Iran: Fair Vote Impossible

NewYork) – Iran’s parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2, 2012, will be grossly unfair because of arbitrary disqualifications and other restrictions,Human Rights Watch said today. The voting for 290 parliamentary seats follows the disqualification of hundreds of candidates based on vague and ill-defined criteria, and opposition leaders are either barred from participating, serving unjust prison sentences, or refusing to participate in what they consider sham elections.

On February 21, the Guardian Council, an unelected body of 12 religious jurists, announced that fewer than 3,500 of the approximately 5,400 candidates running for seats in the majlis, Iran’s parliament, had been approved to run. The Interior Ministry had earlier disqualified about 750 candidates. At least 35 of those disqualified by the Guardian Council are current members of parliament. In response to these and other state actions, Iran’s opposition and reformist movement have called for an election boycott.

“Iranian authorities have stacked the deck by disqualifying candidates and arbitrarily jailing key members of the reform movement,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.“There is no transparency surrounding the vetting and selection of candidates.”

Iran’s vetting process for both parliamentary and presidential candidates involves several stages. The Interior Ministry conducts a first cut of applicants based on criteria set by the election laws. While some of these criteria are concrete, such as age limits and educational requirements, most are extremely vague, enabling authorities to make sweeping and arbitrary decisions. Candidates have four days to appeal the Interior Ministry’s initial decision. Once the ministry compiles its list of “qualified” candidates, the Guardian Council makes the final decision on who may run for election.

On January 10, the Interior Ministry’s election commission disqualified several dozen candidates because of their “lack of adherence to Islam and the Constitution.” The disqualified candidates include several incumbents who were critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government. One of the disqualified candidates told Human Rights Watch that he received a note from local government authorities on January 10, informing him that he had been disqualified because he was allegedly affiliated with or supportive of “illegal” parties, organizations, or groups. He said the authorities gave him no additional information regarding the reasons for his disqualification, and he decided not to appeal the decision.

Human Rights Watch has learned that the latest list of candidates disqualified by the Guardian Council includes several members of the 15 members of the Sunni bloc in parliament. Among those who will no longer be members of parliament are Jalal Mahmoudzadeh and Eqbal Mohammadi, the former and current leaders of the bloc. On December 19, 2011, the faction had sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asking him to protect the political and social rights of Iran’s Sunni minority.

Over the past few years, authorities have banned some reformist parties and severely restricted the activities of others. On September 27, 2010, the general prosecutor and judiciary spokesman announced a court order dissolving two reformist political parties, the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution. Authorities prevent members of other pro-reform groups, like the Freedom Movement party, from holding gatherings.

The Guardian Council disqualifications came after reformist and opposition activists, some of whom are currently serving prison terms, denounced the upcoming elections and concluded that there was no reason to field candidates. On December 26, Fatemeh Karroubi relayed a message from her husband, Mehdi Karroubi, a former presidential candidate who has been under house arrest, calling the elections “a sham.” Several days later, the Iranian judiciary announced that calls for a boycott of the elections constituted “a crime.” On January 17, Saham News, a website affiliated with Karroubi’s Etemad-e Melli party, said that authorities were holding Karroubi incommunicadoand preventing him from seeing his family in retaliation for his criticisms of the upcoming elections.

Authorities continue to hold the opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard, as well as Karroubi, under house arrest more than a year after they called for demonstrations in support of wide-scale protests following the disputed June 2009 presidential election. Dozens of other opposition figures are in prison after being unfairly tried for such offenses as “acting against the national security” and “propaganda against the regime.”

“Almost three years ago, following contested presidential elections, millions of Iranians marched through the streets chanting ‘Where’s my vote?’” Stork said. “Today those words still reverberate, reminding us of the government’s determination to deny its people the right to decide their own future.”

