Thursday, April 26, 2018

U.N. suspends its mission in Syria, citing rising violence

CAIRO — The United Nations said Saturday that it was suspending its observer mission in Syria because of the escalating violence, the most severe blow yet to months of international efforts to negotiate a peace plan and prevent Syria's descent into civil war.

The United Nations said the monitors would not be withdrawn from Syria, but were being locked down in Syria's most contested cities, unable to conduct patrols. While the decision to suspend their work was made chiefly to protect the unarmed monitors, the unstated purpose appeared to be to force Russia to intervene to assure that the observers are not the targets of Syrian forces or their sympathizers. Russia has opposed Western intervention and, by some accounts, continues to arm the forces of President Bashar Assad.

For President Barack Obama, the suspension of the observers' activities — unless it is reversed quickly — could signal the failure of the latest effort by the West to reach a diplomatic solution and ease Assad from power.

But Obama's choices are no better than they were when the uprising in Syria began nearly a year and a half ago. A bombing campaign like the one conducted last year by NATO in Libya with strong U.S. and Arab League support is not feasible in Syria: The battle is being waged in crowded cities, with little chance to attack the Syrian army without the risk of high civilian casualties.

Obama, NATO nations and the Arab League have never wanted to send in a ground force, which would probably face heavy casualties in what many fear is emerging as a civil war.

The White House issued a statement Saturday once again calling on Syria to uphold commitments it has made in recent months, "including the full implementation of a cease-fire." The statement added: "We are consulting with our international partners regarding next steps toward a Syrian-led political transition" called for in two U.N. Security Council resolutions, and "the sooner this transition takes place, the greater the chance of averting a lengthy and bloody civil war."

Syria's uprising has become one of the most intractable and deadliest conflicts of the Arab Spring, with reports of at least four massacres in recent weeks, including accounts of killings of as many as 78 civilians, many of them women and children.

On Saturday, dozens of Syrians were killed in government attacks across the country, especially in villages around Damascus, the capital, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based in Britain with contacts in Syria. The group and other activists said security forces were carrying out sweeping arrests, particularly of young men, around the capital.

The observers had been the foundation of a six-point peace plan that Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general and the special envoy to Syria, had sought to hammer out with the consent of Assad and his foreign sponsors, including Russia and Iran. Both of those countries have huge stakes in the outcome: Russia has a military base in Syria and has long used Assad as an instrument to project influence in the region, and the Syrian government is Iran's only real ally in the region.

The leader of the observer mission in Syria, Gen. Robert Mood, said that he had little choice but to suspend the mission. Escalating violence across Syria over the past 10 days had prevented the teams from carrying out their mandate to verify events on the ground.

Responding to the observers' decision, Syria's government said Saturday that it respected both the peace plan and the safety of the U.N. observers. But it blamed the opposition for the escalation of violence in Syria.

Comments
The Royal Guardsmen talk about ‘Snoopy vs. The Red Baron,’ reuniting 50 years after their breakthrough and more

The Royal Guardsmen talk about ‘Snoopy vs. The Red Baron,’ reuniting 50 years after their breakthrough and more

It's midmorning at the pub, not far from the backyard patio where it all began, and the old guys from the old band are reminiscing on the old days over cream of mushroom soup."When we were kids," Billy Taylor said, "all you wanted was a hot shower ev...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan makes offer for Wembley Stadium

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan makes offer for Wembley Stadium

LONDON — Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan has made an offer to buy Wembley Stadium from the English Football Association, increasing the prospect of an NFL franchise in London.Wembley has staged regular-season NFL games since 2007 and the Jagua...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Rescuing the rescuers from the trauma of seeing buddies crash to their deaths

Rescuing the rescuers from the trauma of seeing buddies crash to their deaths

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE — In his mind, Lee Von Hack-Prestinary kept circling the crash site.His friends were in the wreckage below, and he couldn’t help.The memory brought him to tears.Seated across from him, at Patrick Air Force Base near Cocoa Beach...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
HUD Secretary proposes raising rent for low-income Americans receiving federal housing subsidies

HUD Secretary proposes raising rent for low-income Americans receiving federal housing subsidies

WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson proposed far-reaching changes to federal housing subsidies Wednesday, tripling rent for the poorest households and making it easier for housing authorities to impose work requirements.Ca...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Kim Jong Un walks south to meet his rival: Can they deal?

Kim Jong Un walks south to meet his rival: Can they deal?

GOYANG, South Korea — There will be plenty to gawk at Friday when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks south across the world’s most heavily armed border and stands face-to-face with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Two men who seemed on the verg...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A look at the Lightning-Bruins series

A look at the Lightning-Bruins series

So it is the Bruins.The big, bad Bruins.The Bruins come to town Saturday for the start of the Eastern Conference semifinals with the Lightning, a best-of-seven series that begins with a 3 p.m. puck drop.It is the second-round series nearly everyone p...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays morning after: Cobb still searching

Rays morning after: Cobb still searching

The 12 years he spent in the Rays organization, and the seven seasons he was around the big-league team, mean the world to Alex Cobb.But Wednesday he wasn't in the mood for memories.After a third straight outing for his new Orioles team ended badly, ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Five reasons Palm Harbor University football will be better this season

Five reasons Palm Harbor University football will be better this season

PALM HARBOR — There is plenty of optimism at Palm Harbor University, which has some key returners in place that can help the Hurricanes improve on last season's 3-5 football record. Here are five reasons PHU can turn things around, starting thi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Richard Corcoran is trying to get Donald Trump’s attention on Twitter

Richard Corcoran is trying to get Donald Trump’s attention on Twitter

Much of House Speaker Richard Corcoran's April Twitter activity seems aimed at one person: President Donald Trump.The Republican and presumptive gubernatorial candidate tweeted at or about Trump in 19 of his 51 posts this month, often to compliment t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
After Twitter backlash, Jeff Garcia won’t announce any Bucs draft picks

After Twitter backlash, Jeff Garcia won’t announce any Bucs draft picks

The Bucs still don't have a third-round draft pick this weekend, but if they do trade for one, former Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia won't be the one to announce it.It's been a rough few days for Garcia, who played for the Bucs in 2007-08, ma...
Updated: 1 hour ago