[This is a translation of an article that recently appeared in Al Akhbar.]
Ansar Allah detain two Americans on Espionage Charges
Two Americans have been under surveillance who have regularly visited the site that is the current temporary residence of the UN team. The UN are based in the Sheraton Hotel in Yemen’s capital Sanaa.
This hotel had been used previously by the US diplomatic mission until it’s evacuation from Sanaa early 2015. The U.S. Diplomatic Mission allowed the UN to work from these premises temporarily until it could be considered safe for the Mission to return to Yemen once the hostilities had ceased.
The UN does not pay anything for the use of the facility and is not responsible for the maintenance of the premises that belong to the US Foreign Affairs Ministry but events over the last two weeks reveal that perhaps the UN repays Washington in more ways than one for the use of these premises.
The UN mission in Yemen operates with a very small staff, probably less than a hundred, consisting of Yemeni nationals, non Yemeni Arab nationals and foreign nationals.
These UN staff members travel between Yemen and Djibouti on UN-chartered private planes. Djibouti is now the only gateway to the world for Yemenis who are under an internationally supported blockade.
The two Americans who were under surveillance were transported using UN vehicles despite the fact that UN law prohibits the use of their vehicles for the transportation of any non-UN staff regardless of the situation, in order to maintain its neutral status.
On the evening of the 20th of October, a private UN plane arrived in Sanaa, from Djibouti. On board were two American citizens, Mark McAllister and John Hamen, who were ostensibly working for a maintenance company, Al Rafideen, contracted by the US Mission to provide services to their now vacated offices in the Sheraton Hotel, Sanaa.
At this point, Yemen National Security moved in and arrested the two men, taking them to an unknown location.
Attempts were made by the chief of staff of the UN mission in Sanaa to intervene and secure the release of the two Americans. The UN engaged in direct talks with the Yemeni government and Ansar Allah. The response from the Yemeni side was curt and to the point stating that this was not within the UN’s jurisdiction and the UN has nothing to do with the two men in question.
The UN official confirmed to the local government and AnsarAllah that the two men were working for a company now contracted by the UN and had been invited to Sanaa by the UN to maintain premises [that they do not pay for and where the UN is not responsible for maintenance – edit]. Unsurprisingly all UN efforts to secure the release of McAllister and Hamen have been unsuccessful.
The UN was then informed that one of the two men was recognised as a “security agent” who had been working with the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Sanaa prior to their departure. The UN was informed by the relevant local Yemeni authorities that the UN’s involvement with any foreign intelligence is in direct violation of its fundamental principles and lawful activities in Yemen. This puts the UN in a very precarious and embarrassing position in Yemen.
Al-Akhbar asked the official spokesman on behalf of the UN Secretary General whether UN staff members were facing any hardships in Yemen:
“Yes, we face hardships due to the security situation and we are unable to distribute relief aid to Yemenis as we would be able to under normal circumstances.”
Responding to the question of whether or not the UN is in communication with the Saudi-led coalition, the UN official stated:
“As in the case of every war-torn area, the UN maintains communication with all factions involved in the conflict to guarantee UN convoy security.”
Al-Akhbar also asked the UN official why the UN had allowed two non UN operatives, now in Yemeni & AnsarAllah custody, to travel to Yemen in a UN privately chartered plane. This contravenes all internationally agreed upon protocols that strictly prohibit the use of UN transportation for non UN staff. The seriousness of the situation is intensified by the fact that Yemen authorities have accused both men of being Washington intelligence agents.
The UN official responded cautiously, stating that he is aware of the two men whom he believes to be UN contractors. He is aware of their situation but has no update on the incident. He added that the UN would not have transported any such operatives into or out of Yemen without using the proper channels of communication. He reiterated the official line that the two men are likely to be service contractors brought in to carry out maintenance on the adopted UN premises. [edit: despite the UN not being responsible for the premises]
The incident is highly sensitive. It does not only involve McAllister and Hamen, still in custody, but raises the uncomfortable question, what role is the UN playing in Yemen and for that matter, in other war torn countries in the region?
Yemeni citizens working for the UN have expressed their frustration at not being allowed to implement solutions to the dire humanitarian situation in their country, and have complained of having their movements and activities closely surveyed.
Yemeni security have informed the UN directly that this particular case violates the sovereignty of their country and its security.
A local security official informed the UN in Yemen that such actions will have serious repercussions upon their activities within Yemen. Initial investigations into the two Washington assets in custody have shown that both men are linked to activities suspected to be espionage and investigations have exposed one of the men as a Washington intelligence agent who had already worked with Yemeni agents and who was well known to Yemen’s security officials.
The second man is an officer in the US Marines who has served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.
The naturally concerned Yemeni authorities have informed the UN that the UN has no jurisdiction over these two men and should not interfere in Yemen’s security matters.
As a consequence, all UN vehicles are being carefully and systematically inspected in the capital Sanaa. UN drivers are being checked and all passenger passports demanded for verification. This is now routine both at the airport and on the streets of Sanaa.
The matter was further complicated when a shot was fired at a UN vehicle and the bullet penetrated the car on October 22, 2015 while it was travelling towards Sanaa airport. No casualties were reported but its quite possible that this was a warning shot across UN bows.