Human Rights Watch

Updated Iran resolution on Obama’s plate

Whereas since at least the late 1980s, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has engaged in a sustained and well-documented pattern of illicit and deceptive activities to acquire a nuclear capability;
Whereas the United Nations Security Council has adopted multiple resolutions since 2006 demanding the full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities by the Iranian government and its full cooperation with the IAEA on all outstanding issues related to its nuclear activities, particularly those concerning the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program;
Whereas on November 8, 2011, the IAEA issued an extensive report documenting “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme” and stating that”Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device” and that these efforts may be ongoing;
Whereas as of November 2008, Iran had produced approximately 630 kilograms of uranium-235enriched to 3.5 percent and no uranium-235 enriched to 20 percent, according to the IAEA;
Whereas as of November 2011, Iran had produced nearly 5,000 kilograms of uranium-235enriched to 3.5 percent and 79.7 kilograms of uranium-235 enriched to 20 percent, according to the IAEA;
Whereas on January 9, 2011, IAEA inspectors confirmed that the Iranian government had begun enrichment activities at the Fordow site, including possibly enrichment of uranium-235 to 20percent;
Whereas if Iran were successful in acquiring a nuclear weapon capability, it would likely spur other countries in the region to consider developing their own nuclear weapons capabilities;
Whereas on December 6, 2011, Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia stated that if international efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons fail, “we must, as a duty to our country and people, look into all options we are given, including obtaining these weapons ourselves”;
 Whereas top Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened the existence of the State of Israel,pledging to “wipe Israel off the map”;
Whereas the U.S. Department of State since 1984 has designated Iran as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” and has characterized Iran as “the most active state sponsor of terrorism”;
Whereas Iran has provided weapons, training, funding, and direction to terrorist groups including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias in Iraq that are responsible for the murders of hundreds of American forces and innocent civilians;
Whereas on July 28, 2011, the U.S. Department of the Treasury charged that the Government of Iran had forged a “secret deal” with Al Qaeda to facilitate the movement of al Qaeda fighters and funding through Iranian territory;
Whereas in October 2011, senior leaders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)Quds Force were implicated in a terrorist plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States on U.S. soil;
Whereas on December 26, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution denouncing the serious human rights abuses occurring in the Islamic Republic of Iran, including torture, cruel and degrading treatment in detention, the targeting of human rights defenders, violence against women, and “the systematic and serious restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly” as well as severe restrictions on the rights “to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief”;
Whereas President Obama, through the P5+1 process, has made repeated efforts to engage the Iranian government in dialogue about Iran’s nuclear program and its international commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Whereas on March 31, 2010, President Obama stated that the “consequences of a nuclear -armed Iran are unacceptable”;
Whereas in his State of the Union Address on January 24, 2012, President Obama stated: “Letthere be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and Iwill take no options off the table to achieve that goal”;
 Whereas Secretary of Defense Panetta in December 2011 stated that it was unacceptable for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, reaffirmed that all options were on the table to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons efforts, and vowed that if the U.S. gets “intelligence that they are proceeding with
developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it”;
Whereas the Defense Department’s January 2012 Strategic Guidance stated that U.S. defense efforts in the Middle East would be aimed “to prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons capability and counter its destabilizing policies”;
 Resolved that the United States Senate —
(1) Affirms that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability;
(2) Warns that time is limited to prevent the Iranian government from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability;
(3) Urges continued and increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran for the purposes of achieving an agreement from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran that includes the full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, complete cooperation with the IAEA on all outstanding questions related to Iran’s nuclear activities, including implementation of the NPT Additional Protocol, and theverified end of Iran’s ballistic missile programs, leading ultimately to a permanent agreement verifiably assuring that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful”;
(4) Expresses support for the universal rights and democratic aspirations of the Iranian people;
(5) Strongly supports U.S. policy to prevent the Iranian government from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and rejects any policy that would rely on efforts to “contain” a nuclear weapons capable Iran;
(6) Urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.
Still wondering if he will sign it.. it’s non binding but sends a message..

Learning to Love Big Brotherhood

The Arab Spring, like the banking system and the national debt, has become too big to fail. The “too big to fail” label mandates the cover-up of a bad policy that has too many influential people, movements and countries tied into it to allow anyone to admit that the whole thing has gone pear-shaped.

The only way to deny the failure of the Arab Spring as a means for creating a better and freer region is by embracing its disastrous consequences. In other words, goodbye, Egyptian Twitter activists; hello, Muslim Brotherhood.

