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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 16, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Unresolved Issues after the U.S.-Russian Agreement on Syria (AP-ABC News)
    There is not yet any indication that the Assad government will sign off on the details of the agreement.
    The U.S. and Russia have not agreed on the number of sites where Syria's chemical weapons are manufactured and stored. This could be an issue in determining where the inspectors are to work.
    Details about the composition of the inspection teams and their security must still be determined.
    No specific penalties for Syrian noncompliance have been agreed upon. Moscow could veto measures it deems too harsh.

During Talks on Syria's Chemical Weapons, Fighting on the Ground Escalated - Liz Sly (Washington Post)
    As negotiations on Syria ramped up last week, Syrian warplanes dropped bombs over far-flung Syrian towns that hadn't seen airstrikes in weeks, and government forces went on the attack in the suburbs of Damascus. Rebels also have stepped up their activities.
    At the close of a week hailed as a triumph of diplomacy over war, more than 1,000 people died in the fighting.

Assad's Biological Weapons Absent from U.S.-Russia Deal (Times of Israel)
    Syrian President Assad has two biological weapons bases, developing anthrax and other devastating biological agents, and yet the U.S.-Russia deal makes no provisions for his biological weapons capability, Israeli TV Channel 10 reported Sunday.
    U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assessed in April that Syria could be capable of producing limited biological weapons.
    A 2008 report by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, citing Israeli sources, noted "reports of one underground facility and one near the coast," and cited a "possible production capability for anthrax and botulism, and possibly other agents."

