Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

Nations ‘face extinction’ without instant climate action

December 13, 2018

Dozens of nations threatened with catastrophe from unchecked climate change warned Thursday they “face extinction” without immediate action to rein in mankind’s emissions, as UN climate talks limped towards their conclusion.

Representatives from nearly 200 nations are locked in negotiations in Poland over how to make good on the promises they made in the landmark 2015 Paris agreement aimed at limiting global temperature rises.

Talks have however hit a wall over a host of disputes ranging from adopting the newest environmental data to how the fight against climate change will be financed in future.

"We are bearing the torch for those vulnerable to climate change," Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine told the COP24 in Katowice, Poland. She is shown here addressing the UN General Assembly in September

“We are bearing the torch for those vulnerable to climate change,” Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine told the COP24 in Katowice, Poland. She is shown here addressing the UN General Assembly in September “We are bearing the torch for those vulnerable to climate change,” Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine told the COP24 in Katowice, Poland. She is shown here addressing the UN General Assembly in September AFP

But with Earth already experiencing widespread droughts, flooding and mega-storms made worse as our planet heats up, many nations simply cannot wait for action.

“We are bearing the torch for those vulnerable to climate change,” Hilda Heine, president of the Marshall Islands, told delegates at the COP24 summit.

“We represent a number of nations, like my own, that face extinction. Species of all kinds also face existential risk.”

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Marshall Islands

A group of 48 nations representing more than one billion people urged developed countries — responsible for the lion’s share of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions — to pay up to help the worst affected.

“We are in Poland in the name of the children of tomorrow whose interests we must secure, compelled by science and duty,” said Emmanuel De Guzman, from the Philippines Climate Change Commission.

“We find the ambivalence of countries in these negotiations unacceptable. We are discussing here not trivial text or punctuation marks but our very survival.”

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Ocean levels are up in the Philippines

A major sticking point at talks scheduled to wrap up Friday remains how nations use the findings of a landmark UN report released in October.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the need for greenhouse gas emissions to be nearly halved by 2030 and for fossil fuel use to be slashed in order to achieve the Paris goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C.

Four nations — the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait — blocked a proposal for nations to “welcome” the IPCC report as a basis of future climate action.

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Part of the Maldives have already disappeared under water.

– ‘Talking and talking’ –

Delegates in the Polish mining city of Katowice must agree on a rulebook to implement the Paris accord and are encouraged to outline what they plan to do in practice ahead of a stock-taking in 2020.

But talks are dogged by competing interests, and even if the Paris pledges are realised Earth is on the path towards 3C warming — enough to tear at the fabric of society.

“We are not prepared to die,” said Mohamed Nasheed, former Maldives president and a veteran of UN climate summits.

“Perhaps now it’s time to tell ourselves some hard truths. Carbon emissions keep rising, and rising, and rising. And all we seem to be doing is talking and talking and talking. We are not winning the battle.”



UN reports more suspected Iranian missiles found in Yemen

December 12, 2018

More suspected Iranian-made weapons have been found in Yemen, the UN says in a report that will be discussed Wednesday by the Security Council.

The Gulf monarchies and United States accuse Iran of supporting Huthi rebels in Yemen — and see this as justification for the military campaign they have been waging in Yemen since 2015.

Iran supports the rebels politically but denies supplying them with arms.

Iran supports the Huthi rebels in Yemen politically but denies supplying them with arms

Iran supports the Huthi rebels in Yemen politically but denies supplying them with arms Iran supports the Huthi rebels in Yemen politically but denies supplying them with arms AFP

The report from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ office says his staff examined two container launch units for anti-tank guided missiles recovered by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

“The Secretariat found that they had characteristics of Iranian manufacture,” the report said.

“The Secretariat also examined a partly disassembled surface-to-air missiles seized by the Saudi-led coalition and observed that its features appeared to be consistent with those of an Iranian missile,” it added.

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A photo distributed by the Houthi rebels shows the launch of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia on March 25, 2018. Reuters

surface-to-air missile seized by the Saudi-led coalition and observed that its features appeared to be consistent with those of an Iranian missile,” it added.