Arab Spring [LP]

The triumph of Islamic parties in Egypt and Tunisia leaves Western “Springers” with only two choices: to either admit that the whole thing is a disaster and that the brakes need to be applied or learn to love the Brotherhood. Senator McCain’s delegation to Egypt, which included Senator Lindsay Graham, praised the Brotherhood for its opposition to the laws that the International Republican Institute activists ran afoul of in aiding the overthrow of Mubarak.

It’s not quite an endorsement of the Brotherhood, it’s something worse—it’s an endorsement of the process that brought the Brotherhood to power. The Muslim Brotherhood is not a supporter of foreign funded regime change, unless it’s a foreign funded regime change that brings them to power. When the Brotherhood is wielding absolute power, then IRI activists won’t merely be prevented from leaving the country, they’ll be put on trial and face the death penalty, like Amir Mirzaei Hekmati in Iran or they’ll be attacked in public like Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, a splinter Brotherhood candidate.

Reasonable people who find themselves on the same side as a genocidal organization like the Muslim Brotherhood would check twice to see if they really are doing the right thing. McCain, however, keeps pushing the regime change button, this time in Syria where the militias are already brandishing Al-Qaeda flags. McCain rightly points out that losing Syria would weaken Iran, but gaining Syria would strengthen the Brotherhood.

The “Springers” are unwilling to admit the possibility even while the Al-Nahda party is crushing unions in Tunisia, and Egyptian Islamists are burning Coptic Christians out of their homes. The Libyan capital is in the grip of the militias, and the anti-torture McCain, who endorsed intervention in Libya, can stop by to witness the militias he supported torturing former members of the regime and anyone with black skin.

There has yet to be a single positive outcome in any of the Arab Spring countries where the government was overthrown. Egypt is now mortgaged to the Brotherhood, Tunisia, to its Al-Nahda cousins and Libya may fall to a former Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist-group-turned Brotherhood proxy. Yemen is starting to look a whole lot like Afghanistan. Contrary to “Springer” dogma, the healthiest countries in the region are those which managed to outlast the seasonal pressures of the Arab Spring.

If the Arab Spring were an experiment, it has indisputably failed. The Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov said of Communism that if it were an experiment, he would regret subjecting even a frog to it. The Arab Spring has already subjected approximately 100 million people to this particular experiment, not counting the collateral damage in nearby countries like Israel, which will have to live next door to a Sunni Iran. But the experimenters seem determined to keep cutting open frogs until they successfully graft an Islamic green-banded poison toad onto a democratic fire-bellied bullfrog.

The future for women and minorities in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya is already about as grim as possible. The exodus of Coptic Christians in the wake of riots and church burnings would be described as ethnic cleansing if the media and the political establishment were not busy covering up the consequences of the “too big to fail” Arab Spring.

While Hillary Clinton was holding a photo op meeting with “young Tunisians” to discuss the future of democracy in the region, the Al-Nahda regime was suppressing a union protest over attacks on union offices. Had a protests of thousands taken place under the old Ben Ali government, it would have been front page news and proof positive that regime change must take place, but under Al-Nahda rule, it’s only another footnote. Like the 150,000 Copts who are headed for the exit in Egypt.

Last month, Tunisia’s new president Moncef Marzouk received a golden key to a mosque in Jerusalem from a Hamas leader. This month he shook hands with Hillary Clinton. She also met with Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali who had pledged, “The conquest of Jerusalem will set out from here, Allah willing” and described his party as the sixth caliphate. She did not, however, meet with Al-Nahda leader Rashid al-Ghannushi, who has stated that there are no civilians in Israel, declaring, “The population—males, females, and children—are the army reserve soldiers, and thus can be killed.”

As the Arab Spring is too big to fail, the Al-Nahda ghouls are invariably described as “moderate Islamists” in the press. If genocide makes you a moderate Islamist, it’s an open question of what you have to believe to be an “extremist Islamist.”

Some four centuries ago an Elizabethan courtier scathingly observed, “Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.” In the Arab Spring, extremism can never prosper, for if it prospers, none dare call it extremism.

