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Weissman writes: "For those putting on the war paint in Tel Aviv and Washington, the leading question is obvious: Did Assad use chemical weapons that could prove a threat to people throughout the region, Israelis among them?"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference, 04/03/12. (photo: Reuters)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference, 04/03/12. (photo: Reuters)

Israelis and Neocons Bang the War Drums Louder

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

26 April 13


ibi Netanyahu's Israeli government and William Kristol's neoconservatives are once again pushing for war, this time over allegations that the Syrian regime of Basher al-Assad used Sarin gas against rebels. This campaign for military action has caught the White House on its back foot, largely because President Obama has painted himself into a corner by calling the use of chemical weapons "a red line" and "a game changer."

"The political reality is that he put himself in that position that if the 'red line' is crossed - he made it very clear - it would change his behavior," said Arizona senator John McCain, long a neocon hero. The intelligence "is a compelling argument for the president to take the measures that a lot of us have been arguing for all along."

The intelligence on Syria appears neither negligible nor in any way conclusive. And - as McCain would applaud - it makes more likely the fulfillment of his call to Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran, especially since Obama has painted himself into another corner by promising to keep the Iranians from achieving "a nuclear weapons capability."

For those putting on the war paint in Tel Aviv and Washington, the leading question is obvious: Did Assad use chemical weapons that could prove a threat to people throughout the region, Israelis among them? "Yes, but," says the Obama White House in an unexpected letter to Congressional leaders on Thursday: "Our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent Sarin."

Officials tell reporters that the assessment was based on soil and blood samples from attacks last months in a village near Aleppo and in the outskirts of Syria's capital Damascus. As far as I can tell, no independent experts have confirmed the testing. More than once bit, more than twice shy.

Could the rebels have used the gas? In March, the Syrian state news agency SANA accused "terrorists" of firing a rocket "containing chemical materials." The Russians, who still support Assad, though with diminishing enthusiasm, backed the claim, and the Israeli minister for strategic affairs, Yuval Steinetz, held open the possibility that the rebels had used the weapons. An Obama administration official said last week that the White House had "no information suggesting opposition groups have chemical weapons capability" and officials continue to believe that "any use of chemical weapons would very likely have originated with the Assad regime."

At the same time, the White House claims that the "chain of custody" of the weapons is not clear and it questions whether the attacks were deliberate or "accidental." This sounds less like a serious intelligence assessment and more like diplomatic language aimed at Assad. As weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis told the Washington Post, "If we're wrong and he's still restraining himself, Assad may conclude that he's already paying the price of using chemical weapons. What we don't want is for Assad to massacre thousands of civilians like Saddam did in Halabja," the Kurdish town that the Iraqi dictator gassed in 1988.

The Israelis and their neocon allies have long pushed for greater US military involvement in both Syria and Iran, but they heightened their war of words only days ago, just after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ended his visit. The escalation came at the annual security conference at Tel Aviv University, when Israel's top military intelligence analyst, Brigadier-General Itai Brun, accused Assad's forces of repeatedly using lethal chemical weapons, probably Sarin, against armed rebels. >From fragmentary accounts, Hagel appeared not to have heard Brun's findings while in Israel, an omission that - if true - could hardly have been accidental. In any case, the Israelis have made no secret that they feared Syria's chemical arsenal would end up in the hands of jihadi fighters of the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Once Brun's finding became public, the neocons in the US swung into action. "It is increasingly clear that Basher al-Assad has used chemical weapons in his war against the Syrian people - crossing what President Obama has previously described as a 'red line' for the United States," declared the directors of Foreign Policy Initiative. FPI is the group that Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan founded in 2009 to replace their earlier creation - the Project for a New American Century, which led the way in taking the US to war in Iraq. FPI also provided most of the foreign policy brain trust for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

"The United States must take action now both to prevent further use of such weapons and to hasten the end of Assad's rule," the declaration continued. "The alternative is to make it clear, by inaction, that the 'red line' was not intended to be enforced. This will encourage further use of chemical weapons by Assad and perhaps in the future by others."