A probe into the origin of the weapons continues, it said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was expected to attend Wednesday’s meeting on Iran, scheduled to start at 1500 GMT.

Guterres’ report mainly addresses Iran’s obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with six major powers. The United States pulled out of the accord in May and has reimposed sanctions on Iran.

The report concludes that Iran continues to abide by the nuclear accord, under which it won sanctions relief in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.

The UN has said in the past that Yemen’s Huthi rebels have fired Iranian-made missiles at Saudi Arabia. But it said it could not be certain that these weapons were in fact supplied by Iran in what would be a violation of UN resolutions.



Pressure builds on Yemen’s warring parties as peace talks focus on port

December 12, 2018

Yemen’s warring parties are being pressed to agree thorny confidence-building measures, including the status of a strategic Red Sea port, in consultations on Wednesday before the close of the first U.N.-led peace talks in two years.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to attend final talks in Sweden on Thursday to support his envoy’s efforts and meet delegates from the Iran-aligned Houthi group and the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Ambassadors from countries that are permanent members of the Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – joined talks with delegation heads on Tuesday, sources said.

Western nations, some of which supply arms and intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015, want an end to nearly four years of war that have killed tens of thousands of people and pushed millions to the brink of famine.

Hodeidah port, Yemen — The area could be put under the control of a joint committee and supervised by the United Nations. (File/AFP)

President Donald Trump told Reuters on Tuesday he could abide by legislation being considered by the Senate to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war effort following outrage over the Oct. 2 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

“I hate to see what’s going on in Yemen,” Trump said. “But it takes two to tango. I’d want to see Iran pull out of Yemen too. Because – and I think they will.”

The nearly four-year-old conflict is largely seen in the Middle East as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its rival, Shi’ite Muslim Iran, which has welcomed the peace efforts.

The Western-backed Sunni Muslim Arab coalition intervened in the civil war to restore Hadi’s government which was ousted from the capital Sanaa in 2014 by the Houthis, who now control most population centers, including the Red Sea city of Hodeidah.


U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths, trying to avert a full-scale assault on Hodeidah, where coalition forces have massed on the outskirts, is asking both sides to withdraw from the city.

His proposal envisions an interim entity be formed to run the city and port, and international monitors deployed.

Both sides agree to a U.N. role in the port, the entry point for most of Yemen’s commercial imports and vital aid, but differ on who should run the city. The Houthis want Hodeidah declared a neutral zone while Hadi’s government believes the city should fall under its control as a matter of sovereignty.

“The devil is in the details – withdraw how far (from Hodeidah), the sequence, who governs and delivers services,” said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The parties have also yet to agree on reopening Sanaa airport, shoring up the central bank and a transitional governing body.

Some progress has been made since the talks were launched last week with a prisoner swap deal. The two sides on Tuesday exchanged lists of about 15,000 prisoners to be released under supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Another round of peace talks could be held in early 2019.

Coalition leaders Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates want to exit a costly conflict bogged down in stalemate since 2015 after the alliance seized the southern port of Aden, the Hadi government’s current base.

Hadi returned to the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday from the United States where he underwent routine medical tests, his office said in a statement.

Additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Aden and Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Clarence Fernandez


Two missile launchers found in Yemen appear to be from Iran

December 11, 2018

Two launch units for anti-tank guided missiles recovered by a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen appear to have been manufactured in Iran during 2016 and 2017, according to a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

But U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres does not specifically state whether the discovery of the units in Yemen was a violation of a U.N. resolution that took effect in January 2016. It prevents Iran from importing and exporting arms or related materiel unless the Security Council has given approval.

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“The Secretariat found that they had characteristics of Iranian manufacture and that their markings indicated production dates in 2016 and 2017,” Guterres said in his biannual report to the Security Council on the implementation of sanctions on Iran.

“The Secretariat also examined a partly disassembled surface-to-air missile seized by the Saudi-led coalition and observed that its features appeared to be consistent with those of an Iranian missile,” he wrote.

A proxy war is playing out in Yemen between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Iran-allied Houthis. The Houthis have been subject to a separate arms embargo since 2015. Iran has repeatedly denied supplying weapons to the Houthis.