The Brotherhood and Al-Nahda are all “moderates” now. Along with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Any group that comes to power as a result of the Arab Spring must be considered democratic and moderate, for if it isn’t, suddenly the Arab Spring is no longer democratic or moderate.

Continuing to support the Arab Spring requires more than just revisionist history, it forces its proponents to accept the victories of Al-Nahda and the Muslim Brotherhood as not merely lawful, but as the outcome that the Arab Spring was intended to bring about all along. Like the boy who accidentally throws a baseball through a neighbor’s window, the “Springers” have to pretend that this was what they wanted to happen.

The new narrative of the Arab Spring is that it will usher in an era of Islamic democracy. The window isn’t broken; it is ushering in a new era of greater transparency and airflow into the front yard.

At the end of Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith wins a victory over himself by learning to love Big Brother.

“Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache,” Smith thinks. But it has not taken the “Springers” that long to discover the kind smile lurking under the dark mustaches of the Brotherhood. In less than a year, the proponents of Arab democracy are already winning their own victory over themselves by learning to love Big Brotherhood.Posted By Daniel Greenfield

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Israel and Truman’s Lesson for Obama

More than one hundred years ago, George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.1 But Friedrich Hegel is quoted as saying: “What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”2In other words, all that we learn from history is that we never learn anything from history.

Today our president must decide from which philosopher he takes his inspiration.

Preaching on January 7, 2012 at a Jerusalem rally marking the 47th anniversary of Fatah’s founding, Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hussein (the highest religious authority among Palestinian Authority Muslims) quoted a Hadith (an extra-Qur’anic text attributed to the Prophet Mohammad) predicting the ultimate annihilation of all Jews by Muslims:  “The hour of judgment will not come until you (Muslims) fight the Jews,” he said. “The Jew will hide behind the stone and behind the tree. The stone and the tree will cry, ‘Oh Muslim, Oh Servant of God, this is a Jew behind me, come and kill him’.”  A video of the rally, circulated by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), showed the rally’s moderator introducing the mufti by saying: “Our war with the descendants of the apes and pigs [i.e. Jews] is a war of religion and faith. Long live Fatah!”

Although the Mufti described his speech as nothing more than an “end-of-times” prophesy3, and not an incitement to mass murder, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the Mufti’s speech as hateful and inciting to war, and called upon Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the Mufti’s words. Abbas did not.

Vitriolic and incendiary rhetoric by Muslim religious leaders against Jews and Israel is certainly nothing new in the history of the Arab-Israel conflict; and incitement to terrorism and mass murder by Yasir Arafat and other Palestinian leaders is well documented.4  Leaders from just about every Arab terror organization have for decades used references in Muslim religious texts to justify the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of its Jews and to re-cast their own attempts at mass murder of Israelis as an Islamic obligation.  The Mufti Hussein himself used similar language during a sermon at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque in January, 2010 (see addendum), where he was unambiguous in exhorting Muslims to kill Jews because they are “enemies of Allah.

Shortly after the Mufti’s speech, the National Conference on Jewish Affairs (NCJA) called upon President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the leadership of the House and Senate and the chairmen and ranking chairpersons of the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to condemn this explicit call to the genocide of Jews. The NCJA also exhorted the Secretary General of the United Nations and leaders of human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, to join in this condemnation.

The UK’s foreign minister, Congressman Howard Berman, and Americans for Peace Now have condemned the Mufti’s genocidal diatribe and urged PA President Abbas to do so as well. Candidates for the Republican nomination have strongly and consistently condemned Palestinian incitement against Israel and criticized Obama and his cabinet for their silence on this issue.  Our President has remained silent.

Given our President’s attempts to represent himself as our country’s most pro-Israel president ever, it is strange that he does not speak out, even thought his silence risks losing Jewish votes; especially since history provides us with an amazingly similar situation 66 years ago.

