This year the big buzz is over Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, who represents the same old brutal, terror-sponsing Tehran theocracy of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, but who dresses and speaks with more polish than his leisure-suit-clad predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Will President Obama try to cut a deal with Rouhani? That’s the cliffhanger. The likelihood of Iran cheating on any deal, and simply buying more time and ease to spread terror and make nuclear weapons, is so high that some folks (outside the UN) might almost be tempted to miss the histrionics and wardrobe choices of Ahmadinejad.
A sampling of the rogue state speaker lineup this year: Iran is scheduled to speak on day one, in the number seven slot of the Tuesday afternoon lineup. Venezuela, an oil-rich country so grossly misruled that the government is now trying to fix a state-caused shortage of toilet paper, will speak on Tuesday afternoon. The Palestinian Authority gets its 15 minutes (or more) on Thursday morning. Syria and Cuba have been tastefully scheduled for next Monday morning, Sept. 30th. And North Korea has a slot in the final round, Tuesday morning, Oct. 1, at which time a vice minister from Pyongyang can be expected to deliver the usual bizarre speech demanding that other countries abide by Pyongyang’s version of sustainable peace and human rights.
There’s also the strange scene that Sudan’s president, Omar al Bashir — under indictment by the International Criminal Court for his role in Sudan’s genocide — has said he wants to attend this year’s GA opening. If he does turn up to address the GA, that show will take place in the number three speaker slot of the Thursday afternoon session.
In this landscape, a highly prominent outlier is Israel, whose prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is coming to New York to speak to the General Assembly. He’s scheduled for the very last spot, number eight, on Tuesday, Oct. 1. North Korea notwithstanding, he has some decent company that morning, including the Holy See. And I am told that this scheduling was done at Israel’s request, partly to allow for Jewish holidays, but also to dovetail with a meeting scheduled between Netanyahu and Obama in Washington the day before, on Sept. 30th. Still, whether Israel requested it or not, there is something deeply disquieting about seeing the only full democracy in the Middle East consigned — for whatever reasons — to the last spot in the lineup.
At the very least, it’s emblematic of the twisted world that the UN — the real UN, not the Model UN of utopian propaganda — keeps trying to create. A story you probably won’t see on the TV news is that the UN General Assembly is including in its official agenda this year, as it has for many years, an item on “Armed Israeli aggression against the Iraqi nuclear installations and its grave consequences for the established international system concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy…” (you can read the entire passage here, just scroll down to item 46). This is a reference to Israel’s destruction in 1981 of Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor — for which the UN, with its official pieties about promoting world peace, ought to be issuing annual resolutions praising and thanking Israel. That bombing run, done at substantial risk, quite likely spared the world the horrors of a nuclear-armed Saddam. Food for thought, as Iran’s Rouhani speaks at the UN in New York this week, not only on the GA main stage, but at a special conference scheduled for Thursday — a High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament. Quite a show.