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A photo distributed by the Houthi rebels shows the launch of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia on March 25, 2018. Reuters

The U.N. Security Council is due to discuss the latest report from Guterres on Wednesday, diplomats said.

The United States has loudly and unsuccessfully pushed the United Nations to hold Iran accountable over accusations it is meddling in the wars in Syria and Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East. In February Russia vetoed a Western attempt to have the Security Council call out Tehran in a resolution on Yemen.

Guterres also said the United Nations had also examined the debris of three more ballistic missiles fired at Saudi Arabia on March 25 and April 11, 2018, and found “specific key design features consistent with those of the Iranian Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missile.” However, it could not determine if it was a violation as it was unknown when they were transferred to Yemen.

He said the United Nations “is still working on establishing the production date range of guidance subcomponents with the assistance of the foreign manufacturers.”

In his June report, Guterres said debris from five missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by the Houthis since July 2017 “share key design features with a known type of missile” manufactured by Iran and some components were manufactured in Iran, but also could not determine when they were transferred to Yemen.

Most U.N. sanctions imposed on Iran were lifted in January 2016 when the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran fulfilled commitments under a nuclear deal with Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the United States. But Iran is still subject to a U.N. arms embargo and other restrictions.

The U.N. sanctions and restrictions on Iran are contained in a resolution that also enshrines the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from in May. European powers have been scrambling to salvage the deal.

In the U.N. report, Guterres called on all countries to “ensure the continuity of this agreement that is fundamental to regional and international peace and security.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis


Belgian PM set for minority after biggest ally quits coalition in migration treaty row

December 9, 2018

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said his government would continue as a minority administration after the biggest party in his coalition quit on Saturday in a row over signing the UN migration compact.

Michel, a French-speaking liberal, said he “took note” of the departure of the Flemish N-VA from the four-party coalition formed in 2014 and would reshuffle posts — a particularly complex task in bilingual Belgium, as French- and Dutch-speakers must by law have an equal number of ministerial posts.

With a federal election due anyway in May, many observers expect no immediate change to that electoral calendar.

Eric Vidal, Reuters | Belgian prime minister Charles Michel during a press conference in Brussels, December 8, 2018.

In a move critics have described as an opening shot in that election campaign, the right-wing N-VA, which is the biggest party in parliament, said it was pulling its ministers from the coalition after Michel refused its demand that he rescind a plan to sign the UN migration compact in Marrakesh on Monday.

Michel had secured a large parliamentary majority last week in favour of maintaining Belgium’s support of the United Nations text, which since it was agreed by all UN states bar the United States in July has run into criticism from European politicians who say it could increase immigration to Europe.

The N-VA faces electoral losses in its Dutch-speaking region to the harder-right, anti-immigration Vlaams Belang. Its leader Bart De Wever, the mayor of Belgium’s second city Antwerp, had issued Michel an ultimatum that it would quit the government if he signed the non-binding UN declaration.

A crisis cabinet meeting on Saturday night was cut short when two N-VA ministers, Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Migration Minister Theo Francken, walked out.

Michel said he would replace N-VA ministers with lower-ranked state secretaries and maintain a minority coalition involving his French-speaking liberal MR and two Flemish parties, the centre-right CD&V and Open VLD.

At least six EU states — mostly in formerly Communist eastern Europe — have already shunned the accord to regulate the treatment of migrants worldwide, a sign of how the bloc has turned increasingly restrictive on accepting refugees and migrants alike since a 2015 spike in arrivals.



Donald Trump Not Backing Away From Israel

December 9, 2018

In an age when doomsday predictions are as common as thunderstorms, it can be instructive to look back at events and compare the predictions to what actually happened. The decision by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is an example that offers major lessons.

Long before Trump made the announcement on Dec. 6, 2017, and pledged to move our embassy to Jerusalem, there were endless warnings that the change would cause global unrest. Opponents in America, Europe and the Arab world, including current and former government officials, vehemently insisted the peace process between Israel and Palestinians would be destroyed. Some even warned that America would be sucked into ­another Mideast war.

Ho-hum. It’s a year later and the sky still refuses to fall. Nor is the Mideast burning.