In 1946, when Harry Truman was President,5 the current Mufti’s predecessor, the Hajj Amin el-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem6, delivered similarly blood-curdling diatribes calling on the entire Arab world to unite, kill all the Jews, and turn the Mediterranean Sea red with Jewish blood. Coming in the immediate aftermath of World War II and the emergence of the mind-numbing truth about the Holocaust, Husseini’s genocidal vitriol caused an uproar among many worldwide, including, but not limited to, supporters of Zionism in the USA.  As the 1948 presidential elections loomed near, Republican candidates used Husseini’s words as the springboard for their condemnation of Arab intransigence and anti-Jewish harangues. Republican presidential candidates Sen. Robert Taft and Gov. Thomas Dewey repeatedly spoke out in favor of the creation of a Jewish state, and they harshly criticized the Truman administration for its failure to do so.

While the Democratic Party followed with its own endorsement, being the first meant something to even the Jewish and Christian Zionist voters who were registered Democrats, hence the Republican landslide in the 1946 midterm congressional elections, and the election of the first Republican senator from New York in 30 years.

Whatever influence President Truman’s personal feelings about Jews may have had on his political decisions7 evaporated in light of the obvious political gain to be had by courting pro-Israel voters.  In 1946, he endorsed the idea of a Jewish state and expressed support for the UN Partition Plan, just before Governor Dewey did so. At midnight, May 14, 1948, the Provisional Government of Israel proclaimed the new State of Israel. On that same date the United States, in the person of President Truman, recognized the provisional Jewish government as de facto authority of the new Jewish state (de jure recognition was extended on January 31, 1949).

Again, being first counted for something, as did choosing right over wrong and putting our nation’s priorities over his personal predilections. Truman won in 1948.

Now, as then, choosing right over wrong and putting our nation’s priorities over personal predilections counts for something.  And especially now, when nations and leaders worldwide are quick to condemn Israel’s construction of homes for its growing population but stand mute, inert and complicit in the face of the palpable evil of Arab incitement to genocide and terrorist mass murder, speaking out counts for something.

Will our president learn from his illustrious predecessor’s history?  Will he recognize evil for what it is as Arab diatribe resurrects the Nazi Final Solution? Will he understand that silence in the face of evil is complicity, and complicity with evil is evil?  Or will he stand idly by, complicit in his silence?


End Notes

1. Reason in  Common Sense, vol. I, The Life of Reason, 1905-6. Winston Churchill and others have made similar quips.

2. Quoted in

3. Judging from the actual words the Mufti used in his speech, it is difficult to believe that he was merely quoting a Hadith,  but rather was indeed rallying his audience to war against modern Israel and Jews everywhere: “The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stones or trees. Then the stones or trees will call: ‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’ Except the Gharqad tree [which will keep silent (because it is the tree of the Jews)].Therefore it is no wonder that you see Gharqad [trees] surrounding the [Israeli] settlements and colonies..”

4.; and

5. Much of the following, unless otherwise indicated, is taken from Rafael Medoff, “How the Mufti of Jerusalem Once Impacted America’s Presidential Election — and Could Do So Again,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 1, 2012, at

6. For a biographical review of Amin el-Husseini, see  and its review,

7. For insight into Truman’s vacillation about policy decisions related to Israel and about his personal anti-Jewish sentiments, see; and .



The message in this sermon is unambiguous: “Today’s Jews and Israelis are enemies of Allah and humanity – Kill them!”

“The loathsome occupation in Palestine – its land and its holy places – by these new Mongols and what they are perpetrating upon this holy, blessed and pure land – killing, assassination, destruction, confiscation, Judaization (sic!), harassment and splitting the homeland – are clear proof of [unintelligible word – Ed.] hostility, of incomparable racism, and of Nazism of the 20th century. The Jews, the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger, the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger! Enemies of humanity in general, and of Palestinians in particular – they wage war against us using all kinds of crimes, and as you see – even the mosques are not spared their racism…

“Our enmity with the Jews is a matter of [or ‘based on’] faith; our enmity with the Jews is a matter of faith, more than an enmity owing to [or ‘arising from’] occupation and the land.”

