Snow threatens to destabilize Middle East


Facing the threat of Snow in the Middle East needs to be a global priority, US President Barack Obama said Friday.


Mahmoud Zayat

This is satire, mostly. Read more from Peter Gelling here.

BOSTON, Mass. — The United States says Snow across the Middle East is spreading, and could destabilize the region and threaten security across the globe.

The US Department of Homeland Security raised its Snow Alert on Friday, and warned Americans against traveling to the Middle East.

The UN agency tasked with monitoring the worldwide threat of Snow said “Alexa,” Snow’s regional affiliate, also known as "a storm," was already drifting across borders.

The presence of Snow has been reported in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel and Syria. A GlobalPost correspondent based in Beirut said a peaceful — yet worrying — quiet, which so often comes with the arrival of Snow, began to blanket much of the Middle East on Thursday.

The United Nations called the situation “tense,” warning that the threat of Snow could continue through the weekend.

In Jerusalem, authorities deployed a column of armored snowplows. In Syria, the government threatened to use its known stores of chemical weapons to melt Snow, adding that the recent anti-government uprisings were likely the work of Alexa. Cairo, despite being so rarely threatened by Snow, appeared well prepared. Authorities there were able to quickly sand most major streets.

Still, Snow managed to form icicles outside several US embassies, including in Cairo, which contributed to the alarm in Washington. "A few Snowballs is one thing," said one official familiar with how Snow works. "But once those Snowballs are radicalized, and by that I mean compacted, and become hardened blocks of ice, there will be trouble."

US President Barack Obama urged calm in a public address on Friday. In the speech he called on the world community to embrace diplomacy to stave off the growing threat of Snow, but added that he was prepared to use force if necessary.

“The brutal tactics of Snow to disrupt the lives of ordinary people will not be tolerated,” Obama said in front of a sleepy class of West Point cadets, who had just finished their midterm exams.

A US intelligence official, speaking to GlobalPost on the condition of anonymity, said the CIA had already dispatched a fleet of armed drones to the region to target Snow. The drones, typically based in Pakistan and Yemen — where they are used to bomb funerals and weddings — will be re-tasked to monitor Alexa’s movements and report back any major Snow activity, especially the presence of Snow Drifts, groupings of Snow that are often the precursor to deadly Black Ice.

Authorities believe Alexa is now training its eye on the borders of Turkey, a key US ally.

Snow was not always seen as such a threat. In fact, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, both Afghan and US forces often relied on Snow to slow Soviet troops in the country's western mountains.

Lizzy Judem, an American historian, recalled that there was a time when Snow was a welcome sight, even for children. Fear of Snow, she said, is now only contributing to a climate of conflict, and an emerging Cold War, around the world.

Global rights activists, meanwhile, said that fighting Snow is often futile and does little to lessen its strength.

"Snow will always be there," said Alex Grant, the head of Snow Rights, a Canadian activist group. "Our time would be better spent learning to live side by side with Snow. We should not fear it. We should love it. A lot of Snow, granted maybe not the hard stuff, but all the other Snow, is actually really fun to play with."

Indeed, despite an international effort to increase global warming, Snow has proven resilient, easily replenishing its ranks of “Snowmen” — a term used by the US government to describe Snow’s most loyal foot soldiers. Snow, analysts say, is able to draw on the listless, drifting masses of snowflakes populating the streets of some of the world’s poorest countries.

Officials, in fact, said Snow has infiltrated refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan, where desperate Syrians — who have few places to turn for help — were seen forming their own Snowmen.

"Imagine if we gave these Snowmen a home. Imagine if Snow felt like it was a part of this world, rather than an enemy of it. Wouldn't that be a better strategy?" said Grant, of Snow Rights.

Israel, which suddenly finds itself surrounded by Snow on all sides, has called for an immediate attack against it. Israeli officials believe Snow is arriving by air, over the porous borders of Syria and Egypt. The Israel Defense Forces, anticipating the arrival of Snow, have stocked up on hats and shovels. Residents said IDF soldiers were in the streets of Tel Aviv on Friday spreading salt, which many experts believe is an effective deterrent against Snow.

While no clashes between the Israeli military and any Snowmen have been reported, conservative Israeli lawmakers insist a pre-emptive strike is necessary.

“It's no secret that Snow causes Israel harm,” said Moshe Feiglin, a member of Israel’s parliament, known as the Knesset. “Time and again Snow has dampened our spirits, driven us indoors. If the United Nations refuses to act, Israel will have no choice but to protect itself.”

Palestinians in the West Bank, as well as former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, expressed bewilderment at Israel's reaction.

"We welcome the Snow," said one Palestinian, who lives in Ramallah, as he marveled at how Snow had transformed his once dreary street. "It's a wonderful break from the oppressive hot air that too often dominates us."

Analysts say only time will tell if Snow proves to be a major threat, or if its activity will spark any major international conflict.

“It’s certainly possible, likely even, as we’ve seen it before, that the threat of Snow will simply pass,” one prominent Middle East analyst said.

“While Snow has proven increasingly resilient in recent years, I'd caution the international community from overreacting to a local problem. Perhaps sending non-military aid, like shovels and salt, at this moment, would be the best course of action for western governments like the United States.”