Hagel urges caution on Syria chemical weapons claims

Updated 29 April 2013
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Hagel urges caution on Syria chemical weapons claims

CAIRO: US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged caution Wednesday over an Israeli claim Syria’s regime used chemical weapons, saying it was “serious business” and any evidence had to be weighed carefully.
Warning against a possible rush to judgment, Hagel indicated he had been caught off guard by allegations from an Israeli general this week that Syria had fired chemical agents against rebels in recent months.
“When I was in Israel they did not give me that assessment. I guess it wasn’t complete,” Hagel told reporters in Cairo on a tour of the Middle East that included a three-day visit to Israel.
The United States has warned any use or transfer of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” and possibly trigger military action.
Britain and France also suspect Syria has used chemical weapons but Hagel said US intelligence agencies were still evaluating information and were not yet convinced.
“Suspicions are one thing, evidence is another,” he said.
The Pentagon chief added that “this is serious business and you want to be as sure as you can be on these kind of things.”
Asked if US credibility could be at risk as it has repeatedly referred to a “red line,” Hagel said: “I don’t think there’s any danger.”
The United States cooperates with other spy services but ultimately had to rely “on its own intelligence,” he said before departing for Abu Dhabi.
Hagel’s comments marked his first public reaction since the Israeli military’s assessment came to light.
While Hagel was wrapping up his visit to Israel on Tuesday morning, Israeli Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, head of the research and analysis division of military intelligence, grabbed headlines when he alleged Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime had used chemical agents — mostly likely sarin gas — more than once.
“To the best of our professional understanding, the (Assad) regime has made use of deadly chemical weapons against the rebels in a number of incidents in the last few months,” Brun told a security conference in Tel Aviv.


Letter to Qatar: Abandon PR, change attitude, and siege would be lifted

Updated 26 April 2018
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Letter to Qatar: Abandon PR, change attitude, and siege would be lifted

LONDON: Four Arab ambassadors have called on Qatar to improve relations with its neighbors, change its attitude and stop its support for extremism, terror and destabilization in the region.

The four ambassadors of Saudi Arabia (Mohammed bin Nawwa), Bahrain (Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa), the UAE (Suleiman Al-Mazroui) and Egypt (Nasser Kamel) co-wrote a letter published on Wednesday in the Financial Times to answer an FT lead article titled “Qatar siege is meaningless.”

The ambassadors stressed in the letter that their governments had no plans to incorporate Qatar, as the FT claimed, but all they hoped for is that the Doha government committed to the international criteria to fight terrorism and “stop its support for terror and extremism in the region.”

In the letter, the four ambassadors reminded the paper that the prime minister of Qatar attended the wedding of the son of Abdel Rahman Al-Nueimi,who is listed on a US terror list, and is the main conduit to Al-Qaeda in Iraq where, according to the US, he funnelled millions of US dollars to the organization there.

The ambassadors added that Al-Nueimi is one of many sponsors of terror living and working in Qatar.

The ambassadors drew the readers’ attention to Qatar’s “double standard behavior” — saying one thing to the West, and doing the opposite.

They concluded the letter by demonstrating Qatar’s “duplicity.”

They said that Qatar has recently intensified the use of its media and PR to promote and support terror in the Middle East generally and in Saudi Arabia especially.

Recently Qatari broadcasters opened their airwaves to Houthi militia in Yemen and its propaganda calling for attacking Saudi Arabia.

In conclusion the ambassadors called on Doha to quit its public relations campaign and change its attitude — only then would the siege be over.