"A boy simultaneously holding a rifle and an ice cream cone. Kids clambering on top of demolished tanks, hanging off the guns, as a replacement for play areas now destroyed. Children who once knew of weaponry only in plastic form now stiffening at the sound of approaching aircraft, able to distinguish between the noise of warplanes and military helicopters, of mortar rounds and rockets."
Photo: Raja Abdulrahim / Los Angeles Times
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons wins Peace Prize
The OPCW won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize earlier this morning, as the organization continues its fight to rid the world of chemical weapons. The group has been lifted back into prominence with its work in Syria, where the disarmament of President Bashar al-Assad’s stockpiles continues amid the backdrop of the ongoing civil war.
Said the OPCW’s Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu:
“The recognition that the peace prize brings will spur us to untiring effort, even stronger commitment and greater dedication. I truly hope that this award and the OPCW’s ongoing mission together with the United Nations in Syria will help broader efforts to achieve peace in that country and end the suffering of its people.”
Photos: Guus Schoonwille, Louai Bieshara, Raymond Rutting / AFP/Getty Images
A glimpse into Syria’s displaced millions
According to U.N. estimates, 2 million people have left Syria since the beginning of its civil war in 2011, with another 4 million being displaced from their homes and still seeking refuge within the country’s borders.
One such displaced family told their story, refusing to use their full names for fear of reprisal as they seek safety within the walls of ancient ruins.
Abu Ahmad’s family is among dozens of people who have found shelter amid a cluster of lichen-covered ruins outside Kafer Rouma, in one of several dozen ancient settlements that dot northwestern Syria. The ancient buildings — usually houses, churches and baths — date from the 1st to the 7th century and were abandoned as trade routes changed.
On a recent day, Abu Ahmad held a bottle filled with a greenish liquid to feed his baby daughter. It was water mixed with herbs because there was no milk, he said. There was also no running water and no electricity. Basic food and medicine were lacking.
“I pray to God to curse this pig [Assad] for making us live in caves like in the ancient times,” said a woman, also named Fatima, who said she fled to the ruins with her seven children. “Look at us,” she said, giving only her first name out of fear.
Read and see more over at Framework.
Photos: Associated Press
Obama delays military action against Syria to pursue diplomacy
President Obama addressed the nation just moments ago to provide an update on the latest in the ongoing debate on how to react to alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government.
“When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other day until those horrifying pictures fade from memory. But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied.
The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it, because what happened to those people, to those children, is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security.”
While calling new negotiations with the Syrian government about the removal of its chemical weapons stockpiles promising, Obama didn’t halt his military options entirely. Instead, he called for a delay on congressional approval of military strikes while diplomatic talks progress.
You can read through a transcript of Obama’s remarks here, or keep tabs on World Now for more as the story develops.
Photo: Evan Vucci / AFP/Getty Images
Previewing the presidential pitch on Syria
Obama administration officials have tried to make the case for military action against Syria for over a week now, but with the public largely against intervention and congressional approval looking shaky, the president himself will address the nation tonight.
Complicating the issue is a Russian proposal, first suggested by Secretary of State John Kerry in an off-the-cuff remark, that Syria avoid an attack by giving up its chemical weapons for eventual dismantling.
And though Obama has said that a “credible” military threat to Syria must be maintained, he did tell CBS News yesterday that the weapons deal could be “a potentially significant breakthrough.”
So can Obama convince the nearly 6 in 10 Americans who oppose military strikes? It doesn’t appear likely: As reported by our own Evan Halper, presidential addresses are historically ineffective at shaping public opinion.
Even Franklin D. Roosevelt found that speeches could fall flat. He took on the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1937 national radio address after it struck down a big part of his New Deal program. He touted a plan to increase the size of the court so he could appoint more justices. The plan failed in Congress nonetheless.
Photos: Sana, CBS News / Associated Press, Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images
"I belong to the Syrian people," Syrian president Bashar al-Assad told the French journalist George Malbrunot, of the newspaper Le Figaro, earlier this week. “I defend their interests and independence and will not succumb to external pressure.”
Yes. That’s what he said. There are many, many caveats to that little assertion, obviously, but one of the most noteworthy is this: The message wasn’t just sent from President Assad to George Malbrunot. It was also sent from President #Assad to George #Malbrunot. It was a message that originated in person, ostensibly, but that was delivered to the world (or at least to 36,664 members of that world) with the help of a Facebook-owned social network. It was political posturing in the form of an Instagram.
In that capacity, the “Syria, c’est moi” messaging accompanied a picture of Assad doing his thing, or claiming to — one of dozens of such pictures that syrianpresidency, “the official Instagram account for the Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic,” has posted to its page since July.
The most ridiculous thing on Instagram right now.
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Scenes from before the civil war in Syria
The unrest in Syria that swiftly turned into an escalating civil war began in 2011, and with no end in sight, the pre-war country fades further and further into the distance. Now, with the possibility of U.S. military intervention, depending on congressional action and President Obama, take a look at what life was once like in the war-torn country.