“Were the Palestinian people not the owners of the orchards of Haifa and Jaffa? Were the Palestinian people not the owners of the buildings of Sheikh Munis [today’s Ramat Aviv], Safed and Acre? And from [a situation of] orchards and the citrus exports [they have been reduced] to UNRWA and to food stamps, and from buildings and from the Mediterranean beaches to refugee camps and to exile. Why, Oh nation of victory and of Shahada (Martyrdom)?! Why, Oh nation of Islam?! Because we forgot that which we were told [in the Quran], because we forgot that which we were told, and Allah allowed the Jews to punish us.”

“Oh Muslims! The Jews are the Jews. The Jews are the Jews. Even if donkeys would cease to bray, dogs cease to bark, wolves cease to howl and snakes to bite, the Jews would not cease to harbor hatred towards Muslims. The Prophet said that if two Jews would be alone with a Muslim, they would think only of killing him. Oh Muslims! This land will be liberated, these holy places and these mosques will be liberated, only by means of a return to the Quran and when all Muslims will be willing to be Jihad Fighters for the sake of Allah and for the sake of supporting Palestine, the Palestinian people, the Palestinian land, and the holy places in Palestine. The Prophet says: ‘You shall fight the Jews and kill them, until the tree and the stone will speak and say: ‘Oh Muslim, Oh servant of Allah’ – the tree and the stone will not say, ‘Oh Arab,’ they will say, ‘Oh Muslim’. And they will not say, ‘Where are the millions?’ and will not say, ‘Where is the Arab nation?’ Rather, they will say, ‘Oh Muslim, Oh servant of Allah – there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’ Except for the Gharqad tree [tree mentioned in the Quran – Ed.], which is the tree of the Jews. Thus, this land will be liberated only by means of Jihad…”

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Posted By David Meir-Levi On February 29, 2012

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Tawriya: New Islamic Doctrine Permits Creative Lying

Dealing With Syria’s WMD

Syria’s embattled regime is likely to hold out for many more months but eventually could implode with many dangerous consequences for the surrounding region. One of the risks is that chemical weapons—and possibly radioactive materials from its nuclear program—could fall into the hands of terrorists. The U.S. needs a strategy for the worst-case scenario. Washington must closely monitor the evolving situation in Syria and make contingency plans in cooperation with allies to prevent the proliferation of such dangerous weapons, if necessary.

Keeping the Lid on Pandora’s Box

Syria’s Baathist dictatorship developed and stockpiled a lethal arsenal of chemical weapons including blister agents such as mustard gas and even more dangerous nerve agents. These chemical munitions can be delivered by artillery, rocket launchers, Scud ballistic missiles, and aircraft. Damascus also cooperated with North Korea (and probably Iran) to develop a covert nuclear program, which Israel partially destroyed in a 2007 air strike. Radioactive materials from this program could become ingredients for a “dirty bomb” if they fall into the hands of terrorists.

While little is known about the status of Syria’s nuclear facilities, U.S. officials believe that there are at least 50 chemical weapon production and storage facilities inside Syria. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before Congress last week that the Syrian regime has maintained security at these sites, many of which are located in rural areas separated from the urban areas that have seen the bulk of the fighting. Pentagon officials reportedly assess that the regime has shown no sign that it is considering the use of chemical weapons or has relaxed its guard over WMD assets, which are likely treated as its crown jewels.

But as the situation inside Syria deteriorates, there is a growing possibility that the regime could lose control over facilities as its chain of command breaks down and weapons or dangerous materials fall into the hands of defectors, looters, various rival opposition groups, or terrorists.

Those initially at risk would probably be local populations exposed to the haphazard handling of hazardous materials. The most significant danger is that these materials might be removed from the country and fashioned into improvised explosive devices elsewhere. That would require a degree of organization and infrastructure. Iran already has the means and capability to do this, using Revolutionary Guards from the Quds Force or Hezbollah, its Lebanese terrorist surrogates. Al-Qaeda, which has established a front inside Syria, has expressed an interest in the past at conducting these kinds of attacks and could seek materials in Syria if the opportunity arose.

This threat is not analogous to concerns expressed in the run-up to the Iraq War. Then, the primary concern was that Saddam Hussein’s regime would use weapons against another country or deliberately transfer them to a terrorist group. Further, it was suspected that Iraq might have far greater WMD capabilities and means to employ them than Syria currently has in its possession. The Syrian threat is different, and the U.S. response needs to be calculated according to a different set of risks and U.S. interests. Here, the principal danger is that the regime might lose control of materials that eventually could find their way to terrorists if the regime collapses.

