If I were UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, or any of the 120 countries that sent delegates to the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Iran this week, I’d be more than a little embarrassed to discover that Hamas, a terrorist organization that thinks nothing of slaughtering innocent men, women and children in buses, restaurants and hotels, actually has a more developed sense of morality than I do.
While Hamas was invited to attend the NAM summit by Iran, it ultimately declined. This decision followed a public threat by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that if Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh went, he would stay home. But senior Hamas officials say the desire to prevent an open rift with Abbas was only a secondary consideration. Their number-one reason for staying home was that they didn’t want to be seen as supporting Iran at a time when Iran is openly supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s slaughter of his own people by supplying him with arms and even troops.
When I lived in Tajikistan back in 1997, a branch of the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee opened within eyesight of the U.S. embassy. Within days, the State Department evacuated non-essential personnel. The reason was simple: While the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee describes itself as a charity and, indeed, often distributes blankets and food to the poor, the Supreme Leader controls its assets, and the group has a very close relationship to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Two years ago, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Lebanese branches of the Committee “for being owned or controlled by Hizbullah and for providing financial and material support to Hizbullah and its director.” The Committee has engaged in suspicious activities not only in Tajikistan and Lebanon, but also in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Somalia.
Enter the United Nations.
Israel is being criticized today in the world press for playing hardball with five of the 12 non-aligned nations that had hoped to gather in Ramallah to formally back the Palestinian Authority’s latest attempt to get the United Nations to back their bid for statehood. The delegations from Algeria, Bangladesh, Cuba, Indonesia and Malaysia who sought to enter the territories while sticking to their non-recognition of the Jewish state were not allowed in, effectively spiking the entire event. The collapse of what the PA had hoped would be a “Ramallah Declaration” was just the latest indication that the Palestinians’ latest UN bid might end as badly as their first try. However, the Palestinians are smart enough to know that placing your chips on the ability of a disorganized and powerless faction like the Non-Aligned Movement isn’t a good bet.
Far more significant than the posturing in Ramallah were the comments by aides of PA President Mahmoud Abbas that their UN campaign would be largely put on hold until after the U.S. presidential election. As the Times of Israel reports, Abbas is planning to soft pedal his UN effort until November because he understands that any talk about the Palestinians could hinder Obama’s re-election hopes. Though the PA has been dismayed by the president’s election year Jewish charm offensive that has seen their concerns pigeonholed in Washington, Abbas is clearly hoping for a better result once Obama is safely returned to office.
There is no doubt whatsoever that what is occurring in Syria is a humanitarian tragedy. The Assad regime has concluded that Western governments do not have the will to back up their rhetoric with action, and so have accelerated the atrocity and mass slaughter to new levels. While reports once spoke of a dozen people being killed in a day, some recent reports from Syria suggest an order of greater magnitude is now the norm.
Human rights groups wring their hands that Russia and China are not on the same page at the UN Security Council, but representatives from several prominent groups hold out hope that there can be some sort of magic formula that will bring Moscow and Beijing onboard. Such hope is, of course, misplaced. Syria hosts Russia’s only military base outside the confines of the former Soviet Union, and Vladimir Putin will always prioritize strategic position above averting humanitarian tragedy.
The questions human rights groups need to face is whether it is moral to, in effect, sacrifice the lives of tens of thousands of Syrians upon the principle that no action is legitimate unless the United Nations says it is. They may not like the question framed in that way, but there is no avoiding it.
As the recent documentary film “UN Me” proved, the line between satire and reality at the United Nations is razor thin. There is no shortage of outrageous examples of how tyrannical regimes have twisted the founding ideals of the UN into the corrupt talking shop that currently befouls international discourse. But there are times when the world body does something so outrageous that it must give pause to even its most zealous defenders. That level was reached last week when, as UN Watch reports, Iran was voted to a top arms control post at the UN Arms Trade Treaty conference being held in Geneva this month. UN Watch rightly condemned the selection and noted that it happened not long after the UN Security Council condemned Iran for illegally transferring guns and bombs to Syria, which is currently using them to massacre its own citizens.
