Reports of Chemical Weapons use in Syria: A Chronology – UPDATED Working Draft Part 3 [after 21 Aug 2013]

A Chronology of Reports of
Chemical Weapons use in Syria

Working Draft Part 3 [After 21 August 2013]

This is an account of all the reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, including warnings of imminent use. The Chronology is ordered according to the dates on which the events happened
[rather than the dates on which they were reported]

Read Part 1 of this Chronology here

Read Part 2 of this Chronology here

After August 21 2013

22 August 2013: UNSG BAN Ki-Moon has sent a team of CW inspectors back to investigate three reported CW attacks after the large 21 August attack on Ghouta. All three were in the Damascus area: the first was in Bahhariya on 22 August [no further details yet available, though this was apparently one of the attacks mentioned by Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari, attacks he blamed on “terrorists” = rebels], and the other two were on 24 August in Jobar and on 25 August in Ashrafiya Sahnaya.

24 August 2013: A statement issued by Medecins Sans Fontiers [MSF] galvanized reaction to the 21 August CW attacks“Syria: Thousands Suffering Neurotoxic Symptoms Treated in Hospitals Supported by MSF,” Doctors Without Borders, 24 August 2013, www.doctorswithoutborders.org

From Richard Guthrie’s CBW Events Syria Chronology for Third Quarter 2013:  MSF issued a press release reporting that three hospitals it supports in Syria have indicated that they had received some 3600 patients‘ displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on the morning of  21 August.  Of these patients, 355 died. http://www.cbw-events.org.uk/2013-0912_SY_chrono_Q3_snapshot.PDF

 

24 August 2013: Syrian State TV reports on discovery [from RT] of what the reporter says were rebel preparations to make CW in tunnels in Jobar area of Damascus’ Ghouta-area suburbs. Also reported by Reuters here, which noted that The UN’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane arrived in Damascus the same day, “to push for access to the suspected chemical weapons attack site for UN inspectors”.

This report becomes the basis of a bizarre and controversial report published here on 29 August by an internet news organization named Mint Press, based in Minnesota, USA. See follow-up account here.  After weeks of dissembling and dithering, see the “official response” from Mint Press Editor-in-Chief Mnar A. Muhawesh, posted http://www.mintpressnews.com/official-statement-on-dale-gavlaks-involvement-in-syria-exclusive/169507/ — published almost a month after the controversy caused by the  report [and raising further questions]…

 

25 August 2013: Ashrafiya Sahnaya [no further details yet available; a second UN CW team is currently investigating the report on the ground. This was apparently one of the attacks mentioned by Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari, attacks he blamed on “terrorists” [rebels].

26 August 2013: Daily Star [Lebanon] report on Hizballah men evacuated to Beirut hospital after exposure to CW last week in Jobar http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2013/Aug-26/228701-hezbollah-fighters-exposed-to-chemical-agents-in-syria-source.ashx …]

 

28 August 2013: Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Bashar al-Jaafari, made a statement to journalists [and anyone else listening] at a UN TV “stakeout” outside the UN Security Council. Jaafari said that he had just addressed a letter asking the UN Secretary-General to mandate immediately the UN team now in Damascus to investigate 3 “heinous” [post-Ghouta] #CW attacks — on 22, 24 + 25 Aug in Jobar, Sahnaya + Bahariya, affecting Syrian troops [dozens of Syrian soldiers were currently being treated in Syrian hospital, he said]. “Members of Syrian Army inhaled poisonous gas … close to what we call Sarin”, he said, as a result of use of chemical agents by “the terrorist armed groups operating in the countryside of Damascus”.

Jaafari: “This makes 420 letters we’ve addressed to the UNSG + UNSC since the beginning of the crisis this year” about all details related to all developments pertaining to the Syrian crisis.
He said his original request for a UN #CW investigation had 2 parts:
1) Did #CW attack take place or not?
2) Who did it?
“But from Day 1”, he said, the UN SG + his experts in the Disarmament Department + three Western Permanent Members of the UN SC had opposed looking at “Who did it?”
Syrian’s Ambassador to UN said that the UN, and therefore the UN #CW investigation team, already has some evidence of rebel/opposition use of #CW.
This evidence, he said, includes a Turkish report that 12 members, “terrorist members”, Jabhat al- Nasra people were arrested in Turkey with 2 liters [he said “liters”] of Sarin. He said that according to the Turkish report, the Jabhat Nasra people took the 2 liters of Sarin with them on board a civilian airliner from Libya to Turkey. The Jabhat Nusra people confessed after capture in Turkey, he said, that they “intended to use it in #Syria”.
Other evidence the UN already has, according to Syria’s Ambassador Jaafari, include an 80-page official Russian report; video from a Russian journalist [Anastasia Popova] who happened to be in Khan al Assel; and Carla del Ponti’s remarks that #CW had been used by the rebels…

Syrian Ambassador Jaafari’s remarks are recorded on video posted on Youtube [in two parts] — the comments below are shown in Part One, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxgfgmKrZlA&feature=youtu.be&a

 

28 August 2013: The UK Prime Minister ?Tweets: @Number10gov – UK to put fwrd resolution authorising all necessary measures under Ch7 of UN Charter to protect civilians from #chemicalweapons in #Syria [It does not get unanimous support, as Russa + China oppose mention of Chapter 7.

28 [or is it 29] August 2013: UK report: “We have assessed previously that the Syrian regime used lethal CW on14 occasions from 2012…We think that there have been other attacks although we do not have the same degree of confidence in the evidence. A clear pattern of regime use has therefore been established”. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/235094/Jp_115_JD_PM_Syria_Reported_Chemical_Weapon_Use_with_annex.pdf

29 August 2013:UK Government motion voted down after many hours of debate. Prime Minister Cameron subsequently says that Britain will not participate in any military strike, even if new and more convincing evidence is provided: “The British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that, and the Government will act accordingly”…

 

30 August 2013: US declassified brief = Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013: “The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack… To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence”.

Continue reading “Reports of Chemical Weapons use in Syria: A Chronology – UPDATED Working Draft Part 3 [after 21 Aug 2013]”

Reports of Chemical Weapons use in Syria: A Chronology – Working Draft Part 2 [the attacks on 21 Aug 2013]

A Chronology of Reports of
Chemical Weapons use in Syria

Working Draft Part 2 [21 Aug 2013]

This is an account of all the reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, including warnings of imminent use. The Chronology is ordered according to the dates on which the events happened
[rather than the dates on which they were reported]

Read Part 1 of this Chronology here

Read Part 3 of this Chronology here

21 August 2013: evidence emerged from Syria of pre-dawn attacks including use of chemical weapons on the Ghouta area in the Damascus suburbs contested by rebel forces and Syrian army units. This attack differs from all previous CW attacks in Syria because of the large number of victims: over 1500 are believed to have died.

