Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

Obscenity takes many forms

July 31, 2014

When war and destruction becomes a spectator sport. All that’s missing is a hot dog stand.

This picture  by Andrew Burton/Getty Images was published in the New York Times

Israelis gathered on a hilltop outside the town of Sderot on Monday to watch the bombardment of Gaza. Andrew Burton/Getty Images via NYT

Israelis gathered on a hilltop outside the town of Sderot on Monday to watch the bombardment of Gaza. Andrew Burton/Getty Images via NYT

Similar scenes, of Israeli spectators gathered on the high ground above Gaza to view the destruction below, were documented in a Times of London article and a video report from Denmark’s TV2 during Operation Cast Lead in 2009.

Israel is not immune from the neo-Nazi disease

May 12, 2014

Most countries in Europe have an enormous guilt complex – both singly and collectively – over the persecution of Jews in their countries for many hundreds of years and the indifference to what was happening in Germany which allowed Hitler’s Holocaust to take place. This persecution started at least 2,000 years ago but was organised  and well established by the time of the First Crusade in 1096 as the European nation-states developed and practiced enforced conversions. The Spanish Inquisition in 1478 was primarily directed at Jews (and Muslims) forced to convert to Catholicism. Much of this guilt now devolves to the credit of the nation-state of Israel even though this nation-state exists only as a consequence of  a very successful terrorist campaign carried out by Irgun and Hagganah. In a sense the creation of the nation-state of Israel was an attempt by the European countries to do what Hitler had tried to do with the Holocaust  – export the “Jewish Question” to somewhere else.

With that history of persecution of their fore-fathers, it could be expected that Jews in Israel would be especially sensitive to the persecution of minorities. But the nation-state of Israel is not synonymous with the persecuted Jews of Europe. More than 90% of Israel’s population of 8.1 million was born after the country was formed. Since the formation of Israel in 1948 (14th May), Israel and Israelis have been more of persecutors than persecuted against. And the youth of Israel have never actually experienced any persecution themselves.Their religious fanatics are just as “radicalised” and just as bent on “revenge” or Holy war as the European Muslim youth now keeping the Syrian civil war alive. Past persecution is clearly no defence against idiocy.

Right-wing neo-Nazism is alive and well all over Europe and even in Israel. And just as idiot- Mullahs radicalise Muslim youth. idiot-Rabbis drive the Israeli neo-Nazis.

HaaretzThe writer and Israel Prize laureate Amoz Oz said on Friday that those responsible for hate crimes against Arabs and Christians are “Hebrew neo-Nazis.”

Speaking at a Tel Aviv event marking his 75th birthday, Oz said that terms like “hilltop youth” and “price tag” are “sweet names for a monster that needs to be called what it is: Hebrew neo-Nazis groups.”

Oz added that in his mind, perhaps the only difference between neo-Nazis around the world and perpetrators of hate crimes in Israel is that “our neo-Nazi groups enjoy the support of numerous nationalist or even racist legislators, as well as rabbis who give them what is in my view pseudo-religious justification.”

Of course Amoz Oz is now being castigated for even using the word “Nazi” in relation to Jews. But the reality is that Israeli politicians and religious leaders give tacit support to the persecution of and discrimination against Muslims. The indignation at the use of the word “Nazi” is the same as that against Kerry for calling Israel an apartheid state.

But, I think, their indignation is misplaced and they protest too much.

Israel moves closer to constitutional apartheid

May 5, 2014

John Kerry caused a bit of a fuss a few days ago by using the apartheid word with regard to Israel.

With immediate pressure from the Jewish lobbies in the US, he backed away from his use of the word. But there is little doubt that he meant it and that Israel – which already has two classes of citizenship in practice – is moving closer to a form of constitutionally sanctioned differentiation of nationality for Jews and non-Jews. Which is indistinguishable from a separate treatment of peoples by religion. Constitutionally sanctioned, religious discrimination it surely will be. Apartheid is not too strong a word.


Binyamin Netanyahu will push ahead with a rare change to Israel’s basic laws – which amount to the country’s constitution – to insist Israel is “the nation state of one people only – the Jewish people – and of no other people”.

At Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said the civil rights of minorities, including Arabs, would be guaranteed, and the move was vital at a time when aspects of Israel’s legitimacy were “under a constant and increasing assault from abroad and at home”. …

The proposed law would be in addition to Israel’s declaration of independence of May 1948 – the anniversary of which is celebrated on Tuesday – which defines Israel as a Jewish state.

Most of Israel’s basic laws deal with procedural issues relating to elections, the appointment of the prime minister, state payments and the administration of the judiciary, but some laws have been more controversial, including the 1980 law that designated Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Despite the intention that the new law should guarantee full equal rights, critics say it strays into contentious territory in its explicit definition which, regardless of passport and citizenship, would codify a differential notion of nationhood.

Every religion which claims some kind of special position for its own adherents – inevitably and of necessity – denigrates and sanctions discrimination against all who do not follow the “true faith”. Which is of course the fundamental weakness of every organised religion which claims to be the “true faith”. There are as many Heavens as there are organised religions.

A “faith” – by definition – is unproven and unprovable and its “truth” is indemonstrable.

Kerry’s “messianic fervour” – Israeli Defence Minister doesn’t quite apologise

January 15, 2014

The John Kerry – Moshe Yaalon spat has become a US – Israeli spat and provides some light amusement.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon had criticised John Kerry for acting out of “misplaced obsession and messianic fervour”.

The instant backlash from the US and Israel was fairly predictable but the Israeli concern was more about not upsetting the US rather than not upsetting Kerry.

And this shows in the apology that Moshe Yaalon has now issued.  “The defence minister… apologises if the secretary was offended by words attributed to the minister.” It is a classic case of apologising for the result but not for the cause. It is saying, “I am sorry that you took offense but definitely not for my actions which caused you to take offense”.

But I have some sympathy for Moshe Yaalon. Messianic fervour, especially from a do-gooder who always knows best – is profoundly irritating. It arouses opposition for the sake of opposing the fervour. It shifts the focus from the message to the messenger. It arouses resentment first of the messenger and then of the message. It is generally counter-productive. It is only effective when applied to an unsophisticated crowd especially if they are lacking in knowledge or intelligence.

John Kerry seems to believe that showing such fervour is helpful to his cause whether in winning nomination, in relations between nations or his delusions about global warming. Messianic fervour may be admirable in a messiah (though even that is doubtful) but it is not an attribute of much value to a Secretary of State. Messianic fervour is the consequence of delusion – a delusion of moral superiority or of nobility or of divinity or of grandeur or of noblesse oblige. It goes far beyond passion and always indicates two obsessions; first that the opinion being proposed is fact and second that the all-knowing messiah knows best what the unwashed masses must do.

Messianic fervour should have no place in determining human behaviour whether in politics or in science. It is the stuff of false priests and charlatans.

Another Israeli assasination? Iranian deputy minister killed

November 11, 2013

It may be just my perception. But I don’t think it is so far-fetched that Israeli foreign policy in support of its perceived security interests is supremely pragmatic and uncluttered by any ethical concerns. In matters of security of the Israeli State, it seems that ethics is just not relevant. While most of their diplomatic efforts are often channeled through friendly nations (the US or France ..) it does not seem unlikely that they also have extensive covert activities as a back-up.

That Israel conducts targeted killings as an almost routine activity does not seem implausible and has led to much speculation. The alleged poisoning of Arafat (by radative polonium) has also been put down to Israeli agents. The possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and rendering their own relatively toothless is serious enough that systematically assassinating key figures in Iran’s nuclear programme would seem justified to Israel.

This particular killing is apparently of a relatively unimportant deputy minister — but who knows?

BBC: An unknown attacker has shot dead Iran’s deputy industry minister. Safdar Rahmatabadi was driving in Tehran’s Sabalan Square late on Sunday when he was shot once in the head and once in the chest, the state news agency IRNA reported. A police officer told the agency that the attacker appeared to have been inside Mr Rahmatabadi’s vehicle and spoke to him before opening fire. …..

Assassinations of officials are not unheard of in Iran, in particular scientists connected with the country’s nuclear programme. In January 2012 a car bomb killed university lecturer Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, who also worked at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. 