The choice may, as UN Watch said, defy “logic, morality and common sense,” to elect Iran to a position where it will help monitor compliance with treaty regulations about arms transfers, but since when did the UN have anything to do any of those qualities? But while this will provide Ami Horowitz with fodder for a “UN Me” sequel, the consequences of actions of this sort are actually quite serious. The UN’s legitimization of the Islamist regime undermines the already faltering efforts of the Obama administration to use diplomacy and sanctions to force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions.
Yasser Arafat was famous for perfecting a style of diplomacy that could win him accolades from naive Westerners without having to make a single concession or sacrifice for the peace process. He would do this by refusing to do something basic that he should have already done until he could extort a reward for it. The West would pretend they got a concession from Arafat, and Arafat would laugh and laugh. It was a classic lose-lose dance that has marked the peace process from the beginning.
Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, is a slight improvement, but in this regard he is turning back the clock. Haaretz is reporting that something which in the pre-Obama days of Middle East diplomacy was taken for granted–the willingness by Palestinians to meet for the purposes of political theater–has turned into something that requires ever more concessions. The latest is the Palestinian demand that Israel release 125 terrorists just for the pleasure of Abbas considering a meeting. Benjamin Netanyahu has supposedly accepted the offer, and issued a proposal for how to structure the deal.
President Obama has pinned the United Nations front and center to his administration’s philosophy of foreign policy. Prior to engaging militarily in Libya, Obama sought Turtle Bay’s endorsement, but never bothered to seek that of the U.S. Congress. With his first—and possibly—last term winding down, the Obama team is rushing headlong into a number of UN-sponsored treaties absent much regard to American sovereignty and U.S. national security interests.
The latest case in point could be the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Ted Bromund, my former graduate school colleague and now a Senior Research Fellow at the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, and his Heritage colleague Dean Cheng have an important report out looking at how joining the ATT could jeopardize the U.S. ability to help Taiwan defend itself from an increasingly aggressive China.
While China calls Taiwan a renegade province, the fact of the matter is that Taiwan was only under mainland Chinese control during the Qing Dynasty, and even then the Chinese control was tenuous. Taiwan has its own identity—apparent to anyone who travels there–and, unlike China, enjoys democracy and basic individual liberty.
The United States, of course, like much of the world, recognized the Republic of China as the legitimate representative of China until Richard Nixon’s rapprochement with the Peoples’ Republic of China. While the United States and Taiwan no longer maintain formal embassies in each others’ capitals, both house institutes and organizations which act as de facto embassies. Officially, the United States remains committed to Taiwan’s security, although the number of U.S. cabinet-level visits has declined precipitously in recent years, a fault which can be laid at the hands not only of the Obama administration, but the George W. Bush administration as well.
Those who view his films as compendiums of distorted propaganda may rightly despise Michael Moore, but there’s no denying that his work re-popularized the documentary as an independent art form while effectively promoting his views. Moore and others who followed in his footsteps, such as Morgan Spurlock, whose “Super Size Me” lambasted the fast food industry, created a popular template in which the filmmaker’s personal narrative, interspersed with humor and relentless attempts to expose and thereby belittle the objects of their scorn, set the standard for the genre. But the question for viewers of a newly released film that was created in the spirit of “Roger and Me, ” “Bowling for Columbine” or “Super Size Me” is whether there is an audience for this sort of work if the subject matter is not one that liberals and leftists love to hate.
In “U.N. Me,” Ami Horowitz and Matthew Grof have done just that. Horowitz, the on-screen personality and narrator, takes his audience on an international tour intended to show that the United Nations is a corrupt talking shop that has made a mockery of the ideals that it was created to promote. As “U.N. Me” makes clear, the world body has criminal peacekeepers who fail to protect the innocent, purposely-blind nuclear inspectors, thieves in charge of food programs, and has a Human Rights Council that is a forum for tyrants and murderers.
