On Monday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the Assad regime for war crimes, and another resolution accusing ISIS of committing genocide against Yazidis, Christians, and other religious and ethnic minorities. On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry also declared that ISIS is responsible for committing genocide. The House resolution focused on the Assad regime, which was passed with overwhelming support (392-3), urges President Obama to direct the US mission to the UN to promote the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to prosecute the Assad regime, along with its allies, Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia, as well as other groups involved in the conflict. It also directs the administration to collect and analyze evidence that can be used to support such prosecution.
The resolution states that “the vast majority of the civilians who have died in the Syrian conflict have been killed by the Government of Syria led by President Bashar al-Assad and its allies, specifically the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Iran’s terrorist proxies including Hezbollah.” The legislation denounces a litany of crimes perpetrated by the Assad regime including having committed “widespread torture and rape, employed starvation as a weapon of war, and massacred civilians, including through the use of chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and barrel bombs;… subjected nearly 1 million civilians to devastating sieges and manipulated the delivery of humanitarian aid for its own gain, thereby weaponizing starvation against populations.” The Assad regime is denounced for intentionally targeting “schools, water, electric, and medical facilities as a way to deny civilians access to critical infrastructure and basic services.”
The House resolution declaring ISIS responsible for committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria notes that the “indiscriminate violence of the Assad regime” has “contributed to the growth of ISIL and will continue to do so as long as the conflict continues.” That concept echoes Kerry’s repeated assertions that the Assad regime is “the principal reason that ISIS exists” as the regime is “a magnet for jihadists and foreign fighters from around the world.” Kerry has also described the Assad regime and ISIS as having a “symbiotic relationship,” noting that Assad’s regime helps finance ISIS by buying oil from it.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter called Iran’s treatment of the American sailors it detained in January “outrageous” and “inconsistent with international law” during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday. Carter, who credited the nuclear deal for preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, nonetheless acknowledged that “our concerns with Iran persist.” After singling out North Korea and the Islamic Republic as regional threats, Carter argued:
I want to say some words about Iran’s treatment of our sailors on Farsi island back in January. As I made clear then Iran’s actions were outrageous, unprofessional and inconsistent with international law and nothing we’ve learned about the circumstances of this incident since then changes that fact. It’s because of Iran’s recklessness and destabilizing behavior in that part of the world that DOD remains full speed ahead in our investments, our planning, and our posture to ensure that we deter Iran’s aggression, deter its malign influence and uphold our ironclad commitments to our regional friends and allies, especially Israel, to whom we maintain an unwavering, and unbreakable commitment.Carter’s criticism of the Iranian capture and treatment of the American sailors did not appear in the prepared text (.pdf) of his testimony, which was published on the committee’s website.
The secretary’s remarks came shortly after an Iranian general boasted that the Islamic Republic retrieved over 13,000 pages of intelligence from the sailors’ computers, GPS devices, and maps. The Washington Post characterized the latest revelation as yet another instance of Iran “[exploiting] the incident for propaganda purposes” and “angering American officials.”
Other incidents cited by the Post included broadcasting images of the sailors kneeling at gunpoint, of one sailor crying, of a drone flying near a U.S. aircraft carrier on the day of the capture, and of a video apology from one of the sailors, as well as the awarding of medals to the Iranian officers involved in the seizure.
Shortly after the incident, Sen. John McCain (R – Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, raised the possibility that Iran violated international law by detaining the naval boats and their crews.
Under international law, sovereign immune vessels like navy ships and boats do not lose their sovereign immune status when they are in distress at sea. Under international law, sovereign immune naval vessels are exempt from detention, boarding, or search. Their crews are not subject to detention or arrest.The broadcast of the images of the detained sailors has also been cited by some experts as a violation of the Geneva Conventions. (via TheTower.org)
Amit Kochavi, an 18-year-old entrepreneur from Tel Aviv, did not want to wait until after his military service to get a foothold in Israel’s startup ecosystem. Two years ago, he created a four-month startup accelerator called Tech Lounge at his high school, Gymnasia Herzliya. Now with more than 40 mentors on board, Tech Lounge expanded last year to Ironi Tet High School in Tel Aviv, the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa and a high school in Los Angeles, the city where Kochavi just completed a five-month internship at FastPay as a software engineer before going into the IDF. About 120 students signed up this year, and he predicts 80 will complete the accelerator – a respectable percentage considering the heavy demands of high school. “Students who participate in these accelerators get the tools, knowledge and experience that are needed to get started on their way in the Israeli innovation world,” Kochavi tells ISRAEL21c. “During the four months they meet twice a week with mentors from the high-tech world – investors, engineers, marketing and design people, the whole spectrum — and slowly develop themselves to the point where they have a business presentation and whatever they need to pursue it on their own. (via Israel21c)