Things have gone from bad to worse in the Central African Republic. Nine months after a rebel alliance known as Seleka seized control of Bangui, the country's riverside capital, and forced President François Bozizé into exile, CAR is quickly descending into chaos. The country could be "on the verge of genocide," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned last month, echoing John Ging, the director of the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who in mid-November reported being "concerned that the seeds of a genocide are being sown." According to U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, "the population is enduring suffering beyond imagination."
In a country that has endured five coups in as many decades, instability has been one of the few predictable elements of daily life. But since the Seleka rebels began their campaign against the government in December of last year, the state has all but collapsed. Following the ouster of Bozizé and his replacement with rebel leader Michel Djotodia, the Seleka alliance turned on itself. In September, Djotodia officially disbanded the predominantly Muslim rebel movement that propelled him into office, leaving battle hardened fighters, many of them foreign mercenaries from Chad and Sudan, to prey indiscriminately on the population. What ensued was rape, pillage, and blood-letting on a massive scale -- as well as the formation of predominantly Christian militias, known as anti-balaka ("anti-machete"), that have carried out their own atrocities against the country's Muslim population.
"The resulting tit-for-tat spiral of violence [between Muslims and Christians] is creating the foundation of a religious conflict that will be very difficult to stop," Lawrence D. Wohlers, the recently departed U.S. ambassador to CAR, told Foreign Policy. "Although it is the Christian population that has suffered the most until now, the Muslim population is a distinct minority and may suffer far more as Seleka's power declines," he said, adding that the country could be headed for "religious-inspired, murderous anarchy" in "which no one will be safe."
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Try as they might, international organizations just can't compete with Kim Kardashian. While Twitter is becoming an increasingly important tool for groups like the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and the International Monetary Fund to get their message out, according to a new "Twiplomacy" study by communications firm Burson-Marsteller released on Wednesday, they have nowhere near the number of followers of international superstars. With 18, 772, 302 followers, Kardashian's Twitter audience is greater than the combined following of the one hundred organizations examined in the study. It's no suprise, but it's depressing nonetheless: famines, science, and obscure conflicts just can't compete with a famous derrière.
The good news is, the organizations are hyping up their Twitter presence. With global diplomacy increasingly relying on online means, international organizations are expanding their efforts in a necessary game of catch-up -- their following pales not only in comparison to Kardashian, but also to Barack Obama, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and Pope Francis). In the past six years, all major international organizations have set up Twitter accounts, have added staff to their digitial teams, and some have even started tweeting in several languages. "Organizations that put more resources into their digital communications are the ones who will be most effective over the coming years," said Matthias Lüfkens, the author of the report.
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The destruction wrought by typhoon Haiyan -- which has killed an estimated 2,500 people, according to Philippine President Aquino -- cast a pall over opening day of the UN climate talks in Warsaw on Monday. During the opening ceremony, Philippines negotiator Naderev Saño made an emotional plea to his peers, asking them to finally establish an international mechanism for addressing losses and damages linked to climate change.
"To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change..." Saño told the conference, "You may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now."
Haiyan may prove to be the worst typhoon in history, but, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has noted, global warming is increasing both the frequency and ferocity of extreme weather events like it. The Philippines, situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire, already bears the highest risk of natural disasters in the world, after Vanatu and Tonga. And climate change is causing the Philippine sea to rise at an astounding rate of 10mm per year, well over the global average of 3mm per year. Four typhoons have made landfall in the Philippines this year alone, with Haiyan being the third Category 5 typhoon to strike since 2010. Last year, supertyphoon Bopha killed nearly 2,000 people, while in 2011 tropical storm Washi killed 1,000.
The increasing incidence of climate change-related disasters like Haiyan has developing countries calling for international measures to help mitigate the effects of extreme weather events, whether that takes the form of disaster insurance or technical assistance from their more developed counterparts.
While the environmental consequences of climate change affect all countries, poor nations-- especially those already at high risk of natural disasters -- tend to be disproportionately burdened because they lack the resources and institutional capacity to prepare for and respond to calamities. A study released Thursday by the United Nations University examined the effects of extreme weather events and climatic changes on nine developing countries, ultimately finding that they deepen poverty and erode houshold living and health standards. Researchers also argued that current efforts to mitigate climate change effects are insufficient, and should be augmented by international mechanisms that deal with climate change-related loss and damage.
The issue was contentious at the 2012 negotiations in Doha (during which Saño made a similarly impassioned speech), as developed nations worried that they might have to compensate poorer countries for the consequences of their own emissions.
The conference eventually agreed that the issue would be resolved at the 2013 talks in Poland. In his speech to the assembly, a tearful Saño underscored the need for a quick resolution -- announcing that he would fast "until a meaningful outcome is in sight."
Saño's hometown was hit by Haiyan. "Up to this hour, I agonize while waiting for word as to the fate of my very own relatives," he told the assembled, just days after the typhoon struck. "In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, in all due respect Mr. President, and I mean no disrespect for your kind hospitality, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate." His remarks were met with a standing ovation.
The conference will run through November 22.
JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
With the opening of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, world leaders have descended on New York for an annual gathering that marks the beginning of the body's work for the year. It's a time for high diplomatic drama -- Iran and Syria are in the spotlight this year -- and a chance for presidents and prime ministers to air their grievances on a global stage. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff opened the day's events with a denunciation of U.S. intelligence activities exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. She was followed by President Barack Obama, who expressed measured optimism at the diplomatic gambit by Iran's leaders to restart talks aimed at resolving the stand-off over Tehran's nuclear program.
More fireworks are sure to come. The livestream is after the jump.
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As John Hudson points out at The Cable, Susan Rice has pulled off a remarkable professional comeback. Just six months ago, the U.N. ambassador withdrew her name from consideration for secretary of state amid intense opposition from congressional Republicans over misleading statements she made about the Benghazi attacks. Now she's been tapped to succeed Tom Donilon as President Obama's national security advisor.