With the third round of nuclear talks approaching, Iranian senior figures are taking turns to the airwaves to present a well-rehearsed, grievance-filled version of the issues at stake in their current nuclear standoff with the international community. This time, speaking out is former Iranian minister of foreign affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati – currently a diplomatic adviser to the Supreme Leader. Velayati, who is wanted in Argentina for the 1994 Iran-orchestrated terror attack against the AMIA Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, announced in an interview with the Iranian news agency IRNA that he hoped that “the P5+1 group recognizes Iran’s inalienable nuclear right within the framework of the [United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] NPT and refrains from sitting on the sidelines.” He added, “By accepting Iran’s right to use peaceful nuclear energy, the forthcoming talks in Moscow should reach a favorable result.”
Iran has been spinning this tale for years now – and its propaganda is making considerable gains with Western leftists and among non-aligned movement members.
Iran is basically playing the victim card, darkly evoking an American-led and Zionist-orchestrated plot to deny Iran, alone among nations, the right to peacefully develop nuclear energy. The demand by the P5+1 to suspend all uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities, Iran says, is an attempt to deny a right guaranteed under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to all its members. It is an unfair attempt, says Iran, because it is infused with a double standard where nuclear-weapons states and Israel are ganging up on Iran to preach to Tehran what they don’t practice. And it is a dangerous precedent, concludes Iran, because if legitimized, this mechanism can be adopted later to frustrate the legitimate nuclear ambitions of any other nation that is not a Western country and a friend of the United States.
The United Nations has hardly been a cheerleader for the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan. In fact, UN representatives have often been skeptical of the methods and tactics employed by American troops. So it is particularly noteworthy that even the UN is recording a big drop—21 percent–in civilian deaths in the first four months of 2012 compared with the same period a year ago. This tallies with NATO figures showing a drop in insurgent attacks—evidence that the post-2009 surge is working.
Unfortunately, just as American troops and their allies are making demonstrable progress, their political masters are preparing to pull them out. French troops are due to leave this year and more than 20,000 American troops are due to leave in September with more, perhaps, to follow before long. Western politicians would be foolish, now that the coalition actually has the initiative and the Taliban are on their heels, to let up on the pressure. But that is precisely what may happen, allowing the Taliban, Haqqanis, et al., to pull a political victory out of their battlefield defeats.
A friend on Capitol Hill alerts me to Kofi Annan’s budget for his doomed-from-the-start observer mission in Syria. (The breakdown is in paragraph 17):
The estimated requirements for the Office of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis for the 10-month period ending 31 December 2012 amount to $7,488,000 net ($7,932,200 gross) and will provide for salaries and common staff costs for 18 positions ($3,022,300), as well as operational costs ($4,465,700), comprising consultancies ($165,700), official travel ($1,590,500), and facilities and infrastructure ($578,400); ground transportation ($100,200); air transportation ($750,000); communications ($94,800) and information technology ($135,700); and other supplies, services and equipment ($1,050,400). Of the non-post items, $111,800 relates to one-time expenditures for the refurbishment of office space ($30,000) and provision of information technology and other equipment ($81,800).
A friend on the Hill alerted me to this story which should raise red flags for any number of reasons:
The United Nations is weighing the possibility of using unmanned airplanes (drones) in intelligence operations and to searching for information… The issue was submitted to a committee of the UN General Assembly by the peacekeeping operations department, according to the organization’s official joint spokesman, Eduardo del Buey. Del Buey said that the United Nations is analyzing the potential use of that technology, including the support that the organization needs from the member countries if its use were recommended. The unarmed drones would be used for surveillance operations and to gather information, said the spokesman, adding that no conclusions or recommendations have been made on the matter.
Even amidst the flurry of overt philo-Semitism that is the hallmark of President Obama’s election year Jewish charm offensive, some remnants of his less appealing foreign policy stands persist. One such anomaly is the administration campaign to restore American funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). U.S. law required Obama to cut off UNESCO after it admitted the Palestinian Authority as a full voting member of the group as part of the Arab effort to make an end run around the Middle East peace process. The Palestinian push for recognition of their independence without first making peace with Israel fizzled, but the president’s ardent love for the UN and its constituent agencies made him regret the fact that he was obligated to punish UNESCO.
