UN Security Council eases/removes financial sanctions imposed on Iraq because of its invasion of Kuwait

“Iraq has fulfilled all of its obligations”, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hosein Zeybari told the UN Security Council in New York just after it voted to remove financial and other sanctions imposed, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, following Iraq’s August 1990 of Kuwait.

[Iraq’s remaining obligations were placed, by the decision, under Chapter VI of the Charter…]

The UN said that the SC had unanimously adopted “resolution 2107 (2013), removing Iraq from its obligations under Chapter VII of the UN Charter concerning the return of Kuwaiti and third-State nationals or their remains and their property seized by Iraq’s former regime during its 1990 invasion of Kuwait”.

Middle East Monitor wrote here that “According to the UNSC resolution, Iraq has regained the international status it had before 1990”.

“Iraq is a rich country”, the Iraqi FM, and added that Iraq today is “a responsible and fully sovereign country”…

[Kuwait did not speak.]

Al-Arabiya reported here that “Iraq still needs to return missing property, national treasures and archives, as well as reparations for the invasion, in order to be embargo-free.  Iraq still owes around $11 billion to Kuwait. In total, Iraq was ordered by the U.N. to pay the Gulf country just over $52 billion. The debt is expected to be fully paid off by 2015…The resolution adopted Thursday calls on the Iraqi government to continue searching for more than 600 missing Kuwaitis and looted property but no longer allows for the measures to be enforced militarily”.

Still too much death in Afghanistan – New Dawn in Iraq

In today’s news:
Karzai says NATO still causes too many civilian deaths: “Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that NATO’s efforts to prevent civilian deaths during its operations are not enough because innocent people keep dying, as the military alliance continued its offensive in a key Taliban stronghold … Karzai said that NATO has made progress in reducing civilian casualties and air bombardments — which have been responsible for some of the largest incidents of civilian deaths … However, Karzai stressed that the effort is not sufficient. ‘We need to reach the point where there are no civilian casualties,” Karzai said. “Our effort and our criticism will continue until we reach that goal’.” See full report here.

Dutch government collapses over Afghanistan mission: The Dutch coalition government collapsed Saturday over whether to extend the country’s military mission in Afghanistan, leaving uncertain the future of its 1,600 soldiers fighting there. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announced that the second largest party in his three-party alliance is quitting … Balkenende made no mention of elections as he spoke to reporters after a 16-hour Cabinet meeting in The Hague that ended close to dawn. However, the resignation of the Labor Party — which has demanded the country stick to a scheduled withdrawal from Afghanistan — would leave his government with an unworkable majority, and political analysts said early elections appeared inevitable … Dutch soldiers have been deployed since 2006 in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan on a two-year stint that was extended until next August. Labor demanded that Dutch troops leave Uruzgan as scheduled. Balkenende’s Christian Democratic Alliance wanted to keep a trimmed down military presence in the restive province, where 21 soldiers have been killed. ‘A plan was agreed to when our soldiers went to Afghanistan’, said Labor Party leader Wouter Bos. ‘Our partners in the government didn’t want to stick to that plan, and on the basis of their refusal we have decided to resign from this government’. NATO recently sent a letter to the government asking if it would consider staying longer — a move that the Western alliance normally would do only if it had a clear signal of agreement. ‘The future of the mission of our soldiers in Afghanistan will now be in the hands of the new Cabinet’, said Deputy Defense Minister Jack de Vries” … Opinion polls suggest the Afghan war is deeply unpopular”. The full report is here.

New Name for War in Iraq: “The Obama administration has decided to give the war in Iraq a new name — ‘Operation New Dawn’ — to reflect the reduced role U.S. troops will play in securing the country this year as troop levels fall, according to a memo from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates [to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander for the region]. Since U.S. forces charged across the Kuwaiti border toward Baghdad in 2003, the war has been known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. The new name is scheduled to take effect in September, when U.S. troop levels are supposed to drop to about 50,000 … Such name changes are not unusual. The name of the 1991 Persian Gulf War changed as the mission changed, from Operation Desert Shield to Operation Desert Storm and then finally to Operation Southern Watch and Operation Northern Watch”. This report is published here

The Gates memo was first reported by ABC Television news, which posted it on its website — 17 Feb 2010 Request to change the name Operation Iraqi Freedom to Iraqi New Dawn: “… to take effect 1 Sept 2010 … Aligning the name change with the change of mission sends a strong signal that Operation IRAQI FREEDOM has ended and our forces are operating under a new mission. It also presents opportunities to synchronize strategic communication initiatives, reinforce our commitment to honor the Security Agreement, and recognize our evolving relationship with the Iraqi government”. The original memo is posted here.