Photos: Louai Beshara, Anwar Amro / AFP/Getty Images, Bassem Tellawi, Hussein Malla / Associated Press, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad / Getty Images
Obama requests congressional approval before striking Syria
In carefully-worded series of remarks just a short time ago, President Obama called for the international community to take action against Syria for an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime, stated he has the authority to carry out a military strike of his own, but then backed off and asked for Congress to give the go-ahead.
As Obama clearly said, lining out U.S. military capabilities in the region:
"…after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope."
But just moments later, Obama called on Congress to back him:
"I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that’s why I’ve made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress."
And now, as confirmed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House will take up a resolution considering U.S. military intervention in Syria the week of Sept. 9. But as congressional reporter Michael A. Memoli knows all too well, getting the legislative body to act isn’t an easy task.
So the question stands: Did Obama made the right decision deferring to Congress? Or should he have gone ahead with his desired military strike?
Photos: Jim Watson, Mladen Antonov / AFP Photo
U.S. to take ‘limited action’ in response to Syrian chemical attack
But what that action will be has yet to be decided by President Obama. Following Secretary of State John Kerry’s call to action and condemnation of the Aug. 21 attack, Obama spoke to reporters about his considerations.
"There is a certain weariness, given Afghanistan. There is a certain suspicion of any military action post-Iraq. And I very much appreciate that," Obama said "…It’s important for us to recognize that when over a thousand people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children, through the use of a weapon that 98 or 99 percent of humanity says should not be used even in war, and there is no action, then we’re sending a signal."
Kerry claimed earlier that 1,429 people had died in the attack, with at least 426 of them children. Calling the attack a “crime against humanity,” Kerry echoed Obama’s commitment to limited action, but action nonetheless.
Photos: EPA, Saul Loeb / AFP Photo, Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press
The ‘Crossing of Death’ in Syria
The Karaj al Hajez crossing that spans Aleppo’s Queiq River is a no man’s land where Syrian residents are picked off daily by a government sniper.
With that to set the scene, our own Raja Abdulrahim documents a bridge in the embattled city of Aleppo, Syria, where the sniper usually strikes at least a few citizens going about their daily lives from a perch in City Hall.
It used to be a main road connecting two neighborhoods. Now it’s a dangerous walkway, with the bridge in the middle.
Despite the risk of being shot on the bridge or detained at the checkpoint on the government side, thousands cross each day, attempting to navigate what remains of their old lives in the shadow of war: making their way to jobs, college, hospitals or just to buy groceries.
Read more in our latest Column One feature.
Photos: Los Angeles Times, Andoni Lubacki, Aleppo Media Center / Associated Press
Syria: 100,000 dead with no end in sight
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked a grim landmark in the ongoing Syrian civil war today. As attempts to get peace talks between the embattled regime of President Bashar Assad and the leaders of rebel forces continue to go nowhere, the death toll has hit 100,000.
The situation in Syria remains grim, as the two sides continue to battle through the country’s cities, the humanitarian crisis grows as more and more refugees pour out of the country and an external solution continues to appear to be unlikely.
Photos: Shaam News Network, Karam Jamal / AFP/Getty, SANA, Abdullah al-Yassin, Manu Brabo / Associated Press
Exclusive: U.S. has secretly provided training to Syrian rebels
Since late last year, CIA and U.S. operatives have been providing support to Syrian rebels, particularly for anti-tank and anti-aircraft armaments.
The two-week courses include training with Russian-designed 14.5-millimeter anti-tank rifles, anti-tank missiles, as well as 23-millimeter anti-aircraft weapons, according to a rebel commander in the Syrian province of Dara who helps oversee weapons acquisitions and who asked his name not be used because the program is secret.
The training marks another step in U.S. involvement in the grisly, ongoing civil war within Syria, preceding President Obama’s recent pledge to provide arms to rebel forces.
Read the full story over at World Now.
Photos: Ahmad Aboud, Daniel Leal-Olivas, Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty Images, Manu Brabo, Edlib News Network / Associated Press
"You don’t have to get my permission; go destroy them."
Nader Haj Kadour, a classically-trained painter, always wanted to paint animals, landscapes and spoke to the Times at one point while painting a butterfly.
But for decades, the main subjects of his art were the late President Hafez Assad and his son Bashar, who is currently embroiled in the bloody Syrian civil war.
Their faces have dominated walls, storefronts and car windows all over Syria, a visual declaration of loyalty to the dictators. Their images — sometimes partially hidden behind sunglasses, other times in military uniform but always stern and slightly foreboding — were the ubiquitous reminders that Big Brother was watching.
Now, with the country in the midst of a longstanding civil war, and Kadour no longer under the thumb of the government, he works with rebels to paint caricatures of the Assads, and welcomes rebel fighters to tear down his representations of the brutal Syrian president and his family.
Read the full story in our latest Column One feature.
Photos: Raja Abdulrahim / Los Angeles Times