Besides putting pressure on Washington, the push for military action parallels Netanyahu's comments in Britain last week that he might be ready to abandon his official neutrality on Syria and join with the Sunni Arabs of Jordan and Syria in arming some of the supposedly more moderate rebels. Professor Juan Cole is looking at this closely and is well worth following.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How To Break Their Hold."

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+47 # Alternative 2013-04-26 14:22
They are all liars and war criminals and we should trust them again!
+15 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-04-26 23:46
Before we tag the blame on anyone. Bill Maher made a comment: "it is true that so many of our politicians are stupid. But since they are elected by us, who is really more stupid?'
+7 # Artemis 2013-04-27 08:37
Who is "us"? Lots of people do not vote and often the choice is so poor that citizens are left with little choice but to choose the lesser evil, or the lesser idiot. Then there are those who vote for sensible, intelligent, anti-war candidates, who don't receive enough votes.
Quotes of simplistic comments don't help us at all.
0 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-04-27 09:06
"Quotes of simplistic comments don't help us at all." Bill Maher does not make simplistic comments. To some people, the truth just hurts too much.
+10 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-04-27 11:14
Our politicians are not stupid. They are obedient to their paymasters. It is their obedience and ours that is the problem. We must stop our obedience to the government of the United States. We do not live in a democracy. We must rebel.
Best way to change things is to stop giving money to the banks and the big corporations. They feed on our money--without it they will die. Do not put your money in a bank and pay with cash when ever you can. Do not buy the products of the corporations. Shop at local independent businesses and join co ops and buy stuff at second hand shops and farmer's markets. We can starve the beast that is devouring our democracy---and most important of all--NEVER again for for a Democrat or a Republican.
+5 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-04-27 11:28
America responds to "another war" like an incurable drug addict responds to treatment.
+23 # kalpal 2013-04-27 06:19
War is very profitable for those who supply war materials while being destructive for everyone else. The ones standing to increase their coffers will gladly buy any influence they can. They and their kin will never face enemy guns so why fret about the possibility of being killed or maimed. America is all about making money. The money is created by the labor of low wage, low class voters who are kept ignorant and are unable to analyze why and how they are metamorphosed into lambs sure to be sent off to be slaughtered.
+6 # RLF 2013-04-27 09:39
Funny how we can easily count Obama along with the neocons!
+4 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-04-27 11:17
Not 'funny' at all. It is heartbreaking. All that 'hope' and 'change' was just PR. He did get the award for the best advertising campaign of the year of his election as president---but now he is the dictator with the right to have any of us killed at just his word. That sure as hell ain't funny.
+25 # Archie1954 2013-04-26 21:55
Well honestly if it is still a big question then I take it little damage was done. Hardly a reason to start another war is it?
+44 # ganymede 2013-04-26 22:06
My only comment is why aren't the neo-cons in jail. What they did by lying us into the destruction of Iraq, and as we now see, our economy, and encouraging the Bush/Cheney regime to invade a country that was no threat to us is beyond treason - not that Bush/Cheney needed much encouragement!

Netanyahu is another warmonger who has been blackmailing us with his threats to bomb Iran, and totally inflame the Middle East. If Romney had been elected we'd be involved in at least three or four more wars. These people are every bit as destructive as the nazis and hopefully they will someday have their very own Nuremberg trials. Really, they are the scum of the earth. For sure we should help get Assad out, but I trust that Obama will work out a way that will involve less shed blood in what is obviously an awful situation.
+9 # wwway 2013-04-26 23:17
An effort to endit Bush/Cheney has been ongoing:
So far he's been indited in Spain and Canada so Bush wouldn't dare step foot in those countries.
+6 # in deo veritas 2013-04-27 08:59
Too bad he isn't being held in either of those countries so he wouldn't have been around to open his "House of Lies" library. Thank Obama for this.
+14 # futhark 2013-04-27 00:00
Why do you trust Obama? He hasn't done a thing to investigate or prosecute the neocon criminals, but has instead devoted the energies of his administration to persecuting whistle blowers.