Then again, maybe we shouldn't be so surprised about Rice's ability to bounce back from controversy. During her two decades inside the Beltway, Rice has been no stranger to incoming fire. Here are five moments from her career that will surely dominate water-cooler chatter in Washington this week.
The Benghazi Talking Points Debacle
On Sept. 16, 2012, Rice appeared on several Sunday talk shows to discuss the recent attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. During her appearances, Rice, speaking from talking points prepared during a contentious interagency process, said that the attacks were a spontaneous response to an anti-Muslim video posted on the Internet. That assessment turned out to be incorrect, and congressional Republicans targeted Rice in their efforts to expose a White House cover-up. Here's video from one of those appearances:
The Rwandan Genocide
When mass killings erupted in Rwanda in April 1994, Rice was serving on the National Security Council and was part of a coterie of U.S. officials who took little action to stop violence that would ultimately leave at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead.
Here's how Samantha Power -- a former journalist who worked as a human rights official in the Obama administration and who will be nominated to replace Rice at the U.N. -- described Rice's role during the genocide:
Even after the reality of genocide in Rwanda had become irrefutable, when bodies were shown choking the Kagera River on the nightly news, the brute fact of the slaughter failed to influence U.S. policy except in a negative way. American officials, for a variety of reasons, shunned the use of what became known as "the g-word." They felt that using it would have obliged the United States to act, under the terms of the 1948 Genocide Convention. They also believed, understandably, that it would harm U.S. credibility to name the crime and then do nothing to stop it. A discussion paper on Rwanda, prepared by an official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and dated May 1, testifies to the nature of official thinking. Regarding issues that might be brought up at the next interagency working group, it stated,
1. Genocide Investigation: Language that calls for an international investigation of human rights abuses and possible violations of the genocide convention. Be Careful. Legal at State was worried about this yesterday-Genocide finding could commit [the U.S. government] to actually "do something." [Emphasis added.]
At an interagency teleconference in late April, Susan Rice, a rising star on the NSC who worked under Richard Clarke, stunned a few of the officials present when she asked, "If we use the word 'genocide' and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?" Lieutenant Colonel Tony Marley remembers the incredulity of his colleagues at the State Department. "We could believe that people would wonder that," he says, "but not that they would actually voice it." Rice does not recall the incident but concedes, "If I said it, it was completely inappropriate, as well as irrelevant."
Rice has faced criticism for turning a blind eye to the massacres in Rwanda, but her experience appears to have also had a profound impact on her understanding of the world. Here's Power again:
Susan Rice, Clarke's co-worker on peacekeeping at the NSC, also feels that she has a debt to repay. "There was such a huge disconnect between the logic of each of the decisions we took along the way during the genocide and the moral consequences of the decisions taken collectively," Rice says. "I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required." Rice was subsequently appointed NSC Africa director and, later, assistant secretary of state for African affairs; she visited Rwanda several times and helped to launch a small program geared to train selected African armies so that they might be available to respond to the continent's next genocide. The American appetite for troop deployments in Africa had not improved.
More recently, Rice has disputed the notion that she is eternally seeking to atone for events in Rwanda. "To suggest that I'm repenting for [Rwanda] or that I'm haunted by that or that I don't sleep because of that or that every policy I've ever implemented subsequently is driven by that is garbage," she told the New Republic in 2012.
But even if she has managed to move on from the tragedy, it is clear that Rwanda made her more willing to consider the use of American power for humanitarian ends -- a perspective that surfaced during the debate over whether the United States should intervene in Libya in 2011. Some of Rice's most instructive comments on the issue came during an emotional speech she delivered on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the genocide. Judge for yourself whether she is still affected by what happened during those brutal months in 1994:
U.S. Intervention in Libya
During the Obama administration's internal debate over whether the United States should intervene in Libya on behalf of rebel forces, Rice emerged as a forceful advocate for intervention -- and a critical player in lining up international support for the operation.
In a show of diplomatic jujitsu, she frustrated her allies at the United Nations by repeatedly putting a brake on efforts to draft a forceful Security Council resolution authorizing intervention. Little did they know that behind the scenes she had secretly drafted a resolution authorizing airstrikes -- despite the fact that she hadn't yet won White House support for the policy. When Obama finally came around to authorizing the use of military force, Rice rammed her resolution through the Security Council. In an institution not known for its ability to take swift action, Rice greased the wheels expertly and secured international backing for humanitarian intervention -- no small feat.
During the first six months of 2010, Rice carried out an intensive lobbying effort to build a coalition at the Security Council that would pass additional sanctions against Iran for its unwillingness to abandon its nuclear program. As James Traub wrote in his profile of Rice for Foreign Policy:
Rice's aides say that she got down in the weeds of the resolution, battering her fellow diplomats with details of how Iran used foreign banks to obscure nuclear-related transactions. She was prepared to conduct her own foreign policy when necessary. When a fellow diplomat challenged her on a red-line issue, saying that Jones, the national security advisor, had laid out the administration's policy differently, Rice retorted, "I outrank General Jones."
Rice got results. Resolution 1929 imposed sanctions on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, prohibited the sale of some heavy weapons to Iran, and called for the inspection of ships and airplanes suspected of carrying contraband cargo to or from Iran. It was a victory that won her plaudits within the White House.
Rwanda is the issue that won't go away for Rice. In late 2012, with an alleged Rwandan-backed insurgency wreaking havoc in eastern Congo, France's U.N. ambassador, Gérard Araud, urged Rice to exercise her influence with Rwandan President Paul Kagame -- an old friend of hers and a staunch U.S. ally -- to get the rebel forces, known as the M23, to back down. "Gerard, it's eastern Congo. If it were not the M23 killing people it would be some other armed groups," she reportedly responded. U.S. officials say that they have privately urged Kagame to end his support of the M23 movement, which seized Goma, the regional capital, a few a weeks after the conversation between Rice and Araud.
The United States has continued to protect the Rwandan government at the United Nations. Following the rebel assault on Goma, the Security Council passed a resolution condemning the group's actions. But at the urging of the United States, mention of Rwanda was dropped from the resolution.
