May 1, 2013

The US

Headline: Obama moving toward sending lethal arms to Syrian rebels, officials say

To Read: John Mueller takes a look at the important and possibly misleading reference to Chemical weapons as WMDs, and at how this might (or should) affect Obama's 'red line':

 A single nuclear weapon can indeed inflict massive destruction; a single chemical weapon cannot. For chemical weapons to cause extensive damage, many of them must be used — just like conventional weapons. As a presidential advisory panel noted in 1999, it would take a full ton of sarin gas released under favorable weather conditions for the destructive effects to become distinctly greater than those that could be achieved with conventional explosives.

The muddling of the concept of weapons of mass destruction played a major role in the run-up to the 2003 war in Iraq. That campaign was mainly justified as a way to keep Saddam Hussein from obtaining uniquely destructive weapons. At least in the first instance, this meant chemical weapons, which Iraq had already shown itself capable of developing. Initial support for that war was impelled by the WMD confusion, and many analysts fear that alarm about chemical weapons could lead the United States into another disaster in Syria if they become the game changer that the Obama administration has proclaimed them to be.

Quote:  “People do not trust the president and his people. That's why we need a select committee”, Senator John McCain being blunt on Fox.

Number: 62, the percentage of Americans who don't believe that “the US has a responsibility to do something about the fighting in Syria between government forces and anti-government groups”, according to a NYT/CBS poll.



Headline: 'Labor could join gov't if Arab proposal adopted'

To Read: According to Max Singer, believers in the two state solution should back the Levy report and the idea that Israel has the legal right to occupy the West Bank:

Opponents of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and supporters of a two-state solution should support the Levy Commission’s affirmation of Israel’s rights in the territories. The Commission concluded that “Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of a settlement cannot, in and of itself, be considered illegal.” It did not say, however, that the settlements should stay where they are.

The objection made to many or all of the settlements is that they are thought to interfere with peace negotiations and/or block a two-state solution. These arguments are just as strong if the settlements are considered legal as they are if they are thought to be illegal; the question of legality is separate from that of prudence about Israel’s settlement policy. The Levy Commission didn’t claim that its findings about the legal status of settlements and Israel’s claims to Judea and Samaria meant that Israel should keep the settlements, nor did it reject the idea of transferring the bulk of Judea and Samaria to a Palestinian state. It also did not speak of the disputes about private ownership of particular pieces of land used for settlements.

Quote: “Unless the sword is literally on your throat, you don't use it” former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi talks about Iran in an interview for CNN.

Number: 2,000, the number of army reservists called up for a drill at Israel's northern front.


The Middle East

Headline: Kerry calls new Arab League peace stance 'big step forward'

To Read: George Friedmann believes that when it comes to Syria, interventionists from both sides of the political spectrum harbor illusions:

The difference between right-wing and left-wing interventionists is the illusions they harbor. In spite of experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, right-wing interventionists continue to believe that the United States and Europe have the power not only to depose regimes but also to pacify the affected countries and create Western-style democracies. The left believes that there is such a thing as a neutral intervention — one in which the United States and Europe intervene to end a particular evil, and with that evil gone, the country will now freely select a Western-style constitutional democracy. Where the right-wing interventionists cannot absorb the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, the left-wing interventionists cannot absorb the lessons of Libya.

Quote: “Syria has true friends in the region who will not allow Syria to fall into the hands of the United States, Israel and ‘takfiri’ groups”, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nassrallah about forces at work in Syria.

Number: 140,000, the number of Syrian refugees in Egypt, according to the interior ministry.


The Jewish World

Headline: Obama cites liberties, Israel in Jewish American heritage month declaration

To Read: Tablet's Elliot Horowitz traces the apparently age old tradition of women praying at the wall-

One of the earlier 19th-century accounts quoted by Adler in his 1930 Memorandum was William Bartlett’s illustrated Walks About the City and Environs of Jerusalem (1844). “We repaired to this place on a Friday,” wrote Bartlett of his 1842 visit, “when a considerable number [of Jews] usually assemble.” In the wall’s shadow, on the right, “were seated many venerable men, reading the books of the law.” But there were also, he noted, “many women in their long white robes, who, as they entered the small area, walked along the sacred wall, kissing its ancient masonry, and praying through the crevices with every appearance of deep devotion.” Bartlett did not describe the men and women as sitting apart, but as pursuing different kinds of activities. The men, who were presumably more literate, were sitting and reading, while the women walked along the wall, kissed its stones, and prayed through their crevices with evident devotion. Whereas the “venerable men” did not seem to be dressed in any distinctive manner, the British artist commented on the women’s “long white robes”—which may have been donned in honor of the approaching Sabbath.

Quote:  “As a Pope, I will not abide by any manifestations of anti-Semitism”, Pope Francis making a clear statement on anti-Semitism.

Number: 40, the number of Holocaust survivors who celebrated a belated bar-Mitzvah on Monday.

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