One of Kofi Annan’s main purposes in office was to make Israel feel more comfortable in the UN. his aides say

In the last few hours of Kofi Annan’s administration as UN Secretary-General, it is worth noting that his main achievements, according to him and his team, were (1) the Millennium Development Goals (which I treat elsewhere on this site), (2) getting the UN Security Council to proclaim that UN Member States have a responsibility to protect (human rights, I think), and — most strategically significant — (3) making Israel feel more comfortable in the United Nations.

Why is this important? Because Israel loves to pretend that it is mistreated in the UN. The passage of the 1974 “Zionism is Racism” resolution was the high-point of Israel’s discontent, and Israel succeeded in making this resolution the particular focal point of U.S. neo-conservative criticism of the UN. The resolution was repealed — something which was for years said to be impossible — but it took years to make the neo-cons shut up about this.

How sincere the Israelis were in their outrage is something open to question, however. Israeli officials complain, for example, that the UN Security Council has NEVER condemned an attack upon Israel — but neither has Israel ever brought a complaint to the UN Security Council itself. They could easily do so. Last week, Israel mentioned that they would go to the UN to complain about the resumed missile attacks out of Gaza — but they still have made no move to convene the UN Security Council. Why not? It is not simply fear that any resolution they propose would not pass — in fact, it just might pass. So why do the Israelis not choose to use this channel that is open to them?

What was more-or-less an inchoate suspicion was confirmed to me in one of Salim Lone’s post-UN opinion pieces, written last August in the service of Shashi Tharoor’s campaign to become the next UN Secretary-General (because Tharoor didn’t try to savage the winner, BAN KI-MOON, maybe he’ll get to stay on in his post as Under-Secretary-General for Public Information, instead).

Salim Lone, in his special apparently-anti-American-but-really-the-opposite style, wrote in The Guardian of London on 22 August 2006 — in a piece entitled Shashi has the vision — that: “Since 9/11 the US has demanded complete fealty from the organisation and Kofi Annan has been even less able than previous secretaries general to be seen as independent. But in his first term, he was as effective a leader as any the organisation has had. The key to his success was a single-minded clarity about his central goals: to strengthen the UN by building an intimate relationship with the US, and to ease Israel’s isolation at the world body…The relatively unknown Annan quickly became a statesman more popular than most world leaders. Three exceptional individuals made this transformation possible. John Ruggie was the strategic agenda-setter. Edward Mortimer was the speech writer who brought intellectual gravitas. Shashi Tharoor was the communicator who mesmerised media and public alike with his articulation of Annan’s vision – and with his own brilliance… But if elected, Shashi could make a difference to the institution’s future. His skills of persuasion might convince the US that its constant demands for compliance are counterproductive: a UN without credibility is of no use to the US, as we have seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. And the backing of a strong and independent government such as India’s, which enjoys the additional advantages of being a leader of both the Non-Aligned and the Group of 77 developing countries, would also enable him to resist undue US pressure. …His being an insider is not a problem. Indeed, if the goal of overhauling this immensely complicated institution is not to gut it but to strengthen its ability to be a more effective player, then the right person from within is needed…Shashi’s being an Indian Hindu should not worry Pakistanis or Muslims. From what I know of Shashi, being Indian has made him much more, rather than less, sensitive to Muslim suffering. And also as an Indian, Shashi would be very keen to promote better relations with Pakistan, which the vast majority of the two peoples ardently desire. Before his recent retirement from the UN, Salim Lone worked closely with Shashi Tharoor for more than 10 years,,1855350,00.html

Two articles published in the venerable Jewish Daily Forward on 22 December — effectively, the last working day in the UN before the transition to the new administration of BAN KI-MOON, confirm the point. Eve Epstein — a New York Public Relations (or, as she puts it “Strategic Communications”) Professional, with close ties to major American Jewish organizations and to the Israeli Mission and Government, was brought into the UN by Therese Gaustaut (Ms “Strategic Communications” herself) with the approval of Shashi Tharoor — who is actually now Under-Secretary-General for “Strategic Communications” and Public Information.

Eve Epstein, in her Jewish Daily Forward Opinion piece, lays the whole thing out: Annan Made the Nations a Little Less United Against Israel: “On January 1, Ban Ki Moon officially begins his term as secretary general of the United Nations. Regrettably, the world body he inherits has not lived up to the noble principles enshrined in its charter.
Instead, we have witnessed sustained efforts by certain member states acting within U.N. bodies to de-legitimize the State of Israel and to denigrate the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. Well before the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel had been denied many of the rights and privileges accorded to other member states. Governments have manipulated the organization to propagate the worst kinds of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment.
When Kofi Annan took office in 1997, no previous secretary general had publicly criticized or sought to redress these wrongs. The U.N. was created in the shadow of the Holocaust, yet previous secretaries general remained mute on the subject, referring instead only to World War II.
The first secretary general of the U.N., Trygve Lie, described his job as ‘the most impossible one in the world.’ Then, there were fewer than 60 member states. Now there are 192, and the secretary general is held to account by all of them. The majority are former colonies of European powers, which tend to identify with the Palestinians and to follow the lead of Islamic states. Other governments simply find it easier to remain silent rather than voice any dissent.
This means that the secretary general is under unremitting pressure to denounce Israeli actions, and to suppress or soft-pedal any condemnation of the attacks to which Israel is responding. It is a real constraint under which all secretaries general operate. It is not surprising then, that Kofi Annan, along with the rest of the U.N., is perceived by Israel and the Jewish community as a harsh critic.
The world’s chief diplomat is obliged to uphold the highest standards expressed in the U.N. Charter. When the secretary general is thought to be using his moral authority unwisely or unfairly, especially in instances where a moral equivalence between victim and aggressor is suggested, there are periods of huge disappointment.
But some who follow U.N. affairs closely have detected important changes in the world body’s attitude toward Israel and the Jewish people during the last 10 years. Two years ago, during the U.N.’s first official seminar on antisemitism [n.b. one of Shashi Tharoor’s major initiatives as a “Strategic Communicator”], Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis told a packed auditorium at U.N. headquarters, ‘We used to chain ourselves outside the gate at the U.N. when we wanted to protest — now we’re (protesting) on the inside.’
And in August this year, when Israel’s counteroffensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon had clearly failed to achieve its objectives, the Israeli government turned to the U.N. for help in ending the conflict. The world body responded with a Security Council resolution blaming Hezbollah for the war and with a strengthened peacekeeping force.
Just 10 years ago it would have been hard to imagine such a scenario taking place, and some are inclined to give Annan much of the credit for the change. As Shimon Peres put it at a recent farewell dinner for Annan, ‘there are things a secretary general must do, and there are also things that he is free to do. We shall remember Kofi Annan — and thank him — for the things he did that he was free to do.’ ”

