Iran plot: what are the consequences?
Now comes word that United States Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice wasn’t even at the UN, let alone in the committee room, when UN members voted Iran onto the Commission on the Status of Women committee. Not only was our Ambassador not in the room for the vote, she wasn’t even in the building. Wouldn’t you think that a female American Ambassador would understand the importance of standing up against a country that has some of the most hostile laws toward women? Shouldn’t Rice want to use the opportunity to highlight the regime’s record toward women? What’s also troubling is that we are now learning that Iran was not only elected to the Women’s committee sans Rice, but Iran was elected to 3 other UN committees that day. Iran is now an official member of the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Commission on Science and Technology for Development and the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). And our representative didn’t bother to show up or speak up.
After spending 8 years at the UN, I understand that U.S. Ambassadors have a lot of issues to cover. There is no way to expect one Ambassador to cover all of the U.S. government priority issues at the UN. And certainly there are a plethora of UN meetings that drag on with an unlimited number of speakers and no time limits. And I also understand the unique ways of the UN system and the regional voting blocks that control elections. But an American Ambassador must be able to be nimble and spontaneous. The U.S. Ambassador’s staff must be able to monitor situations simultaneously and use the Ambassador’s time to maximize attention and impact. If the votes are stacked against the U.S. and we are going to lose an election then for heaven’s sake – stand up and say something! Bring some shame on the countries that vote for the violators by drawing attention to the situation. American silence sends a very loud message and encourages the status quo.
But U.S. Mission staff confirm that Rice wasn’t at the UN and therefore wasn’t able to even drop by the committee elections meeting that was taking place. Even after all the votes were counted and Iran was elected to 4 committee assignments at the UN, Rice didn’t speak out to highlight the hypocrisy of electing a country like Iran to a committee designed to promote women’s rights because she wasn’t around.
For Rice, this silence is becoming a pattern. She is seldom in New York City and even spends less time at the UN. Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular and messy work of engaging the UN or speaking up when others are silent. Rice has been routinely unavailable to reporters, absent from daily UN meetings and all too often silent when the American people needed a strong voice to speak out on an important issue. From Iran to Zimbabwe to Sudan to Cuba, Rice consistently stays silent. It’s no wonder other countries at the UN think the Obama Administration is so easy to work with. And it also explains why we haven’t had one single Security Council resolution on Iran since Rice arrived. In a roughly two year period, the Bush Administration passed a total of 5 Iran resolutions, 3 of which contained increased sanctions and were voted unanimously (one sanctions resolution passed 14 to 1 with Indonesia voting no). The excuse that Rice is building relationships quietly or has a different type of style is lame. We don’t need to win popularity contests, we need action and votes and leadership. In Rice’s case, we just need her to start showing up for meetings and using her microphone.
It’s time for Rice to step up and represent American interests at the UN or step aside and cede the role to someone who will show up for the fight.
Obama’s Gamble To Talk Iran Out of a Nuclear Weapon Has Failed
Let’s face it; President Barack Obama’s hope for a dialogue with dictators was a naïve gamble to begin with. Even many people in his own party thought it was an academic exercise from an inexperienced law professor that wasn’t rooted in reality. But during the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama was on one side of the argument of what to do about Iran and Hillary Clinton and John McCain were on the other. Obama championed the idea that he could rally the international community to do more to isolate the Government of Iran and that he could sit down with its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to convince him that he should give up the illegal pursuit of a nuclear bomb. Clinton and McCain, however, advocated for a tougher approach that included immediate new sanctions, using The White House bully-pulpit and possible military action. While Obama believed that he could convince Ahmadinejad of the error of his ways through direct dialogue, Clinton and McCain warned that it was a waste of precious time.