Earlier in November a public prosecutor and his driver were killed in the restive frontier province of Sistan Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, Mr Rahmatabadi, whose portfolio also included mining and commerce, was seen as a low-profile official. He served in a similar role under the country’s previous President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 

The shooting comes as Iran, under newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani, engages in talks with six world powers on its nuclear programme. Tehran maintains it is enriching uranium for civilian uses but Western countries have long suspected Iran of a secret nuclear weapons programme.

France does Israel’s bidding and “spoils” nuclear deal with Iran

November 10, 2013

The French – Israeli nuclear cooperation goes back a long way to 1956. That Israel’s “secret” Nuclear Weapon’s programme has long been assisted and enabled by the French is also one of those open secrets that is never officially acknowledged.

HaaretzMay 9, 2007

Israel and France once made a secret deal to produce a nuclear bomb together, according to a new biography of Vice Premier Shimon Peres. The deal was later cancelled, but the disclosure in the book by historian Michael Bar-Zohar sheds new light on the depth of France’s involvement in Israel’s nuclear program.

Bar-Zohar told Reuters his information came from recently released documents from Israeli and French government archives relating to the key role Peres, now 83, played in launching Israel’s nuclear project more than half a century ago. The book divulges new details of how Peres served as a behind-the-scenes architect of Israel’s military might, securing weapons secretly and buying an atomic reactor from France. …

Experts believe Israel has used the Dimona reactor it built with French help in the 1960s to produce as many as 200 nuclear warheads. Israel neither confirms nor denies it has atomic weapons, saying only it will not be the first country to introduce them to the Middle East. …..

The most significant, experts say, is a secret agreement Peres signed in 1957 with then French Prime Minister Maurice Bourges-Maunoury in Paris, several months after the deal for the reactor was concluded. “It stated in so many words that the two nations would cooperate in research and production of nuclear weapons,” the book says.

France ultimately scrapped that agreement several years later under the weight of enormous United States diplomatic pressure for it to cease its nuclear cooperation with Israel.

The so-called formal scrapping of the deal has long been recognised as a public relations gesture which has little to do with actual cooperation on the ground. Now Israel probably has something in excess of 100 and maybe up to 200 nuclear warheads.

Federation of American ScientistsIn the fall of 1956, France agreed to provide Israel with an 18 MWt research reactor. However, the onset of the Suez Crisis a few weeks later changed the situation dramatically. Following Egypt’s closure of the Suez Canal in July, France and Britain had agreed with Israel that the latter should provoke a war with Egypt to provide the European nations with the pretext to send in their troops as peacekeepers to occupy and reopen the canal zone. In the wake of the Suez Crisis, the Soviet Union made a thinly veiled threat against the three nations. This episode not only enhanced the Israeli view that an independent nuclear capability was needed to prevent reliance on potentially unreliable allies, but also led to a sense of debt among French leaders that they had failed to fulfill commitments made to a partner. French premier Guy Mollet is even quoted as saying privately that France “owed” the bomb to Israel.

On 3 October 1957, France and Israel signed a revised agreement calling for France to build a 24 MWt reactor (although the cooling systems and waste facilities were designed to handle three times that power) and, in protocols that were not committed to paper, a chemical reprocessing plant. This complex was constructed in secret, and outside the IAEA inspection regime, by French and Israeli technicians at Dimona, in the Negev desert under the leadership of Col. Manes Pratt of the IDF Ordinance Corps.

That Israel is not happy that Iran may reach a deal with the West and get sanctions lifted and be able to continue with the bulk of their nuclear program is only to be expected. That Israel would turn to France to be the spoiler in the discussions with Iran is also not surprising. And it is patently obvious that France is doing Israel’s bidding and is being intransigient at the Geneva discussions.

But how long can or will France be ready to continue in their “spoiler” role? Francois Hollande has enough troubles of his own not to also wish to be seen as Netanyahu’s poodle.

Perhaps a year?

The GuardianSunday 10 November 2013

Three gruelling days of high-level and high-stakes diplomacy came to an end in Geneva with no agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme, after France blocked a stopgap deal aimed at defusing tensions and buying more time for negotiations. …

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also sought to play down the disagreements that had surfaced with France, and the divisions between the six-nation group, known as the P5+1. ….

