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The Rosett Report

Monthly Archives: April 2010

At the UN, it gets ever worse. Iran, a world hub of misogyny, just got a seat on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women. Next up, Libya is now in the running for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Unless the engagement-loving Obama administration engages full force to somehow block this bid, Libya could very well win that seat.

I’m not kidding. Scroll down and see the list of candidates for yourself. The UN General Assembly is scheduled to vote May 13 on new members to fill 14 of the 47 seats on the Human Rights Council. These seats are parceled out among regional groups. Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya is one of four countries running for four seats allocated this round to the African group, the other contenders being the unedifying trio of Angola, Uganda and Mauritania. With four candidates for four seats, the usual UN behavior is to call for all candidates to be seated by acclamation.

Will the Obama adminstration try to do anything about this? Apparently, the U.S. made no effort to stop Iran joining the UN’s commission on women’s rights. Will President Barack Obama’s ”engagement” now extend to politely acquiescing as Libya joins the Human Rights Council?

Enough Already – Just Move the UN to Iran

April 29th, 2010 - 8:14 pm

Last week, when  Iran withdrew its candidacy for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, I got messages from a number of folks who were almost sorry to see Iran drop out of the race. That’s not because they like Iran’s regime. It’s because seating Iran on the rotten Human Rights Council would have been an act so grotesque that anyone could grasp the problems with the Council – much as Libya chairing the old Human Rights Commission in 2003 served to discredit that rotten body once and for all.

Well, for all those who were disappointed that Iran’s regime will not become the convenient poster-child for the UN’s travesty of a Human Rights Council, there’s a carnival of cold comfort ahead.

The UN’s Economic and Social Council has just elected Iran to a seat on the UN’s women’s rights commission — formally known as the Commission on the Status of Women. This outfit describes itself on its web site as the UN’s “principal global policy making body” for “gender equality and advancement of women.”

As Hot Air notes: “I think Neda would have wanted it this way, don’t you?”

But wait! There’s more. Fox News reporter Joseph Abrams unearthed the bombshell about Iran taking a seat on the women’s rights commission, no thanks to any of the UN’s well-heeled press offices. The UN had quietly buried the announcement in a lengthy press release, under the riveting headline: “In resumed organizational session, Economic and Social Council solidifies plans for forthcoming substantive session, fills vacancies in subsidiary bodies.” (I hope Fox is giving Joe combat pay for reading this stuff). Joe’s article is here, with details about the apparent failure of the U.S. Mission to even challenge Iran’s bid by calling for a vote. Iran was “elected” by “acclamation.”

And, yes! There’s yet more. Entombed about 6,000 syllables deep under the headline of that same press release (pour yourself a stiff drink — here it is) is the information that Iran has also just obtained three other seats.

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Iran Drops Bid for UN Human Rights Council

April 24th, 2010 - 10:34 pm

In the growing gloom of world politics, it’s a bit of good news that Iran has dropped its bid for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Having tossed its turban into the ring back in February, Iran’s regime quietly withdrew its candidacy this past week.

But as good news goes, this is a complex nugget. Iran’s withdrawal redeems neither the UN Human Rights Council, nor Iran. The Human Rights Council has yet to move beyond, or rise above, the bigotry underlying its hosting last year of the Durban Review Conference (starring Iran’s semi-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and the bias of the Goldstone Report (giving a pass to the Hamas terrorist crowd ruling Gaza, while vilifying Israel). As for Iran’s regime, it had no business presenting itself in the first place as a candidate for anything to do with human rights — even if only in name. That Tehran had the gall to attempt this was obscene, though understandable in light of the sleaze that has permeated the Human Rights Council itself.

Nor does Iran’s withdrawal from this candidacy mean it is relegated to the ranks of UN wallflowers. Iran currently holds seats on the governing boards of a number of major UN agencies, including UNICEF, the UN Development Program, or UNDP (which it chaired last year) and the World Food Program. For the past five years, Ahmadinejad has enjoyed a place on the stage of the General Assembly opening in New York,and there’s every reason to expect he’ll be back this September. The UN Security Council remains perversely reluctant to approve any measures strong enough to flummox the mullahs into dropping their bomb program or respecting the human rights of their own people.

