Israeli Officials Believe U.S. Will Act After Chemical Attacks in Syria

IDF chief of staff Benny Ganz (center) in a file photo
IDF chief of staff Benny Ganz (center) in a file photo
Ron Ben-Yishay

TEL AVIV Israeli officials are under the impression that the United States soon will conduct a Syrian military operation even without a decision from the U.N. Security Council. This comes after a Friday phone call between U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey and Israeli Army chief of staff Benny Gantz.

A top Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) official says that the two parties discussed a variety of topics urgent to the Middle East, the most important being the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the latest events in Lebanon. If and when there is hard evidence of the chemical attack, Israeli officials predict the United States will operate even without a go-ahead from the Security Council.

Media outlets have recalled the war in Kosovo — when the United States, backed by NATO, attacked Serbian forces after Russia blocked a decision by the U.N. Security Council. The justification was to protect a large population of vulnerable civilians.

The impression in Israel is that if the U.S. does conduct a military operation in Syria, it would be a limited but effective undertaking meant to send a message to Assad — namely, that the international community will not accept the use of weapons of mass destruction on civilians or anyone else.

War ships in approach

U.S. President Barack Obama has been meeting in recent days with top U.S. security officials to discuss possible reactions to last week’s chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria.

White House officials explained that the president’s national security advisors are discussing possibilities with him, and this comes after the Pentagon announced it was moving warships to the Middle East in anticipation of a military attack.

A U.S. Defense Department official told The Washington Post that four destroyers were in the Mediterranean Sea near Syria, a position from which they could fire cruise missiles. The U.S. Army typically retains just three warships of this type in the region, but military officials ordered a ship that had been scheduled to leave to instead stay in anticipation of an attack.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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