Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ban Ki-moon

The U.N.’s Parallel Universe

In the midst of the greatest threat to European stability since the Balkans war of the 1990s, and perhaps back to the Berlin Crisis of 1961, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon just announced that the European Union’s primary focus should be on fighting climate change. Ban, who has been singularly unsuccessful in having any positive impact on the Syrian civil war, Chinese coercion in the East and South China Seas, North Korea’s nuclear program, and the like, now sees a Europe in which climate change is more of a threat than Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and continued threat to Ukraine and possibly other parts of Eastern Europe.

While the pillars of the post-World War II international order tremble in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, the secretary general’s statements could be mistaken for parody, but they are manifestly in earnest. The unilateral redrawing of borders in Europe, along with Putin’s deeply paranoid, grievance-driven, and aggressive speech of March 18, might spark a level of personal commitment and concern on the part of the U.N.’s leader commensurate with the threat. Instead, Ban reveals the deeply irrelevant nature and unshakeable ideology of the world’s leading multilateral organization. The only worse news would be if the EU itself, facing violent transformation of its continent, were to endorse such folly as its primary goal.

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In the midst of the greatest threat to European stability since the Balkans war of the 1990s, and perhaps back to the Berlin Crisis of 1961, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon just announced that the European Union’s primary focus should be on fighting climate change. Ban, who has been singularly unsuccessful in having any positive impact on the Syrian civil war, Chinese coercion in the East and South China Seas, North Korea’s nuclear program, and the like, now sees a Europe in which climate change is more of a threat than Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and continued threat to Ukraine and possibly other parts of Eastern Europe.

While the pillars of the post-World War II international order tremble in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, the secretary general’s statements could be mistaken for parody, but they are manifestly in earnest. The unilateral redrawing of borders in Europe, along with Putin’s deeply paranoid, grievance-driven, and aggressive speech of March 18, might spark a level of personal commitment and concern on the part of the U.N.’s leader commensurate with the threat. Instead, Ban reveals the deeply irrelevant nature and unshakeable ideology of the world’s leading multilateral organization. The only worse news would be if the EU itself, facing violent transformation of its continent, were to endorse such folly as its primary goal.

To functionaries such as Ban, process is everything, thus, he calls for a European action plan on climate change to come into effect no later than 2030. By then, of course, no one can any longer be certain what Europe’s borders will look like, whether there will have been actual conflict, or how many other depredations on territorial sovereignty there will have been in Europe and elsewhere.

Perhaps, though, Ban is actually providing a useful vision of the future of multilateralism. Were Washington and its liberal allies to accept that the U.N., and many organizations like it, is fit only to focus on soft issues such as food relief, health care, and environmentalism (regardless of its actual ability to make a meaningful impact), then we can move beyond the fiction that it has any real role to play in responding to global threats. If Washington can free itself from bondage to the “legitimacy” of the U.N. Security Council, then perhaps we can more creatively respond to Russia’s aggression, North Korea’s threat, and Syria’s bloodbath. That might prevent, or at least delay, the continued erosion in international norms. Call it the Ban Doctrine.

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Who Is Ban Ki-moon to Opine on Legality?

Against the backdrop of last week’s G-20 Summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his representative for Syria suggested that any U.S. or allied military action on Syria would be illegal. According to the United Nations’ own press report:

He appealed that any decision that is made is done so within the framework of the UN Charter. The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and/or when the Security Council approves such action, said Mr. Ban. He appealed for renewed efforts by regional and international actors to convene the Geneva conference – with participation from senior United States, Russian and UN officials – “as soon as possible.”

That may or may not be true, but the fact that so many diplomats and journalists give so much credence to what the secretary-general says shows ignorance of the original intent of the United Nations and reflects the mission creep which blights the organization. Article 97 of the UN Charter declares that:

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Against the backdrop of last week’s G-20 Summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his representative for Syria suggested that any U.S. or allied military action on Syria would be illegal. According to the United Nations’ own press report:

He appealed that any decision that is made is done so within the framework of the UN Charter. The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and/or when the Security Council approves such action, said Mr. Ban. He appealed for renewed efforts by regional and international actors to convene the Geneva conference – with participation from senior United States, Russian and UN officials – “as soon as possible.”

That may or may not be true, but the fact that so many diplomats and journalists give so much credence to what the secretary-general says shows ignorance of the original intent of the United Nations and reflects the mission creep which blights the organization. Article 97 of the UN Charter declares that:

The Secretariat shall comprise a Secretary-General and such staff as the Organization may require. The Secretary-General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. He shall be the chief administrative officer of the Organization.

In other words, his job is first and foremost as a manager. It is not his role to determine what international law is or is not. Alas, the current secretary-general, like Kofi Annan before him and Boutros-Boutros Ghali before him, has shirked his administrative duties while seeking to maximize travel. They have allowed corruption and bloat to run rampant through the organization while they engage in soapbox diplomacy for which they have no charge.

True, Article 99 suggests that “The Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security,” but he is not entrusted as the arbiter of international law. To allow Ban to, in his official capacity, make such declarations is to transform the UN from a discussion forum meant to promote peace to instead a dictatorial entity. That the time and money Ban spends on his jaunts around the globe wastes resources and contrasts so much with the UN’s notoriously slow and inefficient bureaucracy only underlines the secretary-general’s malpractice.

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Iran’s Prominent Visitors Go Off Script

It’s always nice to see a totalitarian propaganda show disappoint its sponsors. Thus it’s hard to avoid chortling at the embarrassment suffered by Iranian leaders today when the much-heralded meeting of the Nonaligned Movement in Tehran went off in an unscripted direction.

The ayatollahs had made much of the attendance of President Mohammad Morsi of Egypt–the largest Arab state–and of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations. But they could not have liked what they heard from the two prominent visitors. Morsi openly came out in support of the revolt being waged by the Syrian people against Bashar Assad–Iran’s closest ally in the regime. “The Syrian people are fighting with courage, looking for freedom and human dignity,” he said prompting the Syrian ambassador to walk out.

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It’s always nice to see a totalitarian propaganda show disappoint its sponsors. Thus it’s hard to avoid chortling at the embarrassment suffered by Iranian leaders today when the much-heralded meeting of the Nonaligned Movement in Tehran went off in an unscripted direction.

The ayatollahs had made much of the attendance of President Mohammad Morsi of Egypt–the largest Arab state–and of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations. But they could not have liked what they heard from the two prominent visitors. Morsi openly came out in support of the revolt being waged by the Syrian people against Bashar Assad–Iran’s closest ally in the regime. “The Syrian people are fighting with courage, looking for freedom and human dignity,” he said prompting the Syrian ambassador to walk out.

Ban also denounced the repression carried out by the Syrian government with Iranian help. Then, even better, he upbraided the Iranian leadership for threatening to annihilate Israel and for denying the Holocaust. “I strongly reject threats by any member state to destroy another or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts, such as the Holocaust,” he said.

The Iranian news media apparently did not report Morsi’s or Ban’s remarks but it seems certain that they will be become widely known within Iran, thus presenting a strong counterpoint to the propaganda line of the regime.

That said, we should not get carried away–ruthless dictatorships like the one that rules Iran can suffer a lot of embarrassment with impunity. And however discredited the regime becomes, it still yields considerable power both within Iran and outside of it–and that power will only grow unless something more is done to stop its nuclear weapons program, which has not been slowed in the slightest by the latest diplomatic efforts emanating from Washington nor even, so far, by a new round of sanctions. The Wall Street Journal reports, for example, that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s top nuclear weapons scientist, is back at work.

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Ban Didn’t Redeem Himself in Tehran

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has rightly been subjected to some tough criticism for going to Tehran this week to attend the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. Much like the meeting of the 120-member nation group itself, Ban’s presence in Iran shows how ineffective American efforts to isolate the Islamist regime have been. His presence there is an implicit stamp of approval for Tehran’s defiance of efforts to halt their drive for nuclear weapons as well as for the recent spate of anti-Semitic statements made by Iran’s leaders. But Ban’s defenders have claimed he would make up for it by making strong statements in Iran.

Ban has apparently made good on that promise by using a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop making offensive and inflammatory comments about Israel being eliminated. He also used a separate meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khaminei to tell him that Iran needs to take “concrete steps” to prove to the world that its nuclear program is not a threat to world peace. Those are good statements, but the idea that this redeems Ban’s decision to travel to the rogue regime is dead wrong. The Iranians have already been told these things numerous times by people more important than Ban. With the clock ticking down to the day when the ayatollahs can announce they have a nuclear weapon, the Iranians need to understand that they will be subjected to complete isolation if they don’t reverse course. More scolding won’t do the trick.

