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With UN Team Set to Leave Syria, Who Jettisoned Khan al Asal and Why?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 29 -- The UN chemical weapons team negotiated and got into Syria to investigate three incidents, including Khan al Asal as requested by the Syrian government.

On August 29, after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that he spoke with US President Barack Obama and the team would now leave Syria on August 31, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson Farhan Haq if Khan al Asal was looked at.

In due course, Haq answered.

Inner City Press asked if that means the UN thinks its team will get back in, even after the type of missile strike that is being publicly discussed. Haq did not answer that.

Of the 1000 other UN staff, nationals and internationals, still in Syria Inner City Press asked if any of them would be leaving on Saturday with Angela Kane, Ake Sellstrom on the team. This question was not answered.

Inner City Press asked, who decided to jettison the investigation of Khan al Asal, and how was it decided? The answer appears to be that the team needs to be present as its Ghouta samples are tested. But wouldn't this have been true of the Khan al Asal samples the UN asked to be let in to take?

The feeling of a rush-job was inescapable. The idea of a second visit by a UN chemical weapons team seems unrealistic. Ban wants to make the UN relevant, or useful.

  When Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson Farhan Haq about the team earlier this week, Haq said they would produce an "evidence based narrative." Initially their mandate was to determine only if chemical weapons had been used, not who used them.

  But every narrative has a plot, and this plot appears already written, at least on the American side.

  The UK plot thickened on August 28, with David Cameron modifying his proposal after Labor's proposed amendments to provide for a second, later parliamentary vote. In France there will be a September 4 "emergency debate," but no vote.

From the transcript of what Ban said in Vienna:

"I have spoken to President Obama yesterday. We discussed how the UN and the world can work together particularly with the United States, how we can expedite the process of the investigation. I have also expressed my wish that this investigation team.. will continue their investigation activities until tomorrow, Friday, and will come out of Syria by Saturday morning and will report to me as soon as they come out of Syria."

   Inner City Press had  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, with transcript.

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.

  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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