The Rosett Report

The Rosett Report

Rules of War, UN-Style

August 2nd, 2014 - 10:53 pm

Among top officials of the United Nations, the conflict between Israel and the Hamas terrorists of Gaza has inspired plenty of commentary, much of it ranging from effectively anti-Semitic to utterly imbecilic. But for an astounding mix of those two qualities, it’s hard to beat the comment this week of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay — summed up by the Breitbart headline, “UN Condemns Israel’s Latest War Crime: Not Sharing Iron Dome With Hamas.”

To be fair, there’s a bit of shorthand in that headline, since Pillay’s condemnation in the matter of not sharing Iron Dome with terrorists was aimed not only at Israel, but at the U.S. The Breitbart report draws on Pillay’s remarks Thursday to reporters in Geneva, as quoted by the Israeli news service Having denounced Israel up, down and sideways, Pillay turned her attention to the U.S.:  ”They have not only provided the heavy weaponry which is now being used by Israel in Gaza but they’ve also provided almost $1 billion in providing the ‘Iron Domes’ to protect Israel from rocket attacks…. But no such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling.”

Even for the UN, this is a novel notion of “proportionality” — that a country whose ally is under attack by terrorists should even the battlefield by providing defensive military technology to the terrorists. But Navi Pillay is now rounding out a four year tenure as the UN’s “principal human rights official,” so presumably we should take seriously what she says.

What she’s basically advocating is a redistribution of military technology, to ensure that terrorists have the same defenses as the country they are attacking. By these lights, we stand on the threshold of a fascinating new era in warfare. There’s no reason this new UN principle should stop with deploring the failure of the U.S. and Israel to provide an Iron Dome to Hamas. Why not provide the same defenses to Iran’s terrorist mascots in Lebanon, Hezbollah? They, too, might benefit from such a system when they launch their next attack on Israel.

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Does the United Nations ever read its own press releases? This week’s case in point being the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA, which provides entitlement programs in Hamas-ruled Gaza — where Israel is now fighting to rid the enclave of terrorist tunnels and rockets.

For the second time in less than a week, UNRWA has discovered rockets hidden in vacant UNRWA schools in Gaza. UNRWA has disclosed these discoveries in press releases condemning “the group or groups” responsible for placing the rockets on its premises. But that is apparently no bar to UNRWA condemning Israel for shelling an UNRWA school.

Thus do we see the following lineup of UNRWA press releases:




There are now questions about whether UNRWA, in turning over the first round of hidden rockets to local authorities, effectively turned them right back over to the terrorists of Hamas.

One might well wonder whether the real problem here is rockets being stored in UNRWA schools, or UNRWA running schools in what might better be described as terrorist rocket-storage facilities.


In the many press briefings that have rolled out of the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, one of the most bizarre formulations involves hopes of a deal providing assurance that — as senior officials like to put it — “the Iranian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.”

You might suppose that this is a trademark phrase of Iranian senior officials, dangling oxymorons like bait in front of desperate western diplomats. But no. That quote is from the U.S. secretary of State, John Kerry, at a press availability in Vienna, on Tuesday. Kerry had just finished attending a special even-higher than high-level round of Iran nuclear talks in the Austrian capital — where the nuclear haggling has been a full-time industry in the run-up to the Sunday, July 20 deadline for a deal (a “deadline” that may  be extended into next year). In his brief remarks to the press, Kerry managed to work in four variations on this vision of an “exclusively peaceful” Iranian nuclear program, excerpted here (boldface, mine):

President Obama has made it a top priority to pursue a diplomatic effort to see if we can reach an agreement that assures that the Iranian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.

Over the past few days, I have had lengthy conversations with Foreign Minister Zarif about what Iran is willing to do and what it needs to do to not only assure the community of nations, but to adhere to what the foreign minister himself has said repeatedly are Iran’s own limited objectives: not just to declare that they will not obtain a nuclear weapon, but to demonstrate in the actions they take beyond any reasonable doubt that any Iranian nuclear program, now and going forward, is exclusively for peaceful purposes.

And what we are trying to do is find a way for Iran to have an exclusively peaceful nuclear program, while giving the world all the assurances required to know that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon.

There are more issues to work through and more provisions to nail down to ensure that Iran’s program will always remain exclusively peaceful.