I agree that if there are any Nuremberg trials over the wars in the Middle East, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfelt, Wolfowitz, and their ilk need to be in the docket. Otherwise the whole concept of war crimes becomes meaningless and we owe apologies to the families of Goering, Hess, Rosenberg, Doenitz, Speer, and other Nazis convicted at Nuremberg.
+5 # RLF 2013-04-27 09:41
Oops! I invaded Poland accidentally! I thought they had weapons of mass destruction!
+3 # Dion Giles 2013-04-27 00:53
Not so much helping get Assad out (really the business of the Syrian people if that's what THEY want, not foreigners). More to the point is to help establish democracy and the power to protect their human rights from anyone at all who violates them.
+5 # RLF 2013-04-27 09:43
The US is really great at that! They are much better at making the world safe for abusive American Corporations. The military barks noises like you but the truth is that they are all volunteer idiots....and at this point they are really dumb if they volunteer.
+5 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-04-27 11:20
Why should we "for sure help get Assad out"? How bout we mind our own business and use our tax funds taking care of our problems of unemployment and the vast gap in the income of the workers and the members of the plutocracy.
+41 # riverhouse 2013-04-26 22:10
I don't care. What I do care about is that we not get led down the primrose path by Israel and the neocons into yet another war in the Middle East. I do care about what is in the best interest of the USA and that says loudly and clearly that this country cannot undertake another nonsensical war and survive.
+6 # wwway 2013-04-26 22:59
We have a foreign relations nightmare that's been brewing with Syria for a few generations now. Big oil runs pipelines through Syria. Why do you think the west let Al Queda run their terrorists camps unmolested in Syria?
Israel is well equiped and declares nuclear ambuiguity to boot. Why isn't Israel taking care of Syria? Hum?
Ah, foreign policy. Not as simple as the American public like to hear.
+9 # Dion Giles 2013-04-26 23:06
Israel again. Pushing the Americans into fighting their racist wars for them.

The role that Zionists envisage for subservient goyim was let slip recently by a prominent Israeli cleric, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, leader of the Zionist party Shas:

“Goyim have no place in the world - only to serve the People of Israel”

Ah, but the rabbi is an “extremist”. His outburst brought an urgent “Shush” from the racist “Anti-Defamatio n League” and the editors of Haaretz. See .

But wait a minute. See for mainstream Israeli settler opinion. It’s the same as Rabbi Yosef’s. (You have to register for access to this Haaretz article but it’s a doddle to do so).

The likes of the rabbi hold up the hoop, small amounts of sarin are released by agents-provocat eur (guess who!).grovellin g US goyim start moving into position to jump through it.

There is no basis for Israel to exist. There are dozens of States for “the Jewish people”. Jews live as equals in many countries including America. Jews are not too "special" to share countries with goyim as equals and do not need a homeland just for themselves, kept "pure" by Apartheid and kept secure by endless encroachments for which Syria is the latest target.
-7 # The Voice of Reason 2013-04-27 13:39
The Jews, eh? That people who have been around for 5,000 years or more following the teachings of Moses who said they would be evicted from Israel and return 2,520 years later, and you think they can just live anywhere.

Can you trace your heritage back more than 4 generations? Not that that proves anything, but can you?

This is a religious war that Muslims think they can win by playing the victim. 'Oh poor us, we're only a billion strong and we can't even destroy a tiny Israel!'

First of all, Obama is not going to fight Syria, and there is the WMD / Iraq / proof hurdle that we don't want to do again. All somebody needs to do is jerk up N.Korea again, and it'll all blow over. I don't see this going anywhere. 100,000 people dead in Syria and CW is a line crosser. Exactly what is a line anyway? So we draw another one.
+2 # Dion Giles 2013-04-28 03:28
The notion that the settlers who grabbed Palestine can trace their ancestry back five millennia is racist twaddle. I could as easily claim there were Celts or other goyim around for millennia so I have a "special" birthright to grab someone's territory somewhere. Too "special" to have to "just live anywhere" with no "special" rights over the others born in the same country.

