An attempt is made to share the truth regarding issues concerning Israel and her right to exist as a Jewish nation. This blog has expanded to present information about radical Islam and its potential impact upon Israel and the West. Yes, I do mix in a bit of opinion from time to time.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Is There a Way Out of the Iran Crisis?
It appears that Tehran has decided to move forward with its nuclear file and escalation with the West, in line with the famous words of Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” The proof is that last Monday, Tehran launched its new long-range missiles that are capable of striking Israel. This means that matters have escalated. Therefore, our analysis of the upcoming days must be more comprehensive so that we do not ignore a crucial factor of this crisis i.e. Israel. Most analyses that we have looked at are focusing on the international position towards Iran, and the West’s options and they are forgetting the Israeli factor, which is the most important element.
Israel considers Iranian development of the nuclear file, or irresolute settlement between the West and Tehran, as a threat to its own security, as Israel takes every Iranian statement seriously, particularly the statements issued by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is contrary to some of the Western states, or even some of the states in our region. Consequently, Israel quickly took action after the discovery of new nuclear facilities in Qom and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded the Americans and the West to take action against Iran now.
Similar to Israeli extremism, there is also the Iranian extremist position, which was expressed clearly by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, during a Friday sermon he delivered at the end of Ramadan, which passed unnoticed by many observers. Khamenei took an extreme and important position when he said, “We must stand firm for our rights. If we give up our rights, whether nuclear or otherwise, this will lead to decline.” The Supreme Leader added, “We will walk the path of decline if instead of using freedom for scientific and ethical progress, we use it to spread sin; instead of standing against arrogance, aggressors and international looters, we feel weak in front of them and retreat…”
The importance of this statement is that the Supreme leader ties the nuclear file to the safety and survival of the ruling regime in Tehran, as the legitimacy of the Iranian regime is now based on the success of the nuclear file, not on building the state and serving citizens. Some might believe that this Iranian extremism has come about so that Tehran would have a better chance in negotiations with the West. That might be true, but, as we have mentioned before, that is not the way Israel is thinking and this is what raises the level of danger of the situation.
The other issue that we must think about carefully is what the two sides, Iran or the West, will give up. What are the points of agreement between them? If Iran wants to surrender then what can it surrender as long as the Supreme Leader is tying the nuclear file to the safety and survival of the regime. To the West surrendering would mean accepting a nuclear Iran or giving Tehran a regional role at the expense of our states and regimes; this is completely rejected by the Arabs. In fact it might encourage nuclear ambitions among regional states and this is another Israeli fear because if a nuclear Iran is accepted [by the West] that would indicate the beginning of a nuclear arms race in our region. As a result, the region will be in danger as its security, economy and stability will be under threat. In fact the global economy and international security will be in danger and it will put the region at risk of devastating conflicts that would be incomparable to any of the catastrophes we have experienced so far.
Seven Dead in Palestinian Clashes
GAZA STRIP, Occupied Palestine, Oct. 1--Rival Palestinian security forces clashed across the Gaza Strip on Sunday, killing seven and injuring 50 others, in the biggest outbreak of internal fighting in months over unpaid wages and stalled unity government talks. Violence also erupted in the West Bank city of Ramallah where supporters of President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah started a small fire inside the offices of the Hamas-led government, Reuters reported.
The flare-up stoked fears of civil war as the rival forces, loyal to the Islamist Hamas movement and Abbas, fired at each other from rooftops near parliament building in Gaza City. Smoke from burning tyres wafted overhead as pedestrians ran for cover.
Gunmen killed a security officer and wounded another in a drive-by shooting on their car, witnesses and medics said.
Three Palestinian civilians, including a boy, as well as a Hamas militant and another Palestinian security officer were killed in the clashes. A member of Abbas’s presidential guard was shot dead in a firefight near Abbas’s Gaza home.
Most of those wounded in Gaza City and the town of Khan Younis were civilians, including schoolchildren, medics said. A cameraman for Al-Arabiya television was also among the wounded.
Fatah and Hamas traded blame for the violence, which came as about 50 Israeli tanks pushed into northern Gaza, Palestinian security sources said. The army said the incursion was aimed at preventing militants from firing make-shift rockets into Israel.
Palestinian tensions rose after Interior Minister Saeed Seyam of Hamas ordered his security forces to take to the streets to prevent further violence by striking policemen demanding overdue salaries.
Abbas has been locked in an increasingly bitter power struggle with the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh over stalled efforts to form a unity coalition after Hamas trounced Fatah in parliamentary elections in January.
Comment: They are near agreement with Fatah-this group? Really!
Well, we certainly have come a long way from the conference call with representatives of Jewish organizations in which an Obama national security official, Dan Shapiro, promised to pull out the stops to quash the Goldstone report. That was deemed a misstatement. Now we hear:
The United States called on its close ally Israel on Tuesday to conduct credible investigations into allegations of war crimes committed by its forces in Gaza, saying it would help the Middle East peace process. Michael Posner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, said that Hamas leaders also had a responsibility to investigate crimes and to end what he called its targeting of civilians and use of Palestinian civilians as human shields in the strip. . . .
“We encourage Israel to utilize appropriate domestic [judicial] review and meaningful accountability mechanisms to investigate and follow-up on credible allegations,” Posner said in a speech to the Geneva forum.
“If undertaken properly and fairly, these reviews can serve as important confidence-building measures that will support the larger essential objective which is a shared quest for justice and lasting peace,” he said.
But Israel has already done just that. Didn’t the Obama team read about it in their home paper? As the Washington Post reported in March:
The Israeli military’s top lawyer on Monday closed an investigation into alleged misconduct by soldiers who took part in Israel’s recent three-week assault on the Gaza Strip, concluding that accusations made by graduates of a military preparatory school were “based on hearsay.”
In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said that Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit, the IDF’s advocate general, found no evidence to support the most serious accusations, including alleged instances in which civilians were shot without cause.
So what could this newest tour de force of moral relativism possibly refer to? Israel has done its part; the terrorists couldn’t possibly be expected to. Apparently, this is the sort of official response to the Goldstone report that we get from the Obama team—equating a functioning democracy with civilian oversight and an active judiciary with a terrorist clique. Does the Obama team actually suggest that terrorists police themselves? One tires of saying it, but this is a new low for the administration.
Comment: We in Israel say NO!!! We are allowed to protect ourselves against attacks. The data is clear and because you, America, want to play nice with your Arab colleagues you hang us out to dry. No, resounding no more being diplomatic with such nonsense, such politically motivated aggression against the best USA ally you once had.
Egypt: Where Bookburners Are Heroes and Democracy Advocates Are Villains
Hala Mustafa is one of Egypt’s leading thinkers regarding contemporary political and international issues. Recently, she’s been the subject of a campaign to destroy her career because of something she did which has made her the object of hatred amidst the Egyptian professional and intellectual elite: She met for a few minutes with the Israeli ambassador to Egypt. The Mustafa case is a real sign of how things work in the Arab world, far different from the assumptions so often made by policymakers, journalists, and both experts and “experts.”
Thirty years ago, Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty. Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula, captured in the 1967 war, to Egypt, providing that country with a valuable strategic and economic (Suez Canal and oilfields) asset. Relations were nominally normalized though the Egyptian government limited tourism and trade. The Egyptian media continued to treat Israel as a demonic and enemy state. Egyptian professional associations, many under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, banned their members from any contact with Israel.
It was in this context that Israeli Ambassador Shalom Cohen asked to visit Mustafa’s office to discuss a symposium he wanted to hold, in which Egyptians, Israelis, and Palestinians were to discuss the peace process. After a short discussion, Mustafa told him that she would have to consult her bosses about whether she could participate.
The head of the Egyptian journalists’ association has claimed this violates the group’s 1983 boycott of Israel and therefore Mustafa should be punished. Whether or not this actually happens, she is under a severe and vicious verbal and print assault.
To understand Mustafa’s complex position is to learn a lot about the contemporary Arabic-speaking world. Egyptian professionals and intellectuals can often be truly mediocre, slogan-spouting people who resemble the bureaucrats of the Soviet Communist regime. In contrast, Mustafa is clearly a serious and bright person, as became immediately evident to me in our conversations and through her writing. She also really cares about issues of free speech and democracy while showing some real courage on their behalf.
But what’s a liberal intellectual to do? Her main job is as editor of the quarterly journal Democracy. While published in Arabic, I believe that more copies are printed in English. This indicates the journal’s purpose as a showpiece, designed more to show the West that the Egyptian government is democratic-minded than it is to spark real discussion in Egypt.
Indeed, the journal virtually never publishes articles about Arabic-speaking countries, much less Egypt. The quality of the material, to Mustafa’s credit, is good but it is hardly going to spur a struggle for democracy within Egypt. And, of course, it cannot publish articles about, say, Syria or Saudi Arabia, since those governments would then protest this as an attack by the Egyptian regime.
For Democracy is, ironically but typically in Arab political terms, a state publication. Mustafa’s bosses are the heads of the al-Ahram Center. Al-Ahram is Egypt’s leading newspaper which is controlled by the state. It runs editorials, for example, claiming that the United States is responsible for all the terrorist violence in Iraq because it wants to split and rule Arabs and Muslims.
So a propaganda arm of a dictatorial regime is the publisher of the main journal in the Arabic world that nominally advocates democracy. If you understand that paradox, you get a concept of the situation.