….. other diplomats at the talks were furious with the role of the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, whom they accused of breaking ranks by revealing details of the negotiations as soon as he arrived in Geneva on Saturday morning, and then breaking protocol again by declaring the results to the press before Ashton and Zarif had arrived at the final press conference.

But there is also a purely commercial aspect to the French “spoiling”. The animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran is not to be underestimated and the the French desire for being Saudi’s preferred supplier is almost without limit. Upsetting Iran gains them brownie points with Saudi. They are on much safer ground here since Saudi does not have the capability of running its own nuclear programme in any foreseeable future. Nuclear power plant in Saudi supplied by France would not pose any great threat to Israel.

But one day – when the balances are different –  Saudi  may well have enough money to buy a few warheads and I would not be surprised if France is then at the front of the pack of potential vendors.

Saudi GazetteOctober 03, 2013

French companies AREVA and EDF hosted a number of Saudi business and industry representatives at their Second Suppliers Day event held in Jeddah on Tuesday to take part in the framework of the sustainable energy program suggested by King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) focused on nuclear and renewable energy sources. …. 

Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, the French Ambassador to the Kingdom said “the aim of this meeting is very clear, France has been the first country to sign government to government agreement on nuclear and energy because we do think that taking it into account the huge program the Saudi government wants to implement in the nuclear field and France has a lot to bring in terms of the best nuclear technology in the world.”

Besancenot added that Saudi Arabia is a strategic partner of France in the region and the bilateral relationship is of paramount importance in the economic field as “we are seeing that bilateral trade has doubled over the last five years.” He stressed that France is ready to be Saudi Arabia’s strategic partner in the field of nuclear and renewable energy. He also highlighted the competencies of France’s nuclear energy industry and its ability to support the Kingdom goal.

Genetic study shows Ashkenazi Jews descend from men from the Levant and their European wives

October 8, 2013

Social distinctions between Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews. and the Ashkenazim still persist and of course the Ethiopian Jews are a class apart. This latest study published in Nature Communications which shows that the Ashkenazim derive from male ancestors from the Levant who moved to Europe and took local women as wives will not be without its detractors.

Marta D. Costa, Joana B. Pereira, Maria Pala, Verónica Fernandes, Anna Olivieri, Alessandro Achilli, Ugo A. Perego, Sergei Rychkov, Oksana Naumova, Jiři Hatina, Scott R. Woodward, Ken Khong Eng, Vincent Macaulay, Martin Carr, Pedro Soares, Luísa Pereira and Martin B. Richards, A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages, Nature Communications 4, Article number: 2543, doi:10.1038/ncomms3543

Abstract:The origins of Ashkenazi Jews remain highly controversial. Like Judaism, mitochondrial DNA is passed along the maternal line. Its variation in the Ashkenazim is highly distinctive, with four major and numerous minor founders. However, due to their rarity in the general population, these founders have been difficult to trace to a source. Here we show that all four major founders, ~40% of Ashkenazi mtDNA variation, have ancestry in prehistoric Europe, rather than the Near East or Caucasus. Furthermore, most of the remaining minor founders share a similar deep European ancestry. Thus the great majority of Ashkenazi maternal lineages were not brought from the Levant, as commonly supposed, nor recruited in the Caucasus, as sometimes suggested, but assimilated within Europe. These results point to a significant role for the conversion of women in the formation of Ashkenazi communities, and provide the foundation for a detailed reconstruction of Ashkenazi genealogical history.

There is a belief that all Ashkanazim are descended from just 4 women who migrated to Europe but this study contradicts that. The NYT reports that some opposition to the results is already evident:

….. The finding establishes that the women who founded the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Europe were not from the Near East, as previously supposed, and reinforces the idea that many Jewish communities outside Israel were founded by single men who married and converted local women.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, is based on a genetic analysis of maternal lineages. A team led by Martin B. Richards of the University of Leeds in England took a fresh look at Ashkenazi lineages by decoding the entire mitochondrial genomes of people from Europe and the Near East. ….

