Tag Archives: chemical weapons

IMMINENT MISSILE ATTACK ON SYRIA

“Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. (Isaiah 17:1) 

By an amazing coincidence, I have been reading a book on “Munich” while the current crisis in Syria has been building up.

At Munich in 1938, Hitler and Chamberlain met to discuss Hitler’s claims on German Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.   Chamberlain famously gave in to his demands. The former British PM described Nazi Germany’s annexation of the area of German-speaking Czechoslovakia in 1938 as “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of which we know nothing.”

Similar words could be spoken today about Syria.

At the time of writing this article, President Trump is deciding on how to react to Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. If the US does nothing, nobody else will.   In 1938 Neville Chamberlain, as British Prime Minister, was the leader of the western world; today it’s President Trump.   Less than a year after Chamberlain’s famous appeasement toward Hitler, Britain and Germany were at war.   It had become all too clear, even to Chamberlain, that Hitler was intent on global conquest.

There’s been plenty of evidence that Russia has similar territorial designs.   The Russians took control of part of Georgia a few years ago; this was followed by the conquest of Crimea and of eastern Ukraine.   Domination of Syria makes them the most powerful voice in the Middle East.  This role is growing – last month, Putin met with the leaders of Iran and Turkey in Ankara.  These three are now in a de facto alliance while Turkey remains officially in NATO.

Geoffrey Wawro, a professor at the University of North Texas, wrote a book called “Quicksand” (2010), on “America’s pursuit of power in the Middle East.”   Reviewer Rick Atkinson sums the book up well, writing that Wawro reveals “how an extraordinary tale of idealism, politics, force and miscalculation began and unfolded over the last century.”

The more the US got involved, the more the US was sucked in; hence the title “Quicksand.”   Why should we expect any other outcome following action in Syria?   Could US intervention lead to war with Russia?

“There was no reason for war in 1914, beyond the murder of an archduke in Bosnia.   As AJP Taylor said of 1914:   “Nowhere was there a conscious determination to provoke a war.   Statesmen miscalculated [and] became prisoners of their own weapons.   The great armies, accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to war by their own weight.”   I wonder what Taylor would have said of Trump’s “Get ready, Russia” tweet.” (“Look at Syria and you can see all the elements that have led to world wars,” Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, April 12th.)

A miscalculation now could be fatal for the US, Russia and Syria.

SYRIAN COMPLEXITIES

Syria is a perfect illustration of the complexity of modern warfare and the geopolitics that complicate everything.

Syria was established after World War One and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.   After “the war to end all wars,” the Treaty of Paris carved out a number of new countries from the ruins of the Turkish ruled empire.   The treaty was aptly described as “the peace to end all peace” by a British general who saw a future of never-ending conflict in the region.   A century later nothing has improved.

Before World War One, Mesopotamia was a sleepy backwater of no interest to anyone.   The same could be said of Syria.   Bible students know that this had to change to fulfill apocalyptic prophecies about Israel (the Jews) and its neighbors.   The prophesied Jewish national homeland was established exactly seventy years ago, in May 1948.

Syria was a Mandated territory of the League of Nations.   France was given the mandate; Britain was given Iraq and Jordan to administer, again under a Mandate from the League.   Palestine was also a League of Nations mandated territory, given to the British.

After World War Two, the French left Syria.   It soon fell under the Soviet sphere of influence.   From 1970 Syria has been the home of a Russian naval base, the only one Russia has on the Mediterranean. The Russians are not going to give it up.   And they will support President Assad as long as it is in their interest to do so.

The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 helped Russia to gain further influence in the region.   By removing Saddam Hussein from power and arranging an election in Iraq, the majority Shi’ites came to power, altering the balance of religious and political power in the Middle East.   Iran is the leading nation of Shia Islam.   An arc of Shia Islam now exists, from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, roughly the same territory of the ancient biblical King of the North. Russia is heavily involved with the Iranians and Syria.   Turkey is now also with them, wanting to stop its Kurdish minority from breaking away.   The Turks are not Arabs, so this does not present a conflict for them.

Syria is not majority Shia.   Assad’s support comes mostly from his Alawite clan, a branch of Shia Islam, which amounts to only 11% of the population.   The Sunnis do not want to be ruled by Assad. Neither do the Sunnis in Iraq want a Shia government over them.  This is why ISIS formed, to “protect” Sunnis from Shi’ites.

It’s all very complicated.

No wonder the president is taking his time.

If he does nothing, he will be seen as weak against Syria and the Russians.  If he does something, innocent lives will be lost, but Assad will remain in power and Russia will continue as its benefactor.

