Earlier this morning, the Syrian government announced that a team of 11 United Nations chemical weapons inspectors, along with their Syrian drivers, had been abducted by rebels. Shortly thereafter, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said its team was actually fine — they'd come under fire while traveling to the site of an alleged chlorine gas attack, but were safe.
No further information as of yet on what the abduction story was all about. It's the Syrian government, not the rebel groups, that has been accused of chlorine gas attacks, including the one the inspectors were on their way to investigate. Theoretically any investigation, therefore, would be to the rebels' advantage.
A few more items of note from what, in the United States, was a holiday weekend:
General: Many of the nastiest Syrian fighters are British
Brig. Gen. Abdulellah al-Basheer of the Free Syrian Army, one of the more moderate rebel groups, wrote a letter published in British newspaper The Times, "asking for help in curbing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," one of the extremist rebel groups.
It's not that controversial to suggest the world would be a better place without ISIL, or ISIS (pick your favorite translation) — they're the folks who were putting dead bodies up on crosses a few months ago. But why is al-Basheer writing to a British newspaper in particular? That's where it gets interesting. ISIL is a sort of multinational jihadist group — a lot of the fighters are foreign. And al-Basheer says that the majority of those foreign fighters are British.
That's certainly plausible. In fairness, the UK is already quite worried about this trend. Last month, The Telegraph called returning, radicalized fighters "the biggest threat to Britain's security." The government announced a new initiative in April focusing on Muslim women, getting them to keep their relatives from heading off to fight. Last week a man was arrested at the airport as he returned from a "terrorist training camp" in Syria.
Syria and Jordan in diplomatic slap-fight
Monday, Jordan declared Syria's ambassador persona non grata over "repeated insults," demanding he leave the country within 24 hours. Jordan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said this was about critical comments the ambassador had made on social media.
Syrian state television promptly announced Syria would be expelling Jordan's charges d'affaires in Damascus as retaliation.
Jordan, by the way, has been helping to arm rebels in Syria, an open secret that got a little more open when The New York Times published a feature on it in April.
The conflict continues.