So, how should we read Iran’s withdrawal from the running for a seat on the Human Rights Council? 

Was it due to the backroom maneuvering of senior officials at the UN, who surely must have realized that seating Iran on the Human Rights Council would open up the UN itself to global ridicule, on a level anyone could grasp? Or was it the product of genuine work behind the scenes by diplomats with the integrity to draw a line? Or perhaps some multi-motivated convergence of the twain?

President Obama has been following a policy of “engagement,” which has included dignifying the Human Rights Council with U.S. membership, thus overturning the former President Bush’s policy of avoiding this gang altogether. Was it engagement that persuaded Iran to drop its bid? If so, that’s great, and congratulations are due to those who worked behind the scenes to achieve this result. But was it also engagement that encouraged Iran to seek a seat in the first place?

On Jan. 20th, a top Hamas terrorist, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, was found suffocated to death in his room at a five-star hotel in Dubai. Since then, Dubai authorities have released surveillance video of the alleged killers, as well as details of the passports and credit cards they used. The United Arab Emirates has enlisted the help of Interpol and the resources of the Arab League to hunt them down. But remarkably little has been divulged about what al-Mabhouh himself — longtime orchestrator of murderous attacks on Israel, and known as a key link in weapons smuggling from Iran into Gaza — was doing in Dubai.

I recently visited Dubai, and dropped by the hotel where al-Mabhouh was murdered, the Al Bustan Rotana. It was an eye opening look at the luxury with which this traveling Hamas terrorist chose to surround himself. Below is a photo of tea in the lobby of the Al Bustan, at the Gazebo Lounge — where the waitresses wear skirts slit up to the thigh, fancy whiskey goes for $27 a pop, and the desserts include white chocolate creme brulee. More, on the luxuries and the questions they highlight about al-Mabhouh’s doings, in my column this week on Terrorist With A Five-Star Tab.

Tea in the Gazebo Lounge

So, under the headline “Gates Says U.S. Lacks Policy to Curb Iran’s Nuclear Drive,” the New York Times reports that according to anonymous government officials: “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability.”

Gosh, golly and no kidding. The tragicomic touch is that Gates, or anyone else in President Obama’s administration, would feel compelled to treat this information as “secret.”

The failure of U.S. policy may be news to Obama, but for some time now it’s been glaringly obvious to most of the planet. While Obama has been yakking, bowing, apologizing for America, humiliating U.S. allies and dismantling both America’s defense capabilities and capitalist system, Iran’s rulers have been mocking him, scoffing at deadlines and flaunting their bomb program. This weekend, in response to Obama’s bread-and-circuses nuclear summit in Washington, Ahmadinejad has been hosting his own nuclear conference in Tehran — demanding that the U.S. be suspended from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA.

Obama has provided quite a show this past year or so – conjuring crises over U.S. medical care and Israeli housing plans in Jerusalem, while Iran’s rulers have been killing dissidents in the streets and closing in on the bomb. Having been entrusted with the White House, and the defense of America and its constitution, Obama has been treating the world to such statements as his recent observation that the U.S. remains a military superpower “whether we like it or not.” It’s hard to escape the conclusion that he doesn’t like it at all. Even the plans Obama endorsed during his campaign for much tougher sanctions on Iran have been repeatedly diluted and delayed.