What is certain however, is that both Ansar Allah and the General People’s Congress party in Yemen are highly displeased with UN Peace Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh’s recent role in siding with the Saudi-led coalition and disregarding all the points agreed upon in the Muscat talks.
Both parties are also understandably enraged by Washington’s role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s aggression on Yemen that is devastating the country. Washington has provided direct support to the Saudi coalition by supplying weapons, intelligence information, air surveillance and logistic support for air strikes. This support has been widely documented in the media.
Yemeni officials in Sanaa are on high alert regarding any intelligence network that could provide support to the Saudi-led coalition air strikes that have predominantly targeted civilians. This, despite continuous UN communications with the Saudi coalition’s operations room in the Saudi capital Al-Riyadh informing them of the co-ordinates of the UN location and areas of work.
Riyadh however, does not seem to be overly concerned with that information as was clearly seen when the Saudis directly targeted and bombed the UN Development Project in Aden. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon expressed criticism of Riyadh’s disregard and called for an investigation into the strikes but to date no such investigation has been initiated.
Riyadh came under criticism again for the disregard it showed by directly bombing the World Food Programmes’s storage facility, and several hospitals operating under international organizations directly affiliated with the UN.
The man now in charge at the IPCC belongs to a privileged, protected, secretive entity headed by the UN’s former top climate official.
When Hoesung Lee was elected head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently, the Seoul-based Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) issued a celebratory press release. Lee – who hails from South Korea – has a seat on one of the GGGI’s governing bodies.
But this little-known entity is no mere institute. In fact, it’s another creature of the United Nations. As a headline on the GGGI website makes clear, an international treaty was required to bring it into existence. Membership is restricted to UN-recognized countries. Its stated purpose is “the successful outcome of the United Nations process on sustainable development.” Its Director-General, Yvo de Boer, used to be the UN’s top climate official.
GGGI appears to have begun life in 2010 as a bona fide South Korean non-profit foundation, before throwing itself into the arms of the UN two years later. Documents connected to its 2012 transformation can be downloaded from its website (see this 33-page PDF). The GGGI immodestly claims to be devising “a new model of economic growth,” which it considers “essential for the future of humankind.” Some of the planet’s least developed nations have signed up to act as guinea pigs for projects administered by the GGGI and funded by Australian, Danish, Norwegian, and British taxpayers.
There are plenty of good people working on important issues, some of whom are employed by research institutes. But when it comes to perqs and privileges, the GGGI leaves everyone
them in the dust. Calling the GGGI an institute is like calling Unilever – the multinational corporation that owns the Ben & Jerry’s, Lipton, Bertolli, Hellman’s, Becell, Knorr, and Dove brands – a soap company.
In actual fact, the GGGI enjoys a preposterous array of protections and immunities. We’re talking about the kinds of privileges normally reserved for nation states. Korea’s government has signed a document in which it has agreed to treat GGGI headquarters like an embassy. Korean authorities have no jurisdiction on its premises or over its records:
The Headquarters shall be inviolable. No person exercising any public authority within the Republic of Korea shall enter the Headquarters to perform any duties except with the express consent of the Director-General…The archives of the GGGI…shall be inviolable wherever located….The property of the GGGI…shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action. [pp. 1, 5, 6]
The GGGI and its staff enjoy “immunity from every form of legal process,” except in rare circumstances. The GGGI is exempt from taxation and customs duties, and may transfer funds in and out of Korea at will. The salaries of the roughly 100 people who comprise the GGGI staff are – drumroll, please – tax free.
People visiting the GGGI from outside Korea don’t need to produce passports as do mere mortals, since Korea’s government has agreed to treat GGGI-issued “travel certificates” as the equivalent of national passports. GGGI staff, their spouses, and their dependents are immune from “immigration restrictions” and baggage inspection “except in doubtful cases.” In the event of an international crisis, Korea will treat GGGI personnel and their families on a par with “diplomatic envoys.”
As if all of the above weren’t sufficiently bizarre, we read that:
The GGGI shall have the right to use codes and to dispatch and receive official communications by courier or in sealed bags, which shall have the same privileges and immunities as are accorded to diplomatic couriers and bags. [bold added, p. 6]
So the police can’t touch you. The courts can’t touch you. Customs officials have been instructed to treat you like royalty. Your pay cheque is tax free, and there’s almost no risk of being caught should you choose to smuggle items in or out of the country.
Pardon me, but I have a few questions:
- What’s really going on here?
- What is so special about these people that they warrant
requiresuch extraordinary protections and immunities?
unwholesome activitiesis the UN undertaking via the GGGI that it considers sealed diplomatic pouches remotely necessary?
Circling back to Hoesung Lee, the person now in charge of the IPCC
also belongs to a secretive entity headed by the UN’s former top climate official.
Translation #1: Lee is a UN insider. There isn’t a chance in a thousand that he’ll institute meaningful reform.
Translation #2: The IPCC is merely one bauble in the UN’s burgeoning toy box.
