Obama’s Middle East ‘Oh! Mama!’ Moment










Russia holding UN Council ‘hostage’ on Syria





US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power on Thursday accused Russia of holding the UN Security Council “hostage” over the Syria chemical weapons crisis.

With the United States considering a military strike on Syria, Power said Russia’s protection of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has put the whole Security Council system of handling international crises under strain.

“Even in the wake of the flagrant shattering of the international norm against chemical weapons use, Russia continues to hold the council hostage and shirk its international responsibilities,” Power told reporters as Russia hosted US President Barack Obama at the Group of 20 summit.

Power, who took over as US envoy to the United Nations one month ago, said the UN Security Council system, in which the five permanent members — Russia, the United States, China, France and Britain — can veto any resolution, had failed the Syrian people.

“Instead the system has protected the prerogatives of Russia — the patron of a regime that has brazenly staged the world’s largest chemical weapons attack in a quarter century,” Power said.

The envoy spoke after US officials briefed other UN members on evidence that Assad’s forces carried out an attack using banned poison sarin gas near Damascus on August 21.

She said the evidence “overwhelmingly points to one stark conclusion: the Assad regime perpetrated a large-scale and indiscriminate attack against its own people using chemical weapons.”

Russia and China have vetoed three western-proposed resolutions that would have aimed to increase pressure on Assad without imposing sanctions.

The Russian president said this week however he would be ready to consider Security Council action if he could be convinced that the Assad government staged the August 21 attack. Power said she did not believe Putin would budge.

“We have seen nothing in President Putin’s comments that suggest that there is an available path forward at the Security Council,” the US envoy said.

Here’s what Syrians have to say about intervention

When someone bothers to ask them.

Editor’s note: Reporting by Stephen Starr, Tracey Shelton and Josh Wood.

As Obama tries to rally support for an airstrike on Syria, he is asking everyone what they think. France is on his side, but Germany and the UK are against him.

But what about the Syrians themselves? What do they have to say?

“Syrians have spoken a lot, but no one listens,” a Damascene woman, who works in the art scene, told GlobalPost this week. “Syrians feel that everyone benefits from their pain.”

(Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

GlobalPost talked to Syrians about the potential US airstrike. This is what they said:

Abdul Aziz, a banker, said everyone he knows in Damascus is divided over the prospect of a US-led campaign against their leader.

“Of course I don’t support [military intervention],” he said, adding that pro-interventionists do not discuss their positions publicly in the city. “Because I consider the American administration my nation’s enemy.”

Rama Tarabishi, an executive at an industrial company just outside Damascus, said at first she didn’t believe Western countries were really planning to strike.

“Clearly things are deteriorating dramatically now,” she said. “I don’t know how to put my feelings into words, but all I can say is that I am worried and frustrated. It seems to me that the Iraq scenario is repeating itself.”

Sari Akminas, a journalist, said he will not flee if there are strikes.

“The mood in Damascus is strong,” he said. “If you love your country, stay and participate in rebuilding it.”

(Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Talal Atrache is from the southern province of Suweida.

“Any strike against the army will strengthen the jihadists,” he said. “I believe we are witnessing the destruction of a country and a society … for contradicting political, strategic and economic interests.”

Abdullah Omar, a Syrian who lives in the rebel-held town of Atmeh, near Turkey, said the majority of people where he lives support US airstrikes.

“They think it will give the rebels an advantage over the regime,” he said. “But in my opinion, it won’t. The Syrian people will keep suffering either from the regime or the extremists.”

“The world’s reaction has come too late,” Omar said. “Even now some are trying to delay the strikes. It’s like sending a message to Bashar that he still has four days to do what he wants.”

Muhamad Raslan, a Free Syrian Army fighter, said US missile strikes may be too little and almost too late, but he and his fellow fighters still welcome them.

“Although it is so late for the USA to intervene, it may help us a lot,” Raslan said from the province of Idlib. “But frankly in Syria we do not need anyone to fight for us. We need weapons and ammunition only.”

(Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

Basel Almasri, who once stood staunchly on the side of the revolution, said the lines are now blurred.

“This is now a war between the extremists and a dictatorship,” he said. Reluctantly, Almasri said international intervention has now become the “only solution.”

Captain Fadi, an FSA officer with the Jabhat al-Umma al-Islamiya Brigade, an Islamist rebel unit operating in and around Aleppo, said he’s of two minds.

“It’s good and not good,” he said, “because the strike would not be lethal to the Syrian regime.”

Omar al-Homsi, an FSA fighter involved in special operations, is based in Yabroud, a town near the Lebanese border.

“I don’t have a lot of hope about this strike,” he said. “It will not do anything — nothing will change.”

Syria ‘hemorrhaging’ refugees as number of displaced tops 6 million (PHOTOS)

As the US heads for strikes against Syria, the country’s refugee crisis hits massive proportions.


“The ultimate effect of these policies is that fewer Syrians can escape the terrible violence engulfing their country,” said senior advocate with Refugees International, Daryl Grisgraber.

Talk of US airstrikes against Syrian regime targets in recent days has prompted a fresh outflow of refugees into Lebanon. Reports from humanitarian workers in Lebanon say anywhere from 10,000-25,000 new refugees have crossed into the country both legally and illegally in the past week.

Arriving in Lebanon Monday, Oxfam America President Ray Offenheiser urged the US to cease plans for an attack and instead concentrate on easing the humanitarian crisis in the region.

“The Syrian refugees I’ve met this week are crying out for peace,” he said. “Ultimately, there must be a political solution to the crisis. Military intervention will only make matters worse and cause more suffering.”

Offenheiser said instead of focusing on military intervention and sending more arms to Syria, US President Barack Obama should “intensify peaceful efforts to stop the bloodshed and expand humanitarian aid to those in need.”

…and I am Sid Harth

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