Will Assad Use Chemical Weapons Against Sunni Islamist Rebels?

Clinton and Obama have been warning Assad that if he uses chemical weapons against the Sunni Islamist rebels, most of whom are either aligned with Al Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood, it will mean “crossing a red line.” While C&O have refused to specify what this means, the implication is that the air force that they are cutting to the bone and whose chapels they are desecrating with transgender marriage ceremonies will be ordered to go bomb Syria.

Ordinarily this should worry Assad. Syria, unlike Libya, isn’t a pushover, but its degraded air power is no match for NATO, especially with Turkey as an eager and willing partner, who has been trying to drag NATO into their Islamist Sunni vs Shiite Holy War from the start with incident after incident.

But unlike Saddam, Assad has held off using chemical weapons when he could have. If he does use them, it will be because Damascus is in danger of falling and at that point Assad will no longer care what happens. Being bombed to death by NATO is a lighter fate than being sodomized to death by some Salafi holy warriors.

Assad isn’t just in this alone. A Sunni victory will mean the ethnic cleansing of Christians and Alawites at the hands of groups like the Al Nusra Brigade, who have already gotten started on the task.

Syria isn’t Libya, it’s Rwanda, and the Alawite minority cannot afford to let the Salafis take Syria. Using chemical weapons would not be pretty, but it will be no worse than the fate that Obama’s “Brave Syrian People”, who were armed with his approval by the Islamists in Qatar and Turkey, have in store for millions of non-Sunni Syrians.

And even the Sunnis won’t get off light. The Free Syrian Army is a skeleton force, no more able to keep order in Syria after the fall of Assad, then the Libyan government was able to keep order after the fall of Gaddafi. That means the Islamist militias will have a free  hand in enforcing Islamic law, Mali style. And the situation appears to be even worse in Syria than in Libya.

Assad and the Alawites don’t have a whole lot to lose. Even if Obama, Cameron and Hollande guarantee some sort of exit for the Assad family, they can’t take hundreds of thousands of people with them. Nor can NATO enforce an end to the violence that will come after Assad falls because the entire doctrine of Obama Inc. is to let the rebels win and then hold elections. That led to ethnic cleansing of Africans in Libya. It led to a Muslim Brotherhood coup in Egypt. It will lead to far worse in Syria.

The only choice Obama can offer Assad is genocide or NATO bombings. That’s not much of a choice. And considering Hama, it is not at all improbable that Assad will pull the trigger if the fighting moves close enough to Damascus.

(frontpagemag.com / 06.12.2012)

#Syria, Assad regime distributed gas masks and radiation suits to troops

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Despite repeated International warnings to the al-Assad regime against the use of chemical weapons, the Free Syrian Army [FSA] has stated that it believes it likely that al-Assad will use such weapons as a last resort should it lose hope in the possibility of reaching a political solution.

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama warned that al-Assad will face “consequences” should he use chemical weapons against the Syrian people. He said “the world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable.” For her part, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking on Wednesday, said the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for Washington. She added “our concerns are that an increasingly desperate al-Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons, or might lose control of them to one of the many groups that are now operating in Syria.”

Captain Abdul-Salam Abdul-Razzaq, a Syrian army defector who was part of the al-Assad military’s “Chemical Weapons Department”, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the regime has already used this kind of weapon, albeit in a limited manner, namely in Baba Amr last year. The regime also threatened to use chemical weapons in al-Zabadani, distributing gas masks and radiation suits to its troops”. He added “these are only worn when chemical weapons are used.”

The al-Assad regime defector also revealed that “tests were being conducted on such weapons nearly 6 weeks ago in al-Muslimiya district in eastern Aleppo in the presence of Iranian experts.”

Captain Abdul-Razzaq also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the al-Assad regime had provided its troops with pamphlets claiming that “it is the terrorist gangs that are using chemical weapons”, perhaps as the first step in a denial should it use such arms. He stressed that as of early November, chemical weapons were being stored in numerous warehouses around the country, but these were later transferred to the Rif Dimashq area.

He revealed that the Syrian regime is in possession of a large arsenal of chemical weapons which is under the control of Scientific Research Centres based in Homs, Aleppo, Damascus and Latakia. He said that these research centres are managed by three senior Brigadier Generals affiliated to the infamous Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate, adding that the chemical weapons are under the direct supervision of experts from Iran, Russia and North Korea. Abdul-Razzaq revealed that a recent decision was taken to relocate these chemical weapons, particularly as foreign intelligence apparatus, including America’s Central Intelligence Agency [CIA], had uncovered their previous locations.

As for whether the FSA possesses the necessary expertise to deal with a chemical weapons attack, Captain Abdul-Razzaq informed Asharq Al-Awsat that FSA elements possess only a limited understanding of this, mostly from chemical weapons drills they would have undertaken as part of the regular Syrian army before their defection.

He added “however, we have acted to raise the awareness of the troops, as well as the people, towards these kinds of weapons by distributing pamphlets that contain pertinent information, most importantly that such weapons are usually deployed by aircraft flying at low altitude trailing a cloud of smoke.”

He also revealed that “the explosion [of a chemical weapon] would be faint, not loud…whilst medium-sized dark-brown fragments will be clear to see at the site of explosion.”

Abdul-Razzaq stressed that it would be very difficult for the FSA to attack a chemical weapons warehouse, particularly as this would first require intelligence as to where these warehouses are located, and then the military capabilities to secure it.

For his part, FSA Deputy Chief of Staff Colonel Aref al-Hammoud informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Syrian regime is afraid and so it may take the international warnings into consideration. However the regime’s savage history confirms that it would not hesitate to use chemical weapons to kill the largest possible number of its own people.”

He added that “the Syrian regime has a huge arsenal of chemical weapons, and this has not been gathered today, rather this dates back several years. They are stored in warehouses in mountainous regions of Syria and guarded by Special Forces units, most prominently Unit 417 in Damascus and Unit 418 in Homs.”

Colonel al-Hammoud acknowledged that the regime may have transported these chemical weapons to more secure locations, particularly in light of its recent defeats at the hands of the rebel forces, adding that these new warehouses are on the list of FSA targets. The FSA Deputy Chief of Staff also stressed that should his forces manage to confiscate any chemical weapons, they will immediately deliver them to specialists to be disabled adding that the FSA will never use internationally banned weapons.

He said “in the event that the regime taking the decision to use chemical weapons, the FSA would not be able to combat this, as this primarily requires anti-aircraft weaponry to disable and mitigate the effects of these weapons as much as possible.”

(syrianfreedomls.tumblr.com / 06.12.2012)

Erekat: Israel’s settlement plan would kill 2-state solution

JERICHO (Ma’an) — PLO official Saeb Erekat on Thursday said Israeli plans to build settlements in the strategic E-1 zone of the occupied West Bank would be a critical blow to the two-state solution and peace process.

In meetings with the US and British consuls to the Palestinian Authority, the former negotiator said if implemented, the plan will block East Jerusalem from becoming the capital of the state of Palestine.

He called on the international community to respect international law, under which all Israeli settlement building is illegal.

Last Thursday, an overwhelming majority of UN members states voted for the Palestinian bid for upgraded membership.

A day later, Israel’s government announced 3,000 new settler homes and accelerated planning for the strategic “E1” zone in the occupied West Bank.

In Europe, Spain, Denmark, France, Britain, Sweden and Italy have all summoned their Israeli ambassadors over the move, as well as Australia, Panama and Egypt.

(www.maannews.net / 06.12.2012)

Khaled Meshaal’s visit to Gaza another sign of Hamas’ rise

JERUSALEM — When Khaled Meshaal crosses into the Gaza Strip at noon on Friday it will be the Hamas leader’s first trip to the coastal territory. It also will be a symbol of how far the Palestinian Islamist movement, which both Israel and the United States have branded a terrorist organization, has come since its inception in 1987.

Meshaal, often called “the exiled Hamas leader,” assumed control of the group in 2004, after its founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was assassinated by Israel. He has traveled widely to help Hamas garner support across the Arab world and recently has helped secure the diplomatic support of key Arab states in the region.

But no visit will be as significant as Meshaal’s trip to Gaza this weekend. Regional analysts call it a “watershed moment.”

“Hamas feels the wind of change beneath their wings,” said Jonathan Spyer, a senior researcher at the prestigious Interdisciplinary Center, a private university in the Israeli coastal city of Herzylia. “Khaled Meshaal’s visit to Gaza is significant… it means that Meshaal is back in the game.”

In the past year, Meshaal has twice announced his retirement from political life, leading many to speculate that a rift had grown between the local Hamas leadership in Gaza and their exiled leadership abroad. Meshaal’s visit to Gaza indicates, however, that the movement is indeed united, Spyer said.

“It’s not hard to see why. If you look at the process of what used to be called the Arab Spring, you can see what is really a movement of old, decrepit nationalist movements being replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood,” Spyer said.

Hamas, which sees itself as the Palestinian offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, saw its influence grow when Mohammed Morsi, a longtime Brotherhood official, won Egypt’s presidency in June.

Part of a ceasefire deal negotiated by Egypt last month called for a truce in fighting between Israel and Hamas as well as an end to targeted assassinations. It was fear that Israel would target Meshaal as it had Yassin that had kept Meshaal from visiting Gaza. With the cease-fire in effect, that impediment was gone.

