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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Like one of those cartoon characters who run right off the edge of a cliff and just keep treading air — but you know it can’t go on that way for long — the Obama administration keeps looking for ways to pretend that Iran’s nuclear bomb program is no immediate crisis.

President Obama has extended his hand to Tehran’s uranium-loving mullahcracy, wished them happy new year, brushed aside their role in arming terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, hung back when they murdered protesters in the streets of their own capital, and placed his bets on the bizarre premise that Iran can somehow be sweet-talked out of its nuclear bomb program. Until his hand was forced last week, he kept quiet for months about Iran’s additional hidden uranium enrichment facility on a military base near Qom. In deciding to make history by becoming the first American president to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council, he swept aside any specific discussion of Iran (or North Korea) and — despite a try by French president Nicolas Sarkozy to insert some reality into the session — marked it down as a triumph that all 15 members paid lip service to the utopian and currently irrelevant dream of a world without nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, Iran keeps barreling toward the bomb. If this doesn’t add up to confrontation, it’s because the U.S. keeps backing off, which gives Iran a chance to go further… and further… and we get closer and closer to the moment at which, yes indeed, they’ll have those bombs. At that point, any confrontation would no longer be about stopping Iran from getting the bomb. It would be a confrontation with a nuclear-armed armed Iran. Anyone see a problem with that?

Which brings us to a line from President Obama that I’ve been marveling over since last week. In The Wall Street Journal on Friday, in an article mentioning the talks with Iran now scheduled for Oct. 1, Obama was quoted saying that Iran will have to choose between giving up its nuclear program or continuing — here’s the line — “down a path that is going to lead to confrontation.”

Let’s look at that locution again (boldface mine). ”Down a path that is going to lead to confrontation.” So… by this description, Iran need not worry about confrontation right now. Iran is not yet even on a path that already leads to confrontation. Iran is merely traveling along a path which at some point is “going to” lead to confrontation.  With lines like that rolling out of the White House, the mullahs would be mad not to keep going — right down the thruway to the bomb, while Obama is still poring over the paths on his roadmap.

There’s plenty in French politics that the world could live without — thus, in 2003, when Jacques Chirac was president of France, Americans ended up ordering “Freedom Fries.” But the pendulum swings, and these days – credit France — we find French president Nicolas Sarkozy warning President Barack Obama that a foreign policy of denial and appeasement is the way to becoming French — and American — toast.  During the past week’s meetings at the United Nations, featuring Obama’s “mutual respect” and global tyrants on parade, there came a moment at which Sarkozy opened his mouth on the big, big subject of nuclear crisis, and spoke truth to Obamaland. It got far too little coverage — so I reprise it here.

The setting was the special, summit-level Security Council meeting Thursday morning, chaired by Obama, in which the official topics were nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament for the entire world — but with no focus on any specific country. The meeting was advertised by the White House as “historic,” if for no other reason than that no U.S. President has ever before stooped to chair the often feckless and at times just plain sleazy UN Security Council — where the 15 members currently include Vietnam and Libya. For this particular occasion, Libya’s foreign minister attended (thus sparing the Council the risk of a replay of Qaddadi’s 96 minute performance the previous day on the General Assembly stage). The rest of the table was filled with presidents and prime ministers.

They began with Obama’s pre-packaged deal of unanimously adopting a ”historic” resolution, which Obama said ”enshrines our shared commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons,” etc, etc. etc (All very nice, but what does this have to do with the real world?). Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon kicked off the ensuing round of official self-congratulatory huffing and puffing (“…a historic moment…a fresh start towards a new future”). The canned diplo-speak continued, as each member spoke in turn – Costa Rica, Croatia, Russia, Spain, Austria, Vietnam, Uganda, China … and then it was the turn of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Here’s his wakeup call, in the UN’s translation from the French (boldface mine):

“We are here to guarantee peace. We are right to talk about the future. But the present comes before the future, and the present includes two major nuclear crises. The peoples of the entire world are listening to what we are saying, including our promises, commitments and speeches. But we live in the real world, not in a virtual one.

We say that we must reduce. President Obama himself has said that he dreams of a world without nuclear weapons. Before our very eyes, two countries are doing exactly the opposite at this very moment. Since 2005, Iran has violated five Security Council Resolutions. [Ed note: Sarkozy then listed international proposals for dialogue with Iran attempted in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.] I support America’s extended hand. But what have these proposals for dialogue produced for the international community? Nothing but more enriched uranium and more centrifuges. And last but not least, it has resulted in a statement by Iranian leaders calling for wiping off the map a Member of the United Nations. What are we to do? What conclusion are we to draw? At a certain moment hard facts will force us to take decisions.

