Beyond the Cusp

June 26, 2014

ISIS Revealed in Congressional Research Service Report

The news reports have depicted the relative ease with which the former al-Qaeda offshoot and now solo terrorist army ISIS has sliced their way clearing a large swath across the Sunni dominated central regions of Iraq from Mosul southward and now closing in on Baghdad. There have been comparisons between the ease with which ISIS forces have conquered areas which took the United States many long months to clear out and liberate. Some have even spent some time informing the readers that the ISIS troops are the reanimated remnants of those forces that the United States defeated in those very same areas during the surge and in other fighting. The commander of the ISIS forces is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, one of the persons held by United States forces and released in 2009 from the United States Camp Bucca which was located near Umm Qasr in Iraq. In many ways this story of his release is somewhat misleading and because of the date of his release there are those placing the blame on President Obama but because all of the detainees in Camp Bucca were transferred into Iraqi control by an agreement in 2008 others have placed the blame with President George W. Bush. So, what is the truth in this sordid mess? Well, neither of the two Presidents of the United States placed any hard restrictions against Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being released as he was not of any particular importance and did not hold a senior position or command any forces back in 2008 through 2009 so there was no particular reason to detain him over any other detainee. The people who did permit his release were the Iraqis so if anybody must be placed in the limelight for having released the man who has risen into the position of the most feared and potentially dangerous terrorist leader in the world, I guess it would have to be the same man who is now most threatened by his approaching forces, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sometimes the natural order in which events play out do actually hold the guilty to be threatened when the rooster comes home to roost, or the terrorist leads his army to your doorstep.

 

This leads us to the report provided to Congress by their research arm, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) on the present situation and probable future ramifications of the perceived threats. According to the June 20 report CRS asserts that, “Several leading representatives of the U.S. intelligence community have stated that ISIS maintains training camps in Iraq and Syria, has the intent to attack the United States and is reportedly recruiting and training individuals to do so.” Their report also quotes al-Baghdadi making a threat quoting his declarations where he stated, “Know, O defender of the Cross, that a proxy war will not help you in the Levant, just as it will not help you in Iraq. Soon, you will be in direct conflict, Allah permitting, against your will.” Back to the CRS report, it further states, “ISIS attempts to assert control over the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, and its June 2014 offensive in northern Iraq underscored the group’s lethality and ability to conduct combat operations and manage partnerships with local groups in multiple areas over large geographic distances.”

 

Retired Army officer and military analyst Robert Maginnis talked about how ISIS has prepared to execute such attacks in Western nations, especially within Europe and the United States stating, “It already has many hundreds of jihadists with Western nation passports. Those battle-proven jihadists will eventually return to their Western homelands to carry on the jihad using the violent ways learned in Syria and Iraq. And now that ISIS controls a giant swath of the Middle East, the Western jihadists have a training platform, financing and a cheerleading state sponsor.” Another pertinent set of comments came from spokesman for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby pointed out, “If you look at the map of Iraq, I mean, sort of the central swath going from north of Samarra around Tikrit all the way up to Mosul, that’s ISIS controlled territory, by and large, and we’re seeing them try to solidify those gains and to continue to threaten Baghdad. That’s kind of the general lay down.” In its conclusion, the CRS report stated, “The offensive in northern and central Iraq, led by the Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group ISIS, has raised significant concerns for the United States. These concerns include a possible breakup of Iraq’s political and territorial order and the establishment of a potential base for terrorist attacks in the region or even against the U.S. homeland.”

