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Lloyd Axworthy in the Huffington Post, "Will Obama Help Syria?"


by Rhonda Spivak, December 6, 2012

At the luncheon of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba,[] on Nov 22 at the Fairmont Hotel I thought of asking University of Winnipeg President Lloyd Axworthy, the keynote speaker at the event,  about the dire situation in Syria. But alas, I didn't in the end because Axworthy was outlining his vision for downtown Winnipeg, not downtown Damascus.

Nonetheless Axworthy has been speaking out on the issue of Syria which is worth reflecting upon now. This is  especially the case as the news breaks that the United States and its allies could well have to  take military action since it appears that Syrian despot Assad in his state of desperation is considering using chemical weapons on his own people, or possibly even Israel. [As this is being written, the US is now huddling with Israel and other allies as Assad’s forces “load chemical weapons onto bombs”.]
On November 15, a week before he spoke at the Jewish Foundation luncheon, Axworthy, who is a former Liberal Foreign Minister of Canada wrote an article about the situation in Syria with Allan Rock,  a former Liberal Minister of Justice and  Canadian Ambassador to the UN  that appeared in the Huffington Post entitled “Will Barack Obama Help Syria?”

In the piece, Axworthy and Rock correctly referred to the fact that Syria has become a threat to the world, as a result of the failure of the international community to take appropriate measures do deal with it as they should have done much earlier. Axworthy and Rock called upon President Obama then to put Syria on his priority list and focus on getting the international community to take action [presumably well before we got to the point where Assad’s forces got to loading chemical weapons on bombs.]
 As Axworthy and Rock wrote on Nov 15:

"Perhaps most ominously, Israel and the Syrian government are beginning to trade salvos in the Golan Heights -- all a consequence of a vicious civil war that the international community has, through its failure to act, allowed to become a threat to regional peace and security."
Axworthy and Rock lament with justification the lack of action on the part of the international community:

"It didn't need to come to this. Indeed, the international community had begun making progress in protecting civilians from rapacious governments. But in the case of Syria, with deadlock at the Security Council, America distracted by elections and Europe consumed with fiscal woes, the spiral has been left to accelerate downwards.”
In the piece, Axworthy and Rock called on Obama to show leadership to take the “robust measures” needed, noting “ It is past time for a major humanitarian effort through protected zones on the borders and in the refugee camps.”  The two also note that a “no fly zone should now be actively considered, along with other measures such as a reference to the International Criminal Court.”
As Axwroothy and Rock write, “It is time that Barack Obama is asked to show the leadership needed if we are to end the slaughter and stop the cross-border spread of violence that threatens the whole region. With his new mandate, he is the only international figure with enough clout to rally support for the robust measures that are needed.”
They add, “David Cameron has already expressed an interest in partnering with Obama to make Syria a priority, and Canada should join them. Such a partnership should work closely with regional neighbours, mainly Turkey, but also Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and ask that they contribute the necessary resources.”
Axworthy and Rock conclude that Canada has a role to play:,
 “ .. above all, addressing the security and humanitarian threats in Syria must be at the heart of any new American foreign policy agenda.
“Canada can have an important role in this partnership. Stephen Harper has made recent and laudable efforts to influence Russia to step back from obstructing peace in Syria. But words need to be followed up by actions, and Canada's more active engagement can make a real difference to the shared cause.
 “The "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine was intended to move the international community beyond ad hoc interventions towards a more principled and predictable approach -- with the primary focus on the security of civilians. After success in Libya, Syria represents a step back to our old ways. It is time to refocus and re-energize international protection efforts under the aegis of the newly re-elected President of the United States.”
In regard to Canada’s role in regard to Syria, the Winnipeg Jewish Review spoke with Canada’s Minister of Public Securtiy Vic Toews on October 10, the day that the New York Times  reported that the  United States military has secretly sent a task force of 150 military planners to Jordon  to help Jordan to monitor chemical and biological weapons sites in Syria ,  bolster that country's military capabilities in the event that violence escalated along its border, and to help Jordan deal with refugees pouring over the border from Syria.


Since the United States was sending in military staff to Jordan, I asked Toews if he thought it was possible that Canada would join them and also send military/intelligence forces there.

Toews didn't say yes and didn't say no. He responded  “All I can say is that we are in constant consultation with our allies in this regard.”

On a different note, I asked Toews if he had recently travelled to the Middle East and he said he had been to Saudia Arabia in the summer. Now that didn’t surprise me exactly, since the Saudis and Canada have something in common; they  do not want to see Iran get nuclear weapons.

And I got a sense that Toews heard on his trip just how much the Saudis do not want a nuclear Iran. 

The Atlantic reported Monday that Israel asked Jordan on a number of occasions for "permission" to bomb Syrian chemical weapons sites, citing intelligence sources in both countries.

According to the Atlantic, Jordan turned down requests a number of times in the past two months, saying "the time was not right." Jordan is reportedly wary of allowing Israel to bomb the sites in Syria, fearing a military response on Jordanian territory. "A number of sites are not far from the border," the report quoted a foreign source as saying

Dispatch form Jerusalem: David Bedein, our correspondent in Jerusalem adds on the subject of Syria’s chemical weapons, that although you may  not see this reported anywhere else, Germany is the source for Syria’s chemical weapons of mass destruction, a fact that was uncovered by Kenneth Timmerman.

As Bedein wrote in an article this summer  :
“Germany: Source of Syria Chemical Weapons Capability

The seminal report, “Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Cases of Iran, Syria, and Libya,” written in 1990 by Kenneth Timmerman and published by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, first exposed Syria’s import of unconventional WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) technology provided by German owned US firms  that export WMD technology to Iraq, Syria and Libya
Working as special Middle East CNN radio correspondent in 1991, I traveled to Germany and to cover the issue of German exports of WMD technology to the Middle East..
At the German Bundestag Parliament in Bonn, then- German opposition leader Rudolf Dessler told CNN radio that German firms circumvent the ban on Germany exporting such lethal substances through a loophole which allows German firms to establish subsidiaries in the US, which quietly operate with the full knowledge and consent of the German government.
These firms work on contractual arrangements and with the clearance and authorization and confidentiality agreements signed with the US Department of Defense.
A case in point: Bayer AG, a German company, built a pesticide plant and continues to export lethal pesticide formulas through US subsidiary companies, with a packaging line for toxic substances and a toxic disposal unit. Such items are essential to making powerful chemical weapons.
Our news agency contacted Kenneth Timmerman, who this year is running as Republican candidate for Maryland’s Congressional Eighth District, to ask him about his perspective of Syria’s chemical weapons capability.
Timmerman’s response was:
“Internationally recognized experts such as Dr. Jill Dekker have revealed that Syria’s extensive and highly sophisticated biological weapons program includes production and chemical and storage facilities in Aleppo, site of fierce fighting between government troops and rebel forces. Given the mass casualties that would result from the release of weaponized biological agents, securing and destroying these stockpiles, which the Syrian regime acknowledged possessing on Monday, must become an international priority...Israel would be justified in launching pre-emptive strikes on Syrian chemical weapons storage sites if they detect preparations to transfer these weapons to staging areas for use. Any transfer or imminent transfer of chemical or biological weapons to Hezbollah would be a grave escalation of the conflict and, I believe, would signal a desperate effort on the part of a dying Assad regime to internationalize the conflict...I witnessed Iran’s vicious attacks on Israeli civilians first hand in Kiryat Shemona during the 2006 Lebanon war, when more than 4,000 Hezbollah rockets crashed into Israel towns and villages”.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.