What keeps the journal from being a stolid mouthpiece is the effort of Mustafa to do as much as possible within the limits permitted. At the same time, she is a member of the ruling National Democratic Party's policy planning staff, a point that is even more significant when it is noted that this is part of the apparatus of Gamal Mubarak, the president’s son and likely successor.
None of this is said to criticize Mustafa. If you want to know more about the constraints under which liberal reformers work in the Arabic-speaking world and why they are doomed to fail, at least in the short- to medium-run, you can read my book on the subject which is still quite up to date: The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East, John Wiley Publishers (2005).
It has now been reliably reported that the entire al-Ahram group has decided to boycott Israel entirely and to punish Mustafa. Note that this means the staff of Egypt's leading newspaper and Egypt's largest international affairs' research center will be forbidden from meeting Israelis (and perhaps from reading any Israeli publications?). In other words, no reporter can interview any Israeli. If anyone from this large media group would even have a conversation with me, they could be subject to firing.
And who appoints the head of the al-Ahram group and determines its policy? Why, President Husni Mubarak, the man who is supposedly a great U.S. ally, whose country hosted Obama's speech of conciliation when he spoke about the greatness of Islam, criticized Israel harshly, and urged Arabs to make peace with Israel. This is Mubarak's answer but no U.S. official will acknowledge that fact and it will not enter into U.S. policy.
Meanwhile, a key theme in Obama's strategy is the abandonment of any support for democratic change--which was a historic liberal position long before President George W. Bush thought of it--and close cooperation with the Arab regimes. This is a defensible tactic on one condition: that the United States gets something out if it. And this doesn't seem to be happening.
As for Arab liberals, they are being abandoned by the United States and the West in general. Here's one little anecdote that gives you a sense of how hard is the life of Arab liberals. A Syrian dissident, who has spent a lot of time in prison, during the course of an interview said: "Our government is fascist" but a few minutes later added that it was vital to support the government. Why? Because he hates the existing repressive regime but fears a radical Islamist one, the most likely alternative, would be worse.
Meanwhile, back in Egypt, while Mustafa is under attack, former Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni is a hero. Hosni was the supposed cultural custodian of Egypt at the same time as he was uttering antisemitic statements and told the Egyptian parliament that if he found any Israeli-authored books in Egypt’s libraries he would immediately and personally burn them.
Oh, and Hosni--like the al-Ahram media group--is also close to Mubarak, the man whom Obama looks upon as a close ally, the recipient of massive U.S. aid, the leader who has benefited by Obama's taking off the pressure over reform, etc.
In one of the few signs of sanity in the world recently, his behavior was too much even for the UN (which is saying a lot!) and he lost the election to be the next head of UNESCO, the UN’s cultural, educational, and scientific organization. In today’s atmosphere, it could not be assumed that a man who advocated book-burning might be rejected for the post of world’s leading cultural official. After his defeat, Hosni blamed an international Jewish conspiracy for his humiliation.
Egypt, by the way, is a country where despite about $2 billion in U.S. aid a year over a period of more than a quarter-century, the textbooks still claim that America secretly attacked the country in June 1967 and destroyed its air force in order to help Israel. And the media regularly publish articles on how the U.S. government or Israel were behind the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on America.
The story of Mustafa and Hosni is but one small tale of the contemporary Middle East. What are some of the lessons?:
--You can tell a lot about a country by who it regards as heroes and villains.
--The efforts of President Barack Obama have had no effect on the situation. The real problem is not due to U.S. actions or insensitivities but to the needs of the Egyptian regime. It requires America as a scapegoat to mobilize support for the dictatorship among those whose primary ideology is either Arab nationalism or Islam-oriented. Remember that the worst thing President George W. Bush did from an Egyptian government perspective was to advocate democracy in the Arabic-speaking world.
--There is almost no margin for the free functioning of intellectuals and democracy advocates in the Arab world. What the state doesn’t eat up, the extremist and repressive consensus devours.
--After thirty years of peace with Egypt, Israel is viewed with the same overweening hatred and slander as it was before the treaties were signed. Thus, real peace is extraordinarily difficult to achieve and is not subject to the kinds of expectations Western leaders and media have.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan).
Spain bans Ariel U. from int'l contest
The Spanish Housing Ministry has disqualified Ariel University Center from the international Solar Decathlon contest, on the grounds that the university is "located in occupied territories."
In a letter sent to the University Center, Javier Ramos Guallart explained that his ministry was forced to make the decision to ban the Israeli academics from the biannual competition to design a self-sufficient solar house, citing "European Union political guidelines" and the institution's location in Samaria. The delegation from Ariel, which together with 20 other universities had reached the competition's final round, worked for two years designing and building a self-sufficient house that uses solar power as its only source of energy, and uses only half of the amount of energy needed to operate a regular house.
Despite their efforts, the institution received the letter from the Spanish government last Friday, effectively disqualifying their team from the competition.
"We would like you to know that an Israeli university would always be welcome to participate in this competition," wrote Guallart in his letter to the college.
"However, the fact that your center is actually located in the occupied territories, and being obliged to respect the European Union position in relation to this matter, we are forced to inform you that the continuation of your center in this competition will not be possible as from this date on," continued the letter.
"As much as we regret this situation, we have no alternative but to observe the European Union political guidelines as far as occupied territories are concerned," the letter concluded.
The team had been given a grant of 100,000 Euros to subsidize the project, which they called the "Stretch House." Team members said the concept was inspired by the "tent of Abraham", as the biblical dwelling was able to expand to meet its owner's wishes.
The competition, which includes the participation of engineers, architects, solar experts and other students from universities around the world, is organized by the US Department of Energy and has been held, until now, in Washington, DC. Due to the terms of a 2007 agreement between the US and Spain however, the upcoming decathlon is scheduled to take place next month in Madrid.
A UK-based group called Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, who campaigned for the Israeli team's disqualification, said they had done so as part of the academic boycott against Israel led by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS) - an umbrella campaign aimed at "building and strengthening a global BDS movement."
In a statement regarding the matter, the BDS said that it would continue to intensify its boycott of Israel and its institutions, including all its universities, "until the occupation ends and Israel enables the fulfillment of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their original homes."
For its part, Ariel University Center issued a sharp response denouncing the decision.
"We reject with contempt the one-sided announcement that was received in our office from the Spanish Housing Ministry on the eve of theRosh Hashanah holiday, regarding the cancellation of our participation in the final stage of the Solar Decathlon 2010," the response read.
"This anti-academic decision harms some 10,000 students who study at the University, including the 500 Arab students who study here, and particularly the Jewish and Arab students of the School of Architecture. This decision, which is an expression of an illegitimate political struggle, blatantly violates international law and charters regarding academic freedom, which are being violated by this one-sided decision. The Ariel University Center, together with the Foreign Ministry will use all means at our disposal to put an end to this spectacle."
The university did receive one unlikely supporter - Professor Pascal Rollet from the Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Architecture, in Grenoble, France - who sent a letter to Ariel's staff in which she expressed her support for the institution.
"I want you to know that I personally disagree with the Spanish decision since Ariel University agenda is clearly oriented toward academic excellence for peace," Rollet wrote. "Please receive all my support in this difficult situation."
This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1253198174466&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull
Life in a Fourth-Grade American Classroom: The Friendship Worksheet
When I went to school, we studied various academic subjects and even read Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. At the time, I hated these works as boring and irrelevant. But how grateful I am today for this grounding in good literature.
(Is one still allowed to say such a thing or would the response be: How can we say something is “good” and how can we define “literature”? And which literature, since Native American literature is no doubt as good as English literature.) But as an artifact of the increasingly unacademic nature of public schooling, I give you “Friendship Worksheet” from my ten-year-old son Daniel’s fourth-grade class in the Montgomery County, Maryland, public school. This was handed out in a half-hour guidance counseling session with the entire class.
The guidance counselor said: “The point of this is when you are sad then you look at the page and you feel better because this person thinks those nice things about you.”
My son, bless him, replied, “Of course the person is going to say nice things because it’s a project.”
Responds the teacher, no doubt in a slightly huffy tone, “You’ll learn that in Somerset (school) that the class is your family and you respect each other.”
One can’t help but read into that a bit of an implied threat, perhaps of being sent to a “reeducation camp” for being an undesirable element. Only kidding. Well, I do recall that some years ago he was sent to study hall as punishment for saying that some Indians were "ferocious" during a discussion on Native Americans at another American school. I guess that's how they teach pupils about free speech in the contemporary United States.
In the current case, it seems at least in part that “respect” here seems to be implicitly defined as “never criticize” and perhaps also as “don’t compete with.” And, of course, I remember enough about being 10 years old to conclude that students are also receiving the very strong message: Shut up and parrot the official line whether you believe it or not.
The teacher then chose for each student at random who they should write about and paired them off. In other words, it didn’t matter if they didn’t like this person or knew nothing about them they still had to praise them. As the teacher explained encouragingly, “The nice kids are popular.”
Funny, but when I was in school one of the most popular kids was Frank Rich, the future New York Times columnists, who was—and remains—one of the nastiest and most snobbish bullies I’ve ever encountered.
Even aside from this, as I remember it the “popular” kids were either sport’s stars; precocious enough to know how to maneuver socially; the best-looking; or, in those circles, derided as nerds the smartest. I seem to recall the saying that “nice guys finish last.”
But back to Daniel. The Friendship Worksheet begins with Adjectives in which the student gets to choose from 28 nice things ranging from kind and dependable through funny and nice.
