In the continuing tragicomedy of UN news, there are now reports that the director of the UN’s Vienna-based Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman, is denying a story in London’s Sunday Times that the United Nations is about to hand her a new role as a UN envoy to extraterrestrials.
What’s really going on here is unclear. The Times quoted Othman, citing recent recorded remarks, as saying the UN is “ready-made” to seize the lead as decision-maker for all mankind on a “coordinated response,” should aliens show up. Such UN self-puffery is exactly the kind of talk one often hears from UN officials when a plan for some new post or program is already a backroom done deal — though it usually involves UN outreach to assorted human despotisms, not aliens. At an institution that recently seated Libya on the Human Rights Council, and allowed Iran last year to chair the board of its flagship development agency, the UNDP, gross inanity — as long as it’s coupled with any form of power or money grab — is all too credible. The Times did accurately report that Othman will be speaking at a conference on aliens next week in the UK — here’s a link to the confab, Oct 4-5, “Towards a scientific and societal agenda on extra-terrestrial life,” where she is listed as a panelist.
But even if the Times went overboard in reporting that the UN would actually create an alien-envoy role for Othman, that in no way obviates the very real and disquieting developments going on in Mazlan Othman’s orbit at the UN offices in Vienna, which, as I described in my previous post, “The Dark Side of a UN Envoy for Extraterrestrials,” are the real problem here. Iran has now embarked on a two-year chairmanship of the UN’s Legal Subcommittee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space — for which Othman’s Vienna office (UNOOSA) serves as the secretariat. Given the ties that have developed between Malaysia and Iran, in which Malaysia was one of three states which at the UN’s IAEA last year refused to rebuke Iran’s illicit nuclear activities, that’s cause for concern — aliens or no aliens. Is anyone in Washington paying attention?
Along those same lines, here’s a far more urgent reason — even if less juicy than the vision of a UN envoy for aliens — to ask whether the Obama administration is doing anything at all to mind the mess at the UN shop in Vienna.
At the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, as 2010-2011 chair of the IAEA’s governing body, UN member states have just picked an envoy of …wait for it …. Pakistan.
Yes, that’s right. Pakistan: the country that not so long ago brought the world the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation bazaar, the country that spawned the Taliban and continues to breed jihadi terrorists, the country that holds out its hand for billions in aid while pouring resources into the ability to produce yet more nuclear weapons. Behold, Ladies and Gentlemen, with crisis upon us over the Iranian nuclear bomb program, the North Korean nuclear bomb, and rumblings of a further proliferation breakout — from Venezuela to East Asia to the Middle East — the IAEA’s prime decision-making body, its 35-member governing board, as of today is chaired for the next year by one of Pakistan’s longtime nuclear insiders, Ansar Parvez of Pakistan.
Reportedly, the Obama administration did nothing to stop Pakistan winning the chairmanship of the IAEA governing board. The U.S. sits on the IAEA governing board. But according to Reuters, U.S. officials nodded along, just as they did this past spring when Iran won a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Reuters reports : “No country opposed Pakistan’s nomination by a group of Middle Eastern and south Asian member states at a meeting of the IAEA governors.” Citing an anonymous diplomat who attended the session, Reuters reports that the choice of Pakistan was approved “by acclamation.”
Aliens, schmaliens — whatever. With Obama lauding the UN as a core arena of U.S. foreign policy, and U.S. taxpayers shelling out billions for the UN budget, when does the Obama administration start showing responsible oversight, not to mention some muscle, at the UN’s offices in Vienna?