 

So, what can be concluded from all of these commentaries, reports and other information? The most obvious item is that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has memories of his stay as a guest of the American military at Camp Bucca in Iraq and some of those memories are apparently not the most pleasant. We do not know and likely will never know whether or not he drew any special interest by the CIA and whether he had faced any special handling and questioning. Where the lack of any reported concern or importance being noted thus far we might believe that his detention was no worse or better than any other detainee. Still, al-Baghdadi has a real special hatred for the United States and appears to have special plans for vengeance or simply a strong desire for payback. We also can deduce that he is a person who is driven and knows how to accomplish the goals he sets for himself and those whom he leads and that his troops are highly motivated. As for their level of training, it has been obvious by the assaults made in Iraq and Syria by ISIS that the followers of ISIS are very well trained in explosives and the many forms of terrorist bombing techniques. As for their level of war fighting, we know they had no difficulty defeating the Iraqi military units they faced but reports of those confrontations said more about the lack of motivation and ability by the Iraqi military than they displayed any real abilities of the ISIS terrorist troops. With the dispatch of United States Special Forces trainers, intelligence personnel, logistics oversight and tactical officers, we can hope to see how well the ISIS units perform against determined and motivated military units. Unfortunately for the United States advisors and support personnel being deployed, I have my doubts about the efficiency and abilities of the Iraqi forces. The fact that tens of thousands of Iraqi troops stripped off their uniforms, threw down their weapons and abandoned their heavy weapons along with their armored vehicles and then attempted to blend in with the civilian surroundings does not bode well for the competence of the Iraqis. The cowardice displayed by the Iraqi troops could easily lead one to believe that there was some conspiratorial complicity between the Iraqi troops deployed in the Sunni areas and the ISIS forces which would permit the outright gifting of their equipment and other military assets to ISIS. The slaughtering of so many civilians and presumed troops does place such a theory into doubt and we will never know the truth as dead men tell no tales and those who survived will very likely not desire to present themselves as evidence or witness for fear of retribution from one side or the other.

 

We have also been granted a peek into the measures taken by the forces of ISIS and much of their looting and stealing of cash, gold, silver and other precious items from the banks and stores in Mosul depict well regulated troops who have very good intelligence and have a well figured set of protocols which will maximize their ability to gather funds which can be used to advance their cause and father them more advanced equipment and arms. We are not made aware if ISIS is receiving monetary assistance from the Sunni oil rich nations such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and others even if such funds were only provided for their efforts in Syria and against Iran and Hezballah. We are aware that they are fanatical and quite willing to murder anybody they meet who they determine are not as religious and devout as they would demand. This was made so very evident by the hundreds if not thousands that they had murdered claiming they had transgressed against Sharia. The one apparent sign of weakness has been the unwillingness or just plain lack of desire on the part of ISIS to tackle the Kurdish militias in the north beyond Mosul and the fact that the Kurdish units were capable of recapturing Kirkuk from ISIS forces. We do know the level of training and proficiency of the Kurdish Peshmarga, and their motivation is almost off the charts high and they have no intention in giving up one inch of the lands they currently hold and may very well prove to be the most proficient troops in fighting against the ISIS terrorists.

 

The other reality we have gained is that ISIS will try to find any means available to attack and injure the United States, both military and civilian targets. Should ISIS take control of a large segment of Iraq then they would have their own area which could act as an actual nation but a nation run by terrorist forces of ISIS much like Lebanon is currently run by Hezballah who have taken control of the government and now also run much of the Lebanese military units. In some ways the fact that Iran is now finding it necessary to fight to save Iraq from the ISIS terrorist military is a special form of payback as it was Iran who financed and assisted al-Qaeda, including the precursors for ISIS when these terrorists were fighting the United States forces during the American efforts in Iraq. So now it looks as if Iranian military forces will be required to fight against the very monster their government created in the efforts to cripple the United States after they overthrew Saddam Hussein. The one fear which should have the majority of Americans watching every deployment of United States military forces is the slow but steady increase of personnel into Iraq. They need to remember that Viet Nam started long before President Johnson escalated the deployment to the massive levels at the climax of the war in Viet Nam with advisors sent to simply train and provide intelligence by President Eisenhower in the late 1950s. The other disaster which at least currently does not appear possible would be the temporary unification between Sunni and Shiites bringing ISIS and Iran troops, including the Iran sponsored terrorists all in one large assault on the West in Europe and the United States. There has been evidence indicating that Iran has plans in place for attacks against the United States and now this evidence that ISIS shares that desire makes one wonder if these two might not simply work together in order to destroy the western nations and their technological advantages. With the United States currently appearing to be in remission, the possibility for these terrorist entities to cooperate increasing their relative strength may not be as impossible as the media would want us to believe. Even if it were the slightest of possibilities, it would be prudent to watch and be prepared should such an alliance be cobbled together, then seeking allies at the last minute would be too little too late. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” a truism stated by Thomas Jefferson.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

