In a 20-page letter dated Monday and released yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki threatened legal action for losses his country sustained due to UN Security Council sanctions on its nuclear program. “The Islamic Republic of Iran and its citizens have the right to resort to legal actions to seek redress against the sponsors of these unlawful actions,” the letter, addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, states.
The sponsors of the sanctions, Mottaki maintains, “should, as a minimum step, admit their mistakes, apologize to the great nation of Iran, correct their behavior, and above all, compensate for all the damages they have inflicted on the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The demand for compensation is apparently directed to the United States, Britain, France, and Germany.
Secretary-General Ban did not comment on Mottaki’s letter. I suspect he did not want to dignify it with a response, but let me take this opportunity to address the fundamental point raised by the Iranian foreign minister. If the United Nations has no authority to impose sanctions or take action against Iran, as Tehran maintains, then it is up to every member of the international community to decide what to do. Iran’s proven violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and its failure to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency are justifications for the use military force. Why? Because nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous and, therefore, automatically raise the right of self-defense, which every member state of the UN retains.
So go right ahead, Mr. Mottaki: make our day by de-legitimizing the UN. I hope that the United States can peacefully convince your nation to give up its nuclear program. But, if we can’t, then we have no choice but to end it by any and all necessary means.
In what’s unlikely to be a surprise even to casual observers of the United Nations, an internal audit conducted by the international organization has discovered corruption involving hundreds of millions of dollars regarding the disbursement of contracts for peacekeeping missions. The UN these days seems to be little more than an elaborate racketeering organization for wanna-be crooks and gangsters—too cowardly to participate in actual crime in their home countries, and thus taking advantage of the miserable and oppressed people entrusted into the organization’s care. This latest scandal is only rivaled by the Oil-for-Food heist of some years prior.
The results of this latest investigation are the latest fruit of the Volcker Commission, established in 2004 to investigate similar kickbacks and bribes disbursed under the ill-fated UN program in Iraq. The task force that uncovered the peacekeeping abuse had hired some of Volcker’s investigators, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, to his credit, has requested that the investigative body’s mandate be funded further. Unsurprisingly, developing nations are using parliamentary tactics to hold up the reauthorization process.
The details of this latest scandal surround Abdul Karim Masri—a procurement officer for the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo and a Syrian national (why a citizen of a terrorist sponsoring state is given such a prominent position at the United Nations has not yet entered into the conversation)—who has a long trail of corruption accusations behind him. The internal audit found an “extensive pattern of bribery” up to and including taking $10,000 from a boating company, diverting a contract to a friend, and getting contractors to paint his house and give him a discounted Mercedes. Your tax money at work!
UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Burma yesterday. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said his diplomat would try to further “democratic measures by the Myanmar government, including the release of all detained students and demonstrators.” This is Gambari’s second trip to the nation since countrywide protests in September, and it follows his Asia shuttle diplomacy that the Washington Post characterized yesterday as “time-wasting busywork.”
Specifically, Gambari will continue his efforts to initiate a dialogue between the junta that has misruled Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained leader of the opposition. After crushing the recent demonstrations, it’s hard to see why the generals, led by the notorious Than Shwe, would concede any ground. In fact, they just ordered the expulsion of the chief UN diplomat in the country, Charles Petrie, for his mild comments last month about the odious regime. In response to the government’s harsh response, the best that Ban could manage is to issue a statement saying that he is “disappointed.”
Well, the rest of us may be more than just a little peeved. We have moved beyond the point of wanting to talk to the junta and no longer wish to see Burma’s leaders trifle with the UN (even if Ban is perfectly content to let his organization be humiliated). In short, it’s time to call for a sanctions vote in the Security Council. Economic isolation is the one thing that can end this particular blot on humanity in fairly short order. After all, Petrie is being turfed out for linking the recent protests to deteriorating economic conditions. It was unhappiness over the doubling of gas prices that triggered the last round of Burmese protests.
It’s time to see who has the gall to vote against condemning the junta with words and sanctions. And if tougher measures fail in the U.N. because Beijing, the regime’s main benefactor, exercises another veto, President Bush can try to rally the rest of the international community. If he’s looking for a legacy, then this is the moment to exercise the leadership of which he is still capable.
In a development certain to shock nobody, the UN has released a report on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701, the cease-fire agreement that paused the Israel-Hizballah war last summer. The new report confirms what most sentient people predicted: that Resolution 1701 would accomplish nothing. Ban Ki-moon’s report assents to what Israeli intelligence and military officials have been saying since the end of the war, namely that Iran and Syria have encountered few obstacles to rearming Hizballah with better weapons.
Detailed in Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post, the report says that, in addition to the establishment of surface-to-air missile capacity and the tripling of Hizballah’s arsenal of land-to-sea missiles,
Hizballah’s long-range missile teams are deployed north of the [Litani] river, and . . . most of the new missiles include [the Iranian-made] Zelzal and Fajr missiles that have a range of over 250 kilometers and are capable of hitting areas south of Tel Aviv.
Resolution 1701 and the “robust” UNIFIL that has been “patrolling” southern Lebanon for the past year have not been total non-entities in affecting the situation on the ground. Since the arrival of UNIFIL, Hizballah has focused its reconstruction and re-armament on the area of Lebanon north of the Litani, where UNIFIL does not enforce its paltry and symbolic suppression of Hizballah. Hizballah’s activity in this region, which also involves buying up land for Shia settlement, is actually quite strategically valuable—it allows the creation of physical contiguity between Hizballah’s two strongholds in Lebanon, the Bekaa valley/Syrian border area in the east and the Shia south. Creating this contiguity, and planting Shia civilians throughout this territory, are vital to Hizballah’s ability to deter encirclement by Israel in another round of war, and to wage war from among, and with the help of, Shia civilians.
What difference will it make now that Ali Larijani is no longer Iran’s nuclear negotiator? None, at least to Italian PM Romano Prodi. After welcoming Larijani and his successor, the ardent Mahdist Saeed Jalili, to the governmental offices in the heart of Rome, Prodi declared that,
With regard to Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran could contribute in easing tensions and finding fair and satisfactory compromises for all, confirming its ability to play a role in constructing regional stability.
Prodi has great timing! While he was complimenting Iran for its constructive role, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was submitting his biannual report on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, in which he reveals that Hizballah’s military capacity has climbed again to its prewar levels—an implicit admission that the UNIFIL mission has so far failed to fulfill its mandate under those resolutions. Ban Ki Moon said, in reference to the need for all Lebanese parties to disarm, that
I also expect the unequivocal cooperation of all relevant regional parties who have the ability to support such a process, most notably the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which maintain close ties with the party, for the sake of both Lebanon’s and the wider region’s security, stability, and welfare.
It wouldn’t be wrong to read these two apparently very similar statements in vastly different ways. The UN is saying that Iran and Syria have rearmed Hizballah, and is warning (whatever a UN “warning” may be worth) the countries against continuing to do so. Prodi, whose adventurism made him send 3,000 Italian soldiers to Lebanon in August 2006 without the proper mandate to implement the Security Council resolutions his own government helped draft, is, yet again, ignoring the destabilizing role Iran is playing across the region.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, plans to turn itself into the U.N. General Assembly for a few moments next November, when it will reenact the fateful November 29, 1947 U.N. General Assembly vote. Israeli officials hope to have the U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, preside over the ceremonial reenactment, alongside the representatives of the original 33 nations who supported the vote.
In two weeks, the European Parliament is also going to play host to U.N.-sponsored, Israel-related activities—this time of a different sort. Then, the EP’s gates will open to welcome, for two days, a “conference” organized by the so-called “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,” or CEI. Lest there be any confusion, the CEI is a relic of the cold war; it was established by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3376 in 1975, alongside the infamous Resolution 3379, which stipulated “Zionism is a form of racism.” 3379 was repealed, but CEI lives on, in its own parallel universe of hatred.
First the good news. The United States, Britain, and France are asking the UN Security Council to instruct UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to find ways to stop weapons flowing into Lebanon. The text they are proposing also calls on Syria to do more to control its border with Lebanon and for Iran to abide by an arms embargo on shipments to Lebanon.
Here is the critical paragraph:
The Security Council, in this context, expresses grave concern at persistent reports of breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanon-Syria border. It expresses deep concern about reports, which have not been refuted, that suspected armed Hizballah elements are alleged to be constructing new facilities in the Bekaa Valley. The Council takes note of the detailed information conveyed by the Government of Lebanon about the dangerous activities of armed elements and groups, in particular PFLP-GC and Fatah Intifada, and reiterates its call for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias and armed groups in particular in Lebanon. It underscores the obligation of all member states, particularly the Syrian Arab Republic and Iran, to take all necessary measures to implement paragraph 15 resolution 1701 to enforce the arms embargo.
Now for the bad news.
Italy’s defense minister Arturo Parisi, interviewed last week on a morning show about Hizballah’s activity in southern Lebanon, dismissed any concern about its arms smuggling. “I am not aware [of any arms smuggling],” he said, “at least not to the extent that it requires a change of behavior by the UN.”
Parisi did recognize Lebanon’s difficult situation—given the ongoing battle between the Lebanese army and Fatah-al-Islam in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, near the Syrian border, it would be hard to deny it. But he stated that the real trouble in the region stems from “actors coming from abroad and present in the Palestinian camps, whose links lead both to Sunnis and Shi’as”—and not, apparently, to Hizballah.