Secondly, there is North Korea — and there it is even more striking. It has violated every Security Council decision since 1993. It pays absolutely no attention to what the international community says. Even more, it continues ballistic missile testing. How can we accept that? What conclusions should we draw? …”

You can read President Sarkozy’s entire statement here (in all its Defcon 1 relevance to the disclosures Friday of another Iranian uranium enrichment plant hidden on a military base near Qom)  –  click on this link to Security Council meetings for 2009,  then click on the link for “Meeting Record” of Sept 24th and scroll to page 12.

We all know that when Iran’s Holocaust-Denier-in-Chief Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes to New York to speak at the annual September opening of the United Nations, he likes to throw parties.

Ever wondered what might go on at those parties? Well, thanks to evidence introduced at a federal trial in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, we now know how it worked out for one of Ahmadinejad’s party guests — an Iranian-American businessman, Ali Amirnazmi, then living near Philadelphia. He was found guilty this past February on one count of conspiracy to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran, three counts of violating sanctions, plus sundry other charges. He now awaits sentencing.

Ahmadinejad’s role in his trajectory from party-goer to convicted felon is the subject of my story out today on Fox News: “Ahmadinejad Personally Recruited Sanctions Buster During New York Trip…” One of the signal moments came when Ahmadinejad — with complete disregard for the laws of the U.S., which had allowed him entry to speak at the UN — asked his assembled guests if anyone was willing to help and do business with Iran. A number of party-goers raised their hands… 

The story linked above has links within to a number of court documents which are interesting, not least, for a chance to see the flowery greetings and titles exchanged among the culprit, the Office of the President in Iran, and the Iranian Interests Section in Washington, D.C. (housed at the Embassy of Pakistan). All had a hand in this sanctions-busting saga … “Honorable”… “Respected” .. and “Cherished.”

Ahmadinejad is arriving in New York this week for the fifth time in five years, scheduled to speak Wednesday afternoon at the UN.  And again, invitations to the parties have gone out. What now?

President Obama plans to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council this Thursday in New York. The Obama administration has been at pains to point out that this is historic — something that in the 65-year history no American President has ever done.

Unfortunately, there are good reasons why American presidents have not done this, and there are plenty of reasons why Obama should not do it now. It is both demeaning to the U.S. presidency, and dangerous to America. Obama was elected to represent and protect the interests of the United States, not to bargain away U.S. interests for a chance to personally bang the gavel at the crooked councils of the UN.

As promised in my post yesterday on Obama’s Extremely Historic Plans for the UN, here’s a link to my article today in the Philadelphia Inquirer on “A bad idea for a photo op,” explaining why Obama ought to leave the security-council chairing to his ambassador, Susan Rice.

Obama’s Extremely Historic Plans for the UN

September 19th, 2009 - 3:07 pm

Here it comes — Party Week at this year’s opening of the United Nations General Assembly, complete with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe and the foreign ministers of Belarus, Burma, Syria and North Korea (although, with the UN’s practice of giving all 192 members a chance to speak, no matter whom they’ve butchered lately, it takes a full five days to mill through them all. So the last three in this particular Axis of Antediluvians — Burma, Syria and North Korea will bring up the tail-end of the speechifying, the following Monday).

And, of course, Obama, Obama, Obama and yet more Obama. Everything he does at the UN right now is — as his flaks have not been shy about letting us know — historic, if for no other reason than that – this being the first UN annual opening of his presidency — Obama himself has not done it before.

But, in the matter of full-body immersion, he’s about to do it now, with three days of  designer boots on the ground in NY. On Tuesday, Sept. 22, Obama will give a historic speak at the Secretary-General’s summit on climate change. Then he’ll host a historic lunch for high officials of Sub-Saharan Africa and attend what the U.S. Mission has described as a “climate change” dinner hosted (your tax dollars, and the UN’s historically high budgets, at work) by Ban Ki-Moon. Which, with Obama in attendance, augurs a lot more historic work toward what the UN would like to translate into historically high levels of regulation and expense affecting almost every aspect of your own daily life. But hey — how else can one make history?

Wednesday, Sept. 23, Obama will deliver what U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice says will be a “historic” address to the UN General Assembly. He’ll also host a meeting with the main patrons of the UN’s (historically corrupt) peacekeeping missions, and attend Ban Ki-Moon’s annual lunch for heads of state and government. That evening, together with Michelle, he’ll host a U.S. reception for the same (historically well-fed) bunch.

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The September 12th Failure of Cognition

September 11th, 2009 - 11:00 pm

Following the 2001 terrorist attacks, the authors of The 9/11 Commission Report faulted America for failure of imagination. Our politicians have now remedied that. Imagination has become the calling and the cause of current U.S. politics.

We have a president who imagines he can keep this country safe by reaching out to Syria, haggling with North Korea and Iran, winking at Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and smiling at Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Washington is rife with politicians and pundits willing to entertain the idea that if America withdraws in defeat from Afghanistan, there will be no hell to pay.

