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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Midnight Money for Durban III

December 23rd, 2010 - 11:11 pm

At the United Nations, plans for Durban III roll on. In a vote just after midnight, the United Nations General Assembly said A-OK to spending money on this conference —  yet another staging of the anti-American, anti-Semitic UN roadshow that opened in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, and was revived in Geneva, in April, 2009, as Durban II, or the Durban Review Conference (starring Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — here’s Roger Simon’s post from Geneva at the time). The UN has scheduled round three, Durban III, to be held in New York, dovetailing with next year’s opening of the UN General Assembly. The UN’s chosen date is Sept. 21 — just 10 days after the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 jihadi attacks that brought down the Twin Towers, killed almost 3,000 people, and turned a once thriving part of lower Manhattan into a war zone of ash and rubble.

Not only will Americans have Durban III foisted upon them next September, in the heart of New York. As chief funders of the UN, they are now officially expected to foot the biggest share of the bill. How did that happen? Following a byzantine process in which one of the UN committees involved brazenly broke the UN’s own rules and neglected to include an estimate of costs while approving plans for this Durban III conference, the General Assembly’s budget committee then came up with estimated costs. As this headed for the General Assembly plenary, Anne Bayefsky, in an article last week, provided a deft outline of the UN intricacies involved, and accurately predicted how this would play out.

That brings us to this Thursday evening, with the clock ticking past midnight as the UN General Assembly raced to wrap up business before the Christmas holiday and end of the year. Having adjourned for most of the afternoon and evening (apparently to allow for the production of some enormous mass of documentation related to the proceedings), the General Assembly convened for one final run at a heap of business — with the final round of deliberations opening just before midnight. After a series of no-vote consensus approvals, gaveled through at speed, the delegates got to the question of funding for Durban III. More important than the amount (an estimated $322,500, of which $206,400 would effectively represent new money dolloped out from a UN “contingency fund”) was the chance to block this project by simply refusing the money.

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Move fast, or you might miss the witching hour (I’ll try to post a link to the archive later). The United Nations is right now — as I write it is just after 10 PM Eastern Time, on Thursday night —  outdoing even the 111th U.S. Congress for shoveling controversial items through at the last minute, when all those nice American taxpayers who do so much to fund this show are tucked up at home, the night before Christmas eve, trying to simultaneously reduce their carbon emissions per dictates of the UNFCCC $ Co., and keep warm in this notably cold early winter. It’s a moving target, but coming up for a vote on the General Assembly floor are provisions for Durban III to be held next September in New York  – yet another reprise of the anti-semitic jamborees held in 2001 in Durban, South Africa, and 2009 in Geneva (starring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad). There are sundry other items for the UN’s ever-ballooning budget — Matthew Russell Lee of Inner-City Press has more here. But if you catch this in time and want to look in on the festivities for yourself, here’s a link to the currently live webcast of the UN General Assembly floor (click on channel three) … slowly filling up as I write.

Brace yourself — it looks like they may soon resume what is loosely known as “debate.” Will the U.S. speak out boldly against Durban III? — an initiative pushed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, with Yemen in the lead? Will Iran offer up a sample of why it is indecent to dignify the Tehran regime with access to this chamber? Here they are, folks, still milling around as I post this — a window on how the world’s leading multilateral body does business. One more time, that link to the currently live webcast. Looks like official business may resume about 10:45 PM… but caveat on that, even with a Swiss official presiding over the General Assembly this year, punctuality is not the UN’s strong suit. However, there are times that even the chaos can be interesting.

Kim Jong Il Hangs Out His Christmas Stocking

December 20th, 2010 - 8:25 pm

Hey, all you American taxpayers! Maybe North Korea’s Kim Jong Il and his son, junior-tyrant-designate Kim Jong Eun, aren’t on your Christmas gift list. But watch out. The way things are going, Uncle Sam might be getting ready to send them presents on your behalf.

Just this past weekend, North Korea was all over the news, threatening “catastrophic” retaliation if South Korea went ahead with a live fire drill on one of its islands where a North Korean artillery attack last month killed four South Koreans. The United Nations Security Council met in emergency session, spent hours behind closed doors, and got no where — China being apparently unable to discover anything in North Korea’s recent behavior worth condemning. (Not that UN condemnation of North Korea is likely to shake up anything much, anyway). Russia — drawing on its long experience as a paragon of brotherhood — counseled restraint by all. Ban Ki-Moon borrowed the usual page from the Miss Universe contest and came out in favor of world peace, or something like that … Crisis loomed.

South Korea, to its credit, decided not to let North Korea dictate the terms, and –having taken precautions to protect the Yeonpyeong island population and prepared to make North Korea pay for the threatened catastrophe –went ahead Monday with the live fire exercise. Lo! North Korea backed off, professing itself suddenly relieved of the need “to retaliate.”

