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Sunday, May 12, 2013

[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - May 12, 2013

Historians Against the War is posting Frank Brodhead's "Iran War Weekly,' as a helpful resource for our members and friends. Frank earned a PhD in history at Princeton University and has co-authored several books on US foreign policy. He is a scholar and political activist who has worked with peace and social justice movements for many years. In 2010-2011 he produced the "Afghanistan War Weekly," which was widely used by antiwar groups across the country.
Iran War Weekly
May 12, 2013
Hello All – While nuclear negotiators will meet Wednesday in Istanbul, little progress is expected in the diplomatic standoff about Iran's nuclear program before Iran's presidential election, which will take place on June 14th.  With Iran's reform movement still not recovered from its crushing defeat in 2009, until now the presidential election appeared to be a mere jockeying for power within conservative leadership circles, but it  took on a more volatile character on Saturday, when both former president Rafsanjani and a protégé of current president Ahmadinejad registered their candidacies at the last minute. There are some very good articles about the election – both candidates and electoral procedures – linked below.
Whether Iran's election will take place in greatly altered circumstances as a result of the escalation of the war in Syria is another question.  The consequences of Israel's two bombing attacks on Syria a week ago are still unfolding.  The US- and Russian-sponsored "international conference" on Syria scheduled for sometime in late May or June appears to have been poorly thought out (or poorly reported). Among other questions, Who is invited?  Iran?  Israel? Lebanon (Hezbollah)? Or just the US/NATO plus Russia?  And who among the warring parties?  Armed Islamist groups, or just those included in the US-sponsored coalition?  Already the US-supported Free Syrian Army has announced it will not negotiate with the Assad people, which of course is the point of the conference.  Or is it?  Is the conference merely a theatrical ploy, with its anticipated failure leading inexorably to military escalation and deeper US intervention? 
Given the relative dearth of news and analysis about the diplomacy and theatrics re: Iran's nuclear program this week, I have included far too much information about the many flash points crystallizing in Syria.  It's hard to believe that near-term events will not draw Iran more deeply into Syria's widening war, and this widening war could easily spill over into military engagement with Iran itself.
Once again I would like to thank those who you who have forwarded this newsletter or linked it on your sites.  This "issue" and previous issues of the Iran War Weekly are posted at http://warisacrime.org/blog/46383.  If you would like to receive the IWW mailings, please send me an email at fbrodhead@aol.com
Best wishes,
Frank Brodhead
Consequences of western intransigence in nuclear diplomacy with Iran
By Hillary Mann Leverett and Flynt Leverett, Aljazeera [May 10, 2013]
---- To maintain the illusion of some prospect for progress in nuclear diplomacy with Tehran, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will meet with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, in Istanbul next week - on May 15. Purportedly, Ashton will see if the P5+1 dialogue with Iran can be put back on track after yet another round of nuclear talks with Iran failed last month. Publicly, Western officials blame the failure either on the Islamic Republic's upcoming presidential election or on that old fallback, Iranian "intransigence". In reality, talks failed because America and its Western partners remain unwilling to recognise Iran's right to enrich uranium under international safeguards.  … But the real reason for US obstinacy is that recognising Iran's nuclear rights would mean accepting the Islamic Republic as a legitimate entity representing legitimate national interests.  No American president since the Iranian Revolution - not even Barack Obama - has been willing to do this. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/05/2013589151459212.html
The Failed Neocon Attempt to Destroy an American Anti-war Organization
---- So at the end of this five-year process, no evidence was found to substantiate the accusation that NIAC was lobbying for the Iranian regime; the objective of "destroying NIAC" has completely failed as the organization continues to be one of the most prominent voices on Iran policy in Washington; and the vast majority of the cost of the discovery process remains with the defendant and his neo-conservative backers. Not a good day for the pro-war lobby, but a very good one for Americans who find the idea of being embroiled in a third Middle East war – so soon after Iraq and with our troops still in Afghanistan – utterly appalling. http://www.washingtonspectator.org/index.php/BREAKING-VIEWS/epic-fail-the-neocon-attempt-to-destroy-an-american-antiwar-organization.html
Obama's Duplicitous Iran Policy
By Muhammad Sahimi, Antiwar.com [May 5, 2013]
---- One of President Obama's greatest "accomplishments" has been creating fissures within the antiwar/progressive community in the United States by talking like a progressive politician, but acting in most cases as a conservative one. … But it is the President's foreign policy that has created the deepest fissures in the antiwar/progressive community, because he has been able to create the illusion for some that he is truly an antiwar president and a proponent of a progressive foreign policy. … To demonstrate how the President talks as a peace president, but acts as a war president, I focus on one example, Iran.  His Iran policy has been a completely duplicitous one – talking about diplomacy, while waging economic war on the Iranian people, preparing for military attacks, and emphasizing countless number of times that "all options are on the table." In fact, what the President has done is channeling Bush fever in Iran. http://original.antiwar.com/muhammad-sahimi/2013/05/05/obamas-duplicitous-iran-policy/
Iran Surprises Again!
