World View: Syria Crosses 'Red Line' with Chemical Weapons

This morning's key headlines from

  • Cyprus rejects European bailout without a single supporting vote
  • California businesses hit with $120 million retroactive tax
  • Syria crosses a 'red line' with chemical weapons

Cyprus rejects European bailout without a single supporting vote

Protesters holds up protest signs in Nicosia, Cyprus (AP)
Protesters holds up protest signs in Nicosia, Cyprus (AP)

In a stunning rebuke to European politicians, including Cyprus's newly elected president Nicos Anastasiades, Cyprus's parliament rejected the terms of the proposed European bailout that would have levied a 6.7% tax on all bank accounts with less than 100,000 euros, and 9.9% on amounts above 100,000 euros. 36 members voted against the plan, while 18 abstained. Meanwhile, politicians have been pointing fingers at each other, each claiming that it was somebody else's dumb idea to confiscate the savings of widows and orphans.

Although it's still possible that the Europeans will cave and the ECB will bail out Cyprus completely, a number of commentators are saying that the most likely scenario now is that Cyprus will leave the euro and -- get this -- might possibly replace it with the Russian ruble as its official currency. The reason is that Cyprus's economy is already overwhelmingly dominated by investments (and money laundering) by Russian oligarchs.

The big jewel in play here is the offshore oil and gas fields potentially worth many billions of dollars in the years to come. Russia would like to have rights to those fields, and the Europeans may give Cyprus a complete bailout in return for European control of the fields. Reuters and FT Brussels Blog

California businesses hit with $120 million retroactive tax

California's tax authorities have announced that they're re-interpreting a five-year-old tax law which gives a break for small businesses that's given a lot of credit for promoting job growth and investment, especially in high tech. California plans to send out tax bills to companies that took advantage of the law, and demand $120 million in retroactive tax payments. Opponents are saying that the re-interpretation is confiscation, like the confiscation of bank savings accounts in Cyprus. Fox News

Syria crosses a 'red line' with chemical weapons

It is "highly probable" that chemical weapons have been used in Syria. According to Syria's state-run news service Sana:

"Terrorists launched a missile containing chemical products into the region of Khan al-Assal in the province of Aleppo, killing 15 people, mainly civilians."

There are a couple of problems with this claim, according to analysts. First, the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad has lied frequently, blaming "terrorists" for its own actions, namely firing missiles into homes and schools, massacring innocent mothers and children, with the full support of the Russians. So it looks like something we've seen dozens of times since this conflict began: al-Assad makes a bloody attack on innocent civilians, this time using chemical weapons, and then blames it on "terrorists."

The second problem, according to analysts I heard, is that launching a chemical weapons missile requires sophistication that the rebels don't have, and that the regime does have.

The regime's use of chemical weapons comes a day after the regime's warplanes attacked targets in Lebanon, threatening to expand the war outside of Syria.

Initially, the Obama administration made a statement that there was no evidence that the chemical weapons allegations were true, but the chairman of the of the House Intelligence Committee says that there is a "high probability" that chemical weapons were used.

The administration will now face a credibility test. President Obama has said unequivocally in the past that the use of chemical weapons would be a "red line" that, if crossed, would bring U.S. forces into the war. If the chemical weapons charges are confirmed, that statement will be tested. CNN

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