Eve Epstein continues, in her article in the Jewish Daily Forward, with an enumeration of Kofi Annan’s mitzvahs while SG — without mentioning that she herself worked on these developments. She writes: “What follows is a list, in chronological order, of some of those things:
March 25, 1998: On his first official visit to Israel, Annan drew attention to the exclusion of Israel from the system of regional groupings in the U.N., and said that this must be corrected. Annan’s call for normalizing Israel’s status in the U.N., his reference to the U.N. resolutions blaming Israel and only Israel for violations in the region, his acknowledgement that the 1991-repealed General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism was a ‘low point,’ and his unprecedented denunciation of antisemitism were welcomed as a sea change in U.N.-Israel relations.
His statements were the first public criticism by a secretary general of Israel’s unfair treatment in the U.N. and of what he called the ‘lamentable’ resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 1975. While in Jerusalem, the secretary general made a solemn pledge to ‘usher in a new era of relations between Israel and the United Nations.’
December 8, 1998: Annan used the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the 1948 Genocide Convention to vow that the ‘Holocaust of the Jews’ must never be repeated and linked the Holocaust to the U.N.’s founding mission. For the first time in U.N. history, a secretary general addressed the Holocaust in a Jewish context and spoke about the relationship of the Genocide Convention to the Holocaust.
December 12, 1999: In his address to the American Jewish Committee, the secretary general again spoke out about the need for Israel to join a regional group at the U.N., and said, ‘We must uphold the principle of equality among member states.’ He promised to continue to work with all parties to find a solution.
May 2000: Israel was accepted as a temporary member of the Western European and Other States Group in New York. This allowed Israel to be elected to a variety of U.N. bodies. Israel was originally asked to reapply for membership to the group every four years, but in 2004, the first time Israel reapplied, it was granted an indefinite extension. During 2003-2004, Israel successfully presented candidates for six different U.N. inter-governmental positions, and it currently serves as a vice chair elected to the U.N. Commission on Disarmament. Twice, Israel has been chair of the Western European and Other States Group.
June 16, 2000: In a report to the Security Council, the secretary general concluded that Israel had withdrawn its forces from Lebanon in accordance with Resolution 425. Two days later, Annan’s conclusion was endorsed by the Security Council in a presidential statement.
October 1, 2001: At a special session of the General Assembly following the September 11 terrorist attacks, secretary general Annan urged member states to adopt a universal definition of terrorism, saying: ‘In the post-11 September era, no one can dispute the nature of the terrorist threat, nor the need to meet it with a global response. Some of the most difficult issues relate to the definition of terrorism. I understand and accept the need for legal precision. But let me say frankly that there is also a need for moral clarity. There can be no acceptance of those who would seek to justify the deliberate taking of innocent civilian life, regardless of cause or grievance. If there is one universal principle that all peoples can agree on, surely it is this.’
March 27, 2002: In an address to a summit-level meeting of the League of Arab States, Annan challenged the region’s leaders ‘to confront the menace of extremism, hatred and intolerance, and to ensure that they find no place in your school curricula, or in the minds of your young people.’ During his time in office, the secretary general delivered similar messages to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and to U.N. media conferences on the Middle East, including one in Cairo on June 13, 2005, where he appealed to media representatives to refrain from myths, stereotypes and hate propaganda.
July 1, 2003: For the first time at the U.N., a senior staff member in the secretary general’s office was designated as a ‘focal point’ for relations with the Jewish community.
June 21, 2004: The United Nations held its first official full-day seminar on antisemitism, and the secretary general declared that ‘Jews everywhere must feel that the United Nations is their home too.’ Annan urged all member states to declare unambiguously that ‘international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify antisemitism,’ and called for the U.N. human rights special rapporteurs and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to actively explore new ways of combating antisemitism more effectively, adding that ‘all parts of the Secretariat should be vigilant.’ The conference began the positive momentum leading to General Assembly Resolution 60/7 on Holocaust Remembrance — a resolution that was cited by the Security Council when it condemned the remarks by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Israel and Holocaust denial.
January 24, 2005: The U.N. General Assembly convened a special session to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the first official General Assembly session to address the subject. For the first time, the General Assembly heard a first-hand account from a person designated to speak as a Holocaust survivor. In his remarks to the General Assembly, the secretary general honored the victims and survivors of the death camps, and in another first stated, ‘The tragedy of the Jewish people was unique.’
At the secretary general’s request, the U.N. set aside its 60-year protocol prohibiting national anthems or prayers at U.N. events so that ‘Hatikvah’ and ‘El Malei Rachamim’ could be recited at the opening of the exhibit, Auschwitz: The Depth of the Abyss,’ held in the U.N. lobby in the presence of the secretary general and representatives of U.N. member states.
March 15, 2005: On a visit to Israel to inaugurate the Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem, the secretary general welcomed the breakthrough of Israel’s membership in Western European and Other States Group in New York, and said, ‘I will do whatever I can to encourage corresponding groups in Geneva and Vienna to follow suit. We need to correct a long-standing anomaly that kept Israel from participating fully and equally in the work of the organization.’ This helped set the stage for the increased participation of Israel in the work of the U.N. Ambassador Daniel Gillerman was elected by the 191 member states to serve as a vice president of the 60th Session of the U.N. General Assembly.
March 21, 2005: In his report titled ‘In Larger Freedom,’ the secretary general said that ‘the moral authority of the United Nations’ had been ‘hampered’ by the failure to agree on a definition of terrorism. It was time, Annan said, to ‘set aside debates on so-called “state terrorism”.’ Annan also said that resistance to occupation ‘cannot include the right to deliberately maim or kill civilians,’ and that ‘any action constitutes terrorism if it is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.’
Throughout his two terms, Annan consistently condemned suicide bombings targeting Israelis. In a December 2006 General Assembly tribute, American ambassador Alejandro Wolff said of Annan, ‘He has been a strong voice condemning terrorism, and has pushed the U.N. to do its part in the global struggle against extremism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and terrorist threats.’
May 2-3, 2005: The secretary general met with the first-ever international delegation of Jewish leaders to the U.N., organized by the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute and the United Nations Foundation. Annan discussed issues of mutual concern with 50 Jewish community leaders from 24 countries. Subsequently, he conducted other meetings with Jewish leaders from around the world, organized by B’nai Brith International, the U.N. Foundation, and the World Jewish Congress.
November 1, 2005: The U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution 60/7 designating 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, and rejected ‘any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or in part.’ The secretary general strongly supported efforts to establish the annual international day.
The resolution requested the secretary general to establish a program of outreach on ‘the Holocaust and the United Nations,’ and to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education. The resolution also called on the secretary general to report to the General Assembly on the implementation of the outreach program, which he did in June 2006, in his report A/60/882. The Department of Public Information was assigned responsibility for the outreach program, which focuses on activities aimed at remembering the victims of the Holocaust, and helping to prevent future acts of genocide.
December 9, 2005: The Security Council issued a press statement condemning remarks by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran that threatened Israel and denied the Holocaust. In its statement, the Security Council fully supported a statement made the previous day by the secretary general, in which he recalled the General Assembly resolution and urged all member states to educate their populations about the Holocaust. The Security Council statement also reaffirmed the rights and obligations of Israel as a full and long-standing member of the U.N., and reaffirmed that under the U.N. Charter ‘all members have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.’
January 26, 2006: A candlelight vigil in memory of the victims of the Holocaust was held on the eve of the observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day at U.N. headquarters in New York.
January 27, 2006: The U.N. held its first annual observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. On this occasion the secretary general said, ‘Remembering is a necessary rebuke to those who say the Holocaust never happened or has been exaggerated. Holocaust denial is the work of bigots. We must reject their false claims whenever, wherever and by whomever they are made.’
May 17, 2006: Citing the secretary general’s report on Lebanon, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1680, dealing with Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence. American ambassador Bolton explained the significance of the secretary general’s report saying, ‘I view the references in the secretary general’s report to Iran’s disruptive and unhelpful role in Lebanon to be extremely important. It’s the first time Iran was mentioned.’
August 11, 2006
: The Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1701, which effectively ended the fighting in Lebanon. Gillerman said that the resolution was ‘an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and to create a genuine new reality in our region’”
September 3, 2006: In a joint press conference in Tehran with the Iranian foreign minister, Annan said, in reference to a notorious Holocaust cartoon exhibit on display in the city, ‘the tragedy of the Holocaust is a sad and undeniable historical fact, so we should really handle that and accept that fact, and teach children what happened in World War II, and ensure that it is never repeated… And we should be careful not to say anything that can be misused as an excuse for incitement and hatred.’
November 29, 2006: The secretary general, who had pressed for the creation of the new Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Commission on Human Rights, publicly chastised the members of the council and warned them to handle the Arab-Israeli conflict ‘in an impartial way, and not allow it to monopolize attention at the expense of others where there are equally grave or even graver violations.’
December 7, 2006: The secretary general issued a press statement about the Holocaust conference to be convened the following week by the government of Iran which stated, ‘The secretary general would deeply deplore any conference whose purpose is to question or deny the Holocaust. Only a year ago, the General Assembly passed a resolution which “rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or part.” The secretary general personally believes that any attempt to cast doubt on the reality of this unique and undeniable horror must be firmly resisted by all people of goodwill and of whatever faith. He spoke to President Ahmadinejad about this when he met him in Tehran in September. In the same resolution, the G.A. designated January 27 as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the Holocaust.’
December 12, 2006: The secretary general used the opportunity of his last major speech on the Middle East to the Security Council to draw attention to — and publicly question the value of — the numerous General Assembly resolutions on Israel: ‘Some may feel satisfaction at repeatedly passing General Assembly resolutions or holding conferences that condemn Israel’s behavior. But one should also ask whether such steps bring any tangible relief or benefit to the Palestinians. There have been decades of resolutions. There has been a proliferation of special committees, sessions and Secretariat divisions and units. Has any of this had an effect on Israel’s policies, other than to strengthen the belief in Israel, and among many of its supporters, that this great organization is too one-sided to be allowed a significant role in the Middle East peace process?’ The secretary general cited the three special sessions of the Human Rights Council on the Arab-Israeli conflict as an example of potentially ‘counterproductive’ actions by U.N. bodies.
Responding to Annan’s report, Israeli ambassador Daniel Carmon told the Security Council, ‘It is of course impossible in the allotted time to fully reflect on the secretary general’s legacy. But I nonetheless want to thank him for his many years of dedication to this organization and the nations of the world. Allow me to commend the secretary general on his remarks this morning, where he comprehensively addressed the complexity of the conflicts in our region, in an unbiased, balanced, manner — turning to both sides — constructively, which I must say, is not the traditional narrative we hear at the U.N. and its organs. We offer you, Mr. Secretary General, our deepest appreciation.’
Eve Epstein is a former consultant to the Executive Office of the United Nations secretary general and professor in the Jewish Theological Seminary’s rabbinical school. She is a vice president of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and president of Epstein & Associates, a strategic communications management and training company

Wrangling has already begun to continue this unprecedented access during the term of office of the new UN Secretary-General, BAN KI-MOON, as another article published in the Jewish Daily Forward on the same day (22 December) shows — U.N. Chief Pressured To Bypass Businessman, by Marc Perelman:
“The incoming United Nations secretary-general has yet to take office, but a controversy is already engulfing his nascent relationship with the American Jewish community.
South Korea’s Ban-Ki Moon, who will begin his term January 1 with little experience regarding Israel and its supporters, is coming under fire for his team’s relationship with a little-known Orthodox businessman and activist named Michael Landau. The head of a local Orthodox group in Manhattan, Landau has been actively courting the new secretary-general’s entourage and presenting himself as a go-between to help Ban navigate the U.N.’s notoriously fraught relationship with Jewish groups.
But several diplomats and major Jewish organizations are questioning whether Landau’s business activities could influence the advice he would give Ban, pointing to his courtship of African ambassadors at a time when he was involved in mining activities on the continent. Some critics fear that a backlash would be damaging to the Jewish community, Israel and the new secretary-general.
Landau is reportedly backed by Malcolm Hoenlein, the influential executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, though he is not affiliated with the umbrella group, widely viewed as the Jewish community’s leading voice on Middle Eastern affairs. Critics claim Hoenlein is pushing Landau as a go-between in order to become the community’s main interlocutor to Ban.
‘It is inappropriate for any of us to promote a specific individual as a liaison without consulting the community leadership,’ said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. ‘The secretary-general should reach out to all of us.’
The ADL, the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International have refused to attend meetings with Ban and his close circle proposed by Landau in recent weeks, sources familiar with the situation told the Forward. On the other hand, they added, Landau has garnered some support from the World Jewish Congress. Landau declined several requests for comment. Hoenlein did not return calls.
On the day of his swearing-in, December 14, Ban made an appearance at the annual dinner of the Presidents’ Conference. Even while acknowledging that attending the event was a good way for Ban to show his willingness to engage the Jewish community, some observers fretted that this was in fact a nod to Hoenlein.
In a series of interviews, several Jewish communal leaders, U.N. officials and diplomats expressed deep misgivings about entrusting a little-known entity like Landau with a prominent intermediary role. Although no one produced evidence about the incompatibility of his business activities and his advocacy work, critics stressed that the recent trauma of the Iraq oil-for-food scandal required extra caution to avoid adverse consequences for Ban and the Jewish community.
Landau, who by all accounts is an engaging character, has been active in computer software companies and advised at least one mining company in recent years. His advocacy work is centered on the Coalition of Orthodox Jewish Organizations of the West Side, which caters to local community needs. He is the group’s chairman. He was also involved in the Jerusalem Coalition, which brought together Orthodox Jewish Republicans, helping to organize a trip by Christian conservative leader Gary Bauer to Israel in 2003. In recent years, Landau has been involved in U.N. affairs, organizing meetings, trips and receptions for ambassadors — often, communal sources said, working with the President’s Conference. Landau has attended meetings between Jewish groups and visiting foreign dignitaries on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly during which he was presented as representing the Presidents’ Conference, according to participants in the meetings. ‘I don’t have a problem with one or several go-betweens,’ said Shai Franklin, director of international organizations at the World Jewish Congress. ‘No one should be cut out, there is room for everyone, be it an individual or a group.’
Landau also received strong backing for his advocacy work on behalf of the Orthodox community of the Upper West Side. Rabbi Alan Schwarz, religious leader of a local Orthodox congregation and president of the group chaired by Landau, praised his boundless energy and his ability to solve mundane issues. Hank Sheinkopf, a political consultant, described Landau as a tireless advocate for the Orthodox and the larger Jewish community, saying that his cultivating of ties with African ambassadors was smart diplomacy.
One area of concern for some critics is Landau’s close work with several African ambassadors at a time when he was in business with a Canadian company mining gold on the continent back in 2005.
In January 2005, a Landau-run company called Vango Holdings was hired by Searchgold Resources, a Canadian mining firm active in Gabon and Guinea, to become responsible for its investor relations. At the time, Landau was on good terms with Jean Ping, the foreign minister of Gabon, who held the position of president of the General Assembly. [n.b., wait a minute, wasn’t Michele Montas spokeswoman for Jean Ping when he was UNGA President???]