One year later Obama has single-handedly allowed the Iranians more than a year of unfettered progress toward a nuclear weapon with less pressure and inquiry from the international community. Even the slow-moving, state-the-obvious International Atomic Energy Agency announced this week that it fears Iran is working toward a nuclear warhead to go along with its undisclosed uranium enrichment activities. While Obama experimented with his classroom thesis of talking dictators out of their nuclear pursuits, many in the international community celebrated the fact that they weren’t being confronted by the United States with the lingering Iran problem. From Cairo to Berlin, the world celebrated Obama’s perceived world peace and even gave him the Nobel Prize. The Iranians, meanwhile, continued to build a nuclear weapon. While Obama did his world-wide victory lap, the Iranian Government celebrated their freedom. And although the United States has been negotiating with Iran for more than 30 years, Obama has been acting like this nation has never tried diplomacy. It is dangerous for a President to believe that his personality is so different from previous leaders’ that people will change their course of action just because of who is asking.
But recently, the President has been trying something new. “The next step is sanctions,” President Obama said on February 9. The problem with the President’s latest pronouncement is that the next step WAS sanctions – 14 months ago. Obama missed his opportunity to crank up the heat on Tehran and send the Government of Iran the message that the world cannot wait for it to decide an appropriate time to give up its illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. Over the last 14 months, the U.S. should have been enforcing the existing UN sanctions, ratcheting up the pressure with new penalties, urging the Europeans to abide by the current financial restrictions and supporting the opposition inside Iran. Now, a new round of sanctions and the inevitable protracted process getting to a UN vote may play into the Iranian’s hopes for more time. UN sanctions will take months of consistent pressure. To begin a UN sanctions process now will only compound the dangerous mistakes Obama has already made.
And his UN Ambassador, Susan Rice, may be too weak to negotiate a Security Council resolution on Iran. Shockingly, Obama and Rice haven’t produced a single UN Security Council resolution on Iran since they’ve been in office. Putting Rice up against the Iranians or even the Chinese or Europeans should give every American a cause for concern. Rice is much more at home in an empty Security Council chamber with a Vogue Magazine camera across from her than a disagreeable foreign diplomat. This past year, Rice has spent more time in Washington looking to trip up Hillary and take her job than she has spent working the halls of the UN negotiating a resolution on Iran. And like Obama, she has not paid attention to the priority issues. While Rice claims that her cabinet-level job requires more DC face time, in fact, U.S. Mission employees have confirmed that Rice isn’t leading the Iran negotiations from New York or Washington. The State Department in Washington has taken the responsibility of writing a UN Resolution away from Rice and is negotiating directly with the French ambassador. American leadership at the UN has vanished. And the United States has never been more popular because of it. While the Iranians have been secretly enriching uranium to 19.75% grade and demonstrating that they have the technology to make a nuclear weapon, the U.S. has spent this last year pressuring China on its carbon emissions and working towards a Copenhagen Accord.
Warnings from China that we need a diplomatic solution for Iran and no new sanctions have scared the Obama Administration into a year-long holding pattern. But Russian and Chinese veto threats are nothing new. Russia and China are experts at whipping the media into an anti-sanctions frenzy. Obama and Rice don’t seem to understand that Russia and China publicly speak one way but rarely stand behind their threats when an issue like Iran is put to a Security Council vote. Neither China nor Russia will call for a vote on Iran sanctions but they can be forced to a veto. Rice should have required a discussion on the Iran issue last year and called for a sanctions vote when the original Obama deadline passed last summer.
Team Obama has spent the year dithering and hoping that doing nothing would allow the opposition inside Iran time to peacefully bring down Ahmadinejad’s government. But while the Obama team nervously talks among themselves, they have missed the opportunity to make the Internet available to the thousands of student protesters inside Iran or to implement harsh sanctions on the government that could push Ahmadinejad over the cliff and deliver the fatal blow to his presidency. The Obama administration should cease making the old, tired claim that American involvement would undermine the opposition by playing into the hands of Ahmadinejad’s re-cycled message that this is an American CIA coup on his presidency. We are well past the point of the Arab world thinking thousands of Iranian students and opposition leaders are in the streets of Tehran because of American enticement. Many in the Arab world would privately cheer if Ahmadinejad’s government fell or if the Iranian nuclear sites were destroyed. The lack of Obama leadership and assistance to the opposition inside Iran is now prohibiting the fall of a dictatorship on the brink. When White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs complains more often about former Vice President Dick Cheney than about Ahmadinejad it sends the wrong message to the Iranians, Chinese and Russians.
