ARUTZ SHEVA, HAARETZ, JERUSALEM POST (Israel); REUTERS

Worldcrunch

TEL AVIV - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against civilians, an Israeli Intelligence official stated on Tuesday.

Haaretz reports that the head of the Research Division at Military Intelligence, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun said: “To the best of our professional understanding, the regime has used lethal chemical weapons on a number of occasions, including the incident on March 19”.

Addressing a security conference at Tel Aviv University, he went on to describe the evidence that led him to this conclusion, including pictures of the affected area, as well as descriptions of victims with foam coming out of their mouths. The most likely agents used relied on sarin, which acts as a nerve agent and is fatal even in low doses.

"In Syria there is a large arsenal of chemical weapons, more than 1,000 tons of chemicals, thousands of aerial bombs and quite a lot of warheads and surface-to-surface missiles that can be armed with chemical weapons," said Brun.

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A Syrian soldier takes aim. Photo by U.S. Dept. Of Defense

He also said there was a possibility that Syria's chemical weapons could find their way into the hands of terrorists, "who don’t undertake normal cost-benefit calculations."

Attempts to transfer advanced weapons systems between Assad’s regime and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah were also addressed by Brun. Regarding what some reports recently deemed an Israeli attack on Syria, he affirmed: “the SA-17 missile launchers that were bombed in Syria were going to be transferred to Hezbollah.”

This issue, writes Haaretz, was also addressed by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Monday, when he said that the transfer of advanced weaponry was crossing a red line and when such a thing was done, “we act.”

Reuters reports that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel seconded his Israeli counterpart, describing the use of chemical weapons as a “game changer.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, there have been three alleged Syrian chemical weapons attacks -- the aforementioned March 19 attack near Aleppo, another near Damascus, also in March, as well as one in Homs in December. In each case, Assad’s government and the rebels have blamed each other.

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Geopolitics

Putin Psychology 101: The World Tries To Get Inside Russian Leader’s Head

Experts in geopolitics and the workings of world leaders have accelerated a two-decade long quest to understand the motivations of the enigmatic man in the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin during the president's annual press conference in Russia

Kremlin.ru
Anna Akage

PARISVladimir Putin’s origin story, fed by Russian propaganda into the Western media, centers around his rise to lead Russia after a strategic KGB posting in the closing years of the Cold War. Understanding his current geopolitical ambitions would thus require that we imagine the mindset of a Soviet spymaster ready to manipulate world politics for the past two decades as he attempts to build a new Russian empire.

But what if Putin was nothing more than a desk clerk in his late 1980s posting in the eastern German city of Dresden? If the young functionary was simply a convenient tool plucked by the circle of oligarchs formed around then Russian president Boris Yeltsin to secure their own status? That indeed is the reading from influential Russian blogger and political analyst Maxim Katz, who last year exposed recently declassified documents that Putin was a minor player who went by the codename of “Moth” — not a bear or tiger, or even a hamster!

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