“Global Goals” Is Lavishly-Funded Public Relations Endeavor “We the People” Never Voted For
This month delegates to the United Nations ratified the so-called “Global Goals For Sustainable Development.” This will involve a radical, far-reaching social and economic transformation of everyday life that has been in the works for decades.
In true Hegelian dialectic style, the program is taking place as various black swans linger on the economic horizon, while some of the very interests involved in the “Global Goals” are likewise putting the finishing touches on the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, designed to (not coincidentally) crush the nation state.
Such an ambitious program will cost, by the UN’s own estimate, as much as $5 trillion annually. A social makeover of this scale requires enlistment of ideologically-motivated shock troops from all walks of life to act as change agents in their own spheres. Thus a portion of such finances will be apportioned to thought and behavioral modification toward ideational acceptance of continued corporate ascendance, wealth and resource redistribution, and the breakdown of traditional borders that for better or worse have defined the human condition since the feudal era–from gender and common morality to the nation state. As the “Global Goals” website declares, “We are not a generation of bystanders. We are global citizens.”
Below is the campaign’s slickly produced promotional video.
Truthstream Media has developed a clever interpretation of the UN’s “Global Goals.” Unfortunately, these are by no means exaggerations but rather illustrate the hypocrisy of this campaign, which in reality involves an accelerated privatization of the commons and even our own bodies combined with elaborate psychological warfare to disguise such endeavors as social activism.
What’s that you say? You’re not on board? See you in the gulag, comrade.
Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Translation: Centralized banks, IMF, World Bank, Fed to control all finances, digital one world currency in a cashless society
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Translation: Mass vaccination, Codex Alimentarius
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Translation: UN propaganda, brainwashing through compulsory education from cradle to grave
Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Translation: Population control through forced “Family Planning”
Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Translation: Privatize all water sources, don’t forget to add fluoride
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Translation: Smart grid with smart meters on everything, peak pricing
Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Translation: TPP, free trade zones that favor megacorporate interests
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Translation: Toll roads, push public transit, remove free travel, environmental restrictions
Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
Translation: Even more regional government bureaucracy like a mutant octopus
Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Translation: Big brother big data surveillance state
Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Translation: Forced austerity
Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
Translation: Cap and Trade, carbon taxes/credits, footprint taxes
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Translation: Environmental restrictions, control all oceans including mineral rights from ocean floors
Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Translation: More environmental restrictions, more controlling resources and mineral rights
Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Translation: UN “peacekeeping” missions (ex 1, ex 2), the International Court of (blind) Justice, force people together via fake refugee crises and then mediate with more “UN peacekeeping” when tension breaks out to gain more control over a region, remove 2nd Amendment in USA
Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Translation: Remove national sovereignty worldwide, promote globalism under the “authority” and bloated, Orwellian bureaucracy of the UN
The Netherlands dropped their bid to establish an independent UN-led probe into alleged war crimes in Yemen, yielding to an alternative resolution proposed by Saudi Arabia, which stands accused of causing most of the civilian deaths in the conflict.
The Saudis are leading a coalition of countries, whcih since late March has been using their military to attack Houthi rebels in Yemen in an attempt to put ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back into power. According to UN numbers published on Tuesday, at least 2,355 civilians have been killed during the six months of the conflict. The majority of them died in Saudi attacks.
The latest of alleged atrocities in the Yemen war is an apparent Saudi airstrike that killed 131 guests at a wedding party. The Saudis, who have air superiority in Yemeni airspace, denied any involvement.
According to Amnesty International, many civilian killings in Yemen can be considered war crimes. In September, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for an independent, international inquiry into alleged war crimes in the country. The Netherlands submitted a draft resolution to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) shortly after, which among other things called for UN experts to be sent to Yemen to investigate allegations of crimes committed by all parties involved. The proposal was backed by a number of European countries.
The document was opposed by Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, all members of the council, as well as the Yemeni government in exile. The Saudis allegedly won their place at the council through a secret deal with the British government, according to the cables exposed by whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
The Saudis proposed an alternative resolution that doesn’t provide for an independent international inquiry and instead calls on the UN to support a probe led by the Hadi government. Human rights groups objected to the Saudi draft resolution, saying it would put a belligerent party in charge of the probe and would ultimately leave Saudi crimes obscured.
While the Saudis kept pushing for their draft resolution to be passed, the US kept mostly silent on the debate, and didn’t voice support for the Dutch proposal. Last week, American UN envoy Samantha Power released an ambiguously worded statement on the issue, which said Washington was “following the ongoing discussions in Geneva closely.”
“We do believe the Human Rights Council and OHCHR [Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] have an important role to play regarding the humanitarian situation, and look forward to working with our colleagues in Geneva,” Powers said.
The US helps its Arab ally Saudi Arabia in the Yemen bombing campaign with logistics and targeting. America is also the biggest provider of weapons for Saudi’s armed forces.
On Wednesday, the Netherlands announced they were dropping their draft resolution, leaving the Saudi document the only contestant for UN endorsement. Washington’s de facto opposition to the document played a significant role in its eventual demise, according to Vice News.
“It was terrible, the US was silent for a very long time,” Nicolas Agostini, Geneva representative for the International Federation For Human Rights, told Vice News. “The Dutch should have had public support from key partners including the US throughout the process.