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There will be some new faces at the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly this week. Some of them, like Egyptian president Mohamed Morsy, are headliners, while others, particularly those who blandly won elections without revolutions, not so much. Here are a few of the freshmen in the U.N.'s Class of 2012 speaking on day one.
Immediately following Brazilian president Dilma Roussef and President Barack Obama, the podium will go to Tomislav Nikolic, the new president of Serbia. Elected and inaugurated in May, Nikolic has tried to rebrand himself from his previous persona as an ultranationalist politician, an effort that has worked with hardliners -- Nikolic was ousted from the Serbian Radical Party in 2008 over fundamental differences over Serbia's candidacy for the European Union. However, neighbors have chafed at his statements, particularly his denial that the massacre at Srebenica was genocide and his insistence that Vukovar, a town in Croatia, is actually Serbian. Croatian, Bosnian, Slovenian, and Macedonian leaders boycotted Nikolic's inauguration, and if Nikolic veers into sensitive subjects on Tuesday at the General Assembly, may be the first walk-outs of the session.
Later in the morning, Sauli Niinistö, the president of Finland, who took office in March, will speak. Finland is currently vying for a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Medina will be followed by François Hollande, the president of France who succeeded Nicolas Sarkozy in May. Hollande has scaled back some of his more ambitious proposals to try to generate new momentum in France's economy, but announced new taxes just before leaving for New York and will present his budget when he returns to Paris. In his remarks to the General Assembly, Hollande is expected to discuss threats to North Africa, including drought, famine, and radicalization.
Senegal will be represented by President Macky Sall, whose election and peaceful succession of President Abdoulaye Wade has been touted as a model for developing African nations. Last month, facing catastrophic flooding, Sall proposed shuttering the upper house of Senegal's bicameral legislature to pay for disaster relief.
Janos Ader will be representing Hungary. The first president elected under Hungary's new constitution came to power when the previous president stepped down amid revelations that he plagiarized his doctoral thesis. Ader's ardent nationalism has troubled others in the European Union.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain will be one of the day's closing speakers. He assumed office in December of last year, and while he has spoken at other U.N. events, when he speaks on Wednesday evening, attention will be squarely on Spain's financial crisis.
And that's just the first day. For a full list of speakers, U.N. Dispatch has an annotated schedule for today.
It has been a particularly rough week for al-Shabab. The al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia that has been battling for control of Somalia for the past few years has suffered three major setbacks in the course of a few days.
Just last month, prominent al-Shabab-affiliated cleric Sheikh Aboud Rogo was fingered in a leaked UN report on Somalia as a key recruiter for the group in East Africa with strong ties to al Qaeda. On the morning of Aug. 27, he was shot in his car along with several members of his family as they drove through Mombasa, Kenya.
No assailants have been identified, but crowds of thousands of Rogo's outraged supporters have taken in the streets of Mombasa to protest his death. At least one person has been reported dead so far and two churches have been vandalized by mobs, Jeune Afrique reported.
According to the U.N. report, Rogo was a key figure in the leadership of the Muslim Youth Centre (MYC) -- also known as Al-Hijra -- one of al-Shabab's main support networks in Kenya:
"The MYC relies heavily on the ideological guidance of prominent Kenyan Islamist extremists including Sheikh Aboud Rogo, a radical cleric based in Mombasa, Kenya, known associate of member of Al-Qaida East Africa and advocate of the violent overthrow of the Kenyan government. In consultation with Rogo, MYC has not only changed its name, but reorganized its membership and finances in order to permit its organization, the Pumwani Riyadha Mosque Committee (PRMC) in Nairobi, to continue funding Al Shabab."
Only a few days before Rogo's death, the U.N. Security Council announced that it was implementing targeted sanctions against Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, another Mombasa-based Kenyan national with deep links to al-Shabab. Ahmed has been in prison for over two years in Kenya for his involvement in a grenade attack on a Nairobi bus depot that killed three.
According to the Security Council resolution, Ahmed has six known aliases and is "a close associate of Aboud Rogo." Rogo's name is the only one mentioned in the Security Council resolution condemning Ahmed. Both men were placed under sanctions by the U.S. at the same time on July 5, 2012.
Also on the morning of Aug. 27, the AFP reported that African Union AMISOM troops captured the coastal al-Shabab stronghold of Marka:
"The loss of Marka, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) south of the capital Mogadishu, is another major blow for the insurgents, who have been on the back foot for several months."
Al-Shabab was pushed out of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, last year and has suffered number of further defeats over the past several months. However, they still maintain control of the two port cities of Barawe and Kismayo, their main stronghold.
Whether these events represent different strands of a coordinated regional crackdown on al-Shabab activities or whether the group is encountering a rather startling wave bad luck remains unclear.
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For the first time, the United Nation's Human Rights Council condemned violence and discrimination against gays, lesbians, and transgender people today in Geneva. The move-- which was initially put forward by South Africa-- was applauded by gay rights supporters.
The resolution "expresses grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity" and calls for a study by the end of the year to examine discrimination against the gay community.
The U.S. ambassador to the council, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, called it a "historic moment" for the United Nations, according to the Associated Press.
Nevertheless, the vote was close-- with the strongest opposition coming from African and Islamic countries. 23 nations voted in favor, 19 against, and 3 abstained.
Here's a rundown of which countries voted which way:
With the passage tonight of a robust U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a no-fly zone in Libya -- and then some -- Barack Obama has committed the United States to intervening in a Muslim country for the third time in a decade.
Only this time, the resolution's passage was a victory for the kind of painstaking multilateral diplomacy that was so often scorned by his predecessor, who preferred to work with "coalitions of the willing" and dismissed the United Nations as ineffective, weak, and morally questionable.
Of course, there's no guarantee that a piece of paper will succeeding in protecting the thousands of Libyans cheering in Benghazi's main square from Qaddafi's forces, which are gathering some 100 miles away outside the besieged town of Ajdabiya and have completely surrounded Misrata. What needs to happen now is swift military action against Qaddafi's heavy weapons -- call it a "no-drive zone," and perhaps even the bombing of his compound in Tripoli. Are Britain and France, which have taken the lead in pushing for military action, up to the challenge? Or will the U.S. once again be called upon to clean up a nearby mess Europe couldn't solve on its own? We'll soon find out.