In fact, little or nothing has changed between the parties as a result of the announcement and the subsequent embassy move from Tel Aviv. There was no peace process at the time because the Palestinians had refused even to negotiate, and that remains the case.

By Michael Goodwin

Also, Israel already was moving beyond the Palestinian issue and, because of threats from Iran and ­Islamic State, had established working security alliances with several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. Those arrangements are intact and expanding, as are its relationships with China and others outside the region.

Among the lessons that hindsight affords is that conventional wisdom was simply wrong. It turns out that those supposedly in the know actually knew nothing.

A corollary is that the so-called Arab street turned out to be a ­fictional force, with the promised outpouring of mass support in Arab countries never materializing. ­Although there was grumbling and sporadic rock-throwing and tire-burning, Armageddon stayed off stage.

Another lesson is that strength creates its own advantages. Presidents who blink in a crisis, as ­Barack Obama did by failing to ­enforce his red line in Syria, invite more trouble because opponents believe they will wilt. In ­office for nearly a year, Trump had demonstrated that riots don’t move him, so riots didn’t happen.

A Palestinian waves a flag during a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 22, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

A Palestinian waves a flag during a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 22, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

I was in Jerusalem the day of his announcement and Israelis were jubilant. Trump was hailed as a hero for the ages because he conformed American policy to what every Israeli knows: Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state.

That reality was why virtually every presidential candidate for two decades promised to make the embassy move — but only when the time was right. The hesitation, enshrined in a 1995 law that allowed delays, gave a heckler’s veto to ­Arabs and incentivized violence. Trump changed the pattern by deciding the time was right to do the right thing.

This is not to claim that all the chips fell into place and everyone lived happily ever after. Hamas, true to its terrorist nature, used the actual opening of the new embassy in May to organize attempts to crash the Gaza border fence.

Israeli troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, along with live fire, and shot and killed a reported 59 Palestinians. Yet despite the usual condemnation at the United Nations that Israel had used disproportionate force, Hamas ­acknowledged that 52 of the dead were militants, many of them armed.

Meanwhile, thousands of Hamas rockets have been fired at Israeli towns and kites loaded with firebombs sent across the border, starting fires that burned thousands of acres of farmland.

Some of the kites carried Nazi swastikas, according to The New York Times, a reminder about Arab hate and proof that further delay on the Jerusalem declaration would not have changed Hamas’ determination to destroy Israel.

For ordinary Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, the continuing refusal of their leaders to negotiate with Israel and the Trump administration compounds years of missed opportunities. ­

Every passing day is another lost day where Palestinians could have had their own state.

Importantly, Trump’s team acknowledged the Jerusalem move meant he would tilt to Palestinians on other issues, and he pointedly did not rule out the possibility that East Jerusalem could be the capital of their state.

Yet continuing the pattern started in 2000, when Bill Clinton failed to get Yasser Arafat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to create a two-state solution at Camp David, the Palestinians never get to yes.

Time and again, they walk away when a reasonable deal could be made.

Finally, an American president called their bluff and showed that even their threats were empty.

Taking & delivering punches

Scoring the punches that prosecutors throw at President Trump is a bit like scoring a heavyweight boxing match. Body blows might add up over the course of the fight, but anything that isn’t a knockout isn’t decisive.

So it was with the three sentencing memos released late Friday, two from special counsel Robert Mueller and one from Manhattan federal prosecutors.

The clearest hit on Trump came from the Manhattan feds’ memo asking for substantial prison time for Michael Cohen. Reprising statements Cohen made when he pleaded guilty, prosecutors said that, among other crimes, the former Trump fixer broke campaign- finance laws by paying hush money to Stormy Daniels and another woman, and that he acted at Trump’s direction.

The intended point is that Trump committed a felony, though how that plays out is a mystery. An indictment is theoretically possible because the deed happened before the president took office, though that effort would cause a bloody battle of its own.

The main event, of course, is Mueller and his memos on Cohen and Paul Manafort, which continue his maddening pattern of teasing about big developments without delivering. So there is more talk of Russia, Russia, Russia, but lots of redacted material and no evidence linking Trump to any “collusion,” however the word is defined.