“Landau organized receptions and meetings for Ping. Searchgold’s activities in Gabon picked up in early 2005, with the company announcing that it had raised more than $1.1 million, resumed drilling at its Bakoudou mine and obtained a new exploration permit. But Searchgold parted ways with Landau four months later. Searchgold director Maurice Giroux told the Forward that Landau was not a good fit and that his contacts in Gabon did not prove useful. He declined to elaborate. Requests for comment to the Gabonese mission to the U.N. were not returned.
Several sources said on condition of anonymity that Landau had openly bragged about his clout with sub-Saharan African ambassadors. ‘He is a businessman, first and foremost,’ said a person familiar with Landau’s interactions with African diplomats.
Sources said that Landau helped set up a trip to Israel in early 2004 for six African diplomats sponsored by the American-Israel Friendship League, a nonprofit chaired by Kenneth Bialkin, a former chairman of the ADL and the Presidents’ Conference.
Several Jewish communal activists speaking on the condition of anonymity said that they have heard directly from Israeli officials about concerns regarding Landau. At least one top Jewish communal leader passed his concerns to the leadership of the Conference of Presidents. Israeli diplomats at the U.N. mission declined to comment

” ‘Ban should get a sense of the diversity of our community,’ said Sybil Kessler, director of U.N. affairs at B’nai B’rith International. ‘I would like him to appoint a senior official as a focal point.’
This is a reference to the ‘focal points’ created by outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan within his secretariat to facilitate dealings with a variety of groups or interests not formally represented at the U.N. One of Annan ’s lieutenants served as a liaison to the American Jewish community, a position Annan saw as a key to improving the U.N.’s historically strained relationship with Israel and, cynics would add, to currying favor in Washington during hard times.
The current ‘focal point’ is Edward Mortimer, a U.N. official from Britain who will return to Europe when Annan officially finishes his term in the next few weeks. Much speculation has centered on whether Ban will maintain the position
. ‘I briefed the new S.G. and his team and advised them to keep the focal point, which was appreciated by the Jewish community,’ Mortimer said.

“A senior secretariat official also said Ban was leaning toward appointing a point-person on his staff and steering clear of an outside fixer. Some U.N. officials have quietly discouraged Ban’s team from granting Landau a prominent role. While no personnel announcement has yet been made, the message seems to have been heard.
Yeocheol Yoon, a political counselor at the South Korean mission to the U.N. and an adviser to Ban, told the Forward that the new secretary-general was talking to a variety of Jewish groups and representatives and that Landau was merely one interlocutor. He added that the secretary was likely to appoint a focal point within his office. ‘We’ll do it our way, but we’ll certainly have someone on the inside and we never had the idea of tapping someone from the outside.’

[all emphasis added…]

Michelle Montas to be new UN Spokesperson

Hours ahead of the actual transition to his administration, “Incoming UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday appointed veteran Indian diplomat Vijay Nambiar as his chief of staff and award-winning Haitian journalist Michelle Montas as his spokesperson, ” the Associated Press is reporting.  “The appointments were the first by Ban, who officially takes the reins of the United Nations on New Year’s Day. In a statement, he said he intends to make further appointments in the coming days.  ‘Today’s appointments will serve as a solid basis for establishing my team and pursuing a program of reform of the Secretariat to provide continuity along with change’,” Ban is quoted as saying.   AP reports that “Nambiar, a former Indian ambassador to the United Nations, has served since March as special adviser to outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan on a wide range of issues, including as a contact with the 192 UN ambassadors.”

Michelle Montas, who has long been frustrated by a string of short-term contracts for UN Radio, where she worked in French, is also the widow of murdered Haitian journalist Jean Dominique.  Both Montas and Dominique worked together at a radio station in Haiti (Radio Haiti Inter) that Jean Dominique had come to own.  Both Montas and Dominique had had to flee Haiti for their lives (Montas was deported, apparently, and Dominique followed her into exile), but returned when it was possible.  Both were opponents of the Duvaliere dictatorship, and early supporters of Reverend Jean-Bertrand Aristide — who is suspected of involvement in Jean Dominique’s assassination in 2000, a cruel betrayal.  “When his [Jean Dominique’s] longtime friend René Préval became president in February 1986, Dominique became an unofficial adviser. He continued to air his news and comment show ‘Inter actualités’ and an interview programme ‘Face à l’opinion.’ He made many enemies by harshly criticising the country’s moneyed elite, the former Duvalierists, the army, US policy towards Haiti and most recently, certain figures in Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party, ” according to Reporters Without Borders, which also reports that “His wife, Michèle Montas, says he was killed ‘because nobody could tell him what to do or say.’ He was especially dangerous, she says, because ‘he was going to stop a lot of people making a lot of money’ but ‘he didn’t have files on people,’ as some believed. ‘He was just good at picking up scraps of information and extracting meaning from them.’ His daughter Gigi recalls how some people lost their jobs after replying to his blunt questions in interviews”… Reporters Sans Frontiers also reports Montas as saying: “We live in an atmosphere of impunity in which the criminals always get away with their crimes. But this time they won’t.” ( 

The murder has never been solved, and Montas herself fled Haiti again in 2003 — again under threat of death. 

An official UN biography issued in March 2006, at the time of his appointment as Special Adviser to UN SG Kofi Annan, with the rank of Under-Secretary-General, says that “Mr. Nambiar … will both follow important issues for the Secretary-General and be able to represent him in New York and elsewhere at a high level.  Here in New York, he will help in liaising with Permanent Representatives.  He will be a member of the Policy Committee.”  Previously, the UN Biography says, Mr. Nambiar was “Deputy National Security Advisor to the Government of India and Head of the National Security Council Secretariat.  He previously served as India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York (May 2002-June 2004).  Earlier as Ambassador of India, he served successively in Pakistan (2000-2001), China (1996-2000), Malaysia (1993-1996), and Afghanistan (1990-1992).  He was earlier Ambassador of India in Algeria (1985-1988).  During the course of his professional career in the Indian Foreign Service, he had served in numerous bilateral and multilateral appointments in Beijing, Belgrade and New York during the 1970s and 1980s.  He was Joint Secretary (Director General) handling East Asia in 1988 during the period of the historic visit of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to China.  He also dealt with multilateral affairs at the headquarters in New Delhi during the early 1980s.  He was involved at the delegation level in numerous UN and non-aligned summit and ministerial conferences since 1979.  Mr. Nambiar joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1967 and spent his early years in the diplomatic service specializing in the Chinese language serving in Hong Kong and Beijing.  He also served during the mid-1970s in Belgrade, Yugoslavia…

The post of Chef de Cabinet — the person who decides who gets to see the UN SG, and what documents are put on his desk, among other duties — has alternated, in recent decades, between an Indian (Virendra Dayal was the last previous Indian) and a Pakistani (Iqbal Reza — who famously shreded documents related to the Oil-for-Food scandal.  Reza nearly lost his job with the UN in 1987 or 88, when the Iraqi Mission raised hell because Reza had shown “commercial” satellite photographs to Iran’s UN Mission, apparently with the idea that this kind of “commerical” satellite imagery could be used to provide assurances for monitoring an eventual cease-fire war between Iran and Iraq.

Why are Ethiopian troops and Somali Transitional Government forces chasing their opponents down to Kismayo?

The best case scenario would be a massacre.  The worst is still to come. 

The Somali Transitional Government, which is somehow, and for some reason, backed by the United Nations, says there are wanted international terror suspects with the Somali Islamic Court forces who have retreated to Kismayo…

The Associated Press reports today that “Somalia’s prime minister said three al-Qaida suspects wanted in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies were hiding [in Kismayo].  Somali troops, supported by Ethiopian tanks and MiG fighter jets, attacked front-line forces of the Islamic group in southern Somalia. Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said they would ‘capture or kill’ the terror suspects.  Thousands of residents fled the fertile agricultural area before the battle, carrying blankets, food and water as they headed toward the Kenyan border, 100 miles to the south.  Gedii said Islamic militants in Kismayo, Somalia’s third-largest city, were sheltering alleged bombers Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and Abu Taha al-Sudani. The bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed more than 250 people.

“Somalia’s interim government and its Ethiopian allies have long accused Islamic militias of harboring al-Qaida, and the U.S. government has said the 1998 bombers have become leaders in the Islamic movement in Africa.  ‘We would like to capture or kill these guys at any cost,’ Prime Minister Gedi told the AP. ‘They are the root of the problem.’  The Islamic group denies having links to al-Qaida.  In the past 10 days, Islamic fighters have been forced from the capital, Mogadishu, and other key towns in the face of attacks led by Ethiopia.  Gedi said he spoke Sunday to the U.S. ambassador in Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, about sealing the Kenyan border with Somalia to prevent the three terror suspects from escaping.  ‘If we capture them alive we will hand them over to the United States,’ Gedi said. ‘We know they are in Kismayo.’

“The U.S. government has a counterterrorism task force based in neighboring Djibouti and has been training Kenyan and Ethiopian forces to protect their borders. The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet also has a maritime task force patrolling international waters off the Somali coast, which helps prevent terrorists from launching attacks or transporting personnel, weapons or other material, said fleet spokesman Commander Kevin Aandahl.

“The military advance marked a stunning turnaround for Somalia’s government, which just weeks ago could barely control one town – its base of Baidoa – while the Council of Islamic Courts controlled the capital and much of southern Somalia.  The Council of Islamic Courts, the umbrella group for the Islamic movement that ruled Mogadishu for six months, wants to transform Somalia into a strict Islamic state.  Islamic officials said they still had fighters in the capital and were ready for warfare…Some Mogadishu residents also feared the return of warlords who were the city’s rulers, judges, jailers and executioners before the Islamic Courts drove them out.  Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, one of those warlords, has already returned – and he warned the Somali government’s control over Mogadishu was an illusion.  ‘If Ethiopian forces pull out tomorrow, (the Islamists) will come back the following day. I guarantee you,’ said Afrah, who said he had 1,500 militiamen under his control.  He said he was convinced the Islamists were still hiding in Mogadishu and would strike with ‘urban guerrilla warfare – land mines, explosives. People will live in terror and fear’.”

Just in case you were wondering, here is the UN position on Saddam’s execution

The UN is against the death penalty but understands desire for justice in Hussein case – according to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ashraf Qazi (of Pakistan) — who was presumably not present at the hanging. In a statement dated 30 December 2006, and published on its News Centre website, the UN writes: “Reacting to the imposition of the death sentence against Saddam Hussein, who ruled Iraq with terror for nearly a quarter of a century until his ouster in 2003, the senior United Nations envoy there voiced understanding about the desire for justice among many people but reiterated the world body’s longstanding opposition to capital punishment.  ‘The United Nations stands firmly against impunity, and understands the desire for justice felt by the many Iraqis,’ Special Representative Ashraf Qazi said through a spokesman.  ‘Based on the principle of respect for the right to life, however, the United Nations remains opposed to capital punishment, even in the case of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.’