A further complication came today when the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced that Moscow has “evidence” the video of the gas attack was performed by actors.   How does the West prove the film was real?

It seems like a no-win situation for the United States.

—————————————————————————–

European Immigration:   Nuns Out, Terrorists In                                                          by Douglas Murray, April 13, 2018 (Gatestone Institute)

  • When the same Home Office that forbade Sister Ban even to enter the country discovered that the young male Iraqi was in Britain, he explained clearly that he had been trained by ISIS.  He told the Home Office officials that the group had trained him to kill.   The Home Office promptly found him a place to live and study, and treated him as the minor he said he was but most likely was not.   He subsequently told a teacher that he had “a duty to hate Britain.”
  • Last year the Institute of St. Anselm (a Catholic training institute for priests and nuns, based in Kent) closed its doors because of problems it had getting the Home Office to grant visa applications for foreign students.   One nun last year was apparently denied entry to the UK because she did not have a personal bank account.
  • So, those who flee ISIS are turned away, while those who are trained by ISIS are welcome.

 

 

Advertisements

ISIL OR ISIS? WHAT’S IN A NAME?

ISIL or ISIS

Chuck Todd is the host of America’s longest running television series, “Meet the Press.”   Sometime ago he interviewed the President on his program.

Mr. Todd has an interesting explanation as to why the president insists on calling ISIS, ISIL.   The terrorist group called themselves ISIS until they shortened their name to IS, meaning “Islamic State.”

ISIS stands for “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”   These are the two countries in which the organization has been most successful, now controlling over 50% of Syria and substantial areas of Iraq.

ISIL stands for “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”   This is a name the terrorists have never used, though it’s doubtful they will object to it as it actually makes them seem even more important than they already are.

The term “Levant” embraces a wider territory than just Iraq and Syria.   It includes those two countries and, in addition, Lebanon and Jordan.   ISIS has no territory in either country.  It would find Lebanon a very difficult country to conquer as it would come up against another terrorist group, Hezbollah, which is Shia Muslim.

So why does President Obama insist on ISIL?

Chuck Todd believes it has a lot to do with the mistakes the Obama Administration has made in Syria and his reluctance to face up to them.

An alternative theory, put forward on Fox by Harris Faulkner, is that using ISIL instead of ISIS gives the terror group a boost, implying they will soon control those countries, too, as they seek to expand their Islamic State.   This could suggest the president has some sympathy with them and their aims.

However, after watching PBS’s “Frontline” this week, Chuck Todd’s explanation has greater credibility.   (“Obama at War” should still be available at PBS.org and may be shown again on your local PBS station or PBS World.)

The one-hour documentary chronicled the mistakes the Administration made in Syria that led directly to the creation of ISIS (ISIL!).

It was early in 2011, during the euphoria of the Arab Spring, that demonstrations against the Assad regime began.   When President Assad’s forces cracked down on the demonstrators it triggered off the civil war, which has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.

Because the Administration decided not to support the “moderate” rebels, Sunni Muslims (the majority) in Syria needed protection from the ruling Shia.   This provided an opportunity for ISIS.

American weakness soon became obvious when the American president drew a line, making it clear that if Assad used chemical weapons there would be serious consequences.   The world has watched the Syrian government use chemical weapons more than once, witnessing children in their death throes from chlorine bombs and Washington has repeatedly failed to do anything.   This double mindedness has been to America’s shame!

“I would say, Mr. President, that you are going to go down in history if you continue like this, as somebody who has tarnished the reputation of the United States.   You have created many more enemies in the Middle East and you have unwittingly assisted global terrorism,” claimed Murhaf Jouejati, a member of the Syrian opposition to President Assad.

(Presumably, this program was produced prior to the recent summit in Washington DC with no-show Gulf Arab leaders. Even America’s traditional allies in the Middle East no longer trust the US over its dealings with Iran.)

Perhaps it is out of guilt that the Administration has allowed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syrians to resettle in the US, even though this poses a potential security risk at home.

But it’s no wonder the President of the United States does not want to mention Syria and prefers ISIL to ISIS.

His confused Middle East policy also helps us understand why he will not use the term “Islamic extremists,” thereby showing a link between religion and terrorism.

This would suggest the alternative theory is correct – that he wants to give a boost to ISIS.   The Bible tells us that “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).

Whatever the explanation, the western world is in trouble.   The next twenty months could be very challenging ones for the West, as this double minded foreign policy plays out.   A lot more can happen in the next few months.

OBSERVATIONS

Obama Iran

“President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy can best be summed up in five words:   I came, I saw, Iran.”        Letter in the Lansing State Journal, April 22nd.