“By the second week of negotiations, it became clear they wouldn’t get that kind of support. [America’s] very late public expression of support for the Dutch text, and emphasis on the need to reach consensus, de facto benefited the Saudis.”
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, speaking at the UN Security Council as it discussed the situation in the Middle East and northern Africa, said that it was “concerning” that after decades, the UN was still talking about Palestine, and was not standing up to the attacks on Syria.
She condemned the “illegal occupation” of Palestine and stated that, “Venezuela is a country that has historically condemned terrorism.” If there is a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel, “it should be two states that are truly equal and sovereign, not where there is terrorism and discrimination … we have to put effort into making this happen. There is a situation where the Israeli state is promoting terrorism and violating Palestinian human rights,” she said.
Talking then about Syria, where the U.S. claims to be attacking the Islamic State, and where Russia has, after talks with the Syrian government, agreed to attack the Islamic State group, Rodriguez said, “Terrorist groups aren’t born spontaneously, we want to know who finances them … This is a multilateral organization that respects international law, or are we here hypocritically, not condemning unilateral interventions (such as that by the U.S). What is the cost in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan? What do we want today for Syria? The same?”
“Why are we here if we don’t plan to respect international law?” she said.
“In Venezuela we call for abandoning hypocrisy and for real willingness to combat terrorism, and that it not be used to support a certain leader. The UN should assume its leadership and apply international law against aggressions against people. Syria should have sovereignty” over what occurs in its territory,” she concluded.
Rouhani made the conclusion that the US and Israel are to blame for regional terrorism.
“We propose that the fight against terrorism be incorporated into a binding international document and no country be allowed to use terrorism for the purpose of intervention into the affairs of another country,” Rouhani said in an address to the UN General Assembly.
Moving to Iran’s relationship with the international community, Rouhani stated that he was “proud” to start a “new chapter” of engagement with the world.
He then praised the Iran nuclear deal and the negotiating partners involved. Rouhani appreciated that the deal was unanimously approved by the UN Security Council.
Putin interview to Charlie Rose in the run-up to his address at the UN General Assembly’s 70th session
* * *
CHARLIE ROSE: You will speak to the United Nations in a much-anticipated address on Monday. It will be the first time you have been there in a number of years. What will you say to the UN, to America, to the world?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Since this interview will be aired prior to my speech, I do not think it reasonable to go into much detail about everything I am going to speak about, but, broadly, I will certainly mention some facts from the history of the United Nations. Now I can already tell you that the decision to establish the United Nations was taken in our country at the Yalta Conference. It was in the Soviet Union that this decision was made. The Soviet Union, and Russia as the successor state to the Soviet Union, is a founding member state of the United Nations and a permanent member of its Security Council.
Of course, I will have to say a few words about the present day, about the evolving international situation, about the fact that the United Nations remains the sole universal international organisation designed to maintain global peace. And in this sense it has no alternative today. It is also apparent that it should adapt to the ever-changing world, which we discuss all the time: how it should evolve and at what rate, which components should undergo qualitative changes. Of course, I will have to or rather should use this international platform to explain Russia’s vision of today’s international relations, as well as the future of this organisation and the global community.
CHARLIE ROSE: We are expecting you to speak about the threat of the Islamic State and your presence in Syria that is related to that. What is the purpose of your presence in Syria and how does that relate to the challenge of ISIS?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I believe, I am pretty certain that virtually everyone speaking from the United Nations platform is going to talk about the fight, about the need to fight terrorism, and I cannot avoid this issue, either. This is quite understandable because it is a serious common threat to all of us; it is a common challenge to all of us. Today, terrorism threatens a great number of states, a great number of people – hundreds of thousands, millions of people suffer from its criminal activity. And we all face the task of joining our efforts in the fight against this common evil.
Concerning our, as you put it, presence in Syria, as of today it has taken the form of weapons supplies to the Syrian government, personnel training and humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. We act based on the United Nations Charter, i.e. the fundamental principles of modern international law, according to which this or that type of aid, including military assistance, can and must be provided exclusively to legitimate government of one country or another, upon its consent or request, or upon the decision of the United Nations Security Council. In this particular case, we act based on the request from the Syrian government to provide military and technical assistance, which we deliver under entirely legal international contracts.
CHARLIE ROSE: The Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States welcomed your assistance in the fight against the Islamic State. Others have taken note of the fact that these are combat planes and manpad systems that are being used against the conventional army, not extremists.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: There is only one regular army there. That is the army of Syrian President al-Assad. And he is confronted with what some of our international partners interpret as an opposition. In reality, al-Assad’s army is fighting against terrorist organisations. You should know better than me about the hearings that have just taken place in the United States Senate, where the military and Pentagon representatives, if I am not mistaken, reported to the senators about what the United States had done to train the combat part of the opposition forces. The initial aim was to train between 5,000 and 6,000 fighters, and then 12,000 more. It turns out that only 60 of these fighters have been properly trained, and as few as 4 or 5 people actually carry weapons, while the rest of them have deserted with the American weapons to join ISIS. That is the first point.