Robert Fisk today — Why didn’t he write this earlier?

In today’s edition of the British newspaper Independent, Robert Fisk writes “He takes his secrets to the grave. Our complicity dies with him: How the West armed Saddam, fed him intelligence on his ‘enemies’, equipped him for atrocities – and then made sure he wouldn’t squeal
“We’ve shut him up. The moment Saddam’s hooded executioner pulled the lever of the trapdoor in Baghdad yesterday morning, Washington’s secrets were safe. The shameless, outrageous, covert military support which the United States – and Britain – gave to Saddam for more than a decade remains the one terrible story which our presidents and prime ministers do not want the world to remember.  And now Saddam, who knew the full extent of that Western support – given to him while he was perpetrating some of the worst atrocities since the Second World War – is dead.
Gone is the man who personally received the CIA’s help in destroying the Iraqi communist party. After Saddam seized power, US intelligence gave his minions the home addresses of communists in Baghdad and other cities in an effort to destroy the Soviet Union’s influence in Iraq. Saddam’s mukhabarat visited every home, arrested the occupants and their families, and butchered the lot. Public hanging was for plotters; the communists, their wives and children, were given special treatment – extreme torture before execution at Abu Ghraib.
There is growing evidence across the Arab world that Saddam held a series of meetings with senior American officials prior to his invasion of Iran in 1980 – both he and the US administration believed that the Islamic Republic would collapse if Saddam sent his legions across the border – and the Pentagon was instructed to assist Iraq’s military machine by providing intelligence on the Iranian order of battle.

One frosty day in 1987, not far from Cologne, I met the German arms dealer who initiated those first direct contacts between Washington and Baghdad – at America’s request. [Who is this?  Why won’t Robert Fisk tell?  How was he put in touch with this man?  Why did the U.S. Pentagon give this man the satellite photos of Iranian troop positions?]
‘Mr Fisk… at the very beginning of the war [n.b. the Iran-Iraq war], in September of 1980, I was invited to go to the Pentagon,’ he said. ‘There I was handed the very latest US satellite photographs of the Iranian front lines. You could see everything on the pictures. There were the Iranian gun emplacements in Abadan and behind Khorramshahr, the lines of trenches on the eastern side of the Karun river, the tank revetments – thousands of them – all the way up the Iranian side of the border towards Kurdistan. No army could want more than this. And I travelled with these maps from Washington by air to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt on Iraqi Airways straight to Baghdad. The Iraqis were very, very grateful!’

I was with Saddam’s forward commandos at the time, under Iranian shellfire, noting how the Iraqi forces aligned their artillery positions far back from the battle front with detailed maps of the Iranian lines. Their shelling against Iran outside Basra allowed the first Iraqi tanks to cross the Karun within a week. The commander of that tank unit cheerfully refused to tell me how he had managed to choose the one river crossing undefended by Iranian armour. Two years ago, we met again, in Amman and his junior officers called him ‘General’ – the rank awarded him by Saddam after that tank attack east of Basra, courtesy of Washington’s intelligence information.

Iran’s official history of the eight-year war with Iraq states that Saddam first used chemical weapons against it on 13 January 1981. AP’s correspondent in Baghdad, Mohamed Salaam, was taken to see the scene of an Iraqi military victory east of Basra. ‘We started counting – we walked miles and miles in this fucking desert, just counting,’ he said. ‘We got to 700 and got muddled and had to start counting again … The Iraqis had used, for the first time, a combination – the nerve gas would paralyse their bodies … the mustard gas would drown them in their own lungs. That’s why they spat blood.’

At the time, the Iranians claimed that this terrible cocktail had been given to Saddam by the US. Washington denied this. But the Iranians were right. The lengthy negotiations which led to America’s complicity in this atrocity remain secret – Donald Rumsfeld was one of President Ronald Reagan’s point-men at this period – although Saddam undoubtedly knew every detail. But a largely unreported document, ‘United States Chemical and Biological Warfare-related Dual-use exports to Iraq and their possible impact on the Health Consequences of the Persian Gulf War’, stated that prior to 1985 and afterwards, US companies had sent government-approved shipments of biological agents to Iraq. These included Bacillus anthracis, which produces anthrax, and Escherichia coli (E. coli). That Senate report concluded that: ‘The United States provided the Government of Iraq with “dual use” licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-systems programs, including … chemical warfare agent production facility plant and technical drawings, chemical warfare filling equipment.’

Nor was the Pentagon unaware of the extent of Iraqi use of chemical weapons. In 1988, for example, Saddam gave his personal permission for Lt-Col Rick Francona, a US defence intelligence officer – one of 60 American officers who were secretly providing members of the Iraqi general staff with detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning and bomb damage assessments – to visit the Fao peninsula after Iraqi forces had recaptured the town from the Iranians.

He reported back to Washington that the Iraqis had used chemical weapons to achieve their victory. The senior defence intelligence officer at the time, Col Walter Lang, later said that the use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis ‘was not a matter of deep strategic concern’.  I saw the results, however. On a long military hospital train back to Tehran from the battle front, I found hundreds of Iranian soldiers coughing blood and mucus from their lungs – the very carriages stank so much of gas that I had to open the windows – and their arms and faces were covered with boils. Later, new bubbles of skin appeared on top of their original boils. Many were fearfully burnt. These same gases were later used on the Kurds of Halabja. No wonder that Saddam was primarily tried in Baghdad for the slaughter of Shia villagers, not for his war crimes against Iran. [What?]

We still don’t know – and with Saddam’s execution we will probably never know – the extent of US credits to Iraq, which began in 1982. The initial tranche, the sum of which was spent on the purchase of American weapons from Jordan and Kuwait, came to $300m.  By 1987, Saddam was being promised $1bn in credit.  By 1990, just before Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, annual trade between Iraq and the US had grown to $3.5bn a year.

Pressed by Saddam’s foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, to continue US credits, James Baker then Secretary of State, but the same James Baker who has just produced a report intended to drag George Bush from the catastrophe of present- day Iraq – pushed for new guarantees worth $1bn from the US.

In 1989, Britain, which had been giving its own covert military assistance to Saddam guaranteed £250m to Iraq shortly after the arrest of Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft in Baghdad. Bazoft, who had been investigating an explosion at a factory at Hilla which was using the very chemical components sent by the US, was later hanged. Within a month of Bazoft’s arrest William Waldegrave, then a Foreign Office minister, said: ‘I doubt if there is any future market of such a scale anywhere where the UK is potentially so well-placed if we play our diplomatic hand correctly… A few more Bazofts or another bout of internal oppression would make it more difficult.

Even more repulsive were the remarks of the then Deputy Prime Minister, Geoffrey Howe, on relaxing controls on British arms sales to Iraq. He kept this secret, he wrote, because ‘it would look very cynical if, so soon after expressing outrage about the treatment of the Kurds, we adopt a more flexible approach to arms sales’.

Saddam knew, too, the secrets of the attack on the USS Stark when, on 17 May 1987, an Iraqi jet launched a missile attack on the American frigate, killing more than a sixth of the crew and almost sinking the vessel. The US accepted Saddam’s excuse that the ship was mistaken for an Iranian vessel and allowed Saddam to refuse their request to interview the Iraqi pilot.

The whole truth died with Saddam Hussein in the Baghdad execution chamber yesterday. Many in Washington and London must have sighed with relief that the old man had been silenced for ever”.

I wrote about this in yesterday’s posting — (the expression, I mean)

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting today from Iraq that hundreds are flocking to see Saddam’s gravesite near his hometown of Tikrit.  One AP story has this: “Mohammed Natiq, a 24-year-old college student, said ‘the path of Arab nationalism must inevitably be paved with blood…God has decided that Saddam Hussein should have such an end, but his march and the course which he followed will not end,’ Natiq said.”

No, the mindset is not the expression of some defective culture, or religion, or genes, or DNA — it’s the product of decades, more than a century of decades, of being lied to, and dismissed, and oppressed.  

The license plates of the U.S. State of Vermont proclaim “Live free or die!”, so why should we expect anybody in the Middle East to believe something else?

Lawrence of Arabia lied to the Arabs, when he promised them independence if they fought with the British against the Ottoman Turks — he didn’t mean to lie, and he felt guilty about it to the end of his days.  But his bosses didn’t care.  They had other more strategic considerations.  The British were obsessed and annoyed by the French (and vice versa), and they tried to out-manoeuver and use each other whenever possible, but both were mistrustful of the Russians, and all of them were opposed to the Ottoman Turks who had ruled the Middle East for five hundred years. 

The Jewish representations, too, were used (London tried to play other diaspora organizations against the World Zionist Organization, for example), but the Jews used the Allied and Axis Powers back, with a vengeance. 

But, instead of finding any common cause with the Arabs, the Jewish leadership by-and-large despised the Arabs, and dismissed them, and dispossessed them, and continue to take pleasure in any small victory over Arabs.

The League of Nations was a shameless clearinghouse for colonialist ambitions of the victorious (over the Ottomans) Western European powers, and the United Nations simply took over the dossier, without ever solving the Middle East problems to this very day. 

UN General Assembly Resolution 181 was a legitimate disposal of the British Mandate of Palestine under what is called “international law” (the Arab delegations who were able to participate were out-voted and out-manoeuvered, but that’s democracy, isn’t it?). 

But, UN GA Resolution 181, adopted on 29 November 1947, authorized the partition of the former British Mandate of Palestine (the British didn’t want the hassle any more, and so just washed their hands of it and left) into a Jewish State and an “Arab” State, with economic union, and a “Special International Regime” (under UN rule at the beginning) for the city of Jerusalem. 

OK, Resolution 181 envisaged  “responsibilities” for the Trusteeship Council in the Partition Plan, but that never happened.

The General Assembly also requested the UN Security Council to take the necessary measures to implement the Partition Plan, and to determine as a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression any attempt to alter by force the settlement envisaged in the Partition Plan.

Israel was proclaimed as the British pulled out, overnight, on 14-15 May 1948, but the “Arab” State of, or in, Palestine has not yet come into existence, despite many lost opportunites — lost not only by the Palestinians, as so many like to say, but also by Israel, by the United Nations, by the West, and by the rest of the world. 

All could have helped, but didn’t.

Let us also not forget that Israel was admitted as a full Member State in the United Nations in relatively short order, while Jordan (which had occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem) was not admitted until a Cold War package deal was concluded in 1955 – the Soviet Union said it believed that Jordan was just a British puppet.  This inequality in status at the United Nations also had a very negative impact on any well-meaning international attempts to reach a negotiated solution in this period.

Found on Col. Pat Lang’s blog — Al-Jazeera took a poll on the execution: Poll at Al-Jazeera:

“Should Saddam Hussein have been hanged?”