_________________________________________________

Mark Steyn
Mark Steyn

Quote of the week:   “…. we’ll be talking about transgendered bathrooms when the mullahs nuke us.”   Mark Steyn, writer, radio host, Fox News contributor.

_________________________________________________

Why is it that when people in western countries object to immigration, they are called “racist” but when black South Africans attack and murder immigrants, it’s simply “xenophobia”?

_________________________________________________

IN MEMORIAM

A century ago today the Germans perpetrated the first chemical weapons attack of the twentieth century.   They used 168 tons of chlorine gas on allied troops on the western front, killing 5,000 men within moments.

AFTER SYRIA

obama-syria-strike

It’s too early to assess all the repercussions of the Syrian debacle.  But some conclusions come immediately to mind:

  1. The Russians are better diplomats than the Americans.
  2. Syria’s President Assad is likely to stay in power indefinitely.
  3. Dictators around the world can use chemical weapons without fear of US reprisal.
  4. The current US Administration has lost all support in Syria, having succeeded in alienating the rebels as well as Assad.  Earlier this summer, the US lost all support in Egypt.  Washington isn’t doing very well in this part of the world.
  5. The European allies had better learn to take care of themselves.
  6. Americans do not want another war, especially in the Middle East.
  7. America’s seven decades of pre-eminence are rapidly coming to an end.

Apart from the above, nothing has changed!

In one poll, only 29% of Americans supported President Obama’s request for Congressional approval to attack Syria.  One late night comedian found something positive in the poll  – “this means that 29% of Americans know there is a country called Syria.”  Of course, that doesn’t mean they know where it’s located!

President Obama himself said the US cannot be the world’s policeman, yet that is exactly what the US has been since President Truman.  What he is signaling now is that it’s over – leadership of the western world is up for grabs.  Understandably, there is reluctance on the part of the second and third richest US allies to pick up the reins – Japan and Germany.  We could be in for a rough ride until somebody somewhere is ready to take over!   History shows the worst times are the periods when no country is leading.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Norman Podhoretz quoted Conrad Black:

Summing up the net effect of all this, as astute a foreign observer as Conrad Black can flatly say that, “Not since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, and before that the fall of France in 1940, has there been so swift an erosion of the world influence of a Great Power as we are witnessing with the United States.”

Podhoretz showed in his article “Obama’s successful foreign failure”  (September 8th) that it has always been the goal of this Administration to reduce the US down to the same level as other countries, that the world should no longer look to the President of the United States as the leader of the free world.

“For how else to characterize a president who declares war against what he calls a great evil demanding immediate extirpation and in the next breath announces that he will postpone taking action for at least 10 days – and then goes off to play golf before embarking on a trip to another part of the world?  As if this were not enough, he also assures the perpetrator of that great evil that the military action he will eventually take will last a very short time and will do hardly any damage.  Unless, that is, he fails to get the unnecessary permission he has sought from Congress, in which case (according to an indiscreet member of his own staff) he might not take any military action after all.”  (This was written before the Russian proposal, which changed everything – maybe!)

One day later, in the same paper, Middle East expert and former editor of the Jerusalem Post, Bret Stephens, noted the significant change in US policy over a single decade. “America’s way of war” has gone “from shock-and-awe to forewarn-and–irritate.”  (“The Bed Obama and Kerry made,” WSJ, September 9th).

Assuming the Russian plan goes ahead, the US and its western allies are going to be in the unbelievable position of relying on the Russians to enforce the ban on chemical weapons, at least where Syria is concerned.

Never mind, we can’t afford another conflict anyway.

An article in the British newspaper, The Guardian, quoting from the Bipartisan Policy Center, points out that the US has never before defaulted on loan obligations, but may have to sometime between mid-October and early November, when the money runs out and the debt ceiling needs to be raised again.  President Obama is likely going to find it harder to get the debt ceiling raised than it was to get approval for an attack on Syria.

“The thinktank’s estimate is in line with a warning last month by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew that the government would exhaust its borrowing authority by mid-October and be left with just $50bn cash on hand.

“The government has never defaulted on its obligations.  Raising the $16.7tn borrowing cap promises to be a major struggle for House Republicans and President Obama.”  (US could default on its debt obligations by mid-October, thinktank warns,” The Guardian, September 10th).

Failure to get approval will affect all US government spending, from social security benefits to military pensions, welfare, and the military.

This is always an interesting time of the year.  This year is proving to be no exception.   Significant changes are taking place in the US and in the country’s relations with the rest of the world.