Secondly, in my opinion, provision of military support to illegal structures runs counter to the principles of modern international law and the United Nations Charter. We have been providing assistance to legitimate government entities only.
In this connection, we have proposed cooperation to the countries in the region, we are trying to establish some kind of coordination framework. I personally informed the President of Turkey, the King of Jordan, as well as the Saudi Arabia of that, we informed the United States too, and Mr Kerry, whom you have mentioned, had an in-depth conversation with our Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on this matter; besides, our military stay in touch and discuss this issue. We would welcome a common platform for collective action against the terrorists.
CHARLIE ROSE: Are you ready to join forces with the United States against ISIS and is it why you are in Syria? Others believe that it might be part of your goal, that you are trying to save President al-Assad’s administration because they have been losing ground and the war has not been going well for them, and you are there to rescue them.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: That’s right, that’s how it is. We provide assistance to legitimate Syrian authorities. Moreover, I strongly believe that by acting otherwise, acting to destroy the legitimate bodies of power we would create a situation that we are witnessing today in other countries of the region or in other regions of the world, for instance, in Libya, where all state institutions have completely disintegrated.
Unfortunately, we are witnessing a similar situation in Iraq. There is no other way to settle the Syrian conflict other than by strengthening the existing legitimate government agencies, support them in their fight against terrorism and, of course, at the same time encourage them to start a positive dialogue with the “healthy” part of the opposition and launch political transformations.
CHARLIE ROSE: As you know, some coalition partners want al-Assad to go before they can support the government.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I would like to advise or recommend them to forward this suggestion to the Syrian people. It is only up to the Syrian people living in Syria to determine who, how and based on what principles should rule their country.
CHARLIE ROSE: Do you support what President al-Assad is doing in Syria and what is happening to those Syrians, to those millions of refugees, to hundreds of thousands of people who have been killed and many – by his own force?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: And do you think that those who support the armed opposition and, mainly, terrorist organisations just in order to overthrow al-Assad without thinking of what awaits the country after the complete destruction of state institutions are doing the right thing?
Time and again, with perseverance worthy of a better cause, you are talking about the Syrian army fighting against its people. But take a look at those who control 60 percent of Syrian territory. Where is that civilised opposition? 60 percent of Syria is controlled either by ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra or other terrorist organisations, organisations that have been recognised as terrorist by the United States, as well as other countries and the UN.
CHARLIE ROSE: Would Russia deploy its combat troops in Syria if it is necessary to defeat ISIS?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Russia will not take part in any field operations on the territory of Syria or in other states; at least, we do not plan it for now. But we are thinking of how to intensify our work both with President al-Assad and our partners in other countries.
CHARLIE ROSE: As we come back to the problem of many people considering that al-Assad is helping ISIS, that his terrible attitude towards the Syrian people and the use of barrel bombs and other actions are helping ISIS, and if he is removed, the transition period would be better at some point for the purposes of fighting ISIS.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: In secret services’ parlance, I can say that such an assessment is a blatant act by al-Assad’s enemies. It is anti-Syrian propaganda.
CHARLIE ROSE: This wording is very broad, among other things, it can mean new efforts by Russia to take up the leadership role in the Middle East and it can mean that it represents your new strategy. Is it really a new strategy?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. There are more than 2,000 militants in Syria from the former Soviet Union. So instead of waiting for them to return back home we should help President al-Assad fight them there, in Syria. This is the main incentive that impels us to help President al-Assad.
In general, we want the situation in the region to stabilize.
CHARLIE ROSE: You are proud of Russia and it means that you want Russia to play a more significant role in the world. This is just one of the examples.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is not an end in itself. I am proud of Russia. We have much to be proud of. But we have no obsession that Russia must be a super power in the international arena.
CHARLIE ROSE: But you are a major power because of the nuclear weapons you possess. You are a force to be reckoned with.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I hope so (laughing), otherwise what are these weapons for?
The Ukrainian issue is a separate huge issue for us, I will tell you why. Ukraine is the closest country to us. We have always said that Ukraine is our sister country and it is true. It is not just a Slavic people, it is the closest people to Russia: we have similar languages, culture, common history, religion etc.
Here is what I believe is completely unacceptable for us. Addressing issues, including controversial ones, as well as domestic issues of the former Soviet Republics through the so-called coloured revolutions, through coups and unconstitutional means of toppling the current government. That is absolutely unacceptable. Our partners in the United States are not trying to hide the fact that they supported those opposed to President Yanukovych.
CHARLIE ROSE: You believe the United States had something to do with the ousting of Yanukovych, when he had to flee to Russia?
VLADIMIR PUTIN.: I know this for sure.
CHARLIE ROSE: How can you know for sure?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: It is very simple. We have thousands of contacts and thousands of connections with people who live in Ukraine. And we know who had meetings and worked with people who overthrew Viktor Yanukovych, as well as when and where they did it; we know the ways the assistance was provided, we know how much they paid them, we know which territories and countries hosted trainings and how it was done, we know who the instructors were. We know everything. Well, actually, our US partners are not keeping it a secret.