One thought: It is amazing, and altogether incredible, that an uprising that began as peaceful protests calling for the release of political prisoners has made it this far, just as it is unfortunate that Qaddafi's horrific use of violence has forced the international community to intervene. But if such is the price of saving the Arab revolutions, so be it.
The world now has to win this fight. As NATO Secretary-General Fogh Rasmussen put it earlier today, "If Gadaffi prevails it will send a clear signal that violence pays."
This morning the U.N.'s new umbrella agency for women's rights issues elected its board members. The election had attracted controversy because two of the candidate countries were among the world's most notorious abusers of women's rights, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
This morning, with strong lobbying from the United States, Iran's election to the board was blocked. Human rights groups had strongly opposed Iran's election, pointing in particular to the recent death sentence of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for the crime of adultery.
The 54 countries who sit on the UN’s Economic and Social Council did, however, accept the membership bid by Saudi Arabia, where women are forbidden from driving and barred from many public places.
In fact, according to the U.N. Development Program's own Gender Empowerment Measure, Saudi Arabia is actually a worse country for gender equality than Iran. Neither does particularly well, but of the the 93 countries ranked, only Yemen scores lower than Saudi Arabia.
Iran's candidacy for the 41-member executive board had been part of a slate elected by the Asian region while Saudi Arabia was selected for one of the spots reserved for "donor" nations. Not a particularly auspicious start for an important new body.
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People are taking to the streets in the Haitian city of Saint Marc to protest the construction of a cholera clinic by Doctors Without Borders. Around 300 students and other people gathered to complain (and throw rocks), voicing fears that the clinic would bring more of the disease into the area. More than 280 people have died from cholera so far in the recent outbreak, according to U.N. figures.
Presumably, a well-regarded aid organization like Doctors Without Borders knows what it is doing and wouldn't contribute to the spread of cholera in Haiti by misplacing a medical clinic. As the Al Jazeera correspondent in Port au Prince said, the anger is primarily due to a lack of public education about the disease. That may be true, but I think there are probably other issues here. Haitians' suspicions of the clinic might have as much to do with their general condition as it does with the building itself.
It was more than nine months ago that a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, killing a quarter of a million people, leveling the capital, and setting back the country's infrastructure and economic development for years. More than 100 countries pledged about $15 billion to repair Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake. But so far Haitians have seen little improvement in their conditions. There are still 1.3 million people living in displaced persons camps, where hunger, rape, malnutrition, and now cholera are common. So far only $300 million of the $1.15 billion the United States appropriated to Haiti has reached the country.
Earlier this month Haitian protesters blocked off the area around the U.N. military installation in Port au Prince and carried banners that said "Down With the Occupation." In Mirabelais people are protesting that Nepalese U.N. forces nearby are contaminating the river with sewage. As long as reconstruction continues at such a slow pace, Haitians won't see the U.N. forces and international organizations as there to help. Some of that anger might even be taken out against much-needed medical clinics.
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The U.S. delegation walked out of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the General Assembly today, just as the Iranian president was putting forth an alternative theory about the 9/11 attacks:
"That some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime. The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view."
Just from the press highlights, readers might get the impression that Ahmadinejad's U.N. speeches are anti-American barn-burners, similar to classics by Hugo Chavez or Daniel Ortega. But the truth is they're much stranger than that. Ahmadinejad tends to set up his political arguments with extensive discourses on theology and moral philosophy. The corrosive influence of materialism on human society is a theme that he seems to return to each year. Here's this a sample from this year:
Nimrod countered Hazrat Abraham, Pharaoh countered Hazrat Moses and the greedy countered Hazrat Jesus Christ and Hazrat Mohammad (Peace be upon them all). In the recent centuries, the human ethics and values have been rejected as a cause for backwardness. They were even portrayed as opposin wisdom and science because of the earlier infliction on man by the proclaimers of religion in the dark ages of the West.
Man's disconnection from Heaven detached him from his true self. Man with his potentials for understanding the secrets of the universe, his instinct for seeking truth, his aspirations for justice and perfection, his quest for beauty and purity and his capacity to represent God on earth was reduced to a creaturelimited to the materialistic world with a mission to maximize individualitic pleasures. Human instinct, then, replaced true human nature.
Human beings and nations were considered rivals and the happiness of an individual or a nation was defined collision with, and elimination or suppression of others. Constructive evolutionary cooperation was replaced with a destructive struggle for survival.
The lust for capital and domination replaced monotheism, which is the gate to love and unity. This widepread clash of the egoist with the divine values gave way to slavery and colonialism.
There really isn't any other world leader who speaks this way on the international stage. Most Western analysts tend to gloss over the religious/philosophical portions, which seems like an oversight given the emphasis he puts on them.
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Gallup's annual Governance survey finds 57% of Americans expressing a great deal or fair amount of trust in the U.S. government to handle international problems. That is down from 62% a year ago, but remains higher than the percentage trusting Washington to handle domestic problems, now at a record-low 46%.
In some sense, this result is a very strange one during the bloodiest year of an unpopular, decade-long war. Especially considering that this administration actively decided to send more troops to Afghanistan -- however reluctantly -- while the economy was in sorry shape before Obama came into office.
But the polls may say less about the government's performance than where the country's attention and priorities right now. It's likely that the public gives the government decent marks on foreign policy simply because they haven't been paying very close attention to it.
Given the president that Americans' elected nearly two years ago, it's remarkable that foreign policy today seems too peripheral to the national conversation. Obama first distinguished himself from frontrunner Hillary Clinton because of his unwavering opposition to the war in Iraq and made restoring America's image in the world a major theme of his campaign, going so far as to hold a de facto campaign rally in Berlin at the height of the campaign.