In part two, a noun is chosen: friend, boy, girl, or person. Under predicates you get to pick five from among 14 items including “is nice,” “cares about others,” “has good ideas,” and “is a good sport.”
There is a choice at the end to write in something but the direction is foreclosed because one alternative begins with “is good at ___” and the other “is great at ____.”
While there is a choice for “learns quickly,” and “does well at school,” there is not one for being one of the top students or best athletes.
Finally, comes a “friendship sentence” to be written using the words chosen above. In my son’s case, he received the following: "You are a good and nice friend who is kind and learns quickly."
This took thirty minutes of class time.
Am I being unfair in ridiculing this exercise? This kind of thing might make sense in first grade but in fourth? As I recall, though, students are a pretty cynical bunch and take the attitude: We’ll give them what they want whatever that might be.
Should I speculate on the roots of the doctrine, so dear to President Barack Obama, that there is no such thing as an enemy and that individual or national interests—if properly defined—never conflict? I can’t help but imagine Obama filling out a Friendship Worksheet on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in which he can only circle nice things about him.
PS: Daniel has informed me that he is willing to answer your questions about the state of the American educational system.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan)
Comment: It is with regrets that your son is experiencing an ill-informed program teaching "respect". I have been researching sense of self for over 20 years, I have created programs to help children develop self control-believe me "friendship" sheets are an artificial activity. You want children to respect one another? It begins with self control-teach them how to address their feelings and thoughts-two items a human being has no control over. What we do have control over are the words we will use (learned behavior) and the actions we choose to display in response (learned behavior. So much of today's "self esteem" programs are built upon sound great, feels good tactics but lead to artificial respect-ask the kids away from school, they will tell the truth.
The Goldstone Report -- which charges Israel with war crimes: the deliberate targeting of civilians -- has now been presented to the UN Human Rights Council, which commissioned it, and which will surely accept its findings after discussion.
There will then be a move to send the report on to the UN Security Council, which, if it accepts it, may send it forward to the Hague and the International Court of Justice. Problems with the report include the following:
 The mandate by the Human Rights Council -- itself overtly and blatantly anti-Israel -- to the Goldstone Commission, which did the investigation, was biased from the beginning: Only Israel that was to be investigated.
 Hamas, with its use of human shields, was given a free ride. When a Hamas leader who testified actually referred to human shields, the report concluded that "it did not consider [the statement] to constitute evidence." Said Goldstone, in open correspondence: "We did not deal with the problems of conducting military operations in civilian areas [which is what Hamas did]. We avoided having to do so in the incidents we decided to investigate."
 The commission was nothing more than a kangaroo court, as there were judges sitting on it who stated before the investigation even started that they knew Israel was guilty.
 Israel's right to self-defense is not mentioned once in the report.
 "Evidence" presented by Palestinians was accepted without corroboration.
 The report was based in the main on statements by anti-Israel NGOs (e.g., Palestinian Center for Human Rights). NGO Monitor -- which called the report "575 pages of NGO 'cut and paste'" -- found numerous false and unsubstantiated allegations that were included.
Dr. Elihu Richter, of the Hadassah School of Public Health, charged, in the Post:
"I personally submitted a nine-page, annotated and referenced brief to the Goldstone Commission last July showing that the high male-female ratio of fatalities among Palestinians in Gaza argues for the combatant status of many whom human rights organizations classified as non-combatants. However, the Commission was not driven by the evidence, but by its preset agenda."
For further background on the issues and the bias of the charges, see here (especially "Article and Reports"):
Outraged? Aghast at the overt bias, without even a pretense at evenhandedness, which might lead to punitive measures against Israel? Good that you should be. Let every decent person everywhere demand a stop to this.
Dr. Jan Sokolovsky, Executive Director of the International Commission for Jewish Legal Affairs, has put out a call for people to act to block acceptance of this by the Security Council.
The Council has 15 members -- five permanent and 10 temporary. It requires a permanent member to veto the motion -- and the US is the only one that would do this. Otherwise, it would require some combination of seven abstentions and 'no' votes by temporary members to block acceptance of the report, as nine votes are needed to pass it. As this is an exceedingly unlikely prospect, the US veto is the only chance to stop this.
There has been indication that Secretary of State Clinton prefers to see the Report kept in the Human Rights Council, and US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice -- who called the report "unbalanced, one-sided, and unacceptable" -- has said the same. But we can take no chances here.
Messages are best very brief. For example (using your words): The Goldstone Report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council is highly biased and constitutes a blood libel against Israel. Please expend every possible effort to contain it in the Human Rights Council, and, if this fails, please veto its acceptance in the Security Council.
President Barack Obama
Fax: 202-456-2461 White House Comment line: 202-456-1111
e-mail form via: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Fax: 202-261-8577 or 202-647-65434
Main switchboard to the State Department: 202-647-4000
State Dept. Public Communication Division
(accepts opinions from the public -- best to connect here):
Fax: 202-647-2283 Phone: 202-647-6575
Anne Bayefsky, who heads Eye on the UN, has put out a joint statement on Goldstone on behalf of the Touro
Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, and the Hudson Institute. In part, it reads:
"The Goldstone mission will go down in history as the 21st century’s equivalent to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – a notorious work of fiction which spun a conspiratorial web of deceit and distortion that has fueled hatred of Jews ever since.
"At its core, the Goldstone report repeats the ancient blood libel against the Jewish people – the allegation of bloodthirsty Jews intent on butchering the innocent. Or as the Goldstone mission casts this abomination for a modern audience: Israel 'deliberately…terrorize[d] a civilian population;' Israeli 'violence against civilians w[as] part of a deliberate policy.' (paras. 1211, 1690)
"With this report the UN has come full circle. Rising from the Jewish ashes of crimes against humanity, it now purports to render the Jewish people’s exercise of the right of self-defence as itself a crime against humanity."
And so, the world continues in its insane ways, with Palestinians using every avenue possible to try to weaken us.
In yet another version of universal jurisdiction, British law permits private individuals to lodge complaints of "war crimes" against military personnel, even if they are not British and the alleged crimes were committed elsewhere.
Drawing on this, 16 Palestinians from Gaza called on two British law firms to act on their behalf; the law firms -- knowing that Defense Minister Ehud Barak was due in the country shortly -- applied to the courts for an international arrest warrant, claiming that Barak had committed war crimes and breaches of the Geneva Convention during military operations in Gaza.
Barak -- who was on his way to Britain, and received advice from many quarters to turn back -- behaved with admirable determination and courage, refusing to change his plans.
At the end of the day, the court threw out the petition for arrest. This was in response to arguments submitted by the British Foreign Office, which had been in constant consultation with Israel's Foreign Ministry, that Barak was a state guest and therefore not subject to such a law suit. Barak has come to Britain for meetings with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth and Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
"We do not intend to let terror win. We will not apologize in any way for our just struggle against terrorism. We will do everything possible so that the representatives of Israel, security officials and soldiers of the IDF will continue to freely travel the world. The theater of the absurd whereby those who defend their citizens need to be on the defensive has to end. Otherwise, the world is likely not only to give a prize to terrorism, but to encourage it."
I salute him for this.
Our Security Cabinet has agreed to the release of 20 women Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an up-to-the-minute video tape of Gilad Shalit that serves as evidence that he is still alive. This was worked out by the Germans, who are now mediating negotiations for Shalit's release, and was approved by our negotiating team, headed by Hagai Hadas.
This is supposed to take place on Friday, amid cautions that this does not mean a deal is almost finalized.
The women scheduled for release have all served at least two-thirds of their sentences, and none was involved directly in the murder of Israelis. (Indirectly, in a couple of instances, yes.) It is being said that this 20 would be deducted from the final number of prisoners that Hamas is demanding in exchange for Shalit.
Almost all of the women are from Judea and Samaria, and not from Gaza. What occurs to me then is that if this release takes place, it may have the effect of strengthening Hamas politically in Judea and Samaria.
Wait and see is the best policy here.
A hasbara, or public relations, tour of the US coast to coast, I understand, is being planned for this fall with several ministers participating. The topic: Israeli rights. This is exceedingly good news, for this subject has been vastly neglected since the beginning of Oslo.
There has been talk unending about our obligations, and what concessions we ought to make.
And there is talk about our security requirements. Thus, there has been a campaign for us to establish "defensible borders." I never liked that. Yes, of course, we need defensible borders. But if an area of Judea and Samaria -- in the heartland of our ancient heritage -- is not needed for our defense, does this mean it's all right to surrender it? Not in my book it doesn't.
If the current government, weary with the emphasis on concessions, is now prepared to push our rights and to educate others to the matter, I celebrate. This is a theme I will return to.
see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info
Tigo Energy monitors the power from the sun
September 23, 2009
Tigo Energy can squeeze more power from existing photovoltaic solar panels and offers real time information from the panels.
Voted one of the world's most promising clean tech companies, Israeli-US company Tigo Energy says its key contribution is its innovative technology for managing solar systems.
Despite the cutting-edge science invested in solar energy, some aspects of the industry lag behind, explains Jeffrey Krisa, VP of marketing and sales for Tigo Energy. And that's just where his company comes in.
Since 2007 it has raised $17 million, and Tigo Energy is now the leader in the US in its field and the first to be certified safe and effective for improving the efficiency and online monitoring of solar panel installations.
The company offers a technology and IT solution in one. Tigo can squeeze more power from current photovoltaic solar panels, and it also helps solar power plant owners to manage their assets more effectively, by providing them with real time information from the panels.
