Here we go again…! From the CSM…

Did Syria use chlorine gas against rebels in Kfar Zeit?

The US State Department says there are indications that a toxic chemical, probably chlorine, was used against opposition forces in Syria earlier in April.

The United States has indications that a toxic chemical, probably chlorine, was used in Syria this month and is examining whether the Syrian government was responsible, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.

‘We have indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical’ in the town of Kfar Zeita, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, referring to a rebel-held area.

‘We are examining allegations that the government was responsible,’ she told a regular news briefing. ‘Obviously there needs to be an investigation of what’s happened here.’

Syrian opposition activists reported that helicopters dropped chlorine gas on a Kfar Zeit on April 11 and 12. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told ABC television’s This Week on April 13 that the attack was ‘unsubstantiated.’

Psaki said chlorine was not one of the priority one or two chemicals Syria declared to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) under a Russian-U.S. agreement for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

Psaki said the United States was still trying to determine the facts.

‘We take all allegations of the use of chemicals in combat use very seriously,’ she said. ‘We’ll work with the OPCW, who is obviously overseeing the implementation, and determine if any violation occurred.’

Even Hollande piles on…France backs claims that Syrian forces have used chemical weapons recently

Meanwhile, in Syria…

So while everybody agrees that Assad is secure in his position and the Syrians move forward with their planned elections… The UN slams Syria…

Top UN officials warn against Syrian presidential elections

Top United Nations officials have cautioned that Syria’s newly announced presidential elections have a risk of undermining efforts to achieve a political solution to the country’s three-year-old conflict, a UN spokesman said here on Monday.

‘The secretary-general and the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, have repeatedly warned that the holding of elections in the current circumstances, amid the ongoing conflict and massive displacement, will damage the political process and hamper the prospects for a political solution that the country so urgently needs,’ Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters at a daily briefing.

‘Such elections are incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Geneva Communique,’ Dujarric said in reference to an action plan adopted in June 2012 during the first international conference on the Syrian conflict, calling for a political transition in the country.

Ironically, neither Assad, nor the SNC(or whatever version) had ever agreed to the Geneva Communique, even when it was first drawn up…! Here’s a great RT clip on the foreign intervention… Young Blood: Teenage Europeans joining jihad in war-torn Syria

Now, reflecting back…

An Eyewitness to the Syrian Rebellion: Father Frans in His Own Words

…Father Frans was murdered under still unclarified circumstances in the embattled Syrian city of Homs earlier this month.

Opposition sources have blamed the Syrian government for his death. But it is widely believed that Father Frans was killed by hard-line Islamist members of one of the rebel factions that have taken control of his Bustan al-Diwan neighborhood in Homs.

The texts of Father Frans, who had lived in Syria since 1966, provide an eyewitness account of the origins of the anti-Assad rebellion and the gradual hardening of the front between opposing rebel and government forces in Homs.

In many respects, the Father’s observations contrast sharply with what has become the standard view of the rebellion in Western media.

Perhaps most notably, whereas the rebellion is typically held to have been sparked by the violent repression of peaceful protests, according to Father Frans, the ‘protest movement’ contained an armed and violent element ‘from the start’ and the violent opposition quickly gained the ascendancy over the peaceful opposition.

Thus, in a letter published in January 2012 on the Dutch-Flemish Mediawerkgroep Syrië website, Father Frans wrote:

‘From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.’

In the same letter, Father Frans insisted that what was occurring in Syria could not be described as a “popular uprising,” since the majority of Syrians do not support the opposition and ‘certainly not’ its armed component.

Moving along… Lebanon is holding their Presidential elections tomorrow…

Beirut to vote for president tomorrow

Lebanon’s parliament convenes tomorrow to try to elect a new president without a clear frontrunner in sight because of deep divisions over the Syrian conflict and Hezbollah’s arsenal.

The conflict next door in Syria has pushed more than one million refugees into Lebanon and drawn in the powerful Hezbollah which is fighting alongside the Syrian regime. The violence has also spilled over into Lebanon, which was dominated by Syria for nearly three decades, in the form of car bombs and armed clashes…

Discussions inside the blocs have begun, but Fadia Kiwane, political science department head at Beirut’s Saint Joseph University, said they are unlikely to yield swift results.

‘What is almost certain is that a president will not be elected in the first round’ of voting tomorrow, she said. ‘No candidate will be able to get two-thirds of the 128 votes’ required by the constitution, she added.

If no candidate wins two-thirds of the vote in the first round of a secret ballot, a second round has to be held, requiring only a simple majority to be elected head of state. Lebanon’s presidents are chosen by parliament, and under the country’s delicate multi-confessional system the post is traditionally filled by a Maronite Christian. The current president, Michel Sleiman, leaves office at the end of his six-year mandate on May 25…

Looking at the Egyptian Presidential farce…

Egypt election panel: Sisi, former MP only candidates in presidential poll

The former army general who toppled Egypt’s first freely elected president will face a leftist politician in next month’s presidential election, as they were the only candidates to enter before nominations closed, the committee organizing the vote said.