For the Iranians, this kind of language is a gift, pure and simple. From the chief diplomatic envoy of the Great Satan comes this refrain about the “exclusively peaceful” potential of the Iranian nuclear program. It’s all promise and smoke; all jam tomorrow, not today. It cedes to Iran the premise that whether there is a deal in Vienna or not, there will be an Iranian nuclear program.  It introduces into public discourse — courtesy of the U.S. government, no less — this refrain about an Iranian nuclear program being potentially nothing to worry about. We can look forward to an Iranian landscape dotted with peaceful centrifuges, peaceful reactors, peaceful sources of potential nuclear bomb fuel, being peacefully operated by the rulers of a country that just happens to be… the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Kerry is by no means the only U.S. official chanting this refrain about Iran’s potential to become a paragon of “exclusively peaceful” nuclear ventures. On Wednesday, President Obama mentioned to the press that the U.S. is working with its partners toward a nuclear deal that “assures us that Iran’s program will, in fact, be peaceful and that they won’t obtain a nuclear weapon.”

This has been the U.S. diplomatic refrain since the Iran nuclear talks kicked off in Vienna this past February. If you pull up the State Department web site, and search within it for the combined terms “Iran” and “nuclear” and “exclusively peaceful,” you should get at least 143 hits. Some might be duplicates, but many are not. By now, those keywords deserve to be installed as an exhibit somewhere in Foggy Bottom, in letters six-feet high, as a monument to the notion — folly in world politics — that saying something often enough might make it so.

The phrase is absurd. Iran’s nuclear program is manifestly not about peace. If it were, there would have been no need for Iran’s collaboration with Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan nuclear network, no need for secretly built Iranian enrichment facilities, no need for Iran’s years of maneuvering under sanctions, no need for Iran’s work on long-range missiles to deliver nuclear weapons, no need for the whole vast elaborate web of deceits and dodges and ploys with which Iran has built its nuclear program. There would be no need now for months and months of multi-tiered haggling in Vienna with the U.S., Britain, France and Germany (and, nominally, with China and Russia — which have managed the trick of both supplying materiel to Iran’s nuclear program, and bargaining over the results). There would be no need for secrecy. There would be no need for any more Iranian nuclear program going forward. Iran’s regime could dismantle its entire nuclear kit, and amuse itself with developing the country’s vast wealth of oil and gas.

Quite obviously, that’s not what Iran’s rulers want. The real problem here is the Tehran regime — which is anything but exclusively peaceful. Until that regime is gone, the only way to ensure that Iran abjures all nuclear ventures except those that are “exclusively peaceful” is to make sure that Iran has no nuclear program at all.

(Artwork created using multiple images.)

The U.N. has top men calculating its budgets. Top. Men.


Winston Churchill famously described the Soviet Union as a “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Much the same can be said of the ever-expanding finances of the United Nations, subject of a July 2 article by Fox News Editor-at-Large George Russell, headlined “UN Pay and Perks: After two years of US study, still a mystery.”  Russell highlights a study of UN overall pay packages, released last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. As the GAO describes it, the UN General Assembly has “expressed concerns about the relatively large and growing portion of the UN budget spent on total compensation.”

The GAO tried to figure out exactly what’s going on with UN salaries and perquisites. The signal finding is that the UN itself may not be sure, and apparently is less than committed to finding out. The GAO, in its “highlight” summary of the study, reports that “the UN has begun to address concerns about the sustainability of its rising total compensation costs, including initiating a review of total compensation” — but it seems that the compensation under study is actually well short of the real total. Or, as the GAO summary puts it, the UN “total” review “does not include key elements” (such as the almost $4 billion unfunded liability of the UN’s health insurance plan for retirees).

But how can such things be matters of mystery? After all, we know that the U.S. funds 22% of the UN’s regular budget. Surely with a bit of basic arithmetic the figures will fall into place?

Not a chance. That UN regular budget — meaning the budget of the General Assembly — is by now just a small fraction of the overall UN system, which includes a great many additional billions for peacekeeping operations, assorted funds, programs, commissions, subsidiary bodies, “other entities,” etc. etc. (brace yourself, here’s the organizational chart). Just to give you the general idea: the regular budget currently totals roughly $2.75 billion per year. But when I went looking earlier this year for a figure on the UN’s total, system-wide budget (while writing an article on “The Twisted Conundrum of Funding the United Nations,”)  the information I finally dredged up from the depths of the UN web site was that for 2012 the UN system had reported revenues of $41.5 billion. How the UN got to that number is yet another enigma, wrapped in indecipherable and in some instances inaccessible bookkeeping. But it’s an intriguing sum, for an institution prone to pleading endless funding shortfalls. Where is all that money going?

For that matter, where is all that money coming from? The biggest contributor to this entire UN system is clearly the U.S., which tends to contribute 22% or more not only to the regular UN budget, but to most UN operations.  But exactly how much, altogether, does the U.S. chip in these days?