Human Rights Watch [HRW] wrote, in their report issued on 10 September 2013: “As more details became available, it became clear that the attack had affected two separate opposition-controlled districts in Damascus Suburbs governorate, located 16 kilometers apart. According to local residents, the Zamalka neighborhood in Eastern Ghouta was struck by rockets at some time between 2 and 3 a.m., and the Moadamiya neighborhood in Western Ghouta was struck by rockets at about 5 a.m., shortly after the completion of the Muslim morning prayer”.

HRW map showing the likely source of CW-carrying rockets fired on Ghouta areas
HRW map showing the likely source of CW-carrying rockets fired on Ghouta

One witness in Moadamiya told HRW, “We didn’t smell anything” — even as people began exhibiting symptoms and fainting, . [In its pure form, Sarin is a clear, colorless, tasteless and odorless liquid. See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Emergency Preparedness and Response: Facts about Sarin,” here.]

“Sarin is a toxic but non-persistent nerve agent. Exposure is usually due to inhalation, and the agent rather quickly degrades and disperses into atmosphere… There are reports that people were able to visit the sites of the attacks a few hours post attack and to handle remnants of rockets associated with the attacks without suffering signs and symptoms of exposure to nerve agent. This suggests that the nerve agent involved is more likely to be the less persistent and less toxic agent, Sarin, rather than VX… The large number of victims of the attack, the clinical signs and symptoms that characterized both the victims and, later, the medical workers who treated the victims, and the fact that areas near attack sites were apparently safe to enter soon after the attack, all strongly suggest that the attack involved an organophosphate chemical more toxic that the pesticide Malathion, and was most likely a toxic but non-persistent chemical warfare nerve agent, such as Sarin, which Syria is believed to possess.

“There is laboratory evidence that Sarin gas has been used in previous attacks allegedly carried out by Syrian government forces, including an earlier attack in Ghouta. A photographer for Le Monde newspaper, Laurent Van der Stockt, was exposed to what he believed was a chemical weapon attack while in Jobar in April 2013. In laboratory tests conducted upon his return to France, he tested positive for exposure to Sarin. [See Le Monde article published on 27 May 2013, here, which is referred to in Part 1 of this Working Draft Chronology]

The HRW report says “The precise identification of the specific chemical agent used in the August 21 attack requires the collection of samples from weapon remnants, environmental samples, and physiological samples from those directly or indirectly exposed to the chemical agent. Subsequent specialized analyses of these samples can reveal the specific agent itself or the reaction or degradation products characteristic of a specific agent.  The UN investigative team has collected such samples, and will issue its findings after the completion of its investigation… This is posted here.

Moadamiya  – [western Ghouta]

A witness in Moadamiya media center told HRW that “all of the rockets were of the same type”  [identified by Human Rights Watch as a Soviet- produced 140mm rocket], and said he counted 7 rockets which fell in two areas of Moadamiya.

HRW says “the attack on Moadamiya on August 21 represents the first known appearance of the 140mm rocket, which has not [previously] been documented in use in the current Syrian conflict”.

“The 140mm rocket is documented in standard reference materials as being present in the Syrian government’s weapons arsenal. Designed in the 1950s, the Soviet Union transferred 200 BM-14 launchers, the most common launcher for 140mm rockets made by the Soviet Union, to  Syria in 1967-1969… according to the database on arms transfers maintained by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

“According to a declassified US munitions catalogue and standard international reference materials published by Jane’s, only three warheads were produced for 140mm rockets:
• M-14-OF high explosive-fragmentation;
• M-14-D smoke containing white phosphorus;
• A chemical warhead containing 2.2 kilograms of Sarin.

“Based on witness statements describing the impact of the rockets and the absence of rocket remnants or reported types of injuries consistent with an attack using high explosive or incendiary payloads, Human Rights Watch believes there is little possibility that the rocket could have been carrying high explosive or incendiary payloads. Given the large number of casualties, this leaves a chemical agent warhead as a strong remaining possibility, which would be consistent with the symptoms displayed by the victims.

HRW graphic showing origin + flight paths of sarin-loaded rockets - 17 Sept 2013

Zamalka – [Eastern Ghouta]

Human Rights Watch documented the use of apparent surface-to-surface 330mm rockets in Zamalka, Eastern Ghouta on August 21. We found no evidence of any use of the 140mm rocket system used in the Moadamiya attack in Eastern Ghouta… Human Rights Watch [was able] to confirm at least four strike sites in Zamalka where at least eight 330mm rockets struck on August 21.  This is unlikely to be a complete account of the number of rockets used in the attack… Based on the lack of evidence of a high-explosive or incendiary attack, and symptoms of victims that are consistent with a chemical attack, Human Rights Watch believes that the 330mm rockets found at the sites were used in the alleged chemical attack…

“The 330mm surface-to-surface rocket that appears to be associated with the August 21 attack on Eastern Ghouta is of a type not listed in standard, specialized, international or declassified reference materials. It is a rocket type that has not been documented before the outbreak of the current Syrian conflict, although it has been documented in a number of other attacks on opposition held areas in the months prior to the Eastern Ghouta attack, including at least one attack in which opposition activists claimed the government had carried out an alleged chemical attack (see next page)…

“Measurements determine that the estimated volume of nerve agent inside the warheads would be approximately 50 to 60 liters, compared to 2.2 liters for the warheads designed for the 140mm rockets.

“Prior to each attack, the warhead of the 330mm rocket would have to be filled with the 50 to 60 liters of nerve agent, a dangerous process that is normally conducted by specialized teams wearing protective gear to prevent exposure to the chemical agents. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any information that the opposition forces have ever possessed the amounts of chemical weapon agent necessary to deploy such rockets, or that they possess the expertise needed to fill the warheads without accidental exposure to the deadly nerve agent…

“[The] dimensions are compatible with the Iranian-produced 333mm Falaq-2 launcher, or close copies and derivatives thereof.  Iran is believed to be the only country in the world to produce rocket launchers in the 333mm category. Videos have appeared showing Syrian forces using the Falaq-2 launching system to launch what appears to be versions of the 330mm rockets, although the launches seen in the video occurred during daytime and are thus unrelated to the August 21 nighttime attack.