By Farideh Farhi, Lobe Log [May 12, 2013]
---- There are now more than 35 relatively well known candidates and over 600 unknown candidates, including 30 women. The Guardian Council will have five days to go through these applications and disqualify almost all of them. Given the high number of well-known candidates, the Council may eventually extend its examination period for another five days in order to figure out what to do. But that's all the law allows. Campaigning in full force among the very few who get past the Guardian Council for the June 14 election will begin no later than ten days from now. …. No matter what the reason, both Hashemi Rafsanjani's and Mashaie's candidacy pose a couple of challenges for the political system as well as for the conservative political players. http://www.lobelog.com/iran-surprises-again/
Rafsanjani Registers For High-Stakes Iranian Election
By Mohammad Ali Shabani, Al-Monitor [May 11, 2013]
---- The situation is that there are now figures from across the political spectrum in the fray. The 2+1 coalition, which also features former parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, is widely seen as enjoying the backing of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. There is a separate so-called 'principlist' coalition led by former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. Moreover, several members of the camp of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, chief among them his right-hand man Mashaei, have registered. Lastly, in addition to the centrists/reformists, led by Rafsanjani, there are some independent figures. In other words, after years of increasingly factional infighting, all the ingredients for a vicious campaign season are at hand. There are two filters which will likely act to stabilize the playing field for the June 14 election. The Guardian Council will weed out most political players and likely limit the number of hopefuls allowed to run to less than a dozen. In parallel, as witnessed in the past months, the process of coalition-building is likely to continue and accelerate. This will act as a separate filter coalescing the various political figures at play. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/05/iran-election-velayati-rafsanjani-mashaei-register.html
Also useful about the election - Saeed Kamali Dehghan, "Ahmadinejad looks to make confidant his successor as Iran race starts," The Guardian [UK] [May 7, 2013] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/07/iran-ahmadinejad-mashaei-presidential-election; Thomas Erdbrink, "Two Candidates Shake Up Iran's Presidential Race as Last-Minute Entries," New York Times [May 11, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/world/middleeast/two-candidates-shake-up-irans-presidential-race-as-last-minute-entries.html?hp&pagewanted=print; and Gareth Smyth, "Iranian elections: economy still centre stage as candidates rehash old themes," Tehran Bureau [May 8, 2013] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iran-blog/2013/may/08/iranian-elections-mahmoud-ahmadinejad-economy
Good-bye Dubai? Bombing Iran's Nuclear Facilities would leave the Entire Gulf States Region virtually Uninhabitable
By Wade Stone, Global Research, [May 11, 2013]
---- Unlike the Fukushima Daiichi reactors which suffered only partial meltdowns with much of the fuel rods and spent fuel storages remaining mostly intact, "all" of Iran's nuclear fuel would be exploded into the atmosphere. And let us not forget that the US-Israeli military ordinances employed to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities would certainly be tipped with depleted uranium, and very likely would include some mini-nukes. Indeed, in regards nuclear disasters and environmental catastrophes, Fukushima would absolutely pale in comparison to that caused by the bombing of Iran's nuclear sites. The nuclear fallout from such an event would be extreme, to put it mildly. http://www.globalresearch.ca/good-bye-dubai-bombing-irans-nuclear-facilities-would-leave-the-entire-gulf-states-region-virtually-uninhabitable/5334737
Muck & Meir: Prolific Analyst Botches Facts to Vindicate Failed Iran Sanctions Policy
By Nima Shirazi, Wide Asleep in America [May 8, 2013]
U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Those Aiding Iran
By Rick Gladstone, New York Times [May 9, 2013]
---- The United States on Thursday expanded its roster of those violating Iran sanctions, blacklisting four Iranian companies and one individual suspected of helping the country enrich nuclear fuel. It also singled out two other companies, including a Venezuelan-Iranian bank, accused of helping Iran evade other Western-imposed prohibitions on oil sales and financial dealings. … Any assets that blacklisted companies or individuals may have under American jurisdiction can be frozen, and they are prohibited from doing business with American citizens or businesses. Other individuals or business that engage with those under sanctions are themselves subject to penalties. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/10/world/middleeast/us-imposes-sanctions-on-those-aiding-iran.html?ref=world
For the State Department statement – "State Department Actions Targeting Iran's Nuclear Enrichment and Proliferation Program" [May 9, 2013]  http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2013/05/209195.htm