The day, then, leaves the president battered but still standing. He’s also punching back hard, aiming to weaken Mueller and his team.

One appeal of actual boxing is a limit on the number of rounds. Unfortunately, Mueller vs. Trump looks as if it will continue long past the point of America’s endurance.

Lefty AOC takes Trump Jr.’s bait

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an incoming member of Congress from Queens, foolishly responded to a tweet about socialism from Donald Trump Jr. by pulling rank. She charged that he was trying to distract from his father’s troubles, then added, “it’s definitely a ‘very, very large brain’ idea to troll a member of a body that will have subpoena power in a month.”

In her case, power doesn’t just corrupt, it corrupts instantly.

It’s ‘suppression’ in Fantasyland

Reader Harold Theurer spots an outrage that has escaped social- justice warriors. He writes: “It’s come to my attention that Disney requires photo ID in order to enter its facilities.

“Because asking voters for photo ID is considered Voter Suppression, does Disney’s rule amount to Joy Seeker Suppression?

“How interesting that walking down Main Street USA requires more scrutiny than casting a ballot.”

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South China Sea: Philippines lacks military might but has friends in US, Asean — Defense chief says

December 9, 2018

“We can’t fight China but he knows we have some options here.”

The Philippines may lack the military muscle to face off with China on the West Philippine Sea, but what it does have are friends for backup.

Outlining the Philippines’ “options” in the face of Chinese incursions and installations in the disputed seas, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana listed two: “alliances with other Asean nations and the Philippines’ mutual defense treaty with the United States.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / JOAN BONDOC

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / JOAN BONDOC

Lorenzana made the statements during an open forum at the “Pilipinas Conference 2018” in Makati City, organized by independent think tank Stratbase Albert Del Rosario Institute on Friday.

Biggest strength

“It’s still the biggest strength of the Philippines, this alliance with the United States,” Lorenzana said, answering a question seeking his reaction to President Duterte’s statements that the Philippines could not go to war with China.

“In his frustration, I think he said that we can’t fight China but he knows we have some options here,” Lorenzana said, citing the Philippines’ regional and US alliance.

The defense chief also cited increased military cooperation with Australia and Japan.

In welcome remarks during the conference, former Ambassador Albert del Rosario said the Philippines should seek action from the United Nations General Assembly to press China to abide by the arbitral ruling.

It was during Del Rosario’s time as foreign secretary when the Philippines won the arbitral case against China’s “nine-dash line” claim.

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U.N. pact on migration is “already dead”

December 9, 2018

The global U.N. pact on migration is “dead even before it’s been signed,” Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon told a gathering at the Flemish parliament in Brussels on Saturday.

Bannon spoke at the invitation of Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Belang, an anti-immigration party that has come out against the U.N. Global Compact on Migration set to be signed by national leaders in Marrakesh next week. The goal of the meeting, according to Vlaams Belang leader Tom Van Grieken, was to put the “suicidal” migration pact “where it belongs: in the trash.”

Bannon praised leaders like Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who also spoke at the event, for rejecting the pact.

EU-Kommissionspräsident Jean-Claude Juncker (picture alliance/dpa/AP/V. Mayo)

Jean-Claude Juncker

“They call us racists no matter what we do,” Bannon said, according to Belgian media. “But it’s not up to workers in Hungary, France and the U.S. to resolve African problems.”

With migration still a combustible issue across the Continent, three years after the 2015 refugee crisis, far-right parties have seized on the pact ahead of next year’s European Parliament election, triggering infighting in ruling parties and governments, including in Belgium.

The right-wing New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), a member of Charles Michel’s ruling coalition, and the Vlaams Belang have refused to support the U.N. migration deal. N-VA leader Bart de Wever reiterated Saturday he did not want the government to fall, but said his party would not change its mind and endorse the U.N. pact.

Ministers are expected to meet Saturday evening to try to resolve the stand-off, Belgian media reported. A failure to resolve the dispute could cause Michel’s government, which relies on the support of the N-VA, to collapse.

