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Posts tagged ‘Syrian civil war’

Obama Administration May Have Overreached on Syrian Sarin Gas Claims.


A new study of last summer’s Sarin attacks in Syria does not conclude who was responsible but raises the possibility that the White House’s assertion that the rockets had been launched from areas solidly controlled by the Assad government cannot be proved, The New York Times reported Saturday. 

The projectiles were probably fired from more than one Grad rocket launcher and had a range of about 1.8 miles, according to the study. Both sides in the civil war have the Russian-designed Grad.

The attacks are believed to have caused hundreds of civilian deaths. The Obama administration blamed the Assad regime and initially threatened military retaliation. In mid-September the U.S. and Russia reached agreement to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons.

The latest analysis was carried out by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Theodore Postol and Richard Lloyd, an analyst for Tesla Laboratories, a military contractor.

Postol said the new analysis undermined the impression given by the White House that “satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred.”

According to Postol, “It is clear that if the U.S. government’s claims that the allegedly observed launches came from ‘the heart’ of Syrian government controlled areas, there is a serious discrepancy between the meaning of this claim, the technical intelligence it relies on, and the technical properties of this munition.”

Lloyd and Postol did not have access to the actual components of the rockets for their study.

The two experts say that warheads used in the attacks contained over 13 gallons of sarin.

In November, analyst Dan Kaszeta, a former officer in the US Army Chemical Corps, outlined the complexity of producing even small amounts of Sarin and concluded that it was likely the Syrian regime— not the insurgency— was responsible.

Allegations were raised starting in 2012 and into the summer of 2013 that poison gas had been used on multiple occasions during the Syrian civil waraccording to the Arms Control Association. 

Related Stories:

Seymour Hersh: Obama Told Half-Truth on Syria’s Chemical Weapons
Sarin: Lethal Nerve Gas That Kills in Minutes

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Elliot Jager

Israel Tracks Western Jihadists in Syria, Worried About Their Return.


JERUSALEM — Israel is working with allies abroad to track Westerners fighting in Syria, concerned that such militants could attack Israeli or Jewish targets once back home, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday.

Of an estimated 10,000 foreign combatants among rebels battling Syrian President Bashar Assad, around 20 percent are from the West and that number is rising, the official said.

“Think of a scenario, even one of them returning and getting instructions from someone he worked with, someone he fought beside, someone like [the al-Qaida-linked] Nusra Front, to carry out an attack,” said the official, who is privy to intelligence assessments. “This has been keeping us very, very busy lately.”

The official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Israel was coordinating monitoring efforts with Western countries, whose legal options against fighters returning home were limited.

“It’s a problem [for Western authorities] to come and arrest someone just because he was in Syria. No one knows for sure what he did there,” the official said.

Security sources said Israeli officials monitoring Syria were meeting foreign counterparts more often, and Israeli diplomatic missions were scrutinizing visitors more closely.

The Israeli estimates for the number of Western combatants in Syria largely correspond to those cited in a report last week by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, a partnership of five universities based at King’s College London.

The almost three-year-old Syrian civil war has indirectly helped Israel by diverting its Lebanese Hezbollah enemy, which has sent many guerrillas to fight for Assad’s army. Hezbollah battled Israel to a standstill in the 2006 Lebanon border war.

The official said Israel believed between 10,000 and 15,000 Hezbollah members have fought in Syria, but that it was not clear how many casualties the Iranian-backed group had suffered.

“There were many killed, wounded, but there are no numbers,” the official said. “It could be hundreds or thousands.”

“In all, their capabilities against Israel have been hurt. So their interest, for now, in opening a front against Israel is near zero,” the official said.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

US Fighters Pose Security Risk on Return From Syria.


Federal officials say Americans are joining the bloody civil war in Syria, raising the chances they could become radicalized by al-Qaida-linked militant groups and return to the U.S. as battle-hardened security risks.

The State Department says it has no estimates of how many Americans have taken up weapons to fight military units loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in the conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people over 2 ½ years. Other estimates — from an arm of the British defense consultant IHS Jane’s and from experts at a nonprofit think tank in London — put the number of Americans at a couple dozen. The IHS group says al-Qaida-linked fighters number about 15,000, with total anti-Assad force at 100,000 or more.

This year, at least three Americans have been charged with planning to fight beside Jabhat al-Nusrah — a radical Islamic organization that the U.S. considers a foreign terrorist group — against Assad. The most recent case involves a Pakistan-born North Carolina man arrested on his way to Lebanon.

At a Senate homeland security committee hearing this month, Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., said: “We know that American citizens as well as Canadian and European nationals have taken up arms in Syria, in Yemen and in Somalia. The threat that these individuals could return home to carry out attacks is real and troubling.”