Senate Bill Would Halt Iran's Access to an Estimated $100 Billion in Cash
By Rick Gladstone, New York Times [May 8, 2013]
---- Seeking to escalate pressure on Iran, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation on Wednesday that would deny the Iranian government access to its foreign exchange reserves parked in the banks of other countries, estimated to be worth as much as $100 billion, mostly in euros. The legislation, which has strong support, would be the first major new sanction confronting Iran since its inconclusive round of negotiations with the big powers last month on its disputed nuclear program. It would impose severe penalties on any foreign financial institution that conducts foreign exchange transactions on behalf of Iran's central bank or other Iranian entity that is already blacklisted by other sanctions. It would also be retroactive to Thursday, regardless of the passage date. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/world/middleeast/bill-would-deny-iran-access-to-foreign-exchange-reserves.html?ref=world&pagewanted=print
The truth is that after Israel's air strikes on Syria, we are involved
By Robert Fisk, The Independent [May 5, 2013]
---- If the Syrian air force can use their MiGs so devastatingly – and at such civilian cost – against their enemies inside Syria, why couldn't they have sent their jets to protect Damascus and attack the Israeli aircraft? Isn't the Syrian air force supposed to be guarding Syria from Israel? Or are the MiGs just not technically able to take on Israel's state-of-the-art (American) hardware? Or would that just be a step too far? Much more important, however, is the salient fact that Israel has now intervened in the Syrian war. It may say it was only aiming at weapons destined for the Hezbollah – but these were weapons also being used against rebel forces in Syria. By diminishing the regime's supply of these weapons, it is therefore helping the rebels overthrow Bashar al-Assad. And since Israel regards itself as a Western nation – best friend and best US military ally in the Middle East, etc, etc – this means that "we" are now involved in the war, directly and from the air. http://warincontext.org/2013/05/05/the-truth-is-that-after-israel%E2%80%99s-air-strikes-on-syria-we-are-involved/
Further Involvement in Syria Would Be an Unmitigated Disaster
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [May 6, 2013]
---- The pressure on the Obama administration to take military action against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has eased somewhat with news today that preliminary findings from a U.N. investigating team indicate that the rebels, not the government, used chemical weapons…. But even without this latest news from U.N. investigators, further involvement in Syria's intractable conflict would be an unmitigated disaster. The U.S. lacks feasible military options in Syria, has no legal authority to intervene, and would in all likelihood worsen the humanitarian situation on the ground while embroiling the United States in a costly, protracted Middle Eastern war. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-glaser/further-involvement-in-sy_b_3224186.html
Also interesting/useful – Murtaza Hussain, "Iraq, Syria and the death of the modern Middle East,"  Aljazeera [May 7, 2013] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/05/2013567200437919.html; and Wadah Khanfar, "For Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, there is is a peaceful solution," The Guardian [UK] [[May 6, 2013] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/06/iraq-syria-lebanon-economic-union
The Israeli Bombing and Its Consequences
Attacks reframe the Syrian crisis
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asian Times [May 6, 2013]
---- Israel's latest air strike against a Syrian military facility, explicitly condoned by US President Barack Obama, has been called an "act of war" by Syrian officials and, as expected, drawn strong verbal condemnation by Iran, compared to the silent response of much of the Arab world. The strike, together with four rocket attacks on Damascus also blamed on Israel by the Syrian government, reflects a major escalation of the two-year old conflict that may result in direct Iranian military intervention in the near future. … Pushing the throttle on Syria is a risky proposition for Tel Aviv and has the potential to backfire in light of Iran's call on the Arab world to "take a united stand" against Israeli aggression. There are a good deal of questions about Israel's motives that are complex and rather murky, but such attacks shift the focus from the "civil war" in Syria to an inter-state conflict, thus re-mapping the entire trajectory of the conflict. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-02-060513.html
The West and its Allies Cynically Bleed Syria to Weaken Iran
By Seumas Milne, The Guardian [May 8, 2013]