CHARLIE ROSE: Do you respect the sovereignty of Ukraine?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Certainly. However, we would like other countries to respect the sovereignty of other states, including Ukraine, too. Respecting the sovereignty means preventing coups, unconstitutional actions and illegitimate overthrowing of the legitimate government.
CHARLIE ROSE: How does the renewal of the legitimate power take place in your judgment? How will that come about? And what role will Russia play?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: At no time in the past, now or in the future has or will Russia take any part in actions aimed at overthrowing the legitimate government.
CHARLIE ROSE: Did you have to use the military force to accomplish that objective?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Of course, no.
CHARLIE ROSE: Russia has military presence on the borders with Ukraine, and some argue that there have been Russian troops in Ukraine itself.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Do you have a military presence in Europe?
CHARLIE ROSE: Yes.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: The U.S. tactical nuclear weapons are in Europe, let us not forget this. Does it mean that the U.S. has occupied Germany or that the U.S. never stopped the occupation after World War II and only transformed the occupation troops into the NATO forces? And if we keep our troops on our territory on the border with some state, you see it is a crime?
CHARLIE ROSE: As you know, you are very much talked about in America.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Do they not have anything else to do? ( Laughs.)
CHARLIE ROSE: Or maybe they are curious people? Or maybe you are an interesting character, maybe that is what it is? They know that you were the KGB agent, who retired and got into politics. In St. Petersburg you became deputy mayor, then moved to Moscow. And the interesting thing is that they see these images of you, bare-chested man on horseback, and they say there is a man who carefully cultivates his image of strength.
You enjoy the work, you enjoy representing Russia, and I know you have been an intelligence officer. Intelligence officer knows how to read other people; that’s part of the job, right?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: It used to be my job. Now I have a different job and for quite a while already.
CHARLIE ROSE: Someone in Russia told me, “There is no such thing as a former KGB man. Once a KGB man, always a KGB man.”
VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know every stage of your life has an impact on you. Whatever we do, all the knowledge, the experience, they stay with us, we carry them on, use them in one way or another. In this sense, yes, you are right.
CHARLIE ROSE: Once, somebody from the CIA told me that the training you have is important, that you learn to be liked as well. Because you have to charm people, you have to seduce them.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, if the CIA told you so, then it must be true. They are experts on that. (Laughing)
CHARLIE ROSE: The popularity rating you have in Russia, I believe, makes every politician in the world envious. Why are you so popular?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: There is something that unites me and other citizens of Russia. It is love for our Motherland.
CHARLIE ROSE: It was an emotional moment at the time of the [World War II Memory], because of the sacrifices Russia had made. And you were staying with a picture of your father with tears in your eyes.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes, my family and my relatives as a whole suffered heavy losses during the Second World War. That is true. In my father’s family there were five brothers and four of them were killed, I believe. On my mother’s side the situation is much the same. In general, Russia suffered heavily. No doubt, we cannot forget that and we must not forget, not to accuse anyone but to ensure that nothing of the kind ever happens again.
CHARLIE ROSE: You also said that the worst thing that happened in the last century was the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Soviet empire. There are those who look at Ukraine and Georgia and think that you do not want to recreate the Soviet empire, but you do want to recreate a sphere of influence, which, you think, Russia deserves because of the relationship that has existed. Why are you smiling?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Laughing) Your questions make me happy. Somebody is always suspecting Russia of having some ambitions, there are always those who are trying to misinterpret us or keep something back. I did say that I see the collapse of the Soviet Union as a great tragedy of the XX century. Do you know why? First of all, because 25 million of Russian people suddenly turned out to be outside the borders of the Russian Federation. They used to live in one state; the Soviet Union has traditionally been called Russia, the Soviet Russia, and it was the great Russia. They used to live in one country and suddenly found themselves abroad. Can you imagine how many problems came out?
First, there were everyday issues, the separation of families, the economic and social problems. The list is endless. Do you think it is normal that 25 million people, Russian people, suddenly found themselves abroad? The Russians have turned out to be the largest divided nation in the world nowadays. Is that not a problem? It is not a problem for you as it is for me.
CHARLIE ROSE: As far as we know, you are very popular, but, forgive me, there are many people who are very critical towards you in Russia. As you know, they say it is more autocratic than democratic. They say that political opponents and journalists had been killed and imprisoned in Russia. They say your power is unchallenged. And they say that power, an absolute power corrupts absolutely. What would you say to those people who worry about the climate, the atmosphere in Russia?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: There can be no democracy without observing the law and everyone must observe it – that is the most basic and important thing that we all should remember.
As for those tragic incidents as losses of lives, including those of the journalists, unfortunately, it happens in all countries around the world. But if it occurs in Russia, we take every step possible to ensure that the perpetrators are found, identified and punished. We will work on all issues in the same way.
But the most important thing is that we will continue improving our political system so that people and every citizen will feel that they can influence the life of state and society, they can influence the authorities, and so that the authorities will be aware of their responsibility before those people who gave their confidence to the representatives of the authorities in the elections.
