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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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Did Climate Change Cause The Fall Of The Ming Dynasty?

In the mid-17th century, the weather in China got colder. The frequency of droughts and floods increased while some regions were wiped out by tragic famines. And the once-unstoppable Ming dynasty began to lose power.

Ming dynasty painted ceremonial warriors

Gabriel Grésillon

The accounts are chilling. In the summary of his course on modern Chinese history at the Collège de France, Pierre-Etienne Will examined journals held by various individuals, often part of the Chinese administration, during the final years of the Ming dynasty. These autobiographical writings were almost always kept secret, but they allow us to immerse ourselves in the everyday life of the first half of 17th-century China.

In the Jiangnan region, close to Shanghai and generally considered as a land of plenty, the 1640s did not bode well. The decade that had just ended was characterized by an abnormally cold and dry climate and poor harvests. The price of agricultural goods kept rising, pushing social tension to bursting points.

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