While The International Herald Tribune is running an Iranian ad for bids to build two new reactors in Iran, The New York Sun is performing the more useful service of pointing out yet more perils of depending on the United Nations to stop the Iranian bomb program. Today’s Sun carries a story by UN reporter Benny Avni, noting that America’s new ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, is off to a troubling start. Last Tuesday, his second day on the job, Khalilzad lunched at his new residence with Kofi Annan’s former righthand man, Iqbal Riza.
Who is Iqbal Riza? He’s the Sandy Berger of the UN — Annan’s former chief of staff who during the Oil-for-Food investigation spent months shredding documents from the files of the UN’s executive suite on the 38th floor. According to the reports of Paul Volcker’s inquiry into Oil-for-Food, Riza also gave investigators a curious version of his own role in the multi-billion-dollar Oil-for-Food scandal. Maybe Khalilzad before he hosts any more lunches should download a copy of the Volcker Committee’s final report on the UN mismanagement of Oil-for-Food, released Sept. 7, 2005, Volume III, and simply search on the name “Riza.” Among the many items that raise disturbing questions about Riza, there is such stuff as Riza “told the Committee that he had minimal involvement” with Oil-for-Food, but “Mr. Riza played a greater role than he was willing to state.” Riza was the “primary point of access to the Secretary-General” and along with meeting with Iraqi officials, he received and reviewed important documents, including specific allegations of Saddam’s corrupt and sanctions-busting demands for kickbacks, which Annan’s office somehow never reported to the Security Council, and neither Annan nor Riza ever mentioned to the public… highly germane though it would have been to the heated 2002-2003 UN debate over toppling Saddam.
Riza was also Kofi Annan’s righthand man back in 1994, when Annan as head of peacekeeping waved aside a clear warning of the impending genocide in Rwanda – and told UN peacekeepers not to interfere.
Riza, a native of Pakistan, has close ties to Iran, which may explain why Khalilzad might have figured it was a good idea to invite him for lunch. But where do Riza’s loyalties lie? After his Oil-for-Food shredding was discovered, in late 2004, he retired from the UN, only to be brought back by Annan as a “special adviser” on an Iranian-grandfathered Iranian-tilted new UN enterprise known as the Alliance of Civilizations. The Alliance was the UN outfit that invited former Iranian President Mohamed Khatami to the U.S. last September, which allowed Khatami to embark within the U.S. on an anti-U.S. propaganda tour that dovetailed with the UN debate over Iran’s flagrant violation of an August 31 deadline to stop its bomb program.
The question by now is: Why is Iqbal Riza still in New York at all?
Perhaps our new ambassador to the UN has his own reasons for believing there are gains to chatting with a former Annan-acolyte whose resume includes doing UN headquarters sentry duty during the Rwandan genocide, covering up Saddam’s kickbacks during Oil-for-Food, shredding documents during the subsequent investigation, and last fall (while Annan was telling the Iranians not to worry about violating the UN resolution) bringing an Iranian mouthpiece to the U.S. as a special guest of the UN. But if Khalilzad really feels he must talk with Riza, don’t dignify it with lunch at the residence. Paper-bag it in a utility closet, preferably near an industrial-size shredder, as a reminder of what the advice is worth.