This uncertainty seemed to be resolved by a survey published in 2006. Its authors reported that the four most common mitochondrial DNA lineages among Ashkenazis came from the Near East, implying that just four Jewish women were the ancestresses of nearly half of today’s Ashkenazim. Under this scenario, it seemed more likely that the Ashkenazim were the result of a migration of whole communities of men and women together. ….

With the entire mitochondrial genome in hand, Dr. Richards could draw up family trees with a much finer resolution than before. His trees show that the four major Ashkenazi lineages in fact form clusters within descent lines that were established in Europe some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. The same is true of most of the minor lineages.

“Thus the great majority of Ashkenazi maternal lineages were not brought from the Levant, as commonly supposed,” Dr. Richards and colleagues conclude in their paper. Overall, at least 80 percent of Ashkenazi maternal ancestry comes from women indigenous to Europe, and 8 percent from the Near East, with the rest uncertain, the researchers estimate. …

Dr. Richards estimates that the four major lineages became incorporated into the Ashkenazi community at least 2,000 years ago. A large Jewish community flourished in Rome at this time and included many converts. This community could have been the source of both the Ashkenazim of Europe and the Sephardim of Spain and Portugal, given that the two groups have considerable genetic commonality, Dr. Richards said.

EurekAlert: In the vast majority of cases, Ashkenazi lineages are most closely related to southern and western European lineages – and that these lineages have been present in Europe for many thousands of years.

This means that, even though Jewish men may indeed have migrated into Europe from Palestine around 2000 years ago, they brought few or no wives with them. They seem to have married with European women, firstly along the Mediterranean, especially in Italy, and later (but probably to a lesser extent) in western and central Europe. This suggests that, in the early years of the Diaspora, Judaism took in many converts from amongst the European population, but they were mainly recruited from amongst women. Thus, on the female line of descent, the Ashkenazim primarily trace their ancestry neither to Palestine nor to Khazaria, but to southern and western Europe.

Could twitter diplomacy be today as ping-pong was then.. ?

September 7, 2013

Forty odd years ago it was ping-pong diplomacy which was used to break the stalemate of the the China -US section of the cold war. (And where would Forrest Gump have been without it?)

The era of Ping-Pong diplomacy had begun .. (in 1971) ….  when the American team—in Nagoya, Japan, for the World Table Tennis Championship—got a surprise invitation from their Chinese colleagues to visit the People’s Republic. Time magazine called it “The ping heard round the world.” And with good reason: no group of Americans had been invited to China since the Communist takeover in 1949.

It could be an electronic “ping” from Iran to Israel in the 21st century.

Now it is Iranian tweets. Israel is “perplexed and pleased” at the messages from the new Iranian President and his Foreign Minister sending Rosh Hashanah wishes to Jews around the world.

Hassan Rouhani.

Hassan Rouhani. Photo: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

Jerusalem Post:

Israelis reacted with a mixture of pleasant surprise and wary skepticism on Friday to reports that the new Iranian president and his foreign minister had both issued greetings to mark the Jewish New Year.

Relations between the two countries have been dire for years, with Israel threatening to attack the Islamic Republic over fears it is planning to build nuclear weapons that could one day jeopardize the survival of the Jewish state.


After sending out Rosh Hashanah wishes to Jews around the world, Iran’s foreign minister tweets that Iran doesn’t deny the Holocaust in response to a tweet by Nancy Pelosi’s daughter.


In a change of tone, his successor Hassan Rouhani and the new foreign minister, Javad Zarif, appeared to issue tweets in English wishing Jews a good Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish new year that is being celebrated this week. Iran has long declared an official respect for the Jewish faith while condemning Israel.

“Happy Rosh Hashanah,” tweeted Zarif on a profile that notes his career as a diplomat, academic and “Uni of Denver alum”.

The reported greetings came just as Israel was settling into a long holiday weekend and there was no official reaction.

But of course Iran has always held that it is Israel and not Jews that Iran is opposed to. Reuters continues:

Confusing matters, Israeli news websites quoted an official in the Iranian president’s office denying any New Year greetings had been sent and saying Rouhani’s English-language Twitter account, used during his election campaign, was not active.

There was no denial from Zarif and the minister went further to push back on a comment that Iran denies the Nazi Holocaust: “Iran never denied it. The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone,” he tweeted, apparently meaning Ahmadinejad.