It was recently voted one of 100 most promising clean technology companies in the world by the Cleantech Forum, an international firm for promoting investment in clean technologies, and The Guardian newspaper in the UK. "We were pleasantly surprised," Krisa tells ISRAEL21c. "They went to a lot of experts in the field, people who were well aware of upcoming technologies."
Solar power photovoltaic (PV) cells have been "fairly stable for the better part of 10 years. When you look at large PV projects you've got a whole pile of panels, inverters and a meter telling you what's coming out of the plant," says Krisa.
However, more traditional power plants, such as coal-fired, natural gas, or nuclear plants have technology that provides "infinite data about what's going on from the generation side with a lot of controls," he adds, explaining that solar energy plants are "not on par with traditional [energy] in terms of control or monitoring."
A faster return on solar investment
Tigo builds hardware and software intelligence into solar energy installations, making them - the company asserts - more efficient, manageable and safer. It also adds that it's advanced balance of system products deliver lower cost of ownership and faster return on investment.
"One of the key things we bring is innovation around the ability to manage the system," Krisa asserts, adding that this year Tigo has emerged from its R&D mode to start selling its "Maximizer" boxes and online controls on a trial basis. The company reached this stage after much research at trade shows, where it examined the current innovations around materials and energy efficiency in PV systems.
Krisa claims that with its small box connected to each solar PV panel, Tigo improves energy efficiency - the solar power harvested from the PV panels - by six to eight percent. These rates were measured on residential units, in a variety of shade conditions. Top efficiency rates peaked at 20% and this means a faster return on investment for the consumer or businesses.
"More importantly what we are doing really is revolutionizing the way the system is managed, operated and maintained," stresses Krisa. He's referring to the small piece of electronics that the company inserts at each of the panels. "We are able to instrument each one of the panels and provide through [it] a web interface, and an IT and technology solution," he explains.
A granular data set, he adds, allows a project manager to check the status of the panels at all times. Even in a field of 5,000 panels, five-second interval checks can be made on each one.
Don't blame the clouds
Practically speaking, maintenance staff can schedule servicing in response to outputs from the panel. "We can see if a certain corner is getting dirtier than another. From that we will be able to run an analysis to send a cost versus payback [report]," says Kriser. And naturally, data can be sent to a cell phone, remote computer or PDA.
With other systems, "... one can't see down to the panel level. You can't see the data real time," Kriser explains. A site manager may see a drop in production, but he won't understand the reason for it. It could be caused by clouds, less sun, a panel that needs servicing or dirty panels interfering with the output.
The Tigo system can also prevent vandalism. "It's one of the features on our roadmap," says Krisa. And because the Tigo system provides feedback from the panels day and night, it's easy for the company to prevent theft in countries where it's a problem, like in Italy, or in emerging markets.
Selling since March, rather than committing to 50 megawatts at once, large companies, whose names are confidential, are committing to 50 or 100 kilowatts to start. Tigo is currently installing their boxes at three to five sites a week, with each box costing $56 per unit.
Aligning with key players in the market such as Kaco Solar in Germany and AEE Solar, a prominent PV distributor in the US, Tigo announced its UL 1741 compliance this week, which means the company is now able to launch into full-scale sales. Tigo is the first company in this space to reach that milestone, says Krisa: "It shows our leadership and readiness." By early next year Tigo's products will be available worldwide.
Integration into solar panels
As part of its roll-out, Tigo not only provides the "Module Maximizer EP," boxes that runs in parallel circuits, but is also offering a second version, the "Module Maximizer ES," which runs in serial. The company also aims to have its core technology integrated directly into the PV panels of other manufacturers to reduce costs of materials and installation time.
Currently the Tigo Energy solution is a stand-alone polycarbon box that affixes to the frame of a PV panel. Integrating it into other companies' existing technologies offers a number of advantages. "Put right into solar panels, it could vastly reduce the cost of a panel footprint. You can also enhance the performance of the panel itself," says Krisa.
Founded by two native Israelis, Sam Arditi and Ron Hadar, the company was registered and funded in Silicon Valley in late 2007. With a base in Kfar Saba, Israel, run by Modi Avrutsky, an engineering genius, the company employs about 30 people in Israel and the US.
Investors include Matrix Partners, OVP Venture Partners from Seattle and the IDB Group from Israel.Israel 21c
America do you understand what's happening?
September 30, 2009
Sen. Barbara Boxer’s climate bill set to be released today contains a provision that will compensate General Electric quite nicely for its lobbying and media efforts promoting climate legislation.
Section 821(c) requires that, by December 12, 2012, the EPA set standards for greenhouse gas emissions from “new aircraft and new engines used in new aircraft.” General Electric is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial and military jet engines, a business worth about $12 billion in annual revenues.
So the Boxer bill would compel airlines and the military, when purchasing new aircraft and new aircraft engines, to purchase more expensive “green” engines made by GE, according to standards set by the current and GE-lobbied Obama administration.
Keep in mind that GE CEO Jeff Immelt is member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Council.
More evidence that GE’s political action committee (GEPAC) meant what it said in its August 19, 2009 e-mail to employees:
The intersection between GE’s interests and government action is clearer than ever.
Other payoffs to GE will likely be unconvered as Boxer’s bill virtually requires the purchase of other GE products including wind turbines, solar panels and water products.
High Noon for Israel
Now that Iran has admitted that is has constructed a secret facility for producing enriched uranium – one very hard to destroy in a military strike – Israel must be feeling the sand slip through the hourglass. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad already has made clear that he wishes to see Israel destroyed, and now his regime has been caught building a hardened facility to produce nuclear weapons. What is Israel to do? The American position is not encouraging. Although professing concern about the threat of an Iranian nuclear program, President Obama seems determined to push off making any decision to confront Iran. Even after the recent revelations, Obama would rather delay a day of reckoning through international diplomacy than challenge Tehran over its illicit nuclear program.
In its aversion take action, the U.S. is not alone. Russia and China don’t consider Iran a threat. On the contrary, both have used their veto power on the UN Security Council to prevent meaningful action from being taken against Iran. Major European powers, meanwhile, aren’t interested in a war. Canada considers Israel an ally, but doesn’t have the military capability to take on Iran.
Left to face confront the Iranian regime on its own, Israel is left with three main options. And none of them look good.
Do Nothing And Hope for a Miracle
This is what Israel has been doing since the Holocaust-denying, Israel-hating Ahmadinejad first threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Four years later, American and Israeli politics are different – President Bush has been replaced by the dovish President Obama, while Israel has elected as prime minister the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, who has pledged to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon – but Iran remains as menacing and uncooperative as ever. Not only has Iran refused to open its nuclear program to inspectors, but it has test-fired missiles capable of hitting Israel.
Despite the ample provocation, Israel might be sufficiently cowed by international pressure to put off an attack, always hoping that a better option will come along. Israel has shown tremendous patience in the past, absorbing constant attacks without retaliation. Moreover, there is concerted pressure on Israel not to act. The United States has refused to greenlight an Israeli airstrike on Iranian nuclear facilities – former Obama advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski has even urged the president to attack Israeli planes in the event of an aerial offensive against Iran – and it is likely that Israel is being threatened, bribed, and cajoled by administration figures into refraining from military action.
Perhaps Israel will bend to this pressure. It will be harder this time, however. Israel knows that there are no upcoming American elections that might usher in a president more favorably disposed to Israeli security concerns. And if no action is taken against Iran after the recent discovery of the Qom nuclear facility, the Israeli leadership may justifiably conclude that nothing will convince the administration to take a harder line on Iran. In that case, Israel will be forced to consider more drastic action.
Hit Iran with a Limited Military Strike
This option is no doubt under close examination in Tel Aviv. But the decision to attack Iran is fraught with incredible risk for Israel.
Iran has dispersed its nuclear production facilities across the country, making it difficult to deploy overwhelming force against any one of them. Iran also possesses advanced, Russian-made anti-aircraft weapons. In a limited strike scenario, Israel would have to settle for merely damaging the Iranian nuclear program, as it is too large, scattered, and protected to be totally destroyed in a limited strike.
The nature of the strike is difficult to predict (the Israelis obviously aren’t advertising their plans), but it would certainly involve an air strike by as many fighter jets as Israel could send that far, perhaps three or four dozen, at most. These planes would attempt to use precision-guided bunker-busting bombs to destroy as many of Iran’s nuclear facilities as possible, but would also need to worry about Iranian air defenses. Israel could also send in Special Forces teams to attack or sabotage the Iranian program, but the same problems remain: they would be a very long way from home, and all they could hope to accomplish would be to delay the program, at the cost of many Israeli lives and massive international condemnation. Whether Israel is using planes or missiles, the Qom facility, buried under a mountain and easily defended, would be a very tough target to destroy in an air strike.
Even so, such an attack cannot be ruled out. Indeed, there are signs that it is under consideration. Saudi Arabia, whose Sunni leadership fears what a nuclear-armed Shiite-regime in Iran would do, has apparently conveyed its willingness to permit Israeli aircraft to use its airspace to attack Iran. Israel could also attack Iran using submarine-launched cruise missiles: An Israeli submarine recently traveled through the Suez Canal for the first time, entering the Persian Gulf, from where it could strike Iran. Israel has just taken possession of two more submarines, both also capable of such attacks.
Iran has said that it would destroy Israel if attacked. But then, Iran has pledged to destroy Israel merely for existing. That being the case, Israel rightly feels that destroying the Iranian nuclear program is necessary for its survival. And that means that an Israeli attack on Iran remains a very strong possibility.