Imagination now tells us that with the help of the United Nations, the politicians of the world can fine-tune the climate and the tides. Imagination says there can be state-planned healthcare for all, but rationing and deficits for none. Imagination says America can be centrally planned, but free; nanny-state, but strong; apologetically appeasement-driven, but secure. Imagination has reduced “war” to “overseas contingency operations,” and imagination posits that – Afghanistan apart — what remains of those overseas contingency operations can mostly be fought and won through the U.S. courts.

Meanwhile, the alarms are clanging. Signs are that Iran will soon be rolling out nuclear bombs. North Korea has already run its second nuclear test. New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau goes to Washington to warn an unheeding administration that a fast-rising “axis of unity” between Venezuela and Iran is on a path leading toward nuclear-tipped missiles in America’s “backyard.” Pirates, and freighters stuffed with North Korean weapons, ply the seas. Al Qaeda digs into Africa. Russia and China blaze the way toward a world order in which ruthless autocracy outranks democracy, and New York Times columnist  Thomas Friedman sees a certain charm in the idea. Later this month, an extraordinary parade of swaggering and emboldened tyrants — including Qaddafi, Chavez and Ahmadinejad– will arrive in New York to share the UN stage with the U.S. president who has already shaken hands with two of them, and wished happy new year, on webcast, to a third.

We don’t yet know on what date, precisely, the next terrible fruition of all these realities will rudely interrupt Washington’s orgy of imagination. For now, for a place marker, call that date Sept. 12th. In the reports that will later be written, it won’t be failure of imagination that should figure large. Rather, failure of cognition, and of will.

Your tax dollars at work. Again. From Voice of America — which is supposed to represent America to the world –   we’ve just had a Sept. 5 “news” story that reads like a press release from Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Or maybe from Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Or both. Looks like they decide, VOA reports.

The headline is: “Chavez Meets with Ahmadinejad to Discuss Peaceful Nuclear Partnership.”

What’s wrong with that headline? It’s newsworthy — alarmingly so — that Iran and Venezuela are pursuing and publicly airing plans for a nuclear partnership. But who says that “peaceful” has anything to do with it? Well, Hugo Chavez said so. He said it during his visit this past weekend to Tehran, where he met with Ahmadinejad. The VOA reporter, Jessica Desvariaux, dateline Cairo, faithfully informs us in her lead paragraph that Chavez “said there is no proof that Iran is building a nuclear bomb.”

Don’t hold your breath waiting for a caveat, or a dissenting view about the many signs that Iran is obviously after the bomb. In this article, that doesn’t happen.

Instead, in the second paragraph, with the added detail that Chavez was “all smiles” and making his “seventh official visit to the Islamic Republic,” the VOA reporter repeats, word-for-word, her phrase from the first paragraph, that Chavez “said there is no proof that Iran is building is building a nuclear bomb.”

That’s followed by information that Chavez says Iran will not back down in its efforts to obtain what Chavez “says is a sovereign right of the people — to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes.”

Finally we get to a thumbnail of American policy –  by now we’re in the fifth paragraph of the article — with a single sentence mentioning President Obama’s call for Tehran to engage in nuclear talks by late September, ”or face further sanctions.”  But American concerns get exactly that lone sentence. Then the VOA reporter returns to what is apparently her usually scheduled programming, which now turns to paraphrasing, with nary a caveat, the propaganda of Tehran: “Iran denies that its nuclear program is a cover for a military nuclear program and insists that it’s for energy purposes.”

There are two more paragraphs, entirely devoted to paraphrasing Ahmadinejad’s statements that the aims of Iran and Venezuela are to support revolutionary nations, form and expand anti-imperialist fronts, and help oppressed nations.

The reporter then wraps up with the information that Chavez after a second day in Tehran would continue on to Belarus, Russia, Turkmenistan and Spain. (She omits his earlier stops on this tour, in Syria, Libya and Algeria).

This is interesting material, in its way, including the mention in the fourth paragraph that Chavez said the mission of his visit was for Iran and Venezuela to create a “nuclear village.” Perhaps the Americans who would be within range of Venezuela’s piece of this village might have some thoughts about that. Perhaps the Israelis and a number of Arab states within range of the Iranian portion of this endeavor might see it as less than “peaceful.” There is actually quite a story buried in here somewhere, about transcontinental cooperation on sanctions-busting nuclear projects, involving a predatory Latin American regime, and a terrorist-sponsoring state where peaceful protesters were recently slaughtered in the streets. But this VOA article is almost entirely devoted to repeating and paraphrasing the utterances of Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Couldn’t this brand of coverage be left to the propaganda organs of Caracas and Tehran? Why should American taxpayers fund it? And even more to the point, exactly how does it serve American interests for VOA to disseminate it?