The committee had received paperwork from former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and former parliamentarian and presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, it said at a news conference on Sunday, several hours after the deadline had passed.

The elections will be held in a barren political climate after the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak raised hopes of a robust democracy in the biggest Arab nation.

Neither candidate has outlined a strategy for tackling poverty, energy shortages and unemployment that afflict many of Egypt’s 85 million people.

Now, looking at the I/P Peace Farce…

(Part 2) I’ve been saying that Abu Mazen needed to dissolve the PA and turn over full responsibility for the Zionist Occupation after the last failed attempt…

Palestinians May Turn Policing, Services Authority of Territories Over to Israel

It’s a possibility that has been raised in the past, but with the current round of peace talks apparently now well and truly dead, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is giving serious talks to dismantling the Palestinian Authority (PA) entirely.

Under the Oslo Accords, the PA has some measure of autonomy in governance of West Bank Palestinian cities under Israeli occupation. The PA is pretty much perpetually on the verge of bankruptcy, relying on foreign aid and Israeli collected tax money, which Israel is often withholding for some perceived slight or other.

The PA was never really intended to be a long-term solution anyhow, and was meant to just give the Palestinians some autonomy until a final peace deal was reached that granted them full independence. Instead, it has become a caretaker for cities under seemingly permanent occupation.

Dismantling the PA would mean either conning the UN into taking over the territory directly, an unlikely proposition, or simply handing the keys back to Israel and forcing the Israeli military, the official governor of the occupied territories, to handle basic services in major cities.

That’s a lose-lose for the Israelis, who would be stuck with a major bill in providing those services to the cities, and would also face more direct blame when their policies cause hardship in cities that have come under their direct rule.

Naturally…

U.S. warns against disbanding Palestinian National Authority

The United States on Monday warned the Palestinians against moving to disband their transitional authority, saying the step will have ‘very serious implications’ for bilateral relationship.

‘It would obviously have very serious implications for our relationship, including our assistance going forward,’ State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told reporters at a regular news briefing.

She said the U.S., along with the international community, had put millions of dollars into building Palestinian institutions under the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) over the years.

Palestinian officials broached the possibility of dismantling the PNA in response to the ultimate demise of the current round of peace talks with Israel, which started in late last July and are scheduled to end by April 29.

Washington is trying its best to extend the negotiations but without success as of now. Palestinian negotiators are preparing to meet on April 26 to discuss what the next steps will be.

The PNA’s disintegration will render the Palestinian territories a state under occupation, a move that would increase legal and international pressure on Israel as it has to fill in a power vacuum.

Psaki called the move a ‘type of extreme step,’ saying ‘It would certainly not be in the interests of the Palestinian people for all of that to be lost.’

Bibi’s bullsh*t response…

Netanyahu: When the Palestinians want peace, they should let us know

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu criticized the Palestinian Authority on Monday, saying that its threat to dissolve and the ruling Fatah faction’s efforts to forge unity with Hamas indicate a lack of desire for peace.

‘Today, we saw the Palestinian Authority speak of dismantling itself and also talking about unity with Hamas,’ the premier told revelers at a Mimuna celebration in Or Akiva. ‘They should decide – either dissolve, or enter into a union with Hamas. When they want peace, they should let us know. Because we want a genuine peace.’

The prime minister also mentioned the rocket attacks from Gaza which struck southern Israel during the holiday period.

‘Even on this day, which is our holiday, our enemies fired missiles at our towns, and our policy is clear – to respond immediately, and with great force,’ Netanyahu said. ‘We are going after all those who come to strike at us. This is what we have done, and this is what we continue to do.’

In wrapping up, we’ve been extra busy in Yemen…

Yemen: Drone Strikes Start of ‘Massive’ Operation Against al-Qaeda

As McClatchy reported…

U.S. drone strikes came despite Yemen’s hopes to limit them

A series of U.S. government drone strikes in Yemen over recent days has brought into sharp relief divisions among the country’s rulers over how to rein in a program that they’ve long supported.

Only last week, a top Yemeni military official told McClatchy the government had placed the drone program ‘under review’ in hopes of persuading the United States to limit strikes.

The most recent strikes _ one Saturday morning in the central province of al Bayda that hit a vehicle carrying more than a dozen suspected militants from al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, another roughly 24 hours later in the reputed AQAP stronghold of al Mahfad in the southern province of Abyan and a third Monday that killed three in Shabwah province _ show that such a review has yet to limit the attacks.