As James Traub wrote last March, while most presidents are elected for their domestic plans but remembered for their handling of foreign policy crises, Obama -- at least in the first half of his term -- has often seemed like an international president forced by circumstances to focus on domestic priorities:
When the White House announced last week that Obama would postpone a planned trip to Asia to lobby for his health-care legislation, it confirmed that foreign policy would take a back seat to America's grave domestic and political problems. The economic crisis, of course, had radically reshaped Obama's scale of priorities long before he assumed office; foreign affairs took up less than a quarter of his inaugural address. And then Republican intractability sent the debate over health-care reform into one sudden-death overtime after another. The world beyond America's borders is of course no less salient, and no less threatening, than ever; but Americans are looking at it through the wrong end of the binoculars.
But with the Democratic majority in Congress likely to dwindle or even disappear in November, I wonder if foreign policy might play a larger role in the second half of this term (or at least what's left of it until the presidential election cycle overtakes events in 2011). As Peter Feaver has pointed out, there's less daylight between the White House and Congressional republicans on national security issues than on economic or domestic policy. And in any case, the president has far more leeway to act without congressional cooperation on foreign policy.
With major domestic initiatives likely stalled for the foreseeable future by an increasingly confident GOP, could we see a shift toward a more foreign policy-focused presidency? Lord knows there are plenty of neglected areas, from trade to Latin America to development policy (which Obama took on in another speech yesterday) that could benefit from some high-level attention, not to mention Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, the Mideast talks and climate change.
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Iraq is still paying the world back for Saddam's actions -- literally. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Iraqi government has agreed to pay $400 million to American citizens who claimed to have been tortured or traumatized by the Iraqi regime following Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. With a 15-30 percent unemployment rate, ubiquitous violence, and a still lacking infrastructure, why is the new Iraqi regime paying so much money to American citizens when it was all Saddam's fault? Because the payment may help Iraq's case to end U.N. sanctions that have lasted since Saddam Hussein's rule:
Settling the claims, which were brought by American citizens, has been seen as a key requirement for Washington to be willing to push for an end to the UN sanctions.
"There was a lot of pressure on the Iraqi government to do something that gets Congress off their back," says one senior Iraqi official, adding that the settlement cleared the way for US efforts to bring Iraq out from under the UN sanctions.
That's right, Saddam is long gone but sanctions on the still rebuilding country aren't. In fact, Iraq has already paid Kuwait $27.6 billion in reparations and continues to devote five percent of its oil revenues in accordance with the U.N. sanctions resulting from Saddam's invasion. While many countries have cancelled a lot or all of Iraq's debt to them, Kuwait continues to support Iraqi reparations -- regardless of the $22 billion Kuwaiti budget surplus for the last fiscal year.
So if U.S. citizens get paid by the Iraqi government for Saddam's "traumatizing" from 20 years ago, what will the United States pay the families of Iraqi citizens that are actually killed by U.S. forces? Well, the U.S. government is trying to find ways for Iraq to pay for that too.
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A very long decade ago, the world's leaders got together at the United Nations here in New York to agree on something pretty remarkable: that they were going to do their best to end poverty by 2015. In just over a week, they'll come back -- now with two-thirds of that time gone by -- to see how well we've done.
Sounds very nice, but the negotiations to settle on an answer to that question have been far less glamorous. A draft of the final outcome document, dated Sept. 8 at 1:00 p.m. EST, gives a hint at where the sticking points were: language about foreign occupation and blame where progress has lagged behind.
In the first case, the reference to foreign occupation is largely an allusion to Israel and Palestine, and the draft document shows that the so-called G77 group of developing countries has suggested a different set of language than the United States on four different occassions. For example, the draft indicates that the United States would like to delete a point that reads:
"We acknowledge that the persistance of foreign occuapation is a major obstacle to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals for people living under such occupation. We underline the need to take concrete and concerted actions in conformity with international law to remove the obstacles to the full realization of the rights of peoples living under foreign occupation, so as to ensure their achievement of the Millennium Development Goals."
The latter point of blame -- is it the donor-countries who have failed to give enough, or the poor countries who haven't done enough with the money? -- seems to have been settled; the draft declares that "committments [to poverty reduction] by developed and developing countries in relation to the MDGs require mutual accountability." (Not much on specifics here, leaving some to wonder whether the pledges that world leaders will no doubt bring with them to the summit in New York later this month will be more than words alone.)
Aside from the sticking points, the document is a pretty comprehensive list of everything left to do before 2015. It's essentially a catalogue of everything that the international community has learned about "development" over the last six decades. The laundry list includes a lot of general philosophies about that assistance to the poor -- that communities have to "own" their own empowerment, that every sector needs to be targeted, that technology needs to be used to boost the speed and efficiency of anti-poverty measures, that good governance matters, that everyone from the private sector to governments to NGOs to the U.N. has to be involved -- and so on. It's common sense stuff. But again, getting 192 countries to agree on it isn't so simple.
And by the way, are we going to succeed in our lofty goal? The short answer is kind of. The world will probably meet some of its headline figures when you average the sum of all countries worldwide. But the detailed picture is less upbeat: the incredible progress of countries such as China and India (as well as Vietnam, Rwanda, and other impressive gains) has brought up the global average, covering weaknesses in the many countries lagging behind. As the document puts it, while there have been some success stories, "We are deeply concerned however, that the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger surpasses one billion and that inequalities between and witihin countries remain a significant challenge."
In other words, we haven't eradicated poverty among the poorest; we've just made the middle a little bit better. Five years to fix it starts now.
U.N. Security Council members Brazil and Turkey have chosen very different paths since they both voted against the latest round of U.N. sanctions on Iran. While Brazil has pledged to abide by the sanctions, despite their disagreement with them, Turkey's energy minister has vowed to bolster gasoline sales to Tehran. Turkey's gasoline sales have reportedly boomed to over five times their daily average, compared to the first half of this year.
Turkey is not the only U.S. ally looking to increase trade with Iran. In Iraq, a new Iranian trade center has recently opened, and Iran's ambassador has promised to double trade between the two countries, which he estimated at about $7 billion last year.
