Russian Initiative Gets US, Syrian Support

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Today’s Top Stories

1. Was it just an offhand remark? A gaffe? Or might John Kerry have actually meant it when he said Syria could avoid a US attack by getting rid of its chemical weapons? Whatever the case, the Russians pounced, quickly turning Kerry’s remarks into an all-out diplomatic initiative, and quickly calling on Damascus to buy-in.

The result? President Obama told ABC News he’s willing to hit the pause button on intervention if Assad gives up his chemical weapons. Meanwhile, the Senate delayed a test vote on intervention and even France is backing Moscow’s initiative. Lo and behold, Assad bought in. Israeli officials quoted by Israel HaYom remained skeptical. As analysts told Reuters:

Any deal with Syria to hand over its chemical weapons in the middle of a chaotic civil war would be difficult for inspectors to enforce and destroying them would likely take years, U.S. officials and experts caution.

See below for commentary on the turn of events.

Nabil Shaath

Nabil Shaath

2. Peace talks strained by Palestinian claims that Nabil Shaath has a letter signed by John Kerry guaranteeing that negotiations begin from the 1967 borders. But a polite State Dept. email to the NY Times essentially called Shaath a liar:

But American officials denied there was such a document, which would have been a significant gesture to the Palestinians and could have enraged Israel. “We have always said that if you don’t hear news about the talks from senior U.S. officials, you can’t count on it being reliable,” Marie E. Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. “This is a good example.”

Indeed. Elliott Abrams points out that Shaath has a history of fabricating claims about the US.

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3. Although Facebook’s banned in Iran, Hassan Rohani wants his cabinet ministers to open accounts. But according to AP , even if the mullahs remove the filters, there’s another problem: Lots of fake Facebook accounts named after government officials, presumably set up by the regime’s Internet monitors. And the Times of London notes another twist giving the regime headaches:

Some of the ministers who have signed up are former members of the security services, responsible for blocking access to banned sites and monitoring Iranians online.

That irony has not been lost on the public, who face a daily struggle to evade state censorship and access social networks and news websites. Seeing ministers online has underscored the sense that the rules imposed on ordinary Iranians do not apply to the elite.

4. Manufacturing and Exploiting Compassion: Abuse of the Media by Palestinian Propaganda: An in-depth look at how Palestinian propaganda has turned the Western media into an effective weapon.


The Syrian Situation

CIA documents unearthed by Foreign Policy suggest Israel has (or had?) chemical weapons. I don’t know much about these things, but I’d hazard a guess that Israel was manufacturing things to produce antidotes to the Egyptian, Syrian and Iraqi chemical weapons the article also describes. The Jerusalem Post and YNet picked up on the story.

Reactions to the Russian initiative:

  1. Ron Ben-Yishai says that until we see Moscow’s plan, there’s no way to know if the Russians are serious or just playing for time.
  2. LA Times columnist Jon Healey calls the idea a “get out of jail free card” because taking away Assad’s chemical weapons is hardly a punishment for having used them in the first place.
  3. But as Jonathan Freedland points out, all the key players get something they need: Assad dodges a bullet, Putin becomes the world statesman, and Obama avoids an embarrassing vote in Congress.
  4. Jeffrey Goldberg raises 15 important questions about the deal.
  5. Francois Hollande ain’t Barack Obama’s poodle.

Nice CNN video on Israel’s view of the Syrian developments.

For more commentary/analysis on Israel and the Syria situation, see the Jerusalem Post, David Harris, a Wall St. Journal staff-ed (via Google News), Matt Gurney, Fareed Zakaria, and Bret Stephens (via Google News).

Israel and the Palestinians

Hobbled with financial problems, Hamas has ordered its people to stop making public shows of support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohammed Morsi. Haaretz explains the terror group’s dire financial state and limited options:

Estimates are that the Hamas government needs $37 million a month for salaries and running expenses, but on the eve of the Id Al-Fitr holiday it paid only partial salaries amounting to NIS 1,000 to each person. It’s not clear where money will be found to pay its 42,000 employees this month. Reports from Gaza indicate a dire shortage of fuel due to the closing of the tunnels, leading to a reduction in public transportation. The prices of basic goods have increased significantly and social services have been drastically reduced due to harsh budget cuts.

Hackers to target Israeli websites on 9/11. Why Israel and why on 9/11? It’s just an excuse to attack Israel.

Rutgers Henry Grabbe, a Rutgers sophomore, shared his impressions of a summer trip to Israel in the South Jersey Courier Post.

It was the one-on-one conversations with students that most affected my views on contemporary issues in Israel. All the teenagers are well-versed in the issues facing their people and have their own opinions on everything from education to international relations, and speak passionately about them. This was powerful for me coming from a sometimes-apathetic college student body.

(Image of Shaath via Wikimedia Commons/Janwikifoto)

For more, see yesterday’s Israel Daily News Stream.

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