Do legal memos on torture exonerate Private Graner and Lynndie England?

The Washington Post reports that the recent release of Justice Department [Office of Legal Affairs] memos [addressed to the CIA] authorizing the use of “harsh interrogation techniques” has given Army Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr and other soldiers [including Lynndie R. England] “new reason to argue that they were made scapegoats for policies approved at high levels. They also contend that the government’s refusal to acknowledge those polices when Graner and others were tried undermined their legal defenses. Graner remains locked up at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, about halfway through a 10-year prison sentence for detainee abuse, assault and dereliction of duty. His lawyer said this week that he is drafting appeals arguments centered largely on the revelations in the memos and a newly released congressional investigation into the interrogation practices … When the photos of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq surfaced in 2004, U.S. officials portrayed … Graner as the ringleader of a few low-ranking ‘bad apples’ who illegally put naked Iraqi detainees in painful positions, shackled them to cell doors with women’s underwear on their heads and menaced them with military dogs … Graner and other defendants — including Lynndie England, who was photographed holding a naked detainee by a leash — were blocked by military judges from calling senior U.S. officials to the stand at their trials in 2004 and 2005. The government would not acknowledge any policy or procedure that could have led to what the world saw in the photographs. Some of what the guards at Abu Ghraib did, such as throwing hooded detainees into walls, echoes tactics authorized in the Justice Department memos, such as ‘walling’, in which interrogators were allowed to push detainees in CIA custody into a flexible wall designed to make a loud noise … Charles Gittins, a Virginia lawyer who represents Graner, said he has been fuming since reading the memos. He said he has long believed that there was no way Graner and the other Army Reservists invented techniques such as stress positions, leashing and the use of dogs, and he says the documents confirmed his suspicions … Gittins said he hopes to convince the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces that top officials improperly influenced the court and kept evidence from the defense. According to the memos and congressional documents, U.S. officials reverse-engineered techniques from U.S. survival training courses designed to teach troops how to endure capture and interrogation. Justice and Defense department officials approved the use of dogs, nudity, stress positions, sleep deprivation and other techniques. Those tactics, according to the documents, were put into use at the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in the CIA’s secret prisons, and eventually were adopted in Afghanistan and Iraq after then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s approval was forwarded from officials at Guantanamo to Capt. Carolyn Wood, a military intelligence officer. She told investigators that she then sought approvals in Afghanistan for the tactics and brought them with her to Iraq and Abu Ghraib. Senior officers in Iraq also approved the methods there”.

Whatever the similarities — and there are many — the Washington Post article notes that “the Abu Ghraib photographs also depicted some actions, such as punching or stomping, that bear no relation to the techniques described in the memos, as well as others that were improvised by guards, such as forcing detainees to masturbate or to form human pyramids while naked”.

This article can be read in full here.

Some of the comments on this article argue that, regardless of orders emanating from above, the Army prison guards were nonetheless still guilty of abuse and torture: lrobby1 commented, for example, that “Private Graner was brutally sadistic toward the Iraqi detainees. There are videos on Google here that show him torturing prisoners. The other guards were also guilty of horrifically abusing military detainees and they should all be punished. Lawyers for the DOJ, including Alberto Gonzales, legitimized the torture of military detainees and provided justification for their abuse. But neither the legal memos nor the authorizations by Rumsfeld and others approved of urinating on prisoners, pulling out pubic and chest hairs, sexual molestation, electrocution, pyramiding detainees, sodomizing prisoners or dragging them naked on concrete floors … no one knows exactly how many people were disappeared into blacksites and ultimately killed. While I still believe that a thorough investigation of those involved in the authorization of torture should be conducted, lawyers should be disbarred and Bush Administration officials should be prosecuted, I also believe that Pvt. Graner and the other guards were justifiably punished for their own actions”.