Russia -- though few might call it a close U.S. ally -- is also getting in on the act. Its state atomic corporation is set to load fuel into Iran's first nuclear power plant next week.
It doesn't look like pressing more reset buttons with Turkey, Iraq or Russia is going to help the U.S. attempt to isolate Iran.
If you've ever considered paring a fresh garden salad with a hearty serving of mealworm quiche, you may be in luck. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is reviewing a policy paper, written by a Dutch entomologist Arnold van Huis, which argues for consuming more insects. His rationale is entirely logical: Bugs are cheaper to feed; high in protein and calcium; and much less of an environmental burden than livestock like cows, pigs, and chickens. Insects are also biologically different from humans, thus less susceptible to contagious diseases. And - there are about 1,400 edible bugs in the world.
In the first phase of the program, van Huis proposes feeding more insects to farmed animals and then gradually introducing bugs to Western diets: "We're looking at ways of grinding the meat into some sort of patty, which would be more recognizable to western palates," he said. Van Huis is also partial to cricket pies, fried grasshoppers, and mealworm quiche. "Sauced crickets in a warm chocolate dip make a great snack," he said in an interview.
U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization has already started a pilot program in Laos. About 80% of the world already eats insects - now it's just a matter of convincing those who don't. While this may be entirely sensible, good luck to the unfortunate public relations person at the U.N. who's in charge of making this idea appealing.
ED OUDENAARDEN/AFP/Getty Images
Big news at the U.N. today is the passage of a resolution to impose new Iranian sanctions -- a document that, if nothing else, epitomizes the delicate (read: watered down) diplomatic language that is well on its way to becoming the signature style of the international body.
But lest anyone accuse U.N. delegates of taking cover behind circumlocutions, Rania al-Rifai, the Syrian envoy to the U.N Human Rights Council, proved that there's still room for undiluted and unfriendly language at the United Nations when she said on Tuesday:
"Hatred [in Israel] is widespread, taught to even small children ... Let me quote a song that a group of children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school. And I quote, ‘With my teeth I will rip your flesh, with my mouth I will suck your blood.' End of quote."
Inside the room, business proceeded as usual, but controversy instantly erupted from outside the U.N. Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, an NGO that monitors the Council, rebuked Council President Alex Van Meeuwen for allowing Rifai's comments to stand unchallenged and called upon Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to censure Van Meeuwen for his oversight.
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
All things considered, Israeli officials seem relatively happy with the diplomatic support they've been getting from the Obama administration, and have taken to the phones to express their appreciation for U.S. help in batting back a Turkish-led bid to censure Israel via the U.N. Security Council.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, however, has taken a different tack. He apparently called U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon -- who has little to do with the content or politics of Security Council debates -- this morning to complain about yesterday's emergency session and what he sees as the U.N.'s unfair treatment of Israel. Trouble is, his ministry erroneously calls the presidential statement issued in the wee hours of the morning Tuesday a "resolution" in a readout posted on the ministry's website -- twice:
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman spoke today (Tuesday, 1 June 2010) with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon following the UN Security Council resolution of this morning. FM Liberman stated that the hypocrisy and double standards taking root in the international community regarding Israel are to be regretted. [...]
FM Liberman stated that in light of this, the Security Council resolution is unacceptable and contributes nothing to the promotion of peace and stability in the Middle East.
This isn't the biggest deal in the world, but considering that one of the main thrusts of Israeli and U.S. diplomacy over the past 24 hours was ensuring that there was no resolution, it's an embarrassing mistake. And it shows, I think, the extent to which the Netanyahu administration -- which does employ some very effective people, such as Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren -- has been hobbled by inept diplomats since its first days in office.
In another brilliant move, Lieberman's deputy, Danny Ayalon, was among the first Israeli officials to speak out about the flotilla deaths -- even though was the one who infuriated the Turks last year when he deliberately humiliated Ankara's envoy by sitting him in a smaller chair and dressing him down in Hebrew in front of the Israeli media.
Israel seems to have rallied a bit since yesterday morning, but only, it seems, but shoving the Foreign Ministry aside and letting the professionals do the work.
Everybody's talking about this New York Times story by David Sanger and Thom Shanker, which tells us that U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates sent a memo in January to "top White House officials" warning them that the United States "does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with ’s steady progress toward nuclear capability." Some are reading the story as a bombshell, but I think there's less here than meets the eye.
This is the quote that folks have seized upon:
One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as “a wake-up call.” But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran’s nuclear program.
Gates fired back today with an unusual statement on a classified memo, saying the Times and its sources had "mischaracterized" him. "The memo was not intended as a 'wake up call' or received as such by the President's national security team," Gates said. "Rather, it presented a number of questions and proposals intended to contribute to an orderly and timely decision making process."
That's probably an accurate explanation of what Gates was trying to do, but clearly some in the administration are trying to push a different narrative.
The Times also reported that Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged his staff in December to make sure they had military options ready in case President Obama chose that course. Shocking! Mullen also made an effort Sunday to respond to the Times story, stressing that a military strike against Iran would be "the last option for the United States."
The Times is standing by its characterization of the memo: "Senior administration officials, asked Sunday to give specific examples of what was mischaracterized in the article, declined to discuss the content of the memo, citing its classified status."
So how about it: Do the Obama folks have a clear strategy for stopping Iran?
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Dan Drezner howls at the Maldives government's brilliant stunt of holding an underwater cabinet meeting (more photos here and here) to make the case that "if we can't save the Maldives today, you can't save the rest of the world tomorrow," and wonders if "a rational, cost-benefit analysis of how to allocate climate change resources between mitigation and adaptation" would really redound to the benefit of such small-island countries.
I doubt it -- and the world has already pretty much already decided to let these nations drown. Back in 2007, when I attended the U.N.'s high-level meeting on climate change, one of the issues on the table was what level of global warming we could all tolerate. Was it 1 degree celsius, which was already upon us? One-point-five? Two?