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Three Israeli teenagers are kidnapped and murdered. Their bodies are found in a rock pile near the West Bank  city of Hebron. It is horrible. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says “Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay.”

And from the wood-paneled office suites and limousine back seats of the diplomatic sphere — from Washington, the European Union and the United Nations — comes the usual chorus, urging that all parties show “restraint.”

That call for restraint is prefaced, of course, by expressions of sympathy and condemnations of the murders. But there is always that culminating line — the call for restraint — which undercuts all the rest. There was no restraint involved in the terrorist triple murder of those teenagers. But the hollow diplomatic default is to demand that the Israelis refrain from striking the terrorist leaders who spawn these attacks. That’s a brand of “restraint” that translates into an invitation for more terrorism.

From Secretary of State John Kerry, we hear that the news of murder is “simply devastating…a horrific loss…. We condemn this despicable terrorist act in the strongest possible terms” and “the perpetrators must be brought to justice.” But then there’s the thud of that closing line: “This is a time for all to work towards that goal without destabilizing the situation.”

From the EU comes a statement expressing “profound sorrow.” The EU condemns the killing of the three Israeli youths, sends condolences to their their families and friends, and professes to “share their grief.” The EU further trusts that “the perpetrators of this barbaric act will swiftly be brought to justice.” But then comes that inevitable disclaimer to round it off: “We call for restraint of all parties concerned in order not to further aggravate the fragile situation on the ground.”

From a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon comes word that Ban believes “there can be no justification for the deliberate killing of civilians.” Ban hopes the perpetrators will be swiftly brought to justice, etc., etc., but then comes the ritual kicker:  Ban “calls on all parties to abide by their obligations under international law and to refrain from any actions that could further escalate this highly tense situation.”

Changing the mindset behind this diplomatic cult of “restraint” is a tall order. But one place to start would be to demand that our high-minded diplomats practice some restraint of their own — and alter the template for these statements. By all means, retain the condemnations, the expressions of sympathy and grief, and the calls for swift justice. But stop there. Show some genuine respect, not to mention decency and basic sense. Scrap the last line.

Cement, Lies, and Iranian Weapons Deals

June 27th, 2014 - 10:54 pm

Quick quiz. What do the following items all have in common?

Bags of cement, crates of marble, polyethylene pellets, lentils, cotton and powdered milk.

Answer: All these items, in recent years, have been used by Iran to conceal illicit weapons cargoes, shipped in alleged violation of United Nations sanctions.

The source for this information is a confidential 14-page report produced by the United Nations Panel of Experts on Iran sanctions, and obtained this Friday by Reuters — whose Louis Charbonneau has written a story disclosing some of its contents, under the headline “Exclusive — U.N. experts trace recent seized arms to Iran, violating embargo.”

The particular Iranian duplicity on which this UN report focuses is the shipment earlier this year of weapons hidden among bags of cement aboard a Panamanian-flagged ship, the Klos C. The weapons — including rockets, fuses, 120 mm mortar shells and roughly 400,000 bullets — were loaded onto the Klos C in an Iranian port. The Klos C then called at the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, before heading to the Red Sea, where the ship, making for Sudan, was intercepted by Israeli naval forces.

According to Reuters, the UN panel’s confidential report confirms that the weapons hidden aboard the Klos C were shipped from Iran, in violation of UN sanctions. (Apparently the report does not speculate on the ultimate destination for the weapons — which the Israelis said was Gaza. Nor could the UN experts confirm the Israeli account that the weapons were smuggled into Iran from Syria, before being loaded aboard the Klos C. Perhaps Israeli authorities have better intelligence on Syria, Iran and Gaza than do the eight experts on the UN panel? But the UN report does confirm that the weapons were shipped from Iran).

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The Labor Theory of the Iran Nuclear Talks

June 24th, 2014 - 9:38 pm

Karl Marx brought us the labor theory of value, which posited that the more work you put into producing something, the greater its worth.

That turned out to be rubbish. If you build a bridge to nowhere, then no matter how much labor you have poured into the project, the bridge is useless. You could spend months digging a huge hole in the ground with a teaspoon; it would be a lot of work, but that is no guarantee that by the end you would have produced anything of value. Quite likely you would simply have squandered time, effort and better opportunities in order to dig yourself into a large hole in the ground.

So it goes for U.S. negotiators at the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, who seem to be laboring under the theory that if they just work hard, and harder, and even harder, then in concert with Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, they will produce a deal that will stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Actually, it’s even muddier than that. The aim by now seems to be to leave Iran with a nuclear program, but somehow promise that there will be no Iranian bomb at the end of this rainbow, and assure the world that Iran’s nuclear program will be — in the oft-repeated words of a U.S. senior administration official — “exclusively peaceful.”

It remains a mystery how that might work in practice, or what power, precisely, might enforce this vision of “peace” buttressed by Iranian nuclear facilities. On Tuesday, senior U.S. officials gave a briefing on the Iran nuclear talks — dubbed the P5+1 negotiations — to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Following the briefing, Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the committee, released a statement noting that “many Members of the Committee are concerned about the direction of these negotiations,” the biggest concern being that they are leading to a situation in which, ultimately, “it would be very easy for Iran to produce material for nuclear weapons — on a massive scale.”

But for U.S. officials engaged in these talks, the guiding imperative seems to be some sort of labor theory of diplomacy. Never mind the direction in which this diplomatic work crew might be shuffling. The idea seems to be that if the U.S. just works hard enough, with its cohorts, to produce a deal, then the deal will surely be worth something.

By now, the P5+1 talks are becoming an industry unto themselves. The Joint Plan of Action that provides the framework for these interim negotiations was struck last November, setting a July 20th deadline for talks meant to reach a lasting and comprehensive agreement with Iran — unless they don’t, in which case the deadline might be extended to next January. The talks, hosted in Vienna, began in February, and have continued since then with monthly high-level rounds, and multiple “technical” rounds between. In other words, it is now seven months since Iran agreed to talk, and for five months all parties to this endeavor have been talking.

Yet, in a background press briefing following the most recent round, last Friday, a senior U.S. administration official — so punch drunk as to remark “I’ve lost all track of time” — was still saying “we have serious work, very serious work left to do.” That’s not for lack of work having already been done. This same U.S. official elaborated that “an enormous amount of work has gone into this by everyone — enormous.”

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At the United Nations, it’s a pretty reliable rule that when something looks bad on the surface, there’s worse rot beneath. That’s no accident. It’s a natural product of UN secrecy, bureaucracy and membership freighted with unfree states. Mix those elements together, and they yield a moral compost heap in which bad policy and bigotry flourish. By the time something troubling sprouts into plain view,  it has already set down a massive root structure within the UN hothouse.

For the past six years, one product of this mulch was the UN Human Rights Council’s sponsorship of Richard Falk as a special rapporteur for what the UN Human Rights Council is pleased to call “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.” This has been a lopsided anti-Israel mandate since its conception, and Falk with great zeal translated it into a platform for attacking Israel and the U.S. That made waves in the U.S. last year when Falk blamed America for the Islamist terrorist bombings of the Boston Marathon. More than two dozen members of Congress called for the UN to fire Falk. As it turned out, the UN Human Rights Council (reborn in a 2006 flurry of “reform” from the irredeemably corrupt UN Commission on Human Rights) has no procedure for firing a special rapporteur, nor does the UN require its rapporteurs to divulge such niceties as other sources of funding and support. Falk carried on until his term expired this month, only to be replaced by a candidate with a similar anti-Israel record, Indonesia’s Makarim Wibisono. So far, so bad.

But neither is the Falk connection entirely gone.  The UN Human Rights Council has now appointed, as another of its special rapporteurs, none other than Richard Falk’s wife — Hilal Elver. She shares her husband’s work, agenda and predilection for 9/11 conspiracy theories, Israel trashing and so forth. You can read more about her on the web site of Geneva-based UN Watch, which called her UN appointment “bizarre, nepotistic, and politically driven.” UN Watch in its online briefing includes a link to Elver’s application for the post, complete with “self-disqualifying answers, non-sequiturs, and more than 20 spelling mistakes.” Her specific post is special rapporteur “on the right to food,” a post which UN Watch notes was initiated by Cuba and “first held by Jan Ziegler, founder and recipient of the Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize.”

To this I’d add, if the UN’s aim is to ensure that people around the globe have enough to eat, the real project should be the right to freedom — the point being that free people have a far better record of ensuring all can eat well than do oppressed people whose “right to food” is overseen by state planners and UN rapporteurs. But campaigning for freedom to choose is not an agenda that would generate much business for the UN or its deep bench of cronies.

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Here we go again. On the heels of the fourth round of Iran nuclear talks in Vienna — which evidently went so badly that a senior U.S. administration official described them Friday as having reached “a moment of great difficulty” — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is twittering that “peaceful nuclear power is the inalienable right of our entire nation.”

