Monday, May 11, 2015

Projecting Weakness

Inspectors Find Undeclared Sarin and VX in Syria - Anthony Deutsch

International inspectors have found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military research site in Syria that had not been declared, diplomatic sources said. 

What Do Syrian Chemical Violations Mean for Iran Deal?
- David Gerstman   

When we see that there are no consequences to Syria for violating a verifiable deal to get rid of its chemical weapons, what lesson should we draw about future violations by Iran of any deal that it agrees to regarding its illicit nuclear program? 
(Legal Insurrection)

Report: New Chlorine Attacks in Syria - Sarah El Deeb

Mohammed Tennari, a doctor who testified before the UN Security Council last month about chemical attacks, reported Thursday on three new chemical attacks in the province of Idlib that injured nearly 80 people. Government helicopters dropped barrel bombs containing chlorine on the villages of Janoudieh, Kansafrah, and Kafr Batiekh on Thursday.
(AP-Washington Post)

Persian Gulf States Want: Iran Kept at Bay - Doyle McManus

This week, President Obama will gather kings, emirs and sheiks from the oil-rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf at Camp David for a summit aimed at bolstering the U.S. alliance with their Sunni Muslim governments. These alliances have been fraying, mostly because of diverging views on Iran, the Arab states' historic rival, ruled by Shiite Muslims.

In recent months, as the Obama administration has neared an agreement to limit Iran's nuclear programs, the Saudis and their allies have reacted with near-panic. They don't want an equilibrium that grants Iran big-power status; they want Iran kept at bay. They think Iran is irrevocably bent on expanding its influence. 
(Los Angeles Times)

Saudi, Bahrain Kings to Miss Gulf Nation Summit in U.S.
The kings of both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will be skipping the Camp David summit of U.S. and allied Arab leaders, the two countries confirmed Sunday.

The absences will put a damper on talks that are designed to reassure key Arab allies, and almost certainly reflect dissatisfaction among leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council with Washington's handling of Iran and what they expect to get out of the meeting.
(AP-ABC News)


With Plane Delivery, Iran Sanctions Collapsing Already
- Eli Lake

Abbas Akhoundi, Iran's transportation minister, said Sunday that 15 planes had been acquired by Iran since February. Iranian media reported that the nine planes that arrived for Mahan Air used to be part of the Virgin Atlantic fleet. On Monday, the Financial Times
reported that Western governments suspect Iraq's Al-Naser Airlines to have been a front for Mahan to acquire the planes.

Some analysts said the transaction showed how the sanctions against Iran were collapsing. "Mahan Air's case shows that U.S. sanctions no longer deter Western companies from doing big business with Iran," said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "The administration must move quickly to punish those companies involved in this blatant breach of U.S. sanctions. Otherwise, the argument that sanctions are still largely intact and can always be snapped back in the future loses all credibility."

Avi Jorisch, a former Treasury Department official who is now a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, said the purchase of the airplanes was a "gross violation" of the interim agreement. "Such moves weaken the U.S. government's ability to negotiate and make a credible case that if a good deal is not signed, Iran's economy will continue to suffer."  

Assad Failed to Disclose Ten Chemical Weapons Sites
- Josh Rogin and Eli Lake 

Officials from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the Obama administration early this year that its inspectors had found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent during an inspection of the Syrian government's Scientific Studies and Research Center near Damascus. The administration is said to have not yet decided about how to respond.


Lessons of Syrian Chemical Weapons Discovery
- Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser
  • In early May, inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported that they had located traces of sarin-type chemical weapons and ricin-type biological weapons in at least three sites in Syria which the Assad regime had not reported.
  • The lack of political will to be drawn into a conflict with the party under supervision leads to foot-dragging; the issue is sidelined and its importance downplayed. The chlorine-gas attacks on the Syrian population, for example, have become a humdrum matter that interests no one and is barely mentioned, let alone spurring a response.
  • The West's commitment to act on these issues only within the framework of a broad international coalition creates total paralysis.
  • Whoever wants to defend against the threats embodied in Iran's behavior must have an independent capacity to act - even if one enjoys a deep strategic security relationship with the U.S. What the Saudis have been demonstrating in Yemen shows that they have already reached this conclusion.

    The writer is Director of the Project on the Regional Implications of the Syrian Civil War at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research and Analysis and Production Division of IDF Military Intelligence.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

What Syrian Chemical Weapons Reveal about Obama - Daniel Pipes, PhD

The famed "red line" warning that Barack Obama issued in August 2013 to Bashar al-Assad of Syria was arguably the defining foreign policy moment of his presidency...

When the incident ended in a blur, responses were bifurcated. The president and his allies hailed this as a monument of diplomacy, whereby a plausible threat led bloodlessly to a major improvement in behavior. In contrast, critics presented Obama as a paper tiger who raged with threats that collapsed when offered meaningless assurances by a well-established liar.

For two years, there was no verdict. But now, closure is at hand. That's because there are now multiple reports of the Assad regime using chlorine in barrel bombs, plus the discovery of traces of ricin, sarin and VX.

In response, the U.S. government not done nothing about these hideous developments other than issued mild rebukes, turn to the feckless United Nations, and hope against hope that the Russians and even the Iranians would dispose of the problem. No mention of red lines this time, just a wish no one would remember 2013.

But we do remember and we do draw conclusions. It's now indisputably clear that Obama is no more than a paper tiger. His threats against the Syrian dictatorship meant nothing but vanished into thin air, replaced by squirming and prattle.

Not only is this response important in itself, but it has implications for other hostile states, notably Russia, China, and especially Iran. If Obama dares not handle the weakling in Damascus, how might he venture to do so with the more formidable foes in Moscow, Peking, and Tehran?

For this reason, the issue of Assad's chemical weapons is crucial to American foreign policy. Like many observers, I count the months until this president is gone and the United States of America has an opportunity for a fresh start to stand by its word, live up to its historic reputation, and protect itself.
[Fox News]

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