FROM Howard LaFranchi
Syria’s Chemical Weapons and Obama’s “Red Line” Last week, Britain and France asked the UN to investigate evidence that Syria has used chemical weapons in its ongoing civil war. Yesterday, Israel’s top military intelligence analyst said photographs from attacks near Aleppo and Damascus show victims with constricted pupils foaming at the mouth—possible signs of the nerve agent sarin. He told an international conference in Jerusalem that, without “appropriate reaction,” Syria might conclude such use is “legitimate.” The Syrian government concedes it has chemical weapons but promises not to use them—unless there is foreign intervention. President Obama has said even moving such weapons around would be a “game changer” and constitute a “red line.” But just what did he mean? If there’s persuasive evidence, and the US fails to act, will Syria be emboldened by what seems a hollow warning? Available options include arming some rebels, establishing a “no-fly zone” and trying to seize or destroy the weapons. We’ll look at the prospects for increased US involvement.
Israeli and Palestinian Leaders Agree to Negotiating Plan There's been growing skepticism that Israel and the Palestinians could even agree on a framework for resuming Middle East peace negotiations. But today, after a lapse of seven years, President Bush said the time is right. With Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas at his side today in Annapolis, he read a joint statement , promising to address all the "core issues" and setting a deadline for a "two-state solution" by the end of next year. With negotiations scheduled to resume next month, today's agreement calls for implementation of the Roadmap established in 2003. At today's conference , attended by no less than 49 countries and international organizations--including Saudi Arabia, Syria and other members of the Arab League, President Bush set forth a formula that included obligations for Israelis, Palestinians and their Arab neighbors. What about Hamas, Benjamin Netanyahu and Iran? Do weak leaders reflect what's really happening on the ground? Can the US play a decisive role, presuming it wants to?
Is the White House Looking for an Exit Strategy in Iraq? Defense Secretary Robert Gates has cancelled a trip to South America amid reports that he's part of an "agonizing reappraisal" of Iraq strategy at the Bush White House, set off in part by the defections of high-ranking Republican Senators. Press Secretary Tony Snow, who was grilled by reporters today, stressed that the President wanted to respond to the situation on the ground rather than to politics. Howard LaFranchi is diplomatic correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor .
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