretz)
- Since the outbreak of the civil war, Assad's chemical weapons have become the Alawite community's best insurance policy against the threat to their physical existence and to the survival of the regime. Therefore, I am skeptical that a Syria ruled by Assad and ever-conscious of the Alawite community's fragile future is ready to renounce its entire chemical arsenal.
- The timetable of the plan seems completely unrealistic, calling for the destruction of chemical weapons by the first half of 2014. Even with a cease-fire to allow international inspectors to do their work, the process would take (in my evaluation) three to five years.
- A secret military storage base of mustard gas in Jufra, Libya, was discovered after the fall of Gaddafi at the end of 2011. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose inspectors visited the country, gave Libya a deadline of April 2012 for the destruction of the chemicals.
Today, in spite of ample technical and financial support from the U.S., Germany and Canada, the mustard gas is still there.
- The successful eradication of Syria's chemical arsenal thus still seems like a distant reality. The international diplomacy surrounding the process means that Damascus has gained ample space and time to maneuver and sabotage its planned destruction.
The writer is the Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya.
Mission Impossible in Syria - Michael J. Totten
From 1962 to 2011, the U.S. Army stored nearly four thousand tons of VX, Sarin, and mustard gas at the Umatilla Chemical Depot east of Portland, Oregon.
In 1993 the U.S. signed a treaty forbidding the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons, and in 2004 began destroying Oregon's stockpile.
They did it by incinerating the chemical agents in a 2,700-degree furnace. It took them eight years.
A plan is now being put together to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. I can only imagine how much more difficult the job will be in a Middle Eastern country that's ripping its own guts out while al-Qaeda and Hizbullah are loose and running wild. Color me more than a little bit skeptical. (World Affairs Journal)
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