New State Department appointment to work on closing Guantanamo detention facility – while detainees will apparently will remain at Baghram Airfield in Afghanistan, and in Iraq

The U.S. State Department announced yesterday that “In order to carry out President Obama’s commitment to close the detention facility at Guantanamo within one year, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has determined we need to intensify our efforts to facilitate the transfer of detainees. Secretary Clinton therefore has asked Ambassador Daniel Fried, a seasoned diplomat with a strong record of accomplishment, to lead a dedicated team to address this issue full-time”..
Continue reading New State Department appointment to work on closing Guantanamo detention facility – while detainees will apparently will remain at Baghram Airfield in Afghanistan, and in Iraq

Iraqi journalist throws shoes at Bush during Baghdad news conference

Bush himself says he is now trying to think of shoe jokes, but I am concerned that journalists all over the world will henceforth be made to remove their shoes before attending press conferences…

I also wonder how many will “defend until death” this journalist’s right to express his opinion about outgoing U.S. President George Bush’s invasion and on-going military occupation of Iraq? And how many will instead denounce the behavior — judging that the way that this journalist expressed himself that was wrong, impolite, futile, stupid, and/or violent?

A dear friend here in Jerusalem has just told me that she wished that all the journalists present at that press conference in Baghdad had also taken off their shoes and thrown them at Bush, in solidarity with al-Zeidi’s gesture.

But, many of the journalists’ actual responses were very different — rather more careerist. The NYTimes reported that “Like many Iraqi reporters at the news conference, Mr. Nassar [Haider Nassar, who worked with him at Baghdadia] said he did not think this was an effective way for Mr. Zaidi to make his points. ‘This is so silly; it’s just the behavior of an individual’, Mr. Nassar said. ‘He destroyed his future’.”

An AP story from Baghdad reported another journalistic colleague also criticizing Al-Zeidi: “‘He was very boastful, arrogant and always showing off’, said Zanko Ahmed, a Kurdish journalist who attended a journalism training course with al-Zeidi in Lebanon. ‘He tried to raise topics to show that nobody is as smart as he is’ … ‘Regrettably, he didn’t learn anything from the course in Lebanon, where we were taught ethics of journalism and how to be detached and neutral’, Ahmed said”.

This same AP story added that “Al-Zeidi was held Monday in Iraqi custody for investigation and could face charges of insulting a foreign leader and the Iraqi prime minister, who was standing next to Bush. Conviction carries a sentence of up to two years in prison or a small fine — although it’s unlikely he would face the maximum penalty given his newfound cult status in the Arab world”. The full AP report can be read here.

Yet another AP report said that “many in the Mideast saw the act by an Iraqi journalist as heroic, expressing the deep, personal contempt many feel for the American leader they blame for years of bloodshed, chaos and the suffering of civilians. Images of Bush ducking the fast-flying shoes at a Baghdad press conference, aired repeatedly on Arab satellite TV networks, were cathartic for many in the Middle East, who have for years felt their own leaders kowtow to the American president. So the sight of an average Arab standing up and making a public show of resentment was stunning. The pride, joy and bitterness it uncorked showed how many Arabs place their anger on Bush personally for what they see as a litany of crimes — chief among them the turmoil in Iraq and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths since the 2003 U.S. invasion”. This AP story can be seen in full here .

In its story, the NY Times reported that “The Iraqi journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, 28, a correspondent for Al Baghdadia, an independent Iraqi television station, stood up about 12 feet from Mr. Bush and shouted in Arabic: ‘This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!’ He then threw a shoe at Mr. Bush, who ducked and narrowly avoided it. As stunned security agents and guards, officials and journalists watched, Mr. Zaidi then threw his other shoe, shouting in Arabic, ‘This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!’ That shoe also narrowly missed Mr. Bush as Prime Minister Maliki stuck a hand in front of the president’s face to help shield him. Mr. Maliki’s security agents jumped on the man, wrestled him to the floor and hustled him out of the room. They kicked him and beat him until ‘he was crying like a woman’, said Mohammed Taher, a reporter for Afaq, a television station owned by the Dawa Party, which is led by Mr. Maliki. [This sexist language is revolting]Mr. Zaidi was then detained on unspecified charges … In the chaos, Dana M. Perino, the White House press secretary, who was visibly distraught, was struck in the eye by a microphone stand.” This NYTimes story can be read in full here.