---- If anyone had doubts that Syria's gruesome civil war is already spinning into a wider Middle East conflict, the events of the past few days should have laid them to rest. Most ominous was Israel's string of aerial attacks on Syrian military installations near Damascus, reportedly killing more than 100. The bombing raids, unprovoked and illegal, were of course immediately supported by the US and British governments. Since Israel has illegally occupied Syria's Golan Heights for 46 years, perhaps the legitimacy of a few more air raids hardly merited serious consideration. But it's only necessary to consider what the western reaction would have been if Syria, let alone Iran, had launched such an attack on Israel – or one of the Arab regimes currently arming the Syrian rebels – to realise how little these positions have to do with international legality, equity or rights of self-defence. … By bombing the Syrian army, which has recently made advances in some rebel-held areas, Israel is clearly intervening in the war. http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/13231
Israeli Bombing of Syria and Moral Relativism
By Glenn Greenwald, Guardian [UK] [May 6, 2013]
---- Israeli defenders claim that its air attack targeted weapons provided by Iran that would have ended up in the hands of Hezbollah. Obama officials quickly told media outlets that "the administration is fully supportive of Israel's airstrikes". Indeed, Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy noted: "Keep in mind the Israelis are using weapons supplied by us." There is, needless to say, virtually no condemnation of the Israeli assault in US media or political circles. At this point, the only question is how many minutes will elapse before Congress reflexively adopts a near-unanimous or unanimous resolution effusively praising Israel for the attack and unqualifiedly endorsing all past and future attacks as well. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/06/syria-israel-bombing-moral-relativism
(Video) Israeli aircraft bomb Syrian capital Damascus
From Russia Today [May 6, 2013] – 6 minu8tes
Other aspects of the bombing and its aftermath – David Sanger, "Attacks Fuel Debate Over U.S.-Led Effort," New York Times [May 5, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/06/world/middleeast/attacks-on-syria-fuel-debate-over-us-led-airstrikes.html?hp&pagewanted=print; Tabassum Zakaria and Deborah Charles, "No early warning for U.S. on Israeli strikes in Syria," Reuters [May 5, 2013] http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/05/us-syria-crisis-usa-strikes-idUSBRE9440E920130505; Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner, "Airstrikes Tied to Israel May Be Message to Iranians," New York Times [May 5, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/06/world/middleeast/strikes-in-syria-linked-to-israel-may-be-a-signal-to-iran.html?hp&pagewanted=print; Anne Barnard, "Hezbollah Threatens Israel Over Syria Strikes," New York Times [May 9, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/10/world/middleeast/hezbollah-syria-israel.html?ref=world; and Mitch Ginsburg, "Israel's perilous calculus in Syria,"  Times of Israel [May 5, 2013] http://www.timesofisrael.com/israels-perilous-calculus-in-syria/
The US-Russia Conference
A Second Chance for Diplomacy
From Aljazeera [Inside Syria] [May 12, 2013]
---- The Syrian government says it will consider any proposal to end the conflict through negotiations, but it needs more details and wants to retain its right to fight the "terrorists" - a term it uses to describe various rebel groups. But this may be a tough condition since ending the violence is a prerequisite for any settlement. The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main opposition group, said it welcomes the idea but it stuck to its earlier condition, that President Bashar al-Assad and his regime must go. Both conditions remain stumbling blocks to any real chance of peace.
Has the Obama Administration Given into Russia on Syria?
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [May 10, 2013]
---- The joint communique issued by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this week regarding Syria has in retrospect raised eyebrows in the world press because it seems to adopt Russian, not American, rhetoric on the issue. The document called for an international conference on the crisis jointly sponsored by the US and Russia, and for a negotiated solution. The Russian insistence that there be no precondition of President Bashar al-Assad stepping down is implied. The abandonment of this precondition is a deal breaker for the Syrian opposition, who considers him a mass murderer for his brutal military assault on largely peaceful protesters, which pushed them into armed resistance. http://www.juancole.com/2013/05/administration-russia-syria.html
More on the conference - Steven Lee Myers and Rick Gladstone, "U.S. and Russia Plan Conference Aimed at Ending Syrian War," New York Times [May 7, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/08/world/middleeast/syria-golan-heights-united-nations.html?ref=world; from Agence France-Presse, "Syria opposition insists on Assad exit for deal" [May 8, 2013] http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130508/syria-opposition-insists-assad-exit-deal; and Jason Ditz, "Syria Rebels Reject US-Russia Dialogue Calls," Antiwar.com [May 8, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/05/08/syria-rebels-reject-us-russia-dialogue-calls/
Were Chemical Weapons Used?
