Only three weeks ago the world media was filled with horrific images of Syria’s purported use of chemical weapons and the military response of America and its allies. But we’ve been here before which raises the question: why does this keep happening?
Readex’s Nuclear Arms and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Global Perspectives, 1945-1996, contains abundant references to the development of Syrian chemical weapons as a readily attainable foil to Israel’s alleged nuclear capability, and as an impediment to American hegemony in the Middle East. In that region, chemical weapons have become the less-developed country’s nuclear arms, with most of the benefits and few of the liabilities of the latter.
The late Syrian President Hafez Assad, father of current President Bashar Assad, said as much in a 1987 interview in the newspaper Al-Qabas, as broadcast on the Damascus Domestic Service, recorded and translated by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), and now found in Nuclear Arms and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Assad spoke of a “taboo” against the use of nuclear weapons that he used to Syria’s advantage:
Khalifa Bilqasim Haftar and Omar al-Hariri, two of the leaders of the reportedly somewhat disorganized military opposition to Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, are not only mentioned in current news reports (see the Sunday, April 3, 2011, edition of The Washington Post), but also in the pages of translations produced and published in the 1980s and ‘90s by the U.S. Foreign Broadcast Information Service.
Here are a couple of the dozens of reports on then Col. Haftar from the FBIS Daily Reports.
First, consider this March 28, 1988 report on Col. Haftar’s decision to join the anti-Gaddafi forces.
Since 1941 the U.S. Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) has been recording, transcribing and translating intercepted radio broadcasts from foreign governments, official news services, and clandestine broadcasts from occupied territories. Now a comprehensive digital edition of this unique archive is available for students and scholars of world history and political science.
The historical precedents to topics in today's headlines from Libya, Egypt and the Middle East