10 April 2018   2 comments

As the world waits for the response of the US and Europe to the reports of chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government against civilians in the city of Douma, it is useful to know the background to the use of these weapons in Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011 (although it is clear that Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, slaughtered thousands in the city of Hama in 1982).  ABC News has published a timeline of the known events.  Chemical weapons were supposed to have been removed from Syria in 2014 and Russia agreed to monitor their removal.  But there were significant problems in the monitoring, cataloged by the international lawyer, Ahmet Üzümcü, most notably the omission of chlorine from the list of banned weapons (there are similar problems in listing white phosphorous and napalm as banned weapons).  Unfortunately, there are a large number of incidents concerning chemical weapons in the 20th century, and, shockingly, there have been no prosecutions on the use of chemical weapons despite their widespread use.


The Russian military forces in Syria have been put on high alert in anticipation of an attack by the US and its allies.  There are reports that the Syrian military has placed sophisticated anti-missile systems around the presidential house in Damascus, Syria, that Russian Beriev A-50 early-warning aircraft had been deployed along the coast, and the the Russian Black Sea fleet has been placed on high alert.  Additionally, the Russians have figured out to jam the communications of US drones in Syria. For its part, the US has deployed the Arleigh-class naval destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, to the eastern Mediterranean and that it will be joined by the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.  And Israel has indicated that it favors more military action, despite strong protests from Russia and Iran after its attack on  Syrian military base that killed four Iranian soldiers.  Israel faces three military threats in the region: Iranian troops in Syria, Hezbollah, which has thousands of missiles in Lebanon, and the Hamas-inspired protests in the Gaza.



Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the Boao Forum in China somewhat eased investor’s fears as he talked about “opening up” China’s markets to fairer trade.  But he did not mention at all one of President Trump’s key demands: that China “stop subsidizing the 10 high-tech industries targeted in the ‘Made in China 2025’ program.”  Further, Xinhua warned the US against underestimating China’s determination to defend its trading interests.  Despite the welcoming tone of the speech, the actual negotiations between the US and China on trade matters broke off over disagreements on specific details of what needs to be changed.  Moreover, while President Xi was giving his speech, the Chinese government filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization over the US tariffs on aluminum and steel.


Posted April 10, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 responses to “10 April 2018

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  1. Today was also the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It brought so much hope, yet the subsequent collapse of the political center, the Balkanization of “the wee country,” and the looming disaster that is Brexit seem to be undoing all that was accomplished. The loyalist paramilitaries are making their presence known again, and it’s only a matter of time before the republicans follow suit.

    How sad that people who can’t let go of the past have doomed the young folks who just want a peaceful, integrated future.


    • A very good and telling observation. Too few in the world are aware of how the optimism that had been building for many years has been crumbling in the wake of Brexit. But the hardening of lines seems to be a global phenomenon right now–a backlash against globalization. Thanks for your comment.


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