AP reported that “The crowd [does this mean also the other journalists sitting near Mr. Zaidi, some of whom reportedly offered words of apology to Bush for the incident?] descended on al-Zeidi, who works for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt. He was wrestled to the ground by security officials and then hauled away, moaning as they departed the room. Later, a trail of fresh blood could be seen on the carpet, although the source was not known … …Al-Baghdadia’s Baghdad manager told the AP he had no idea what prompted his reporter to go on the attack. ‘I am trying to reach Muntadar since the incident, but in vain’, said Fityan Mohammed. ‘His phone is switched off’. The station issued a statement on the air Sunday night asking the Iraqi government to release al-Zeidi ‘to spare his life’…” The AP story can be read in full here

What if the shoe had actually hit Bush?

(You did notice the agile move of the President ducking the first shoe, right? But the second shoe somehow caught Bush by surprise, and he winced and flinched as it was thrown, drawing his head down into his collar, as beside him Iraqi PM Maliki reflexively thrust his hand — with open palm facing the journalists and fingers rather ineffectively widespread — somewhere in the general direction of Bush’s face, like a fan trying to catch a wide shot from the bleachers of a baseball game…)

The AP “Reporter’s Notebook” story added that “When Bush met with reporters later aboard Air Force One, he had a joke prepared: ‘I didn’t know what the guy said but I saw his “sole”.’ Later, he said: ‘I’m going to be thinking of shoe jokes for a long time. I haven’t heard any good ones yet’.”

The AP story also reported that Bush said, as the room erupted into chaos, “Don’t worry about it”, and added that “Iraqi reporters started shouting what Bush later explained were apologies for the incident”. And, AP, added, Bush said: ” ‘So what if the guy threw a shoe at me?’ … comparing the action to political protests in the United States”.

Jean Ziegler pleads for wellbeing of MEK at Camp Abbas in Iraq

I received this by email, from the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva, and shall reproduce it here in its entirety almost without comment, except to point out that this concerns the Iraqi base camp of the military units of the Iranian opposition Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which has long been a thorn in the side (and worse) of the Islamic Republic government in Iran.

“The Special Rapporteur on the right to food to the Human Rights Council, Jean Ziegler, issued the following statement today:

‘Geneva, 6 March 2008: — I am deeply concerned about information I continue to receive concerning the deteriorating situation in Ashraf City/Camp Ashraf (Iraq) and its surrounding area, following an explosion on 8 February 2008 that destroyed the water pumps in Zorganieh, which supply the area.

That pumping station provided drinking water and irrigation for Ashraf City and its surrounding area, covering more than 20,000 persons.  The explosion has caused water and food shortages for the local population, which relies on local food supplies already severely affected by water scarcity. The situation is made more critical by increasingly hot weather.

Some of the reports I have received allege that the explosion may have been intended to increase pressure on over 3,000 members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) confined in Camp Ashraf in Diyala province.  In July 2004, the United StatesThe camp remains under the control of the multi-national force under the demobilization agreement the Iraqi authorities signed with the PMOI in May 2003. Government recognized PMOI members as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, meaning that they should not be deported, expelled or repatriated, or displaced inside Iraq.

The rights to food and to drinking water are protected by international human rights law.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right of everyone “to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food”, and other international human rights instruments, to which Iraq is a party, further spell out the protection of these rights.

The Iraqi authorities have failed to protect the inhabitants of Ashraf City and its surrounding area from the actions of third parties which are impeding enjoyment of the rights to food and water and creating a critical humanitarian situation. The competent authorities must restore urgently the water supply to all the inhabitants of the region affected by the explosion in the water pumping station; the affected population must be protected from violation of their rights by third parties. I call on the Iraqi authorities to take immediate measures to guarantee the rights to food and water of the inhabitants of Ashraf City/Camp Ashraf and its surrounding area.