Team Obama’s robotic and bland pronouncements citing general themes and re-cycled talking points from the Bush Administration will not stop Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon. It is time for even Obama to admit that he failed to convince the Iranians to give up their illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons and has failed to motivate the cheering crowds of Germany and Egypt to do more than celebrate the kinder, gentler, weaker American President. There may still be time to make sure Iran doesn’t acquire the nuclear weapons that they will surely use, but it will require quick and sustained action by the White House. An immediate combination of paralyzing UN sanctions, aggressive support for the struggling opposition inside Iran, firm pressure on Europeans to implement the current financial sanctions and a credible use of a military deterrence must all be realized – and soon.
“It’s Not My Fault But I’ll Keep Spending”
It is hard to believe a President that says “…I am not interested in re-litigating the past” after he just spent 60 minutes of his First State of the Union Address re-litigating the past and blaming Bush for his problems.
It is hard to take a President seriously when he speaks 116 words describing how he wants to get rid of nuclear weapons but only 38 words uttered on the biggest violator of those principles – Iran. It is hard to understand why Obama and his Administration have wasted this past year by not increasing the sanctions on Iran and building on the Bush Administration’s 3 UN resolutions sanctioning Iran for their continued illegal uranium enrichment.
It’s hard to take a President seriously when he says we will take the fight to al Qaeda but then brings al Qaeda to the U.S. to be tried in an American court. It’s hard to understand a President who sends the lawyers to a terrorist to tell him that he has the right to remain silent but then brags that he is tough on terrorists.
And if you thought Obama had learned a lesson from the recent Scott Brown election in Massachusetts, think again. From the moment he started his address to the Nation, Obama made it perfectly clear that all of his problems were Bush’s fault.
“One year ago I took office in the midst of 2 wars, a bad economy…” blah, blah, blah. “One year later the worst of the storm has passed but the devastation remains….,” Obama said in the first minutes of his speech. The problem with the President’s continued excuse is that since he has taken office unemployment has surged, the deficit has skyrocketed and Washington’s spending has gotten even more out of control. But to hear the President speak, his reckless spending has had nothing to do with our financial problems or highest unemployment rates in decades. But time has run out on Obama’s excuses. The American people are fed up and the President’s poll numbers are in the tank. The Democrats have had an overwhelming majority in the House and Senate and yet, Obama’s first year has been one of the worst first year’s for any President in history. For all of Obama’s big talk about change, very little has been done despite the fact that his Party controls all of Washington and has the ability to make change immediately. It doesn’t make sense for the President to blame Republicans for his first year failures. He has only his majority party to blame.
If you thought Obama was ready to stop spending billions of dollars we don’t have, think again. Tonight, Obama went on a spending spree that would make Nancy Pelosi happy. The President’s new #1 focus is now on creating jobs, he says. It’s no longer healthcare. More than 42 minutes into his speech not a word had been uttered about healthcare. But there was plenty said on how to spend your tax dollars even though we are already behind on paying our bills. There was $30 billion for community banks to give to small businesses, billions for infrastructure projects to put unions to work, millions for clean energy businesses, millions for community colleges, millions for more pell grants, millions for child care credits, billions for new home owners, millions for farmers and veterans and the list continues. While a case can be made for helping each and every one of these groups, there has been no regard for who will pay for these new programs or whether now is the time to spend this money.
As Obama’s speech continued, there was more blaming Bush for the problems and more spending from his Administration. But what was most shocking to watch was President Obama double down on partisanship. Obama wasn’t humble or conciliatory, he was antagonistic and cocky. But for a President who promised change and has the votes in Congress to deliver it, it was a disappointing night. It was more of the same from Washington.
And then an hour into his speech the President suddenly changed his tone. It was like Obama suddenly remembered that the State of Massachusetts just voted for a Republican to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat. President Obama became the outreacher-in-chief. If Obama had delivered the last 20 minutes of his speech first, and cut out the political jabs from the first 60 minutes of the speech then he would have been better received.