Pre-emptive Nuclear Attack
This is the most frightening of the hypothetical scenarios, but it cannot be ruled out. As discussed above, Iran’s nuclear program would be very difficult to destroy in a conventional attack, and Iran and Israel are too far apart for Israel to strike with full power. Thus, the nuclear option cannot be ruled out.
If Israel did choose to attack with nuclear weapons, they would likely limit their strike to a few targets believed to be the most vital to the Iranian program, certainly including the Qom facility. Small nuclear weapons, exploded at ground level, can totally destroy any target, while somewhat limiting the amount of radioactive fallout that is sent across a large distance, thus limiting collateral damage.
All things are relative, however: “limited” collateral damage from a nuclear strike is still an enormous amount of damage, and the Qom facility, if struck by a nuclear weapon, could put up to a million lives in danger. That is, of course, a terrible risk, one no human-rights respecting country would take under ordinary circumstances. But such is the existential danger of a nuclear-armed Iran that Israel ultimately may have little choice.
Faced with a brutal madman, who cares nothing for the life of his own people, who denies the mass murder of European Jewry, and who has repeatedly signaled his support for a second Holocaust against the Jewish national home, Israel must wonder how the rest of the world can remain so blind to Iran’s genocidal threat. In the end, though, this is the grim geopolitical reality. Israel’s options are few, they are poor, and time is running out.
A farcical attempt to paint Israel black
In the history of international organisations it is hard to conceive of an institution less fit for purpose than the absurdly titled UN Human Rights Council. Since its inception in 2006, the UNHRC has included such champions of liberal values as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Cuba. There is no doubting the comic value of such membership. Analogies spring to mind of Jack the Ripper leading a disciplinary inquiry at Scotland Yard, or Dr Harold Shipman chairing a panel discussion on medical care for the elderly. Yet for Israel, on the receiving end of this surreal hypocrisy, it is no laughing matter.
The latest example of its hypocrisy is the 575-page Goldstone report into the Gaza conflict at the beginning of this year. Israel, a democracy with an unquestionably free press and meticulously independent judiciary, faces a threat from terrorism unique in its intensity. Yet its obligations to defend its citizens from terror are being scrutinised, delegitimised and condemned by states in which the routine price of dissent is imprisonment without trial, torture or execution.
It is impossible to escape the obsession of the Human Rights Council (and I chuckle every time I write its name) with Israel. In three years, it has issued 25 resolutions against individual states: 20 of them targeted Israel. Basic maths suggests that Israel, a tiny democracy permanently threatened by dictatorships and terrorists, is guilty of 80 per cent of the world’s human rights offences. This is ridiculous, as is a human rights body with member states that still view public beheadings as a wholesome leisure activity.
* Israel moves to discredit 'war crimes' report
* Political interests muddy guilt of war crimes
* Israeli white phosphorus strikes 'war crimes'
* A disgraceful vote which discredits the UN
The UNHRC’s glaring spotlight on Israel blinds it to its official purpose: it is oblivious to the one million displaced people in Somalia, one million displaced in Pakistan or the 300,000 Tamil civilians currently languishing in Sri Lanka. In Darfur Sudan is responsible for at least 400,000 deaths. Yet the council has never condemned the Sudanese Government, and in fact praised it for its “co-operation”.
The UNHRC also remains silent over the systematic rape and torture of pro-democracy activists protesting against the stolen election in Iran. That’s unsurprising. Last week, President Ahmadinejad once again spewed out an anti-Semitic rant at the UN General Assembly. But in April he was the keynote speaker of the UNHRC in Geneva. As the UN passes Mr Ahmadinejad the microphone, his regime recently silenced the leader of the Iranian bus workers’ union by quite literally slashing his tongue.
The Goldstone report’s lack of credibility has not gone unnoticed in all quarters. Canada, Japan and the EU all refused to support Justice Richard Goldstone’s mission from the start. Even Switzerland, which has often lavished red-carpet treatment on tyrants, acknowledged that the anti-Israel bigotry of Goldstone’s team made it unsupportable. Mary Robinson, the former Irish President and a fierce critic of Israel, described Goldstone’s mandate as “guided not by human rights but by politics”.
It is no surprise, therefore, that the report wilfully ignores the context of Operation Cast Lead. Israeli civilians were battered for eight years by thousands of missiles from Gaza. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, hoping the missiles would stop. Instead, the attacks increased, escalating further when Hamas seized power in a brutal coup in 2007. With a million Israelis under fire, and Hamas’s range increasing, Israel did what any democratic state would do. It defended its citizens.
Israel did its utmost to direct Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way. But the report overlooks the Israeli Army’s warning leaflets, text messages and daily humanitarian pauses in the fighting.
Most shamefully of all, the UNHRC has whitewashed the illegal tactics of Hamas. Hamas used mosques as arsenals, playgrounds as rocket launch pads and hospitals as battle command centres. Despite a wealth of video and eyewitness evidence, Goldstone failed to condemn these crimes. Ludicrously, Goldstone defines members of Hamas’s police force as “civilians”, despite their role in implementing and enforcing Hamas’s bloody takeover of Gaza.
The Goldstone report’s assertion that the Israeli courts cannot be trusted is as dishonest as it is insulting. Israel’s legal system holds its army to account at least as thoroughly as any in the free world. Israeli courts have scrutinised previous military operations, and mistakes or wrongdoing have been punished at the highest levels. Legal investigations into the war in Gaza are already under way. Difficult issues, including the use of white phosphorus, as reported by The Times, will not be ignored. But Israel does not need lectures in transparent, democratic legal process from a report mandated by dictatorships.
This report undermines the challenges faced anywhere in the world where accountable armies of democracies confront unaccountable terrorists shielding behind civilians. Nato forces in Afghanistan face a similar problem. On this occasion, it is Israel that has been singled out. But British soldiers on the front line against terror in Afghanistan might also find themselves pursued by a deranged Gaddafi, an unhinged Ahmadinejad or their friends at the UN Human Rights Council.
The UNHRC will meet in Geneva today to congratulate itself on its latest triumph in hypocrisy. For the world’s worst dictators and terrorists, the UNHRC is nothing but a fancy-dress party with a judicial theme. Sadly, on this occasion Richard Goldstone was willing to lend them his costume.
Ron Prosor is the Israeli Ambassador to the UK
Senate letter aims to block any Goldstone-related actions against Israel (SECOND UPDATE)
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), both on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are circulating a letter asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department to block any punitive actions against Israel related to the Goldstone Report. "As the State Department has stated, Israel is a democratic country, like the United States, with an independent judiciary and democratic institutions to investigate and prosecute abuses," says the letter. "The Israel Defense Forces have a reputation for investigating alleged violations of international law and its internal military code of conduct. As a law-abiding state, Israel is in the process of conducting numerous investigations for which it should be commended not condemned.
UPDATED: Thirty senators signed on to the letter, which has now been sent. Here's the list, which includes 16 Dems and 14 Republicans: Charles Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Carl Levin (D-MI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), James Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mark Begich (D-AK), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), John Ensign (R-NV), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Tim Johnson (D-SD), David Vitter (D-ND), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dan Inouye(D-HI), John McCain (R-AZ), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), John Thune (R-SD), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
The full letter is after the jump (UPDATED--The final version of the letter released Tuesday is slightly different from the version posted on Sunday. Instead of saying "this biased report ignores all the facts," it says "this biased report ignores many of the key facts," and changes the Goldstone mission's mandate from "imbalanced" to problematic," Both are posted, with the final version on top):
Dear Madam Secretary,
We appreciate the State Department publicly raising significant concerns about the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone. We believe it is critical that the U.S. continue to work very hard to block any punitive actions against Israel that this report mentions, whether at the Security Council or other U.N. bodies. The loss of innocent lives is unfortunate wherever it occurs – in Israel or in Gaza. But this biased report ignores many of the key facts, and this should be recognized by the international community.
We commend the State Department statements criticizing the one-sided mandate directing the Goldstone report and highlighting the real causes of the war between Israel and Hamas. In particular, we are gratified that the Department has very serious concerns about the report’s recommendations, including calls that this issue be taken up in international fora outside the Human Rights Council and in national courts of countries not party to the conflict. As the United Nations Human Rights Council moves toward a resolution on the Goldstone report, we trust you and your team will denounce the unbalanced nature of this investigation.
There are many serious flaws with the Goldstone report and the investigatory process. The Goldstone mission’s mandate was problematic from the start. The fact that the mission exceeded this mandate by also criticizing some of Hamas’ activities does not diminish the problem that the vast majority of the report focuses on Israel’s conduct, rather than that of Hamas. The report further fails to acknowledge Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism and other external threats, a right of all UN Members under Article 51 of the UN Charter. The report ignores the fact that Israel acted in self-defense only after its civilian population suffered eight years of attacks by rockets and mortars fired indiscriminately from Gaza. Furthermore, the report does not adequately recognize the extraordinary measures taken by the Israel Defense Forces to minimize civilian casualties, which frequently put Israeli soldiers at risk.
As the State Department has stated, Israel is a democratic country, like the United States, with an independent judiciary and democratic institutions to investigate and prosecute abuses. The Israel Defense Forces have a reputation for investigating alleged violations of international law and its internal military code of conduct. As a law-abiding state, Israel is in the process of conducting numerous investigations for which it should be commended not condemned.