“The non-aerodynamic design of the rocket indicates that the rocket would be relatively short-ranged and not capable of accurate targeting. The consistency in the design of these rockets suggests that they were locally but industrially produced, and apparently designed to be deployed with the Iranian 333mm launchers or derivatives thereof.

“While Human Rights Watch cannot establish where the rockets were manufactured, their basic design and unique size matching the Iranian rocket launching system suggest a Syrian industrial origin. The production of a weapon specifically designed to deliver chemical weapons would be a violation of the 1993 Convention on Chemical Weapons, of which only five countries, including Syria, are not parties [n.b. – Syria acceded on 14 September].  While a separate, high-explosive warhead version of the rocket appears to exist based on attacks in other areas, three design differences appear to distinguish the suspected chemical weapon type from the suspected high-explosive type… All of the 330mm rocket remnants identified by Human Rights Watch in the Eastern Ghouta Zamalka attack are of the suspected chemical weapons variant, with red numbering, a shorter-sized warhead, and an additional fill plug.  Most significantly, the design of the payload of the rockets found at the scene of the Eastern Ghouta August 21 attack strongly indicates that it is compatible, and perhaps specifically designed, for the delivery of chemical agents…

Source: “Attacks on Ghouta: Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria”, Human Rights Watch, 10 September 2013.  Posted here.

 ************

21 August 2013:  Alternate theory [Tom Wyld]: “Based on my past analyses of the fighting in East Ghouta and appraisals of their involvement in Syrian command and control, I assess as highly likely that Hezbollah and Sepah Pasdaran (Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) were involved in the attack.  If reports are accurate, this is an extraordinary military and geo-political development with grave international consequences”. This is posted here.


End of Part 2

Reports of Chemical Weapons use in Syria: A Chronology – UPDATED Working Draft Part 1 [Jan 2012 to 21 Aug 2013]

A Chronology of Reports of
Chemical Weapons use in Syria

[UPDATED] Working Draft Part 1 [January 2012 to 21 August 2013]

This is an account of all the reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, including warnings of imminent use. The Chronology is ordered according to the dates on which the events happened
[rather than the dates on which they were reported]

Read Part 2 of this Chronology here

Read Part 3 of this Chronology here

January 2012 to August 21 2013

January 2012: The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills granted export licences to an unnamed UK chemical company on 17 and 18 January 2012 to send dual-use chemicals [that are used in production of sarin] to Syria — for “use in industrial processes”. The Business Department said “it had accepted assurances from the exporting company that the chemicals would be used in the manufacture of metal window frames and shower enclosures”. A Department spokesperson said these chemicals were requested “for metal finishing of aluminium profiles used in making aluminium showers and aluminium window frames”.

July 2012: The permits were eventually revoked in July, in response to tightened European Union sanctions — before these chemicals were exported. Critics said “it appeared the substances had only stayed out of Syria by chance”…. “Although the export deal, first reported by The Sunday Mail in Scotland, was outlawed by the EU on 17 June last year in a package of sanctions against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the licences were not revoked until 30 July. Chemical weapons experts said that although the two substances have a variety of uses such as the fluoridation of drinking water, sodium and potassium fluoride are also key to producing the chemical effect which makes a nerve agent such as sarin so toxic”.  Source: “Revealed: UK Government let British company export nerve gas chemicals to Syria: UK accused of ‘breath-taking laxity’ over export licence for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride”, by Cahal Milmo, Andy McSmith , Nikhil Kumar, published by The Independent on 2 September 2013, posted here.

But, The Daily Mail reported on 7 September that: “Between July 2004 and May 2010 the Government issued five export licences to two companies, allowing them to sell Syria sodium fluoride, which is used to make sarin. The Government last night admitted for the first time that the chemical was delivered to Syria – a clear breach of international protocol on the trade of dangerous substances that has been condemned as ‘grossly irresponsible’… The sales were made at a time when President Bashar Assad was strongly suspected to be stockpiling the chemical weapons that have caused an international crisis. The UK firms delivered sodium fluoride to a Syrian cosmetics company for what they claim were legitimate purposes”.
Thomas Docherty MP, a member of the Commons Arms Export Controls Committee, said: ‘Previously we thought that while export licences had been granted, no chemicals were actually delivered. Now we know that in the build-up to the Syrian civil war, UK companies – with the backing of our Government – were supplying this potentially lethal substance. While the last export licence was issued in May 2010, these licences are obtained prior to manufacture and the industry standard is for four to five months to pass before the chemicals are delivered. So we are looking at late 2010 for the British supplies of sodium fluoride reaching Syria’…”
Source: “Britain sent poison gas chemicals to Assad: Proof that the UK delivered Sarin agent to Syrian regime for SIX years”, Mark Nicol, The Daily Mail, 7 September 2013 – updated 8 September 2013, posted here.

It appears that the news of these sales + export licenses was leaked in the immediate aftermath of the parliamentary defeat of the UK Government motion, at the end of August 2013, to join in proposed military strikes on Syria in the aftermath of the 21 August 2013 #CW attacks on Ghoutha which killed hundreds, possibly over 1500, of civilian casualties.

*****************************

13 July 13 2012: News reports indicated that the Syrian government was moving its #CW stockpile to one or more undisclosed location[s].
“Red Line” remarks:

13 July 13 2012: Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters at the Pentagon later that same day, however, that “The Syrian regime has control of its chemical weapons stockpiles”. He added: “We believe that the Syrian government has a very serious responsibility to protect its stockpiles of chemical weapons…We would, of course, caution them strongly against any intention to use those weapons. That would cross a serious red line”. And, he said, if any Syrian officials choose to utilize chemical weapons they will be held accountable for their actions. Little added that “We are watching very closely — not just the United States, but the international community — to make sure that they maintain control over those stockpiles, and of course, to ensure that they don’t use them”… Posted here.
20 August 2012 – US President Barak Obama: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus…That would change my equation…We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans”.   Source: James Ball, the Washington Post, posted here.

18 July 2012: First Iranian letter [or “warning”] sent through Swiss Embassy in Tehran to Washington warning of preparations [by “rebels”] for #CW use in Syria.

