Thursday, August 2, 2012

Breaking: Israelis not safe in Sinai Peninsula. Various implications and applications of Chemical Weapons. The Syrian Files. Egypt vs Israel.

update: 8-2-2012

Israel says terror groups are planning to abduct Israelis from the Sinai peninsula

Counter-Terrorism Bureau issues warning received new intelligence that Gaza-based Palestinian terror groups, organizations linked to Al-Qaida in Sinai planning imminent attacks on Israeli tourists there.

By Barak Ravid Aug.02, 2012 | 10:12 PM
Sharm el Sheik Dec. 2, 2010 (AP)
A view of Sharm el Sheik in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. 

Israeli tourists in Sinai should return to Israel immediately because terrorists are planning to abduct Israelis from the peninsula, the government's Counter-Terrorism Bureau warned on Thursday.
The agency said it issued the warning because it has received new intelligence indicating that Gaza-based Palestinian terror groups and organizations linked to Al-Qaida in Sinai are planning imminent attacks on Israeli tourists there. The terrorists' primary goal is to kidnap Israelis, the agency added.
While it has issued similar warnings several times in the past, many Israelis ignore them, pressing forward with plans to enjoy a relatively cheap beach vacation.
"The Counter-Terrorism Bureau once again urges all Israelis in Sinai to leave the region immediately and return to Israel," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement on Thursday.
"The Counterterrorism Bureau asks the families of Israelis in Sinai to make contact with them and inform them of this warning. In addition, the bureau strongly recommends that all those planning to go to Sinai refrain from doing so."
The agency has had a travel advisory in place for Sinai for several years now, but the security situation there deteriorated drastically after last year's Egyptian revolution. Over the past year, two serious cross-border terror attacks have been launched at Israel from Sinai, both by terrorist groups affiliated with Al-Qaida.

The Specter of Syrian Chemical Weapons

August 2, 2012 | 0901 GMT
By Scott Stewart

U.S. Army symbol for chemical weapons.The unraveling of the al Assad regime in Syria will produce many geopolitical consequences. One potential consequence has garnered a great deal of media attention in recent days: the possibility of the regime losing control of its chemical weapons stockpile. In an interview aired July 30 on CNN, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said it would be a "disaster to have those chemical weapons fall into the wrong hands -- hands of Hezbollah or other extremists in that area." When he mentioned other extremists, Panetta was referring to local and transnational jihadists, such as members of the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been fighting with other opposition forces against the Syrian regime. He was also referring to the many Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which have long had a presence in Syria and until recently have been supported by the al Assad regime.
This photo shows tear gas in use.The fear is that the jihadists will obtain chemical weapons to use in terrorist attacks against the West. Israel is also concerned that Palestinian groups could use them in terrorist attacks inside Israel or that Hezbollah could use such weapons against the Israelis in a conventional military battle. However, while the security of these weapons is a legitimate concern, it is important to recognize that there are a number of technical and practical considerations that will limit the impact of these weapons even if a militant group were able to obtain them.

Militant Use of Chemical Weapons

Militant groups have long had a fascination with chemical weapons. One of the largest non-state chemical and biological weapons programs in history belonged to the Aum Shinrikyo organization in Japan. The group had large production facilities located in an industrial park that it used to produce thousands of gallons of ineffective biological agents. After the failure of its biological program, it shifted its focus to chemical weapons production and conducted a number of attacks using chemical agents such as hydrogen cyanide gas, phosgene and VX and sarin nerve agents....

Difficult to Employ

Using chemical munitions on the battlefield presents a number of challenges. The first of these is sufficiently concentrating the chemical agent to affect the targeted troops. In order to achieve heavy concentrations of the agent, chemical weapon attacks were usually delivered by a massive artillery bombardment using chemical weapons shells. Soviet military chemical weapons doctrine relied heavily on weapons systems such as batteries of BM-21 multiple rocket launchers, which can be used to deliver a massive amount of ordnance to a targeted area. Additionally, it is very difficult to control the gas cloud created by the massive barrage. There were instances in World War I and in the Iran-Iraq War in which troops were affected by chemical weapon clouds that had been created by their own artillery but had blown back upon them.
Delivering a lethal dose is also a problem in employing chemical weapons in terrorist attacks, as seen by the attacks outlined above. For example, in the March 20, 1995, attack on the Tokyo subway system, Aum Shinrikyo members punctured 11 plastic bags filled with sarin on five different subway trains. Despite the typically very heavy crowds on the trains and in the Tokyo subway stations that morning, the attacks resulted in only 12 deaths -- although thousands of other commuters were sickened by the attack, some severely.
Sulfur MustardThe Syrian regime is thought to have mustard gas as well as tabun, sarin and VX nerve agents in its chemical weapons inventory. Mustard gas, a blistering agent, is the least dangerous of these compounds. In World War I, less than 5 percent of the troops who were exposed to mustard gas died. Tabun and sarin tend to be deployed in a volatile liquid form that evaporates to form a gas. Once in gas form, these agents tend to dissipate somewhat quickly. VX, on the other hand, a viscous nerve agent, was developed to persist in an area after it is delivered in order to prevent an enemy force from massing in or passing through that area. While VX is more persistent, it is more difficult to cause a mass casualty attack with it since droplets of the liquid agent must come into contact with the victim, unlike other agents that evaporate to form a large cloud...

Another option for jihadists or Palestinian militants could be to attempt to smuggle the chemical agent into Israel for use in an attack. However, in recent years, increased security measures following past suicide bombing attacks in Israel have caused problems for militant groups smuggling weapons into Israel. The same problems would apply to chemical agents -- especially since border security has already been stepped up again due to the increased flow of weapons from Libya to Gaza.

VX is one of the most lethal nerve agents.Militants could attempt to solve this logistical challenge by launching a warhead or a barrage of warheads into Israel using rockets, but such militant rocket fire tends to be very inaccurate and, like conventional rocket warheads, these chemical warheads would be unlikely to hit any target of value. Even if a rocket landed in a populated area, it would be unlikely to produce many casualties due to the problem of creating a lethal concentration of the agent -- although it would certainly cause a mass panic.
The use of chemical weapons would also undoubtedly spur Israel to retaliate heavily in order to deter additional attacks. This threat of massive retaliation has kept Syria from using chemical weapons against Israel or allowing its militant proxies to use them.
Hezbollah may be the militant organization in the region that could most effectively utilize Syrian chemical munitions. The group possesses a large inventory of artillery rockets, which could be used to deliver the type of barrage attack required for a successful chemical weapon attack. Rumors have been swirling around the region for many months that Libyan rebels sold some chemical munitions to Hezbollah and Hamas. While we have seen confirmed reports that man-portable air-defense systems and other Libyan weapons are being smuggled into Sinai en route to Gaza, there has been no confirmation that chemical rounds are being smuggled out of Libya.
Read more:

Thursday 5 July 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing the Syria Files – more than two million emails from Syrian political figures, ministries and associated companies, dating from August 2006 to March 2012. This extraordinary data set derives from 680 Syria-related entities or domain names, including those of the Ministries of Presidential Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Information, Transport and Culture. At this time Syria is undergoing a violent internal conflict that has killed between 6,000 and 15,000 people in the last 18 months. The Syria Files shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy, but they also reveal how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another.

The Oddly Cordial Letter That the Muslim Brotherhood Sent to Israel

AUG 2 2012, 10:40 AM ET 
What we can learn from Egyptian President and Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi's note to Israeli President Shimon Peres -- assuming it's real.
amorsi peres.jpg
Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi (left) and his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres (right). (Reuters)

...The letter states, "I am looking forward to exerting our best efforts to get the Middle east peace process back to its right track in order to achieve security and stability for all peoples of the region, including that Israeli people." This seems like routine and mundane for a correspondence between the heads of state of Egypt and Israel, but we are talking not about Mohamed Hosni Mubarak and Shimon Peres, but the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi and Peres...

... The same Muslim Brotherhood, which has vowed not to normalize relations with the Israelis until Israel fulfills the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, which from the Brotherhood's perspective demands the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

...several seemingly technical problems with the actual letter has left its authenticity open to question:
  • Whoever wrote the letter, which was in English, spelled the Israeli leader's last name "Perez" instead of "Peres." ...
  • President Morsi's signature does not appear on the letter and there is no presidential seal or stamp on it. ...
  •  The Egyptians are denying that Morsi sent the letter.  Presidential spokesman, Yasser Ali,told al Ahram Gateway that "President Morsi has not sent any letter to the Israeli president."
So what is going on here?...Conspiratorial? Without a doubt, but one can actually understand the logic train in this one, unlike most conspiracy theories.

...The whole episode speaks to the ambiguous nature of Egypt-Israel relations at this moment in Egypt's transition. The letter comes after three Israeli messages to Morsi (two from Peres and one from Prime Minister Netanyahu) that went unanswered. If the note from Morsi is authentic, it is a good sign because it seems to defy predictions (including my own) that relations between the Egyptians and Israelis were going to get tough. Still, Yasser Ali's denial is curious.  ...

---------------end update------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sadly, but not surprisingly, President Vladimir Putin decided that he should support Assad because it would be to Russia's advantage.  Russia hasn't had to do anything except veto the U.N. Security Council resolutions.  They also babbled about negotiations being a better bet in creating a peaceful if that was even logical.

So, while the Kremlin was continuing to deliver weapons to Assad, masked as old contracts, including attack helicopters, Russian leaders were warning that the West had a plan to bomb Syria and that Russia would protect them.

During this really ignorant process, Syria "leaked" that it actually had a stock pile of chemical weapons, which was something it had been denying.  Assad showed, through it's response to questions by the U.N. and others, that he and his dictatorial regime are not the most intelligent group on this planet.

Bashar al-Assad celebrating the second birthday of one of their children with his wife Asma Assad
Image 1 of 2
Bashar al-Assad celebrating the second birthday of one of their children with wife Asma Assad Photo: CAMERA PRESS

Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad remains in hiding, with only theories of where he is and how he is directing his troops and keeping his regime together.

The main fighting is now in Aleppo and the attack helicopters are being used here in force ...yes, the same attack helicopters provided by the Kremlin.  Evidently, the rebels are taking over one of Assad's main centers of power.  

It's interesting that Assad is doing what Bin Laden did until he was found and killed.  Instead of speaking live, Assad is appearing in recorded clips on television and some of his remarks are appearing in the military's magazine.  

"The fate of our people and our nation, past, present and future, depends on this battle," said Assad, whose low public profile suggests acute concern over his personal safety since the bombing in which his brother-in-law was among the dead.
In confronting "terrorist criminal gangs" - the government's usual term for the rebels - the army had proved it had "the steely resolve and conscience and that you are the trustees of the people's values," the 46-year-old president declared. 
Aleppo is Syria's biggest city.  At times, the volleys of shells wind up drowning out the Islamic call to prayer.  This does not stop the rebels.  The civil war has continued to intensify with fears that Assad will use the mass stockpile of chemical weapons on his own people, prompting even children in classrooms to try on gas masks.

Children trying on gas masks at a junior high school in Holon.

Children trying on gas masks at a junior high school in Holon. iPhoto by Uriel Sinai

The civil war is now so horrifying that it has spurred a growing humanitarian crisis.  There is dire need for safe distribution of food and water to the people of Syria. Thousands have fled, but the need is still monumental.  

"The humanitarian situation is deteriorating in Aleppo and food needs are growing rapidly," the World Food Programme said.

Right now, the fighting is engulfing Damascus and Aleppo, both of which are prized power holds.

Unfortunately, there is footage that shows that rebels are carrying out summary executions, such as Assad's forces have been accused of taking part in.  Of course, these are videos that are floating around the Internet, so that information may not completely be correct, however, this may be something they have decided was good for their cause, as unfortunate the actions are. I won't go into the details.

It is reported from my sources that neither side has full control of Aleppo or Damascus.  There are many areas that are like ghost towns that have closed shops and empty streets. 

It's been reported that some foreign fighters, militant Islamists, have joined the battle.  These who have joined, have joined against Assad.  Additionally, sources say that the rebels now possess almost two dozen surface-to-air missiles that were delivered to them by Turkey.  These missiles will help them fight back against the air fighters that Assad has been using. 

Rebels have been battling Assad's regime that obviously has more to use against them.  However, the rebels have been capturing some of Assad's power by capturing some tanks and heavy weapons.  This is confirmed by a reputable source.

Meanwhile, Israel is concerned about the advanced weaponry that may be used against them, that may be transferred to Hezbollah.  The weaponry does include chemical weapons.

As Haaretz reported last month, only 53 percent of Israelis have gas masks. The government has not set a final target date for handing out gas masks, but the issue will be resolved in the discussions on funding the program, Tessler said. 
The initial target was to have 4.5 million gas masks distributed by next year, but this goal would probably be met this year, Tessler said. 
With the threat of an attack on Iran's nuclear installations and the uncertainty about Syria's chemical weapons, civil defense planners are also concerned about possible missile attacks against civilian targets in a future war. 
Still, only 30 percent of Israelis have a reinforced room in their homes and a  quarter have no such shelter either at home or nearby. Home Front Command says Israelis lacking a protected space against chemical or biological weapons should head for the most secure space in their homes and seal it on their own. 
"People need to know that they don't have protection, and the solution is the sealed room and the mask," Tessler said. "There are those who view brown adhesive tape cynically, but it saves lives. In many cases, it's the difference between life and death. 
Several months ago, the Israel Defense Forces' planning division projected that the number of missiles falling on Israel would be 10 times higher than the number during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. The IDF said several hundred civilians would be killed, and thousands of houses and apartments would be made uninhabitable. 
200,000 missiles 
Eisenberg has said that at any given moment 200,000 missiles are aimed at Israel.

In conclusion, the outlook is terrifying because Israel may be in planning for a strike against Iran, Iran may be in planning for a strike against Israel, Syria may be in the middle of a power grab that would include Iran and Russia, Russia cannot be trusted by America, Turkey fits in there somewhere, and so forth.

More to come.

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