Bannon has set his sights on gathering Europe’s populist parties — including Le Pen’s National Rally and the Flemish nationalists — into a pan-European movement ahead of next year’s European election.

“For the first time, it’s possible to possible to imagine an alternative to the pro-Europeans and replacing staggering leaders like Jean-Claude Juncker,” Le Pen told MPs Saturday.

See also:

Wall Street Journal: U.N. Pact on Migration Sows Dissent

Pompeo Is Leading a Foreign-Policy Farce

December 8, 2018

The secretary of state says Trump wants to lead the global order he’s actually destroying.

Sharing a foreign-policy joke.

Photographer: Pool/Getty Images North America

If a diplomat truly is, as the old saying goes, “an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country,” then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has earned his pay. His speech in Brussels on “Restoring the Role of the Nation-State in the Liberal International Order” deserves a State Department Distinguished Honor Award for Intellectual Dishonesty.

“Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself,” said Pompeo. “The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done.” Maybe I ran in strange circles during my eight years in the State Department, but few of my colleagues were in thrall to such simplistic thinking.

Pompeo then hurled rhetorical grenades at a row of multilateral bunkers: United Nations peacekeeping missions don’t work; the Organization of American States hasn’t brought freedom to Cuba; the African Union doesn’t advance the mutual interest of its members; the World Bank and International Monetary Fund just make things worse; the European Union puts the interests of its bureaucrats before those of its countries and citizens. Admittedly, each of those institutions is imperfect. But none lives down to the caricatures Pompeo made of them.

Finally, in his own Mount Suribachi moment, Pompeo brazenly planted the flag of American leadership on an international liberal order that this administration has worked harder to blow up than to build. Wisely, he beat a retreat after his speech, taking no questions.

So, let’s look at his points one by one. In attacking multilateralism, Pompeo claimed that the Trump administration’s mission is “to reassert our sovereignty … and we want our friends to help us and exert their sovereignty as well.” Trump himself played up this same theme at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

But it’s not clear that multilateral agreements and institutions have actually done much to abuse U.S. sovereignty. The UN charter, for instance, clearly excludes intervention in any state’s domestic affairs. The U.S. veto on the Security Council gives it an unassailable backstop. America has unrivaled voting power in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Many of the supposed threats to U.S. sovereignty that the Trump administration has cited have been either illusory — such as a hortatory compact on migration the U.S. pulled out of last year — or could be easily countered, such as a possible investigation by the International Criminal Court into U.S. actions in Afghanistan.

For its part, the Trump administration hasn’t been shy about trespassing on other countries’ sovereignty. Trump has threatened to invade Venezuela and to punish South Africa for its land-reform policies. By the end of 2017, he had also sanctioned nearly 1,000 individuals and entities. Apparently, there are limits to how much other countries can “exert their sovereignty” within their own borders if doing so goes against the interests of the U.S.

The liberal international order actually provides a legal basis for such interventions — if, that is, you’re willing to uphold it and play by its rules. The UN Security Council has passed hundreds of Chapter VII resolutions authorizing action to “restore international peace and security.” Many investigations and prosecutions by the ICC, to which all NATO members except Turkey and the U.S. belong, have advanced many U.S. policy interests. Multilateral bodies also provide a forum for resolving lesser disputes. Trump’s animus toward the World Trade Organization, for instance, ignores the better than average (and better than China) U.S. winning streak in trade cases.

Even in those situations where international rules may constrain future U.S. behavior, they reflect trade-offs that negotiators have weighed and accepted. As Secretary of State Dean Rusk said to Congress in 1965 about the thousands of treaties and agreements that the U.S. had inked in the previous two decades, “We are constantly enlarging our own freedom by being able to predict what others are going to do.”

At their best, multilateral institutions allow their member states to leverage national power. Twice in the last decade, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has compared the cost of UN peacekeeping missions to U.S. boots on the ground and found them to be a much more cost-effective alternative. Fittingly, two days after Pompeo blasted his hosts at the EU for shortchanging the interests of its members’ citizens, news broke of a massive, multi-nation EU-coordinated raid on the ’Ndrangheta crime syndicate in Italy — the kind of bust that no country can mount on its own.