That, in itself, says plenty about the virtue of standing up to North Korea’s threats. But there’s more… with North Korea, there’s always more. While the showdown was going on over South Korea’s military exercise, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was visiting North Korea, with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in tow. Please remember, on North Korea’s totalitarian turf this is not the kind of visit that just sort of happens because Bill and Wolf in a light-hearted moment decided impromptu to spend a weekend in Pyongyang. If Richardson is in North Korea with CNN, that’s because North Korean officials have their own plans to make use of such a visit.

Lo! So it happened. From the North Korean hard-cop threats of catastrophe, along came a sudden shift of stage scenery, and in rolled the soft-cop news that North Korean officials have told Richardson they are now willing to allow back in the nuclear inspectors they had previously kicked out (the inspectors were kicked out after they had been let in again, after being kicked out before that … there is by now a sort of rhythm to it). Enthusing about this development, Blitzer reported from Pyongyang that tensions have “eased significantly,” and this is all very “encouraging.”

Actually, it’s all very familiar, and apart from South Korea’s welcome display of backbone over its turf, there is nothing encouraging about it. This is the North Korea shakedown racket. It’s been going on for years, with the pioneering help of such American patsies as former President Jimmy Carter, former special envoy Chris Hill, and now, the winterwear-clad duo of Richardson and Blitzer. Remember the 1994 Agreed Framework (North Korea promises a nuclear freeze in exchange for for free food, fuel and two modern nuclear reactors; North Korea rakes in the goodies and cheats); the Six-Party Talks 2007 “breakthrough” (North Korea promises to stop its nuclear weapons program in exchange for free food, fuel, millions in hard cash, removal from the U.S. terror list; North Korea rakes in more goodies and cheats).

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At a special session chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, the United Nations Security Council voted Tuesday to end the Saddam-era sanctions on Iraq, as well as the remnants of the Oil-for-Food program. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was there, as well as Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. In the way of such meetings, there was plenty of speechifying, with each of the five permanent and 10 rotating members delivering orations on the occasion. There were congratulations to the Iraqis on how far they’ve come, as well as advice, prescriptions, and urgings about stability, security, the Iraqi people, “the region, and the international community.”

Notably missing was even a single word of apology for UN complicity in the massive corruption of Oil-for-Food. You remember Oil-for-Food — the 1996-2003 relief program in which the UN took on the job of overseeing all oil sales of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and promised all proceeds would be supervised by the UN to ensure the money was spent on humanitarian aid for the people of Iraq. What came of this setup, in which the UN oversaw more than $110 billion worth of Iraqi oil and relief deals, was a bonanza of billions in kickbacks and illicit fees paid to Saddam’s regime, under cover of thousands of UN-approved contracts. Those illicit billions were skimmed out of oil revenues that were supposed to help the people of Iraq. This dirty business helped fortify Saddam’s murderous regime, and padded the pockets of a great many of his business partners.

Plenty of blame goes to the UN Secretariat, run during all but the first month of Oil-for-Food by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan — whose hand-picked head of the program, Benon Sevan, was later alleged by a UN-authorized inquiry to have “corruptly” derived “personal pecuniary benefit from the Oil-for-Food Programme” via “cash proceeds” from lucrative Oil-for-Food contracts. The UN-authorized inquiry, led by Paul Volcker, devoted hundreds of pages to the mismanagement, derelictions and abuses that went on in the Secretariat, which had the hands-on responsibility for dealing with most of Oil-for-Food’s dirty details.

But the Security Council, which doubled as the Iraq sanctions committee, also bears plenty of blame. The Security Council authorized the program, approved contracts and — as we now know, after many post-mortem investigations and congressional hearings — had its own internal wrangles, in which the U.K. and U.S. made private protests over the obvious corruption, but failed to stop the fiesta of graft — in which Saddam was ordering up such stuff as milk from Russian oil companies and Chinese weapons manufacturers.

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Gaza Flotilla Shakedown

December 13th, 2010 - 12:32 am

In the “Believe It Or Not” mega-farce of Middle East politics, the latest candidate for world-turned-upside-down is the story of Israel offering $100,000 apiece in compensation to the families of nine Turkish “activists” killed in May aboard the flagship of the flotilla that set out to break the Israeli blockade on terrorist-controlled Gaza. This offer is part of the haggling that has reportedly been going on between Israeli and Turkish officials, in what the New York Times describes an an effort “To Repair Ties.”  The Turkish government is demanding an apology, as well. Israel is reportedly willing to express “regrets” for the loss of life, and, the Times reports, would like “whatever deal emerges to end the United Nations Inquiry and other international legal actions.”

In some quarters this may pass for diplomacy. But the deal shaping up here sure looks, walks and quacks like a shakedown. It’s Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who ought to be apologizing to Israel. The Gaza flotilla was a calculated provocation — a violent propaganda stunt to damage Israel. With a big boost from the UN, it’s still right on track to do exactly that.

