DAMASCUS (AP) — Syrian Christians offered prayers Sunday for a group of more than a dozen nuns and orphanage workers held by rebels for nearly a week, fueling fears in the minority community that they are being targeted by extremists among the fighters seeking to oust President Bashar Assad.
The seizure of the 12 Greek Orthodox nuns and at least three other women is the latest attack to spark panic among Syria’s Christians over the strength of al-Qaida-linked militants and other Islamic radicals in the nearly 3-year-old revolt against Assad’s government. A priest and two bishops previously kidnapped by rebels remain missing, and extremists are accused of vandalizing churches in areas they have captured.
Rebels seized the nuns on Monday from the Greek Orthodox Mar Takla convent when fighters overran Maaloula, a mainly Christian village north of Damascus that lies on a key highway and has changed hands several times in fierce fighting between rebels and government forces. The group, along with three women — themselves orphans — who work in the convent’s orphanage were taken to the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud.
The eldest of the nuns is nearly 90 years old, and the youngest of the orphanage workers is in her mid-teens, according to Mother Superior Febronia Nabhan, head of the Saidnaya Convent.
BEIRUT (AP) — A Russian plan for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to avert Western missile strikes bogged down Tuesday when Moscow rejected U.S. and French demands for a binding U.N. resolution with “very severe consequences” for non-compliance.
The surprise Russian proposal, which Syria and the United States both accepted, would put President Bashar Assad’s regime’s chemical stockpile under international control before its eventual dismantling. The initiative — also cautiously endorsed by Britain and France — appeared to offer a way out of a crisis that raised the prospect of U.S.-led military action against Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack last month.
But the plan ran aground as the world powers haggled over the crucial element of how to enforce it. Wary of falling into what the French foreign minister called “a trap,” Paris and Washington are pushing for a U.N. Security Council resolution to verify Syria’s disarmament. Russia, a close Assad ally and the regime’s chief patron on the international stage, dismissed France’s proposal as unacceptable.
English: General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, 18thChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Unless President Obama can show Congress that his planned Syria strike is linked to a larger – and coherent – strategy, legislators should just say no.
So far, his explanations, and those of his cabinet members at congressional hearings, have only added to the confusion. “What is it you’re seeking?” Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) asked Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in trying to elicit the broader goals of military action. The general replied candidly, “I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking.”
That moment of testimony encapsulated the dilemma for the Congress and the country. If the military doesn’t grasp where the commander in chief is leading, and the president can’t (or won’t) clarify, we’re all in trouble. You can’t get there if you don’t know where “there” is.
This is not the way to wage a war – oops, I mean a limited military strike.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has directed the Pentagon to develop an expanded list of potential targets in Syria in response to intelligence suggesting that President Bashar Assad’s government has been moving troops and equipment used to employ chemical weapons while Congress debates whether to authorize military action.
Mr. Obama, officials said, is determined to put more emphasis on the “degrade” part of what the administration has said is the goal of a military strike against Syria — to “deter and degrade” Mr. Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons. That means expanding beyond the 50 or so major sites that were part of the target list developed with French forces before Mr. Obama delayed action Saturday to seek congressional approval.
MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin hopes to send a delegation of Russian lawmakers to the United States to discuss the situation in Syria with members of Congress, the Interfax news agency reported Monday.
Russian legislators Valentina Matvienko and Sergei Naryshkin proposed that to Putin, saying polls have shown little support among Americans for armed intervention in Syria to punish its regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack.
The lawmakers said maybe U.S. legislators can be persuaded to take a “balanced stance” on the issue. Putin supported the initiative, which would require formal approval by the Foreign Ministry.
Russia has sent legislators to the U.S. before to try to persuade Congress about pending legislation. But sending a delegation to Washington to discuss Syria’s civil war could be seen as a publicity stunt, given the strong positions Moscow already has taken as a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s regime. The U.S. has accused Russia of providing military support to Assad that has allowed Assad to cling to power during Syria’s civil war.
After hundreds of emails from the office of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were leaked on Monday, a report revealed that several of Assad’s aides and advisers used the password “12345.” (My 5-year-old granddaughter knows better than that!!!!)