A. Yes 41.0%
B. No 43.2%
C. I don’t know 15.8%

Number of Pollers: 23013
Close Date: 7/1/2007

Also posted on Col. Lang’s blog: “…you have to admire the fact he didn’t repent of his megalomania, saying to the hangman, ‘Iraq is nothing without me.’  But he also was a skillful ruler and a legitimate one, as you pointed out in your briefing to the White House in late 1990 or early 1991. He had an extraordinary insight into his people –knowing when to massacre a section of a tribe or instead, build it a whole new sewage system and a string of free clinics.  Why demonize? Think of Somoza or the shah or Trujillo or the whole awfully bloody bunch of s—s we have used to advance our ends in the world. We did after all back Stalin and lied for years to the public about his actions and character. Amazing.” a comment by Richard Sale …

Let’s not forget Farzad Barzoft, journalist, hung in Iraq on 15 March 1990 for trying to report on possible Iraqi WMD activities – or Shlomo Argov

Farzad Barzoft was hanged on Saddam’s orders after a phony confession of spying extorted by torture, and the promise of a pardon.  Let’s not forget, either, the assassination attempt on Shlomo Argov, the Israeli Ambassador in London in June 1982, that predictably led to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the expulsion of the PLO — Saddam wanted to punish the Palestinians for trying to mediate an end to the Iran-Iraq war.  The 148 men and boys of Dujail were a few of Saddam’s many victims.  We cannot forget other Iraqis, including the Kurds, or the Iranian casualties in the crazy, completly lunatic Iran-Iraq war that no one seriously tried to stop — American, and Western European, policy is over-digified by the use of a political-science-type term of “dual containment”, for what it meant, colloquially, was that neither side should be allowed to win, and what it meant practically was let both sides kill as many of the other as possible.

Today, Belgian politician (is he still Foreign Minister?) Louis Michel told the BBC that hanging Saddam was “barbaric”, and that his execution was totally contrary to European values.  (Louis Michel threw out a court case brought against Israel’s Ariel Sharon, under “universal jurisdiction” powers conferred by the UN Convention on Genocide, by Palestinian survivors of the 1982 massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps that took place almost under Sharon’s nose, and for which an Israeli judge found he had “personal responsibilty”.)

Not in any way am I saying that Iraqi or Iranian victims of Saddam’s rule are somehow less important, or less sympathetic, than foreign or Western-linked victims, but, for purposes of comparison and perspective, let us just recall the following:

On Farzad Barzoft (Iranian-born and British-accredited — Iraq’s two greatest historic enemies, in Iraqi eyes) : “Farzad Bazoft was a reporter who, on an invited trip to Iraq, went to a weapons plant in pursuit of a story of all his colleagues were chasing. There is no serious evidence that he was there for any other purpose. He made no secret of his intentions to his colleagues or his hosts. The Iraqi authorities produced no proof of espionage, other than ‘confessions’ clearly extracted from a man under intolerable pressure and fear for his life. They do not stand up to even cursory inspection.  He died a horrible death without a fair trial or appeal…The MPs who have used their privileged position to give substance to Iraqi propaganda in favour of this barbarity without any proof – Mr Rupert Allason, Conservative MP for Torbay, Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark, Conservative MP for Selly Oak, and most despicable of all, Mr Terry Dicks, Conservative MP for Hayes and Harlington (who made a public statement the day before Farzad’s execution that he ‘deserved to be hanged’ and thereby justified the savage act) – have demeaned their office and shamed themselves as responsible human beings. To dance on an innocent man’s grave in this way beggars civilised description. The newspapers that gave credence to their views are little better.  In any other country Farzad would be alive today to proclaim his innocence, to cross-examine witnesses through a lawyer of his own choice and then to appeal against any sentence. Instead he was denied all these rights and finally deprived of the right to life itself. Worse, in death he has had to suffer contemptible, unsupported innuendo to which he can no longer reply…The Farzad who was forced to ‘confess’ to spying after seven weeks incommunicado, the Farzad who was hustled out of a court a week ago without hearing his death sentence translated into English and who had still not been told that the sentence was confirmed when the British consul visited him on his last morning, was a fond, flawed and frightened human being.”,6903,958172,00.html

I was reminded, after a google search now, that Farzad Barzoft was hung in Abu Ghraib prison.  

There are reports claiming that Barzoft knew an Iraqi in London who was really a Mossad handler, but that does not necessarily mean he was spying (probably a lot of people, wittingly or unwittingly, know Mossad handlers), not does it constitute any kind of proof of anything.

I also recall that it was said that Saddam found Margaret Thatcher’s call for Barzoft’s releast to be imperious and insulting.  Barzoft was executed to show her! 

After the execution, Farzad Barzoft’s body was unceremoniously unloaded from the back of a truck and thrown over the wall into the British consular compound in Baghdad.  

On 18 May 2003, after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and occupation of Iraq, Farhad Bazoft’s former editor at the London Observer, Donald Trelford, wrote in the Observer:  “MInutes before his execution as a spy at 6.30am on Thursday 15 March 1990, Farzad Bazoft said to Robin Kealy, the British consul general in Baghdad: ‘I was just a journalist going after a scoop’…It was Farzad’s tragedy that he arrived in Iraq on the same day that a major explosion was reported at a military complex south of the capital. He was there as a freelance, invited by the Iraqi government to witness elections in Kurdistan. Although born in Iran, he had been invited to Iraq as a journalist five times before.  Like other journalists on the trip, he wanted to visit the site of the blast, in which 700 people were said to have died, to check if it was a nuclear accident. He got approval from the Iraqi Foreign Office, who said they would send him a car. When it didn’t show up, he arranged for a friend, the British nurse Daphne Parish, to drive him to the site, where he took soil samples outside the perimeter fence.  When he returned to Baghdad, he told fellow journalists about his finds – hardly the action of a spy – and tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade one of them to take them back to London for analysis. He was on his way home himself when he was arrested, held for six weeks in solitary confinement, then paraded before television cameras on 1 November, looking drugged and emaciated, to ‘confess’ to spying for Israel.  The Observer campaigned non-stop for his release. I saw the Iraqi ambassador several times, but it became clear that Farzad was being held by Saddam’s private security forces and lay beyond the reach of their Foreign Office – a fact later confirmed to me by their Deputy Foreign Minister on a visit to London. We were not allowed to send a lawyer to his trial; the lawyer appointed for him in Baghdad had one day’s notice and was not allowed to call witnesses, such as the other journalists on the trip, who had sworn statements on his behalf.  There was worldwide support for our campaign. Edward Heath and John Wakeham raised the case on visits to Baghdad. The European Union had planned a meeting for 17 March, at which they were expected to threaten to break off trade with Iraq; ironically, that may have hastened his death, for the execution was unexpectedly brought forward two days.  A plea on Farzad’s behalf by Margaret Thatcher may have been counter-productive, for the first words of the Iraqi Information Minister when he announced the execution were: ‘Thatcher wanted him alive. We sent him home in a box’.  Parts of the British press were not helpful. The Sunday Telegraph virtually accused me of murder for sending Farzad ‘into the slaughter-house’. Far from sending him – he was a freelance responding to a personal invitation – I didn’t even know he had gone until we heard of his arrest.  The Mail on Sunday said Farzad had been paid for spying on the Iraqi ‘super gun’ – a story shown later to have been based on forged documents. Rupert Allason, the Conservative MP, said Farzad was clearly a spy because the name of an Israeli businessman, Jacob Nimrodi, was found in his address book. Yet I had given Farzad this contact personally…Stories were leaked that Farzad had a criminal record and had contacts with Special Branch, which was formally denied by the Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd.
Donald Trelford was editor of The Observer when Farzad Bazoft was executed. He is now a writer and broadcaster and visiting professor in journalism studies at Sheffield University.,,958275,00.html

Another article also published on 18 May 2003 in the Observer proclaimed: Writer hanged by Iraq ‘no spy’.  Ed Vulliamy, reporting from Nasiriyah, Iraq, wrote: “Farzad Bazoft, the Observer journalist hanged on the orders of Saddam Hussein 13 years ago, was innocent, according to the man who arrested and interrogated him.  Kadem Askar, a former colonel in the Iraqi intelligence service, last night admitted he knew Bazoft was not a spy, as was alleged at the time by the Iraqis.  But he claimed he was powerless to intervene to save his life.  The reporter was executed on 15 March 1990, on the instructions of Saddam, he said.  The admission by Askar – whom The Observer traced to his house in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq – provides final proof that Bazoft’s family, friends and colleagues were right and that the reporter was innocent of the spying charges against him.  ‘My son was only doing his job,’ Farzad’s father, Sowaini, said last night. ‘He was not a spy. He was killed by a man who never had any regard for life or law. It is just a shame that the rest of the world took so long to wake up to that fact when they could have done something to my son’s life.’   Bazoft was arrested on Askar’s orders in September 1989, after photographing a military installation at which an explosion had occurred.  He was investigating reports that 700 people had been killed by the blast.  During his interrogation of Bazoft, in which the reporter was beaten, Askar said he discovered among his belongings 34 pictures of military installations on a roll of film.  ‘It was a dangerous thing to do, but I could see clearly from examining the film that Bazoft was not a spy. No spy would take such pictures.  It was obvious that he was just trying to get a story.  The things he shot were of no use to anyone; nowhere near as much use as what could have been got from any satellite picture.’  Askar – once a robust figure but now thin and haggard – lives in a relatively prosperous area of Nasiriyah.  ‘Bazoft was obviously innocent,’ he told The Observer.  ‘I could tell that he was simply chasing a story. And I submitted my report saying that.’  But orders came from Saddam Hussein that Bazoft was a spy for the Israelis and British.  ‘Once Saddam took that position, there was nothing I could do to help this young man.’  Askar was told the Bazoft case was his chance to leave the security services to return to the military – if he refrained from challenging Saddam.  ‘So I submitted my report after the single day of interrogation, and left it at that.  ‘I have bad feelings about it now, yes. These things hurt me, as a human being with children. I knew this man was innocent, and I feel bad that there was nothing I could do to help him.’,,958539,00.html

On Shlomo Argov: First, I am not compelled but I must say that I feel rather less sympathy, on anything other than a purely human level, for an Israeli diplomat whose first priority is to represent his country’s interest, right or wrong.  I did not know Shlomo Argov, and do not know if he truly had any interest in an eventual peace with the Palestinians — as some suggestions hint.  But, this man was a real fall guy.  The assassination attempt that made him an invalid for over two decades was not really aimed at him — it was more like throwing a bowling ball down the alley to take down a number of other pins.

Shlomo Argov was shot on Iraqi orders, in order to get back at Palestinians for trying to mediate an end to the Iran-Iraq war.  At a Non-Aligned meeting in Havana in June 1982, I was told by seething Iraqi diplomats that they were going to “punish” the Palestinians.  At the week-long conference in Havana, a Palestinian delegation led by Farouk Kaddoumi was trying to mediate.  The Cuban government was also sort of helping in the mediation, sort of. (Two pillars of the Non-Aligned Movement, Cuba and Yugoslavia, had a serious rivalry, and would undermine each other at every opportunity.  Yugoslavia, like most of the international community, was backing Iraq.  Cuba doesn’t like any Muslim theocrats, but they must have sensed that Saddam had curious support from the U.S. and other Nato powers and allies.)  Iraq thought that all Arabs had a duty to back them against Iran — and Iraq was furious that the P.L.O. had some kind of admiration for Iran’s Islamic Revolution (Arafat, the Fatah leader, was both denounced and admired within the P.L.O. for his advocacy of strict adherence to Muslim correct behavior.  He regularly ordered punishments for Fatah drinkers, and he was regularly disobeyed in this respect – there were few better consumers of Johnnie Walker Red or Black than they, at the time!)