Recall that in hope of peace, Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Instead of getting peace, Israel got yet more Palestinian terrorism, including bombardment by thousands of rockets. By 2007 Gaza was controlled by the terrorist group Hamas — backed and armed by Iran, and dedicated to the destruction of Israel. That’s the reason for the Israeli blockade, which the Gaza flotilla proposed to break.

The organizers of the Gaza flotilla advertised themselves as “peace activists.” promising that their aim was simply to deliver “humanitarian aid.” But the Turkish organizers among this crew were members of a Turkish nonprofit, the IHH, which, as my colleague Jonathan Schanzer reported in a May article on “The Terror Finance Flotilla,” “was banned by the Israeli government in July 2008 for its ties to terrorism finance.” The IHH belongs to a Saudi-based umbrella organization, the Union of Good, which the U.S. Treasury designated in 2008 as “an organization created by Hamas leadership in late-2000 to transfer funds to the terrorist organization.” In case that sounds to Americans like merely another headache for people in faraway lands, Schanzer also noted that French magistrate Jean-Louis Brougiere “testified that IHH had an ‘important role’ in Ahmed Ressam’s failed ‘millennium plot’ to bomb the Los Angeles airport in late 1999.”

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Iran’s UN Pals in Vienna

December 7th, 2010 - 2:37 am

Over at the United Nations offices in Vienna, Iran has just gotten a boost from the biggest intergovernmental outfit of developing states at the UN — the Group of  77, (or G-77), which these days lists a membership of 130 nations plus “Palestine.” This group, which includes more than two thirds of the UN’s 192 members, has just picked, to chair its Vienna chapter for 2011, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

That implies an alarming disconnect between the G-77 and the series of UN sanctions meant to isolate the nuclear-fixated Iranian regime.  This latest outrage hasn’t made the mainstream news in the U.S., perhaps because it happened too recently to be included in a wikileaked diplomatic cable. But you can read about it in a Dec. 6 dispatch from the Islamic Republic News Agency. The Iranian envoy who will chair the G-77′s Vienna chapter, starting next month, is none other than Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali-Asghar Soltanieh.

For the G-77 (also known as the G-77 plus China) this is almost par for the course. The G-77 has chapters at major UN offices worldwide, and last year the chairmanship of the G-77 at the UN’s headquarters in New York was held by Sudan. This year, the New York chair is Yemen.

For Iran at the UN, this fits into a pattern of exploiting the institution to the hilt. Iran holds an extraordinary number of seats on the governing boards and committees of various UN agencies, and already fields a hefty presence in Vienna — here’s a rundown I put together for a column in July on Iran’s Mini-Empire at the UN.  With the clock ticking toward the Iranian nuclear bomb, and Iran in brazen violation of binding UN Security Council sanctions, you might suppose the G-77 could have dredged up from among its 130 member states a less malign candidate to chair its doings next year in Vienna. But this is the UN, this is the G-77, this is crunch time for the Iranian nuclear program … and in the home town of the IAEA and OPEC, it seems that “engagement” translates into Iran’s pals rallying round Iran. Lots here that begs to be explored in a diplomatic cable, if anyone at the U.S. Mission in Vienna is still willing to send one, and anyone in Washington cares to pay attention.

WikiLeaks: Fishing With Dynamite

December 5th, 2010 - 11:08 pm

Pity the U.S. diplomats in the field, whose jobs presumably require that they now compose classified cables reporting back to Washington on local responses to the blunter aspects of their own wikileaked previous cables. The State Department has tried to close the barn door, uncoupling itself from the network that allowed the filching of what WikiLeaks claims is a cache of 251,287 cables from 274 diplomatic missions around the globe — 15,652 of these cables classified as “secret” and 101,748 as “confidential.” But how secure would you feel these days, either confiding in an American diplomat, or being one?

Pity their sources, or at least some of them, who thought they were speaking in confidence and now see their remarks plastered all over the internet. Pity a world in which any information that can be downloaded onto the internet is advertised as serving the high cause of “truth,” no matter who gets hurt.

Not that the wikileaked cables aren’t interesting. They’re fascinating. In the trove released to date, there are cables that deserved to be leaked. They expose a wealth of important information, from the begging and finagling with which the Obama administration has been pursuing an economically disastrous accord on “climate,” to the hypocrisies of Arab rulers who foster mindsets profoundly dangerous to the U.S. and its democratic allies, but plead privately with American officials for the U.S. to save their necks by cutting the head off the Iranian snake. And why, pray tell, has the Obama administration not done more to inform the American public about the specifics of the fears emanating from the Middle East itself regarding Iran, including such wikileaked items as “the Iran-Al-Qaeda connection.”

But that kind of information, yea, even those particular cables, could have been leaked without Assange embarking on the wholesale release of more than a quarter of a million State Department cables. There’s a difference between exposing specific wrongdoing, and exposing almost everything you happen to obtain in a massive download (some names have been crossed out, but not enough to protect various people, from Iran to Venezuela, who did no wrong and are now in harm’s way).

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