In Syria, citizen journalists work to document the war while struggling to get by. Meanwhile, Syria’s rebels wait on the US airstrikes that may or may not be coming: “America is going to strike empty bases that are useless to the regime and this cosmetic strike will then be used as a front to go after us,” notes one. And new video of rebels executing bound prisoners once again complicates Western support for the opposition.
Anne Applebaum sees Obama sending mixed messages on Syria, and Jay Ulfelder uses a poker analogy to explain why the threatened strikes are unlikely to uphold the anti-CW norm. Either way, Assad stands to gain: if America launches limited strikes he gains the legitimacy of opposing the regionally-unpopular US while paying few real costs, and if it doesn’t Assad can claim to have faced down the global superpower.
Chemical weapons expert Richard Price asks ‘what’s the right way to nurture a norm?’ Ezra Klein recently spoke with Price, who highlighted the role of “moral entrepreneurs” in developing the anti-chemical weapons norm (via Josh Busby).
Why did Assad use chemical weapons, anyway, and who directly ordered the attack? Joshua Keating talks with political scientist Alastair Smith, co-author of The Dictator’s Handbook. New reporting by McClatchy suggests that the high death toll of the chemical attack was an “operational mistake,” and quotes a Hezbollah commander relaying that “Assad had lost his temper and committed a huge mistake by giving the order for the poison gas use” to an Iranian contact. (Note that the low death count of the recently-released French intelligence summary discussed in the McClatchy report is not a comprehensive number.)
Last week Ora Szekely asked what the US and the international community can realistically do to help end the war and Syrians’ suffering. Lydia DePillis and Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth stress the need to protect civilians and help refugees.
Oren Barak argues that the international community, not only the US, must punish Assad’s chemical weapons transgressions. While Barak is aware of Russian and Chinese intransigence at the UN, he asks if “a massive coalition is formed… would Russia, China and Iran, which are highly dependent on other states in the world, be able to ignore it?” Countering this optimistic assessment, Max Fisher notes the four reasons that Moscow will not give up its support for Assad, no matter the diplomatic pressure.
Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is scheduled to visit Russia’s Syrian naval base in early December. This news is a good excuse to highlight the saga of the Soviet Navy’s long struggle to acquire carriers, a story that culminated in the Kuznetsov.
Elsewhere, El Salvador reacts to a rise in gang killings (via Mike Allison). Protests continue in Brazil, with police using tear gas to disperse demonstrations.
The Dutch Supreme Court has ruled that the Netherlands’ government is responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslim men killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.