The island countries, which have their own caucus in the General Assembly, were calling for 1.5 degrees (and still are). I remember being shocked, however, at their level of disorganization. Given that climate change is such an existential threat to them, why did they only announce their press conference on the matter 15 minutes beforehand, and why did they only send their U.N. ambassadors, rather than the heads of state? I think I was one of three members of the press in attendance.
The Maldives' new president, Mohammed Nasheed, seems a little more media-savvy than his predecessor, the dictator Mamoon Abdul Gayoom. He has to be: The highest point in the Maldives is just under 8 feet, and the country's average elevation is somewhere between 4 and 7 feet. But that's the average -- most of the country is still lower than that, and the U.N.'s climate panel estimated in 2007 that sea levels would rise anywhere from 7.2 to 23.2 inches, which would make the Maldives extremely vulnerable to storm surges or major sea swells (it should be noted that the U.N. report emphasized that its sea-level projections were "not an upper bound"). If current trends hold, by the end of this century, the bulk of the country's 300,000 inhabitants will have to find other places to live.
But in calling for the 1.5 degree target, Nasheed seems to be fighting a battle he's already lost. In the end, a rough scientific and political consensus has settled around 2 degrees -- and even with that, very little has been done to make the emissions cuts needed, and there are certainly no binding commitments to do so. Would 2 degrees of warming doom the Maldives? I don't know. But it sure looks to me like the world's power brokers are willing to roll the dice on this one.
“It’s time to get a jackhammer and to simply chip off that part of New York City,” said Huckabee, “and let it float into the East River, never to be seen again!” That remark got him a standing ovation, and Huckabee went on to suggest de-funding the U.N. entirely.
“It’s time to say enough of the American taxpayer’s dollar being spent on something that may have been a noble idea, but has become a disgrace!” said Huckabee. “It has become the international equivalent of ACORN and it’s time to say enough!”
Huckabee continued, suggesting that the U.N. be handed over to one of the nations that attacked America. “Let’s end the diplomatic excesses that these people enjoy,” he said. “Let any country that is willing to spend the money that the United States is hosting–let them have it. Give it to the Saudis and let these diplomats suck the sand out of the Saudi desert for a few summers and see if that’s where they’d like to go, and make their ridiculous speeches.”
I actually think it wouldn't be the worst idea for the U.N. to find a new home. The security requirements for that many heads of state are pretty taxing on post-9/11 New York City, and it couldn't hurt to have the organization based in a country that doesn't arouse such strong feelings in the vast majority of the world's population.
That said, I don't quite get what point we'd be proving by sticking the Saudis with the event and the ACORN comparison doesn't make too much sense beyond that fact that they're both "institutions that Mike Huckabee doesn't like."
Update: U.N. Dispatch's Matthew Cordell says the security issue is bogus:
First off, the stringent security requirements and the accompanying costs are only a burden on the city one week a year. At most other times the security perimeter of the UN rarely extends beyond its grounds. The economic benefits, on the other hand, stream in every day, as the UN draws in droves of diplomats, press, NGO types, and business leaders to spend money in NY hotels, restaurants, cabs, shops, and on and on. Mayor Bloomberg's office has said that the United Nations adds $2.2 billion a year to the economy of New York City and creates 18,000 jobs. On top of that, the current renovation of the UN headquarters is expected to bring in over a $1 billion to U.S. businesses. If I were a New Yorker, I'd be up in arms about a suggestion that would lead to more money being drained from the city.
Fair enough. For the record, I don't think the United States should "kick out" the U.N. or withdraw from it or any of what Huckabee was suggesting. I do think that it couldn't hurt for at least the General Assembly to be held in a somewhat more neutral site, but I'm sorry this was seen as a "silly side-swipe" at the United Nations.
Later this afternoon, Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina will address the General Assembly here in New York, but some don't want him here at all. Rajoelina took power in a military-backed coup in March, toppling then leader Marc Ravalomanana. The two leader signed an internationally-mediated power-sharing deal in August, but Rajoelina unilaterally disolved it this month.
General Assembly President Ali Treki met with foreign from the Southern Afircan Development Community -- which has refused to recognize Rajoelina's government -- after the foreign minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo wrote a letter to him protesting Rajoelina's presence at the assembly.
The U.N. maintains that the invitation was not a reflection on Rajoelina's legitimacy and that the president was invited to participate in the climate summit earlier this week.
Today, new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will address both the Security Council and the General Assembly. His foreign minister, Katsuyo Okada, will address the biannual meeting on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which Japan is strongly committed to enforcing. At a press conference today, the prime minister's Press Secretary Kazuo Kodama said that Japan "welcomed U.S. participation" in the CTBC conference, for the first time in a decade.
Foreign Minister Okada recently ordered an investigation into the secret agreements between Japan and the United States that allow nuclear-armed U.S. ships to visit Japan, in possible violation of the country's non-nuclear laws. I asked Kodama if, with non-proliferation on the table at this assembly, there were any talks between the U.S. and Japanese delegations over the investigation.
Kodama said that Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell had been briefed on the issue and that the investiation was still ongoing.
"The vice minister will complete this investigation by the end of November. If necessary we will communicate with state department on this issue," he said. "I don't think there's any sort of tension."
Kodama was also asked what stance Hatoyama would take on executive bonus regulation in Pittsburgh:
In Japan we don’t have any progblems with the level of bonuses. But we think it important to ensure that the existing salary or bonus system should not lead in any way to excessive risk taking.
The Financial Times's Gideon Rachman, who I keep running into the halls here, sallies forth with a qualified defense of some of Muammar al-Qaddafi's speech:
Now clearly Gaddafi is going to get bad reviews in the morning papers here in the US. But I have to say that some of what he had to say made perfect sense. It is entirely true that the structure of the UN Security Council is anomalous and outdated (although it was perhaps a bit harsh to call it “the terror council”). Gaddafi’s analysis of why it is so hard to reform the council was also bang on the money - each time you suggest one country, you trigger a demand from the next one in the queue. (So if you suggest Germany, Italy jumps up and down.) And his proposed solution - a Security Council of regional organisations such as the EU, Asean, the African Union - sounded like an elegant way out.[...]