Shiite Militiamen from Across the Arab World Train in Iran to Do Battle in Syria - Farnaz Fassihi, Jay Solomon and Sam Dagher (Wall Street Journal)
    At the Amir Al-Momenin base 15 miles outside Tehran, Iranian forces are training Shiite militiamen from across the Arab world to do battle in Syria - showing the widening role of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria's war.
    Busloads of Shiite militiamen from Iraq, Syria and other Arab states have been arriving at the Iranian base in recent weeks for instruction in urban warfare and the teachings of Iran's clerics.
    The fighters "are told that the war in Syria is akin to [an] epic battle for Shiite Islam, and if they die they will be martyrs of the highest rank," says an Iranian military officer.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Kerry Outlines U.S.-Russian Agreement on Syrian Chemical Weapons
    After talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said: "We have reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons possessed by the Assad regime, and we are committed to the rapid assumption of control by the international community of those weapons."
        "We agreed that Syria must submit, week, a comprehensive listing [of its chemical weapons]." "We have committed to use extraordinary procedures under the Chemical Weapons Convention for the expeditious destruction and stringent verification of Syrian chemical weapons."
        "The Syrians must provide the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons and supporting personnel with an immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in Syria." "We have agreed to destroy all chemical weapons, including the possibility of removing weapons for destruction outside of Syria."  (State Department)
        See also Text: Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons (Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Obama on Syria: "If Diplomacy Fails, the U.S. Remains Prepared to Act"
    President Barack Obama issued a statement Saturday on the agreement reached between the U.S. and Russia on a framework for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons. "This framework provides the opportunity for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in a transparent, expeditious, and verifiable manner....The international community expects the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments."
        "The United States will continue ensure that this process is verifiable, and that there are consequences should the Assad regime not comply with the framework agreed today. And, if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Obama: Iran Shouldn't Misinterpret U.S. Response to Syria - Zachary A. Goldfarb
    President Obama declared Sunday that the U.S. is still prepared to act militarily to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons despite the decision to pursue a diplomatic deal and not strike Syria over its use of chemical weapons. In an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC, Obama said:
        "I think what the Iranians understand is that the nuclear issue is a far larger issue for us than the chemical weapons issue, that the threat against Israel that a nuclear Iran poses is much closer to our core interests, that a nuclear arms race in the region is something that would be profoundly destabilizing. And so my suspicion is that the Iranians recognize they shouldn't draw a lesson that we haven't struck [Syria] to think we won't strike Iran."  (Washington Post)
        See also Transcript: Interview with President Obama - George Stephanopoulos (ABC News)
        See also In Wake of Syria Deal, Kerry Emphasizes Iran - Michael R. Gordon and Isabel Kershner
    In a whirlwind trip to allied capitals, Secretary of State John Kerry sought to send the message that the agreement struck Saturday to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons did not signal a weakening of the Obama administration's stance on Iran. After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday, Kerry left for Europe.
        Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israel's military intelligence who now directs the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said that if the agreement is put into effect, it could serve as a signal to Iran that the U.S. and Russia can join forces on proliferation issues, a message that could have an impact in Tehran so long as it was coupled with a credible American military threat.
        But Yadlin added that he thought the chances of full Syrian compliance were low and that if the process failed, the Iranians might interpret that as reluctance by the U.S. and the West to use military force. Then, he said, the chances were that the Iranians would be encouraged to accelerate their nuclear efforts, and that "will transfer the ball to the Israeli court."  (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Syria Must Be Stripped of Chemical Weapons
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem on Sunday: "We have been closely following and support your ongoing efforts to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. The Syrian regime must be stripped of all its chemical weapons, and that would make our entire region a lot safer."
        "The world needs to ensure that radical regimes don't have weapons of mass destruction because as we've learned once again in Syria, if rogue regimes have weapons of mass destruction, they will use them. The determination the international community shows regarding Syria will have a direct impact on the Syrian regime's patron, Iran. Iran must understand the consequences of its continual defiance of the international community, by its pursuit towards nuclear weapons."
        "What the past few days have shown is...that if diplomacy has any chance to work, it must be coupled with a credible military threat. What is true of Syria is true of Iran."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel: We've Been "Absolutely Certain" for Months Assad Using Nerve Gas - Mitch Ginsburg
    Israel has been "absolutely certain" for many months - long before the Aug. 21 attack - that President Bashar Assad was using chemical weapons, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, the Israeli army's top intelligence analyst, said Saturday.
        Brun first said publicly in April that Assad was using nerve gas against rebel forces and that it had been used on more than one occasion, including an attack on March 19. The Israeli conclusion was "based on very special work" by a team that "saw very clearly," Brun said. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Despite Syria Chemical Weapons Deal, U.S. Must Remain Vigilant - Zvi Bar'el
    For the first time, Russia is dictating conditions to Assad - including a timetable - and is not making do with recommendations or the outlines of a desired policy. Within one week he must provide a detailed list of the storage sites and quantities of chemical weapons.
        There is no explanation as to why the first delegation of inspectors is to be sent to Syria only in November. If there is concern that these materials will be transferred to neighboring countries or hidden in unknown sites, inspection should start immediately. The military opposition in Syria and its commander, Gen. Salim Idris, reject the accord and regard it as a gift to Assad and an opportunity for him to drag his feet.
        The only sanctions mentioned if Assad does not comply are those the Security Council agrees to impose based on Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows the use of force or the imposition of sanctions. But Russia might not agree to an American interpretation of a breach. Even if it does, China also has the right to veto Security Council resolutions. (Ha'aretz)
  • New Syria Agreement Is a Big Victory - for Assad - Jeffrey Goldberg
    The agreement to begin disarming Syria of its chemical weapons represents an astonishing victory for the Assad regime. So long as he doesn't use chemical weapons on his people, he'll be safe from armed Western intervention. It's safe to assume that he'll increase the tempo of attacks on rebels and civilians in conventional ways, knowing now that he can do so with impunity.
        By partnering with Russia and the West on the disarmament process, a process that is meant to last into 2014 (and most likely won't be finished for years), Assad has made himself indispensable. The U.S. now needs Assad in place for the duration. He's the guy whose lieutenants know where the chemical weapons are.
        Yet this plan probably won't work. Assad is a lying, murdering terrorist, and such people aren't, generally, reliable partners. Who are the losers in this episode? The Syrian people. So long as they die in conventional ways, no one will pay their deaths much mind. (Bloomberg)
  • Wounded Syrians in Israel Fear Reaction at Home - Maayan Lubell
    What started as a trickle is now a steady flow of scores of Syrian civilians and fighters wounded in the civil war being discreetly brought into Israel for medical treatment. It is a journey fraught with risk for those who fear the wrath of President Assad's government. "There was one man, where I am from, who was treated in Israel. The regime forces killed his three brothers," said the mother of a teenage girl who was shot in the back by a sniper. "They will kill my sons and my husband if they ever find out we were here."  (Reuters)

Assad Escapes Unpunished for Using Chemical Weapons - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

  • Two weeks ago, Secretary of State John Kerry called Assad "a thug and a murderer" who had used chemical weapons "multiple times this year." Today, we are told he will come clean about his entire CW stockpile in a week and then lead UN inspectors to every cache.
  • All of this is supposed to be guaranteed by the Russians who still insist he didn't use chemical weapons. Already the Russians are disputing U.S. information about where and how much poison gas Assad holds.
  • There are a hundred ways to cheat on this agreement.
  • Even if Assad does declare and destroy his entire CW stockpile, he will have emerged unpunished for having used these terror weapons.
  • Assad will get a pass for promising not to do again what he claims he didn't do but Kerry says he did at least 14 times.

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