Last month, I organized a talk at Seattle’s University Temple with humanitarian relief activist, Rita Zawaideh. She’s a Jordanian-American active in providing relief for the millions of Syrian refugees spanning Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. I spoke in particular about Israel’s role in the Syrian conflict. This is particularly relevant in the aftermath of the Israeli attack on the Syrian weapons depot at Latakia, a story I broke over the past week or so.
I published the text of my talk in this post.
We were able to contribute $250 to Rita’s efforts thanks to the generosity of those in attendance. My apologies that I wasn’t able to upload this video earlier.
You said that “millions” have died in Iraq in the decade after the 2003 invasion. What do you base your numbers on? One of the more authoritative sources documented
113,265 – 123,995 civilian deaths, with possibly 11,000 more. (Iraqi Body Count Project)
Richard Silverstein says
@i: We have a major disagreement then. Here’s one source that supports my claim:
The Lancet also concluded that 600,000 died as a result of the war. There are numerous, conflicting estimates which you can review here.
I meant to include those who died as a result of the pre-war sanctions against Saddam’s regime. That would take us back to the early 2000s, a bit longer than the “decade” I mentioned. At least 500,000 or more are estimated to have died as a result of the sanctions.
I don’t want to split hairs because I value your exclusive sources and insightful commentary, but just to clarify: Your point about “millions” dead in Iraq in a decade (presumably after the invasion) was made in the context of an argument. Your argument, as I understood it, was that while the situation in Syria seemed bad with about 100,000 dead so far, intervention by the West or others now can lead to an Iraq-like situation, which is when you mentionned the “millions” dead in Iraq figure.
The inclusion of victims of malnutrition and such due to sanctions in pre-invasion Iraq does not seem to belong in this argument.
Also, the estimates of over 500,000 dead children due to sanctions in Iraq span a much much longer time period than a couple of years in the early 2000s (i.e. 2000, 2001 and part of 2003).
Lastly, 3 of the 5 studies at the wikipedia link on Iraqi casualties due to the invasion have them at under 200,000.
Even using the highest figures of just over 1 million from the ORB study, and adding the around 500,000 childrens’ deaths due to the many many years of sanctions in pre-invasion Iraq, amounts to well under 2 million, which is the abosolute minimum I think of when I hear someone say millionS.
In any case, your point that invading Syria may lead to Iraq-like long term difficulties worse than the current Syria crisis to date is well taken. I agree with you on that.
I bring all of this up not to stir undue acrimony, but just to clarify for the benefit of viewers who may not have the chance to review original sources.
Richard Silverstein says
Sorry, but the estimates of 1 million+ dead which includes deaths by illness, malnutrition & other non-military related causes are directly related to western sanctions against Iraq & the war itself So of course they should be included since without western intervention these people wouldn’t have died. The more escalation there is in the Syria conflict the higher these numbers will rise. If there was an arms embargo for all sides of the Syria conflict, they would have to use sticks & knives to kill each other & the rate of killing would decline.
If you concede over 1-million were killed or died due to direct & indirect war causes, that’s still 10 times greater than the number that have died in Syria. My goal is to prevent the Syrian deaths from coming anywhere near the Iraqi level of death.
I have few questions regarding your dream:
“…withdrawal to 1967 borders, recognition of a Palestinian state sharing Jerusalem as its capital, and return of refugees.”
1. The return of the refugees to where? Israel? Palestine?
2. In your dream, what would become of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank?
“What would Israel get? It would get the U.S. and United Nations acting as guarantors of the peace…Arab states would end their hostilities with Israel.
3. What if a country or two will chose to remain hostile to Israel? What if terrorist organization acting within countries that joined the initiative, would remain hostile? Who will stop Islamic Jihad from rocketing Israeli cities and how should Israel response to these threats?
4. After the incompetence of the UN forces in Syria and Lebanon and the the US with its crossed red lines, why should Israel put its faith in them in guarantying peace?
Just to add to your question:
1. As part of the withdrawal agreement of the 1956 war, president Eisenhower gave a letter to Israel in which he guaranteed that the US will intervene, by force if necessary, in-case the Egyptians will try to implement a blockade again by closing the straight’s of Tiran. 11 years later the Egyptian’s blocked the straights of TIran, president Johnson “lost” his copy of the letter and the US didn’t fulfill it’s commitment.
2. The UN peace keeping force, was simply expelled by Egypt pre the 1967 war. What will prevent the future Palestinian state from doing the same ?
Richard Silverstein says
First, I don’t believe Eisenhower did what you claim. And you don’t offer any evidence for your claim, which is one of the first comment rules here. But if he did offer such a promise, it was a ridiculous one.