Goyim would have to be idiots to devote an ounce of treasure or a drop of blood pulling Zionist irons out of the fire. The answer to Israel is RETURN: Exiles back to their country and settlers back to theirs. As that penny drops in America and Europe (and inexorably it will), all the nuke technology that the land grabbers managed to steal won't save the special privileges their spokesmen claim God or Moses or whoever promised them. More pennies will drop as they try to edge America into war against yet another Arab country to forge a corridor to Iran.
+9 # ghostperson 2013-04-26 23:44
Don't we have enough on our plate already? There is a point at which we have to look at our home situation first and that point is now.

Israel is quite competent from a defense standpoint and its motto is retaliation swift and sure. Let Kristol and his merry band of neocons go fight for Israel and the televangelicals can fund the war for the Holy Land from their "send your money to God care of my address" funds.
+21 # Smiley 2013-04-26 23:51
These are the same guys that lied us into the Iraq war and caused more harm to our country and more deaths to Americans than Osama Ben Laden ever dreamed of, not to mention destroying a country, killing off %5 of their people and starting an ongoing sectarian war. Why do their views get any press at all? Why aren't they in prison?
+9 # rosross 2013-04-26 23:56
All part of the plan for Greater Israel - occupy Syria and anything else they can although it really is the Greater Madness Plan and will spell the end of Israel. The world is tired of war and this troublesome little country. Time for a one-state solution with a Palestinian majority and a reality check for the Zionist war-mongers.
-8 # Rick Levy 2013-04-27 00:04
What if it turns out that the Syrian government actually did use poison gas on its own people, not just rebels but against civilian noncombatants as well? We've already seen proof that Assad is a war criminal who has used aerial attacks against innocent civilians. What's to stop him from ratcheting it up a notch?

I'm not say that any of this is an excuse for the U.S. to get dragged into another war. I just can't understand why so many on the left support and sympathize with Assad as some kind of martyr or hero. Apparently it's a case of "if America and / or Israel is against him, I'm for him".

Even Aljeezera has noticed a double standard at work here. See "Syria and the moral decline of the American left".

And as for the claim that Israel is financing the Syrian rebels which include Al Qaeda, why on earth would Israel want those terrorists operating in a country on its own borders?
+6 # Artemis 2013-04-27 08:54
First of all, the 'left' (a very broad term) do not support or excuse Assad. One should not confuse trying to keep the facts straight with sympathy for anyone, particularly Assad.
As for Israeli government, who knows what they have up their sleeves? Why has the American Government supported right-wing terror groups in many countries?
I'm just in the process of reading about British policy and imperialist designs of the early 1900's in the Middle East and the way Zionists manipulated politicians who strived for British dominance in the area (I highly recommend: "Might Over Right. How the Zionists Took Over Palestine" by Adel Safty). The policy of conscious deception and manipulation started very early and has never ceased - its audacity could be admired, if it had not resulted in ethnic cleansing and brutal occupation of Palestinian land.
And, since when has the Israeli government spoken a true word?
-5 # Rick Levy 2013-04-27 19:29
"As for Israeli government, who knows what they have up their sleeves? Why has the American Government supported right-wing terror groups in many countries?"

That is not only an evasive answer but a non-sequitur. The purpose of America's support for right-wing governments, ***as misguided as it was**, was to stop the perceived threat of communist takeovers.