Scott Peterson reported recently in the Christian Science Monitor that “Iran says that it warned the United States directly, in mid- and late- 2012, and at least once after that, about the risks of chemical weapons among the rebels…The [Iranian] letter acquired by the Monitor references messages from July 18 and Dec. 1, 2012″. Posted here.

Peterson’s report followed up on remarks by the new Foreign Minister of Iran, on 1 September 2013, that Iran had informed the US 9 months earlier that “extremist elements” are transferring chemical weapons to Syria. In an interview with the Iranian weekly, Aseman, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the country had sent an official memo to the Swiss embassy in Tehran which represents the US interests section in Iran and informed US that ‘Hand-made chemical weapon Sarin is being transferring to Syria’… “In that memo we warned that extremist groups may use the chemical agents,” Zarif said — although the “Americans never replied to the memo.” This is published here.

===========================

23 July 2013:  The French Government report issued on 2 September reported this: “Syria has long been equipped with a a massive chemical arsenal, together with many related delivery systems. The Syrian regime acknowledged as much on July 23, 2012 through its Foreign Affairs spokesperson, who confirmed that: ‘these different weapons [chemical and non-conventional] are stockpiled and secured under the supervision of the armed forces’…”

Source: ‘National executive summary of declassified intelligence: Assessment of Syria’s chemical warfare programme’, French Government report dated 2 September 2013, posted here.

===========================

September 2012: US + Russian officials began work, bilaterally, without public announcement, on the issue of Syria’s #CW, as we learned a year later, on 14 September 2013:

Paul Adams @BBCPaulAdams 14 Sep 2013 — US officials in Geneva say Americans and Russians have been discussing how to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons for a year.

Marian Houk @Marianhouk 15 Sep 2013 — Transcript of background briefing by State Dept officials at US Mission in Geneva yesterday mentions 1 year of US-Russian contacts on #Syria

US State Dept official[s] briefing on background in Geneva on 14 September: “We had groups that have been meeting for a year between our national security councils to talk about the elimination + destruction of #CW…in Syria, because the entire world understood that if we got to a peace, we were going to have to deal with the chemical weapons… There’ve been, I think, 5 meetings of that group over the past yr, so we already had experience working w/ each other + sharing expert info…But we did not come to this meeting with a full-fledged plan”. This is posted here.

17 September 2012: Der Spiegel reports that Syria’s military had conducted #CW tests:
“The Syrian army is believed to have tested missile systems for poison gas shells at the end of August, statements from various witnesses indicate. The tests took place near a chemical weapons research center at Safira east of Aleppo, witnesses told SPIEGEL. A total of five or six empty shells devised for delivering chemical agents were fired by tanks and aircraft, at a site called Diraiham in the desert near the village of Khanasir. Iranian officers believed to be members of the Revolutionary Guards were flown in by helicopter for the testing, according to the statements…In recent months, the guards have been replaced and reinforced by more than 100 elite troops from the 4th Tank Division. In addition, power generators and large supplies of diesel have recently been brought to the plant to safeguard the supply of electricity in the event of an attack by rebels, reports say.  This is published here.

1 December 2012: Second Iranian letter, or “message”, sent through Swiss Embassy in Tehran to Washington warning of preparations [by “rebels”] for #CW use in Syria.

Scott Peterson reported recently in the Christian Science Monitor that “Iran says that it warned the United States directly, in mid- and late- 2012, and at least once after that, about the risks of chemical weapons among the rebels…The [Iranian] letter acquired by the Monitor references messages from July 18 and Dec. 1, 2012″. This is posted here.

 

3 December 2012: Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman wrote for Wired.com’s Danger Room: “Engineers working for the Assad regime in Syria have begun combining the two chemical precursors needed to weaponize sarin gas [ isopropanol, popularly known as rubbing alcohol, and methylphosphonyl difluoride], an American official with knowledge of the situation tells Danger Room.  The U.S. doesn’t know why the Syrian military made the move, which began in the middle of last week and is taking place in central Syria…[Last week] the Syrian military began combining some of the binaries. ‘They didn’t do it on the whole arsenal, just a modest quantity’, the official says … Back in July, the Assad regime publicly warned that it might use its chemical weapons to stop ‘external’ forces from interfering in Syria’s bloody civil war. The announcement sparked a panic in the intelligence services of the U.S. and its allies, which stepped up their efforts to block shipments of precursors for those weapons from entering the country … Fighting around the Syrian capital of Damascus has intensified, as rebel troops captured a half-dozen bases around the city”.

Source: ‘Exclusive: U.S. Sees Syria Prepping Chemical Weapons for Possible Attack’, Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman, Wired.com’s Danger Room, 3 December 2012, posted  http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/12/syria-chemical-weapons-3/

 

14 December 2012: “With Syrian rebel forces gaining in strength, elite units loyal to Bashar Assad received a frightening order a few weeks ago: begin preparations that could lead to the use of chemical weapons…Danger Room first reported last week that U.S. officials recently saw indications that at least some Syrian military forces mixed precursor chemicals for sarin gas, which got the weaponized stocks to the point where they could be loaded onto planes and dropped.

The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick adds detail to that account. Some elite troops received “specific orders” to prep the weapons. At least one Syrian army unit was caught on surveillance photos loading “special military vehicles” that could be used to transport the weapons…  Warrick writes that there were fears throughout the U.S. intelligence community that ‘a single commander could unleash the deadly poisons without orders from higher up the chain of command’… Assad’s motivations remain unclear to U.S. officials, but according to Warrick, someone in the Syrian chain of command provided instructions to prep sarin for potential battlefield use about two weeks ago. Assad’s intentions are unknowable, but using sarin will most foreclose on the life-saving option of finding a foreign country willing to accept Assad for exile”.
Source: ‘U.S. Surveillance Caught Syria’s Chemical Weapons Prep’, Spencer Ackerman, The Danger Room on Wired.com, 14 December 2012. This is posted here.

 

Continue reading “Reports of Chemical Weapons use in Syria: A Chronology – UPDATED Working Draft Part 1 [Jan 2012 to 21 Aug 2013]”

John Quigley, international law professor, on Palestine — in Palestine

John Quigley, renowned legal scholar and professor of international law who has written several books on the Question of Palestine — and who believes that the state of Palestine already exists, based in the Palestine Liberation Organization’s 1988 Declaration of Independence — is in Ramallah for a few days.

