A team of chemical experts on Wednesday assembled by the United Nations was about to travel to Syria, having received the go-ahead from President Bashar Assad’s government after extended negotiations, CBS News reported.
One U.N. official, who would not agree to be named, said the team would arrive in Damascus on Friday, the network reported. Earlier in the week, the mission was suspended indefinitely due to “technical hitches,” in the words of one anonymous source.
“Everything is set. The inspectors will interview victims, witnesses, doctors and residents. They will report what they see on the ground but will not make decisions,” the official told CBS for the Wednesday report.
“As agreed with the government of Syria, the team will remain in the country to conduct its activities, including onsite visits, for a period of 14 days, extendable upon mutual consent,” the United Nations said in statement released on Wednesday.
Speaking on Thursday, a Syrian Foreign Ministry insider said “there were no difficulties in the negotiations and Syria said it is ready to give the team all the facilities it needs to carry out its mission.”
“Syria has nothing to hide,” the source told Agence France-Presse.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey continued his weeklong trip to the Middle East on Wednesday, engaging in talks with Jordan’s king and top military official about securing their nation’s border with Syria and handling upwards of 550,000 Syrian refugees, the New York Times reported.
Jordan is seeking U.S. help in securing a border that is increasingly used by weapons smugglers, according to the newspaper. Additionally, King Abdullah II and Gen. Mashal al-Zaben discussed with Dempsey the need for increased humanitarian aid for Syrians who have fled to Jordan, according to the Times.
“We did not talk about direct military intervention,” Dempsey said. “That actually never came up. What did come up was discussions about what we could do to help them build their capability and capacities, whether it was border surveillance and ISR [Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance].”
The United States and Jordan have close diplomatic ties, making additional aid likely, according to the newspaper. That could include specialized training for Jordanian Special Operations forces to increase their counterterrorism capabilities and prepare a defense plan against a chemical weapons attack.
Additionally, U.S. support could come in the form of combining the gathering of intelligence and integrating intelligence and operations, the American Forces Press Service reported.
Dempsey said part of the challenge in Syria under discussion with Jordan and Israel is “identifying a moderate opposition [in Syria], and then enabling it to be effective,” the press service reported.
“Certainly our partners in the region are far better equipped to determine who’s who and with what motivation than we are. They are and will continue to be an important part of making those identifications,” AFPS cited Dempsey as saying.
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
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