In some respects, the potential worst-case scenario is more like Libya, where the Muammar Gaddafi regime lost control of mustard gas supplies and huge stockpiles of modern weapons. While the mustard gas, stored in bulk containers, reportedly was secured, large numbers of arms including Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) were seized by many different groups. Some were smuggled out of the country and could pose a threat to civil aviation.

Military Intervention Would Be Costly and Difficult

The conditions for an outside military intervention, however, are far different from Libya. Syria would be a much more difficult military intervention than Libya due to the greater size and capabilities of the Syrian armed forces, which have remained relatively intact, unlike in Libya. Moreover, the Assad regime has more foreign allies than the isolated Gaddafi regime. It can rely on Moscow to block U.N. efforts and Iran and Hezbollah to help it resist a foreign intervention.

Such differences would make any military intervention in Syria a much riskier and potentially costly exercise. Pentagon officials estimate that it could require more than 75,000 ground troops to secure Syria’s chemical warfare facilities, according to CNN.[1] It is clear that even such a limited intervention, much less a full-blown humanitarian intervention launched amid a civil war, would be an enormously costly and risky enterprise.

While the potential for hazardous materials being smuggled out of the country is a legitimate concern, the risks associated with deploying U.S. troops inside Syria currently are greater. There are prudent measures that the U.S. can take to mitigate the risk that hazardous materials will “leak” out of the country without putting U.S. boots on the ground.

A Prudent U.S. Policy

Washington should privately warn the Assad regime not to use its chemical weapons and that such a move will trigger much greater U.S. support, possibly including arms, for the opposition. This declaration should be a private warning, because that would increase the chances that the Assad regime might take heed, whereas a public warning could lead it to react provocatively to show it is standing up to the U.S. The message could be delivered through Syria’s U.N. ambassador.

Washington separately should make it clear to all Syrian opposition groups that they will be held responsible for any chemical weapons, radioactive materials, or MANPADS that fall into their hands. They should know that they will be rewarded if they turn these over to the U.S. or allied governments and punished if they retain them or pass them on to terrorists.

The U.S., its allies, and the “Friends of Syria” contact group should establish an intelligence-sharing mechanism to monitor Syrian WMD sites and track the movement of loose weapons in an effort to intercept them before they can be transferred to terrorist groups. The United States is already using satellite intelligence and drones to monitor Syrian military activities and should build up its intelligence-gathering network inside Syria. Other countries may be able to contribute important human intelligence that the U.S. lacks.

It is especially important to coordinate counter-proliferation and counterterrorism efforts with Syria’s neighbors to prevent terrorist groups or smugglers from moving dangerous weapons out of the country. Turkey, which has extensive ties with the Syrian opposition, can play a critical role. Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq could also make important contributions in detecting and intercepting weapons leaking out of Syria. Particular attention should be paid to preventing them from being transferred to Hezbollah and Iran or falling into the hands of al-Qaeda. Washington should also develop contingency plans with these countries and the Syrian opposition to prepare a disaster response plan for the possible use or accidental detonation of chemical or radiological weapons.

Rapid-Response Plans Needed

Because air strikes against chemical weapons facilities could release toxic plumes that would threaten nearby civilians, bombing would be a desperate and dangerous means to prevent proliferation. If the U.S. receives actionable intelligence that terrorists have obtained or are about to obtain WMD materials, then it should launch a targeted CIA or military operation, if practical. For example, the Pentagon should prepare to act on contingency plans for the rapid insertion of Special Forces personnel to secure, remove, or disable hazardous materials that might fall into terrorist hands.

The U.S. government should also plan to help a Syrian successor government secure, destroy, and disable the Assad regime’s WMD stockpile and production facilities, along with loose conventional weapons such as MANPADS.

By James Phillips & James Jay Carafano

James Phillips is Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, and James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Deputy Director of the Davis Institute and Director of the Allison Center at The Heritage Foundation.