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United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has rightly been subjected to some tough criticism for going to Tehran this week to attend the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. Much like the meeting of the 120-member nation group itself, Ban’s presence in Iran shows how ineffective American efforts to isolate the Islamist regime have been. His presence there is an implicit stamp of approval for Tehran’s defiance of efforts to halt their drive for nuclear weapons as well as for the recent spate of anti-Semitic statements made by Iran’s leaders. But Ban’s defenders have claimed he would make up for it by making strong statements in Iran.

Ban has apparently made good on that promise by using a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop making offensive and inflammatory comments about Israel being eliminated. He also used a separate meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khaminei to tell him that Iran needs to take “concrete steps” to prove to the world that its nuclear program is not a threat to world peace. Those are good statements, but the idea that this redeems Ban’s decision to travel to the rogue regime is dead wrong. The Iranians have already been told these things numerous times by people more important than Ban. With the clock ticking down to the day when the ayatollahs can announce they have a nuclear weapon, the Iranians need to understand that they will be subjected to complete isolation if they don’t reverse course. More scolding won’t do the trick.

When compared to the feckless behavior of the members of the Non-Aligned Movement such as Egypt, whose new President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood also journeyed to Tehran, Ban’s behavior looks good. Those other countries were happy to accept the hospitality of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad and to say nothing about their vicious anti-Semitism and threats to wipe out a fellow member state of the United Nations, let alone condemn Iran’s nuclear program. That this conclave would occur at a time when Iran is actively supplying its ally Syrian dictator Bashar Assad with weapons to kill his own people is equally outrageous. Ban at least put himself on record as opposing these things.

But the Iranians were happy to accept Ban’s remonstrations in exchange for being able to play host to the NAM as well as the head of the UN. Just by being there, Ban made it clear that the West’s sanctions were not a serious impediment to normal intercourse between Iran and the rest of the world. At this point, it matters less what people say to the Iranians than what they do with them. Going to Tehran was a gift that exposed the unimportance of the international coalition that Secretary of State Clinton has bragged about organizing. Ban’s statements, however praiseworthy, don’t change the fact that this has been a very good week for the Iranian regime and a bad one for those who still insist against all the evidence that diplomacy and sanctions are enough to stop them.

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Ban Snubs Obama, Embraces Iran

As I wrote yesterday, a lot was hanging on whether United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would decide to ignore the urging of President Obama and go to Iran for the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. Doing so would make a mockery of the administration’s claim that they had successfully isolated the Islamist regime as part of a campaign to force it to give up its quest for nuclear weapons. But when faced with a choice of offending the Non-Aligned Movement and its Iranian host or President Obama and Israel, Secretary General Ban picked the lesser of two evils from his point of view and affirmed today that he was heading to Tehran.

There are those who will say with justice that nobody has cared about the Non-Aligned Movement since the fall of the Berlin Wall rendered this Third World strategy of playing the West against the former Soviet Union moot. However, Ban’s visit puts the icing on the cake for the ayatollah’s effort to show how the world is refusing to shun them the way other rogue regimes have been treated. That Ban would decide to go to Iran only a week after its leaders issued a new round of statements calling for the elimination of fellow UN member Israel is an outrage in itself. But by hosting the representatives of 120 countries with the head of the world body along with them, the Iranians have good reason to argue that this demonstrates that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s claim that she has successfully isolated Iran is a joke.

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As I wrote yesterday, a lot was hanging on whether United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would decide to ignore the urging of President Obama and go to Iran for the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. Doing so would make a mockery of the administration’s claim that they had successfully isolated the Islamist regime as part of a campaign to force it to give up its quest for nuclear weapons. But when faced with a choice of offending the Non-Aligned Movement and its Iranian host or President Obama and Israel, Secretary General Ban picked the lesser of two evils from his point of view and affirmed today that he was heading to Tehran.

There are those who will say with justice that nobody has cared about the Non-Aligned Movement since the fall of the Berlin Wall rendered this Third World strategy of playing the West against the former Soviet Union moot. However, Ban’s visit puts the icing on the cake for the ayatollah’s effort to show how the world is refusing to shun them the way other rogue regimes have been treated. That Ban would decide to go to Iran only a week after its leaders issued a new round of statements calling for the elimination of fellow UN member Israel is an outrage in itself. But by hosting the representatives of 120 countries with the head of the world body along with them, the Iranians have good reason to argue that this demonstrates that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s claim that she has successfully isolated Iran is a joke.

With the sanctions that the administration belatedly imposed on Iran not being strictly enforced and the P5+1 diplomatic process having completely collapsed, the president’s strategy for dealing with the Iranian threat is a shambles.

Ban’s visit merely illustrates what the Israeli government has been pointing out in recent weeks as it stepped up a campaign to get Washington to declare whether it would make good on President Obama’s pledge to stop the Iranian threat. Iran isn’t isolated. Nor has it been brought to its knees by sanctions. In fact, there is no prospect of either U.S. goal being reached in the foreseeable future.

As much as Israel’s critics may deplore what they see as unwarranted pressure on the president to declare his intentions during his re-election campaign, his strategy has failed. With time running out before Iran’s nuclear progress renders a strike impossible, the president must state his intention to act or admit that he has no intention of doing so even after November.

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Iran Isolated? Tell it to the UN

The Obama administration is still asserting that diplomacy and sanctions will halt Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons without the need for either Israel or the United States to resort to force. At the core of this argument is the assertion that the effort to squeeze Tehran led by Secretary of State Clinton has been largely successful with tough sanctions strangling Iran’s economy. But no one in Washington really believes that the P5+1 talks will ever be successfully revived and the methods by which the Iranians are getting around the loosely enforced sanctions are making a joke out of Clinton’s boast that her efforts would be “crippling.”

Far from being isolated, the Iranians are still enjoying the support of much of the world, something that will be made all too clear next week when the so-called Non-Aligned Movement convenes its annual meeting in Tehran. It’s bad enough that 120-member states of the group will send representatives to the gathering that will undermine any thought that the Islamist regime has no friends. But if United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon goes to the meeting too it will put a fork in the notion that the Iranians have much to worry about. That worries left-wing columnist Chemi Shalev, who writes in Haaretz that the symbolism of the UN chief arriving in the Iranian capital will be used by both Israeli and American critics of Obama’s feckless policy. He’s right.

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The Obama administration is still asserting that diplomacy and sanctions will halt Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons without the need for either Israel or the United States to resort to force. At the core of this argument is the assertion that the effort to squeeze Tehran led by Secretary of State Clinton has been largely successful with tough sanctions strangling Iran’s economy. But no one in Washington really believes that the P5+1 talks will ever be successfully revived and the methods by which the Iranians are getting around the loosely enforced sanctions are making a joke out of Clinton’s boast that her efforts would be “crippling.”

Far from being isolated, the Iranians are still enjoying the support of much of the world, something that will be made all too clear next week when the so-called Non-Aligned Movement convenes its annual meeting in Tehran. It’s bad enough that 120-member states of the group will send representatives to the gathering that will undermine any thought that the Islamist regime has no friends. But if United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon goes to the meeting too it will put a fork in the notion that the Iranians have much to worry about. That worries left-wing columnist Chemi Shalev, who writes in Haaretz that the symbolism of the UN chief arriving in the Iranian capital will be used by both Israeli and American critics of Obama’s feckless policy. He’s right.

Shalev ruefully notes that even if Ban listens to his critics and avoids the Tehran conference, the Non-Aligned Movement event will mark a watershed in the failing effort to bring the ayatollahs to heel. It will not only embarrass President Obama but also make it all too clear that those who believe the bulk of the world is against Israel are right. Since he is opposed to a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, that appalls him.

Shalev would much prefer that Ban and the rest of the world’s leaders start acting as if a regime that spouts anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and pledges to eliminate a member state of the UN — Israel — should be isolated, not honored. So would those who disagree with his views about both Iran and the peace process. But the fact remains that it is democratic Israel that is isolated. Not Iran.

This meeting will occur only a week after Iran held its annual Israel hate fest where the country’s governmental, religious and military leaders vied with each other for the honor of saying the most extreme things about the Jewish state and their ideas about wiping it off the map. That Ban would choose this particularly sensitive time to go to Tehran is a terrible miscalculation even if the non-aligned nations make up the bulk of the UN’s membership.