On the other hand, there's no upside to Israel's support of Al Qaeda on its own borders. It would be downright suicidal.
0 # Oscar 2013-04-28 09:04
# Rick Levy: "On the other hand, there's no upside to Israel's support of Al Qaeda on its own borders. "
What about " a rio revuelto ganancia de pescadores" (When the river is in turmoil, that is the fisher's gain.)
+5 # angelfish 2013-04-27 00:45
Why can't they fight their OWN battles? Who made US the great defenders of every Country on the face of the Earth? Not many come rushing to OUR aid and comfort! Enough is ENOUGH!
+4 # Artemis 2013-04-27 09:16
Defenders of every country on earth....?
The last time I heard of the US being real defenders of another country was the Second World War where they belatedly came in following Pearl Harbour after the British had heroically fought alone for 2 years (Britain from Sept 3rd, 1939 and the US from December, 1941).
Many other 'defender battles' have been determined by pure self-interest. Most have been to remove groups or elected officials the US didn't feel served THEIR interests (Mossadegh, Allende, Aristide....) as they are now trying to do in Venezuela and probably a number of other countries.
Some of us would prefer not to be 'defended' by the USA, thanks very much.
-9 # stannadel 2013-04-27 05:41
This is wrongheaded, especially the headline. The Israelis are not banging the drum for war in Syria. They are concerned about chemical weapons because they are concerned that they will end up in the hands of Assad's opponents. They don't like Assad, but they can live with him as they have been doing for years. The Islamists who seem to have the upper hand militarily in the opposition might be a far greater threat to Israel should Assad fall, so the Israelis are not pushing for his overthrow. The neo-cons are another matter.
-16 # 2013-04-27 06:28
The only "red line" that Pres. Soetero has is to stop any controls on spending.

Bill Kristol? or the President?....
They want to spend money on the Syrian conflict (as horrific as it is).....but to do that, they have to use BORROWED MONEY that must be paid by the American taxpayer. Geo. Washington was right in advising against getting involved in wars outside the U.S.

We went to Vietnam to stop the 'domino affect' of communism. There is no stopping the domino affect of Islamists imposing Sharia on their national subjects. Just send a message that if they even hint at attacking U.S. interests they will get a more severe response. That was the attitude on the part of Russia that deterred President "Mad-in-the-hea d" when he was a rioter pushing to take hostages in the late 70's.

