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Syrian chemical weapons deal puts pressure on Israel to sign weapons treaties

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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John Kerry landed in Israel yesterday after meeting with with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva to iron out a deal over Syria’s chemical weapons disposal. Although the trip to Israel was hyped in some quarters as “a personal mission to try to achieve a long-elusive peace deal between Israel and the PA”, Barak Ravid reporting in Haaretz  zeros in on a topic we discussed earlier, Will Kerry ask Israel to ratify chemical weapons treaty, with Syria plan afoot?:

When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Sunday, he will present Benjamin Netanyahu with a detailed outline of the agreement to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons.

After the consultants leave the two for a tete-a-tete, Kerry may make a request that has been keeping quite a few top Israeli defense officials awake at night.

Kerry may tell Netanyahu the United States is working to remove one of the gravest threats on Israel’s security, by combining a credible military threat with creative diplomacy. Now, Kerry may say, the U.S. needs Israel’s help by ratifying the treaty prohibiting the use of chemical weapons.

Presumably, senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office have been playing this scenario in their heads in recent days.


The ministry distributed a short set of guidelines to embassies abroad. Due to the issue’s sensitivity, the diplomats were instructed to use the guidelines only if specifically asked about the matter.

In the last few days, the Syrian regime has intimated that, in addition to its willingness to get rid of its chemical weapons, Israel own stockpile of chemical weapons (according to foreign media) must also be discussed.

And what of Israel’s nuclear weapons? Ravid claimed “Israeli military deterrence stems from its nuclear ambiguity ” (ha!) but mentioned the U.S. and Russia have been “asking Israel for several years to ratify the chemical weapons treaty, but Israel refuses to do so.” Readers may recall the U.S. backed out of a high-profile Nuclear Nonproliferation conference on banning of WMD’s in the Middle East set to take place in last December, after Iran agreed to show up. Hence, the conference, in Helsinki, Finland, was scrapped altogether.

From Nov. 10, 2012, AP Mideast Nuclear talks called off:

Its key sponsors were the U.S., Russia and Britain, but they said such as meeting was only possible if all countries – especially Israel -agreed to attend.

…..The decision to postpone, if not to scrap it, will cast doubt on the significance of the NPT and its attempts every five years to advance nonproliferation. Any new attempt is unlikely until the NPT conference meets again in 2015.

Hopes for such a meeting were alive as recently as Tuesday, when Iran joined Arab nations in saying that it planned to attend, leaving Israel as the only undecided country.


While Syria’s civil war, nuclear tensions with Iran and other Mideast frictions will be cited as the official reason for the cancellation, one of the diplomats acknowledged that the decision is mainly being taken because Israel has decided not to attend……the Russians have opposed declaring the meeting dead at this point.


About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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21 Responses

  1. ivri
    September 16, 2013, 3:31 pm

    It is likely that at some point Assad and allies will play the Israeli card (i.e. I do that if they do that and that) but he has a problem in doing so because right now he is in the firing line and dragging the ever complicated “Israel Saga” will be seen as stalling and looking for excuses to avoid doing what he agreed to. In normal times it would have had some power but now Assad is out of cards – got to follow the music.

    • amigo
      September 16, 2013, 4:20 pm

      “It is likely that at some point Assad and allies will play the Israeli card (i.e. I do that if they do that and that) but he has a problem in doing so because right now he is in the firing line and dragging the ever complicated “Israel Saga” will be seen as stalling and looking for excuses to avoid doing what he agreed to” ivri

      He must have been watching the Occupation Nation,s tricks.

    • annie
      September 16, 2013, 4:34 pm

      play the israel card? assad is not alone on that, or didn’t you read ravid’s quote:

      the U.S. and Russia have been “asking Israel for several years to ratify the chemical weapons treaty, but Israel refuses to do so.”

      also, i suggest you open the “topic we discussed earlier” link in the article above and read the WSJ blockquote. the subject has already been broached by syria.

  2. Justpassingby
    September 16, 2013, 4:47 pm

    Sorry but anyone who believes Israel is being pressured is highly naive. West supports the deterrence of Israel.

    • Citizen
      September 17, 2013, 11:53 am

      It’s a joke, pressure on Israel; nothing it can’t toss off like a bit of fallen US/UK dandruff.

  3. marc b.
    marc b.
    September 16, 2013, 5:47 pm
    • annie
      September 16, 2013, 5:59 pm

      thanks marc, i knew it was due to come in this week. i brief glance at the on conclusion page near the intro doesn’t state who did it. i’m too lazy to read the 41 pages. did they confirm it was assad or is it inconclusive about the culprit?

      edit: just noticed the pdf is dated the 13th. isn’t there a fuller report expected later this week? or is this it?

      The U.N. team’s mandate did not include assigning blame for the attack. Ban would not speculate on who may be responsible.

      • marc b.
        marc b.
        September 16, 2013, 7:18 pm

        annie, I just went through it quickly. it describes in great detail the debris left by the munitions which are ground-to-ground type munitions, including some Cyrillic markings. for two of the impacts it provides approximate trajectories. what I noticed mostly was the lack of apparent symptoms suffered by treating physicians and other medical personnel treating the victims. from what I have seen in the videos, no apparent precautions were taken by the physicians, and yet there are no reported symptoms exhibited by them, which according to what I’ve read suggests ‘kitchen’ sarin rather than military grade sarin was used. for what it’s worth. I hope to read the whole thing later.

      • Citizen
        September 17, 2013, 11:26 am

        @ marc b
        On Twitter early this morning I saw quite a few tweets saying, in effect, UN evidence pointed to Assad’s forces as the likely culprit. Others directly tweeted UN said so. Nothing tweeted contrary.

      • marc b.
        marc b.
        September 17, 2013, 1:00 pm

        citizen, we’ll see if that is the final conclusion. presumably it will be, with or without the evidence to support it. I guess the question is, ‘how will this affect the US/Russian proposal?’. logically it shouldn’t since the POTUS had already reached that conclusion before negotiations started. but who knows. we know what Israel/Oren want. AQ is preferable to Assad. that quote should be on the front page of every newspaper. my impression is that the 1% of Americans who have served in the military during the so-called GWOT won’t think much of Oren’s analysis.

        PS I didn’t think that the UN investigators were tasked with assigning culpability, simply collecting evidence. as I said, from what I have learned elsewhere, it would seem that it was not military grade sarin that was used, although I doubt we’ll ever have conclusive evidence either way. we do know that both sides had or were trying to achieve the ability to use chemical weapons.

      • annie
        September 17, 2013, 1:20 pm

        Nothing tweeted contrary.

        well, that would be very hard to monitor. anyway, as i mentioned earlier it says right in the report the mandate didn’t include assigning blame and Ban wouldn’t speculate on who was responsible, so rumors to the contrary should be backed up supporting links.

      • lysias
        September 17, 2013, 4:40 pm

        The scene could have had those rocket parts planted in it.

      • marc b.
        marc b.
        September 18, 2013, 9:13 am

        lysias, this is from a transcript of an interview of the HRW ’emergencies director’ conducted yesterday by the chief baritone of NPR, as Weiss accurately calls him:

        SIEGEL: Now of five impact sites that the inspectors looked at, they wrote this, and I’m quoting now, “three do not present physical characteristics allowing a successful study of the trajectories followed by the rockets involved.” But two sites, they write, and I’m quoting again, “provide sufficient evidence to determine, with a sufficient degree of accuracy, the likely trajectory of the projectiles.” And they give degrees and directions, but they don’t say what origin for the firing of these rockets that would indicate. What’s the answer?

        BOUCKAERT: Well, they did very good work. They looked at the debris, which was left behind, and the directions the rockets came from and the precise angles of flight that the U.N. inspectors had determined. Human Rights Watch mapped the information, and they led us directly back to the base of the republican guards, one of the elite units in the Syrian military which has a long association with chemical weapons.

        the role of HRW in the call for bombing Syria is curious as others have pointed out. so that group has better intelligence than the US government? you would have presumed that Kerry and Obama would have been beating that drum, with a nice little chart of the trajectory on graph paper. (btw I don’t doubt that Assad is militarily and psychologically capable of using gas ‘in country’, it’s the motive part that’s problematic. an attack in which the primary/only victims are civilians on the eve of a UN inspection? bizarre, even suicidal.)

      • Denis
        September 18, 2013, 12:10 pm

        Here’s the “contrary”, Citizen: a Pentagon official, Michael Maloof, talking to RT reported on Sep17.

        [Kerry] tells me that they have been scouring Syria for more than a year looking at all the Syrian military activities and that they have no information on any artillery having been fired that day at that time into that location.

        The article makes the point that the insurgents have access to sarin produced by al-Qaeda in Iraq, which means, contrary to the neo-con/GoI position, the presence of sarin in the UN samples does not equate to or prove an attack by Assad.

        I’m currently working my way through the UN report. So far what I see is a rushed, late, incomplete, self-contradictory investigation designed to imply a lot more than it informs. Stay tuned, I think this is going to become yet another exploding cigar for Obama, Lindsay Graham, and John McCain.

  4. DICKERSON3870
    September 16, 2013, 7:37 pm

    RE: “Syrian chemical weapons deal puts pressure on Israel to sign weapons treaties”

    MY COMMENT: If Obama asks the Israelis to ratify the chemical weapons treaty, who are they to refuse?!?! [LOL]


    [EXCERPT] . . . “It is a major dilemma, what Israel should do on the Hill,” a senior Israeli official said Monday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of a dictate from Mr. Netanyahu not to discuss the Syria situation publicly. “We don’t want to be identified with pressing for a strike. This is not for us — we don’t want anybody to think this is for us,” the official said. “But if the president asks us for assistance, who are we to refuse?” . . .

    SOURCE –

    • crone
      September 16, 2013, 9:16 pm

      good one Dickerson!!!

    • ritzl
      September 16, 2013, 11:33 pm

      Great catch Dickerson. Events are moving so fast and so broadly that the Israeli propaganda/reasonableness/”we’re just here to help” machine can’t keep up. Too much issue crosstalk now for them to be consistent in their narrative or coherent in their pronouncements.

      • Citizen
        September 17, 2013, 11:39 am

        @ ritzl
        Not to worry, help is on the way for Israel. Goldhagen’s peddling his new book; he was on the Imus In The Morning Show this morning. Imus treated him like the golden guru of the post-modern age, as if his past work has not been totally discredited by expert historians, etc. His new work posits anti-semitism is growing like Topsy around the world due to globalism, the internet, etc. (The Tablet recommends you read it.) It also conflates criticism of Israel as jew-hatred; accordingly Goldhagen’s latest effort claims, specifically inter alia that anti-semitism is rampant on US college campuses, and Half the Chinese are parroting the Protocols of Elders of Zion just like the Arabs do–even though there’s no Jews in China. The book is essentially an apologia for the state of Israel. Imus thanked Goldhagen profusely for bring this horrible spreading evil to his attention and his audience.

  5. marc b.
    marc b.
    September 17, 2013, 8:34 am

    the loathsome Michael Oren in the JP:

    “The initial message about the Syrian issue was that we always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran,” he said.

    This was the case, he said, even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated to al-Qaida.

    “We understand that they are pretty bad guys,” he said, adding that this designation did not apply to everyone in the Syrian opposition. “Still, the greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc. That is a position we had well before the outbreak of hostilities in Syria. With the outbreak of hostilities we continued to want Assad to go.”

    Amid reports that Assad may be moving some of his chemical weapons arsenal out of the country, Oren reiterated Israel’s position that it will not tolerate attempts to transfer these arms – or game changing weapons – to Hezbollah.

    “The chemical weapons were an American red line, it wasn’t an Israel red line,” Oren said. “Our red line was that if Iran and Syria try to convey chemical weapons or game changing weaponry to Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations, that Israel would not remain passive. We were prepared to stand by the red line, and still are.”

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