But whether he goes or not the non-aligned circus will just be one more piece of evidence showing the wisdom of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s belief that further reliance on diplomacy with Iran is futile. Ban’s presence will make it clear that the institution that President Obama values so highly is on record showing that his Iran policy has collapsed.

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What is the UN Secretary-General’s Job?

Several years ago, I took the opportunity to hear UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speak at a Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies graduation. The Secretary-General is not the most dynamic speaker and, if memory serves, his speech was basically pabulum, talking a great deal about meetings he had had; if there was a focus, it was probably on global warming. To be fair, while his predecessor Kofi Annan is a better public speaker, there is little substance to Annan’s speeches as well.

The problem with many of the UN Secretaries-General is that they have redefined their position to be that of the world’s diplomat, and have assumed a bully pulpit for which they have no right. When the UN was created, the purpose of the secretary-general, first and foremost, was to be the UN’s administrator. He was meant to make the organization’s bureaucracy function in a clear and efficient way.

By this standard, both Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan have been abject failures. Take the most recent scandal at the United Nations: The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) shipped hi-tech computers to Iran and North Korea in contravention of UN sanctions. That is a failure of administration at the highest level. In any normal organization, it would lead to the resignation not only of WIPO’s director, but also that of the UN administration, because it was the failure of the secretary-general’s oversight that allowed this transaction to occur.

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Several years ago, I took the opportunity to hear UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speak at a Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies graduation. The Secretary-General is not the most dynamic speaker and, if memory serves, his speech was basically pabulum, talking a great deal about meetings he had had; if there was a focus, it was probably on global warming. To be fair, while his predecessor Kofi Annan is a better public speaker, there is little substance to Annan’s speeches as well.

The problem with many of the UN Secretaries-General is that they have redefined their position to be that of the world’s diplomat, and have assumed a bully pulpit for which they have no right. When the UN was created, the purpose of the secretary-general, first and foremost, was to be the UN’s administrator. He was meant to make the organization’s bureaucracy function in a clear and efficient way.

By this standard, both Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan have been abject failures. Take the most recent scandal at the United Nations: The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) shipped hi-tech computers to Iran and North Korea in contravention of UN sanctions. That is a failure of administration at the highest level. In any normal organization, it would lead to the resignation not only of WIPO’s director, but also that of the UN administration, because it was the failure of the secretary-general’s oversight that allowed this transaction to occur.

The same is true with Kofi Annan. There has seldom been a statesman who enjoys such a reputation as an elder statesman but whose record rests on failure. As director of the UN’s peacekeeping operation, Annan’s indecisiveness enabled the Rwanda genocide to develop and cost the lives of hundreds of thousands, a casualty count for which Annan has apologized. As director of peacekeeping operations, Annan also presided over the failure to protect the safe haven in Srebrenica in 1995, in which 7,000 men and boys were slaughtered by Serbian fighters. It was as secretary-general, however, where Annan truly failed. He ignored his primary responsibility as administrator-in-chief in order to traipse around the globe at donor expense, giving speeches and collecting laurels. By doing so, he presided over the worst corruption scandal to hit the United Nations, one for which he has never truly paid the price.

The United Nations has an important role. Having a place to convene enemies and combatants is a valuable enabler of diplomacy. If the UN secretary-general is unable or incapable of managing UN affairs, however, then either it is time for the UN secretary-general to resign or it is time to shrink the UN and its myriad agencies back to a manageable size. Rather than sweep the WIPO scandal under the rug, perhaps it’s time to erase this notion of a world diplomat and instead return the secretary-general to his original purpose as an administrator and facilitator.

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UN Clearly Not Serious About Syria

The Obama administration has staked its Syria policy on winning consensus at the United Nations Security Council, a near impossibility given Russia’s desire to protect Bashar al-Assad at all costs. Alas, it is not only the Kremlin whose resistance empowers Assad’s murderous regime.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reportedly appointed Amat Al Alim Alsoswa, a former Yemeni minister for human rights, to be his task force leader on Syria. The problem is that Amat was a representative and functionary for the brutal regime of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

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The Obama administration has staked its Syria policy on winning consensus at the United Nations Security Council, a near impossibility given Russia’s desire to protect Bashar al-Assad at all costs. Alas, it is not only the Kremlin whose resistance empowers Assad’s murderous regime.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reportedly appointed Amat Al Alim Alsoswa, a former Yemeni minister for human rights, to be his task force leader on Syria. The problem is that Amat was a representative and functionary for the brutal regime of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

When the UN chooses a Qaddafi regime functionary to oversee human rights, an Islamic Republic of Iran official to handle proliferation concerns, and a representative of an Arab dictator to chair a task force handling the Assad’s “brotherly regime,” then it loses all credibility. The Syrian people deserve better.

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Security Concerns After UN Chief’s Convoy Attacked in Gaza

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Israel, which is aimed at restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, got off on the wrong foot today. Or, to be more specific, it got off on the wrong shoes – dozens of which were pelted at Ban’s convoy by irate Palestinian protesters, along with sticks and stones, as he rode through Gaza. The UN chief is on his way to a national security conference in Herzliya, where he’s slated to give the keynote address tonight. The Jerusalem Post reports on the attack:

No one was injured during the hostile welcome and the vehicles, which entered the Hamas-ruled territory from southern Israel through the Erez crossing, pushed through the crowd and sped away. …

Many of those who protested as the UN convoy passed were family members of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons. They hit the vehicles with signs bearing slogans accusing Ban of bias towards Israel and of refusing to meet the relatives of Palestinian prisoners.

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Israel, which is aimed at restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, got off on the wrong foot today. Or, to be more specific, it got off on the wrong shoes – dozens of which were pelted at Ban’s convoy by irate Palestinian protesters, along with sticks and stones, as he rode through Gaza. The UN chief is on his way to a national security conference in Herzliya, where he’s slated to give the keynote address tonight. The Jerusalem Post reports on the attack:

No one was injured during the hostile welcome and the vehicles, which entered the Hamas-ruled territory from southern Israel through the Erez crossing, pushed through the crowd and sped away. …

Many of those who protested as the UN convoy passed were family members of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons. They hit the vehicles with signs bearing slogans accusing Ban of bias towards Israel and of refusing to meet the relatives of Palestinian prisoners.

The incident comes a day after Ban gave a pro-Palestinian speech in Ramallah, in which he praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and condemned Israeli settlement building as a violation of international law that needs to be frozen immediately:

Ban on Wednesday praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his leadership and publicly backed him on key issues, including the demand for a freeze of settlement building on occupied lands the Palestinians want for their state.

With Abbas by his side, the UN chief affirmed that “all Israeli settlements are contrary to international law and prejudice” the outcome of a final peace deal.

Jeremy Ruden, a spokesman for the Herzliya conference, said that “unprecendeted security measures [are] being taken upon [Ban's] arrival” at the event tonight.

The attack on Ban’s convoy, and the seven rockets fired into Israel from Gaza last night, underscore the absurdity of the notion that Israeli settlement building is the major obstacle to peace, as opposed to the lack of a stable negotiating partner on the Palestinian side. How can Israel agree to halt settlement expansion as a “goodwill gesture” with the Palestinian Authority, when this will do nothing to stop the rocket fire and impossible demands from Gaza?

Netanyahu has already reportedly rejected Ban’s request for a settlement freeze. But the UN chief is likely to raise the issue again during his speech tonight.

Full disclosure: I am visiting Herzliya on a press trip sponsored by the Emergency Committee for Israel, a pro-Israel advocacy organization.

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North Korea Playing the U.S. — Still

Try as he might, Obama can’t escape being a wartime president and foreign-policy-crisis manager. That’s the world in which we live, and it keeps intruding into his desired agenda:

North Korea’s deadly attack on a populated South Korean island dramatically escalated the conflict between the two countries, leaving Seoul and its allies hunting for a response that would stave off more attacks but stop short of sparking war.

Artillery fire from the North came out of clear skies Tuesday afternoon and pounded an island near a disputed maritime border for more than an hour. Yeonpyeong Island’s 1,200 civilians scattered as shells exploded and homes and buildings caught fire, witnesses said, with many residents hunkering down in bomb shelters or fleeing on boats.

This act of provocation was met with tough talk, but produced more questions than answers:

The United Nations, European Union, Japan and others condemned the attack, with Russia and China calling for a cooling of tensions on the peninsula. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Tuesday’s exchange “one of the gravest incidents since the end of the Korean War.”