He will be speaking at a conference at Bir Zeit University this [Tuesday] morning [co-sponsored by the Bir Zeit University Institute of Law + the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung] on “The Quest for Palestine Statehood: Legal, Political and Economic Implications”.

At an appearance at the [Quaker] Friends Meeting House in Ramallah [arranged by the independent Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq] on Monday night, Quigley said that the Palestinian right to statehood existed before or prior to — and without reference to — the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 181 [adopted 29 November 1947], but he noted that the PLO relied upon Resolution 181 as the basis for their claim to statehood in 1988.

Asked [by Sam Bahour, who was in the audience] if UNGA Resolution 181 is legal, if it had a legal foundation, Quigley replied that it was adopted as a recommendation, as a suggestion to 2 parties, as a proposal to the two parities, to deal with the situation by partition, with economic union and respect for the rights of everyone. [The situation = Britain announced after the Second World War that it wanted to get out of its responsibility for the Mandate of Palestine that it acquired from the League of Nations after the First World War].

So, Quigley continued, this UNGA Resolution 181 was viewed very clearly as a recommendation, but because it was rejected by Arab countries, the major powers a few months later put it aside.

Quigley then suggested that what gave UNGA Resolution 181 legality, or legitimacy [he avoided specifying the term] was the PLO’s acceptance of it, over 40 years later, as the basis for the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988.

In terms of the unfulfilled Palestinian right of Self-Determination, Quigley said that it would have been better supported if the PLO had not, in 1988, confined its territorial claim to the West Bank and Gaza — it could have, at that time, called for Self-Determination in much larger territory.

However, he said, having made the determination in 1988 that they would establish their independent state within the borders / armistice lines that existed before the June 1967 war, it would be very difficult [if not impossible] for the Palestinians to go back on this now.

He did note that Israel became UN member in 1949 without specific mention of territory [or borders]; Israel’s subsequent occupation of territory in 1948 [after the departure of British forces] beyond the delimitation proposed in the UNGA resolution’s 1947 partition plan, has “never been dealt with in any way”.

It is very hard to argue that Jewish settlers in the West Bank have a right or claim to territory there on the basis of Self-Determination — especially, he said, since the International Criminal Court has now solidified the position of the Geneva Conventions, and also of customary international law [including the Hague Convention of 1907, which Israel does accept], that establishing settlements under a military occupation is a war crime.

The real problem, Quigley added, is that it will be very difficult for the Palestinians to gain jurisdiction over Israel in in international fora, because Israel opts out from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in every international human rights treaty except the Genocide Convention.

In contrast to the positions held by some in the audience in Ramllah, Quigley said that the PLO’s “UN bid” — its filing of an application for full membership on 23 September — will enhance its ability to represent Palestinian interests.

If anything, Quigley said, Palestinian statehood enhances representation for the Palestinian diaspora. He argued that some Palestinian complaints [including the fears of diaspora about their lack of representation] with regard to the recently-submitted “UN bid” are “internal questions”.

Just because there hasn’t been a very effective effort made in the past to implement the rights of those outside, doesn’t mean that they still won’t be in the future, Quigley noted. “All I’m saying is that Palestine as a state will be in a stronger [and better] position to do so”, though it remains to be seen what will happen.

He also noted that there doesn’t seem to be any indication of an attempt to abandon the Palestinian right of “repatriation”.

And, he said, Palestinian complaints that there should have been greater consultation before making the UN bid is also an internal Palestinian matter, while “at an international level, a state representing a population that acquiesces in its control — even if it doesn’t like what that state does — is capable of taking such actions”.

Continue reading “John Quigley, international law professor, on Palestine — in Palestine”

Amira Hass interviews Jonathan Pollak

Jonathan Pollak, the Israeli anti-occupation activist who has just been sentenced to three months in jail for participating in a demonstration against tightened IDF-administered sanctions that affect over 1.5 million people in the closed Gaza Strip, has spoken to Haaretz’s Amira Hass about his conviction, and his convictions.

The interview is published today, here.

Pollak was told to report to jail on 11 January to begin the sentence. Like many people who imagine the possibility of going to jail, he thinks he will be able to pass the time usefully by reading. But, asked by Amira if he were afraid of prison, he replied “Yes. I’m not yet sure of what, but I am”.

He was given a suspended jail sentence earlier, stemming from a demonstration against the construction of The Wall in the West Bank (which the International Court of Justice said was illegal, in a ruling on 9 July 2004).

Now, he has been ordered to serve the two sentences, simultaneously.

It is not known yet if he will appeal…

Pollak told Amira Hass that he was arrested “in the middle of our cycling route, on Bograshov Street in Tel Aviv. I was in the midst of the crowd. Two plainclothes policemen who know me and I know them approached me and took me off my bike. They said something to me like: “We told you if you raised your head, we would cut it off,” and took me to a police van. The rest of the cyclists continued without any interference. No one else was arrested”.

The prosecutor apparently asked for a six-month jail term, plus a fine, arguing that the demonstration was “illegal”. Pollak commented: “I am not a jurist but to the best of my knowledge, the police orders demand a permit for a demonstration in which more than 50 people participate. The prosecutor, who is a policewoman, is supposed to know that. We were about 40 people”.

But, he told Amira Hass, he would, personally, not have asked for a permit even if more activists had gathered, “Because I don’t believe that when you are demonstrating against a regime, the regime is the one that has to approve the demonstration”.

The demonstration that is sending Pollak — and only Pollak — to jail took place in Tel Aviv on 31 January 2008 — just days after the Israeli Supreme Court decided on 28 January against a petition brought by GISHA and a group of nine Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations who asked the Court to stop IDF-administered deliberately tightened sanctions against the entire population of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli government had issued a declaration on 19 September 2007 that the Gaza Strip — ruled solely by Hamas after its rout of Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security Forces in mid-June 2007 — had become an “enemy entity”, or “hostile territory”.

The Israeli government gave the Israeli mililtary the sole and entire responsibility for deciding on and administering the regime of deliberate sanctions, which the military announced would be tightened on a regular basis. These sanctions went into effect at the end of October 2007, and the military said that fuel and electricity supplies would be reduced by an additional 15 percent each month. The Supreme Court allowed the fuel reductions to continue, but stopped the reductions in electricity until its decision on 28 January 2008, when they were allowed to go ahead. (However, after a brief trial, the Israeli military apparently realized that the electricity cuts could not be stopped so easily, and without greater damage).