'This Madman Must Be Stopped' - Syrian Chemical Weapons
By David Edwards, Media Lens [May 9, 2013]
---- Last August, Barack Obama told reporters at the White House: 'We have been very clear to the Assad regime... that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. 'That would change my calculus; that would change my equation.' This was a clear threat to repeat the 2011 Nato assault which resulted in the overthrow and murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. So what is the evidence that Assad recently chose to do the one thing most likely to trigger a Western attack and similar fate? http://www.zcommunications.org/this-madman-must-be-stopped-syrian-chemical-weapons-by-david-edwards
UN: Syrian Rebels Used Chemical Weapons
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [May 6, 2013]
---- United Nations investigators looking into allegations of chemical weapons use in the Syrian conflict say early indications are that the rebel opposition, not the Assad regime, deployed the nerve agent sarin. The alleged use of chemical weapons drew international attention after President Obama declared it a "red line" for the Assad regime, beyond which would trigger unspecified military action. Advocates of intervention into Syria's civil war used the allegations to rally support for military action. But the UN independent commission of inquiry on Syria "has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons," Reuters reported commission member Carla Del Ponte as saying.
Also useful on chemical weapons – Juan Cole, "UN has strong suspicions Syrian Rebels used Sarin Gas," Informed Comment [May 6, 2013] [And Euronews Video] http://www.juancole.com/2013/05/suspicions-syrian-rebels.html; and Jason Ditz, "Turkish PM: Syria Used 'At Least 200′ Chemical Weapons," Antiwar.com [May 10, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/05/10/turkish-pm-syria-used-at-least-200-chemical-weapons/
The Civil War
(Video) Syria: Behind Rebel Lines
From Aljazeera [People and Power] [May 9, 2013]
---- Yet those opposed to the Assad regime show no signs of faltering. Something keeps them at the front line - even though they are outgunned and often desperately short of everything from ammunition to medical supplies. To find out what drives them, earlier this year veteran journalist Rania Abouzeid and Canadian filmmaker Sylvene Gilchrist went to spend time with elements of the Free Syrian Army in Idlib province, a key battleground in the northwest of Syria. Their film tells the story of the rebels behind the scenes – why they fight, how they source their weapons and ammunition, how they function and live among and ruins and how often disparate armed groups - with different motivations and aims - interact with each other in a common cause. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/2013/05/201358122719496896.html
Struggling to Adapt: The Muslim Brotherhood in a New Syria
By Aron Lund [May 7, 2013]
---- The Muslim Brotherhood was Syria's strongest opposition faction when the uprising against Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011, but it was entirely based in exile. Its aging, exiled leadership is now struggling to influence Syria's youthful revolt. Its efforts to exercise control are buoyed by the disorganized state of the opposition both abroad and in Syria, but the rise of militant Salafism has complicated its attempts to co-opt fighters on the ground. http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/05/07/struggling-to-adapt-muslim-brotherhood-in-new-syria/g2qm
More on the war - From War in Context, "Syria: massacres of Sunni families reported in Assad's heartland," [May 5, 2013] http://warincontext.org/2013/05/05/syria-massacres-of-sunni-families-reported-in-assads-heartland/; Mona Mahmood and Ian Black, "Free Syrian Army rebels defect to Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra," The Guardian [May 8, 2013] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/08/free-syrian-army-rebels-defect-islamist-group; and Anne Barnard, "Hezbollah Takes Risks by Fighting Rebels in Syria," New York Times [May 7, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/08/world/middleeast/hezbollah-takes-risks-by-fighting-rebels-in-syria.html?pagewanted=1&ref=world
US Views and Strategies
The Thin Red Line: Inside the White House debate over Syria
By Dexter Filkins, New Yorkers [May 13, 2013]
---- In Syria, more than seventy thousand people have died, and three and a half million have been forced from their homes; the refugee camp across the border in Jordan is now that country's fifth-largest city. The Administration has given the Syrian opposition more than six hundred and fifty million dollars in nonmilitary aid, but Obama has consistently opposed arming the rebels or intervening militarily on their behalf. The United States has taken a tenuous position: not deep enough to please the rebels or its allies in Europe, or to topple the regime, or to claim leadership in the war's aftermath—but also, perhaps most important, not so deep that it can't get out. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/05/13/130513fa_fact_filkins?currentPage=all
Brzezinski: Syria Intervention Will Only Make it Worse
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [May 9, 2013]
---- Writing at Time magazine in response to an article by John McCain advocating US intervention in Syria, Zbigniew Brzezinski – not exactly a peacenik – argues that "the Syrian conflict is a sectarian war in a volatile region whose potential to spread and directly threaten American interests would only be increased by U.S. intervention." http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/05/09/brzezinski-syria-intervention-will-only-make-it-worse/
(Video) Obama under pressure to seek regime change in Syria and Iran
From The Real News Network [May 8, 2013] – 6 minutes
---- An interview with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former aide to Colin Powell. http://warincontext.org/2013/05/08/video-obama-under-pressure-to-seek-regime-change-in-syria-and-iran/
The Electric Kool-Aid Flashback Test: Should we arm the Syrian rebels?
