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With UN On Syria Ground, If Obama Shoots Missile, Will Ban Ki-moon Clap?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 25 -- Amid the drumbeat of media coverage predicting US missile strikes on Syria, regardless of what the UN chemical weapons investigation team find in the suburbs of Damascus, a question arises whether the strikes would take place with the UN team still in the country.

  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's office put out a statement on Sunday noting that "the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic affirmed that it will provide the necessary cooperation, including the observance of the cessation of hostilities at the locations related to the incident."

  But did Ban ask the Obama administration not to fire missiles, at last at this time? Will he?

Also, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been putting out maps of where UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations have a presence inside Syria. Will they be informed or avoided? Or was that the purpose of the maps?

  On US Sunday morning talk shows, CBS' Margaret Brennan noted that Jeffrey Feltman, now Ban's political chief but until recently the US State Department's face in the Middle East, will be heading to Iran after his quiet, some say craven, trip to Egypt. She implied Feltman could carry a message from the Obama administration, or about the threatened strikes, to Tehran. But is that the UN's role?

  (How Feltman's post-Egypt itinerary, including Doha, was announced not by the UN but to for example the FARS News Agency, State Department press and columnists remains a question, which will be pursued by the new Free UN Coalition for Access.)

  Those who fetishize international law point out that the exception to needing UN Security Council approval for the use of force is Article 51 of the UN Charter, which concerns SELF-defense. Could a US missile strike be construed as that?

As to the UN, will Ban Ki-moon be seeking to speak for international law, or only to be seen as "in the loop" before a strike takes place? Watch this site.


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