Swift and final military action against any attack is the only thing Islamists understand.
+10 # Linwood 2013-04-27 06:41
Here we go again. I expect that we'll be hearing very shortly about Hafez Assad's alleged use of gas against his own people in Hama, and of course Syria's poor human rights record. Why are We the Sheeple so easily manipulated? Some of us know the answer, MSM/MIC/neocon incest.
+8 # walt 2013-04-27 06:53
Simply stated--this shows the real driving force behind America's foreign policies. And we Americans are always asked to sacrifice and pay with lives and dollars.
+2 # Majikman 2013-04-27 07:16
On Apr 24 Hagel states "no credible evidence"...Apr 25, Hagel says "well maybe there is". Poor Hagel...probabl y too busy hawking US weapons in the US showroom, the Middle East, to get his orders from Israeli Gen. Brun.
+5 # aljoschu 2013-04-27 07:54
Dear Americans, you may be fighting Iran and the Shiites soon as the evil power in the Middle East - for the sake of fanatic Israel. You will be destroying the balance between Shiites and Sunnis. At the same time you are arming the Sunni Arabs with air planes and tanks. - Wait and see: You will have to pay a high price in trying to destroy those weapons again at some point in the future.
+4 # in deo veritas 2013-04-27 09:14
Putting the welfare of any other country ahead of that of the USA should be considered an impeachable offense. Should Obama lead us into another war he should be impeached. We have been deceived too many times already. NO MORE! Israel and Syria are none of our business! Anyone who has paid any attention to the motivations of the Boston bombers needs to realize that there are numberless people in the Middle east and in this country who view the reckless and inexcusable incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan with the "collateral damage" to civilians as justification for retaliation against this country. Unfortunately it is the innocents like in Boston who pay the price not those responsible for our misguided foreign policy.
+5 # reiverpacific 2013-04-27 09:38
Another bit of proof, if any were needed, that the power-structure which truly runs this country, including the Nutty-yahoo lobby, is addicted to war and it's profitability but ignorant to it's inevitable blowback and it's pollution and destruction of the planet.
But can't get universal health care as a human right even under discussion. In other words a death culture.
Obama should know better than to even engage the stupid bastards -but I've about given up on him and his status-quo maintainers without the courage to truly represent most Americans whom, for what I hear and read, are war-weary and against any more conflict.
Hell, this country is still trying to deal with the walking wounded from Vietnam with a new rush coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan joining their swelling ranks of mentally and physically disabled, unemployable and angry (bet THAT's not in the Dimwits Library).
And now they want Iran -as long as neither they nor their spawn have to actually go and fight.
A new national anthem should include the words "O' say can you see, by dawn's hazy light"? and "Death to the Peacemakers, From sea to polluted sea".
I guess they fell that they have to justify squandering our taxes on a lumbering, polluting behemoth of a military and it's black budget that exceeds the combined arsenal and personnel of the next 26 countries combined (and they talk about cuts???? -How, in the name of their Lord harry, do you cut THAT down to reasonable size??).
0 # Activista 2013-04-27 11:52
Steve Weissman - great objective analysis - and with courage/critici sm of in power politicians - THANK YOU.
And it is clear that these war criminals are NOT Israeli or American people - but the money selected oligarchy - Netanyaho and Obama.
+1 # mdhome 2013-04-27 13:59
Syria is a war somebody other than the USA needs to fight. Somebody else s turn.
+2 # griffey1 2013-04-27 17:05
Why do we consistently get involved in civil & religious wars from which there is no exit? How does Sarin gas in Syria affect the lives of average Americans? Israel is perfectly capable of handling any country in the mideast, as they have by far the largest army, not to mention a nuclear arsenal. The reality is they want to get the U.S. involved in one of their dirty wars. You would think that a vet like John McCain would be the most anti-war person in the Senate, not one of the pro Israel hawks.
+2 # billeeboy 2013-04-27 17:05
Why would anyone believe anything the US government says about the existence of WMD in Syria or anywhere else? Why would anyone pay any attention to anything that John McCain has to say. He is a knee-jerk warrior - never saw a war he isn't willing to fight. Correction...he isn't willing to send someone else's children off to fight. Why does the press keep asking his opinion given his abysmal track record on prognostication s......
+3 # L H 2013-04-27 17:25
Can we just wise up and ignore this? Tell Netanyahu to go home and take a vacation. Always a made-up enemy, a manipulated catastrophe, a sensational plot! Even if it's real, these war mongers need to know they've played this game too much. It's like the formula for a repeating script - campaigning for the next war. No! The more that get involved, the more are destroyed. No more!
+4 # tomtom 2013-04-27 20:07
I just wish Israel hadn't used white phosphorous on Palistinians and "we" haden't used it in Desert Storm and Fallujah. There's no shortage of people who've crossed the red line! I'm starting to see more conservative friends seeing the realities of our criminal, double standards.
0 # C.H.Winslow 2013-04-28 22:19
There is certainly a brand of conservatism in this country that is not bought by capital and does not relish the idea of using our military to intervene in conflicts overseas. There is also a brand of American liberalism (the Bush "L" word) that feels a moral imperative to rescue people from the carnage of unending war. It is a genuine dilemma for any policy maker, corrupt or not.

As for the Israel-United States nexus, it is not salutary for either country, only for certain leadership elites in both. Given the high-risk features of life in the Middle East and of obtaining oil and religious identity from that area, this unfortunate nexus will condemn both parties to living with war and lost opportunities for many, many years. Israel cannot elect a government that can resist being leveraged by its religious elite. The U.S. cannot elect a Congress that can act independently of the evangelicals who vote its members in. Proportional representation in Israel and gerrymandered districts in the U.S. make it certain that the least informed and least tractable persons keep the trap for the two country in place. Nor can either country support an international interventionary force that could act in cases like Syria and South Sudan. There is much to criticize but not many to do the political spade- work to change things. We must change votes at every level of the political process in both countries.

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