On Facebook, he wrote: “We condemn the massacre of Jews by the Nazis and we condemn the massacre of Palestinians by the Zionists.”

Iran is home to the second largest Jewish community in the Middle East – albeit only a few thousand people following mass emigration last century. It denies Israel’s right to exist but even Ahmadinejad embraced some Jews – as long as they rejected the Zionist movement that established the Israeli state.

Neither Rouhani or Zarif mentioned the word “Israel”.

Perhaps it is the right time – with Syria in the background – for an Israeli “pong” to Iran’s “ping”.

Israel Education Ministry bans sex education material in text books

September 3, 2013

One has to conclude that everything is circular. If you go far enough to the Right you approach the Extreme Left. If you go to the extremes of one religion you approach the extremists of another.

Ultra-orthodox Imams and Rabbis, invariably male, seem to share a similar view of women and sex and sex education.

The Orthodox religious right in Israel has just got its way in its effort to return to good old-fashioned prudery.

Haaretz reports that “Chapters on human reproduction don’t accord with state religious school system’s educational doctrine for junior high schools, says Education Ministry”.

The Education Ministry has asked textbook publishers to eliminate chapters on human reproduction, pregnancy prevention and sexually transmitted diseases from science textbooks used in state religious junior high schools as well as from their teacher manuals.

The Guardian writes:

State education in Israel is divided into religious and secular sectors for Jewish children, with separate schools for Arab children. Many ultra-Orthodox Jews send their children to segregated private schools, with strict controls on curricula, behaviour and dress. Around a quarter of Israeli children attend ultra-Orthodox schools, according to 2010 data – a figure that is steadily rising.

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israeli Religious Action Centre, which advocates progressive Judaism, described the education ministry’s move as a “slippery slope. When we start filtering science for modesty reasons, that in the end will hinder our ability to teach science to Israeli children,” she said. …. The move should be seen in the context of the growing influence of rightwing rabbis in Israel. “Modesty considerations are being used as a political tool to keep women ‘in their place’,” she said.

Some elements of the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel have campaigned in recent years to remove images of women from advertising hoardings, and impose gender segregation on buses and in other public spheres.

The education ministry said the changes did not cover pictures of women. “The image of women has a place and expression in school textbooks,” it said.

But what the ultra-Orthodox want in Israel is not so very different from what Hamas wants in Gaza.

Israel National News reported in June this year:

A new law passed by the Hamas government in Gaza banning co-ed schools has left many Christians fearful that their schools are in danger of closure, according to the Beirut-based Al-Akhbar daily.

The new law, which mandates gender segregation in all schools, also bans men from teaching at girls’ schools. The law will likely force Christian educational institutions to close their doors to Muslim and Christian students alike, reported the newspaper.

Mutassim Minawi, director of public relations at Gaza’s education ministry, …… argued that “the Gaza Strip’s culture is conservative and does not favor gender mixing. The majority of Palestinians in Gaza praised the law and only leftist parties criticized it.”

Several months ago, Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers took another step towards the implementation of strict Islamic sharia law in the region by introducing a strict dress code for female students at the Al-Aqsa University. A letter distributed to students in November stated that all students should wear “modest clothing” on campus.

Since violently taking over Gaza in 2007, Hamas has enforced a stringent interpretation of Islamic law in Gaza. The terror group has banned women and teenagers from smoking hookahs in public, ordered that women’s clothing stores are not allowed to have dressing rooms, men cannot have hairdressing salons for women and that mannequins shaped like women must be dressed in modest clothing.

Are Kerry and Obama dancing to an Israeli tune?

September 2, 2013

There are a number of inconsistencies between the various  “intelligence” reports concerning the alleged Syrian use of chemical weapons which give rise to convoluted stories about “who knew what”, “who made up what” and “why”? That Israeli intelligence is heavily involved in presenting the “right” story is only to be expected. That Turkish sources slant everything in favour of what may help get rid of Assad is also to be expected. That Al Qaida ( and I would not put it past them to be behind the chemical attack even if only through a renegade Syrian Army general) would like Assad to be attacked and the hostilities prolonged is equally obvious. That the various Syrian opposition groups (including Al Qaida) each has its own corner to protect is apparent every day.