President Barack Obama strongly affirmed the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea. Mr. Obama called Mr. Lee to say the U.S. stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the ally and would work with the international community to condemn the “outrageous” attack, the Associated Press reported.

But what do the flurry of words mean, and what is the value of a shoulder-to-shoulder commitment while South Korea’s ships are at risk and its territory is violated? One senses quite clearly that Obama is being tested. After all, what did he do when Syria violated the UN resolution? What has he done about the Russian occupation of Georgia? The proliferation of non-actions has emboldened the North Koreans, as it has all the rogue states. And now Obama has his hands full.

Before word of the attack, former ambassador and potential 2012 presidential candidate John R. Bolton wrote in reference to the newly discovered nuclear facility in Yongbyon that we’ve been “played” by North Korea ever since the Clinton administration. He does not spare the Bush administration either:

Worse, in President George W. Bush’s second term, an assertive group of deniers in the State Department and the intelligence community claimed or implied that North Korea did not have a substantial or ongoing uranium-enrichment program. They denied that the North Koreans had conceded as much in 2002 and that there was sufficient evidence of a continuing program. The intelligence community downgraded its confidence level in its earlier conclusion, not because of contradictory information but because it had not subsequently acquired significant new data. State Department negotiators scorned the idea that the North had a serious enrichment capability. …

The last thing Washington should do now is resurrect the failed six-party talks or start bilateral negotiations with the North. Instead, serious efforts need to be made with China on reunifying the Korean peninsula, a goal made ever more urgent by the clear transition of power now underway in Pyongyang as Kim Jong Il faces the actuarial tables. North Korea’s threat will only end when it does, and that day cannot come soon enough.

What is clear is that the North Koreans perceive no downside to acts of aggression against their neighbor. So long as Obama has only words in response, the barrages are not likely to end. And meanwhile, Iran and our other foes look on.

Try as he might, Obama can’t escape being a wartime president and foreign-policy-crisis manager. That’s the world in which we live, and it keeps intruding into his desired agenda:

North Korea’s deadly attack on a populated South Korean island dramatically escalated the conflict between the two countries, leaving Seoul and its allies hunting for a response that would stave off more attacks but stop short of sparking war.

Artillery fire from the North came out of clear skies Tuesday afternoon and pounded an island near a disputed maritime border for more than an hour. Yeonpyeong Island’s 1,200 civilians scattered as shells exploded and homes and buildings caught fire, witnesses said, with many residents hunkering down in bomb shelters or fleeing on boats.

This act of provocation was met with tough talk, but produced more questions than answers:

The United Nations, European Union, Japan and others condemned the attack, with Russia and China calling for a cooling of tensions on the peninsula. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Tuesday’s exchange “one of the gravest incidents since the end of the Korean War.”

President Barack Obama strongly affirmed the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea. Mr. Obama called Mr. Lee to say the U.S. stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the ally and would work with the international community to condemn the “outrageous” attack, the Associated Press reported.

But what do the flurry of words mean, and what is the value of a shoulder-to-shoulder commitment while South Korea’s ships are at risk and its territory is violated? One senses quite clearly that Obama is being tested. After all, what did he do when Syria violated the UN resolution? What has he done about the Russian occupation of Georgia? The proliferation of non-actions has emboldened the North Koreans, as it has all the rogue states. And now Obama has his hands full.

Before word of the attack, former ambassador and potential 2012 presidential candidate John R. Bolton wrote in reference to the newly discovered nuclear facility in Yongbyon that we’ve been “played” by North Korea ever since the Clinton administration. He does not spare the Bush administration either:

Worse, in President George W. Bush’s second term, an assertive group of deniers in the State Department and the intelligence community claimed or implied that North Korea did not have a substantial or ongoing uranium-enrichment program. They denied that the North Koreans had conceded as much in 2002 and that there was sufficient evidence of a continuing program. The intelligence community downgraded its confidence level in its earlier conclusion, not because of contradictory information but because it had not subsequently acquired significant new data. State Department negotiators scorned the idea that the North had a serious enrichment capability. …

The last thing Washington should do now is resurrect the failed six-party talks or start bilateral negotiations with the North. Instead, serious efforts need to be made with China on reunifying the Korean peninsula, a goal made ever more urgent by the clear transition of power now underway in Pyongyang as Kim Jong Il faces the actuarial tables. North Korea’s threat will only end when it does, and that day cannot come soon enough.

What is clear is that the North Koreans perceive no downside to acts of aggression against their neighbor. So long as Obama has only words in response, the barrages are not likely to end. And meanwhile, Iran and our other foes look on.

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The Un-Peace Talks

It would be bad enough if these talks were merely unproductive. But five people (I refuse to adopt the Obami’s counting system, which denies the death of the pregnant woman’s child) have died at the hands of terrorists. Should the talks break down (a strong possibility if Israel does not knuckle under to the demand for the settlement-moratorium extension), the potential for widespread violence is great. Neither in the short or long term do the peace talks offer a realistic chance for peace; quite the opposite.

Meanwhile, efforts to delegitimize Israel continue apace in international bodies. As Eli Lake reports, Israel is bracing for “Black September”:

To start, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to release a report on the Memorial Day flotilla incident in which nine pro-Palestinian activists aboard a Turkish aid ship seeking to break a blockade of Gaza were killed in a battle with Israeli commandos. Activists in Lebanon have said they are trying to launch another flotilla to challenge the Gaza sea embargo in the coming weeks.

Then the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council is expected to issue a follow-up on a report issued in 2009 by Judge Richard Goldstone regarding the Gaza war in late 2008 and early 2009. . . On top of all of this, Turkey — whose foreign minister said Israel’s raid on the aid flotilla last spring was his country’s Sept. 11 — takes its spot as the rotating chairman of the United Nations Security Council.

At the International Atomic Energy Agency later in September, Arab states are expected to press their case for Israel to publicly acknowledge its undeclared nuclear arsenal.

The peace talks afford Obama personally something, but what is Israel getting out of this? Precious little. And meanwhile, the centrifuges are whirling in Tehran.

It would be bad enough if these talks were merely unproductive. But five people (I refuse to adopt the Obami’s counting system, which denies the death of the pregnant woman’s child) have died at the hands of terrorists. Should the talks break down (a strong possibility if Israel does not knuckle under to the demand for the settlement-moratorium extension), the potential for widespread violence is great. Neither in the short or long term do the peace talks offer a realistic chance for peace; quite the opposite.

Meanwhile, efforts to delegitimize Israel continue apace in international bodies. As Eli Lake reports, Israel is bracing for “Black September”:

To start, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to release a report on the Memorial Day flotilla incident in which nine pro-Palestinian activists aboard a Turkish aid ship seeking to break a blockade of Gaza were killed in a battle with Israeli commandos. Activists in Lebanon have said they are trying to launch another flotilla to challenge the Gaza sea embargo in the coming weeks.

Then the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council is expected to issue a follow-up on a report issued in 2009 by Judge Richard Goldstone regarding the Gaza war in late 2008 and early 2009. . . On top of all of this, Turkey — whose foreign minister said Israel’s raid on the aid flotilla last spring was his country’s Sept. 11 — takes its spot as the rotating chairman of the United Nations Security Council.

At the International Atomic Energy Agency later in September, Arab states are expected to press their case for Israel to publicly acknowledge its undeclared nuclear arsenal.

The peace talks afford Obama personally something, but what is Israel getting out of this? Precious little. And meanwhile, the centrifuges are whirling in Tehran.

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Bibi May Have Gotten More than He Bargained for with UN Panel

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assented last week to Israeli participation in a United Nations panel investigating the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident, he said that his country had “nothing to hide” and that he had been assured that the group would only review the results of previous investigations — including Israel’s — and that it would not conduct its own inquiry. But at the same time that Netanyahu spoke as though he had gotten the better of his country’s foes at the world body, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave a mandate to the panel that was vague enough to also convince Turkey — whose goal at this point is to brand Israel as the criminal in the affair — that the UN effort serves its interests as well.

Unsurprisingly, one week later, it appears as though the Turks had better cause to be pleased by the UN than does Israel. At a news conference yesterday in New York, the AP reports that Ban denied that the UN panel would refrain from calling its own witnesses about the incident, including Israeli army soldiers who had taken part in the seizure of the Turkish ships that sought to break the blockade of Hamas-run Gaza. Israeli officials had previously said that their participation had been conditional on the promise that their soldiers would not be hauled in front of a UN star chamber. In response to Ban’s backtracking on that promise, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying that “Israel will not cooperate with and will not take part in any panel that seeks to interrogate Israeli soldiers.”