There were, apparently, three persons in the hit-squad that shot Shlomo Argov; two bullets were fired, and only one hit him. 

By contrast, the very lamented Naim Khader, P.L.O. representative in Brussels, was shot by his assassins five times in the head, and once in the heart, as he left his home in the spring of 1981 — his crime was his painstaking work with the Europeans on an initiative to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Until today, I mistakenly thought Shlomo Argov was still alive, and being cared for in a long-care facility in Israel.  But, I have just found, through another google search, that he apparently died in late February 2003 – just before the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Kuwait that overthrew Saddam.   But, I’ve just gotten confirmation not only of his death but also of my fall-guy belief from an obituary I’ve just seen, published in the London newspaper, the Guardian, on 25 February 2003:  “Shlomo Argov, Israel’s former ambassador to Britain, has died from wounds he received nearly 21 years ago in the London terrorist attack that triggered Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. He was 73.  On June 3 1982, Argov was getting into his car after a banquet at the Dorchester hotel in Park lane when three gunmen from the Abu Nidal group appeared from nowhere; one of them, Hussein Ghassan Said, fired a single bullet straight through his head. The ambassador fell into a three-month coma, and somehow survived, but was paralysed and required constant medical attention for the rest of his life.   Not since the slaying of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 has a hit team made war such a likely outcome. At last, the then Israeli defence minister Ariel Sharon had a pretext for his long-planned campaign to eliminate the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and its headquarters in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. In his memoirs, Sharon admits that the Dorchester ambush was ‘merely the spark that lit the fuse’.  The next day, Israeli forces bombed PLO arms depots in Lebanon, Palestinian forces retaliated with cross-border Katyusha rocket salvos, and, barely 48 hours later, Israel launched its ill-fated Operation Peace For Galilee. At first, the invasion routed the enemy. But before long, Israelis were fighting in the streets of Beirut itself; and, as civilian casualties mounted, international opprobrium grew.  To make matters worse, within a year Israel faced an additional new foe on its northern border, the indigenous Shi’ite militia Hizbollah. Ultimately, Israeli troops found themselves mired in a foreign country for 18 years.  Precisely what motivated the Dorchester shooting remains a mystery. Far from being PLO agents, it appears that the Palestinian gunmen, eventually convicted, were next planning to kill Nabil Ramlawi, the PLO representative in London.  The terrorist organiser Abu Nidal (obituary, August 20 2002) [n.b. – he was killed in Iraq, and surely on Saddam’s orders] was clearly behind the attack – one of the assailants still incarcerated in Britain was his cousin, Marwan al-Banna.  By targeting Argov, wrote the author Samuel Katz, Abu Nidal wanted to ‘provoke an Israeli assault on Arafat’s fortress, and thereby weaken his two most bitter enemies’. But the terrorists’ Iraqi paymasters – the third of Argov’s would-be assassins, Nawaf al-Rosan, was a Baghdad intelligence colonel – also sought to embroil Israel in a war with Syria that would divert attention from their own reversals in the Iran-Iraq conflict.  Such nefarious international manoeuvres still sadly overshadow the story of a life cut down in its prime.  Argov’s former deputy, Victor Harel, called him a ‘diplomatic giant and perfectionist’. Another friend and colleague, Elyakim Rubinstein, now Israel’s attorney-general, described him as ‘among the most distinguished and impressive in the foreign service’.  Respected for his eloquence, frankness and calm sense of purpose – and a brilliant linguist at ease in English, Spanish or Hebrew – Argov was often cited as a future peacemaker.  In a rare moment of lucidity during two decades as a bed-bound invalid, he lambasted the invasion of Lebanon triggered by the attempt on his life. ‘Israel cannot get entangled in experiments or hopeless military adventures,’ he said in July 1983.  ‘If those who initiated this war in Lebanon had envisioned the scope of this adventure, it could have saved the lives of hundreds of our best young people.’  Argov was born into a family that had lived in Jerusalem for six generations. He took a BA in political science at Georgetown University, Washington, after serving in the Israel defence forces from 1947 to 1950. He also worked part-time at the Israeli embassy in Washington, where he met his future wife, Hava. The couple honeymooned in Scotland in 1953, and maintained a love for the British way of life.  Hava nursed Shlomo during his long sojourn at the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, but predeceased him last year… Putting the case for his country regularly involved Argov in controversy: shortly before he was shot, he was compelled to deny reports that Israel had supplied arms to Argentina during the Falklands conflict. [He published a] collection of his speeches and writings, An Ambassador Speaks Out (1983). Along with the numerous communal lodges and Israeli academic fellowships named in his honour, the book speaks of a career that might have been…Shlomo Argov, diplomat, born December 14 1929; died February 23 2003.,3604,902219,00.html

Of course, not only Israelis were killed in Sharon’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon — unknown numbers (many thousands) of Lebanese and Palestinians also died, Yasser Arafat and his Fatah fighters — trapped by the IDF onslaught, but nonetheless accused of hiding behind civilian skirts –were expelled from Lebanon and left on a chartered Greek boat under UN flag, while an angry Palestinian reexamination of their national movement continues to this day.

Despite the harm Saddam thus inflicted on Palestinians — who also later numbered among the many casualties of Saddam’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and of Kuwaiti reprisals — many Palestinians were gladdened by Saddam’s defiance of UN Security Council orders to withdraw, and by his miserable couple of volleys of Scud missile attacks (39 Scud missiles, to be precise, according to Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, quoted in today’s Jerusalem Post) that sowed terror and reinforced strongly-held Jewish convictions — that should always have been in the Palestinian interest to dissipate (though the Palestinians have no other responsibility) — that the gas chambers of World War II are never felt to be very far away, in Israel.  (Saddam ordered Scud attacks on Saudi Arabia, too.)

Saddam’s next to last words: “Palestine is Arab!”

His last words, apparently in a mocking tone, the beginning of a response to a taunt from one of his execution’s witnesses: “Muqtada al-Sadr…”

From Morocco to the Straits of Homuz, Arab countries are full of guys trained, like Saddam Hussein, that the only way to cover their backs and to impose control in their countries is to behave like cruel but cartoon-like bullies.  The imposition of democracy, whatever that is conceived to mean, is not going to change this now. 

Someone I once loved told me about his military training, with other Palestinian volunteers, in Iraq — which he said was harder than any other they endured — in Algiers, or even in the Soviet Union.  In Iraq, he said, the Palestinians were ordered to take off their shirts and crawl in desert heat over a rock-strewn landscape, shredding their flesh, because, they were told, “The path to Palestine is paved with blood“. 

Palestinian blood, of course, and Israeli blood, but not Iraqi.  We have been reminded, in the impressive obituary published today in The Times of London, that Iraq did not commit its forces in Jordan to interfere in King Hussein’s bloody “Black September” repression against Fatah fighters: “While the Baathists had denounced Qasim for his refusal to unite Iraq with Egypt, they now revealed themselves as even more narrowly jealous of Iraq’s sovereignty than Qasim had been. Their forces along the Jordanian border with Israel refused to help the Palestinians in their war with King Hussein in 1970, and they became fiercely hostile to Syria, ruled by another wing of the Baath party.”,,3-2523974_1,00.html

(Iraqi forces also did not do much of anything useful in the 1948 war, either — but this cannot be pinned on Saddam.)

Robert Fisk, writing in the Independent today, says “It was my colleague, Tom Friedman – now a messianic columnist for The New York Times – who perfectly caught Saddam’s character just before the 2003 invasion: Saddam was, he wrote, ‘part Don Corleone, part Donald Duck’-. And, in this unique definition, Friedman caught the horror of all dictators; their sadistic attraction and the grotesque, unbelievable nature of their barbarity.”

Fisk also writes: “But history will record that the Arabs and other Muslims and, indeed, many millions in the West, will ask another question this weekend, a question that will not be posed in other Western newspapers because it is not the narrative laid down for us by our presidents and prime ministers – what about the other guilty men?  No, Tony Blair is not Saddam. We don’t gas our enemies. George W Bush is not Saddam. He didn’t invade Iran or Kuwait. He only invaded Iraq. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead – and thousands of Western troops are dead – because Messrs Bush and Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister went to war in 2003 on a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we used, with great brutality.  In the aftermath of the international crimes against humanity of 2001 we have tortured, we have murdered, we have brutalised and killed the innocent – we have even added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam’s shame at Abu Ghraib – and yet we are supposed to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created.  Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to the deaths of a million and a half souls? And who sold him the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds? We did. No wonder the Americans, who controlled Saddam’s weird trial, forbad any mention of this, his most obscene atrocity, in the charges against him. Could he not have been handed over to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose our culpability.  And the mass killings we perpetrated in 2003 with our depleted uranium shells and our “bunker buster” bombs and our phosphorous, the murderous post-invasion sieges of Fallujah and Najaf, the hell-disaster of anarchy we unleashed on the Iraqi population in the aftermath of our “victory” – our “mission accomplished” – who will be found guilty of this? Such expiation as we might expect will come, no doubt, in the self-serving memoirs of Blair and Bush, written in comfortable and wealthy retirement…”

Full of fury, and regret, and pity (none of which he feels alone), Fisk addss: “I have catalogued his monstrous crimes over the years. I have talked to the Kurdish survivors of Halabja and the Shia who rose up against the dictator at our request in 1991 and who were betrayed by us – and whose comrades, in their tens of thousands, along with their wives, were hanged like thrushes by Saddam’s executioners.  I have walked round the execution chamber of Abu Ghraib – only months, it later transpired, after we had been using the same prison for a few tortures and killings of our own – and I have watched Iraqis pull thousands of their dead relatives from the mass graves of Hilla. One of them has a newly-inserted artificial hip and a medical identification number on his arm. He had been taken directly from hospital to his place of execution. Like Donald Rumsfeld, I have even shaken the dictator’s soft, damp hand…” 

Comments from most-admired bloggers:

Angry Arab wrote on Friday 29 Dec 2006: “The trial was in fact as cartoonish and as politically managed as trials in neighboring Arab countries. From the changes of the judge (and whatever happened to that judge who went missing as soon as he said in “court” that he does not consider Saddam to be a tyrant?), to the selection of the crimes–clearly intending to spare Gulf countries, Europe, and US embarrassment from their association with the crimes of Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war years. That was why Dujayl–of all his crimes–was chosen. And notice that the Anfal trial was rushed in order to not link it to his other crimes during the time…I am not happy with the coverage that I am watching on AlJazeera now. It is way too somber and way too melancholic, and they ran non-stop a statement by Saddam’s nephew, all day long, just as AlArabiyya coverage is way to celebratory and fake in trying to deny the sectarian undertones of the perception of the execution (that is perceived of an act by Kurdish and Shi`ite militias (backed by US) against a “Sunni”. Is it not ironical that Al-Arabiya was trolling out Shi`ite voices to legitimize the execution on the same day that a senior Wahhabi cleric in Saudi Arabia officially declared the infidelity of Shi`ites? AlJazeera needs to add footage and coverage of Saddam’s crimes… The contemporary history of Iraq will continue to be bloody. I once asked my professor, Hanna Batatu (search the archives of this site for my entry on his great book on Iraq) as to why he was late in producing his book on Iraq. He told me that when he finished his dissertation, he was ready to turn it into a book. But the bloodshed of the early 1960s, and the hanging of communists from electricity poles by Ba`thists, bitterly distressed him. He could not come back to his notes, he told me.” 