Hamas “announces the visit of Khaled Meshaal, head of the political bureau, tomorrow, December 7, to participate in the celebration of the movement’s 25th anniversary,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri announced in a statement Thursday.

The visit, Abu Zuhri added, was “a fruit of the victory of the resistance over the occupation.”

Meshaal’s visit will include a tour of Gaza, as well as meetings with the families of those killed and injured during the recent round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, which began Nov. 14 with Israel’s targeted killing of Hamas military commander Ahmed Jaabari.

Meshaal, who was born in the West Bank village of Silwad in 1956, moved to Kuwait after the 1967 Six-Day War in which Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai. He later moved to Jordan, where his association with Hamas began.

His role in the organization has shifted over the years. At times he was considered to be at the head of the decision-making process for Hamas, while at other times he appeared to have been sidelined by the Gaza-based Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh.

Israel will be watching the visit closely to try to determine whether Meshaal’s influence in Hamas has grown. In the past, he was considered a moderating influence who tried to lead Hamas toward reconciliation with the Western-backed Fatah movement that governs the West Bank.

Hamas’ charter calls for the eventual destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state on the pre-1948 borders of the British Palestine Mandate. In recent years, however, Hamas officials have hinted that they could moderate their views in exchange for greater diplomatic influence and an end to the Israel-imposed blockade of the Gaza Strip.

European officials already have suggested that Western governments should begin a dialogue with Hamas. Last month, U.N. Mideast envoy Robert Serry told McClatchy that his office has had “quiet engagements” with Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip that included discussion of political and diplomatic issues. It was the first time the U.N. has admitted to contacts with Hamas beyond the day-to-day management of U.N. operations in Gaza.

(www.kansascity.com / 06.12.2012)

Morsi: ‘I won’t tolerate anyone working to overthrow a legitimate government’

An image grab taken from Egyptian state TV shows Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi as he gives an address in Cairo on December 6, 2012.(AFP Photo / Egyptian TV)

An image grab taken from Egyptian state TV shows Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi as he gives an address in Cairo on December 6, 2012.

In a bid to restore order to the country, the Egyptian president has addressed the nation, accusing the opposition of trying to incite violence against his legitimacy – but conceding guilt for the riots that have taken the capital by storm.

“I separate the legitimate opposition from the vandals who committed violence,” Morsi told the nation. “The opposition thinks Article 6 is a problem. I won’t insist on keeping it, and anyway, the decree ends after the referendum.”

Morsi said he will form a new assembly to write the constitution if the current draft is rejected by the referendum.

Morsi mourned those who died in front of the presidential palace, saying his “heart is bleeding for the loss of innocent lives.”

“I feel responsible for the riots in Egypt,” he said. “My fellow citizens are one body that cannot be separated or torn apart.”

The Egyptian president also attacked those who he says are serving the remnants of the Mubarak regime and trying to bring down the government. He said the reason behind the constitutional declaration was to protect Egypt from such conspiracies.

“These people became rich through the ex-regime and are now spending their fortunes to burn our homeland,” Morsi said, claiming that some of those arrested during the clashes outside the presidential palace have links with opposition parties, while others were paid to add heat to the conflict.

“The ex-regime will not come back again, ever,” Morsi stated.

The president has called for a Saturday meeting with the opposition to defuse the crisis, which he says can only be resolved through dialogue.

(rt.com / 06.12.2012)

Egypt’s Mursi addresses nation as opposition protests intensify

Anti-Mursi protesters throw stones and shine laser pointers at supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi outside the presidential palace in Cairo, Dec. 5, 2012. (Reuters)

Anti-Mursi protesters throw stones and shine laser pointers at supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi outside the presidential palace in Cairo, Dec. 5, 2012.

Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi addressed the nation on Thursday night as opposition protesters marched towards the presidential palace calling for his ouster.

Hundreds of Mursi supporters who had camped out near the palace overnight withdrew before a mid-afternoon deadline set by the Republican Guard, an elite unit whose duties include protecting the palace. Scores of opposition protesters remained, but were kept away by a barbed wire barricade guarded by tanks.

The military played a big role in removing President Hosni Mubarak during last year’s popular revolt, taking over to manage a transitional period, but had stayed out of the latest crisis.

Mursi’s Islamist partisans fought opposition protesters well into the early hours during dueling demonstrations over the president’s Nov. 22 decree to expand his powers to help him push through a mostly Islamist-drafted constitution.

Troops set up a perimeter around the presidential palace on Thursday to keep protesters away after a night of deadly clashes between supporters and opponents of Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi, an AFP correspondent said.

Soldiers set up barbed wire barricades some 150 meters (yards) from the palace compound, after first ordering rival protesters to leave the area.

Mursi supporters left the area but several hundred opposition activists gathered in a square around 300 meters away.