This was bravely said, but if Netanyahu believes that an Israeli pullout from the panel will not be portrayed as a sign of guilt in the court of international opinion, he’s wrong. Having already promised to play along with the UN, it won’t matter that Ban or the Obama administration (which is widely assumed to have pushed hard for Israel’s participation in the UN inquiry) had made assurances that won’t be upheld.

Granted, sticking to its initial inclination to boycott a UN investigation wouldn’t have won Israel any popularity points either. The distorted coverage of the incident, in which violent activists were killed and whose goal was to assist the Islamist terrorists who run Gaza in gaining free access to arms and material, makes unlikely any impartial query by the UN. No amount of reporting about the fact that there is no shortage of food or medicine appears capable of correcting the false impression that such a humanitarian crisis exists or that those killed were innocent human-rights advocates.

But to pull out of a UN investigation after initially agreeing to participate looks and feels a lot worse than a principled refusal to have anything to do with a body whose record on human rights had consistently proved biased against Israel. Indeed, the most surprising thing about any of this is how a man with as much experience in dealing with the UN as Netanyahu could possibly be surprised by Ban’s reneging on private promises made to Israel. The result is another propaganda win for Turkey, whose own role in fomenting this crisis and then resolutely refusing to defuse it before any shots had to be fired was detailed in Netanyahu’s own testimony before an Israeli panel investigating the incident.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assented last week to Israeli participation in a United Nations panel investigating the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident, he said that his country had “nothing to hide” and that he had been assured that the group would only review the results of previous investigations — including Israel’s — and that it would not conduct its own inquiry. But at the same time that Netanyahu spoke as though he had gotten the better of his country’s foes at the world body, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave a mandate to the panel that was vague enough to also convince Turkey — whose goal at this point is to brand Israel as the criminal in the affair — that the UN effort serves its interests as well.

Unsurprisingly, one week later, it appears as though the Turks had better cause to be pleased by the UN than does Israel. At a news conference yesterday in New York, the AP reports that Ban denied that the UN panel would refrain from calling its own witnesses about the incident, including Israeli army soldiers who had taken part in the seizure of the Turkish ships that sought to break the blockade of Hamas-run Gaza. Israeli officials had previously said that their participation had been conditional on the promise that their soldiers would not be hauled in front of a UN star chamber. In response to Ban’s backtracking on that promise, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying that “Israel will not cooperate with and will not take part in any panel that seeks to interrogate Israeli soldiers.”

This was bravely said, but if Netanyahu believes that an Israeli pullout from the panel will not be portrayed as a sign of guilt in the court of international opinion, he’s wrong. Having already promised to play along with the UN, it won’t matter that Ban or the Obama administration (which is widely assumed to have pushed hard for Israel’s participation in the UN inquiry) had made assurances that won’t be upheld.

Granted, sticking to its initial inclination to boycott a UN investigation wouldn’t have won Israel any popularity points either. The distorted coverage of the incident, in which violent activists were killed and whose goal was to assist the Islamist terrorists who run Gaza in gaining free access to arms and material, makes unlikely any impartial query by the UN. No amount of reporting about the fact that there is no shortage of food or medicine appears capable of correcting the false impression that such a humanitarian crisis exists or that those killed were innocent human-rights advocates.

But to pull out of a UN investigation after initially agreeing to participate looks and feels a lot worse than a principled refusal to have anything to do with a body whose record on human rights had consistently proved biased against Israel. Indeed, the most surprising thing about any of this is how a man with as much experience in dealing with the UN as Netanyahu could possibly be surprised by Ban’s reneging on private promises made to Israel. The result is another propaganda win for Turkey, whose own role in fomenting this crisis and then resolutely refusing to defuse it before any shots had to be fired was detailed in Netanyahu’s own testimony before an Israeli panel investigating the incident.

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Susan Rice Is Doing Something at the UN: Targeting Israel

It turns out Susan Rice is doing something as America’s UN ambassador after all. As Jennifer noted on Friday, she isn’t attending vital negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program or protesting bizarre appointments, like Libya’s to the Human Rights Council and Iran’s to the Commission on the Status of Women.

But Haaretz reported yesterday that she has found time to do one crucial thing: lobby Barack Obama to put heavy pressure on Israel to agree to a UN probe of its May raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla. And today the Jerusalem Post reported that Israel has indeed capitulated: Defense Minister Ehud Barak informed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week that “in principle,” it’s willing to participate in the probe he is organizing.

One can only hope the Post is wrong, because this would be an atrocious precedent. As Haaretz noted, it would be the first time Israel has ever agreed to a UN probe of an Israel Defense Forces operation. As such, it would legitimize the UN’s insane obsession with Israel.

After all, I haven’t noticed Ban suggesting UN probes of any other country’s military operations — say, Turkish operations against the Kurds, Iran’s attacks on its own citizens, coalition operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, or African Union forces in Somalia, to name just a few of the dozens of armies engaged in combat worldwide every single day. Many of these operations result in far more civilian casualties than Israel’s flotilla raid did — even if you deny the evidence provided by video footage of the raid and assume these casualties actually were civilians rather than combatants.

But aside from setting a terrible precedent, this probe clearly has one, and only one, purpose: to excoriate Israel. Ban’s proposed format is one representative each from Israel and Turkey, one from a traditional Israeli ally (the U.S.), and one from a country traditionally hostile to Israel (New Zealand), plus one UN representative. Since the UN representative will certainly be in the anti-Israel camp, Israel would be outnumbered even if the U.S. representative took its side.

But in reality, the U.S. representative will almost certainly join the anti-Israel camp — because Rice’s view, as reported by the unnamed senior diplomats Haaretz cited, is that facilitating Ban’s probe is “critical to U.S. interests at the UN.”

Granted, it’s hard to imagine what U.S. interest such a probe could possibly serve (Rice couldn’t protest Iran’s inclusion on the women’s commission without it?). But whatever this alleged interest is, if furthering it requires investigating Israel alone, of all the countries engaged in military activity worldwide, it clearly also requires the probe to conclude that Israel was guilty of some heinous crime. Any goal that requires singling Israel out as uniquely suspect clearly can’t be served by ultimately acquitting it.

This is first and foremost Israel’s problem: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to develop a spine. But American supporters of Israel have a role to play as well. They must make it clear to Obama that putting Israel in the UN dock is a red line.

It turns out Susan Rice is doing something as America’s UN ambassador after all. As Jennifer noted on Friday, she isn’t attending vital negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program or protesting bizarre appointments, like Libya’s to the Human Rights Council and Iran’s to the Commission on the Status of Women.

But Haaretz reported yesterday that she has found time to do one crucial thing: lobby Barack Obama to put heavy pressure on Israel to agree to a UN probe of its May raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla. And today the Jerusalem Post reported that Israel has indeed capitulated: Defense Minister Ehud Barak informed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week that “in principle,” it’s willing to participate in the probe he is organizing.

One can only hope the Post is wrong, because this would be an atrocious precedent. As Haaretz noted, it would be the first time Israel has ever agreed to a UN probe of an Israel Defense Forces operation. As such, it would legitimize the UN’s insane obsession with Israel.

After all, I haven’t noticed Ban suggesting UN probes of any other country’s military operations — say, Turkish operations against the Kurds, Iran’s attacks on its own citizens, coalition operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, or African Union forces in Somalia, to name just a few of the dozens of armies engaged in combat worldwide every single day. Many of these operations result in far more civilian casualties than Israel’s flotilla raid did — even if you deny the evidence provided by video footage of the raid and assume these casualties actually were civilians rather than combatants.

But aside from setting a terrible precedent, this probe clearly has one, and only one, purpose: to excoriate Israel. Ban’s proposed format is one representative each from Israel and Turkey, one from a traditional Israeli ally (the U.S.), and one from a country traditionally hostile to Israel (New Zealand), plus one UN representative. Since the UN representative will certainly be in the anti-Israel camp, Israel would be outnumbered even if the U.S. representative took its side.

But in reality, the U.S. representative will almost certainly join the anti-Israel camp — because Rice’s view, as reported by the unnamed senior diplomats Haaretz cited, is that facilitating Ban’s probe is “critical to U.S. interests at the UN.”