But that’s the thing. Many of Gaddafi’s statements, which will be scorned in the West, actually probably resonate in the developing world. His views on the Security Council are widely shared. President Lula of Brazil said something not too dissimilair.
It's true that Qaddafi's attacks on the security council, if a bit bombastic, weren't that different in substance from what a lot of the leaders here have been expressing. Even Nicolas Sarkozy said it was "unacceptable" that Africa has no seat on the council.
I actually think on of the more unfortunate things about Qaddafi's speech is that it put an entirely reasonable idea -- security council reform -- in the context of raving luncay. U.N. reform advocates would do much better to have Lula as the face of their movement rather than Qaddafi, but the Colonel gets much bigger headlines.
I do, however, completely agree with Rachman that Qaddafi's comparison of the General Assembly to London's Hyde Park speaker's corner was clever and entirely accurate.
The Libyan strongman has been erratically working toward a rapprochement with the West, including abandoning his fledgling WMD programs, cooperating on counterterrorism, and opening up his country to oil investment. Even his execrable human-rights record has improved.
It's not exactly clear whether the elder Qaddafi himself is driving this process, or whether his son Saif al-Islam -- who hangs out with the Davos crowd and talks a good game on democracy -- is the brains behind this operation.
But as Schenker points out, Muammar is his own worst enemy. He's like that unpopular kid in your high-school math class who makes everyone laugh by saying outrageous things, but still doesn't have any friends (yeah, OK, that was me). And by comparing the Security Council to al Qaeda and suggesting that swine flu was cooked up in a laboratory, he's only reinforced that image today.
There's one reason, though, that Qaddafi's bizarre remarks today won't leave him completely isolated. Anyone have a wild guess?
Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
UNESCO is set to decide today on what has become a bitter and controversial election for its new director-general. Irina Gueorguieva Bokova, the Bulgarian ambassador to France, and Farouk Hosni, the Egyptian culture minister, are the two remaining candidates after an inconclusive fifth round of voting yesterday.
Farouk Hosni was the clear leader going into voting last week, but hasn’t been able to cinch the 30 votes from the UNESCO board to win -- probably because UNESCO nations are reluctant to elect someone who said, famously, that he would “burn Israeli books” if he found them in Egyptian libraries. If the vote ties today, it may literally come down to a draw, with the candidates’ names written down and pulled out of a bag -- a little-known UNESCO statute that’s never been put to the test in 64 years.
To read more about the background of the vote, check out Raymond Stock’s article for FP explaining why on earth someone who’s called for the burning of books would even make it as far as culture minister.
Update: In a major upset, Bukova has won becoming UNESCO's first female director general.
After having already been denied a permit to pitch his tent in Englewood, New Jersey during this week's U.N. meeting, Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi has also been rebuffed in his attempt to rent an upper east side townhouse:
Agents for Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi were met with a strong-arm from a real-estate broker they approached to rent a posh townhouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side for his visit to the city this week.
The broker, with characteristic New York chutzpah, told them to take a hike back to the desert.
"They kept asking, 'What would be the price? What would be the price?' I thought about it and said, 'Why don't you send Megrahi back to Scotland, and then maybe we can work something out.' They hung up on me immediately," said Jason Haber, a broker for Prudential Douglas Elliman.
What's a claustrophobic dictator to do?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and his her office released two reports on violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008, citing "possible war crimes and crimes against humanity" by the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a rebel group formerly led by Laurent Nkunda and backed by the government of Rwanda.
Talk about your diplomatic understatement. The crimes involved dozens of killings and rapes. But for those following the DRC this statement has to seem kind of weak. There have been all sorts of atrocities in Eastern Congo for years, and the only questions really are which militia was guilty in which case. Possible? The U.N. head of mission in the DRC called the attacks war crimes immediately after they happened.
Reuters reporters shrewdly dig into the problematic fact that while Nkunda was later arrested by Rwandan forces, it was his lieutenant, Jean Bosco Ntaganda (shown above), nicknamed "The Terminator" who was commanding the CNDP forces at the time of the November killings. Guess where he is?
Ntaganda, who is being sought by the International Criminal Court on separate war crimes charges, wasintegrated into Congo's army in January along with other members of the Tutsi-dominated CNDP..."We know he is there. We are aware of it. He was integrated. He wasgiven a role. And according to our partners, he does not play a role inthe operations that MONUC is supporting," said Kevin Kennedy, MONUC's head of communications.
"But it isn't our job to investigate the role of Bosco Ntaganda in the (army)," he told journalists in Kinshasa.
One other question for other Congo watchers out there. Doesn't a lot of focus seem to be just on the CNDP, when the Hutu FDLR militia has been committing terrible massacres for years? In fact, wasn't a key reason--along with grabbing minerals--for Rwandan support of Nkunda that he was protecting Congolese Tutsis from the marauding FDLR, many of whom were genocidaires? Maybe I've just missed it or Nkunda made such a good media character. Is the FDLR getting as much U.N. heat?
Update: This post originally mistook the gender and misspelled the name of U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navanethem, or Navi, Pillay.
LIONEL HEALING/AFP/Getty Images
A UN spokesman tells the Swiss News Agency that Libya submitted a proposal to the General Assembly calling for the dissolution of Switzerland last month. The proposal was never accepted or circulated because the U.N. Charter prohibits countries from threatening the existance of other member states.
In case you hadn't gotten the message, Qaddafi really hates Switzerland:
Gaddafi first mentioned the idea of dismemberment during the G8 summit in Italy in July. Switzerland "is a world mafia and not a state", he said, adding that it was "formed of an Italian community that should return to Italy, another German community that should return to Germany, and a third French community that should return to France".
The source of the Libya-Switzerland beef is an incident last year involving Qaddafi's ne'er-do-well son Hannibal. (See more about him in our list of the World's Worst Sons.)The young Qaddafi was arrested at a hotel in Geneva for aggravated assault on two of his servants. His father responded by lodging a formal diplomatic complaint, expelling Swiss diplomats, and shutting down Swiss-owned businesses in Libya.
Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
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