For the final Supreme Court Hearing on the matter, on 28 January 2008, two Palestinians from Gaza who had agreed to testify to the Israeli Court and who had been issued permits to come to Jerusalem to testify, were held up that morning at Erez checkpoint until just before the Supreme Court hearing had adjourned. One of the men was from the Gaza Power Plant, the other was from the Coastal Municipalities Water Society. When they were finally allowed through, they jumped into a waiting taxi and raced to Jerusalem, but arrived after the hearing had completely ended…

The Israeli military was allowed to do whatever it decided in Gaza, without any independent governmental oversight or any other civilian supervision of the IDF-administered sanctions that were applied against 1.5 million people in Gaza.

The absurdity and cruelty of the situation was evident, but difficult to monitor precisely, as the military kept all details until very recently — after the Flotilla Fiasco on 31 May. when 8 Turkish men and one Turkish-American high school student were killed in the Israeli naval boarding at sea of the Mavi Marmara.

In any case, GISHA’s petition argued that such sanctions were collective punishment. But the Supreme Court allowed them to go ahead, on the sole condition that the Israeli military must take care to ensure that no “humanitarian crisis” should ensue.

There was no definition given by the Court of what constitutes a “humanitarian crisis”, but many people believe that one certainly exists in Gaza — one which was exacerbated by the massive IDF attack on the Gaza Strip from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009.

In his discussion with Amira Hass, Pollak explained: “I don’t know what other option there is in so extreme a situation, in which four million people are being kept under a military regime without democratic rights by a country that is interested in presenting a democratic image. In a situation where there is a blockade and collective punishment of 1.5 million people, can one hesitate at all whether to hold a very minimalist protest in Tel Aviv? It seems to me part of the duty of a human being, the least we can do. The question is not why I need all this mess but why so few people join in”.

Pollak, 28 years old, has been a member of the Israeli group, Anarchists against The Wall, and is now on the coordinating committee of the Palestinian-led Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

Avner Cohen on Israel's policy of nuclear opacity – Part 3

In a Op-Ed piece Avner Cohen co-authored with Marvin Miller [a research associate in the Science, Technology, and Society Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology] that appeared in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune on 25 August, the two wrote that “Opacity was first codified in a secret accord between President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Golda Meir of Israel in September 1969. As long as Israel did not advertise its possession of nuclear weapons, by either declaring it had them or testing them, the United States agreed to tolerate and shield Israel’s nuclear program. Ever since, all U.S. presidents and Israeli prime ministers have reaffirmed this policy — most recently, President Obama in a July White House meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during which Mr. Obama stated, ‘Israel has unique security requirements. … And the United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine [its] security interests’. Opacity continues to have almost universal support among members of the Israeli security establishment, who argue that, by not publicly flaunting its nuclear status, Israel has reduced its neighbors’ incentives to proliferate and has made it easier to resist demands that it give up its nuclear shield before a just and durable peace is established in the Middle East”. This piece was posted here.

The article argued that “In the early days of its nuclear program, Israel had no concerns about legitimacy, recognition and responsibility; its focus was acquiring a nuclear capability. Today, the situation is different. Israel is now a mature nuclear weapons state, but it finds it difficult under the strictures of opacity to make a convincing case that it is a responsible one. To the extent that opacity shields Israel’s nuclear capabilities and intentions, it also undercuts the need for its citizens to be informed about issues that are literally matters of life and death, such as: Whose finger is on the nuclear trigger and under what circumstances would nuclear weapons be used? Opacity also prevents Israel from making a convincing case that its nuclear policy is indeed one of defensive last resort and from participating in a meaningful fashion in regional arms control and global disarmament deliberations. Israel needs to recognize, moreover, that the Middle East peace process is linked to the issue of nuclear weapons in the region. International support for Israel and its opaque bomb is being increasingly eroded by its continued occupation of Palestinian territory and the policies that support that occupation. Such criticism of these policies might well spill over into the nuclear domain, making Israel vulnerable to the charge that it is a nuclear-armed pariah state, and thus associating it to an uncomfortable degree with today’s rogue Iranian regime … in order to deal effectively with the new regional nuclear environment and emerging global nuclear norms, Israel must reassess the wisdom of its unwavering commitment to opacity and realize that international support for retaining its military edge, including its nuclear capacity, rests on retaining its moral edge”.

Sabra + Shatila massacre – 28 years on

It was, as Franklin Lamb has written, “one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century”

After the evacuation from Beirut [on a Greek ship, under a “UN umbrella”] of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) fighters along with their leader, the late Yasser Arafat, some of those left behind — those in Sabra + Shatila, a crowded Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Beirut — were massacred over a two-day period while a few journalists and international medical workers tried to alert the world.

By the time anyone paid any attention, the killing was all but over, and only the bloated bodies remained.

An Israeli commission of inquiry concluded that Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s Defense Minister, who had led the Israeli Army out of its enclave in southern Lebanon in a rapid advance north to the Beirut, and then surrounded it, demanding — between the terror of massive bombings and announced attempts to assassinate Arafat (who, unaccountably, escaped) — that Arafat must cease hiding “behind the skirts of Lebanese civilians”.

Sharon’s assault on the eastern part of the Lebanese capital was apparently not authorized in advance by the Israeli cabinet [though then-Prime Minister, Menahim Begin, was informed of Sharon’s plan].

Israel accused the PLO of being behind a number of cross-border attacks, but it was reportedly an attempted assassination against Israel’s then-Ambassador to London [Shlomo Argov] which became the justification for Sharon’s massive reprisal.

[The Israeli diplomat was shot in the head and seriously wounded.  He needed nursing care for the remainder of his life, and died of his injuries in 2003.    The Abu Nidal organization, headed by a Palestinian mercenary, was reportedly hired for this assignment by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who was reportedly furious with the PLO’s Arafat at the time for trying to mediate the Iran-Iraq war.  Saddam believed that all Arabs ought to have totally backed Iraq in that war…]

Sharon (who remains on life support in a long-term care facility in Israel following a stroke in 2006) later — successfully — sued CBS Television and Time Magazine [in 1985], in for libel for reporting that he was directly involved in the Sabra + Shatila massacre.