Everything about that Rouhani tweet is a lie. Iran’s nuclear program is patently not peaceful. To believe that, you would have to believe that rather than comply with international norms for nuclear power, the terror-sponsoring messianic regime of one of the world’s most oil-rich states has been willing to suffer international sanctions for years, building secret uranium enrichment facilities, working on an industrial-scale plutonium factory in the form of a heavy water reactor and developing long-range ballistic missiles (while threatening Death to America and the eradication of Israel). All this is for what? To power the electricity grid?

Nor does Rouhani speak for the entire Iranian nation. He speaks for Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has ruled Iran since taking over from the late Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. If the people of the Iranian nation happen to disagree with the edicts of their rulers, their recourse is not to freely change their government, but to risk their necks seeking some way to protest — at risk of being imprisoned, tortured, and possibly killed. Amid the diplomatic whirl of the nuclear talks, has the world forgotten the carnage in the streets of Tehran in 2009, including the lethal shooting, caught on camera, of Neda Soltan?

And then there is the matter of Iran’s satraps claiming that they may engage in their nuclear projects as an “inalienable right.”

This has been the Tehran regime’s refrain for years. Here’s an account of Iran’s recent ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, talking in 2012 in New York about Iran’s “inalienable right” to enrich uranium (Khazaee, as well as his predecessor at the UN, Javad Zarif — who is now Iran’s foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator — also apparently both felt they had an inalienable right to abuse their UN diplomatic privileges by overseeing multi-million dollar money laundering operations in New York for the Iranian government, via the Alavi Foundation).  Here’s Zarif, this past March, on Iran’s PressTV, speaking in English (presumably for international consumption), about Iran’s nuclear program as an “inalienable right” — and then defining that to mean something that “cannot be taken away” and “does not need recognition.”

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Credit the Geneva-based UN Watch with dredging the diplomatic swamps of the United Nations to bring to light the appalling information contained in an April 23 UN press release. The soporific headline of the release: “Economic and Social Council, Opening Coordination, Management Meetings, Adopts Five Decisions, Holds Subsidiary-Body Elections.”

I’ll get to the bombshell in a minute. But first, for those who might not be familiar with the UN’s Economic and Social Council, best known to its intimates as ECOSOC: this is a body enshrined in the 1945 UN Charter. It consists of 54 member states, elected to three-year terms by the UN General Assembly. Within the UN, ECOSOC is no small presence. On its web site, ECOSOC describes its portfolio as including “[t]he world’s economic, social and environmental challenges,” and claims “broad responsibility for some 70% of the human and financial resources of the entire UN system, including 14 specialized agencies, 9 ‘functional’ commissions and five regional commissions.”

Thus laden with responsibilities, ECOSOC met this Wednesday, and — as mentioned in its eye-glazing press release — held elections “to fill numerous vacancies in 17 of its subsidiary bodies.”

So what? Here’s what: here’s information on that same ECOSOC meeting translated into the more forthright language of the UN Watch press release:

“Iran sweeps coveted UN rights posts.”  

Yes, ECOSOC has just elected Iran — again — to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women.

ECOSOC also elected Iran to the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, and (by acclamation, which presumably means the U.S. agreed) the Commission on Population and Development. Iran is also among ECOSOC’s nominees — to be elected by the General Assembly — for the Committee for Programme Coordination.

For good measure, ECOSOC also elected Iran to the 19-member Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations. As UN Watch notes, this is a powerful committee because it decides which NGOs are allowed official access to the UN system. Membership on this committee, according to UN Watch, is “a coveted position because it allows governments to silence criticism by acting as the gatekeeper and overseer of all human rights groups that seek to work inside the world body.”

America’s UN ambassador Samantha Power pronounced the U.S. “very disappointed” by the results of ECOSOC’s NGO Committee election. She noted that Iran’s authorities “regularly detain human rights defenders, subjecting many to torture, abuse, and violations of due process.” Power further noted that in the regional-bloc voting system of the UN, where Iran is a member of the Asia-Pacific group, it is particularly troubling that Iran won its NGO Committee seat by running unopposed.

Amid the murk of UN elections, that’s an interesting bit of information. One might well wonder why the U.S. government — considering its official “pivot” to Asia — did not do more to persuade one of Asia’s democracies to run against Iran.

Perhaps there’s room here for some creative diplomacy. Given Iran’s eagerness to serve on UN commissions, committees, conferences, governing boards, and anything else up for grabs, perhaps it’s time the U.S. campaigned for the UN to establish a Committee for Misogynistic, Sanctions-Violating Human Rights Abusers. ECOSOC seems to like that sort of thing; Iran would fit right in.