As the clock ticks toward a nuclear high noon, the White House has displayed no effective strategy either for stopping Iran’s bomb program, or “containing” a nuclear Iran (good luck). Actually, there’s no effective strategy visible for defending U.S. interests on a good many fronts. Obama is banking on a surge to prevail in Afghanistan, but plans to start pulling out troops by next year. He’s doing peace deals with Russia, while Russia is firing up Iran’s Bushehr reactor, selling air-defense missiles to the Iranians and doing big deals to arm Iran’s best buddy in America’s own backyard — Venezuela. He’s counting on yet more peace-processing with the Palestinians, and buddying up with Syria, on the gaga theory that this will help bring peace in the Middle East. Meanwhile. Iran is arming the Palestinian terrorists of Hamas in Gaza, and Iran’s Hezbollah terrorist clients, courtesy of Syria, are piling up missiles in Lebanon.

Where’s all this heading? On the current course, the American superpower will have its own citizens staggering under rising taxes and regulatory overload, and burdened with crushing debt. The U.S. will be depending on Russia to ferry American astronauts into space, terrorists will be holding forth in U.S. courts, and Iran will have the bomb. There’s nothing secret about any of this — except, apparently, within the confines of the Obama White House. Maybe Gates should fire off another confidential memo to Obama, noting that the lack of effective U.S. policy is by now the world’s least well kept secret.

North Korea’s Bureau #39

April 15th, 2010 - 10:19 pm

It sounds like something out of a Graham Greene thriller. But, as aficionados of North Korean rackets already know, Bureau #39 is the quite real invention of North Korean’s tyrant Kim Jong Il. Operating since 1974, located in a concrete building in the heart of Pyongyang,  and reporting directly to Kim Jong Il, Bureau #39 serves as headquarters for North Korea’s global networks of illicit money-raising activities. These include such antics as trafficking abroad in drugs, counterfeit cigarettes and counterfeit $100 bills — all produced by the government of North Korea. The profits flow to Kim, who in turns dispenses them not only to pay for his own pleasures, but to buy loyalties and provide for the hard-cash needs of his totalitarian, nuclear-bomb-building state.

Bureau #39 embodies an interesting concept — utterly corrosive to any civilized world order — in which Kim has ruthlessly perverted the modern privileges of the nation state, enlisting the apparatus of a country to serve as cover for an array of activities that are usually the domain not of governments, but of organized crime. In North Korea, the government holds the monopoly in such matters.

Though Bureau #39 has been mentioned in many reports over the years, it usually features as just one more weird and disturbing item in the roster of murky North Korean institutions. But three seasoned analysts of this scene — Paul Rexton Kan, Bruce E. Bechtol, Jr., and Robert M. Collins —  have just published a monograph focusing specifically on Bureau #39 — in which they explore its role as a vital cog within the North Korean government. My only quibble with them would be that in its perversion of the uses of state sovereignty, North Korea may be an outstanding case, but it is probably not as singular as one might wish. Saddam Hussein made similar use of state powers to conduct illicit global business that helped sustain his regime (and had a computerized database within his government to keep track of Oil-for-Food oil contract kickbacks). And it would be interesting, for instance, to have a tour someday of the internal business records of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

But that said, it’s a fascinating study, worth a look: “Criminal Sovereignty: Understanding North Korea’s Illicit International Activities,” from the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College. And here’s a link to my Forbes column this week, on why President Obama, if he actually wants to do something about the continuing crisis of a nuclear North Korea, would be wise to forget about pursuing yet more six-party talks, and instead put more resources into rolling up the rackets of Bureau #39:  Kim Jong Il’s “Cashbox.”

Bad Luck, and Lots Of It

April 10th, 2010 - 10:52 am

Sometimes what looks terrible misfortune is simply what it seems — sheer bad luck. In the horrifying plane crash in western Russia that just killed some of Poland’s top officials, including President Lech Kaczynski, there is no sign at this stage of foul play. Reports so far are focusing on pilot error, fog, and the use of a Soviet-built Tupolev-154 for the presidential transport (Fox provides a list of Tupolev-154 crashes over the past 16 years).

But these sure do seem to be unlucky times for America’s allies, even as President Barack Obama goes into a fizz of activity advertised by the White House as making the world safer — jetting to Prague to sign a nuclear reduction deal with the Russians, hosting a nuclear summit next week in Washington, and producing a new “nuclear posture” in which the theory seems to be that if America preemptively disarms itself, we’ll all be more secure.