The reporter, Desvariaux (she has an online resume here), appears relatively new to VOA. In a search of the VOA web site, I found only two articles with her byline. But the trend isn’t good. Here she is, Sept. 6, dateline Cairo, providing for Khalid Mashaal, leader of the Hamas terrorist group that controls Gaza, the same public-relations genre of coverage she provided Sept. 5 for Chavez and Ahmadinejad. If this is Voice of America, it’s time for Iran, Venezuela and Hamas to start complaining to Washington about plagiarism.

Have a look at the web site of their Iran office, which has been soliciting donations for use in terror-sponsoring Iran and for relief for terrorist-controlled Gaza through an Iranian state-owned bank, Bank Melli. (Caveat: If you live in America, Australia or a country in the European Union, it is illegal to donate to the account listed on the UNICEF site).

Bank Melli is under sanctions by the U.S., the European Union and Australia for what might basically be called proliferation banking. The U.S. Treasury describes Bank Melli as having “facilitated numerous purchases of sensitive materials for Iran’s nuclear and missile programs on behalf of UN-designated entities.” Treasury adds that Bank Melli has also “provided a range of financial services to known proliferators, including letters of credit and the maintenance of accounts.”

The UN itself, in its series of sanctions resolutions on Iran, called on all member states in March, 2008 to “exercise vigilance” over any ties between financial institutions on their turf and Bank Melli. More on this in my Forbes.com column this week on “UNICEF’s Proliferation-Prone Banker.”

Does UNICEF’s American executive director, Ann Veneman — former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture –  see any problem with this arrangement? When I asked, earlier this week, she was unavailable for comment.

This comes alongside another disturbing UN solicitation for relief funds for terrorist-controlled Gaza, which turned up earlier this year under a photo of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Ban was advertising an emergency appeal by UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East). That appeal included a special account for donations from Syria  – via a Syrian Bank that’s been under U.S. sanctions since 2004, the Commercial Bank of Syria (which Treasury alleges has provided banking services to terrorists, and during the days of the UN Oil-for-Food program served as a conduit for Saddam Hussein to launder a torrent of illicit loot).

Is there a pattern here? We have at least two UN agencies – UNICEF and UNRWA – picking some very disturbing bankers, especially in the fraught matter of transferring funds from terrorist-sponsoring Iran and Syria into Gaza, which is controlled by the terrorist group, Hamas. These are just two instances I happened to come across while looking at UN web sites which actually provided a detail or two of their banking arrangements, because they were soliciting money through the accounts.  As a rule, UN banking setups are not remotely transparent, and we are left to trust UN officials who assure us they are … trustworthy. What else is going on with the opaque and diplomatically immune banking arrangements of the vast web of UN agencies operating in the Middle East?

The UN record of accountability and due diligence is abysmal (Oil-for-Food, we were once assured — as UN officials tried to deflect initial calls for an investigation – was the most audited UN program ever). The UN agencies answer to governing bodies stacked with the likes of Iran, Cuba, Sudan, China, Russia and Libya. In the parade of dictators due to traipse through the General Assembly opening in New York later this month — including Libya’s Muammar Qadaffi and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — we’re about to get a further display of the character of the UN. Who, these days, is keeping an eye on the UN’s far-flung bank accounts?

Yes, there are a number of disturbing things which could fit under that heading, including such unsavory items as Iran’s nuclear bomb program. And for reasons not fully explained in the public relations materials, you can also find this trio on the 26-member organizing committee of the latest in the endless series of United Nations climate conferences, this one meeting right now in Geneva, Aug. 31-Sept. 4.

Billing itself as “Not just another climate conference,” this gathering is crammed with the usual UN has-beens, wannabes and hangers-on, including former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and many of the same UN climate crowd whose deep interests in rationing your use of energy have, of course, required that they jet around the world — much of that at public expense — to climate conferences in recent years in venues from Rio to Bali. Some 1,000 “decision-makers and scientists“ from more than 150 countries have signed up to attend. It’s all part of the UN effort to build momentum for the “seal the deal” Copenhagen climate pow-wow scheduled for December.

For the current conference, the ambitions include… well, see what sense you can make of this UN-speak, which translated into English means, roughly, that the UN wants license to intrude in virtually every aspect of human life, oversee monumental wealth transfers around the globe, and effectively bill you for the experience.

Attuned, perhaps, to criticisms that there is a certain amount of hypocrisy involved in UN conferences that entail hundreds of people jetting in for a week of dining, wining and filling the plush hotels, the conference organizers have included in their materials some suggestions for making their conclave “more climate friendly.” This includes the reminder, “Don’t forget to turn the light off when you leave the room.” Actually, that could stand as a motto for the entire endeavor. All over the world, if this UN campaign gets any more traction, a lot of lights are going to go out. It’s happened before, and there’s a name for it: The Dark Ages. For that, perhaps it makes some sense to have the governments of Russia, China and Iran on the organizing committee.