CHARLIE ROSE: If you as the leader of this country insist that the rule of law be observed, if you insist that justice be done, if you because of your power do that, then it could go a long way eliminating that perception.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: A lot can be done, but not everyone immediately succeeds in everything. How long has it taken the democratic process to develop in the United States? Since it was founded. So, do you think that as regards democracy everything is settled now in America? If this were so, there would be no Ferguson issue, right? There would be no other issues of similar kind, there would be no police abuse.
Our goal is to see all these issues and respond to them timely and properly. The same applies to Russia. We also have a lot of problems.
CHARLIE ROSE: Are you curious about America more than simply another nation that you have to deal with?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: It is interesting for us to know what is happening in the US. America has a strong influence on the situation in the world in general.
CHARLIE ROSE: What do you like most about America?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: America’s creative approach to solving the problems the country is faced with, its openness and open-mindedness which make it possible to unleash the potential of the people. I believe that largely due to these qualities America has made such tremendous strides in its development.
CHARLIE ROSE: What do you think of President Obama? What is your evaluation of him?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I do not think I am entitled to assess the President of the United States. This is up to the American people.
CHARLIE ROSE: Do you think his activities in foreign affairs reflect a weakness?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Why? I do not think so at all. The point is that in any country, including the United States, may be in the United States even more often than in any other country, foreign policy is used for internal political struggle. An election campaign will soon start in the United States. They always play either Russian card or any other.
CHARLIE ROSE: Let me ask you this question: Do you think he listens to you?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I think that we all listen to each other when it does not contradict our own ideas of what we should and should not do.
CHARLIE ROSE: You said Russia is not a super power. Do you think he considers Russia an equal? Considers you an equal? Which is the way you want to be treated?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Laughing) Ask him, he is your President! How can I know what he thinks?
CHARLIE ROSE: Are you watching the Republican political debates?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: If you ask me whether I watch them on a daily basis – I would say no.
CHARLIE ROSE: Marco Rubio is running for a Republican nomination and he said you were a gangster.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: How can I be a gangster, if I worked for the KGB? It is absolutely ridiculous.
CHARLIE ROSE: Are people in Russia fearful of you?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I do not think so. I assume most people trust me, if they vote for me in elections. And it is the most important thing. It places great responsibility on me, immense responsibility. I am grateful to the people for that trust, but I surely feel great responsibility for what I do and for the result of my work.
The practice of imposing unilateral coercive measures, taken by one state to force a change in the policy of another, violates the UN Charter and must be stopped, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a UN summit on sustainable development, adding that the Cuba embargo needs to end.
“Such illegitimate restrictive actions, which among other things undermine basic market principles in the areas of trade, finance, technology and investment, must be stopped. This includes the need to lift the embargo against Cuba and other sanctions imposed arbitrarily, bypassing the UN Security Council,” Lavrov said on Sunday.
A US-brokered carrot-and-stick policy in regard to Russia has long been condemned by Moscow. The US has imposed a number of sanctions on Russia since August 2014 over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, accusing Moscow of being a protagonist and participant in the ongoing hostilities. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations. It responded with counter-measures, banning imports from the EU, US and others. In June, Moscow extended its embargo on food imports from Western countries until August 2016 due to the prolonged anti-Russia sanctions.
“Russia advocates the creation of a fair global economic order, with the global development more manageable. We call for action backed by universally recognized norms of international law, in the spirit of collective decision-making,” Lavrov told the United Nations summit on Sunday.
Russia said earlier this month that it has no illusion about sanctions being lifted and expects them to be stiffened in future, regardless of developments in Eastern Ukraine. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that Moscow can live under continuous Western pressure.
Speaking at the United Nations for the first time on Saturday, Cuba’s President Raul Castro publicly slammed the US trade embargo, lasting for over five decades, describing it as the key obstacle to Havana’s development.
The embargo is “the main obstacle to our country’s economic development while affecting other nations due to its extraterritorial scope, and hurting the interests of American citizens and companies,” Castro told a UN summit on sustainable development.
“Such policy is rejected by 188 United Nations member states that demand its removal,” he added, referring to an annual UN General Assembly resolution that has denounced the US embargo.
Cuba, which estimates the embargo has caused its economy $121 billion in damages, has launched a campaign for the General Assembly to adopt the resolution again, calling for the embargo to be lifted. Adoption of the resolution has already become an annual ritual.
While the General Assembly’s vote is nonbinding and symbolic, it has served to demonstrate Washington’s isolation regarding Havana. UN diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Washington may abstain from the UN vote on the resolution, if the draft text is amended from previous years to soften the criticism of the US.
All victims of human rights abuses should be able to look to the Human Rights Council as a forum and a springboard for action.
— Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, 12 March 2007, Opening of the 4th Human Rights Council Session.
Article 55 of United Nations Charter includes:
Universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
In diametrical opposition to these fine founding aspirations, the UN has appointed Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the United Nations Human Rights Council to head (or should that be “behead”) an influential human rights panel. The appointment was seemingly made in June, but only came to light on September 17th, due to documents obtained by UN Watch.
… Mr Faisal Bin Hassan Trad, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador at the UN in Geneva, was elected as Chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council.
As head of a five-strong group of diplomats, the influential role would give Mr Trad the power to select applicants from around the world for scores of expert roles in countries where the UN has a mandate on human rights.
