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The Case for a New Red Line on the Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

March 9 2018

According to available estimates, over 500 people have been killed by Bashar al-Assad and his allies in the bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, an area close to Damascus. Besides artillery and barrel bombs, Syrian forces have also been using chlorine gas on the civilian population there. The editors of Bloomberg urge the U.S., and its Western allies, to take a stand:

The moral responsibility for Eastern Ghouta clearly belongs to the Syrian government and its primary sponsors, Iran and Russia. But the West has hardly covered itself in glory with its efforts to stop the atrocities.

First, it failed to get any serious sanctions against Syria at the United Nations Security Council. And then, of course, there was President Barack Obama’s infamous “red line” warning that the U.S. would respond militarily if Assad used chemical weapons on his people. The dictator called Obama’s bluff, one of the worst humiliations for U.S. foreign policy in the post-cold-war era. . . .

But the West hasn’t been [entirely] spineless. Last April, after a sarin-gas assault, President Donald Trump authorized a large-scale cruise-missile attack on a Syrian air base. At the time, many scoffed that this was a token effort that did relatively little harm to Syria’s military. But there has been no verified use of sarin in Syria since the U.S. struck back.

It’s time for another red line, one that the U.S. won’t back away from. Trump should tell Assad and his Russian backers that any more proved use of any chemical weapon, including chlorine, will be met with even greater retaliation than what happened in April. It certainly won’t end the fighting in Eastern Ghouta or across the country, but it may take away one of Assad’s most unconscionable methods of terrifying his citizens.

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More about: Chemical weapons, Politics & Current Affairs, Syria, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations