Saturday, April 27, 2013

Weekend Reading -- April 27

Several links have come to my attention this morning worth reading and reflection. At a glance they seem unrelated but as a collection they represent a serious deficit of understanding where it counts -- in my peers, fellow-citizens and elected representatives whose preoccupation with more immediate challenges prevents them from seeing a larger view of the world. 
Here we go...


North Korea Says Detained American Tourist to Face Trial
Reuters report

North Korea said on Saturday a Korean-American tourist, jailed by the reclusive state since late last year, will face trial for "committing crimes" against the North, a move that could further stoke tensions with the United States. 
The move comes amid a diplomatic standoff between the North and the United States, and as Pyongyang has threatened to attack U.S. military bases in the Pacific and the South.
A number of U.S. citizens of Korean descent have run into trouble in the North over the years, and Pyongyang has tried to use their detention to extract visits by high-profile American figures, most notably former President Bill Clinton. 
In the latest case, Kenneth Bae, 44, has been held by police since arriving in the northeastern city of Rajin on Nov. 3. He was among a group of five tourists. 
"In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it," KCNA state media reported, using the North's official title of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. 
"His crimes were proved by evidence," it said, adding he would soon be taken to the Supreme Court "to face judgment". It did not provide further details. 
South Korean rights workers said that the North's authorities may have taken issue with some of his photographs, including those of homeless North Korean children. 
A South Korean newspaper published by an evangelical family said he may have been carrying footage of North Korea executing defectors and dissidents. It was impossible to verify this.
They may be calling him an "American tourist" but if my Korean experience is of any value, as soon as I saw that he was of Korean extraction I knew he was seen by the Koreans as a black sheep of the family more than anything else. Free Koreans entering the North are playing with fire. By now they know the risks (or should know) better than anyone.
More at the link.


They may be fighting for Syria, not Assad. They may also be winning: Robert Fisk reports from inside Syria
By Robert Fisk

Fisk is the Middle East journalist for Britain's Independent. He's a couple years younger than I but still turns up in the some of the most dangerous environments in the world. His reporting borders on war porn but no one can doubt his passion. He writes her from Syria, from among Assad's forces -- not from a Rebel perspective, which colors most reports from Syria. This is a powerful piece of writing as the following clips illustrate.
Death stalks the Syrian regime just as it does the rebels. But on the front line of the war, the regime’s army is in no mood to surrender – and claims it doesn’t need chemical weapons 
Clouds hang oppressively low over the Syrian army’s front-line mountain-top in the far north of Syria. 
Rain has only just replaced snow, turning this heavily protected fortress into a swamp of mud and stagnant ponds where soldiers man their lookout posts with the wind in their faces, their elderly T-55 tanks – the old Warsaw Pact battlehorses of the 1950s – dripping under the showers, their tracks in the mud, used now only as artillery pieces. They are “rubbish tanks” – debeba khurda – I say to Colonel Mohamed, commander of the Syrian army’s Special Forces unit across this bleak landscape, and he grins at me. “We use them for static defence,” he says frankly. ‘They do not move.’” 
Before the war – or “the crisis” as President Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers are constrained to call it – Jebel al-Kawaniah was a television transmission station. But when the anti-government rebels captured it, they blew up the towers, cut down the forest of fir trees around it to create a free-fire zone and built ramparts of earth to protect them from government gunfire. The Syrian army fought their way back up the hillsides last October, through the village of Qastal Maaf – which now lies pancaked and broken on the old road to the Turkish border at Kassab – and stormed on to the plateau which is now their front line. 
On their maps, the Syrian army codenamed “Kawaniah Mountain” according to their own military co-ordinates. It became “Point 45” – Point 40 lies east through the mountain gloom – and they spread their troops in tents under the trees of two neighbouring hills. I climb on to one of the T-55s and can see them through the downpour. There are dull explosions across the valley and the occasional “pop” of small arms fire and, rather disconcertingly, Col Mohamed points out that the nearest forest is still in the hands of his enemies, scarcely 800 metres away. The soldier sitting in the tank turret with a heavy machine-gun doesn’t take his eyes off the trees. 
It is always an eerie experience to sit among Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers. These are the “bad guys” of the regime, according to the rest of the world – although in truth the country’s secret police deserve that title – and I’m well aware that these men have been told that a Western journalist is coming to their dug-outs and basement headquarters. They ask me to use only their first names for fear that their families may be killed; they allow me to take any photographs I wish, but not to picture their faces – a rule that the rebels sometimes ask of journalists for the same reason – but every soldier and officer to whom I spoke, including a Brigadier General, gave their full names and IDs to me. 
Many of the soldiers show their wounds; more valuable to them, I suspect, than medals or badges of rank. Besides, the officers have already removed their gold insignia on the front lines – unlike Admiral Nelson, they do not wish to be picked off by the rebels’ early morning snipers. Dawn seems to be the killing time. On a roadway, a second lieutenant shows me his own wounds. There is a bullet’s entry below his left ear. On the other side of his head, a cruel purple scar runs upwards towards his right ear. He was shot right through the neck and survived. He was lucky. 
So were the Special Forces soldiers who patrolled towards a hidden land-mine, an IED in Western parlance. A young Syrian explosives ordnance officer in Qastal Maaf shows me the two iron-cased shells that were buried under the road. One of them is almost too heavy for me to lift. The fuse is labeled in Turkish. An antenna connected to the explosives was strung from the top of an electricity pole for a line-of-sight rebel bomber to detonate. A technical mine-detector – “all our equipment is Russian,” the soldiers boasted – alerted the patrol to the explosives before the soldiers walked over them.  
Colonel Mohamed, who mixes military strategy with politics, says he regards the foreign “plot” against Syria as a repeat version of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of the First World War, when Britain and France secretly decided to divide up the Middle East – including Syria – between them. “Now they want to do the same,” he says. “Britain and France want to give weapons to the terrorists to divide us, but we want to have a united Syria in which all our people live together, democratically, caring not about their religion but living peacefully…” And then came the crunch. “…under the leadership of our champion Dr Bashar al-Assad.” 
But it is not that simple. The word “democracy” and the name of Assad do not blend very well in much of Syria. And I rather think that the soldiers of what is officially called the Syrian Arab Army are fighting for Syria rather than Assad. But fighting they are and maybe, for now, they are winning an unwinnable war. At Beit Fares, I peak over the parapet once more and the mist is rising off the mountains. This could be Bosnia. The country is breathtaking, the grey-green hills rolling into blue velvet mountains. A little heaven. But the fruits along this front line are bitter indeed.


Inside the mind of a Muslim terrorist
By Jamal Khashoggi

I don't trust the reader to follow other links so I have copied the whole column here. This is a very smoothly composed journalistic gem attempting to administer some very bitter medicine to non-Arab, non-Muslim minds which remain mostly indifferent to the subtleties he politely underscores. 

I encourage the reader to follow the link to the general manager's earlier column.  These people are our friends. They are bending over backward to be polite as they tell us as diplomatically as possible that the extremism we have growing in America is every bit as toxic as that which animates the extremism of the young men we call "terrorists."
Dzhohkar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bombing suspect who has serious injuries preventing him from talking and answering investigator questions, is surrounded by investigators who wish they were able to read his mind and search for answers. 
How did a young Muslim man change after he arrived to America as a teenager, fused into the community, became a “U.S. citizen like any one of us” (as one of his friends said), and then turn from a young man who loves life and money (as he wrote on his page on a social networking site) to a terrorist, killing innocent people? 
What mostly frighten security analysts, are the amateur terrorists who are not associated to any organization and who recruit themselves through the internet: analysts cannot consequently find any lines to track them down and expose them before they commit their crime. 
Last week, security officials uncovered two similar cases, one in Canada and the second in France. In both cases, there were young men like the Tsarnaev brothers, the suspects in Boston bombings. This phenomenon can ignite a new wave of Islamophobia. Most probably, someone is now asking in an American right-wing newspaper or TV channel “How can I be sure that my young Muslim neighbor who looks nice and friendly, and is no less American than I am, will not suddenly turn into a terrorist?” 
Despite our uneasiness as Arabs and Muslims regarding this question, it is a legitimate question that recalls the words of Al Arabiya General Manager Abdulrahman al-Rashed, who was brave enough to say that it is a “fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims”; these words pushed some people to harshly criticize him. 
Coming wave of terror? 
I will help security officials and investigators who wish to wander into the mind of Dzhohkar Tsarnaev and convey to them some of what is roving inside the angry Muslim mind in general, even though I know that American and western politicians reject any attempt to answer the causes behind Muslim anger.

They believe it “justifies” terrorism; they know that discussing the reasons will lead to hold them accountable and open some files they want to block out, even though their main goal should be to fight terrorism by treating its causes. American and western politicians also prefer to discuss with the Russian administration issues like promoting security cooperation, rather than to ask President Putin who is responsible for the Chechnya massacres, “what did you do there” and send a Congress committee to investigate his crimes. 
Amid the heightened security efforts that will occupy the attention of the politicians worldwide, they will not anticipate the coming wave of Islamic terrorism, which I expect. The earlier waves launched in the middle of the 1990s were a reaction to the events in Bosnia and Algeria. 
The second millennium wave focused on Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya, and will be followed by a third wave that will be provoked by the massacres in Syria, which is now fueling Muslim anger through images of never-ending injustice. They are real images that young angry Muslims can see today on YouTube and WhatsApp and are usually rated 18+. There are videos that news channels cannot broadcast, depicting members of the Syrian regime slowly killing and torturing their victims, and cutting off arms and legs. 
These pictures should be handed to the International Criminal Court and not to social media sites. They are also endorsed by a wave of images coming from Burma, where the world praises its support for Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate; while nobody implicitly or explicitly condemned the flagrant human rights violations after the killing, burning and raping of the Muslim minority there. [►See Twitter message below]
Provoking images   
Perhaps Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother watched some of these videos and images that resounded in their angry minds, which was already accumulated as Chechens. They must have seen a lot of pictures showing Muslims being tortured; they have maybe watched the videos where the Russian officer slays a Chechen fighter with his small Swiss knife – the worst kind of slow murder; the victim wobbles and he gradually bleeds as the Russians laugh about it.
I reiterate that such videos should be sent to the International Criminal Court, but how would that happen if no one was sent to trial. What Bashar al-Assad is doing in Syria today is the same as what Putin did in Chechnya; there are images of the fully destroyed Grozny. The angry Muslim mind is observing again today, that those protecting Bashar and his regime are those who destroyed Grozny and killed more than 100, 000 Chechens. The angry mind does not see any other detail, such as the international scene or the balance of interests; it is a mind that is not able to think. If the Tsarnaev brothers were logically thinking they would not have targeted the Boston Marathon and the compassionate city that nestled them. 
The effect of these videos on the angry Muslim mind is substantial; it stimulates the accumulated feeling of injustice because it sees itself as a targeted minority and that the whole world is against it. It believes that Americans secretly support Bashar, and are keeping mum towards Putin’s crimes and the Burmese leader’s hypocrisy. It believes (and it has the right to) that the ugliest crimes of the last century and today have been committed against Muslims. The only exceptions are the Jews after being tortured by the Nazis, and the Armenians who were tortured by the Ottomans 
This angry mind also perceives that these two communities have gotten the world’s apologies and compensation. The only ones who do not receive apologies are the Muslims; we should not disregard the Palestinian soreness in the Arab Muslim conscience: there have not been a community that was displaced as the Palestinians were, and yet, no one is ready to apologize to them. Who dares to ask for a museum in New York commemorating the exodus? Who dares to ask for an official Russian apology for 1.5 million Chechens who were forcibly displaced from their homes and dispersed on the borders of the Soviet Union, where hundreds of thousands died from diseases and starvation? 
When the Chechens revolted asking for their independence, the Russians waged arbitrary wars against them, and again, the world did not react upon seeing the documented and truthful photos. Many stories are invading the angry Muslim mind in a way that paralyzes its logic and transforms the kindhearted young man into a dangerous terrorist. 
Some will think that in this article, I am trying to find excuses for terrorism, but no, no one can justify terrorism; the only way to eradicate it is to treat its causes. Someone must have the courage to tell the West: your double standards are the reason behind the anger generating terrorism. 
This article was first published in al-Hayat on April 27, 2013.
►One need not look far to find illustrations of Jamal Khashoggi's point. This is what happens in Cairo when Muslim minorities are being abused in Burma.


Syria intervention drawing closer but not because of chemical weapons
By Mahir Zeynalov

Blogging from Turkey, Mahir Zeynalov writes in Today's Zayman ("the most-circulating English-language newspaper in Turkey") that we can expect military intervention in Syria, mostly because the Assad forces seem to be getting an upper hand. See Robert Fisk's piece cited above
Go to the link for excellent supporting maps and infographics.
This guy is not making stuff up. He stands on historic evidence of events that everyone should remember which have happened in our lifetime. 
What's not to understand about the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan?

As the clock keeps ticking I'm getting a flashback to the days leading up to the TWO wars when the US intervened in Iraq. (We seem to have totally forgotten Desert Storm, no? Papa Bush had one also but was circumspect enough to stop with containment.)
Is the use of chemical weapons that outrageous? Killing innocent people with chemical weapons is definitely a grave war crime, but causing the death of more than 80,000 is definitely a bigger war crime. Why then does the type of weapons used in massacring people determine when to intervene?

US President Barack Obama has said potential use of chemical weapons is “going to be a game changer” in Syria, where repeated calls for intervention fell on deaf ears for more than two years. 
The US and major powers have so far weathered calls for intervention for several reasonable reasons. Except for Turkey, Britain and France, all of whom called for tougher measures against the Syrian regime, those reluctant to intervene cited possible uncertainty after the fall of the Syrian regime, risking emboldening radical groups in Syria and causing more bloodletting if the intervention is mishandled. Are these concerns now mitigated by the use of chemical weapons? If the use of chemical weapons is so deeply immoral that it makes the case for intervention, is the death of tens of thousands of people the tolerable situation? 
The key to figure out the rationale behind this odd move is to understand when states decide to intervene. One thing stands clearer than others: States intervene when they see the military balance on the ground start to change against their favored side. [Ouch! JB]
Two recent examples clearly show that interventions take place when one side starts losing. The first example is the Bosnian War of the early 1990s. For four years, Western powers stood by as atrocities unfolded in Bosnia, including the infamous 1995 massacre of nearly 8,000 civilians in the town of Srebrenica. The intense air campaign against Serb fighters came shortly after this massacre, but it made little, if any, contribution to a wake-up call for NATO.

According to Ivo H. Daalder, the breaking point in the Bosnian War came after a decision by the Bosnian Serb leadership in early March 1995 that they needed to conclude the war by the end of that year. In four bloody years of intense fighting, Serbs were unable to break the impasse and control much of Bosnian land despite unprecedented atrocities not seen in Europe since the end of World War II. 
Daalder argues that the strategy of the Serbs was simple: First, a large-scale attack on the three eastern Muslim enclaves of Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde -- each an international “safe” area lightly protected by a token UN presence -- would swiftly capture these Muslim outposts in Serb-controlled Bosnian territory. Next, attention would shift to Bihac -- a fourth, isolated enclave in northwestern Bosnia -- which would be taken over with assistance from Croatian Serb forces. Finally, with the Muslims on the run, Sarajevo would become the grand prize, and its capture by the fall would effectively conclude the war. 
The situation in the Bosnian War was only slightly different from Syria, with Russia then supporting the Serbs. But NATO intervention came shortly after the Serbs began their greater offensive.

Another recent example is the 2011 intervention in Libya, during which Col. Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and eventually brutally killed. In Libya, the entire eastern half of Libya was seized by rebels in less than a month before forces loyal to Col. Gaddafi went on the counteroffensive in early March. One by one, Libyan forces captured rebel-held cities and targeted the largest rebel-held city: Benghazi. 
Hours before an assault on Benghazi -- we popularly call it the “Benghazi moment” -- French-led coalition forces (later NATO) intervened in Libya to tip the balance against the Gaddafi forces. The intervention in Libya would never have happened had the rebels defeated Gaddafi’s forces or been locked in a long and protracted conflict. 
Successful military gains of the Syrian regime forces over the past few weeks have pushed the US and its allies to reconsider intervening in Syria. 
Until now, Western powers, Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf States aided the opposition in any way they could to defeat Assad’s forces. Twenty-five months into the uprising in Syria, opposition fighters are yet to deal a decisive blow to the regime’s forces. For the first time in the fighting, however, they have started to lose. 
In the past few weeks, government forces have launched major offensives in Homs, Idlib, Kurdish-populated areas and in and around Aleppo and the capital Damascus. It is evidently clear that the military balance on the ground is tilting back toward government forces again after a counteroffensive.

Towns near Damascus such as Otaibah were seized by government forces this week, blocking the arms supply for the opposition from Jordan. Another front on the Lebanese border, Qusayir, was recaptured by the regime forces. The Syrian army was also successful in breaking the months-long siege in Homs and Idlib, making it easier to resupply arms to its forces stationed in these areas. If this pace of military advances by the regime forces continues, the opposition will be greatly weakened in a matter of weeks. Washington doubled its aid to the Syrian opposition last week, but the situation on the ground will change by the time the aid package is approved in Congress and reaches the fighters on the ground. 
This change in the military balance made the case for intervention much stronger in Washington and other European capitals. Along with Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Ankara also voiced concerns over the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Other nations will follow suit in the days to come. 
On Saturday, Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış acknowledged that Washington is preparing to intervene in Syria and that the possible use of chemical weapons are not the main drive. Russia believes that claims of chemical weapons use are another ruse by the Western nations to strengthen the case for foreign intervention in Syria. 
Washington says the evidence of chemical weapons use is only “preliminary.” The evidence will get “rock solid” if Damascus wins major battles against the opposition next week. In previous months, there had also been reports of alleged chemical use by the Syrian army. True or not, there is no reason why Assad’s regime would use chemical weapons if it knows that that means inviting Washington to intervene. 
Damascus faces a major dilemma: If it continues with its so far successful offensive, it will make the case bolder for intervention. Western powers don’t want Assad to win and they were expecting opposition forces to finish the fight. If the opposition fails to make any further gains, the West will come to its aid. 
If Damascus is smart enough, it will strengthen its bases in and around the capital to have an upper hand in possible negotiations and offer dialogue to solve the crisis. To realize exactly this, the Syrian regime has launched major assault against opposition fighters in Damascus suburbs. It captured the strategic town of Otaibah and dealt a huge blow to rebels in the Damascus suburb of Jdeidet al-Fadel.

On Friday, government troops pushed into two northern neighborhoods with heavy air and artillery attacks. The fighting was concentrated in the Jobar, Qaboun and Barzeh suburbs of Damascus. After securing his hold around the capital, Assad will likely offer dialogue with the opposition. 
In a nutshell, the use of chemical weapons is not a decisive element to make the case for intervention. It is only an excuse to intervene at a time when military involvement has become more necessary than ever.

A member of the Free Syrian Army holds his weapon as he sits on a sofa in the 
middle of a street in Deir al-Zor, in this April 2, 2013. (Photo: Reuters, Khalil Ashawi)

Apparently the Russians also believe the chemical weapons excuse for intervention is bullshit. This column plus what Steve said yesterday makes me agree. 

If all the tea leaves are being read properly, military intervention in Syria by outside military forces appears inevitable.  The questions now become...

  • Will  the US be moving unilaterally or in concert with other countries?
  • Will the ostensible excuse be the UN, or NATO or some duke's mixture -- yet another coalition of the willing?
  • Better yet, might we get Israel, our proxy in the neighborhood, to do the dirty work? 
  • What responses can be expected from Russia, Iran, European countries, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and other identifiably "Arab" or "Muslim" countries (not always the same)?
  • Will China have a dog in this fight?
  • Will the US Congress actually authorize action or keep a safe political distance?
  • And where will the money come from?  (Silly me... I'm actually thinking of how we might pay for it. Is that nutty, or what?)


Under scoring the point that the famous Chemical Weapons Red Line has not likely been crossed, we have this:

The Syrian Regime Tests its Boundaries
How Assad has Adapted to the “Red Line”

As a UN team awaits the Assad government’s go-ahead to conduct a probe into last month’s chemical simulant attacks in Aleppo and Damascus, we are reminded of the Obama Administration’s “red line” and the influences it has had thus far on the Syrian conflict. Though recent Congressional attention (there are three separate Senate committee meetings on Syria this week alone) towards Syria reflects a potential policy shift in the coming months, lawmakers are moving at a pace far slower than the adaptive cruelty of the Syrian regime. The “red line,” many argue, has acted as more of a “green light” to Assad’s military advisors. The March 19th, 2013 attacks on Aleppo and Damascus provide examples. 
Syrian Support Group was the first to receive information from the ground regarding the specifics of the March 19th chemical attacks in Damascus and Aleppo. As our sources reported it, two surface-to-surface missiles were fired from Damascus (one from the Qatifa neighborhood and the second from an unidentified location) towards Aleppo and eastern Damascus, respectively. An area 1km north of the infantry training academy in the Aleppine suburb of Khal al-Asal—a mostly regime-controlled and Assad-supporting area—was the site of impact of the first projectile, while the al-Oteiba neighborhood of eastern Damascus was hit by the second. This information was later revised to state that the projectile that struck Aleppo was delivered by a regime aircraft, and hit a pro-Assad and regime-controlled area due to pilot error. The Free Syrian Army does not have the technology, training, or capability to mix, load, or deploy such weapons. 
Initially, 54 victims of the Khan al-Asal attack were delivered to the regime-controlled Aleppo University Hospital, with 16 more arriving within the next few hours. Of these, 22 died during treatment. The remaining 48 were released after responding well to counteractive drugs such as Atropine. Two medical employees at the hospital reportedly also lost consciousness due to chemical inhalation, but recovered at the scene. There were an estimated 20 victims of the Damascus attack, however we do not yet have updated information about the total number of dead and wounded, nor about the exact type of delivery system. 
Samples taken from bodies Khan al-Asal victims confirmed that the substance used in the attacks was Echothiophate, and organophosphate commonly found in certain pesticides. The effects of Echothiophate on those who inhale the compound are similar to the effects of nerve gasses such as Sarin: muscle spasms and failure, respiratory malfunctions, and, if not treated with proper counteragents in a timely manner, death. 
Though this toxic chemical was intentionally deployed with the goal of killing opposition fighters and supportive Syrian citizens, it does not appear that its use will signal a crossing of the White House’s red line. Echothiophate is not a restricted substance under international chemical weapons treaties. Rather, it is considered a “simulant,” meaning that while its effects on victims are comparable to the effects of officially recognized chemical weapons substances, its use would not legally constitute a chemical weapons attack. A UN investigation, if conducted before the impact sites can be tainted or cleaned, would confirm to the international community the exact compound used in the attacks. If indeed the use of Echothiophate is confirmed, the White House’s red line may not officially have been crossed. 
On Tuesday, however, the Syrian regime refused to grant permission to the UN team waiting in Cyprus for deployment, arguing that such an investigation would be a violation of Syrian sovereignty. It now seems unlikely that an international body will be able to study the impact zones to independently verify the attacks. 
It is not unreasonable to assume that Assad and his military planners calculated the consequences of their choice to use a chemical simulant such as Echothiophate. By avoiding the specifically sanctioned substances outlined by specific international treaties such as the Chemical Weapons Convention, the regime was aware of the unlikelihood of forceful international response. By using its rights of sovereignty to deny access to a UN investigation team, Assad knew that he would remain untouchable. That the news of the March 19th attacks spread so quickly throughout the world was somewhat surprising to the regime, especially in the wake of similar, yet smaller, chemical agent attacks in late 2012. It was confirmed in December by another Syrian-American organization in the United States that Quinuclidinyl Benzilate, or “BZ,” was used in a similar strike last fall. In that attack, victims reportedly experienced nausea, paralysis, labored breathing, and dizziness. We must expect that such attacks may periodically continue to occur as the regime discovers, with each new and unpunished attack, just how much of a green light the red line really is. 
The international community remains, for the time being, unwilling to commit military resources to secure these weapons stockpiles or prevent their unmonitored proliferation to non-state actors, whose intentions may be even more malicious and unrestrained than those of the Assad regime. However, there are known and available products and practices that can be implemented on a wide scale to both reduce the effects of such attacks, and to equip Opposition forces and civilian populations with the necessary tools to save lives. Major General Salim Idris, in a February 4th letter addressed to the United States Government, specifically requested chemical weapons securement training and equipment to allow FSA forces to seek out and contain known chemical weapons stores. Included in this such a package, which the Syrian Support Group possess the resources and connections to implement, is MOPP-4 chemical agent aversion training that can be passed to individual FSA brigades and, more importantly, civilian populations, with ease. It is not too late to provide such training and equipment transfers, and indeed policy motives on The Hill are now moving in a direction that may soon lead to the implementation of these necessary initiatives. The right time to move, however, is now–not after yet another chemical attack that may be looming on the horizon.

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