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As US Begins Bombing in Syria, UNGA Dysfunction Has US & Russia United

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 23 -- After a day of UN formalities, and with John Kerry with the Syrian Opposition Coalition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the US started bombing in Syria, see below.

  Meanwhile in the UN General Assembly Hall, a session about Population and Development droned on, ultimately ending in acrimony that, ironically, had the US and Russia on the same side.
  The review of "Beijing Plus 20" had been set to run from 1 pm to 9 pm. But, predictably, many countries signed up to speak, and few stuck to their time limits. While veteran UN staff suggested not only continuing it until midnight but also going into the next day, what they called a "fight between UNFPA and DESA" resulted in the decision to just end it at midnight.
  When Russia made a point of order, Inner City Press which was already covering the US airstrikes in Syria expected it to be on that topic. But no - it was on whether dozens of states would be denied to right to speak on ICPD. The US echoed Russia, but the chair overruled and ended it.

  Inner City Press ran to the front of the GA and heard a variety of complaints, which we'll sift through in less newsy times. Last photo here.

  The questions was, why do it on the eve of US President Barack Obama's three day visit to the UN in New York? The answer seemed to be: to make silence consent.

  Inner City Press has put these questions to the UN spokesman:

Press questions on deadline: what is Ban Ki-moon's response to US on the record (and reportedly Saudi Arabia, Jordan and UAE) bombing in Syria without consent of Syrian government, or approval of the UN Security Council? Separately, was Ban Ki-moon informed in advance?

  Hours later, no response from the UN. Their climate change-fest, complete with a dozen scheduled press conferences on September 23, would now provide ground-cover. 
  Earlier this arrive, on the record from Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon Press Secretary:

"I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time. The decision to conduct theses strikes was made earlier today by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief. We will provide more details later as operationally appropriate.""

   The US was proud it did not coordinate. Obama would cometo New York on September 23. Would it be a coronation?

   On  September 19 while the UN Security Council's meeting on Iraq went on, Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird came out to take questions at the Council stakeout.

  Inner City Press asked him if Canada thinks that for airstrikes in Syria against ISIL, the consent of the Assad government or of the Security Council should be sought.

  Baird said that on "intervention in Syria there are two views. One could say that every country has a right to defend itself. Iraq is being attack by terrorists in the neighboring country. We take great issue with Assad... That has yet to be determined."

  The Syrian Opposition Coalition, it emerges, will hold a press conference inside the UN building on September 22. But it will not be a UN press conference - instead, it will be in the clubhouse the UN gives to what has become its UN Censorship Alliance (having tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN), publicized only to those who pay money to UNCA in dues.

  Why not go through the front door, and have a member state like Canada sponsor the Syrian Coalition's Hadi Al Bahra in the UN Press Briefing Room, as others do? We'll have more on this.

  On September 18, the day after the US House of Representatives voted to arm and train "moderate" rebels in Syria, the Syrian Opposition Coalition said training 5,000 will not be enough. An hour later, they put out a statement about ISIL stranding 7,000 civilians on the Syrian - Turkish border:

"As the 'Islamic State' intensifies shelling on Ayn al Arab (Kobanę in Kurdish) in northern Syria, thousands of people remain trapped in the towns and villages in the area. As as a result, activists reported a mass exodus of civilians from the neighboring villages of Kaalak, Zark Qumshi, Zalkhek, and Turaman. The Syrian Coalition condemns ISIS's brutal tactics and calls on Turkish authorities to open borders in the area and provide refuge to those fleeing from the barbaric group. More than 7000 civilians are reported to be stranded along the Turkish Syrian borders since Thursday, most of them women and children."

 Echoes of Mount Sinjar in Iraq - and that led to airstrikes. Earlier on September 18, the Syrian Coalition put this out:

"Abdelahad Astepho, member of the political committee, said that the US Congress’s vote in favor of President Obama’s plan to train and equip the Free Syrian Army is 'a step in the right direction though it was made late. Limiting the training and equipment program to 5,000 FSA fighters is not enough to counter the threat of the Assad regime and ISIS. Therefore, it is necessary to increase the number of trainees to solve the whole problem of terrorism once and for all. Moreover, limiting the program to this small number may prolong the bloody conflict, thus prolonging the suffering of the Syrian people.' Astepho calls on the US Senate 'to back the training and equipment program and for its immediate implementation, as any delay will cost Syrians more lives. Any delay in the implementation of this plan will lead to further expansion of the terror practiced by the Assad regime and the terrorist group ISIS.'"

 This after on the Senate floor just who these "moderate" rebels are was still being questioned. If 5000 is not enough, how many would be? To the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 17, former Ambassador Bob Ford said there are 80,000 "non-Nusra, non-ISIL" rebels. Where do these figures come front?

   Back on September 13, hours after US President Barack Obama's speech, the Syrian Coalition put out a press release requesting airstrikes and cash from Congress, pronto.

While more than two dozen countries pledged support for Iraq against the Islamic State in the Security Council on September 19, who would speak on UNTV about it?

  For more than an hour the media was told that French foreign minister Laurent Fabius would be “coming to the stakeout” to take questions on UNTV. It was pushed back, then when finally Fabius emerged he rushed past the stakeout into the hallway, where he spoke only in French.
 Update: to be fair, the French Mission put out this transcript.

  So too with Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. When he emerged from the Security Council, he summoned Turkish media down the hallway for a private stakeout. Some non-Turkish journalists weren't allowed to go, something protested by the Free UN Coalition for Access. But why not openly take questions?

  The three on-camera stakeouts that occurred were by Syria's Bashar Ja'afari, Iraq's Foreign Minister Jaafari (no relation, if that needs to be said), and Canada's John Baird. To the last of these, Inner City Press asked if before any bombing in Syria consent should be sought from Damascus or the Council. That has “yet to be determined,” Baird replied.

  Iraqi FM Jaafari, when Inner City Press asked if the Coalition should speak with Syria, seemed to dodge the question. But at least he took questions on camera, as did Syria's Ja'afari. Where were the others? Is this how GA Week will be? FUNCA in is on the case, including about faux UN press conferences like those held in the private club handed out by the UN to its Censorship Alliance. That group tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, now masquerades on media freedom. This is how the UN works. Watch this site.


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