Juan Cole goes on to write that Saddam had CIA backing in his 1959 attempt to assassinate Abdul Karim Kassim, an Iraqi military officer who led Iraq after overthrowing the British-installed Hashemite monarch, and had subsequently withdrew from the U.S.-organized anti-communist Baghdad Pact and started to implement some ideas on land reform.  Saddam also had CIA support in his subsequent exile in Cairo, Cole writes, ading that there is evidence of substantial American support for the Baath party coup that overthrew Kassim.  The U.S. then supported the Baath party civilian coup that overthrew Kassim’s successor, and installed Ahmad Hassan Al-Bakr and his cousin, Saddam Hussein.  Because they developed good relations with the Soviet Union, Cole writes, Nixon and Kissinger supported the Shah of Iran’s efforts (with CIA support) to use the Kurds against the Iraqi Baath leadership; when the Shah changed his mind, and abandoned the Kurds, Saddam then moved against them, Cole says.  The Reagan administration then gave Saddam “important diplomatic encouragement” from late 1983, Cole writes, “especially after the US faced attacks from radicalized Shiites in Lebanon linked to Iran, and from the Iraqi Da`wa Party, which engaged in terrorism against the US and French embassies in Kuwait”.

Here, Juan Cole pays homage to George Washington University’s National Security Archives compilation of released documents, entitled Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984, which was edited by Joyce Battle (and dated February 25, 2003): “The Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) was one of a series of crises during an era of upheaval in the Middle East…The war followed months of rising tension between the Iranian Islamic republic and secular nationalist Iraq. In mid-September 1980 Iraq attacked, in the mistaken belief that Iranian political disarray would guarantee a quick victory.  The international community responded with U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire and for all member states to refrain from actions contributing in any way to the conflict’s continuation…The U.S. had already ended, when the shah fell, previously massive military sales to Iran. In 1980 the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Iran because of the Tehran embassy hostage crisis; Iraq had broken off ties with the U.S. during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.  The U.S. was officially neutral regarding the Iran-Iraq war, and claimed that it armed neither side. Iran depended on U.S.-origin weapons, however, and sought them from Israel, Europe, Asia, and South America. Iraq started the war with a large Soviet-supplied arsenal, but needed additional weaponry as the conflict wore on…Initially, Iraq advanced far into Iranian territory, but was driven back within months. By mid-1982, Iraq was on the defensive against Iranian human-wave attacks. The U.S., having decided that an Iranian victory would not serve its interests, began supporting Iraq: measures already underway to upgrade U.S.-Iraq relations were accelerated, high-level officials exchanged visits, and in February 1982 the State Department removed Iraq from its list of states supporting international terrorism. (It had been included several years earlier because of ties with several Palestinian nationalist groups, not Islamicists sharing the worldview of al-Qaeda. Activism by Iraq’s main Shiite Islamicist opposition group, al-Dawa, was a major factor precipitating the war — stirred by Iran’s Islamic revolution, its endeavors included the attempted assassination of Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz.)  Prolonging the war was phenomenally expensive. Iraq received massive external financial support from the Gulf states, and assistance through loan programs from the U.S. The White House and State Department pressured the Export-Import Bank to provide Iraq with financing, to enhance its credit standing and enable it to obtain loans from other international financial institutions. The U.S. Agriculture Department provided taxpayer-guaranteed loans for purchases of American commodities, to the satisfaction of U.S. grain exporters.  The U.S. restored formal relations with Iraq in November 1984, but the U.S. had begun, several years earlier, to provide it with intelligence and military support (in secret and contrary to this country’s official neutrality) in accordance with policy directives from President Ronald Reagan. These were prepared pursuant to his March 1982 National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM 4-82) asking for a review of U.S. policy toward the Middle East.  Prolonging the war was phenomenally expensive. Iraq received massive external financial support from the Gulf states, and assistance through loan programs from the U.S. The White House and State Department pressured the Export-Import Bank to provide Iraq with financing, to enhance its credit standing and enable it to obtain loans from other international financial institutions. The U.S. Agriculture Department provided taxpayer-guaranteed loans for purchases of American commodities, to the satisfaction of U.S. grain exporters.  The U.S. restored formal relations with Iraq in November 1984, but the U.S. had begun, several years earlier, to provide it with intelligence and military support (in secret and contrary to this country’s official neutrality) in accordance with policy directives from President Ronald Reagan. These were prepared pursuant to his March 1982 National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM 4-82) asking for a review of U.S. policy toward the Middle East.”

Then, Juan Cole continues on his blog: “The Reagan administration worked behind the scenes [at the United Nations — and everyone went along with this, I can attest] to foil Iran’s motion of censure against Iraq for using chemical weapons. 

Cole goes on, quoting from one of his earlier articles: “As far as possible, [then-U.S. Secretary of State George] Shultz wanted to weasel out of joining such a U.N. condemnation of Iraq. He wrote in a cable that the U.S. delegation to the U.N. should work to develop general Western position in support of a motion to take “no decision” on Iranian draft resolution on use of chemical weapons by Iraq. If such a motion gets reasonable and broad support and sponsorship, USDEL should vote in favor. Failing Western support for “no decision,” USDEL should abstain.’ … Shultz also wanted to throw up smokescreens to take the edge off the Iranian motion, arguing that the U.N. Human Rights Commission was ‘an inappropriate forum’ for consideration of chemical weapons, and stressing that loss of life owing to Iraq’s use of chemicals was ‘only a part’ of the carnage that ensued from a deplorable war. A more lukewarm approach to chemical weapons use by a rogue regime (which referred to the weapons as an “insecticide” for enemy “insects”) could not be imagined. In the end, the U.N. resolution condemned the use of chemical weapons but did not name Iraq directly as a perpetrator.” 

Then, Juan Cole’s post today continues: “After the Gulf War of 1991, when Shiites and Kurds rose up against Saddam Hussein, the Bush senior administration sat back and allowed the Baathists to fly helicopter gunships and to massively repress the uprising. President GHW Bush had called on Iraqis to rise up against their dictator, but when they did so he left them in the lurch. This inaction, deriving from a fear that a Shiite-dominated Iraq would ally with Tehran, allowed Saddam to remain in power until 2003.” 

From Juan Cole’s Informed Comment(12/30/2006 06:30:00 AM) – For Whom the Bell Tolls: Top Ten Ways the US Enabled Saddam Hussein: “The old monster swung from the gallows this morning at 6 am Baghdad time. His Shiite executioners danced around his body.  Saddam Hussain was one of the 20th century’s most notorious tyrants, though the death toll he racked up is probably exaggerated by his critics. The reality was bad enough.  The tendency to treat Saddam and Iraq in a historical vacuum, and in isolation from the superpowers, however, has hidden from Americans their own culpability in the horror show that has been Iraq for the past few decades. Initially, the US used the Baath Party as a nationalist foil to the Communists. Then Washington used it against Iran. The welfare of Iraqis themselves appears to have been on no one’s mind, either in Washington or in Baghdad…”

In a separate article on (you have to get through the annoying ad first), Juan Cole writes: “The political ineptitude of the tribunal, from start to finish, was astonishing. The United States and its Iraqi allies basically gave Saddam a platform on which to make himself a martyr to Iraqi unity and independence — even if by unity and independence Saddam was really appealing to Sunnis’ nostalgia for their days of hegemony.   In his farewell address, however, Saddam could not help departing from his national-unity script to take a few last shots at his ethnic rivals. Despite some smarmy language urging Iraqis not to hate the Americans, Saddam denounced the “invaders” and “Persians” who had come into Iraq. The invaders are the American army, and the Persians are code not just for Iranian agents but for Iraqi Shiites, whom many Sunni Arabs view as having Iranian antecedents and as not really Iraqi or Arab. It was such attitudes that led to slaughters like that at Dujail.  In his death, as in his life, Saddam Hussein is managing to divide Iraqis and condemn them to further violence and brutality. But the Americans and the Shiite- and Kurd-dominated government bear some blame for the way they botched his trial and gave him this last opportunity to play the spoiler.”

Truly wishy-washy editorial on Somalia war from The Christian Science Monitor

In Friday’s Christian Science Monitor, a commentary on Why the Somalia war unsettles the world - The Monitor’s View:
“How a war ends often depends on how it began. Take the one that boiled over in Somalia last week. Islamist forces attacked a legal government guarded by an invading Ethiopian army. Which side had just cause? The answer isn’t so easy.
Both the UN and the African Union, two international bodies that often intervene in sovereign nations, largely stood by, argued, or scratched their collective heads as the fighting in Somalia raged on. Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared a UN-backed intervention was not needed.
The Islamists, known as the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and made up of various religious clans in Somalia, declared “holy war” Dec. 20 and invited foreign jihadists to join in. Neighboring Ethiopia, a largely Christian nation, claimed the UIC was meddling with Ethiopia’s Muslim minority. And the US (supporting Ethiopia) claimed the Islamists were creating a terrorist state, using child soldiers, and committing Taliban-like abuses.
Thursday, with the Islamists having lost control of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, world diplomats were still trying to figure out how to apply lessons learned from conflicts of the past 15 years, such as Rwanda, Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, and the US military’s disastrous 1992 food mission in Somalia.
Each of those conflicts has added various types of rationale to an ongoing debate over how to justify outside military intervention in a troubled nation or between nations.
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in particular, led Mr. Annan to back “humanitarian intervention” if a state fails to protect its people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, or crimes against humanity.
Annan, who leaves office next week, won support for this so-called responsibility to protect at a 2005 world summit. It is perhaps the most significant legacy of his 10 years as UN chief.
But the move hardly settles the debate, especially as the international community has done little to stop the killings in Darfur. The world also has yet to come to terms with the Bush doctrine of preemptive intervention against terrorists or terrorist- supporting nations. The UN endorsed the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan to preempt another Al Qaeda-led attack on the US. But it didn’t back the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
Ethiopia preemptively moved to protect a Somali government recognized by most nations but besieged by the Islamist forces. It had the tacit approval of many African and Western nations. But not the UN.
The Islamists, on the other hand, had temporarily brought order to the capital and other parts of Somalia after 15 years of no effective central government and chaos under competing warlords. They also won support from many nations.
This conflict exposes the difficulty in defining general principles and thresholds to justify outside intervention while also contending with the self-interests of UN member states. Even if a need for intervention is clear, as with Darfur, finding a military force to do it isn’t easy. And unintended consequences, as with Iraq’s civil war, can result.
Successful interventions by the UN and others have set the groundwork for deciding future interventions. But the Somalia war shows more work still needs to be done.”