Perhaps everybody involved is trying to orchestrate the “intelligence” and the “evidence” –  and the result will then be something that nobody has actually designed. It is US Foreign Policy happening by accident and not by design – at least not by US design.

Admittedly many of the stories are from sources who themselves have some vested interest and nothing emanating from Syria can be taken without a major dose of salt. Nevertheless some of the stories may well have some kernel of truth. And it does seem strange that one of the first to hear about Obama’s intention to delay the expected strike and defer to Congress – before he announced it – was the Israeli Prime Minister!

Haaretz reports:

U.S. President Barack Obama called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday and informed him that he planned to delay what seemed like an imminent attack on Syria, ahead of his speech at the White House to that regard.

Obama also told Netanyahu that he would relegate the matter to Congress, and ask for a congressional vote on any military action.

Craig Murray:  

It is therefore very strange, to say the least, that John Kerry claims to have access to communications intercepts of Syrian military and officials organising chemical weapons attacks, which intercepts were not available to the British Joint Intelligence Committee.

On one level the explanation is simple.  The intercept evidence was provided to the USA by Mossad, according to my own well  placed source in the Washington intelligence community.  Intelligence provided by a third party is not automatically shared with the UK, and indeed Israel specifies it should not be.

But the inescapable question is this.  Mossad have nothing comparable to the Troodos operation.  The reported content of the conversations fits exactly with key tasking for Troodos, and would have tripped all the triggers.  How can Troodos have missed this if Mossad got it?  The only remote possibility is that all the conversations went on a purely landline route, on which Mossad have a physical wire tap, but that is very unlikely in a number of ways – not least nowadays the purely landline route. … The answer to the Troodos Conundrum is simple.  Troodos did not pick up the intercepts because they do not exist.  Mossad fabricated them.  John Kerry’s “evidence” is the shabbiest of tricks.  More children may now be blown to pieces by massive American missile blasts.  It is nothing to do with humanitarian intervention.  It is, yet again, the USA acting at the behest of Israel

Moon of Alabama

During next weeks discussions it will be important to point out that the U.S. “intelligence” about the chemical incident in Syria is full of holes. The paper by the British Joint Intelligence Organisation used by Cameron to ask for war speaks of 350 people killed in the incident. On Friday Secretary of State Kerry spoke of 1,429 people killed. The draft war resolution speaks of “more then thousand” killed. 350, 1,429, 1,000 – which is it?

Jack Goldsmith, the Henry L. Shattuck Professor at Harvard Law School writes at Lawfare:

The administration’s proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for Syria provides:

(a) Authorization. — The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to –

(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or

(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.

There is much more here than at first meets the eye.  The proposed AUMF focuses on Syrian WMD but is otherwise very broad.  It authorizes the President to use any element of the U.S. Armed Forces and any method of force.  It does not contain specific limits on targets – either in terms of the identity of the targets (e.g. the Syrian government, Syrian rebels, Hezbollah, Iran) or the geography of the targets.  Its main limit comes on the purposes for which force can be used.  Four points are worth making about these purposes.  First, the proposed AUMF authorizes the President to use force “in connection with” the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war. (It does not limit the President’s use force to the territory of Syria, but rather says that the use of force must have a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian conflict.  Activities outside Syria can and certainly do have a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war.).  Second, the use of force must be designed to “prevent or deter the use or proliferation” of WMDs “within, to or from Syria” or (broader yet) to “protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.”  Third, the proposed AUMF gives the President final interpretive authority to determine when these criteria are satisfied (“as he determines to be necessary and appropriate”).  Fourth, the proposed AUMF contemplates no procedural restrictions on the President’s powers (such as a time limit). 

…….. Does the proposed AUMF authorize the President to use force against Iran or Hezbollah, in Iran or Lebanon?  Again, yes, as long as the President determines that Iran or Hezbollah has a (mere) a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war, and the use of force against Iran or Hezbollah would prevent or deter the use or proliferation of WMD within, or to and from, Syria, or protect the U.S. or its allies (e.g. Israel) against the (mere) threat posed by those weapons.  Again, very easy to imagine.

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