We hope you will succeed in your efforts to ensure that consideration of the report at the current meetings of the UN Human Rights Council will not provide an opportunity for Israel’s critics to unfairly use the Council and the report to bring this matter to the UN Security Council.
And the earlier version:
September 23, 2009
Dear Madame Secretary,
We appreciate the State Department publicly raising significant concerns about the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone. We believe it is critical that the U.S. continue to work very hard to block any punitive actions against Israel that this report mentions, whether at the Security Council or other U.N. bodies. The loss of innocent lives is unfortunate wherever it occurs – in Israel or in Gaza. But this biased report ignores all the facts. The report’s illegitimacy should be recognized by the international community.
We commend the State Department statements criticizing the one-sided mandate of the Goldstone report and highlighting the real causes of the war between Israel and Hamas. In particular, we are gratified that the Department has very serious concerns about the report’s recommendations, including calls that this issue be taken up in international fora outside the Human Rights Council and in national courts of countries not party to the conflict. As the United Nations Human Rights Council moves toward a resolution on the Goldstone report, we trust you and your team will denounce the unbalanced nature of this investigation.
There are many serious flaws with the Goldstone report and the entire investigatory process. The Goldstone mission’s mandate was imbalanced from the start. The fact that the mission exceeded this mandate by also criticizing some of Hamas’ activities does not diminish the problem that the vast majority of the report focuses on Israel’s conduct, rather than that of Hamas. The report further fails to acknowledge Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism and other external threats, a right of all UN Members under Article 51 of the UN Charter. The report ignores the fact that Israel acted in self-defense only after its civilian population suffered eight years of attacks by rockets and mortars fired indiscriminately from Gaza. Furthermore, the report does not adequately recognize the extraordinary measures taken by the Israel Defense Forces to minimize civilian casualties, which frequently put Israeli soldiers at risk.
As the State Department has stated, Israel is a democratic country, like the UnitedStates, with an independent judiciary and democratic institutions to investigate and prosecute abuses. The Israel Defense Forces have a reputation for investigating alleged violations of international law and its internal military code of conduct. As a law-abiding state, Israel is in the process of conducting numerous investigations for which it should be commended not condemned.
We hope you will succeed in your efforts to ensure that consideration of the report at the current meetings of the UN Human Rights Council will not provide an opportunity for Israel’s critics to unfairly use the Council and the report to bring this matter to the UN Security Council.
Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Senator Johnny Isakson
Big Oil Traders Cut Shipments to Tehran Amid Sanctions Talk
LONDON -- Some big oil traders have quietly scaled back or are preparing to halt fuel shipments to Iran amid uncertainty over whether the U.S. and Western powers will impose sanctions against the Islamic Republic for its nuclear program. alk of sanctions has ebbed and flowed in recent months as the West pressures Iran to curtail its nuclear program. On Wednesday, at the United Nations, Russian and U.S. leaders again raised the threat of sanctions, ahead of an Oct. 1 meeting.
Some big oil companies aren't waiting, and have been making preparations.
European oil giant BP PLC, which has extensive trading operations, stopped shipments of gasoline and other oil products to Iran at least six months ago, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person said the "overall environment," including the West's standoff with Iran over its nuclear program, had been behind the halt to shipments.
[Leveling Off chart]
An official at Total SA said the French oil major would stop gasoline shipments to Iran if the U.S. and other European nations were to approve measures calling for a halt on fuel exports to Iran. "If we get to that point and measures were put into law in the U.S. and Europe not to trade refined [oil] products to Iran, then we will follow the law," the Total official said.
Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell PLC, another gasoline shipper to Iran, declined to comment. U.S. oil companies are banned from selling petroleum products to Iran.
Although Iran is one of the world's biggest oil producers, it imports around 40% of its oil products. Iran's dependence on foreign gasoline and diesel is a soft spot the U.S. and some European nations could exploit if the country doesn't abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions over its nuclear program.
View Full Image
An Iranian worker walks along an oil-production platform at the Soroush oil fields
An Iranian worker walks along an oil-production platform at the Soroush oil fields
An Iranian worker walks along an oil-production platform at the Soroush oil fields
An Iranian worker walks along an oil-production platform at the Soroush oil fields
Iran is forced to import around 140,000 barrels a day of gasoline and diesel -- at a cost of $5 billion to $7 billion annually depending on oil prices -- because of inadequate refining capacity at home, a result of past sanctions and bureaucratic meddling in Iran that has stymied refinery development. Most of that oil product comes from European companies -- many of which have extensive U.S. operations -- and some Asian companies.
Even if gasoline sanctions come to pass, Iran has various outlets to buy oil products, though probably at higher prices. Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi told reporters in Vienna recently that Iran had made various arrangements to counter any cutoff in gasoline shipments; he didn't elaborate.
Venezuela said it planned on sending Iran about 20,000 barrels a day of gasoline starting next month.
China says officially it doesn't ship any gasoline to Iran, but Asian oil traders say gasoline originating from China is routinely blended with other supply and tankered to Iran. Mehdi Varzi, a London-based independent oil analyst who formerly worked for the Iranian National Oil Co., said existing shippers could sell product to Iran and hide the true origin of deliveries. Gasoline could also be trucked in from Iran's neighboring states, but it is unclear whether such countries, like Azerbaijan, a U.S. and European ally, would permit that.
Gasoline sanctions against Iran have been contemplated for months among Western policy makers, but the idea will gain impetus, at least in the U.S., if coming talks between Iran, the U.S., European nations, Russia and China yield disappointing results. Russia and China have previously signalled their opposition to sanctions against Iran's energy industry, but Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday reversed course and opened the possibility that he could back tougher sanctions on Iran.
"The Russian position is simple. . . . Sanctions rarely lead to productive results. But in some cases sanctions are inevitable," Mr. Medvedev said following a meeting in New York with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
Write to Spencer Swartz at email@example.com
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A4
Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Distribution and use of this material are governed by our Subscriber Agreement and by copyright law. For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit
HC: Government-run Health Care By Next Thursday?
The Washington Post front page blares today: “Prospects for Public Option Dim in Senate.” Don’t believe it. Yes, the Senate Finance Committee did vote down two amendments that each would have added a government-run insurance plan to the committee’s health care bill. But two key Democratic Senators who voted against Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) public plan, Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Tom Carper (D-DE), voted for Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) version. According to an independent analysis of Senate Democrat public statements on the public option, that raises the number of Democrats on record supporting a public option from 47 to 49. Moreover, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairmen of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, told the liberal “Bill Press Radio Show” yesterday that Democrats “comfortably” have the remaining votes to reach 51 and pass a public plan once the debate moves to the House floor.
But what about Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-MT) claim yesterday that, “No one has been able to show me how we can count up to 60 votes with a public option.” That may be true, but it is also irrelevant. The question is not whether Democrats can muster 60 votes to pass Obamacare; they only need 51 votes to do that. The only time the number 60 will be relevant is when the Senate votes on whether to end debate and vote on the final bill. This is a separate question. We can see Senators from red states like Ben Nelson (D-NE), Blanch Lincoln (D-AR), and Kent Conrad (D-ND) voting against an amendment creating a public option. But voting with Republicans against their party and against their President to support a Republican filibuster? That would take a lot of courage. It would guarantee that these Democrats would face fierce opposition from their leftist bases back home. Just ask the left’s new whip for the public option, Michael Moore. Speaking to women’s groups and unions in Washington, DC, yesterday, Moore warned:
To the Democrats in Congress who don’t quite get it: I want to offer a personal pledge. I – and a lot of other people – have every intention of removing you from Congress in the next election if you stand in the way of health care legislation that the people want. That is not a hollow or idle threat. We will come to your district and we will work against you, first in the primary and, if we have to, in the general election.
Moore is, of course, the perfect spokesman for the public option. He is in Washington promoting his new film “Capitalism: A Love Story” in which Moore argues that “Capitalism is an evil, and you can’t regulate evil.” A more succinct summation of theory behind the public option does not exist. While supporters of the plan, including the White House, insist that the purpose of the public option is to bring “choice and competition” to the health care, nothing could be further from the truth. As Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Anthony Weiner (D-NY) Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, and Noble Prize winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman have all candidly admitted, the public option is nothing more than a Trojan horse for a single-payer, government-run health care system. Moore even told Rolling Stone magazine this summer:
If a true public option is enacted — and Obama knows this — it will eventually bring about a single payer system, because the profit-making insurance companies won’t be able to compete with a government run plan and make the profits they want to make.
So just how close are we to being inflicted with the Obama/Moore dream of anti-capitalist, competition-free, government-run health care? Closer than many realize. Multiple sources on the Hill have told The Foundry that as early as next week, the Senate could be debating Obamacare. Senate Majority Leader Reid has stated an intention to take the HELP Committee product and merge it with the Senate Finance Committee markup that is expected to be over by this Thursday or Friday. Their plan is to proceed to a House passed non-health care bill to provide a shell of legislation to give Obamacare a ride to the House and then straight to the President’s desk.
According to a Government Accountability Office, state and federal officials failed to detect $65 million in Medicaid prescription drug fraud, including thousands of prescriptions written for dead patients or by people posing as doctors during 2006 and 2007.
A historic bridge at Bill Clinton’s Presidential Library is slated to get $2.5 million of federal stimulus money.
The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with close ties to President Barack Obama, is releasing a report calling on Obama to further break his ‘no tax increase on middle-class families’ pledge.
A former ACORN field director testified in court yesterday about extra payments to Las Vegas canvassers for bringing in 21 new registration cards in a day.