There is little chance that Congress will amend the law so as to allow the flow of U.S. taxpayer cash to resume. But those supporting such a move got a boost recently when Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” did a segment intended to spoof the cutoff. The satire complimented UNESCO’s own efforts to persuade Americans that they are a collection of non-political do-gooders whose efforts are being hampered. But as Claudia Rosett writes in an important piece in The Weekly Standard, the truth about UNESCO is a familiar story for those who follow the world of international non-governmental organizations. The corruption of the agency and, in particular, its efforts in the African nation of Gabon (which was the focus of “The Daily Show’s” skits), serves as a warning of how the world body wastes American money intended for charitable purposes.
UNRWA’s Chris Gunness has personally stepped up to fulfill his organization’s traditional role as a wartime propaganda outlet for Hamas, describing Israel’s self-defense operations as “sick sick sick.” The UN group routinely peddles anti-Israel falsehoods even during relatively quiet periods – e.g. their scapegoating Israel for UNRWA’s terror-promoting schools – but during conflicts their media manipulation becomes particularly shameless.
Now even non-UNRWA UN officials have taken to broadcasting false anti-Israel smears, per new information about a tweet that Alana first covered earlier this week. You’ll remember that Khulood Badawi tweeted a picture of an injured Palestinian girl, with a caption asserting that the girl had been hit in an Israeli air strike. The photo spread like wildfire, garnering 300 retweets and becoming the day’s top “#Gaza” tweet.
The entire thing was a fabrication. The photo wasn’t taken this week and the girl wasn’t hurt by Israeli munitions. The picture was actually snapped by Reuters in 2006, and the girl had fallen off a swing. Honest Reporting ran down the original.
Almost a decade ago, histrionics were running high at the United Nations. After enduring months of a Palestinian terrorist campaign, Israel launched Operation Defense Shield during which Israeli commandoes went door to booby-trapped door in Jenin to root out bomb makers and their factories. During the course of the Jenin operation, Israel lost 23 soldiers, men who would be alive had the Israelis simply bombed the city instead of attempting surgical excision of the terror cells. The world cried foul, and promoted the myth of the Jenin massacre. Here, for example, is the BBC report from the time.
It was against this backdrop that on April 15, 2002, the United Nations Human Rights Commission—which has since been reconstituted as the United Nations Council— and at the time under the leadership of former Irish President Mary Robinson, passed a resolution embracing an earlier General Assembly resolution which declared “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.” France, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Sweden all supported the resolution.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby have appointed former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to be their top envoy on the worsening situation in Syria. While Annan is certainly a better choice than was Sudanese Lt. Gen. Mohammad al-Dabi, the Arab League’s previous pick and a man complicit in the Darfur genocide, Annan is not a good choice.
As head of peace-keeping during the Rwanda genocide, Annan hid behind legalisms and bureaucracy. Had he been bolder, his peacekeepers might actually have kept the peace, but for Annan, the path of least resistance enabled a quarter million civilians to die. His apology came years too late for people there.
At Fox News, COMMENTARY contributor George Russell has a fantastic report on a confidential gathering of UN officials that took place last October. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and others met in a Long Island mansion and brainstormed on how “to consolidate a radical new global green economy, promote a spectrum of sweeping new social policies and build an even more important role for UN institutions ‘to manage the process of globalization better.’”
The discussion centered on plans for June’s Rio + 20 Summit on Sustainable Development, and was something like Occupy Wall Street rally meets Avatar. Participants both noted that “inequity” is the “single greatest challenge and threat” to the world and “the UN in Rio should be the voice of the planet and its people.” They’ll have to fight Barack Obama for that gig, no?
If you were concerned that the United Nations is spending too much time on the massacres of civilians in Syria, or on the ongoing arrests of journalists in Turkey, or on the repression of women in Egypt, or on the persecution and murder of Christians in Nigeria and across the Arab Spring countries – you can set your mind at ease. Today, the UN Security Council will be focused on Israel:
The UN Security Council will on Wednesday hear a briefing on the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories which the United States had opposed… Valerie Amos, the UN humanitarian coordinator, will give details on the impact of Israeli settlements at the UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday morning as part of discussions on the Middle East, diplomats said. Morocco officially made the request for the briefing as the Arab representative on the 15-member council. The briefing would be “useful,” said Morocco’s UN ambassador Mohammed Loulichki.