Officials said five people were killed and 762 wounded in the violence, the al-Ahram newspaper reported, for which each side blamed the other. Six of the dead were Mursi supporters, the Muslim Brotherhood said.

Prosecutors investigating the unrest said Brotherhood members had detained 49 wounded protesters and were refusing to release them to the authorities, the state news agency said.

The Brotherhood’s spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan denied this, saying all “thugs” detained by members of the Islamist group had been handed over to the police or the Republican Guard.

The street clashes reflected a deep political divide in the most populous Arab nation, where contrasting visions of Islamists and their liberal rivals have complicated a struggle to embed democracy after Mubarak’s 30 years of one-man rule.

(english.alarabiya.net / 06.12.2012)

Fatah to join Hamas anniversary celebrations in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Fatah will join celebrations for Hamas’ 25th anniversary in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, a senior Fatah leader said Thursday.

Yahya Rabah told Ma’an that Hamas officially invited Fatah to participate in the festival, and said Fatah leaders would celebrate “with our brothers in Hamas.”

Fatah is waiting for President Mahmoud Abbas to call a meeting of all factions to finalize reconciliation, Rabah said. Real reconciliation is represented by national unity, not by resolutions between governments, he added.

Israel’s eight-day war on Gaza revitalized Palestinian unity efforts, which had stalled since factions signed a reconciliation treaty in Cairo in May 2011.

Since the Nov. 21 ceasefire, Fatah and Hamas have taken steps to release those detained due to the division. Fatah members who fled Gaza during factional fighting in 2007 have started returning to the enclave.

Fatah leader Abbas congratulated Hamas on what he called a victory against Israel, and Hamas expressed support for Abbas’ UN bid.

Meanwhile, Fatah rallies have been held in Gaza and Hamas has rallied in the West Bank.

(www.maannews.net / 06.12.2012)

PA to use new UN status to create ‘international front’

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – The Palestinian Authority will seek to take advantage of the qualitative support by some European countries against Israel’s policies in the Palestinian territory through creating an international front to urge countries to take more strict positions against Israel, says the Palestinian minister of foreign affairs.

Speaking to Ma’an in Bethlehem, Riyad al-Maliki said, “We can’t face the Israeli procedures single-handedly, so we will take advantage of the positive positions of countries and try to build an international front to exert pressure on the Israeli occupation and its expansionist policies.”

Al-Maliki added that the PA was not in a hurry “because we have previous commitments we don’t want to breach.”

Legal and political options are being studied carefully, added al-Maliki. “It is all about logistic and administrative procedures such as the Palestinian passport design, and official correspondence between the state of Palestine and other countries. We are studying this very deeply to make sure we are not breaching previous commitments.”

He added: “The qualitative change in the European position would not have happened if we had not won recognition of a non-member state in the UN, especially in countries which have very strong relations with Israel.”

The situation is now different, he said, as these countries will not agree that Israel continues to violate international law.

Asked about the United States’ possible punitive procedures, al-Maliki said all the threats came from the Congress. “They are talking about punitive procedures against the PA, and we are watching to see what these procedures are. So far, what happened was that Israel stopped transferring Palestinian tax revenue.”

He highlighted that the PA would ask the Arab League to activate the financial network Arab countries pledged.

(www.maannews.net / 06.12.2012)

Israeli Settler Terror: 47 year old man beaten up by illegal settlers

100539_345x230[1]NABLUS (Ma’an) — A 47-year-old Palestinian man was beaten up by Israeli settlers during an olive harvest south of Nablus on Thursday, local officials said.

Nasser Fayez Odah is in a moderate condition after a group of settlers attacked him with sticks and sharp objects, Huwara village council head Moin al-Dmeiri said.

A group from the Yitzhar settlement attacked the harvesters in an area south of village called al-Lahaf, the official said. The farmers had already obtained permission from the Palestinian and Israeli liaison officials to harvest in the area, he noted.

Rights groups says Israel systematically fails to prosecute settler violence against Palestinians, perpetuating the attacks.

(occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com / 06.12.2012)

Islamic Jihad chief ‘reconsiders Gaza visit after Israeli threat’

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israel threatened to assassinate the leader of Islamic Jihad if he enters the Gaza Strip, causing the party to reconsider his upcoming visit, sources said Thursday.

Egyptian authorities told Islamic Jihad that Israel rejected the visit and would target leader Ramadan Shalah and his deputy Ziad Nakhla if they went into Gaza, sources close to the discussions told Ma’an.

Islamic Jihad leaders are considering whether to cancel the visit, set to take place on Friday ahead of Hamas’ 25th anniversary celebrations which start the following day.

Jihad’s leadership are in talks with the Egyptian authorities over the matter.

(www.maannews.net / 06.12.2012)