In the end, Obama speech reminded us that he isn’t leading his party or the Nation. For a President starting his term with a massive majority in Congress and sky-high approval ratings, he has squandered a ton of political capital with nothing to show for it.
New Study Suggests U.S. Ambassador Rice Isn’t Engaging the UN
We actually heard from Susan Rice more during the presidential campaign when she was a foreign policy adviser to then-candidate Barack Obama than we have over the last year, when she has been representing us at the UN. It has been just over one year since Rice was confirmed by the United States Senate to be the Permanent Representative to the UN and she so far has been wildly inattentive in New York. While Rice has been active in the social scene of Washington and The White House, a new study released by the uber-serious Security Council Report suggests that this past year has been the most inactive Security Council since 1991. For an Administration that promised to utilize the UN and improve our reputation around the world, its dinner-party circuit strategy isn’t making America more secure.
Much of the blame for that belongs to Rice and her habitual silence. Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular work of engaging the UN on the United States’ priority issues. When Rice does attend UN negotiations, she is all too willing to avoid confrontation. She has instead opted to spend time networking in Washington and making nice with her colleagues in New York. While other foreign Ambassadors speak fondly of Rice and her easy ways, she has been a weak negotiator for the American people.
This lack of American leadership has resulted in the general Security Council inactivity spotlighted in the new study by the Columbia University-affiliated Security Council Report.
The Report says:
“In 2009 the total number of Council decisions (resolutions and presidential statements) decreased by 26 percent from 2008. The number dropped from 113 to 83, the lowest level since 1991.
Resolutions dropped from 65 to 48 and presidential statements from 48 to 35.
This significant trend is also mirrored in a matching reduction in formal Council activity. The number of formal Council meetings decreased by 20 percent, from 243 to 194.
The number of press statements, which is one indicator of Council decision making at the informal level, also decreased by 23 percent, from 47 to 36.”
Rice has been spending several days a week in Washington with her larger than normal DC-based staff and spending less time with the 200-plus employees who work for her in New York. While Rice launched her tenure with a glamour spread in Vogue Magazine by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz showing her kicking back in an empty Security Council Chamber, she seems to not enjoy the Chamber when it’s full of diplomats. During the recent Haiti crisis, Rice was not only absent from the Security Council vote to expand the UN’s peacekeeping operation but she also failed to call an emergency meeting in the immediate aftermath to request more help. In fact, 7 days after the Haiti earthquake left tens of thousands of people in the streets without food or shelter, it was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that came to the Security Council to request more troops – the American Ambassador hadn’t bothered.
Rice has gambled this past year that keeping America unengaged at the UN is the best way to keep the Obama Administration and herself popular with other countries. But while the newly released report suggests that the Security Council has been cordial and pleasant in 2009, the number of crisis situations, international conflicts and peacekeeping operations haven’t decreased. No meaningful improvement has been seen to the international issues monitored by the Security Council; in fact, the study suggests that some situations have gotten worse. Without American leadership at the UN, countries just continue to talk and socialize and spend taxpayer dollars. The Security Council Report also highlights the fact that fewer decisions were made by the Security Council in 2009 than in previous years. Tough decisions are never popular to make and even less popular to force upon the UN. But the American people expect their representative to utilize the UN to further America’s priority issues and demand that their money is spent wisely.
For Rice, the UN budget reform efforts started by the Bush Administration have been too controversial to continue. Rice has avoided tough negotiations and public feuds and has made little to no effort to engage her colleagues on reforming the UN budget process. U.S. citizens pay 22% of the UN’s regular budget, 26% of the UN Peacekeeping Budget and give millions more in voluntary contributions to a plethora of other UN programs. They deserve an ambassador who doesn’t duck even a messy public fight with other countries looking to spend American taxpayers’ dollars.