*****

The Special Rapporteur on the Right to food sent a letter to the Iraqi government on 17 October 2006 where he inter alia raised concern about the damages caused by a series of explosions to the water pipeline that stretches 26 km from the pumping station near the Tigris River to Camp Ashraf. This allegedly affected access of the Camp residents and nearby villages to drinking water for approximately two weeks. Irrigation was also reportedly disrupted by the explosions.

For further information on the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, please consult the following website http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/index.htm

Iraqi execution apparently imminent

It is the first execution of Iraq’s former leaders that has been approved by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and two Iraqi vice presidents, apparently fulfilling all the legal requirements in the present Iraqi penal code in a way that the executions of (1) Saddam Hussein and (2) his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti (whose head was yanked off by the rope during the force of his fall from the gallows), (3) former judge Awad Hamed al-Bandar, as well as (4) former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan (who was originally only sentenced to life imprisonment, but whose punishment was upgraded during an automatic appeal), did not. (Talabani somehow made himself absent for at least Saddam’s and Taha Yassin Ramadan’s executions.)

Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali” for his role in the air attacks with chemical weapons that killed thousands of Iraqi Kurds in Halabja and elsewhere, and a cousin of Saddam Hussein, will now die within the 30-day limit specified by Iraqi law — but, it will probably happen much sooner, and maybe even as early as tomorrow.

UPDATE: Reuters is now reporting that the Presidency Council (the president and the two vice-presidents) actually approved the sentence two days ago, and that there was no explanation of why this decision has been kept secret. This Reuters report is here.

The verdicts were upheld on appeal last September. It was earlier reported that they had been approved by the Iraqi president (and the two vice presidents) today (Friday).

Another new element today is that the death sentences passed and upheld on appeal on two other former senior officials — including one who had reportedly been promised amnesty by senior U.S. military officials, apparently for his covert assistance — has not been approved, or at least not yet.

It is not yet clear whether the death sentences for these two men — Hussein Rashid Mohammed, described as a former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces, and Sultan Hashim al-Taie, a former defense minister — will be commuted. Iraqi officials are reportedly saying that both men were really only career military officers who were simply carrying out orders

If their sentences are commuted, the imminent execution of Ali Hassan al-Majid would be the last of the capital punishments carried out on the former leaders of Iraq’s Baathist regime.

Why the apathy?

The question is put in a review of a book, “Beyond the Green Zone“, written by Dahr Jamail. The review calls it “the latest entry in a crowded field of books by U.S. journalists attempting to present the Iraqi side of the war”.

With all these books, and all this reportage, the review asks, Why the apathy? But it is not exactly a new phenomenon, however. The same was true of the war in Vietnam — at least, the apathy.

The book review, published in Electronic Iraq (a sort of spin-off of Electronic Intifada), says that: “While the stories that Jamail tells still rarely make the nightly news or the front pages of U.S. newspapers, they have been related in a series of books, the most well-known being ‘Night Draws Near’ by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Anthony Shadid. A number of independent journalists, including this reporter, have also published books on the topic and several scathing documentary films have been released. This combination of silence from the mainstream media and excellent reportage by the independent press has created a paradox. On one hand, most of the events that Jamail chronicles in Beyond the Green Zone have already been well-documented. On the other hand, most U.S. citizens remain oblivious to them. ‘The media is not even beginning to show what’s really going on in Iraq’, Jamail told IPS, ‘and so most people here have no idea what’s happening. People get that the war is not going well’, he said, ‘but that doesn’t show any of the gravity of the fact that today half the country of Iraq is either a refugee, in desperate need of emergency care, wounded or dead. What would the reporting look like if that was the situation here? It would be off the charts: ‘Just look at this catastrophe! People are suffering. Look what happened to this family’s children!’ But instead we have this type of reporting that just kind of touches on the fact that things are not going so well but it doesn’t really show how bad it really is.”

