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In Syria, UN Probers Are Shot At, No Word on By Whom, Missile Countdown?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 26 --

Now from Seoul Ban Ki-moon's team reports that the UN chemical weapons inspection team in Damascus got shot at by snipers -- without saying who shot, if that is being investigated as the team repairs to its five star base at the Four Seasons Hotel:


The Spokesperson for the Secretary-General has the following update on the UN Chemical Weapons Investigation Team in Damascus:

The first vehicle of the Chemical Weapons Investigation Team was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers in the buffer zone area.

As the car was no longer serviceable, the Team returned safely back to the Government check-point. The Team will return to the area after replacing the vehicle.

It has to be stressed again that all sides need to extend their cooperation so that the Team can safely carry out their important work

Seoul/New York, 26 August 2013

  The shots are repeated by media all over the world; they can be used to speed a possible cruise missile shot. The missile is awaited by some almost like the royal baby.

  Amid an increasing drumbeat of media coverage predicting US missile strikes on Syria, regardless of what the UN chemical weapons investigation team finds in the suburbs of Damascus, a question has arisen whether the strikes would take place with the UN team still in the county. Click here for Inner City Press story.

    In a six-question Seoul press conference on August 26, beyond three questions about North Korea and two about Japan and China, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was asked on Syria to comment on "a possible strike, President Obama is apparently mulling that over."

  But tellingly, Ban did not offer any real caution against doing that -- even with UN staff and investigators still "on the ground" there. The UN's transcript is here.

  Ban'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 least 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. Click here for Inner City Press story.

  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.

Update of August 26, 3:10 am : Turkey says it would join coalition on Syria without UN Security Council approval -- that "Turkish Lounge" in front of UNSC notwithstanding.


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