To Read: Jeffrey Goldberg believes that Obama actually has a Middle East doctrine- disentanglement- and that he is on the verge of violating it-
If Obama strikes at Syria in a limited fashion, he will still be violating his own core doctrine, but for limited payout. He will simply be signaling to Assad that it is permissible to kill civilians with guns and bombs, but not with gas. If Assad survives an American onslaught, he might very well judge the U.S. a spent force, and continue using gas anyway.
This is why the Obama plan for Syria, as we currently understand it, is inadequate to the challenge. It is better to risk full-scale entanglement, and devise a long-term plan to help the Syrian opposition overthrow the regime, than to fire missiles at a handful of regime targets while leaving the regime itself intact.
Quote: “The use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime requires a decisive response. Our national security interests, those of our allies, and regional stability are at risk as Syria is disintegrating into a failed state. This is not a moment to look the other way”, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supporting a strike in Syria.
Number: $52.6b, here's a detailed diagram of the US' $52.6b Black budget (compliment of Edward Snowden).
To Read: Eliot Abrams criticizes some problematic remarks made by the chairman of the key European donor organization for the Palestinian efforts (who doesn't see Palestinian state building as a worthy endeavor for the moment)-
That is an extraordinary statement, and should not pass without notice. What he derides as “falling back into the comfort of an internationally subsidized state-building effort” is in fact the greatest challenge facing Palestinians now, and one they have not met. Nor have donors– Arab, American, European– met the challenge of providing adequate political and financial support for state-building, focusing instead for decades on repeated failed efforts at leaping to final status agreements. Those efforts have produced little for Palestinians, while state-building efforts can offer them pragmatic gains and real improvement in their lives–and can show Israelis that their security needs can be met in an independent Palestine.
Quote: “The Palestinians refused to talk to us for years because we will not continue at the point where Olmert left off. Our government will not return to ’67 lines, even with land swaps. The goal of that demand is for Israel to have indefensible borders. Jerusalem will remain united and will never be split. That is the way of the Likud; no other way will bring peace”, Israel's interior minister, Gidon Saar, stressing that the Likud has not changed its policies concerning the Palestinians.
Number: 141.5, the number of settler housing starts in the West Bank skyrocketed by 141.5 percent in the first half of 2013, according to the Central Bureau of statistics.
The Middle East
To Read: RAND's Alireza Nader examines the Syria conundrum from Iranian President Rowhani's perspective-
Syria is Iran's only real state ally in the Middle East. Without Syria the Islamic Republic would be more isolated and weakened in an increasingly unstable and dangerous region. But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's behavior also puts Iranian leaders, especially the newly elected President Hassan Rowhani, in a quandary. Gassing innocent civilians in violation of international norms clearly runs against Rowhani's foreign policy of "reason and moderation." And Rowhani, keen to reduce sanctions against Iran, must demonstrate a softer side to his interlocutors, particularly the United States.
Quote: "Everything must be done for a political solution but it will only happen if the coalition is able to appear as an alternative with the necessary force, notably from its army", France's President Hollande supporting a western coalition in Syria.
Number: 13, the British parliament voted against joining a US led attack on Syria by a majority of just 13 votes (557 MPs participated in the vote).
The Jewish World
To Read: A short piece tells the interesting tale of a Talmudic battle attended by the King of Spain 750 years ago (written by Harry Freedman)-
The king allowed the debate to run for a further day and then called a halt. Everyone was shocked when he effectively proclaimed the contest a draw. It had been a foregone conclusion that the church would win. The friars were perturbed when the king presented the rabbi with 300 dineros and said he had never heard someone who was wrong argue his case so well. It was as close as he could come to saying he had won.
But. of course, the rabbi didn’t really win. After presenting Ramban with his prize, the king decreed that he would come to the synagogue the following Sabbath, with Pablo Christiani, to preach the gospels. Ramban may have held his own in the debate. But he had lost the argument.
Quote: “Who’s better at waiting than the Jews? Interestingly, in Beckett’s early drafts of the play, the character of Estragon was named Levy. That tells you something”, Shane Baker, the man who translated 'Waiting for Godot' to Yiddish.
Number: 2000, the number of Jews who live in this unique shtetl in Azerbaijan.