Obama dawdles as clock ticks in Syria

August 23, 2013

Time running out for chemical weapons inspection in Syria, Egyptian general’s U.S. days revealed, and Fukushima suffers from a quick fix. Today is Friday, August 23, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @clarerrrr.

Over the line?

A youth, affected by what activists say is nerve gas, is treated at a hospital in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus, August 21, 2013.  REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Obama’s red squiggle. Muddling his own red line, Obama called the apparent use of chemical weapons in Syria a “big event of grave concern,” but said he would not “mire” Americans in a costly war. Meanwhile, time is running out to investigate the alleged gas attack before chemicals begin to degrade. Activists have said they are trying to get tissue samples to the U.N. inspectors in Syria, however proving that the samples are not tampered with could be difficult.

The longer chemical weapons inspectors wait in a Damascus luxury hotel for permission to drive up the road to the site of what appears to be the worst poison gas attack in a quarter century, the less likely they will be able to get to the bottom of it. The poisoning deaths of many hundreds of people took place only three days after a team of U.N. chemical weapons experts arrived in Syria. But their limited mandate means the inspectors have so far been powerless to go to the scene, a short drive from where they are staying.

Even those who survived the suspected chemical weapons attack in Damascus may have life-long disabilities and health problems for which there are few effective treatments. Meanwhile, a 35-year-old freelance photographer’s escape from Islamist torturers has highlighted the risks of working in Syria. The New York Times reported an American named Matthew Schrier was tortured for months after being abducted by Jabhat al-Nusra militants in December. Schrier’s testimony about al Qaeda-aligned militant groups adds unsavory evidence against some rebel forces working to overthrow the Assad regime.  From the New York Times:

Now in the United States, Mr. Schrier has returned with a firsthand account of the descent by elements of the anti-Assad forces into sanctimonious hatred and crime. His experience reflects the sharply deteriorated climate for foreigners and moderate Syrians in areas subject to the whims of armed religious groups whose members roam roads, staff checkpoints and occupy a constellation of guerrilla bases.

On Friday, the number of child refugees forced to flee Syria reached a grim milestone of 1 million.

Ready for the reunion.

Egypt’s Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seen during a news conference in Cairo on May 22, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Sisi’s days in small-town USA. The Egyptian General who ordered security forces to disband protest camps last week, prompting the deadliest unrest in Egypt’s modern history, spent a year studying at the U.S. Army War College.

Unlike today’s ubiquitous images of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in crisp uniform decorated with medals, the U.S. Army War College yearbook shows the officer who would one day seize power in Egypt smiling at a party in a small Pennsylvania town, looking relaxed in a yellow polo shirt. There is a picture of Sisi visiting a U.S. Civil War battleground and another of his family taken at a Halloween party they attended, with his wife and daughter grinning next to a woman dressed like the Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra.

Despite ignoring U.S. calls for restraint, Sisi keeps in touch with Washington. Advocates of fellowship programs like the one that hosted Sisi say that building relationships in the U.S. allows for more open communication.

Some tanks not built to last.

A worker walks in front of water tanks at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, June 12, 2013. REUTERS/Noboru Hashimoto/Pool

Shoddy job. Cheap storage tanks were a quick solution in the wake of the disaster that crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant, but now the radiated water has nowhere to go. As recently-discovered leaks draw attention to the situation, some officials have suggested dumping water into the ocean.

The sheer scale of the build-up has prompted some experts and officials to warn that in order to focus on containing the most toxic waste, less contaminated water will have to be dumped into the sea. Before the latest leak, Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s minister of trade and industry, and Shunichi Tanaka, the top nuclear regulator, both indicated support for releasing water with low levels of radiation from Fukushima. No one has given any timeframe for such a move.

Tepco, the company responsible for the cleanup, has kept details of the operation under wraps.

Nota Bene: The Independent reported Britain runs a secret monitoring station in the Middle East.


Monstrousness in Mumbai – A 22-year-old photojournalist was gang-raped in the Indian capital. (BBC)

Rain refrain – Artists turn building facade into a giant musical instrument. (Huffington Post)

Mobile home – A service center on wheels provides showers and clean clothes to Bogota’s homeless. (Washington Post)

Tokyo hero – Carry-Your-Pram-Ranger is here to save the day. (The Guardian)

First to the Faroes – Someone beat the Vikings into the North Atlantic by 500 years. (Wired)

From the File:

One comment

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Dawdling? What?

Why would a journalist be so ignorant as to suggest running blindly into a war with Syria is in our best interest. No one knows the facts yet.

In addition, military intervention could spark a major conflict with Russia.

And the chemical weapons inspectors not being able to get to the site is a farce. Multiple news outlets not controlled by the corporate-industrial-complex have reported that the UN has been granted access and are likely at the site.

The warmongers are so desperate for a conflict it’s sickening. Rushing into a war for profit before we even know the facts is exactly what happened in Iraq. Granted, we rushed in intentionally before it could be reported that the UN couldn’t find any WMDs.

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