April 14, 2024
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Elite Syrian Unit Scatters Chemical Arms Stockpile

Elite Syrian Unit Scatters Chemical Arms Stockpile

The Wall Street Journal reports that Syria’s elite Unit 450, a branch of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center that manages the regime’s overall chemicals weapons program, has been moving poison gases and munitions to as many as 50 sites for almost a year, to make them harder for the U.S. to track, according to American and Middle Eastern officials. This could complicate any U.S. bombing campaign in Syria over its alleged chemical attacks, officials said. It also raises questions about implementation of the joint U.S./Russia proposal that calls for the regime to surrender control of its stockpile. The U.S. estimates the regime has 1,000 metric tons of chemical and biological agents. “That is what we know about. There might be more,” said one senior U.S. official.

Russia To Build Nuclear Plant For Iran, Deliver S-300V Missiles

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org)—Russia will supply Iran with a modified version of the vaunted S-300 anti-aircraft system and will build a new nuclear reactor for the Ayatollah’s regime, the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant recently reported. The report comes on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic proposal to place Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles under international supervision and thus avoid a U.S. strike on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Kommersant reported that the deal between Moscow and Tehran was formulated as part of Russia and Iran’s “commonality of views on the situation in Syria.” They will build a second nuclear reactor at Bushehr. Iran and Russia signed an agreement in 1995 to repair and complete the 1,000-megawatt reactor, which was finished in 2011. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran chief Ali Akbar Salehi told IRNA this week that Russia would likely hand over the operation of the first plant to Iran in three months. Russia will also supply Iran with five battalions of the S-300VM Antey-2500 system, a modified export version of the S-300V. A key condition is that Tehran withdraws its $4 billion lawsuit over Moscow’s failure to deliver the systems under previous contract. Quoting a security policy expert, Kommersant said the anti-aircraft batteries Russia would provide were even better than the ones Iran originally bought.

UN Leak Links Assad Regime to CWs

(TIP)—A leaked United Nations report piles on evidence linking the Bashar al-Assad regime to the August 21 mass chemical attack on opposition-controlled Damascus suburbs. While the report will not explicitly implicate the regime, diplomats indicate that it will offer a “wealth” of evidence implicating Assad’s forces. Analysts had already identified what kind of evidence might tie the Syrian army to the attack, and had emphasized that the detection of chemical stabilizers and dispersal agents would signal sophistication unavailable to other parties fighting in Syria’s more than two-year war. Secretary of State John Kerry met Thursday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, as well as a large team of arms control specialists, to begin exploring a Russian plan to defuse the crisis by placing Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal under external control. Analysts have broadly – and increasingly – expressed skepticism regarding the workability of any such international effort. Also today, Syria announced that it had formally asked to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which would require Damascus to give up its weapons. By means of clarification however, Assad indicated that Damascus would not implement the treaty’s requirements in the absence of U.S. guarantees that it would not attack Syria.

Turkey Blocks Israel Cooperation with NATO

(TIP)—Turkey continues to veto “even the most innocent” cooperation between Israel and NATO, extending a policy that stretches back years and which diplomats had hoped would cease amid a U.S.-backed reconciliation effort,  according to Greek Ambassador Spiros Lampridis. The Jerusalem Post reports Turkey has nixed ‘joint exercises, intelligence exchanges, and research and technological development programs.’ Turkey’s efforts to undermine ties between Israel and NATO had been blasted for damaging interoperability between Israeli and Western forces, undermining among other things America’s power projection capabilities in the region. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan explicitly bragged about these successes, but a rapprochement facilitated by President Barack Obama was to see Ankara suspend efforts to diplomatically and militarily isolate Jerusalem. Lampridis lauded Israel for making a series of gestures designed to facilitate reconciliation, and addressing increasingly vocal accusations that Erdogan is driven by anti-Jewish animus, and declared that the Islamist Turkish prime minister “can do it privately if he wants… [but shouldn’t] do it openly and expose a whole country.”

Iran’s Illicit Finance Hub

(Eurasianet)—Tajikistan-based Iranian entrepreneur Babak Zanjani, chair of the Dubai-based Sorinet Group, a conglomerate of some two dozen different companies, is “moving billions of dollars on behalf of the Iranian regime, including tens of millions of dollars to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps company,” according to the U.S. Treasury Department, which in April targeted Zanjani and a number of his front companies as part of a crackdown on illicit commercial activity related to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Zanjani likewise has been sanctioned by the European Union for expediting Iranian oil deals and “washing” the resulting revenue for Iran in Dushanbe. Tajikistan was recently ranked the the fourth most vulnerable in the world for money laundering and terrorist financing by the Basil Institute on Governance. Soon after the rankings were published this past June, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon passed weak legislation establishing criminal penalties for money laundering. But Western officials believe that is just “window dressing,” and that Tajikistan will continue to play a prominent role as an illicit finance hub for Iran.

Hamas Slams Egypt’s Destruction of Homes Along Gaza Border For Buffer Zone

(JNS.org) The Egyptian military has reportedly destroyed nearly 20 homes along Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip as part of a widespread effort to crackdown on terrorists operating in the Sinai Peninsula. Residents say Egyptian military authorities tore down homes suspected of hiding tunnel entrances, Reuters reported. Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group which controls Gaza and that relies on the smuggling of weapons and goods into the territory, slammed Egypt’s decision.“We reject any concept of building a buffer zone. Buffer zones should not be built between brothers and between friendly countries,” said Ehab al-Ghsain, spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza, according to Reuters. Hamas officials also said that the military crackdown on smuggling tunnels has led to dire fuel shortages in the Gaza Strip, the Associated Press reported.

Holocaust Video Game to Be Released Next Year

(JNS.org)—A developer who in 2008 created a video game based on the Holocaust that was rejected by Nintendo said he will raise funds online and release the game for smartphone users next year. Luc Bernard, 26, designed a game called “Imagination is the Only Escape” about a Jewish boy named Samuel, who in France in 1942 hides in the forest and creates a fantasy world to escape the deportation to death camps transpiring around him. Most of the game takes place inside Samuel’s fantasy world, and “every time reality comes back, it sort of just slaps you in the face,” Bernard said. According to the World Jewish Congress, Nintendo originally rejected the game, deeming it unfit for children, but the goal of the game was to inspire children to learn about the Holocaust, Bernard said.

Hungary Takes on Holocaust Remembrance

Budapest—The Hungrian news service, MTI reports that the Prime Minister’s office has announced a Holocaust memorial will be built at the unused Jozsefvaros train station in Budapest by next spring. The government plans to set up memorial places at as many locations as possible throughout Hungary next year. Another important objective of the memorial year will be to pay special tribute to child victims of the Holocaust. Museum director Maria Schmidt has been asked to set up a research team consisting of Hungarian and international historians to prepare the plans for a Holocaust education center to be set up in the train station. It should cost approximately $22 million. Additionally, a fund has been set up to finance local projects that help remembrance in “every single educational institute.” The exhibition will be geared to young adults and special emphasis will be placed on presenting those who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

 

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