As for UN peacekeeping forces, there are many different types of forces. The ones in the Sinai were not the type that I would put in place to secure a peace agreement between Israel & Palestine. The peacekeeping force in Lebanon is reasonably robust. It would need to be armed & have a mandate to actively keep the peace rather than merely be observers. There have been failed & successful UN peacekeeping operations.
The following is from President Eisenhower broadcast dated Feb 20 1957. Reading it one can learn about the US commitment to the Israeli Government expressed in the letter given to the Israeli Government by Secretary Dulles on Feb 11 1957.
“The United Nations General Assembly on 2 February by an overwhelming vote adopted a pertinent resolution. It was to the effect that, after full withdrawal of Israel from the Gulf of Aqaba and Gaza areas, the United Nations Emergency Force should be placed on the Egyptian-Israeli armistice lines to assure the scrupulous maintenance of the armistice agreement. Also, the United Nations General Assembly called for the implementation of other measures proposed by the Secretary-General. These other measures embraced the use of the United Nations Emergency Force at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, so as to assure non-belligerency in this area.
“The United States was a co-sponsor of this United Nations resolution. Thus the United States sought to assure that Israel would, for the future, enjoy its rights under the armistice and under international law.”
“However, in a further effort to meet the view of Israel in these respects, Secretary of State Dulles, at my direction, gave to the Government of Israel on I I February a statement of United States policy. This has now been made public. It pointed out that neither the United States nor the United Nations had authority to impose upon the parties a substantial modification of the armistice agreement which was freely signed by both Israel and Egypt. Nevertheless, the statement said, the United States as a member of the United Nations would seek such disposition of the United Nations Emergency Force as would assure that the Gaza Strip could no longer be used as a source of armed infiltration and reprisals.
The Secretary of State orally informed the Israeli Ambassador that the United States would be glad to urge and support, also, some participation by the United Nations, with the approval of Egypt, in the administration of the Gaza Strip. The principal population of the Strip consists of about 200,000 Arab refugees, who exist largely as a charge upon the benevolence of the United Nations and its members.
With reference to the passage into and through the Gulf of Aqaba, we expressed the conviction that the gulf constitutes international waters, and that no nation has the right to prevent free and innocent passage in the gulf. We announced that the United States was prepared to exercise this right itself and to join with others to secure general recognition of this right.”
Less then 11 years later, President Eisenhower’s statement was put to the test, despite his kind words and good intention strait of Tiran were once again closed to Israeli ships.
So based on region’s history ,what guarantee do we Israeli’s have that this time the US and the international community will keep their position and fulfill their commitment as “peace keepers”, should one of the sides to the agreement decided’s to terminate the presence of the international “peace keeping force” ?
Richard Silverstein says
@Gonen: As I suspected, Eisenhower promised nothing of what you claimed he did. He did not promise to enforce freedom of movement through the Straits of Tiran with U.S. military force if necessary. He certainly never promised to go to war to support such a claim.
What he did say was that the U.S. believed the Strait was international waters & should be free to all shipping. He further said the U.S. would send ships through the Strait to demonstrate its support for such a notion. But going to war? Not a chance. I do NOT appreciate commenters making false claims as you have. Be more precise in future and do no misquote or mischaracterize the material you offer.
These are two different situations you are offering. In one, a U.S. president promised 60 yrs ago that Israel should have the right of safe passage through the Straits of Tiran. In another, the world community (not just an individual U.S. president) would be committed to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal which would be enforced by international forces under the auspices of the UN or some other suitable body.
So you’re actually claiming that under such circumstances the world (not just an individual U.S. president) would abandon its committment to such a peace agreement and tell Israel it should fend for itself in the event of an attack?
Not to mention that the notion that the fourth most powerful military in the world has to worry about whether Egypt will close the Strait of Tiran (or any other security threat you could imagine) is beyond ludicrous. Nice try though. And btw, other commenters here have raised precisely the same claim as you numerous times. I wish you could at least raise original objections instead of the same old tired ones offered by others before you.
The issue is not Egypt or the Strait of Tiran. The issue is very simple: World Intervention is acceptable only when both sides to the agreement adhere to the agreement. When one of the sides decides to disrespect the agreement and expels the peace keeping force, the peace keeping force leave the area.
The above was brought as an example to a violated commitment both by the US and the international community. Are you asking us to put our faith in those who failed us before ? What makes you think that this time around will be any different, and the international community will meet it’s commitments ?
Was the international community able to stop the massacre in Syria ?