In 2008, the median household income in the United States plummeted 3.6% from the year before, and the percentage of people living in poverty soared to an 11-year high, according to U.S. Census data.
There Are Only Two Choices Left on Iran
By ELIOT A. COHEN
Unless you are a connoisseur of small pictures of bearded, brooding fanatical clerics there is not much reason to collect Iranian currency. But I kept one bill on my desk at the State Department because of its watermark—an atom superimposed on the part of that country that harbors the Natanz nuclear site. Only the terminally innocent should have been surprised to learn that there is at least one other covert site, whose only purpose could be the production of highly enriched uranium for atom bombs. Pressure, be it gentle or severe, will not erase that nuclear program. The choices are now what they ever were: an American or an Israeli strike, which would probably cause a substantial war, or living in a world with Iranian nuclear weapons, which may also result in war, perhaps nuclear, over a longer period of time.
Understandably, the U.S. government has hoped for a middle course of sanctions, negotiations and bargaining that would remove the problem without the ugly consequences. This is self-delusion. Yes, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy stood side by side with President Barack Obama in Pittsburgh and talked sternly about lines in the sand; and yes, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev hinted that some kind of sanctions might, conceivably, be needed. They said the same things to, and with, President George W. Bush.
Though you would not know it to listen to Sunday talk shows, a large sanctions effort against Iran has been underway for some time. It has not worked to curb Tehran's nuclear appetite, and it will not. Sooner or later the administration, whose main diplomatic initiatives thus far have been a program of apologies and a few sharp kicks to small allies' shins, will have to recognize that fact.
The Iranian regime wants nuclear weapons and has invested vast sums to get both the devices and the means to deliver them. The Russians and Chinese have made soothing murmurs of disapproval but have repeatedly made it clear that they will not go along with measures that would cripple the Iranian economy (and deprive them of markets). German and Swiss businessmen will happily sell Iran whatever goods their not very exacting governments will permit, and our terrified Arab allies have nothing like the military capability to match their own understandable fears. So let's be serious about the choice, because we have less than a year to make it.
An Israeli strike may set back the Iranian program by some short period of time. What the Israelis can do is unclear: They play their tactical cards close to their vest, and they would take different approaches, and accept different risks, than the U.S. Air Force would. No surprise there, given that they believe, with reason, that the looming issues are existential.
But even if they achieved temporary success, it would be just that, because the Iranian program is very different from the Iraqi Osirak reactor that the Israelis nailed so precisely in 1981. It is far more dispersed and protected, and is based on thousands of centrifuges rather than a single nuclear reactor. Moreover, the chances are that it would evoke outrage throughout the Middle East (although Arab governments would privately rejoice at the event), and probably provoke an Iranian reaction that could involve a very large war as the Israelis are attacked by, and retaliate against, Iran's proxies in the Levant and throughout the world.
An American attack would be more effective, but it would take longer and probably lead to real warfare in the Persian Gulf, disrupting oil supplies and producing global responses. More to the point, it is difficult to believe that the Obama administration has the stomach for war. Its appalling public case of nerves over the war in Afghanistan—a "war of necessity," as of only a few months ago—is indicative of its true temper. And if President Obama does not have the courage to accept hazards and ugly surprises, and if he cannot bring himself to deploy his rhetorical skills to the mobilization of opinion at home and abroad, he should not start a shooting war, even if the Iranians are already waging one against us.
That leaves living with an Iranian bomb. But this too has enormous hazards. It will engender—it has already quietly engendered—a nuclear arms race in the region. It will embolden the Iranian regime to make much more lethal mischief than it has even now. In a region that respects strength, it will enhance, not diminish, Iranian prestige. And it may yield the first nuclear attack since 1945 some time down the road.
At the heart of the problem is not simply the nuclear program. It is the Iranian regime, a regime that has, since 1979, relentlessly waged war against the U.S. and its allies. From Buenos Aires to Herat, from Beirut to Cairo, from Baghdad to, now, Caracas, Iranian agents have done their best to disrupt and kill. Iran is militarily weak, but it is masterful at subversive war, and at the kind of high-tech guerrilla, roadside-bomb and rocket fight that Hezbollah conducted in 2006. American military cemeteries contain the bodies of hundreds, maybe thousands, of American servicemen and servicewomen slain by Iranian technology, Iranian tactics, and in some cases, Iranian operatives.
The brutality without is more than matched by the brutality within—the rape, torture and summary execution of civilians by the tens of thousands, down, quite literally, to the present day. This is a corrupt, fanatical, ruthless and unprincipled regime—unpopular, to be sure, but willing to do whatever it takes to stay in power. With such a regime, no real negotiation, based on understandings of mutual interest and respect for undertakings is possible.
It is, therefore, in the American interest to break with past policy and actively seek the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. Not by invasion, which this administration would not contemplate and could not execute, but through every instrument of U.S. power, soft more than hard. And if, as is most likely, President Obama presides over the emergence of a nuclear Iran, he had best prepare for storms that will make the squawks of protest against his health-care plans look like the merest showers on a sunny day.
Mr. Cohen teaches at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. He served as counselor of the State Department from 2007 to 2009.
# The Wall Street Journal
* REVIEW & OUTLOOK
* SEPTEMBER 26, 2009
The Disarmament Illusion
Obama pursues arms control treaties; Iran builds the bomb.
* Comments (30)
President Obama appreciates "teachable moments," so let's all discuss this week's lesson in arms control theory and practice.
The President brought his soaring sermon about "a world without [nuclear] weapons" before the U.N. General Assembly. He called for a new arms control treaty and won Security Council support for a vague resolution on proliferation. On cue yesterday, Iran showed the world what determined rogues think about such treaties. On the evidence of his Presidency so far, Mr. Obama will not let that reality interfere with his disarmament dreams.
The disclosure that Iran has a second facility to make bomb-grade fuel, the latest of many Tehran deceptions, isn't exactly surprising. Administration officials say U.S. intelligence has known about the secret underground plant near the city of Qom for years. Iran sought other hidden sites after the Natanz facility was discovered in 2002, and now officials say they suspect there are other facilities too.
The U.S., France and the U.K. yesterday presented detailed evidence about the plant to the International Atomic Energy Agency. They acted after Iran got wind of the U.S. intelligence and sought to pre-empt possible consequences by informing the supposed nuclear watchdog in Vienna about what Tehran called a "pilot plant" for civilian use.
It's not clear why the mullahs even bothered to make that effort. The past decade of international efforts to monitor, control and sanction the Iranian nuclear program is a story of fecklessness. Iran's nuclear weapon efforts started many years ago, but it was exposed by an Iranian opposition group in exile, not by IAEA inspectors who've been allowed in the country since 1992. Despite this violation of Iran's treaty commitments, the world community has since done nothing to punish, much less stop, Iran's nuclear program.
What's changed now? Standing together before the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh yesterday, Mr. Obama and the French and British leaders put on their game faces, calling for Iran to immediately admit IAEA inspectors. New deadlines were mentioned—talks with Tehran starting October 1, tougher sanctions by December, and so on. "Everything," said France's Nicolas Sarkozy, "must be put on the table now."
At least the French President tried to sound tough, which isn't hard when you stand next to Mr. Obama. The American said Iran will "be held accountable" but watered this down with extended remarks on Iran's "right to peaceful nuclear power," as if the mullahs, sitting on the world's second-largest natural gas and third-largest oil reserves, have any need for peaceful atomic energy.
The Iranians have heard it all before, waltzing along in talks with the "E-3" and now the "P-5-plus-1" (the Security Council permanent members and Germany), all the while ignoring Security Council resolutions and its commitments as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Let's also not forget the boost Iran got in late 2007, when a U.S. national intelligence estimate concluded that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and kept it frozen. The U.S. spy agencies reached this dubious conclusion while apparently knowing about the site near Qom. The intelligence finding stole whatever urgency existed for the Bush Administration to act against Iran, militarily or otherwise, which perhaps was the intended goal. The Iranians got more time and cover.
In an interview with Time magazine this week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad didn't sound overly concerned, saying that if the U.S. mentioned the previously secret facility, it "simply adds to the list of issues to which the United States owes the Iranian nation an apology over." Following the violent protests this summer in response to Iran's fraudulent presidential elections, Mr. Ahmadinejad has kept power but looks both weaker and more ruthless. He makes explicit threats against Israel and he engaged in more Holocaust denial at the U.N. this week.
Meantime, the U.S. and its allies dream. Mr. Obama used his global forum this week not to rally the world to stop today's nuclear rogues but to offer lovely visions of disarmament in some distant future. In the bitter decades of the Cold War, we learned the hard way that the only countries that abide by disarmament treaties are those that want to be disarmed. It's becoming increasingly, and dangerously, obvious that Mr. Obama wasn't paying attention
Posted 09/25/2009 07:16 PM ET
WMD: "We must stop the spread of nuclear weapons," the president implored the U.N. Almost on cue, Iran announced its second nuclear plant and Brazil talked up its own bomb. U.S. weakness gets noticed.
President Obama delivered numerous applause lines before the United Nations last week, like this one regarding nuclear proliferation: "Those nations that refuse to live up to their obligations must face consequences."
But what consequences? Only the most crippling of sanctions, like a concerted oil export and gasoline import embargo, would constitute real punishment for Iran, for instance.
And we're nowhere near getting that to happen.