Sharon prevailed.  [I  was one of only three journalists who attended and monitored that libel trial on a regular basis — and,  for lack of a babysitter, I sometimes had to bring my one-year-old son with me to court…]

Sharon won his libel suit because the court, upon examination, became convinced that Israeli researcher David Halevy had overstated his argument, without sufficient proof, of Sharon’s involvement in the massacre. Halevy’s notes, submitted as a research file to Time Magazine, were later written up by an editor; the subsequent published Time Magazine article was then cited as the source for a report by Mike Wallace on CBS News’ 60 Minutes Program.

Franklin Lamb, an American author of the book The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon, is also as well as Director, Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, Beirut-Washington DC, as well as Board Member of The Sabra Shatila Foundation, and a volunteer with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign He was recently in Lebanon doing research for a new book, and compiled this account recalling what happened in Sabra + Shatila:

THE SHELTERS AND THE “AID WORKERS” – in horrifying detail

“In Shatila Palestinian refugee camp and outside Abu Yassir’s shelter, the bullet marks still cover the lower half of the 11 ‘walls of death’ where some of the dried blood is mixed and feathered in with the thin mortar. An elderly gentleman named Abu Samer still has some souvenirs of the event: three American automatic pistols fitted with silencers, a couple of knives and axes that were strapped to some of the killers belts as they quickly and silently shot, carved and chopped whoever they came upon starting at around 6 pm on Thursday September 16, 1982. Plus a couple of whisky bottles … Locating the 11 ‘walls of death’ requires help from the few older Palestinians who still live in this quarter … Zeina [last name not given, who reportedly lost her husband and two daughters during the massacre] recalls that it was late on a Thursday afternoon, September 16, that the Israeli shelling had grown intense. Designed to drive the camp residents into the shelters, almost all of which Israeli intelligence, arriving the previous day in three white vehicles and posing as ‘concerned NGO staff’ had identified and noted the coordinates on their maps. Some residents, thinking aid workers had come to help the refugees, actually revealed their secret sanctuaries. Other refugees, based on their experience in the crowded shelters during the preceding 75 days of indiscriminate, ‘Peace for Galilee’ Israeli bombing … suggested to the ‘aid workers’ that the shelters needed better ventilation and perhaps the visitors would help provide it. According to Zeina the Israeli agents quickly sketched the shelter locations, marked them with a red circle and returned to their HQ which was located less than 70 meters on the raised terrain at the SE corner of Shatila camp still known as Turf Club Yards. Today, this sandy area still contains three death pits which according to the late American journalist Janet Stevens is where some of the hundreds of still missing bodies of the more than 3,000 slaughtered are likely buried … Journalist Robert Fisk and others who studied these events, concur that more slaughter was done during the 24 hour period after 8 a.m. Saturday, the hour the Israeli Kahan Commission, which declined to interview any Palestinians, ruled that the Israelis had stopped all the killing. Eyewitness testimony also established that the ‘aid workers’ described by Zeina passed the shelter descriptions and locations to Lebanese Forces operatives Elie Hobeika and Fadi Frem, and their ally, Major Saad Haddad of the Israeli-allied South Lebanese Army. Thursday evening, Hobeika, de facto commander since the assassination the week previously of Phalange leader and President-elect Bachir Gemayel, led one of the death squads inside the killing field of the Horst Tabet area near Abu Yassir’s shelter. It was in 8 of the 11 Israeli-located and marked shelters that the first of the massacre victims were quickly and methodically slaughtered. There being few perfect crimes, even in massacres, the killers failed to find 3 of the shelters. One of the overlooked shelters was just 25 meters from Abu Yassir’s shelter. Apart from these three undiscovered hiding places there were practically no Shatila shelter survivors”…

MUNIR’s STORY

“Munir Mohammad was 12 years old on September 16, 1982 …

At around about 8 p.m. on September 18 Munir Mohammad entered the crowded Abu Yassir shelter with his mother Aida and his sisters and brothers Iman, Fadya, Mufid and Mu’in … Munir later recalled events that night: ‘The killers arrived at the door of the shelter and yelled for everyone to come out. Men who they found were lined up against the wall outside. They were immediately machine gunned’. As Munir watched, the killers left to kill other groups and then suddenly returned and opened fire on everyone, and all fell to the ground. Munir lay quietly not knowing if his mother and sisters were dead. Then he heard the killers yelling: ‘If any of you are injured, we’ll take you to the hospital. Don’t worry. Get up and you’ll see’. A few did try to get up or moaned and they were instantly shot in the head.

Munir remembered: ‘Even though it was light out due to the Israeli flares over Shatila, the killers used bright flash lights to search the darkened corners. The killers were looking in the shadows’. Suddenly Munir’s mother’s body seemed to shift in the mound of corpses next to him. Munir thought she might be going to get up since the killers promised to take anyone still alive to the hospital. Munir whispered to her: ‘Don’t get up mother, they’re lying’. And Munir stayed motionless all night barely daring to breath, pretending to be dead. Munir could not block out the killers words. Years later he would repeat to this interviewer as we passed the Shatila Burial ground known as Martyrs Square:

    ‘After they shot us, we were all down on the ground, and they were going back and forth, and they were saying: “If any of you are still alive, we’ll have mercy and pity and take them to the hospital. Come on, you can tell us”. If anyone moaned, or believed them and said they needed an ambulance, they would be rescued with shots and finished off there and then… What really disturbed me wasn’t just the death all around me. I…didn’t know whether my mother and sisters and brother had died. I knew most of the people around me had died. And it’s true I was afraid of dying myself. But what disturbed me so very much was that they were laughing, getting drunk and enjoying themselves all night long. They threw blankets on us and left us there till morning. All night long [Thursday the 16th) I could hear the voices of the girls crying and screaming, “For god’s sake, leave us alone”. I mean…I can’t remember how many girls they raped. The girl’ voice, with their fear and pain, I can’t ever forget them’ …

Munir’s 15-year-old brother Mufid was among the first to enter Abu Yassir’s shelter, but he left and later appeared at Akka Hoppital with a gunshot wound. After being bandaged he left the hospital to seek safety and his family. No one has seen him since and for a long time Munir could not even mention him. According to camp residents, Munir’s older brother, Nabil, then 19 years old, being of fighting age would have been shot on sight by the killers. Aware of this, Nabil’s cousin and his cousin’s wife fled with him as the Israeli shelling increased and camp residents reported indiscriminate killing. The trio dodged sniper bullets to seek refuge in a nursing home where his aunt worked. Like Munir, Nabil soon learned that his mother and siblings were all dead … During the month following the 1982 Massacre, British Dr. Paul Morris treated Munir at Gaza Hospital approximately one kilometer north of Abu Yassir’s shelter, and kept the youngster under observation. Dr. Morris reported to researcher Bayan Nuwayhed al Hout (Sabra and Shatila: September 1982, Pluto Press, London, 2004) that Munir ‘will smile once in a while, but he doesn’t react spontaneously like others of this age, except just occasionally … Now in America, both Munir and Nabil are leading relatively ‘normal lives’ … Both brothers return to Shatila camp regularly”…

Franklin Lamb’s recounting of the Sabra + Shatila massacre, 28 years ago, on the outskirts of Beirut is published here .  (Thanks to Seham on mondoweiss…)

The Tawjihi

The Tawjihi (pronounced Taw – jee – hee, with accent on the middle syllable) is the exam taken by all Palestinian students at the end of their obligatory schooling. A whole year is devoted to preparing for the Tawjihi. It takes two weeks to take all the parts of the exam. Then it takes about three weeks to wait for the results, on pins and needles.

