It might make for a great Arnold-Schwarzenegger-meets-the-UN movie:
But no, it’s Kofi Annan’s latest maneuver, announced Tuesday, to introduce conditions into what is supposed to be Hezbollah’s unconditional release of the two Israeli soldiers abducted July 12. Instead of a UN “mediator,” there will be a “facilitator.” And the better to facilitate, Annan wants his (or her) identity kept secret. So, the guessing game has been on to figure out who this might be. I have no inside track, but here’s a short list of a few folks who in one way or another have facilitated for Annan on previous ocasions:
Lakhdar Brahimi – (Algerian) A former longtime Annan aide, also a former official of the Arab League, who while working for Annan in 2004 called Israel the “poison” of the Middle East, and last month wrote a New York Times Op-ed headlined “Let’s Start Talking to Hezbollah.” Brahimi was named today by The Jerusalem Post as being The Facilitator, but the UN has not confirmed this, so we still don’t know for sure.
Giandomenico Picco — (Italian) A former Annan personal envoy and former UN hostage negotiator with close ties to Iran. Picco has been relatively quiet since the story broke last year that his work for Annan at the UN overlapped at one stage with his chairmanship of a company doing big business with the UN.
Staffan de Mistura — (Swedish) A veteran of early days of the UN Oil-for-Food program in Iraq; who later worked for at least four years as Kofi Annan’s personal envoy to southern Lebanon, following Israel’s withdrawal. De Mistura in his Lebanon work focused on “preventive diplomacy initiatives,” which evidently did not work out too well. But maybe he had a chance during those four years to observe Hezbollah’s blueprints for hostage-holding facilities.
Iqbal Riza — (Pakistani) Annan’s trusty former chief-of-staff, who retired early last year after shredding three years’ worth of UN executive-suite documents potentially relevant to the UN Oil-for-Food scandal. Riza was quickly brought back to the UN by Annan as a special adviser on the UN Alliance of Civilizations, which just invited former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami to New York.
And my personal favorite. It’s a long shot, but: Kofi Annan himself — (Ghanaian).