Which leaves us with what might best be called Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Diplomacy. Dustin Hoffman, the divorcing dad in the movie "Kramer vs. Kramer," haplessly warns his bratty little boy again and again not to get the chocolate chip ice cream out of the freezer before finishing dinner.
"You take one bite out of that, you're in big trouble," the ever-more-ridiculous-looking father says. As the bite gets closer to the boy's lips, he says: "You put that ice cream in your mouth and you are in very, very, very big trouble. Don't you dare go anywhere beyond that. Put it down right now. I am not going to say it again."
That's us now. Neither Iran nor any other terror state has any reason to believe America's tough words have steel behind them.
Upstaging a planned announcement by the U.S., Britain and France, Tehran last week admitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it is building a second uranium enrichment facility at a secret site inside a mountain near the Shiite holy city of Qum.
Jamie Fly, executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, warned that "Iran will stonewall" any U.N. probe of the site, "much as it has done the IAEA's investigation into its pre-2003 covert military program."
Last week also saw a Paris-based Iranian exile group identify two sites near Tehran where they claim the regime is trying to make nuclear detonators.
To top that off, Brazil's vice president and former defense minister, Jose Alencar, told journalists that "we have to advance on" developing nukes "as an instrument of deterrence" because of Brazil's massive western border and oil-rich territorial sea.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last week warned: "Venezuela's pursuit of nuclear power is moving forward in ways that are increasingly worrisome and possibly illegal." Leftist President Hugo Chavez may get Iranian nuclear technology in exchange for 20,000 barrels of gasoline, defying U.S. sanctions on Iran. And Russia talks of helping Chavez build a nuclear reactor.
Guest Comment: Just like Carter is responsible for the Islamic Republic of Iran, so Obama will go down in history as having allowed terrorist regime and a worlwide terror sponsor to acquire nuclear weapons. May it not be any more severe than such a legacy.
If you think the American federal government is bloated, inefficient and ineffective, consider the United Nations, a towering bureaucracy with delusions of being a world government.
Its woeful performance makes the bureaucracy and process in Washington look like a model for modern administration. This point is perhaps no better made than in a new book aptly titled, ConUNdrum: The Limits of the United Nations and the Search for Alternatives, an edited work by Brett Schaefer, a long-time United Nations-watcher at the Heritage Foundation.
The book exposes the truth that, after a lifetime of effort and gazillions of dollars, the world has reaped precious little for peace, security, human rights and economic development from the UN.
Indeed, despite the fact the United States has been the UN’s major benefactor since the organization’s 1945 founding and even in this post-Cold War era, the international body is a bastion of anti-Americanism and socialism – not freedom and prosperity as intended.
While President Obama has acknowledged that the United Nations is “imperfect,” he has still defended it as “indispensable.” The truth is that it is more than imperfect; it is a deeply flawed organization that despite good intentions has failed to meet even minimal expectations time after time. And too often, it has proved to be more an impediment to resolving international problems than an asset.
This is not the hallmark of an “indispensable” body.
The evidence is perhaps nowhere more evident than on the issue of international peace and security, one of its supposed core competencies.
The maintenance of international security though effective collective action to prevent and remove threats to peace is one of the main purposes of the United Nations, as outlined in its 1945 founding charter.
Yet the UN record is not particularly active when it comes to its mandate of dealing with aggression. Despite hundreds of wars during its three-score year existence, the UN has authorized the use of force to counter aggression only twice: after North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in 1950 and after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
In the post-Cold War period, many believed the United Nations would be ideally suited to quell conflicts, only to be mugged by the reality that UN peacekeepers are not war fighters. Expectations set far too high have had tragic results.
Too often, as ConUNdrum points out, the UN has taken on security tasks and responsibilities that it was poorly positioned to carry out, with results arguably as bad as if it had done nothing.
For instance, the United Nations failed to stem a civil war in Somalia, prevent genocide in Rwanda and protect civilians from the slaughter at Srebrenica in the former Yugoslavia. Tragically, it also largely failed to prevent the still-ongoing genocide and atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan.
UN peacekeeping has become a growth industry. There are now more than 110,000 “Blue Helmets” deployed around the world in 16 peacekeeping operations, at an annual cost of nearly $8 billion. That is a huge global investment in an organization with such a record of disappointment.
Shamefully, UN peacekeepers have also been involved in sexual misconduct involving innocent civilians they are supposed to protect in such places as the Democratic Republic of Congo – a situation worsened by internal efforts to cover up the crimes.
The United Nations also comes up short on ending the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons – the responsibility of its supposed watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA failed to detect Iraq’s nuclear program before the first Gulf War; uncover Iran’s once-clandestine atomic efforts; or stop North Korea from joining the Mushroom Cloud Club.
But it is not just security that is a problem.
The broader UN system is in reality a mishmash of organizations. What most people think of as the UN is actually its headquarters at “Turtle Bay” in New York City. The regular and peacekeeping budgets together for its headquarters operations total more than $10 billion annually. When you include the budgets of the many other UN-affiliated organizations (such as the World Food Program, the United Nations Development Program, the World Health Organization, and UNESCO), the collective “U.N. budget” swells to more than $20 billion per year. (This would make the UN the world’s 100th largest economy, larger than almost half its members.)
Some of these UN bodies are funded through voluntary contributions, but most charge member states “dues” based on their “capacity to pay” (e.g., the size of their economies, per capita gross income and the like).
The United States, as the world’s largest economy, pays 22 percent of the “regular” UN budget and more than 25 percent of its peacekeeping budget. Other UN technical and specialized agencies charge the U.S. similar amounts. All told, the U.S. pays roughly $5 billion each year to the UN system.
Uncle Sam forks over more than the combined contributions of the other four permanent members of the Security Council (i.e., China, Russia, France and Britain). Only Japan and Germany, who come in second and third in contributions, are in the vicinity. They pay about 17 percent and 9 percent of the U.N. regular budget, respectively.
Even more egregious, some 130 nations of the 192 UN member states collectively pay about 1 percent of the UN regular budget. Some pay as little as 0.001 percent. Yet they get a vote equal to the U.S. when it comes to adopting the UN budget or other matters before the General Assembly. Under UN rules, this group can pass a budget over the objection of the U.S.
In December 2007, the General Assembly did just that, voting 142 to1 (the United States was the only “no” vote) to adopt a 25 percent increase in its budget – and violating for the first time in 20 years the tradition of approving the budget by consensus.
As former UN Ambassador John Bolton points out in the book, this way of doing business has created an “entitlement mentality”: Member states and the Secretariat approve budgets without even considering program efficiency and effectiveness.
This, of course, means a lack of program oversight and accountability, which has led to fraud and mismanagement – massively demonstrated in the now infamous Iraqi Oil-for-Food program, a “humanitarian” effort that instead sent billions of dollars in kickbacks to line the pockets of Saddam Hussein, his family, UN officials and their cronies.
And what about human rights?
Human Rights Hypocrisy
As several authors in ConUNdrum sadly note, the United Nations also fails in another key charter mission: promoting and encouraging respect for fundamental human rights and freedom. It frequently protects human rights abusers more than it defends the rights of the abused they govern. For instance, the Human Rights Council has largely ignored problems in countries where human rights are a major concern like China, Cuba, North Korea and Zimbabwe.
That should really come as no surprise: The world’s most oppressive governments are UN members in good standing.
Over the years, countries with troubling human rights records have been allowed to play prominent, even leading, roles in the work of UN human rights bodies with the specific intent of ensuring that official criticisms against them never surface. All too often they succeed. Many repressive regimes have been elected to seats on the Human Rights Council and other UN human rights gatherings, such as Libya’s chairmanship of the 2009 follow-up conference to the anti-Semitic 2001 World Conference Against Racism. Even worse, Iran served as vice chair.
Turning Around Turtle Bay
In fairness, much of the work of the UN’s specialized agencies has been well-intentioned even if misguided or ineffective. Some agencies have done quite well, especially in the areas of health care (e.g., immunizations), humanitarian assistance (e.g., food aid) and election monitoring.
The UN also uniquely serves as the world’s largest multilateral forum for discussing global issues of concern. But there is no question that it can certainly do better – if it is willing to amend its ways.
Multilateral cooperation through international organizations can be useful, but it should be employed to address specific challenges, not as a “feel-good” end in itself.
The indisputable fact is that the UN as a multilateral organization, as former Assistant Secretary of State Kim Holmes puts it, usually overpromises and underdelivers. While he and the other authors in ConUNdrum take warranted shots at the UN they also, thankfully, propose ways to reform the 60-plus year old institution.
First and foremost, they argue that Washington must not allow the United Nations to squander taxpayer dollars. They call for a full-court press (including withholding U.S. contributions in some cases) to force change or terminate ineffective programs and to get the UN to focus on activities where it can be most useful.
The United States should seek to curb the UN bureaucracy’s enthusiasm from acting as if it were a world government, while avoiding mission creep in areas where the UN agency or program lacks the expertise, authority or capacity to address a problem effectively. And it should continue to work for greater accountability and oversight.
We should lead an effort to shift more programs and offices that fall under the existing mandatory dues system to voluntary funding. This would allow individual countries to finance the programs they believe most efficiently, effectively and transparently serve their interests.
The UN is certainly not the only way to tackle international problems, either. In fact, as the book suggests, if the UN offers not only a smart analysis of how to think about the UN but also fresh ideas for how to help reform it to better advance peace and security, human rights and prosperity – all core American interests.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Peter Brookes is a Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation and is a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission