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Monthly Archives: February 2013

A Rocket from Gaza, and UN as Usual

February 26th, 2013 - 9:18 pm

Last year, for month after month, as hundreds of rockets from Gaza hit Israel, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, wrote letter after letter to the UN, asking for urgent, serious action to stop this terrorist bombardment. The UN did pretty much nothing. Finally, on Nov. 14, Israel moved to defend itself by launching Operation Pillar of Defense, targeting terror sites in Gaza. That produced great furor in the “international community,” with urgent calls for Israel to desist, an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, and, within the month, an internationally brokered ceasefire.

Now, Ambassador Prosor has had to take to his keyboard again, writing on Feb. 26 to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to inform him that “After only three months of relative quiet, the citizens of Israel awoke again this morning to discover the horrific reality of terrorism from Gaza.” Writes Prosor: “Earlier today, a rocket was fired at the Israeli city of Ashkelon. This is the first rocket that has been launched from Gaza since the conclusion of Operation Pillar of Defense last November…. This attack is an unacceptable breach of the ceasefire that ended our campaign against Hamas last year.”

Prosor asked,  as he asked again and again last year, that the Security Council “condemn this violation of the ceasefire, before the situation escalates.”

What has the UN done? Well, there was a briefing to the Security Council, at which UN officials “voiced their concern.” UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, a former U.S. diplomat (you may remember him from the photo last August, in which he accompanied Ban to pay court in Tehran to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei), stressed the “troubling” nature of the rocket attack, but, in a classic UN formulation, immediately yoked that statement to the notion that the Israelis are to blame for being attacked: “”We know that there are negative forces on both sides… .”

Bottom line: It looks likely that apart from voicing concern, UN officials won’t bestir themselves in the cause of stopping more terrorist rockets from Gaza. Israel’s Ambassador Prosor will be left to write more letters, until Israel’s next attempt to defend itself gets the UN’s full attention.

Meawhile, the UN is busy with other projects.  As Geneva-based UN Watch reports, the UN has just re-elected to a senior post on its decolonization committee a representative of the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.  (UN Watch is on a roll with UN news right now, including this report on a UN researcher for UNESCO and UNIFEM, who wrote for Al Jazeera about a UN meeting on Israel, that apparently never happened.)

On other UN fronts, Fox News reports that the UN (which says its sanctions lists are “updated regularly”) has just removed Osama bin Laden from its Al Qaeda sanctions list… almost two years after he was killed. Let no one say the UN can’t get something done when it really wants to.


Gaza Militants Celebrate Hagel Confirmation

Tehran’s Man Onstage in Manhattan

February 23rd, 2013 - 12:31 am

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, appeared this past Wednesday evening, Feb. 20, onstage at the Asia Society in New York, in a “conversation” with a former U.S. ambassador and under secretary of State, Thomas Pickering. The event, moderated by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, and titled “The U.S. and Iran: Road to War or Path to Peace,” is being described by the Asia Society as “Unprecedented” — yielding “Proposals for US-Iran Negotiations.”

That might sound pretty intriguing, in the run up to next week’s gathering in Kazakhstan of representatives of Iran and the P-5 plus 1 (which, in case you lost track of talks with Iran somewhere back in the days of the EU3, refers to the Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council — Russia, China, France, the UK and the U.S., plus Germany).

Actually, the Asia Society missed the boat. Khazaee’s appearance was unprecedented in the sense that he has not appeared previously onstage at the Asia Society. But Khazaee is the mouthpiece for the same Iranian regime that has brought New York its annual visits since 2005 by Iran’s loquacious president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Whatever the differences of style or insinuation, they both track back to the same terror-based uranium-enriching domain of the modestly titled Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. And Khazaee has been rubbing elbows in Manhattan since he arrived in 2007 as Iran’s envoy to the UN — some details of that in my column, “Meet Iran’s Ambassador to the UN.” Last year, he gave an interview to PBS TV’s Charlie Rose. At the UN he pops up interminably, speaking these days for the Iran-chaired 120-member Non-Aligned Movement, praising Iran’s human rights record, deploring Israel, writing letters demanding that the U.S. issue visas pronto to the scores of Iranian officials who like to attend major UN events, etc.

As for Khazaee’s “proposals” — well, it boils down to the same ol’ same ol’. You can watch them unfold in the video of the discussion, which went on for an hour and 40 minutes (in the time-buying game, chalk that up as another hour and 40 minutes for the progress of Iran’s nuclear program). Or I can summarize it for you in one sentence: If the U.S. will just agree in advance to whatever Iran’s regime wants, then Iran’s regime is quite willing to negotiate. Amid the thanks and praise rendered unto him onstage for his willingness to say anything at all, Khazaee pretty much repeated variations on this theme for the entire discussion.

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Fallout From North Korea’s Nuclear Test

February 15th, 2013 - 3:17 am

There’s plenty we still don’t know about the underground explosion — presumed to have been a nuclear test — that shook North Korea on Tuesday, February 12. We don’t know if it was a plutonium-based nuclear test (like North Korea’s previous two tests in 2006 and 2009) or a uranium-based test (the apparent bomb fuel of choice for North Korea’s partner in proliferation, Iran, as well as a dual bomb track for North Korea).

Sticklers for certainty can even cavil over whether it was a nuclear test, since there have been no reports yet of any nuclear signature — though it was certainly a large explosion.

But here are some things we do know. We know that North Korea felt free to telegraph last month to the entire world that it was planning another nuclear test, and to issue an in-your-face notification to China and the U.S. when it was imminent. We know that immediately after the explosion, North Korea rushed to advertise it as a nuclear test, and held a televised rally to celebrate (though festive does not quite describe the tenor of the occasion). North Korea also felt free to to threaten that if there is any hostile response from the U.S.:

We will be forced to take stronger, second and third responses in consecutive steps.

How shall we count the dangers of this event?

North Korea is a totalitarian state, in which the regime, to ensure its own survival, not only clung to its brutal ways while an estimated one million or more people died of famine in the 1990s, but orchestrated the distribution of food to starve those deemed least politically loyal. This is a regime that does not hesitate to condemn its own people to be beaten, frozen, and worked to death in its Stalinist slave labor gulag. That’s the character of the Pyongyang government — and when North Korean officials arrive at negotiating tables to seek aid and concessions from the U.S. and its allies, as they periodically do, that is the basis of the power with which they presume to speak for their country.

North Korea has been a vendor of weapons for decades, especially to the Middle East (among the clients: Iran, Hezbollah, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Pakistan, Qaddafi’s Libya. Some details of this appear in my article on “North Korea’s Middle East Webs and Nuclear Wares“.) Nor does Pyongyang draw the line at nuclear proliferation. North Korea blew past that one years ago, signing up not only as a dealer within Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network, but also collaborating with Syria’s Assad regime on the construction of an entire clandestine nuclear reactor — apparently built to serve as a plutonium factory — on the Euphrates (destroyed in 2007 by the Israelis, who deserve the world’s thanks for that).

North Korea’s closest partnership in proliferation is with Iran, one of their most avid longtime missile customers. Iran has sent officials to North Korea’s previous two nuclear tests. There are serious questions about whether this latest test was chiefly for the benefit of North Korea, or Iran — whether a proxy test for Tehran, or a display of North Korea’s newest generation of nuclear wares.

What has the world done about all this? There has been a great effusion of words.

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The UN Bigotry Machine

February 2nd, 2013 - 12:45 am

Quick quiz. An inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council has just released a draft report condemning:

A) Iran

B) China

C) Sri Lanka

D) Israel

The answer, of course, is D — Israel. This is yet another UN document that deserves to be filed in the same dustbin as the ugly and discredited Goldstone report. Never mind Iran, China, Sri Lanka et al. As the Geneva-based monitoring group, UN Watch, points out, since the UN set up its “reformed” Human Rights Council in 2006, “there have been seven one-sided inquiry missions on Israel, and only five on the rest of the world combined. Mass atrocities committed by Iran, China, or Sri Lanka, for example, have never been subjected to a single HRC inquiry.”

This latest report, due to be formally presented to the Council in March, is captioned “Advanced Unedited Version.” I assume they meant to say  ”Advance,” since there is nothing advanced about this product. It’s the latest in a long series of exhibits that attest not to the realities of the Middle East, but to the unrelenting bigotry of what is supposed to be the UN’s leading human rights body. The full title – brace yourself, this is one of those UN doozies — is: “Report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people, throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”

The three “high-level experts” appointed by the president of the Human Rights Council to produce this document arrogate to themselves, in its introduction, a description of their work as “Guided by the principles of ‘do no harm,’ independence, impartiality, objectivity, transparency, confidentiality, integrity and professionalism…” Yes, and pigs can fly.

UN Watch gives an incisive summary of the contents of this report, and makes the vital point that while the UN is supposed to foster peace, this kind of inquiry has the very opposite effect: “It has the perverse outcome of pushing the parties further apart, while also inappropriately pre-judging final status issues that can only be resolved through direct negotiations.” I’d add that in obsessively savaging Israel, while ignoring most of the genuine perpetrators of gross human rights violations, the UN Human Rights Council — and the UN generally — waste the considerable resources they are given, dishonor their charter mandate, and do a horrendous disservice to the truly downtrodden.

As UN Watch notes in two additional items currently high on its web site, the UN recently voted the Hugo Chavez regime of Venezuela a seat on the Human Rights Council, and the UN has just elected Sudan as one of four vice-presidents to its powerful Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). These are just two of the latest data points in the UN’s chronic practice of seating thug governments, from Iran to Cuba, on its governing bodies and councils. If the UN is actually capable of  launching a genuinely independent inquiry (it’s not clear that it is), then it’s high time it launched one into its own devolution into a machine for exalting the likes of the Caracas and Khartoum regimes, and under their guidance, cranking out propaganda and endorsing bigotry.