Britain asks U.N. approval for military action in Syria

August 28, 2013

Britain seeks U.N. authorization for Syria strike, North Korea acts like a better neighbor, and deadly violence sweeps Iraq and Afghanistan. Today is Wednesday, August 28 – 50 years since Martin Luther King made his famous “I have a dream” speech – and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @clarerrrr.

Ban Ki-moon begs West: Give these guys time.

Free Syrian Army fighters escort a convoy of U.N. vehicles carrying a team of United Nations chemical weapons experts during their visit at one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus’ suburbs of Zamalka, August 28, 2013. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Security Council showdown. Britain plans to propose a resolution at the U.N. asking permission to take “necessary measures” to protect Syrian civilians after a reported chemical attack. After two years of deadlock in the Security Council thanks to Russia and China’s veto powers, the move seemed aimed at isolating Russia. The U.S. appears ready to strike Syria with or without U.N. approval, although it remains unclear when a strike would take place.

That has set Western leaders on a collision course with Moscow, Assad’s main arms supplier, as well as with China, which also has a veto in the Security Council and disapproves of what it sees as a push for Iraq-style “regime change” – despite U.S. denials that President Barack Obama aims to overthrow Assad.

The UK’s National Security Council today agreed unanimously to back action against Syria, and residents in the Syrian capital said the government had evacuated most army buildings in preparation for a military strike. A report released by French newspaper Le Monde shares witness accounts from two correspondents who witnessed a chemical attack in Jobar:

Searching for words to describe the incongruous sound, he said it was like ‘a Pepsi can that falls to the ground.’ No odor, no smoke, not even a whistle to indicate the release of a toxic gas. And then the symptoms appear. The men cough violently. Their eyes burn, their pupils shrink, their vision blurs. Soon they experience difficulty breathing, sometimes in the extreme; they begin to vomit or lose consciousness. The fighters worst affected need to be evacuated before they suffocate.

The war in Syria has killed over 100,000 people, created millions of refugees, and stoked sectarian violence across the region.

Peace in pieces.

Youths look at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad’s al-Shaab district, August 28, 2013. REUTERS/Saad Shalash

Status check after U.S. wars. The Taliban and al Qaeda affiliates were at work today in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively, wreaking havoc and further tarnishing the outlook in the countries emerging from U.S.-led wars. In Afghanistan, the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on a Polish base after two earlier attacks targeting NATO convoys killed 10 civilians and wounded over 20.

The Taliban have not claimed responsibility for that attack, but they are keen to keep pressure on the NATO mission here ahead of its planned end next year.

In Iraq, where the worst wave of sectarian violence in five years has been exacerbated by civil war in neighboring Syria, a series of bomb attacks in the capital killed dozens and wounded over 200 people.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attacks, which appeared coordinated, but Sunni Muslim insurgents including the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq have significantly stepped up bombings this year.

Iraq saw its deadliest month since 2008 this July, raising fears that the country is slipping back into widespread bloodshed after the U.S. troops left the country 18 months ago. The U.S. is set to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.

Cause to celebrate?

The Korean People’s Army Song and Dance Ensemble take part in a music and dance performance called “May the Day of Songun Shine Forever” at the April 25 House of Culture in Pyongyang on the 53rd Day of Songun, August 25, 2013, in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). REUTERS/KCNA

Back from the brink. Remember  when North Korea threatened war with the South earlier this year? Thanks in part to new directives from South Korea’s recently-instated President Park Geun-hye, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has initiated dialogue with Seoul, agreeing to reopen a joint industrial zone. It’s not all a bed of roses, but the progress appears to have validated Park’s policies.

To be sure, experts are not predicting lasting peace between the two Koreas since Kim has shown no sign of giving up his banned nuclear weapons program… Park sketched out her vision of engagement with North Korea before taking office in a policy she dubbed “trustpolitik”, an echo of West Germany’s approach to East Germany before German reunification in 1990. She pledged to respond strongly to any military action by the North but said she was willing to commit to better commercial ties in return for a dialing down of tensions.

The thaw has extended all the way to Washington; the U.S. is sending its human rights envoy to seek the release of jailed American Kenneth Bae at the invitation of North Korea.

 

Nota Bene: China’s official news agency warns the world to remember bogus U.S. excuses for war in Iraq before attacking Syria.

Standouts:

Culpability questions - U.S. spies say intercepted calls prove Syrian army used nerve gas. (Foreign Policy)

Hurricane Rick Perry? - Activists push to name hurricanes after climate change deniers. (Christian Science Monitor)

Secret spying - The NYPD has designated entire mosques as terrorism organizations. (Associated Press)

The ‘Cat Period’ - A hacker obtains paintings by former President George W. Bush. (Gawker)

Sue for the coup - Iran’s parliament approves bill to sue U.S. over its involvement in 1953 coup. (Washington Post)

From the File:

  • U.N. helicopters attack M23 rebels in eastern Congo.
  • Egypt backs away from plan to dissolve Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Military jury to consider death penalty for Fort Hood gunman.
  • Son of Chinese general denies gang rape, inflaming public anger.
  • Pakistan launches mobile mediation court to ease backlog.
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