The review, by Aaron Glanz, says that “in November 2003, Jamail got on a plane to Amman, Jordan, and then, a few days later, shared a taxi across Iraq’s Western desert to Baghdad … Once in Iraq, Jamail set about reporting the stories of regular Iraqi people. He spent months in Iraq’s hospitals, morgues and mosques. His journalism covers some of the most mundane, but important, aspects of the U.S. occupation — like gas lines, checkpoints, and bombed out telephone switching stations. His stories appeared in numerous outlets around the world, including IPS. Most significantly, Dahr Jamail is perhaps the only U.S. journalist to document firsthand the human costs of both U.S. sieges of Fallujah, in April and November 2004 … So many Iraqi people were killed in the assault on Fallujah, he notes, that the municipal football stadium had to be turned into a graveyard for the dead … ”

Glanz writes: Jamail’s section on his return home is also particularly insightful. After witnessing the second siege of Fallujah, Jamail returned to the United States in the winter of 2004. ‘The differences thrust in my face on returning home to America were glaring’, he wrote. ‘There were no checkpoints in the United States. People didn’t have to stop their cars, have guns aimed at them and their children, get out to be searched, and have their vehicles searched. No military vehicles roamed the streets, carrying soldiers who aimed their weapons at powerless civilians who watched them pass. There was mail service and th e phones worked on the first try. You could order take-out and have it delivered to your door. There were employees of the city who cleaned the streets, watered the trees and grass, and kept the parks clean’. This disconnect between the destruction in Iraq and peace on the home front is universal. You can hear it from nearly every journalist and soldier who has been to the war zone. Jamail goes a step further and links U.S. apathy about the war to its continuation … ‘In Iraq, there was no hiding the raw, ugly face of corporations profiting from the blood and suffering caused by the brutal occupation of Iraq. Yet, back in the United States — the country that launched the invasion and now supported the occupation — people were going about their daily lives, to my amazement. If news got too intense, people were able to simply turn it off and take a walk, or go to a movie, or call a friend … As journalists, it’s our moral obligation to talk about what’s actually going on’, he told IPS, ‘and if people see that and decide to turn off the TV that’s their call, but I’ve got to do my job. I want to tell people ‘Sorry, your government just invaded another country and totally eviscerated it. Deal with it’.”   The book review is posted here.

Rice says UNSG BAN to establish office to service Iraq neighbors' meetings

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told journalists travelling with her en route to Ankara, Turkey last night, according to a State Department transcript, that UNSG BAN Ki-Moon is “ready” to establish a permanent office to service the “neighbors’ meetings” on Iraq: “This is the second neighbors ministerial and I think we expect it to become a recurring event because the parties are finding it useful. And with Ban Ki-moon ready to establish an office, permanent office to help provide continuity between the meetings, I think that this ministerial is now taking on the character of a forum in which people can repeatedly bring issues“.

SG son-in-law posted to Iraq

About ten days ago, it emerged that the SG’s son-in-law is being moved to Iraq. Journalists at the UN probed the move. Here are some excerpts from an exchange between Inner City Press’ Matthew Lee and UN Spokesperson Michele Montas at the UNHQ daily Noon Briefing for journalists on 19 October:

“Question: And there’s a report that I feel I just need to ask about, saying the son-in-law of the Secretary-General is being named the chief of staff of Mr. de Mistura in Iraq. One, is that true and two, was it a competitive process, or what’s the Secretariat’s statement on some questions that have been raised?

“SG Spokesperson: Well, it’s simply a matter between Mr. de Mistura, who had worked with Mr. Chatterjee in Iraq during the first Gulf War, and he asked him to be his chief of staff. It’s something that is strictly Mr. de Mistura’s decision. It would be a lateral move, not a promotion for Mr. Chatterjee, and as you well know, Iraq is an extremely dangerous environment to operate in. And we shielded the publication of any information that increases the risk to any staff member and to the mission as a whole is not very helpful.

Question: So you’re saying The Washington Post publishing this post puts people at risk?

SG Spokesperson: I’m saying what I said. Okay. Because the Secretary-General has always stressed the security needs of the people over there, particularly –- in any mission, actually –- but particularly in Iraq, where, as you know, the security conditions are particularly difficult. That’s all I said. Yes, any other questions?
The excerpt from an exchange between a journalist and a UN spokesperson on the posting of SG BAN’s son-in-law to Iraq is here.