By Rosa Brooks, Foreign Policy [May 9, 2013]
---- It's impossible to look at the Syrian conflict without horrified outrage, usually accompanied by a strong conviction that Somebody Ought to Do Something. But since "somebody" apparently doesn't extend to U.S. troops on the ground, Congress and the White House have turned instead to the idea that the United States might arm the Syrian opposition. On the surface, it's an appealing idea. If a big, nasty dictator is crushing the plucky, outnumbered resistance fighters, let's give the little guys a hand! Arming the opposition would let us feel we're doing something "real" -- humanitarian assistance and diplomatic conferences being insufficiently dramatic -- without requiring us to risk deeper military entanglement in yet another Middle Eastern state. But tempting as it is, past experience suggests that arming the Syrian opposition could be every bit as hazardous, difficult and uncertain as putting U.S. boots on the ground. Here are five reasons why…. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/05/09/should_we_arm_the_syrian_rebels
More on the :Great Debate" Jim Lobe, "Decade After Iraq, Right-Wing and Liberal Hawks Reunite Over Syria," Inter Press Service [May 8, 2013] http://www.lobelog.com/decade-after-iraq-right-wing-and-liberal-hawks-reunite-over-syria/; Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt, "White House Holds Firm on Cautious Path in Syria Crisis," New York Times [May 7, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/08/world/middleeast/syria.html?hp&_r=0; Katrina vanden Heuvel, "Diplomacy is better than military action in Syria," The Nation [May 7, 2013] http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/diplomacy-is-better-than-military-action-in-syria/2013/05/07/9cb3fe34-b664-11e2-b94c-b684dda07add_story.html; and Andrew J. Bacevich, "The US can't remake Syria," The Boston Globe [May 8, 2013] http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2013/05/08/road-damascus/oYCHc6T67btNAVoSRyX3dJ/story.html; Jason Ditz, "Obama: Moral Obligation to End Syrian Civil War," Antiwar.com [May 7, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/05/07/obama-moral-obligation-to-end-syrian-civil-war/; Majd Rafizadeh, "Syria: Military intervention by the U.S. would only exacerbate the conflict." Los Angeles Times [May 7, 2013] http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-rafizadeh-no-intervention-in-syria-20130507,0,5381687.story; and Greg Mitchell, "'NYT' and Keller Promote a US Attack on Syria: Iraq WMD Revisited?" The Nation [May 6, 2013] http://www.thenation.com/blog/174182/nyt-and-keller-promote-us-attack-syria-iraq-wmd-revisited
A Widening War: Israel
Israel's Man in Damascus: Why Jerusalem Doesn't Want the Assad Regime to Fall
By Efraim Halevy, Foreign Affairs [May 10, 2013]
[Efraim Halevy served as chief of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002.]