Saddam’s Lawyer appeals to UN Secretary-General to help prevent hand-over for execution

The Associated Press is reporting from Baghdad that “Saddam Hussein’s chief lawyer implored world leaders on Thursday to prevent the United States from handing over the ousted leader to Iraqi authorities for execution, saying he should enjoy protection from his enemies as a ‘prisoner of war.’  Iraq’s highest court on Tuesday rejected Saddam’s appeal against his conviction and death sentence for the killing of 148 Shiites in the northern city of Dujail in 1982.  The court said the former president should be hanged within 30 days.  ‘According to the international conventions, it is forbidden to hand a prisoner of war to his adversary,’ Saddam’s lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi said.  ‘I urge all the international and legal organizations, the United Nations secretary-general, the Arab League and all the leaders of the world to rapidly prevent the American administration from handing the president to the Iraqi authorities,’ he told The Associated Press.  An official close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said Saddam would remain in a U.S. military prison until he is handed over to Iraqi authorities on the day of his execution.  The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address the media.
…An official from Prime Minister al-Maliki’s Dawa Party, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said Wednesday that ‘the government wants Saddam executed as soon as possible.’   Issam Ghazzawi, another member of Saddam’s defense team, said there was no way of knowing when the former dictator’s execution would take place.  ‘The only person who can predict the execution of the president … is God and (President) Bush,’ Ghazzawi said Thursday.  Saddam is in the midst of another trial, charged with genocide and other crimes during a 1987-88 military crackdown on Kurds in northern Iraq. That trial was adjourned until Jan. 8, but experts have said the trial of Saddam’s co-defendants is likely to continue even if he is executed.”

Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency reported on Friday morning that: “In Baghdad, US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Garver said he could not comment on whether Saddam had been physically moved from the US base where he was being held by US troops on behalf of Iraq.  [But] ‘Legally he was turned over to the Iraqis more than a year ago,’ he said, reacting to reports that Saddam had been transferred to ‘Iraqi authority’ prior to his execution.  ‘At the request of the Iraqi government we have maintained him at a US facility for security reasons,’ Garver said.  Saddam, Barzan and Awad Ahmed al-Bandar al-Sadun, a former chief judge of the revolutionary court, were sentenced to death by hanging by the Iraqi High Tribunal for the massacre of 148 Shiite villagers from Dujail north of Baghdad after an assassination attempt there against the Iraqi leader in 1982.”  The AFP story also reported that “The US military has asked lawyers for Saddam Hussein to pick up the former Iraqi dictator’s personal effects in advance of his execution, one of his legal team has said.  Lead lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi told AFP, however, that he had not yet been informed that Saddam had been physically handed over by US forces to the Iraqi authorities charged with hanging him.  ‘The Americans called me and asked me to pick up the personal effects of the president and Barzan al-Tikriti,’ said Dulaimi Friday, referring to Saddam’s half brother who has also been sentenced to death.”

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that Saddam’s lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said “American officials had called him and asked him to authorize someone to receive Saddam’s personal belongings from the U.S. military prison where the ousted Iraqi leader is being held. Al-Dulaimi said he had not yet done that.
But he said, ‘This call means that they will hand him to the Iraqi authorities soon.’  Al-Dulaimi, speaking from Amman, Jordan, said he could not say when the handover or when Saddam’s expected execution would take place.
Saddam is being held at the American military prison known as Camp Cropper. U.S. and Iraqi authorities have said he must be handed over to Iraqi officials prior to his execution.”

To my mind, asking the lawyers to come to pick up Saddam’s personal effects would mean that Saddam had already been executed.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Canadian lawyer Louise Arbour — a former prosecutor for the International War Crimes trials for the Former Yugoslavia — said th ere were concerns about the “fairness” of Saddam’s trials, and called on the Iraqi government not to carry out the death sentence “precipitiously”, Reuters news agency is reporting from Switzerland:  “The UN human rights chief on Thursday called for restraint by Iraqi authorities over Saddam Hussein’s death sentence, saying there were concerns about the fairness of the original trial.  ‘The appeal judgment is a lengthy and complex decision that requires careful study,’ Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.  Arbour also said that under the terms of international agreements signed by Iraq Saddam had the right to appeal to ‘appropriate authorities’ for possible commutation or a pardon… ‘There were a number of concerns as to the fairness of the original trial, and there needs to be assurance that these issues have been comprehensively addressed. I call, therefore, on the Iraqi authorities not to act precipitately in seeking to execute the sentence in these cases,’ Arbour said.  She said Iraq and the international community had an interest in making sure the death sentence was imposed only after a trial and appeal seen as credible and impartial.  ‘That is especially so in a case as exceptional as this one,’ she added.”  ¨

But, Reuters reported, Iraqi Presidential spokesperson Hiwa Osman said that  “The president’s approval is not needed,” to carry out the death sentence. “The court’s decision is final.”

William Shawcross on Kofi Annan's term in office

The Washington Post today carries an opinion piece on Kofi Annan’s term of office by William Shawcross, British former journalist and author of The Quality of Mercy, a great book about the limitations and contradictions of the international humanitarian effort to help Cambodians, who fled to Thailand during the 1979 Vietnamese invasion, after suffering in isolation during the traumatic Khmer Rouge communitarian experiment, that followed the 1975 American pull-out from Viet Nam. 

William Shawcross’ most recent work, apparently, is “Allies — Why the West Had to Remove Saddam

The argument in this piece on Annan, however, is flawed — the failings of the United Nations are not only due to the Member States.  This is an easy answer, often given by top Annan aides (Mark Malloch Brown, Shashi Tharoor, Edward Mortimer, to name a few, who are responsible for William Shawcross’ access to Kofi Annan).  No, the UN failings are also the responsibility of UN officials, including Kofi Annan and his closest associates, and to the UN administration that manages, or mismanages, the Organization. 

Were the 20 UN staff members who were killed in the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 — sent there by Kofi Annan, who still mourns and deeply regrets their dying on his orders — were they really the best in the UN system, or is this just something we all say to pay tribute to their sacrifice? Did their terrible deaths really cripple the UN in Iraq — or was it the infighting in the UN secretariat afterwards that caused the problem?

Nevertheless, in the interest of seeing a fuller picture of the problems, here is today’s article in the Washington Post, “Annan and the U.N.’s Limits”: by William Shawcross (Thursday, December 28, 2006; Page A27):

“Kofi Annan deserves a good sendoff. For 10 years he has persevered with unfailing grace in what really is ‘a job from hell.’

“I am biased — I’ve admired Annan since the early 1990s, some years before he became secretary general of the United Nations. Like the U.S. government, I welcomed his replacing Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1996. Annan had been the one U.N. official brave enough to give Washington the green light to bomb the Serbs to the negotiating table in the summer of 1995. His intervention then was crucial. [n.b. – Kofi Annan would never have done this on his own authority – Boutros-Ghali would have to have approved]

“It is easy to forget now that Annan’s first five-year term was widely seen as a great success. He presented a wise, comissioning independent inquiries into the disasters of Rwanda and Srebrenica and accepting all criticism from them, including criticism of himself.

“Kofi Annan was (and is) pro-American, and he mended the United Nations’ relations with Congress. He persuaded international businesses to help promote development. He concentrated much attention on the ravages of HIV-AIDS.

“Not surprisingly, he was reelected by acclamation in the middle of 2001. But then Sept. 11 changed everything. As Annan himself said, the world entered the 21st century through a gate of fire. That fire still rages, especially in Iraq and other countries in the Middle East.

“Unlike Annan, I was and remain in favor of the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. But the Security Council was and remains divided on the whole Iraq issue. The United Nations being what it is, no secretary general could have ignored that division.

“Tragically for Annan and the United Nations, more than 20 of his best people were brutally murdered in Baghdad by al-Qaeda in August 2003. This assault, together with the political divisions, have crippled the United Nations in Iraq ever since. But Annan insisted that the United Nations help stage the successful January 2005 election in which so many millions of Iraqis voted freely for the first time in their lives.

“The U.N. role in Iraq has been further complicated, if not diminished, by the oil-for-food scandal. This was indeed a disaster; the secretariat was incompetent, a few officials behaved corruptly and the perversion of the program by Saddam Hussein (as Charles Duelfer showed in his magisterial Iraq Survey Group report) enabled the dictator to prop up the Iraqi economy in the last years of his misrule.

“But it is wrong to blame all this on Annan — members of the Security Council, particularly France, Russia and China, were all busily corrupting the program for their own ends. Even the United States and Britain turned a blind eye to sanctions-busting when it helped their ally Jordan.

“Annan tried hard to reform the U.N. system. He has had less success than he’d hoped. In the spring he devised a complicated reform plan that, though supported by John Bolton, then the U.S. ambassador, and agreed on by the Security Council, was scuttled at the last minute by the ‘Group of 77’ developing states. To put it crudely, too many ambassadors and their presidents were frightened of losing too many jobs for their ‘nieces’ in the cozy U.N. system. Annan was deeply disappointed. Blame the members, not him.

“Annan has worked endlessly on myriad, often unseen problems. Traveling with him to countries around the world, I was astonished at the number of international calls he had to take daily from leaders begging for help in settling disputes. He dealt with such requests in a calm and conscientious manner that inspired confidence and conciliation.

“Darfur has been an agony for Annan the past two years. I was with him in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in November; at a meeting of the Security Council’s ‘permanent five,’ he was desperate to get agreement to send a U.N. peacekeeping force into Darfur to stem the mass murders and ethnic cleansing promoted by the Sudanese government.

“After a long day of negotiations, hopes rose that Sudan had finally agreed to Annan’s plan, but it was a trick: Soon after the meeting, Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, announced that he would allow no such thing.

“The bottom line is that, like Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and all too many other leaders of member states, Bashir is a gangster and a murderer. It is not Annan’s fault that the world has failed to confront Bashir effectively — the truth is that he has far too much support, tacit if not overt, among African, Arab and other governments. It’s the same with Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and other despots.

“Millions of people around the world place hope in the United Nations. It all too often disappoints. It does do vital things, but there is much it cannot do, and it is stuffed with cronyism and hypocrisy. It reflects the horrors of the world, as well as trying to keep those horrors at bay. Annan has dealt with such problems with more skill, patience and decency than any recent secretary general. If he was unable to create the decent, reformed, efficient and humane organization he sought, that is because far too few of its members want any such thing.”