Once the results are known, the names of the students who passed, and their grades, are published. Then, there is a night of wild fireworks (until at least 1:30 in the morning), and a weekend of more parties and fireworks.

Ma’an News Agency, the privately-owned and operated, donor-funded Palestinian news agency based in Bethlehem, has published a story about two teenage girls who attempted to commit suicide because their names were not listed among the students who had passed the Tawjihi.

The Ma’an report said that “Yousef Odeh, director of the education ministry’s Qalqiliya office, warned parents not to be hard on children who had failed the exams, adding that social pressure to succeed on the difficult tests was enough stress on young men and women. Candidates can take the tests up to five times. They are offered once each year for students, and determine eligibility for university classes. Top scoring candidates are eligible for the sought-after spots in university law, engineering and medicine … Adding pressure is the public celebration of top scoring Tawjihi students, whose families rent halls for parties and let off fireworks from roofs for the week after the results are announced“. This is posted here.

Hell, they shoot these fireworks off everywhere — on the streets, in darkened side streets, by the front gate of houses, under my kitchen window. Some of them are nearly as big and powerful (and expensive, and dangerous) as rockets … It is completely nerve-wracking.

Continue reading “The Tawjihi”

Israeli international law expert discusses naval blockade of Gaza

If Israel was ambivalent (or of several minds) about the applicability of international law, prior to the Israeli naval assault on the Freedom Flotilla in the pre-dawn hours of 31 May, the Israeli government has now rediscovered its value.

Professor Ruth Lapidot, a former legal adviser to Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is one of — if not the – preeminent Israeli expert on international law [also known as public international law]. Her views are taken extremely seriously in official Israeli circles.

She recently [on 16 June] discussed Israel’s announced naval blockade of Gaza’s maritime space in a meeting with diplomats and journalists at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs [run by Israel’s former Ambassador Dore Gold.

Some of the more interesting things she said are: Israel has declared a formal naval blockade of Gaza’s coastline, in January 2009 [as we have reported here]. The area which is blockaded has to be clearly defined, and there has to be clear notification. The blockade must be applied without discrimination (though limited specific exceptions can be permitted).  Humanitarian assistance must be permitted — but not goods which may increase the war capacity of, in this case, Hamas.  If there is a suspicion that a ship is carrying arms or personnel to , in this case, Hamas, Israel may capture, visit, or search a ship that enters the blockaded zone, and can try to persuade them to leave. But, if a ship tries to run the blockade, there is a clear difference between how it is possible to treat a merchant ship (military force can be used) or a warship (only protests are allowed).

Those who oppose this blockade only say that it’s against international law, without saying why, Professor Lapidot said.

UPDATE: In a just-published interview, Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza movement said that “Israel has no right to stop us under international law UNLESS it wants to admit that it occupies Gaza. Since Israel says it no longer occupies Gaza and Gaza is free, they have no right to stop us. In addition, the blockade is collective punishment against a civilian population that is WAY out of line. International law, Amnesty International and the International Red Cross have all said the same thing. Israel’s blockade is illegal”… This is published here.

Professor Lapidot explained at the JCPA discussion that she believed Gaza is a sui generis entity, a special case. Because Gaza was never annexed by Israel, and because Israel does not control the entire territory of Gaza, she argued, it is not occupied. However, since Israel controls the air and sea space [criteria that many if not most other international law experts say are confirmation of an occupation], it has a special responsibility in case of accidents. She noted that the former Israeli Supreme Court head Justice Barak ruled that Israel also has a moral responsibility because it did previously occupy Gaza for so long.

Continue reading “Israeli international law expert discusses naval blockade of Gaza”

Mousavian in America

Hossein Mousavian, a former lead Iranian nuclear negotiator has relocated to America, taking up residence at Princeton University, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

Actually, he’s apparently been at Princeton for ten months already.

Mousavian was been Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami [who preceeded the present President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad], then later then deputy head of the Strategic Research Center of Iran’s Expediency Council.

The WSJ wrote that “In September, Mr. Mousavian, 53 years old, arrived at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs as a visiting scholar, where he has been writing on Tehran’s nuclear diplomacy and U.S.-Iranian relations. Neither Princeton nor the Obama administration would comment on the Iranian diplomat’s stay in the U.S., but American and European diplomats engaged in nuclear diplomacy with Iran say they are closely scrutinizing Mr. Mousavian’s work for insights into Tehran’s decision making”.

In the photo below, which was probably taken in 2003, Mousavian (on right side of photo) is seen talking to another Iranian diplomat Amir Zamaniniya (on left).

Hossein Mousavian whispering into the ear of Amir Zamaniniya - photo picked up from The Elephant Bar blogspot

Mousavian, a former Ambassador of Iran to Germany, and to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was instrumental in what was — for those Iranian officials involved — a risky agreement to freeze Iran’s nuclear program in 2003 to allow for negotiations with European states, observed by the U.S. But it did not result in any diplomatic movement. There were American elections first. Then, in 2005, there were Iranian elections, and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad won — radically changing the Iranian political landscape.

The WSJ article continues: “Mr. Mousavian said in his first interview since arriving at Princeton that he wasn’t in the U.S. to rally support for Tehran’s political opposition, known as the Green Movement. He said he is focused on his academic work and recovering from an illness contracted during his imprisonment and subsequent legal battles. He said he intends to return to Tehran at some point. ‘I don’t need asylum from any country, and I would never apply for it’, he said” …

Continue reading “Mousavian in America”