September 8, 2013

Ramifications of Obama’s Syria Blundering

The news stories have spent much ink and headlines pointing out the fiasco around Syria, chemical weapons, and President Obama’s pronouncement of the necessity for a strike against Bashir al-Assad’s military infrastructure in order to send a message that his use of such weapons will not and cannot be tolerated by the United States, the world, and in particular, President Obama and his advisers. We have read and heard about the shrinking credibility President Obama may suffer if he does not strike even if he should have the excuse that Congress would not authorize his request to use force. Many have pointed out that President Obama does not require anything from Congress in order to exercise his option as President to use force for up to ninety days before any Congressional action is required. I have always thought this was somewhat of a joke as a way to curtail the power of a President to engage in military actions as should a President instigate a military intervention and have even a mere thirty days freedom to act as he believes is necessary, a President could easily get American forces so engaged and deeply into a mission that no sane Congress would vote to pull the rug out from under them at that point. The reality that President Obama could have ordered his strikes on Syria and they would have been planned and executed all before the Congress returned from their Labor Day break assuming President Obama was being forthright when he said all he planned to do was strike selected military targets from the air using Tomahawk Missiles and other stand-off air assets fired from over the Mediterranean Sea from B-2 and B-52 heavy bombers. So, what has President Obama gained and lost by invoking Congressional approval and once again choosing dithering over acting?

 

The gains are easy for one to see but they are not envious gains and are likely going to cause the President serious harm and probably Congressional approval. The grandest gain is the American people have been allowed to give voice to their feelings on the whole matter of Syria and it appears they are almost unanimously against any form of United States military actions for any purpose in the Syrian conflict. Not sure if this is exactly a gain, but we now have a few more gems of complete inane and completely ridiculous comments from Senator McCain who among his brilliant opinions comes his defining the meaning of “Allahu Akbar” for the rest of us members of the ignorant masses which he defined as the same as a Christian exclaiming, “Thank G0d” and not what we had all likely assumed which was, “Allah is the greatest.” Many Americans are finding out whether or not their Congressional representative, be they either Senator or their Representative in the House, are able to understand that when hundreds if not thousands of their constituents call in demanding they vote against a military intervention, that such actions actually means the people do not want them to give the President blessings to go ahead and strike Syria. There may be a future lesson when at the next election for these same representatives who decide not to heed their public comes around and we will see if their constituents have any memory and actually meant what they said. There have already been a number of Senators and Representatives who have been interviewed specifically on why they changed their position from originally supporting the President for a strike on Syria and within a day or two changed their minds. Of the few I have been fortunate enough to hear or watch, and I always love watching politicians backing away from a previous position, it is just so amusing watching them stumble and try to sound contrite and convincing all at the same time, none of them have simply stated the plain truth. I sometimes wonder how difficult it is for a grown person to simply state, “After the barrage of calls my offices have received on this issue demanding my vote on this issue I have listened to the people and will do as they elected me to do and vote their desired position.” There you have it, all you politicians looking for what to say to the cameras in explaining your change, plain, simple, and oddly enough, it is the truth which would be nice to hear for a change. The final and possibly only advantage President Obama has gained by invoking Congress is he will have a way out of backing his poorly chosen red line threat without completely losing face as he can claim it is the will of the American people and after all, he will be able to claim he is nothing if not a man of the people.