Granted, it’s hard to imagine what U.S. interest such a probe could possibly serve (Rice couldn’t protest Iran’s inclusion on the women’s commission without it?). But whatever this alleged interest is, if furthering it requires investigating Israel alone, of all the countries engaged in military activity worldwide, it clearly also requires the probe to conclude that Israel was guilty of some heinous crime. Any goal that requires singling Israel out as uniquely suspect clearly can’t be served by ultimately acquitting it.

This is first and foremost Israel’s problem: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to develop a spine. But American supporters of Israel have a role to play as well. They must make it clear to Obama that putting Israel in the UN dock is a red line.

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UN Still Corrupt

Those infatuated with multilateral institutions — which are lauded as occupying the high moral ground (as opposed to all those grubby democracies) — are continually embarrassed (well, they should be embarrassed) when these bodies prove to be entirely corrupt and dysfunctional. This report explains:

The outgoing chief of a U.N. office charged with combating corruption at the United Nations has issued a stinging rebuke of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, charging him with undermining her efforts and leading the global institution into an era of decline, according to a confidential end-of-assignment report. …

“Your actions are not only deplorable, but seriously reprehensible. … Your action is without precedent and in my opinion seriously embarrassing for yourself,” Ahlenius wrote in the 50-page memo to Ban, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “I regret to say that the secretariat now is in a process of decay.”

Well, it seems the UN has improved not at all from the oil-for-food scandal days.

It remains a mystery why Obama has bestowed upon the UN new respect and importance in his foreign policy schemes. What exactly is it about this body — corrupt, filled with haters of Israel and the West, incapable of enforcing its endless resolutions against rogue states — that captures Obama’s fancy? In grasping for consensus and turning a blind eye to the UN’s bad behavior, Obama has diminished his and our moral authority.

It seems that now is precisely the time to diminish the UN’s importance and make clear the limits of our patience with a body that does far more harm than good.

Those infatuated with multilateral institutions — which are lauded as occupying the high moral ground (as opposed to all those grubby democracies) — are continually embarrassed (well, they should be embarrassed) when these bodies prove to be entirely corrupt and dysfunctional. This report explains:

The outgoing chief of a U.N. office charged with combating corruption at the United Nations has issued a stinging rebuke of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, charging him with undermining her efforts and leading the global institution into an era of decline, according to a confidential end-of-assignment report. …

“Your actions are not only deplorable, but seriously reprehensible. … Your action is without precedent and in my opinion seriously embarrassing for yourself,” Ahlenius wrote in the 50-page memo to Ban, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “I regret to say that the secretariat now is in a process of decay.”

Well, it seems the UN has improved not at all from the oil-for-food scandal days.

It remains a mystery why Obama has bestowed upon the UN new respect and importance in his foreign policy schemes. What exactly is it about this body — corrupt, filled with haters of Israel and the West, incapable of enforcing its endless resolutions against rogue states — that captures Obama’s fancy? In grasping for consensus and turning a blind eye to the UN’s bad behavior, Obama has diminished his and our moral authority.

It seems that now is precisely the time to diminish the UN’s importance and make clear the limits of our patience with a body that does far more harm than good.

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What Comes from Equivocation

The Obama administration has pointedly refused to rule out a UN inquest into the flotilla incident. Jewish groups have been giving him a pass in public as they hand wring in private. Now we learn:

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the secretary-general remains “hopeful” that the body will approve a new international inquiry into the Gaza flotilla incident — on top of Israel’s own domestic investigation — after it found overwhelming support in a closed Security Council meeting Tuesday.

“We are continuing to talk with all parties about an international inquiry, and we remain hopeful that Israel will accept that,” a spokesman for the Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, said.

A diplomat with one Security Council member said that 14 of 15 nations had expressed support today for some form of panel established by the Secretary-General — rather than by a Security Council vote, which the U.S. could block — to investigate the deaths on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza. The U.S. was the sole nation not to support the measure in the closed session, the source said.

This is what flows from playing footsie with the Israel-haters and not making clear that the U.S. will block all measures to unleash the UN on Israel. The administration insults our intelligence by declaring, “As we always do, we will work hard to make sure that Israel is not treated unfairly at the U.N.” As we always do? Like when we sat idly by as the UN Human Rights Council bashed Israel? Like when Obama signed on to a statement setting up Israel, but not Turkey, for international scrutiny?

Now imagine if at the time of the UN statement, every pro-Israel member of Congress of both parties and the major Jewish groups had strongly and publicly rebuked the administration. Do we think we’d be sitting on the verge of “Goldstone: The Sequel”? Instead, once again, we have signaled to Israel’s enemies that the U.S. values agreement with the “international community” more than our relationship with the Jewish state. The price for silence by weak-kneed supporters of Israel will be borne by Israelis and those who are likewise left to the mercy of the world’s bullies, who know Obama is not about to stop them.

The Obama administration has pointedly refused to rule out a UN inquest into the flotilla incident. Jewish groups have been giving him a pass in public as they hand wring in private. Now we learn:

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the secretary-general remains “hopeful” that the body will approve a new international inquiry into the Gaza flotilla incident — on top of Israel’s own domestic investigation — after it found overwhelming support in a closed Security Council meeting Tuesday.

“We are continuing to talk with all parties about an international inquiry, and we remain hopeful that Israel will accept that,” a spokesman for the Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, said.

A diplomat with one Security Council member said that 14 of 15 nations had expressed support today for some form of panel established by the Secretary-General — rather than by a Security Council vote, which the U.S. could block — to investigate the deaths on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza. The U.S. was the sole nation not to support the measure in the closed session, the source said.

This is what flows from playing footsie with the Israel-haters and not making clear that the U.S. will block all measures to unleash the UN on Israel. The administration insults our intelligence by declaring, “As we always do, we will work hard to make sure that Israel is not treated unfairly at the U.N.” As we always do? Like when we sat idly by as the UN Human Rights Council bashed Israel? Like when Obama signed on to a statement setting up Israel, but not Turkey, for international scrutiny?

Now imagine if at the time of the UN statement, every pro-Israel member of Congress of both parties and the major Jewish groups had strongly and publicly rebuked the administration. Do we think we’d be sitting on the verge of “Goldstone: The Sequel”? Instead, once again, we have signaled to Israel’s enemies that the U.S. values agreement with the “international community” more than our relationship with the Jewish state. The price for silence by weak-kneed supporters of Israel will be borne by Israelis and those who are likewise left to the mercy of the world’s bullies, who know Obama is not about to stop them.

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Hostility to Israel Plays out

Given the Obami’s assault on Israel’s building in its eternal capital, this should come as no surprise:

The chief of the Arab League warned Saturday that Israel’s actions could bring about a final end to the Middle East peace process. Amr Moussa urged an Arab leadership summit in Libya on Saturday to forge a new strategy to pressure Israel, saying the peace process could not be “an open ended process.”

“We must prepare for the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure,” Moussa said. “This is the time to stand up to Israel. We must find alternative options, because the situation appears to have reached a turning point.”

Speaking at the event, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said there would be no peace agreement without ending the occupation of Palestinian land, first and foremost east Jerusalem. He accused Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu’s government of trying to create a de facto situation in Jerusalem that would torpedo any future peace settlement.

Then the increasingly Islamic-tilting Turkish government gets into the act:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a guest at the summit, said in his speech that the Israeli “violation” of peace in Jerusalem and Muslim holy sites was unacceptable. Erdogan said that the Israeli position defining the whole of Jerusalem as its united capital was “madness.” Israeli construction in east Jerusalem was completely unjustified, he said

The UN, of course, can’t be left out of the Israel bash-a-thon. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pipes up:

Ban called for the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip which has created an “unacceptable and unsustainable” situation on the ground.Ban reiterated his condemnation of settlement activity in east Jerusalem, describing the settlements as “illegal.” “Like all of you, I was deeply dismayed when Israel advanced planning to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. There are several other recent unilateral actions as well,” Ban said noting Israel”s recent announcement of plans to construct another 20 dwellings and tensions surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque, among others.

This is not only predictable; it is frankly by design — the Obami’s bully-boy pressure tactics encourage others to pile on. Obama thereby endears (he supposes) the U.S. administration to the “international community” — which, of course, seeks not a secure and peaceful Israel but a hamstrung and delegitimized (if not entirely eradicated) one.

