Obama asks Congress to delay Syria vote, pledges to consider diplomatic options

September 11, 2013

President Obama appeals to Congress to delay vote on military action in Syria, adopted children who survived the online child exchange speak out, and a car bomb explodes in Benghazi. On this Wednesday, we mark the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attack on the U.S. This is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the nation about the situation in Syria from the East Room at the White House in Washington, September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Evan Vucci/POOL

Buying time. President Barack Obama vowed to explore diplomatic options in Syria in a televised address on Tuesday night, while still pushing for support for a possible military strike. Now considering a Russian plan for oversight of Syria’s chemical weapons, Obama asked leaders in Congress to put off a vote on whether to authorize use of military force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad:

[Obama] said U.S. Navy ships in the eastern Mediterranean and other forces in the region are in place and ready to respond should diplomacy fail. The Russian initiative gave Obama some breathing space since it has been far from certain whether he would win a vote in Congress on attacking Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack last month that Washington has blamed on Assad’s forces. In a speech of only 16 minutes, Obama gave perhaps the most coherent expression of his Syria policy to date following weeks of muddled messages by his administration as opposition to a U.S. military strike mounted. “If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons,” said Obama. “As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas and using them.”

France drafted an initial U.N. Security Council resolution that would give Syria 15 days to declare its chemical weapons program and make all related sites accessible to U.N. inspectors, or face punishment. Russia’s proposal shifted U.S. foreign policy away from considering imminent military intervention and made unlikely partners of Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tension between the two leaders has been high this year, but now Obama needs his Russian counterpart to wield influence in Syria. On Tuesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said that Syria is ready to “provid[e] all information about these [chemical] weapons,” in the closest intimation from a high-level official that Syria has chemical weapon stores. The U.N. said on Wednesday that war crimes have been perpetrated by both sides in battles over territory.

Inga Whatcott, adopted from Russia, holds two stuffed dolls she saved from her orphanage in Russia, outside her apartment in Battle Creek, Michigan, in this May 26, 2013. REUTERS/ Rebecca Cook

Orphaned repeatedly. Adopted from Russia by American parents in 1997, 12-year-old Inga was unprepared for the years of abuse that would follow as she moved from home to home, passed along to new parents through shady online channels. In the final installation of a Reuters report chronicling the practice of private re-homing – transferring legal guardianship of an adopted child without official oversight – young survivors tell their stories:

Inga spent most of her childhood in a Russian orphanage, longing for parents who would protect her. Her biological mother, a prostitute, had abandoned her when she was a baby. She never knew her father. At the age of 12, her life was about to change. It was 1997, and an American couple was adopting her. “My picture was, I’m gonna have family, I’m gonna go to school, I’m gonna have friends,” Inga says today. Less than a year after bringing Inga home, her new parents, Priscilla and Neal Whatcott, gave up trying to raise her. They say the adoption agency never told them that Inga struggled to read or write, that she suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, that she smoked. The Whatcotts say they tried therapy and support groups. They even reached out to a Russian judge to undo the adoption. When nothing worked, they turned to what Priscilla now calls “the underground network.” In an early example of adoptive parents using the Internet to seek a new home for an unwanted child, Inga was orphaned repeatedly.

Click through the full five-part series to learn more about the online child trade, its dangers, the middlemen who make it possible and the children who share Inga’s experience.

People look at the site of an explosion at a Libyan Foreign Ministry building in Benghazi September 11, 2013. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

Benghazi struck. An explosion damaged foreign ministry buildings in Benghazi early this morning, one year after an attack on the U.S. embassy killed four American officials:

Local security officials said a car packed with explosives was left beside the ministry building where it detonated at dawn, badly damaging it and several other buildings in the center of Benghazi. There were no reports of casualties. A few hours before the Benghazi explosion, security forces defused a large bomb placed near the foreign ministry headquarters in the eastern Zawyat al Dahmani district of the capital Tripoli, the government said. “Libyans cannot ignore the timing of this explosion. It’s a clear message by the forces of terror that they do not want the state or the army to stand on its feet,” Prime Minister Ali Zeidan told reporters.

Zeidan did not blame a specific group for the attack, which coincides with the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attack on the U.S.

Nota Bene: Spanish Catalonia pushes for independence with human chain.


Moot vote – Reuters columnist Ian Bremmer argues that Congress’ Syria vote hardly matters. (Reuters)

Hidden hydration – Kenya discovers a huge water source in the arid Turkana region. (BBC)

Pirating privacy – German encryption pirates give the NSA the slip. (The Atlantic)

Hitler dishonored – A town in Germany strips Hitler of his honorary citizenship. (Associated Press)

Crying sabotage – Venezuela’s president blames conspiracies for his country’s problems. (New York Times)

From the File:

  • Hamas seeks to lower tension with Egypt.
  • Nigerian president fires nine ministers in political reshuffle.
  • Investigators seek tougher rules after a Canadian rail disaster.
  • China ditches pointless awards in anti-waste push.
  • Israel will pay $1.1 million to the family of “Prisoner X.”


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