Meanwhile, a violent uprising has just ousted the president of Kyrgyzstan, which hosts the Manas military base (well, it used to be called an “air base” but these days it’s called a “transit center”)– chief transit point for U.S. forces serving in Afghanistan. Whether this plays into Moscow’s hands is still a matter of debate, but there’s no question that it has disrupted operations at Manas, where U.S. troop flights have been indefinitely suspended.

This follows the March 26 sinking of a South Korean frigate, the Cheonan, which — as North Korea expert Andrei Lankov describes in a recent NY Times Op-ed — was patrolling coastal waters near a disputed border with North Korea, when its stern was ripped away by an explosion. The warship sank; 46 South Korean sailors died. Despite signs suggesting the cause was a mine or a torpedo, the South Korean government has declined to confront North Korea, warning against jumping to conclusions.

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The witching hour is not yet upon us — but it’s close. On May 13 the United Nations General Assembly will choose the next batch of countries to join the UN’s 47-member Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Iran has entered the running, as one of five candidates for four seats up for grabs this year by ”Asian States.”  (Note: Like many things at the UN, these “elections” are perversely structured from the start. The UN Human Rights Council parcels out blocs of member seats on the basis not of democracy or respect for human rights, but of region). The other four candidates are Malaysia, the Maldives, Qatar and Thailand.

President Obama’s policy has been to “engage” the UN Human Rights Council, reversing the Bush policy of by-passing it as irredeemably rotten. During the first year of Obama’s presidency, in mid-2009, the U.S. joined the Council, proposing to reform it from within.

There’s been no sign of serious reform to date; on the contrary, the Human Rights Council has carried on with its usual fixation on Israel, hailed the deeply flawed “Goldstone Report” on Gaza, pursued the UN crusade to gag free speech via “anti-blasphemy” rules, and featured the usual grandstanding by members such as Cuba — which in any sane setting would be drummed out of any chamber genuinely dedicated to human rights.

For Iran to join the Human Rights Council would further warp the workings of the UN itself, and provide yet another platform and global amplifier for the Tehran regime. It would also send a terrible, disheartening message to dissidents inside Iran.

Now is the time for the U.S. to be working like crazy on the diplomatic circuit to block Iran from winning that seat. What are American diplomats doing? Hard to say, but the signs bubbling up from Geneva are not exactly heartening. An unnamed U.S. official recently briefed the Geneva press to the effect that the U.S. is “very concerned” about the the prospect of Iranian membership in the Human Rights Council. Another unnamed U.S. official (or perhaps it was the same nameless diplomat) described the possibility to Swiss radio as “distressing.” Yet another unnamed official (or perhaps it was all the same official, or two of them, or three) went so far as to tell Swiss Radio (see link to “distressing”) that it would be a “horrible sign” and “terrible development.”

Right. It would indeed. But why is the U.S. so coy about who’s making these comments? This isn’t a matter of top-secret, confidential information. This is a case in which the U.S. ought to be leading the way, speaking out loudly and often, making the case and mustering support with enough confidence for senior officials to be speaking out with names and rank attached. If the State Department is banking on quiet diplomacy and background press briefings to keep Iran off the Council, the record is not promising. Brace yourself – it may be just around the bend. Iran on the Human Rights Council. Seriously.

Farewell, Jack Bauer

April 3rd, 2010 - 3:50 pm

Fox’s counter-terrorism series, “24,” starring Kiefer Sutherland as the unstoppable Jack Bauer, has spanned the post-9/11 era. But when this eighth season wraps up, on May 24, the show will be over. The plots were ridiculous, the “real-time” premise required total suspension of disbelief, and the creeping political correctness got hard to take — not least when “24″ went “green,” reportedly becoming the first “carbon neutral” TV series (give us a break). And yet… I have looked forward to every episode, and watched them all. Here’s why I’ll miss Jack.