The hearing came about two weeks after the FBI and other officers arrested Basit Sheikh, 29, at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport on charges he was on his way to join Jabhat al-Nusrah. Sheikh, a legal resident of the United States, had lived quietly, without a criminal record, in a Raleigh suburb for five years before his Nov. 2 arrest. A similar arrest came in April in Chicago. And in September, authorities in Virginia released an Army veteran accused of fighting alongside the group after a secret plea deal.

In August, outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller told ABC News that he was concerned about Americans fighting in Syria, specifically “the associations they will make and, secondly, the expertise they will develop, and whether or not they will utilize those associations, utilize that expertise, to undertake an attack on the homeland.”

Current FBI Director James Comey said this month that he worried about Syria becoming a repeat of Afghanistan in the 1980s, after the Soviet invasion, with foreign fighters attracted there to train. The FBI refused to say whether it has directed agents to increase efforts to stop Americans bound for Syria.

In the case of Sheikh, his North Carolina home isn’t considered a breeding ground for terrorist activity. But Aaron Zelin, who works for both the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, notes that Sheikh lived about three hours from the hometown of Samir Khan, the editor of an English-language al-Qaida magazine who was killed in a drone attack in Yemen.

Sheikh is charged with planning to assist a group the State Department has declared a terrorist organization. It’s not illegal for Americans who also hold citizenship in another country to fight in that country’s military. But American citizenship can be lost for voluntarily serving in foreign armed forces hostile to the U.S.

For five months this year, Sheikh didn’t know he was being monitored as he posted messages and videos on Facebook expressing support for jihadi militants fighting Assad’s forces, according to a Nov. 2 sworn affidavit by FBI Special Agent Jason Maslow in support of the warrant to arrest Sheikh.

In August, Sheikh commented to an undercover FBI employee’s posts on a Facebook page promoting Islamic extremism. The two struck up an online relationship, the affidavit said. Sheikh told the informant he planned to trek to Syria to join “a brigade in logistics, managing medical supplies.” Days later, Sheikh said he’d bought a one-way ticket to travel to Turkey in hopes of making contact with people who would get him to Syria.

Sheikh said he backed out because “he could not muster the strength to leave his parents,” the affidavit said. Sheikh said he had traveled to Turkey last year hoping to join the fight in Syria, but became dispirited by his experience with people who claimed to be part of the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army. After Sheikh expressed online support for Jabhat al-Nusrah and interest in traveling to the war zone, the FBI employee suggested Sheikh contact a person with the group — another FBI informant.

Sheikh made contract, describing Jabhat al-Nusrah as the most disciplined group of anti-Assad fighters, the affidavit said. “I’m not scared,” Sheikh wrote, according to the affidavit. “I’m ready.”

Two federal public defenders appointed to represent Sheikh are barred by local court practice from discussing their cases, spokeswoman Elizabeth Luck said. Sheikh’s father, Javed Sheikh, said his son was falsely accused but that he trusts U.S. courts to find the truth.

A federal magistrate ruled that Sheikh should be detained until his trial because there was clear evidence that he wouldn’t appear if released on bond and that there was a “serious risk” to the community if he were freed.

Basit Sheikh’s arraignment is scheduled for January. He could face up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Saudis Spurn Security Council Seat; Cite Lack of Syria Action.


Image: Saudis Spurn Security Council Seat; Cite Lack of Syria Action

U.N. Security Council.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia said Friday it would not take up its rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council, citing “double standards” which it said hampered the world body’s ability to end conflicts.

It is the second time this month that Saudi Arabia has publicly expressed discontent over what it sees as the Security Council’s failure to take action to stop a civil war in Syria that has killed more than 100,000 people.

“The kingdom sees that the method and work mechanism and the double standards in the Security Council prevent it from properly shouldering its responsibilities towards world peace,” the foreign ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

Saudi Arabia, along with Chad and Nigeria, were elected by the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday to serve a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council as human rights groups called for all three countries to improve their records.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said it was unable to take its seat until reforms were introduced, but did not specify what reforms it wanted.

U.S.-allied Saudi Arabia has been angry over what it says is the failure of the international community to help either Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad or Palestinians seeking an end to more than four decades of Israeli occupation.

The Security Council has been split on how to handle the civil war in Syria, with Western powers pushing for stronger sanctions against Assad and Russia vetoing resolutions to that end. Saudi Arabia has backed the rebels in that conflict.

The Saudis, along with other Arab states, have also often criticized the United States for blocking international action to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands seized in the 1967 Middle East war.

Earlier this month, the Saudi foreign minister canceled a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in frustration over the international inaction on Syria and the Palestinian issue, a diplomatic source said.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: NEWSmax.com

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