Sometimes the most intriguing part of a United Nations press release is what’s left out. When an explosion ripped through a naval base on Cyprus last week, killing 12 people and wounding dozens more, the UN was quick to put out a press release informing the world in some detail that its top UN envoy for Cyprus, Lisa Buttenheim, “voiced sadness at the loss of life,” and the UN Mission on Cyprus was offering help.
What the press release neglected to mention was where these explosives came from. The operative word here, which appears no where in the UN press release, is Iran. These explosives, reportedly ignited by a brush fire, were confiscated by Cyprus in 2009 from a cargo ship, the Monchegorsk — then enroute from Iran to Syria. The attempted shipment was a violation of the UN’s own sanctions. It appears to be tragic accident that these explosives ended up killing people on Cyprus. But was it also an accident that the UN press release omitted any reminder that this tragedy had its origins in Iran’s pervasive pattern of sanctions-busting weapons traffic? Or was this one of those cases in which the UN preferred not to offend the sensitivities of member states — such as Syria and Iran? Here’s what the UN left out.