As Bill Kristol explains, the Obami’s anti-Israel bent is no accident but part of his larger approach, which seeks realignment in Middle East policy as Obama becomes not the leader of a single nation or even of the alliance of democracies but the wise mediator for all humanity:

And there’s no better way to be a leader of humanity than to show disapproval of the Jewish state. Sure, Obama’s turn against Israel will make it less likely that Palestinians will negotiate seriously with her. Sure, it will embolden radical Arabs and Muslims against those who would like their nations to take a different, more responsible, course. Sure, it’s a distraction from the real challenge of Iran. But the turn against Israel is ultimately a key part of what Obamaism is all about. That’s why there’s been so little attempt by the administration to reassure friends of Israel that Obama has been acting more in sorrow than in anger. Obama’s proud of his anger at the stiff-necked Jewish state. It puts him in sync with the rest of the world.

In this, we see the intersection of Obama’s multilateralism, his aversion to American exceptionalism, his fetish with his own international popularity, his obsession with engaging despots, his disinterest in promoting human rights, and his hostility toward the Jewish state. They are interlocking pieces in the greater Obama vision — each reenforces the other and makes more precarious the security of not only Israel but also the United States. Obama may suppose he is making America more popular or reducing conflict with rogue states, but instead, he is fueling the ambitions of aggressive despots and frittering away America’s moral standing. We are abetting an international free-for-all as the world’s bullies look for openings to assert themselves and to show just how dangerous it is to be a small democratic ally of the U.S.

Given the Obami’s assault on Israel’s building in its eternal capital, this should come as no surprise:

The chief of the Arab League warned Saturday that Israel’s actions could bring about a final end to the Middle East peace process. Amr Moussa urged an Arab leadership summit in Libya on Saturday to forge a new strategy to pressure Israel, saying the peace process could not be “an open ended process.”

“We must prepare for the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure,” Moussa said. “This is the time to stand up to Israel. We must find alternative options, because the situation appears to have reached a turning point.”

Speaking at the event, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said there would be no peace agreement without ending the occupation of Palestinian land, first and foremost east Jerusalem. He accused Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu’s government of trying to create a de facto situation in Jerusalem that would torpedo any future peace settlement.

Then the increasingly Islamic-tilting Turkish government gets into the act:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a guest at the summit, said in his speech that the Israeli “violation” of peace in Jerusalem and Muslim holy sites was unacceptable. Erdogan said that the Israeli position defining the whole of Jerusalem as its united capital was “madness.” Israeli construction in east Jerusalem was completely unjustified, he said

The UN, of course, can’t be left out of the Israel bash-a-thon. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pipes up:

Ban called for the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip which has created an “unacceptable and unsustainable” situation on the ground.Ban reiterated his condemnation of settlement activity in east Jerusalem, describing the settlements as “illegal.” “Like all of you, I was deeply dismayed when Israel advanced planning to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. There are several other recent unilateral actions as well,” Ban said noting Israel”s recent announcement of plans to construct another 20 dwellings and tensions surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque, among others.

This is not only predictable; it is frankly by design — the Obami’s bully-boy pressure tactics encourage others to pile on. Obama thereby endears (he supposes) the U.S. administration to the “international community” — which, of course, seeks not a secure and peaceful Israel but a hamstrung and delegitimized (if not entirely eradicated) one.

As Bill Kristol explains, the Obami’s anti-Israel bent is no accident but part of his larger approach, which seeks realignment in Middle East policy as Obama becomes not the leader of a single nation or even of the alliance of democracies but the wise mediator for all humanity:

And there’s no better way to be a leader of humanity than to show disapproval of the Jewish state. Sure, Obama’s turn against Israel will make it less likely that Palestinians will negotiate seriously with her. Sure, it will embolden radical Arabs and Muslims against those who would like their nations to take a different, more responsible, course. Sure, it’s a distraction from the real challenge of Iran. But the turn against Israel is ultimately a key part of what Obamaism is all about. That’s why there’s been so little attempt by the administration to reassure friends of Israel that Obama has been acting more in sorrow than in anger. Obama’s proud of his anger at the stiff-necked Jewish state. It puts him in sync with the rest of the world.

In this, we see the intersection of Obama’s multilateralism, his aversion to American exceptionalism, his fetish with his own international popularity, his obsession with engaging despots, his disinterest in promoting human rights, and his hostility toward the Jewish state. They are interlocking pieces in the greater Obama vision — each reenforces the other and makes more precarious the security of not only Israel but also the United States. Obama may suppose he is making America more popular or reducing conflict with rogue states, but instead, he is fueling the ambitions of aggressive despots and frittering away America’s moral standing. We are abetting an international free-for-all as the world’s bullies look for openings to assert themselves and to show just how dangerous it is to be a small democratic ally of the U.S.

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Multilateral Math

192 + 27 = 2.4 million.

There are 192 countries in the United Nations.

It has been 27 days since a cyclone devastated Burma.

2.4 million homeless and hungry are denied aid by the Burmese junta.

78,000 people are dead.

56,000 are missing.

This is shameful math. Where did all the body-count-ghouls with their Iraq War tallies disappear to? Why are these humanitarian activists now silent in the face of such overwhelming human tragedy? They seem, frankly, distracted. When a coalition of democracies liberated millions from from tyranny the rest of the world counted corpses. When a military dictatorship starves its population, all eyes are on a disgraced former White House Press Secretary.

The AP reports that the junta is now forcing cyclone victims to leave their shelters without food or supplies. UNICEF official Teh Tai Ring says, “The government is moving people unannounced . . . dumping people in the approximate location of the villages, basically with nothing.” With 2.4 million homeless roaming the ravaged land, the Burmese government has “declared that the relief phase of the rescue effort had been concluded.”

Hey, McClellan says Bush rushed into war, you know.

Aid groups report that that the junta is still blocking foreign aid from getting to victims, even though it promised UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon that travel restrictions would be lifted.

Did you hear that McClellan talks about Bush talking about cocaine?

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “The military leaders surely know that foreign aid will save lives and help to rebuild the devastated areas. But they also fear the political consequences of opening up the disaster zone to international aid teams. This might show up their own incapability, and undermine their credibility and legitimacy.”

The important thing, after all, is that the U.S. didn’t go in there like the world’s police and try to force American values and institutions on a sovereign nation. And anyway, things will probably turn out fine because UN official Terje Skavdal said that the forced exposure of the refugees is “completely unacceptable.”

(Here is some more shameful math: Scott McClellan’s book is a number one bestseller.)

192 + 27 = 2.4 million.

There are 192 countries in the United Nations.

It has been 27 days since a cyclone devastated Burma.

2.4 million homeless and hungry are denied aid by the Burmese junta.

78,000 people are dead.

56,000 are missing.

This is shameful math. Where did all the body-count-ghouls with their Iraq War tallies disappear to? Why are these humanitarian activists now silent in the face of such overwhelming human tragedy? They seem, frankly, distracted. When a coalition of democracies liberated millions from from tyranny the rest of the world counted corpses. When a military dictatorship starves its population, all eyes are on a disgraced former White House Press Secretary.

The AP reports that the junta is now forcing cyclone victims to leave their shelters without food or supplies. UNICEF official Teh Tai Ring says, “The government is moving people unannounced . . . dumping people in the approximate location of the villages, basically with nothing.” With 2.4 million homeless roaming the ravaged land, the Burmese government has “declared that the relief phase of the rescue effort had been concluded.”

Hey, McClellan says Bush rushed into war, you know.

Aid groups report that that the junta is still blocking foreign aid from getting to victims, even though it promised UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon that travel restrictions would be lifted.

Did you hear that McClellan talks about Bush talking about cocaine?

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “The military leaders surely know that foreign aid will save lives and help to rebuild the devastated areas. But they also fear the political consequences of opening up the disaster zone to international aid teams. This might show up their own incapability, and undermine their credibility and legitimacy.”

The important thing, after all, is that the U.S. didn’t go in there like the world’s police and try to force American values and institutions on a sovereign nation. And anyway, things will probably turn out fine because UN official Terje Skavdal said that the forced exposure of the refugees is “completely unacceptable.”

(Here is some more shameful math: Scott McClellan’s book is a number one bestseller.)

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And the World Nods

If someone were to ask you to compose the most unlikely beginning for a story from the French news agency AFP it might go something like this:

World leaders, including UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on Thursday hailed Baghdad’s progress in combating violence and stabilising Iraq.

A declaration adopted by 100 delegations at a Stockholm conference said the participants “recognised the important efforts made by the (Iraqi) government to improve security and public order and combat terrorism and sectarian violence across Iraq.”

It also acknowledged political and economic progress made, and said that “given the difficult context, these successes are all the more remarkable.”

At least, that would have been a good try. The three paragraphs above are taken from a story put out today by AFP.

The piece goes on, rightly, to note the fragility of such progress. But the larger point is critical: Iraq, long written off as an unsalvageable disaster, is being officially recognized for its “remarkable” progress. And by whom? The UN and other world leaders whose respect we had supposedly squandered. The only people who need convincing that Iraq has seen extraordinary political progress are the Democrats who’ve hitched themselves to the anti-Bush bandwagon. If a Democrat makes it into the White House and is still so interested in world opinion, he or she may have to finally acknowledge that Iraq has changed. They wouldn’t want to “reinforce the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.”

If someone were to ask you to compose the most unlikely beginning for a story from the French news agency AFP it might go something like this:

World leaders, including UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on Thursday hailed Baghdad’s progress in combating violence and stabilising Iraq.

A declaration adopted by 100 delegations at a Stockholm conference said the participants “recognised the important efforts made by the (Iraqi) government to improve security and public order and combat terrorism and sectarian violence across Iraq.”

It also acknowledged political and economic progress made, and said that “given the difficult context, these successes are all the more remarkable.”

At least, that would have been a good try. The three paragraphs above are taken from a story put out today by AFP.

The piece goes on, rightly, to note the fragility of such progress. But the larger point is critical: Iraq, long written off as an unsalvageable disaster, is being officially recognized for its “remarkable” progress. And by whom? The UN and other world leaders whose respect we had supposedly squandered. The only people who need convincing that Iraq has seen extraordinary political progress are the Democrats who’ve hitched themselves to the anti-Bush bandwagon. If a Democrat makes it into the White House and is still so interested in world opinion, he or she may have to finally acknowledge that Iraq has changed. They wouldn’t want to “reinforce the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.”

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Laura, the Burmese Need You

Yesterday, diplomats from 51 nations, led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, held a one-day donor conference in Rangoon, the former capital of Burma. On Friday, the country’s junta said it would accept foreign assistance for desperate victims of Cyclone Nargis. About 78,000 Burmese have died according to official estimates. Another 56,000 are missing. Up to 2.4 million people need emergency aid. Previously, the nation’s generals had refused international help.

The conference began just hours after the expiration of a five-year detention order on Aung San Suu Kyi, the dissident leader who won the last elections, which were held in 1990. She never took office and has been under house arrest for more than 12 of the last 18 years. She is now kept inside her home, and there is no sign she will be released.

Ms. Suu Kyi’s house, interestingly enough, sits on the other side of a lake from the hotel where the conference was held. Even though the participants could see her home, the subject of her detention did not come up during the gathering. “I feel also very much concerned and troubled by not being able to address completely this issue,” said Ban Ki-moon, referring to Suu Kyi’s detention. Completely, Mr. Secretary-General? You did not raise the issue at all when you met the junta’s leader, Senior General Than Shwe.

The tragedy in Burma is not that Nargis struck–even all-powerful generals cannot physically move their nation to a more hospitable location. The tragedy is that so many people died because the generals not only insisted on keeping their society closed but also hindered internal relief efforts and hoarded aid.

It is certainly right for the international community to help the Burmese and it is probably correct not to condition aid on the release of any individual. Yet not to have said anything at all, especially in a public forum, is going too far in the other direction. For all the good the conference did, it nonetheless helped legitimize Burma’s political system, the source of so much misery.

Not everyone is so silent, however. Laura Bush has spoken out passionately on the issue of Burma. So here’s a suggestion for Mr. Ban. Until he finds his voice, perhaps he should let the First Lady take over the UN’s Burmese portfolio. After all, she knows what the real issue is.

Yesterday, diplomats from 51 nations, led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, held a one-day donor conference in Rangoon, the former capital of Burma. On Friday, the country’s junta said it would accept foreign assistance for desperate victims of Cyclone Nargis. About 78,000 Burmese have died according to official estimates. Another 56,000 are missing. Up to 2.4 million people need emergency aid. Previously, the nation’s generals had refused international help.

The conference began just hours after the expiration of a five-year detention order on Aung San Suu Kyi, the dissident leader who won the last elections, which were held in 1990. She never took office and has been under house arrest for more than 12 of the last 18 years. She is now kept inside her home, and there is no sign she will be released.

Ms. Suu Kyi’s house, interestingly enough, sits on the other side of a lake from the hotel where the conference was held. Even though the participants could see her home, the subject of her detention did not come up during the gathering. “I feel also very much concerned and troubled by not being able to address completely this issue,” said Ban Ki-moon, referring to Suu Kyi’s detention. Completely, Mr. Secretary-General? You did not raise the issue at all when you met the junta’s leader, Senior General Than Shwe.

The tragedy in Burma is not that Nargis struck–even all-powerful generals cannot physically move their nation to a more hospitable location. The tragedy is that so many people died because the generals not only insisted on keeping their society closed but also hindered internal relief efforts and hoarded aid.

It is certainly right for the international community to help the Burmese and it is probably correct not to condition aid on the release of any individual. Yet not to have said anything at all, especially in a public forum, is going too far in the other direction. For all the good the conference did, it nonetheless helped legitimize Burma’s political system, the source of so much misery.

Not everyone is so silent, however. Laura Bush has spoken out passionately on the issue of Burma. So here’s a suggestion for Mr. Ban. Until he finds his voice, perhaps he should let the First Lady take over the UN’s Burmese portfolio. After all, she knows what the real issue is.

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Blockading Iran

On Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed a U.S. naval blockade of Iran. In talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he also suggested that nations not allow the entry of Iranian business people and senior regime leaders. Both measures are intended to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. “The present economic sanctions on Iran have exhausted themselves,” Olmert said, according to today’s Haaretz, the Israeli paper, in its online edition.

At about the same time that Haaretz reported the news of Olmert’s proposals, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security released a May 13 letter from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In the letter, Iran proposed talks on its nuclear program and other topics, such as nuclear disarmament, the Palestinian issue, and democracy in the Balkans. “I see it as a way to start negotiations,” said Institute for Science and International Secutrity President David Albright, referring to Iran’s wide-ranging offer.

Is there anything left to negotiate at this point? After all, most everything that could be said about Iran’s enrichment of uranium has already been uttered. Most every proposal has already been made in one form or another. Mottaki, in his letter, notes his country wants “constructive interaction and reasonable and just negotiations, without preconditions and based on mutual respect.” Of course, what the foreign minister is really saying is that Iran will not stop enrichment as the Security Council has demanded.

So, despite Tehran’s defiance of U.N. demands, should we start discussions with its representatives on the problems of the world? I say, let’s talk. But let’s also impose the blockade before we sit down with the mullahs’ representatives. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday,

The key here is developing leverage, either through economic or diplomatic or military pressures on the Iranian government so they believe they must have talks with the United States because there is something they want from us, and that is the relief of the pressure.

There’s nothing wrong about talking with repugnant and dangerous adversaries–as long as they come to surrender.

On Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed a U.S. naval blockade of Iran. In talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he also suggested that nations not allow the entry of Iranian business people and senior regime leaders. Both measures are intended to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. “The present economic sanctions on Iran have exhausted themselves,” Olmert said, according to today’s Haaretz, the Israeli paper, in its online edition.

At about the same time that Haaretz reported the news of Olmert’s proposals, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security released a May 13 letter from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In the letter, Iran proposed talks on its nuclear program and other topics, such as nuclear disarmament, the Palestinian issue, and democracy in the Balkans. “I see it as a way to start negotiations,” said Institute for Science and International Secutrity President David Albright, referring to Iran’s wide-ranging offer.

Is there anything left to negotiate at this point? After all, most everything that could be said about Iran’s enrichment of uranium has already been uttered. Most every proposal has already been made in one form or another. Mottaki, in his letter, notes his country wants “constructive interaction and reasonable and just negotiations, without preconditions and based on mutual respect.” Of course, what the foreign minister is really saying is that Iran will not stop enrichment as the Security Council has demanded.

So, despite Tehran’s defiance of U.N. demands, should we start discussions with its representatives on the problems of the world? I say, let’s talk. But let’s also impose the blockade before we sit down with the mullahs’ representatives. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday,

The key here is developing leverage, either through economic or diplomatic or military pressures on the Iranian government so they believe they must have talks with the United States because there is something they want from us, and that is the relief of the pressure.

There’s nothing wrong about talking with repugnant and dangerous adversaries–as long as they come to surrender.

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