---- Israel's most significant strategic goal with respect to Syria has always been a stable peace, and that is not something that the current civil war has changed. Israel will intervene in Syria when it deems it necessary; last week's attacks testify to that resolve. But it is no accident that those strikes were focused solely on the destruction of weapons depots, and that Israel has given no indication of wanting to intervene any further. Jerusalem, ultimately, has little interest in actively hastening the fall of Bashar al-Assad. Israel knows one important thing about the Assads: for the past 40 years, they have managed to preserve some form of calm along the border. Technically, the two countries have always been at war -- Syria has yet to officially recognize Israel -- but Israel has been able to count on the governments of Hafez and Bashar Assad to enforce the Separation of Forces Agreement from 1974, in which both sides agreed to a cease-fire in the Golan Heights, the disputed vantage point along their shared border. Indeed, even when Israeli and Syrian forces were briefly locked in fierce fighting in 1982 during Lebanon's civil war, the border remained quiet. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/139373/efraim-halevy/israels-man-in-damascus?page=show
Why Israel's Interceptors Can Stop Syrian Missiles — And Why It Attacked Anyway
By Noah Shachtman, Wired [May 7, 2013]
---- Israel may have attacked targets in Syria — and risked a wider war — to stop ballistic missiles from falling into the hands of Islamic extremists. But current and former Israeli missile defense officials insist that if Hezbollah militants ever got the Fateh-110 weapons, Israel could shoot the missiles out of the sky…. Unless, of course, the extremists fired off a whole lot of the weapons at once. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/05/israel-syria-missile-defense/
A Widening War: Iran
Iran Warns Syrian Rebels After Report of Shrine Desecration
By Thomas Erdbrink and Hania Mourtada, New York Times [May 6, 2013]
---- Iran's Shiite leaders warned of regional sectarian conflict after reports that Syrian rebels raided a Shiite shrine in a suburb of Damascus last week, destroying the site and making off with the remains of the revered Shiite figure buried there. The Qaeda-inspired Al Nusra Front claimed responsibility for the abduction of the remains of Mr. Oday. The group's attack was followed by a stern warning from Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, who on April 30 told Sunni rebels not to target the largest Shiite sanctuary in Syria, the golden-domed shrine of Sayida Zeinab, Muhammad's granddaughter. Mr. Nasrallah warned of "very serious repercussions" if Syrian rebels attacked the shrine, long a main pilgrimage destination for Shiites worldwide. Such an attack would unleash an uncontrollable conflict, Mr. Nasrallah said, invoking a fearsome precedent: the destruction of a Shiite shrine in the Iraqi city of Samarra in 2006 that contributed to years of sectarian bloodletting between Shiites and Sunni Muslims there. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/07/world/middleeast/iran-warns-syrian-rebels-after-report-of-shrine-desecration.html
A Widening War: The UK
How the BBC helps pave the road to war on Syria
By The Editors, News Unspun [May 9, 2013]
---- This sentiment, that the West can put right the Syrian situation, is inherent to most reporting of the conflict. The BBC recently reported that 'the pressure to act has intensified in recent days after emerging evidence that Syria has used chemical weapons such as the nerve gas sarin'. This statement presents the existence of a 'pressure to act' as a given, though the source of such pressure is unidentified. From where is this pressure emerging? As a BBC report points out, public opinion in France, the UK, the US, and Germany is by majority opposed to the possibility of intervention in the conflict through sending arms and military supplies to the Syrian opposition. The BBC is not then speaking on behalf of the public majority. Pressure towards military intervention, to some extent considered a desirable option by the UK government (if it can 'achieve the result [they] want', as Cameron put it in an interview with Nick Robinson), is, however, increasingly mounting within the media itself. http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/13232
A Widening War: Turkey
Turkish minister: Bombers had contacts with Syria's secret police
By Tom Watkins and Gul Tuysuz, CNN [May 12, 2013]
---- A top Turkish official said Saturday that authorities believe those responsible for a pair of deadly car bombings earlier in the day had been in contact with the Syrian government's secret police force. In a news conference, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said the Syrian government was linked to the attack. "The investigation into the perpetrators is for the most part complete. It has been determined that the organization and its members who carried out the attack were in contact with pro-Syrian regime Al Muhabarat (Syrian Intelligence Services) organization in Syria," he said. "The organization is identified and for the most part the persons involved are identified." http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/11/world/meast/turkey-syria-violence/index.html
Turkey may support U.S. to establish no-fly zone in Syria
From Xinhua [China] [May 10, 2013]
---- Turkey might support the United States to establish a no-fly zone in Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told U.S. media ahead of his visit to the United States on May 16. In an interview with NBC News channel, Erdogan said that if the United States takes a step toward a no-fly zone in Syria, Turkey might say "yes" to it. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2013-05/10/c_124695045.htm


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