 

The real ramification will have little effect on actions the United States was ever actually going to commit but at least that is now a certainty. If the Israeli leadership ever entertained the idea that President Obama actually intended to prevent the Iranians from gaining nuclear weapons, they have now been completely disabused of that notion. The evidence is now overwhelming and the truth is plain to see, President Obama is completely ineffectual on foreign policy. He is exactly as was warned coming in to the last elections by us here that the main problems on the doorstep of the world and especially the United States were not the seemingly immense problems with the economy or other items concerning the home-front but the affairs of state and the international crisis which were all coming to a boil almost in a tsunami. The world can only be left on autopilot so long before it begins to lose altitude and a crash becomes inevitable if nobody takes hold of the controls and steers it back on course. This has been the case numerous times throughout history, recent history even. Anyone observing the world stage during President Obama’s first term watched as Iraq slowly devolved back into sectarian violence with Sunni-Shia fighting growing almost daily by the end of the first term. Terrorism has been steadily rising and the Iraqi government has become a puppet of the Mullahs of Iran who have completely replaced the United States as the guiding influence. Egypt also has become unstable as President Morsi with the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to install an Islamic governance structured around Sharia and get the equivalent of what has taken Turkey’s Prime minister Erdogan almost a decade to do there and the Egyptian people revolted. The Egyptian military has subsequently intervened and replaced the Morsi government and now comes the slow decent into civil strife with terrorist bombings, shootings, burning buildings, and worst of all, the complete dissolution of Egypt’s oldest establishment, the Coptic Christians who are helplessly watching their churches and monasteries burned to the ground or converted into Mosques; their homes and businesses looted and destroyed; their women and children kidnapped, forced into marriages, forced to convert, or even murdered; watched as their numbers dwindle away as those who can get out of Egypt flee, and they realize that one of the oldest Christian communities is on the verge of following Egyptian’s once flourishing Jewish community into oblivion and wiped from the pages of history. Turkey is also experiencing violence between Shia and Sunni segments of the population and there have even been some demonstrations against the creep towards Islamist Sharia Law which the people are resisting at long last. Syria has completely melted down and the Christian community is being slowly decimated. There is also growing violence between the Kurdish elements and militias and the Sunni rebel forces. Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood have supplanted the pro-democracy forces of the rebel cause and the fight is now between Sunni and Shia forces with Iran and Hezballah supporting Shia al-Assad and his predominantly Alawite military forces while the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, and mujahedeen fighters are flocking into Syria to fight for Sunni preeminence in the Muslim world. Then there has been the financial collapse of much of Europe with Germany and France trying to prevent the complete meltdown of the Euro as an effective and useable currency. These are just the highlights of a world in complete upheaval almost anywhere one looks. We have not mentioned the still completely out of control Horn of Africa, the struggles between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria and Mali, the continuing friction between China and both Japan and the Philippines over claims on solitary islands and free travel within the South China Sea, the drug wars in Mexico, the collapsing scene in Afghanistan and Pakistan where terrorist forces are once again growing in power, civil strife in a number of Asian nations, financial difficulties among many South American countries and a plethora of lesser problems almost anywhere one looks. Add in the growing adversarial relations between the United States and Russia as well as China and it almost seems the Cold War has returned.

 

And lastly there is the Iranian drive to produce nuclear weapons which recently was uncovered is not only enriching uranium but is also producing plutonium making their drive a dual route pursuit for nuclear weapons doubling at the least their likelihood of attaining nuclear status that much sooner. With the now obvious punting of any possibility of an intervention by the United States concerning Iran, the entire responsibility will likely fall on Israel, just as it did in the early eighties when nobody was willing to prevent Saddam Hussein and the French had even built him a reactor aiding his drive for nuclear weapons. Israel addressed that problem and the world was fortunate that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program was so easily derailed. Despite what eventually was a grateful United States who years later quietly thanked Israel for preventing a nuclear Iraq, at the time of Israeli action against the Osirak reactor President Reagan joined the rest of the Security Council in condemning the Israeli strike. Preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon will not be as easy as a single sortie on one location but will require days or maybe weeks of sorties covering almost the entirety of Iran in order to cripple the majority of the nuclear sites strewn strategically throughout the vast country. Making matters worse is that Israel has to fly routes which would take her aircraft over such hostile nations as Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and of course Iran. It is also not guaranteed that such as Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or any other nations which control alternate and much longer routes would be willing to stand down. The only probable nation which would be agreeable would be Jordan and I guess one should be thankful for any favors. Add to Iran the seeming determination of President Obama to divide Israel up in order to form a Palestinian state even to the point of dividing Jerusalem once again and Israel really has a difficult immediate future. The claims made by a number of Palestinian official spokespeople that President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry provided the Palestinians with assurances that the borders would be crafted along the 1949 Armistice lines with only the land swaps the Palestinians allowed to alter the borders and one might decide that the best hope would be no success to the talks. Such possible outcomes make one hopeful that the Palestinians continue in their past tendencies to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Unfortunately, they only have to not miss one opportunity to make up for all those missed in the past, may it not be this one.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

August 28, 2013

Different Takes and Positions on Syria Attack

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The most important nation in discourse over whether or not to attack Syria over the most recent use of chemical Weapons is the United States. The first item which would be expected to be clarified is to make all evidence made available validating the claims that it was actually the Syrian military that deployed the chemical weapons and that al-Assad gave the orders. Thus far President Obama and the spokespeople from within his administration have sounded in virtual unison forming a chorus of accusations blaming Syrian President Bashir al-Assad for giving the orders to use chemical weapons which murdered hundreds of civilians. Evidential proof has been lacking or at best thin with assurances that they have solid and unimpeachable evidence of al-Assad’s guilt in the matter of loosing weapons of mass destruction and the American people and the world are left to simply trust they are correct. What makes this somewhat puzzling is that those who are behind claiming that there has been use of WMDs on civilians in Syria are people who not so long ago had a completely different view on taking a President and his people’s guarantees on another country having possession and having used WMDs. The President was George W. Bush and the person presumably owning the WMDs in question was Saddam Hussein of Iraq. This was the same reasoning given for the invasion of Iraq by President Bush who also expected that his word would suffice. The Iraq War was the conflict of which John Kerry was for the war before he was against the war; Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel were simply against that war in Iraq; and Joe Biden supported the war in Iraq but changed his stance when he campaigned with President Obama claiming that he had made a serious mistake in supporting the Iraq War. Now we are supposed to simply take these same anti-war politicians when they last spoke of their positions regarding the Iraq War but are certain that there are WMDs in al-Assad’s arsenal and he has used them on his own people and we are told to simply trust them. The only thing missing is their blaming President George W. Bush for not attacking Iraq in time to prevent Saddam Hussein’s WMDs from being spirited out of Iraq and stored in Syria where they were the real reason that al-Assad was able to utilize these chemical weapons this past week; after all, isn’t just about everything George W. Bush’s fault?

 

Then there are the British who could be considered one of the instigators behind this entire emergency. This is the third time the British have claimed that al-Assad has deployed chemical weapons during the Syrian civil war and have been backed up in their intelligence reports by the French and the Israelis on at least two of these occasions. The British had already announced earlier this week that their resources in the Mediterranean theater were on standby and ready to assist the United States if they decide to move on the current intelligence of chemical weapons use in Syria. The British were also absolutely positive that Bashir al-Assad was the perpetrator of the release of chemical weapons on the Syrian people. Thus far the French have not announced their readiness to join any attack on Syrian targets which are used by the Syrian military presumably including the chemical weapons storage areas and other military targets which could be utilized in the deployment of chemical weapons in the future. In a straight forward description of targets one could just describe them as any military targets including airports, aircraft, artillery positions, and virtually any other military target. Initial reports claim that the United States already has a list of targets within Syria numbering one-hundred-fifty and includes everything mentioned above as well as command and control assets presumably as that is where the orders originate and if they are taken out new orders would be impossible to relay to the units. Then again, perhaps the Syrians might think to use the same technology the American troops which invaded Grenada resorted to using when they were faced with a small embarrassment, the different units from each branch of service were set to different frequencies and the Marines could not talk to the Army who could not talk to the Air Force who could not talk to the Navy, so resourceful Rangers made a collect phone call to an Air Force base in Florida to order up an airstrike. I am assuming they have telephones in Syria which is likely a safe bet.

 

Then there are the Israelis who have been put on notice by Bashir al-Assad and many of his ranking officers and other high officials that should the United States, British, French or any other Western power attack Syria then Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Hezballah will all attack Israel with everything they can muster. This threat will be their reaction whether Israel takes part in the attack or remains neutral. Since it has been made obvious that declaring themselves as neutral would be useless in protecting Israel from attack the Israelis went ahead and wasted their time and announced their intentions to leave Syria to their own civil war and not interfere in Syrian internal struggles. That is not to imply that Israel has had nothing to request about the entire situation that is developing over the Syrian use of chemical weapons on their own civilians. The Israelis actually asked the United States please advise them before they launch any attack. While Israel is not planning to assist any attack on Syria, with the standing threat that the Syrian response will be a general attack upon Israel by four nations and as many terrorists as they can muster, they probably would like the heads-up in order to at least be prepared for any eventuality. Unfortunately, for some reason I have a feeling that such a warning will not be forthcoming from President Obama. On the other hand, I would bet that the Israeli military monitoring capabilities would probably pick up any activity entering the Syrian theater, even if they were to do so from the Syrian Turkish border. This is even more likely as Turkey also accused Bashir al-Assad of using chemical weapons and has verified the British and French claims and has called for a military response.

 

I guess we need to conclude with our expectations and insights all of which are officially a poke in the dark guess. The first thing we would like to see presented before any retaliatory actions are initiated is the convincing evidence President Obama and his supporting cast claim to have in their position. The one truth which appears to be a certainty is that there was an actual deployment of chemical agent which killed hundreds of Syrian civilians. It is actually very probably this was the third time that chemical weapons have been loosed in the Syrian civil war. The ideal time to have addressed the chemical weapons stores in Syria would have been very early in the conflict with a precision attack or Special Forces intervention with either method having one dedicated target and otherwise avoiding any further interference which might have further effects on the status-quo. Once such an opportunity was missed and other nations took sides in the conflict there became complications which made any interference a risk of incurring a much larger conflict. That has become the threat which has been placed by those backing Bashir al-Assad when Russia, Iran, and China all issued warnings to President Obama not to interfere in any way in the Syrian internal conflict or face serious ramifications. Iran has agreed with the threat made by al-Assad that should there be an attack on the Syrian military or any of its resources then Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Hezballah at a minimum will ally with Syria in mounting an attack on Israel as their reply. Syria has also claimed that there are some surprises in store for any American forces or those of their allies should they attack Syria which will defend their nation with everything at their disposal. The most unfortunate reality which may be possible is that President Obama decides that a Syrian reply with all of her Middle Eastern allies against Israel is something which he is willing to risk and actually could not really care one way or the other. This lack of concern over any threat to Israel might also allow President Obama to disregard the Israeli request to be notified before the Americans or anybody attacks Syria, even if it is just minutes before the forces cross into Syria. Such disregard and disrespect shown an ally would normally be unthinkable but then President Obama has a standing record for unthinkable treatments concerning Israel. The worst possible result would be the Russians and/or Chinese enter into the conflict in support of Syria responding to an attack by the United States or any Western nation. The one sliver of good news was that the United States appears to have put off any attack until Thursday which may give them time to find some way around actually attacking Syria. The one suspicion which needs to be completely ruled out before any attack is launched against Bashir al-Assad is to know for a great degree of certainty that it was actually the Syrian military and not the rebel forces which deployed the chemical weapons. Exactly how such a level of assurance is possible to accomplish may be difficult but it is also one certainty which should be met before taking such a drastic measure as an attack. My prayers are going to be that President Obama backs down as even should he act it would not make him any more credible at this point in his tenure. In the meantime, I will have a very nervous week and am hoping that I am able to go to Rosh Hashanah services and praying for the war to end, be the war be in between Israel and the combined forces of Syria and her allies or an even worse case of a general war between the United States and whoever decides to ally with Iran and Syria in a general war which could become the worst conflagration in world history.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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