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The Latest On American Intervention in Syria

What you need to know going into Labor Day Weekend

Adam Chandler
August 30, 2013
A Syrian soldier gives a thumbs-up as he stands on top of a tank alongside two fellow soldiers in the Eastern Ghouta area on the northeastern outskirts of Damascus on August 30, 2013. (SAM SKAINE/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian soldier gives a thumbs-up as he stands on top of a tank alongside two fellow soldiers in the Eastern Ghouta area on the northeastern outskirts of Damascus on August 30, 2013. (SAM SKAINE/AFP/Getty Images)

If there’s ever a good time to announce that you’re considering a very unpopular military intervention in a foreign conflict that would theoretically put you on the same side as Al-Qaida, then the Friday afternoon before Labor Day weekend might be it. So it went this afternoon with President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry laying out their case for American involvement in Syria.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry spoke as the administration released an unclassified intelligence report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

“Read for yourselves the evidence from thousands of sources,” Mr. Kerry said in aggressively laying out the administration’s case for a strike on Syria. “This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. This is what Assad did to his own people.”

Mr. Kerry said that more than 1,400 people were killed in the chemical attack, including more than 400 children.

More troubling were reports that the United States had intelligence that the Assad regime was preparing a chemical weapons attack as many as three days before it was carried out.

None of this is cut and dry, which is why a consensus–local, international, intergalactic–about what to do in Syria has been so elusive. As you gear up for the weekend, here is some of our Syria coverage from the week and some of our bigger stories from the past year, which we will help give you a clearer picture.

Earlier today, we reported on the first-ever deployment of an Iron Dome battery to Tel Aviv in case of an attack from the North.

We may be heated over the Syrian situation, but as Batya Ungar-Sargon notes from on the ground, Israelis are typically very blasé about the threat.

Jewish Israelis seemed jaded or just too preoccupied with other threats small and large to worry much. At the Yafa Café and Bookstore, Yoav Kapshuk, a 35-year-old doctoral student of political science who lives in Jaffa, said he already has a gas mask. “But I don’t think I’ll need it,” he told me. “There are so many other threats to Israel in our everyday life.” Kapshuk shrugged. “Maybe if a war starts, I will feel more afraid.”

But the Arab Israelis I spoke to tended to see the conflict in Syria in a larger context, an instance of the West’s continuous attempts to dominate and intervene in the Middle East.

David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy saw a potential strike on Syria as having largely ramifications vis-a-vis Iran and its nuclear program.

Israel is thinking in terms of the bigger picture in the Middle East, particularly Iran: As one of Israel’s top officials told me last week, “when the US puts forward a red line, it has to mean it. The issue goes beyond Syria. It is a matter of credibility with reverberations for US policy towards Iran.” Amid speculation and skepticism about the depth of American commitment in preventing a nuclear Iran, enforcing red lines in Syria would at least send out a broader message that words do have meaning.

• Earlier this month, Yochi Dreazen wrote on the Israeli use of drones and steel fences on its border with Syria to safeguard it against the threat.

• Back in June, Waller R. Newell used Plato and Aristotle to help decipher the brutality of Bashar Assad’s regime.

• Back in the spring, Tablet had a symposium on the fracturing of the Middle East that featured experts like Robert Worth, David Goldman, Edward Luttwak, Amos Harel, Nathan Thrall, and Lee Smith.

• Also in the spring, Jonathan Spyer wrote smartly on how Israeli officials were divided over which side in the Syrian civil war to support.

You can read all of Tablet’s Syria coverage here.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.

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