According to several UN veteran reporters and some US Mission staff, Rice has been missing from crucial negotiations on Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium, too. She’s failed to build on Bush Administration progress on sanctioning Iran. While the Russians and Chinese have historically complained publicly about a vote forced upon them, in the end they voted for such resolutions. Despite multiple deadlines missed by the Iranian government, Rice and her team have so far been unsuccessful in getting a single sanctions resolution. The irony that the French are tougher than the Americans on the Iran issue has prompted former Bush Administration officials to say, “thank God for the French”.
Although Obama and Rice campaigned on the promise to restore America’s reputation internationally, they have chosen the easy path of popularity over progress. Ambassadors will always be loved at the UN when they ignore the important debates and discussions that will keep America strong and safe. It is short-sighted and dangerous to choose likability over the safety and security of those who actually pay your salary. And one sure way to weaken the UN is to placate it, neglect it and marginalize it, as Rice has done this past year. The UN and the American people deserve better.
U.N. council must increase sanctions on Iran: U.S
By Louis CharbonneauSun Aug 3, 8:20 PM ET
The United States said on Sunday that Iran has left the U.N. Security Council no choice but to increase sanctions on the Islamic Republic for ignoring demands that it halt sensitive nuclear activities.
The U.S. declaration came a day after an informal deadline lapsed for Iran to respond to an offer from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia for talks on its disputed nuclear program.
“It is clear that the government of Iran has not complied with the international community’s demand to stop enriching uranium and isn’t even interested in trying,” said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations.
“They leave the Security Council no choice but to increase the sanctions, as called for in the last resolution passed.”
Tehran has not formally responded to the offer. But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday that Iran would not back down in its nuclear dispute with the powers, which have supported three rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
“In whichever negotiation we take part … it is unequivocally with the view to the realization of Iran’s nuclear right and the Iranian nation would not retreat one iota from its rights,” Ahmadinejad said in a statement.
The U.S. statement was noticed by oil traders. Concern about Iran’s nuclear program was one of the reasons the price of oil rose by more than $1 to over $126 a barrel shortly before 7 p.m. EDT.
The West accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian power program. Iran, the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, says its uranium enrichment drive is aimed solely at generating electricity.
A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in Brussels that he and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, would discuss the six powers’ offer soon. She gave no further details.
Western officials gave Tehran two weeks from July 19 to respond to their offer not to impose more U.N. sanctions on Iran if it froze any expansion of its nuclear work.
That suggested a deadline of August 2 but Iran, which has repeatedly ruled out curbing any of its nuclear activities, dismissed the idea of having two weeks to reply.
The five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany have appointed Solana to be their liaison with Iran.
Israel and the United States have hinted that they could attack Iran’s nuclear facilities if it remains defiant. Speculation about a potential attack on Iran has been causing jitters on oil markets in recent months.
But the founder and head of the global intelligence company Stratfor, George Friedman, told weekly magazine Barron’s that the chance of a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran is slim because the risks to the world economy far outweigh possible benefits.
The U.S. delegation at the United Nations might have to put some pressure on the rest of the council to discuss Iran again. Diplomats from some of the 14 other council members have said they would prefer not to enter into negotiations on another round of sanctions against Iran for now.
One of the main reasons for council members’ reluctance to take up Iran now is the U.S. presidential election in November and what it could mean for U.S. policy on Iran.
U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama, a Democrat, has criticized Republican President George W. Bush’s handling of the issue and has promised greater engagement with Tehran.
Republican candidate John McCain has criticized Obama’s suggestion that he would pursue direct talks with Tehran.
The other reason for the council’s reluctance is that Russia and China do not want to discuss sanctions now. Diplomats say the two veto-wielding council members want to give Iran time to consider the offer of economic and political incentives in exchange for a suspension of enrichment.
Moscow and Beijing reluctantly backed all three rounds of U.N. sanctions against Iran but pushed hard to try to water them down beforehand in negotiations on the resolutions.
Separately, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in Tehran on Sunday that Damascus was not mediating or bringing a message from the West to Iran over its disputed nuclear plans but could play a role to help defuse the issue in future.
Assad made his comments during a two-day trip to Iran that followed a visit to Paris in July, when he told French President Nicolas Sarkozy he would use his good ties with Tehran to help resolve the atomic stand-off.