Stefan di Mistura cuts a dashing figure, with his cognac-colored suede jackets and all, and he is certainly a ruthless political operative. Hiring the SG’s son-in-law as his chief of staff is really a no-brainer. What UN manager would not want to hire the SG’s son-in-law? That way, the mission will not be forgotten (in between crises, that is).
To anticipate the outrage, the guy won’t get a promotion, at least initially… And, a “lateral move” is easier to process, administratively, and does not need to go before the UN’s internal appointment and promotion boards, where objections could well be raised … though would any loyal career bureaucrat openly challenge such a decision?

I’m just wondering if there might not also be another calculation, at least from BAN’s (or his adviser’s) side: Putting his son-in-law in what is clearly possibly harm’s way, might it not be an attempt to set an example? The UN Staff Union has been adamantly opposed to sending UN staff to Baghdad since a bombing attack on its HQ there in August 2003 that killed Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello, one of the UN’s golden boys, and a member of the A-Team … as well as 19 other staff members.

The U.S. Administration is well aware of staff sentiment on this issue, and has not challenged it directly. But there is increasing pressure on SG BAN to “help” the U.S. out in Iraq now. The SG is clearly preparing to enlarge the UN staff presence there. And sending his son-in-law in the first wave might (or might not) be a way to soften the resistance. At any rate, putting the son-in-law in a dangerous (though high-profile) spot — without even giving him an immediate promotion (though he surely will get one in due time, if not in good order, if he isn’t blown to bits first) makes the PR job slightly easier. It will certainly also win points from the U.S. for SG BAN …

On his Inner City Press blog, Matthew Lee wrote, on 19 October: “For weeks it had been rumored, that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s son-in-law would get a high post with the UN in Iraq, and that Mr. Ban’s former colleague in the South Korean foreign ministry, Choi Young-jin, would be named Ban’s envoy to the Ivory Coast. About the latter, Inner City Press asked Ban’s spokesperson Michele Montas, after hearing from Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo that the envoy had been mutually selected. Ms. Montas had no comment at the time. Then on October 18, the Choi appointment was announced, and the following morning’s Washington Post carried a small item noting that Ban’s Iraq envoy Steffan de Mistura is naming Ban’s son-in-law Siddarth Chatterjee as his chief of staff. There are stories behind each, portions of which we’ll endeavor to tell in this end-of-week column. First, the UN’s story. On Friday Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas about Chatterjee’s appointment in Iraq, and she responded that it is strictly a matter between Mr. de Mistura and Chatterjee, that it is a lateral move and not a promotion, and that “we feel the publication of any information that increases the risk to any staff member and to the mission as a whole is not very helpful.”

Inner City Press asked, “Are you saying that the Washington Post’s publication puts the mission at risk?”

“I’m saying what I said,” Ms. Montas replied.

“An aside: Inner City Press often takes and presents UN Spokesperson Montas’ objections to the legitimacy of questions at face value. But in this case, we have reason to believe, and have decided to report, that the responsibility for the above-quoted dig at press freedom lies on the 38th Floor, and not the third (where the Spokesperson’s Office is housed). Apparently from the highest levels, attempts were made that this widely-rumored story not be published. But since it is journalistically legitimate, even imperative, to report on what some are calling possible nepotism in public institutions, security concerns would have militated against this assignment of the Secretary-General’s son-in-law to Iraq. “It’s a big world,” as one source fearing retaliation put it, adding that Chatterjee was initially going to be promoted from P-5 up into the “D” ranks, but that it was decided to forego this for now, to present the move as lateral.

“The subtext to Ms. Montas’ statement that this was a matter between Mr. de Mistura and Mr. Chatterjee is that these fearful insiders report that Mr. de Mistura made the appointment in order to curry favor on the 38th floor, just as, the sources say, he previously hired the son of Kofi Annan’s close aide Iqbal Riza. What makes it unrealistic to expect this story not to be explored is that de Mistura was so recently given the Iraq envoy post”. The Inner City Press post on SG BAN’s son-in-law being posted to Iraq is here.