Do multilateral institutions need review, reform and renewal? Well, what institution doesn’t? And as the largest funder from 2014 to 2016 for 24 out of 53 leading UN and non-UN multilateral institutions (compared with nine each for Japan and the U.K.), the U.S. has a strong interest in making sure they work effectively and advance the interests of member states.

But the way to do that isn’t to browbeat them, or to take your ball and go home when things don’t go your way. For all the weaknesses of the UN Human Rights Council, the U.S. withdrawal (Iceland took its place) won’t make it better, and makes it even less likely that offenders will be held to account. Moreover, China and Russia are busy building their own multilateral bodies or suborning existing ones like Interpol.

Pompeo claimed that the U.S. wants to create international organizations “that deliver on their stated missions, and that create value for the liberal order and for the world.” But the administration’s drastic budget cuts to the State Department and international organizations (which a more multilaterally-minded Congress has blunted) and its preference for bilateral over multilateral deals suggest it would rather they withered on the vine. Equally toxic has been Trump’s disdain for the work of experts and seasoned public servants — witness his recent repudiation of a searing U.S. government report on climate change’s economic impact.

One of my wonkiest jobs as a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo was to cover Japan’s conduct in commodities groups such as the International Tropical Timber Organization, the International Coffee Organization and the now-defunct International Natural Rubber Organization. I never became an expert, though I did come to understand why Japan has such good coffee. I did, however, develop a healthy respect for the wonks, nerds and gnomes who inhabit the multilateral garden, tending to their countries’ national interests while advancing the greater common good. They need and deserve your support, Mr. Secretary, not your contempt.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Iran Simmers In Anger

December 8, 2018

It seems that Iran is angry. How else to interpret its most recent ballistic missile tests, which are surely intended more as a retaliation to the United States than as a provocation to the European Union?

Nevertheless, while countries such as France, the UK and Germany are struggling to counteract the withdrawal of the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the missile tests have forced them to stand with Washington in condemning Tehran’s actions.

France and the UK, permanent members of the UN Security Council, have asked for a meeting to review the tests and assess whether Iran has violated UN resolution 2231, which gave effect to the 2015 agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for the end of sanctions.

By Camelia Entekhabifard
Arab News

Iran’s position — stated often by President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and most recently by Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi — is that nothing in the nuclear deal or the UN resolution restricts Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Image result for Javad Zarif, with federica Mogniari, photos

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, far right, with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, in happier times

The rest of the world has a different interpretation of the resolution, which requests that Iran refrain from testing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. In addition, the sale or transfer to Iran of any missile materials, equipment and technology is prohibited. However since such equipment and technology may also have non-military purposes, a country that wishes to sell them to Iran may file a request to the Security Council, which is required to examine the requests case by case.

The decision of President Donald Trump to withdraw from the agreement was the most significant step in undermining the fundamental principle of Resolution 2231, which ultimately undermined the legitimacy of the resolution and its full implementation.

Camelia Entekhabifard

With all these obligations and requirements, it should not be at all easy for Iran to acquire what it needs to build and test missiles. Indeed, on the UN Security Council website there is a special page devoted to the restrictions on the development, manufacture and testing of ballistic missile technology in Iran. There are no complaints on this page.

Nevertheless, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Iran of violating the Security Council resolution that enacts the 2015 nuclear deal.

There is a further complication in that the principle violator of UN Resolution 2231 is not, in fact, Iran — it is the United States. The resolution promotes the achievement of a multilateral agreement to an international instrument whose implementation is mandated by the Security Council. That means not only the signatories, but all the countries of the world, should act on its content.

For this reason, the decision of President Donald Trump to withdraw from the agreement was the most significant step in undermining the fundamental principle of Resolution 2231, which ultimately undermined the legitimacy of the resolution and its full implementation.

At this critical time, the Western powers must surely understand that if they leave the agreement because of Iran’s violations of Resolution 2231, clearly Iran will act more aggressively to take revenge for the humiliation suffered as a result of the US withdrawal, and then the EU’s lack of support.

The best thing everyone can do is to hold back and watch the US for the next action.

  • Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth (Seven Stories Press, 2008). Twitter: @CameliaFard
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