18 November 2017   Leave a comment

For the last two years the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have been trying to figure who was responsible for the use of banned chemical weapons in the civil war in Syria.   Recent attempts to renew the mandate for continuing the investigation have been vetoed by Russia which argues that the investigation itself is “fundamentally flawed”.  The evidence is overwhelming that both sarin and mustard gas have been used in the conflict, but determining which groups were responsible for the use of the banned weapons has proven to be elusive.  Russia has vetoed Security Council actions on the Syrian conflict 11 times since the civil war began in 2011.  The UN and the OPCW  “concluded the Syrian air force had dropped the deadly nerve agent on Khan Sheikhun” on 4 April 2017 but has yet to determine who gave the order to use the sarin.

Victim of the sarin gas attack at Khan Sheikhun


Paul Pillar is one of the most insightful analysts of security matters around.  He picked up on an article published in the New York Times by Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal on civilian casualties in Iraq by air operations conducted by the US coalition against Daesh (the Islamic States).  We know very little about civilian casualties but Khan and Gopal have written a meticulously researched article that indicates that civilian casualties are significantly higher than have been reported.  The article is truly impressive and clearly demonstrates the effects of the aerial war on the civilian population.  Pillar analyzes the data and elaborates on the strategic losses the US suffers when civilians are killed, undermining the effort to earn the support of the population.


The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has put together a video of satellite images of the earth from September 1997 to September 2017.  The video shows the changing of the seasons and one cannot help but be struck by the image of the earth as a living organism.  According to the site: “On land, vegetation appears on a scale from brown (low vegetation) to dark green (lots of vegetation); at the ocean surface, phytoplankton are indicated on a scale from purple (low) to yellow (high)”.  For more information on how to interpret the video, go directly to the site.

animated visualization of land vegetation and phytoplankton


Posted November 18, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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