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On Syria, Obama Says Doesn't Need UNSC, Then Cites It to Congress

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 1 -- On Syria on August 31, US President Barack Obama said, "I'm comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council."

  But the Authorization he sent to Congress later in the day cites UN Security Council resolution 1540 of 2004 that proliferation of chemical weapons is a threat to international peace and security.

  So which is it? It seems to some as an attempt to Obama to have it both ways. It's like Human Rights Watch, eager for access both at the UN and ultimately in today's White House, saying on August 28 that "the United States, Britain, France, and other countries are assessing options for military intervention in Syria. Human Rights Watch does not take a position advocating or opposing such intervention."

  Unlike even UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, HRW's Ken Roth did not even say the Western P3 should bring their military plan to the Security Council. So much for HRW and international law.

The hypocrisy, however, is that when it suits it HRW cites to Security Council resolutions and arms embargoes, for example on Rwanda. From that, some made assumptions about Roth's HRW and international law. But these assumptions are wrong.

Is this lack of principles just pragmatic? But HRW has more money than it can spend. What it craves is access -- that is why, according to its UN lobbyist Philippe Bolopion, HRW refused to provide Inner City Press with even a summary of the topics Roth raised to Ban Ki-moon.

On Wednesday in the Security Council chamber, countries filed in to hear a briefing and debate about Haiti. On the other side of the Council chamber, in front of the Permanent Five members' clubhouse, the media was massed. The drums of war are beating, and HRW is right on key.

now the UK says it will present in New York, only to the Permanent Five members of the Security Council, a draft resolution "authorizing all necessary measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter to protect civilians from chemical weapons."

"All measures" is a broad term -- just see how it was used in Libya, to turn a no-fly zone over Benghazi into a bombing campaign all over the country. So it seems clear that Russia and China will have, at a minimum, questions.

But one senses hear the game is simply to present this to the P5, say Russia and China wouldn't agree, then fire missiles. Earlier on Wednesday envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said if you want to punish Bashar al Assad, go through the Security Council. Did this just mean, flash a draft then say it failed?

On August 26 Inner City Press directly asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's associate spokesperson Farhan Haq for Ban's position on the if missiles sent without Security Council approval (or as some now wanly propose, General Assembly approval, even after the fact) would violate international law.

  We won't engage in speculative comment, Ban's Haq said. Nor would he say if Ban at least was asking the US to give him notice before a missile, since there are UN personnel in Damascus and Syria.

  Speculative or not, Brahimi said issue should go to the Security Council. As the final question, tellingly, Voice of America on whose Broadcast Board of Governors US Secretary of State John Kerry sits asked who then to punish Assad.

  Go through the Security Council, Brahimi again said. But the follow up question can apparently be via missiles.

  Reuters, too, showed its hand, asserting as a fact that bombing was good for Bosnia, why not here?

  Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Farhan Haq at Tuesday's noon briefing when it was that the UN formally requested access to al Ghouta -- on Saturday, August 24 or before? Video here, from Minute 12. Video with captions, on Inner City Press YouTube channel, here and embedded below.

Haq read out a press statement from August 22, in which Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said a request is being sent. Then, Haq said, Ban's High Representative on Disarmament Angela Kane "stepped forward with the request" -- on August 24, Saturday.

It was granted the next day.

Inner City Press asked again, was there any formal request by the UN other than Ban's press statement, before August 24? Haq called this "semantics." But when Inner City Press asked Ban's spokespeople to respond to widely circulated press releases about a request being made to Ban, the UN says the actual formal request had not been received yet, and so: no comment. Why should the UN say it must be different for Syria?

How could the UN be so sloppy? Or was it sloppy?

  While the delay to Sunday (or Monday, when the team got out and said, if this YouTube video on which Haq declined comment when Inner City Press asked is not false, that they are not even looking at what type of munition was used in part because they didn't want to put it in their white UN 4 by 4) is now an element in the case for missile strikes, the UN didn't formally ASK until Saturday, in the person of Angela Kane

   Inner City Press covered Kane when she was head of Ban's Department of Management, including an investigation by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services for favoritism in the UN's so-called UMOJA computer management system.

  When Japan's Yukio Takasu returned after a pause from being his country's Ambassador to the UN to take over Kane's job, Kane's native Germany lobbied for her to get another top UN job. She was offered one in Lebanon, as Inner City Press reported, but did not want it. So she "got" Disarmament.

  This connection must be noted: it was Germany which got Kane this job, in the same way that France installed Herve Ladsous as the fourth French head of UN Peacekeeping in a row, and the US picked Jeffrey Feltman, formerly the State Department's chief on the Middle East to replace B. Lynn Pascoe as Ban's political chief.

  So the fact that Germany has expressed a willingness to join a coalition to strike Syria, without UN Security Council approval, and the Germany's Angela Kane's role in the "UN's" chemical weapons inspection team should be noted.

  But by most media covering the UN, it is not. When Inner City Press even mentions Ladsous' and UN Peacekeeping's French connection, Ladsous refuses to answer questions, and some media, including the French wire service Agence France Presse on one of whose management boards Ladsous served, have even filed complaints with the UN against Inner City Press.

  This is dysfunction, and is now being countered by the Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info.

  Another major wire service, Reuters, joined in the second of AFP's complaints. On August 26 Reuters based a piece essentially selling or planning for the legality of military strikes on Syria without Security Council or even General Assembly approval around, as lead, a comment by the Council on Foreign Relations' Richard Haass.

 (Haas now says that Obama's August 31 decision makes the US an unreliable partner.)

  But on that CFR call, as noted by Inner City Press, was Judith Miller. Given her role during the lead up to the US intervention in Iraq, one might think this would have been included in an overly-long rehash story. But no.

 Notably, Reuters' UN bureau has been shown to have spied for the UN, handing over an internal anti-Press document of the UN Correspondents Association (which under 2013 president Pamela Falk of CBS hosted Syrian rebel Jarba for what it called a "UN briefing") to UN official Stephane Dujarric. Story here, audio here, document here.

This beat just goes on. Watch this site.


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