Such experts are often described as the “crown jewels” of the HRC, according to UN Watch.
The “crown jewels” have been handed to a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world. Saudi Arabia will head a Consultative Group of five Ambassadors empowered to select applicants globally for more than seventy-seven positions to deal with human rights violations and mandates.
In a spectacular new low for even a UN whose former Secretary General, Kofi Annan, took eighteen months to admit publicly that the 2003 invasion of, bombardment and near destruction of, Iraq was illegal, UN Watch points out that the UN has chosen “a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS to be head of a key Human Rights panel …”
In May, just prior to the appointment, the Saudi government advertised for eight extra executioners to “… carry out an increasing number of death sentences, which are usually beheadings, carried out in public”.
Seemingly “no special qualifications are needed.” The main function would be executing, but job description “also involves performing amputations …”
The advert was posted on the website of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of the Civil Service.
By June 15th this year executions reached 100, “far exceeding last year’s tally and putting (the country) on course for a new record” according to The Independent (June 15.) The paper adds that the Kingdom is set to beat its own grisly, primitive record of 192 executions in 1995.
The paper notes that “…the rise in executions can be directly linked to the new King Salman and his recently-appointed inner circle …”
In August 2014, Human Rights Watch reported nineteen executions in seventeen days – including one for “sorcery.” Adultery and apostasy can also be punished by death.
In a supreme irony, on the death of King Salman’s head-chopping predecessor, Salman’s half bother King Abdullah, in January (still current decapitation record holder) UK Prime Minister David Cameron ordered flags flown at half mast, including at the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, leading one MP to question: “On the day that flags at Whitehall are flying at half-mast for King Abdullah, how many public executions will there be?”
Cameron apparently had not read his own Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report citing Saudi as “a country of concern.”
Reacting to a swathe of criticism, a spokesperson for Westminster Abbey responded:
For us not to fly at half-mast would be to make a noticeably aggressive comment on the death of the King of a country to which the UK is allied in the fight against Islamic terrorism.
The Abbey’s representative appears to have been either breathtakingly ignorant or stunningly uninformed. In December 2009 in a US Embassy cable the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, wrote that:
While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.
… donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide … engagement is needed to … encourage the Saudi government to take more steps to stem the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia-based sources to terrorists and extremists worldwide.
At home women are forbidden “from obtaining a passport, marrying, traveling, accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian.” (HRW Report, 2014.) Saudi is also, of course, the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive.
The country is currently preparing to behead twenty-one year old Ali Mohammed al-Nimr. He was arrested aged seventeen for participating in anti-government protests and possessing firearms — the latter charge has been consistently denied. Human rights groups are appalled at the sentence and the flimsy case against him, but pointing out that neither “factors are unusual in today’s Saudi Arabia.”
Following the beheading, al-Nimr’s headless body will be allegedly mounted “on to a crucifix for public viewing.”
What was that mantra issued unceasingly from US and UK government Departments in justification for blitzkriegs, invasions and slaughters in countries who “kill their own people”?
Numerous reports cite torture as being widespread, despite Saudi having subscribed to the UN Convention Against Torture.
There are protests at Saudi embassies across the world highlighting the case of blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to a thousand lashes – fifty lashes a week after Friday prayers – and ten years in prison for blogging about free speech.
Since March, Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen — with no UN mandate — destroying schools, hospitals, homes, a hotel, public buildings, an Internally Displaced Persons camp, historical jewels, generating “a trail of civilian death and destruction” which may have amounted to war crimes, according to Amnesty International. “Unlawful airstrikes” have failed to distinguish between military targets and civilian objects. “Nowhere safe for civilians”, states Amnesty.
Further, the conflict … has killed close to 4,000 people, half of them civilians including hundreds of children, and displaced over one million since 25 March 2015. There has been:
… a flagrant disregard for civilian lives and fundamental principles of international humanitarian law (killing and injuring) hundreds of civilians not involved in the conflict, many of them children and women, in unlawful (disproportionate and indiscriminate) ground and air attacks.
It is alleged that US-supplied cluster bombs have also been used. One hundred and seventeen States have joined the Convention to ban these lethal, indiscriminate munitions since December 2008. Saudi Arabia, of course, is not amongst them.
Saudi was also one of the countries which bombed Iraq in 2003, an action now widely accepted as illegal. It is perhaps indicative of their closeness to the US that the bombardment of Yemen is mirror-named from the Pentagon’s Silly Titles for Killing People lexicon: “Operation Decisive Storm.” Iraq 1991 was, of course, “Operation Desert Storm”.
Saudi is also ranked 164th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. All in all, Saudi leading the Human Rights Council at the UN is straight out of another of George Orwell’s most nightmarish political fantasies.
Oh, and, of course, we are told that nineteen of the hijackers of the ‘plane that hit the World Trade Centre were Saudis – for which swathes of Afghanistan and region, Middle East and North Africa are still paying the bloodiest, genocidal price for the “War on Terror”– whilst Saudi’s representatives stroll into the sunlight of the UN Human Rights body.
On the UN Human Right’s Council’s website is stated:
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) represents the world’s commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. We have a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights.
Way to go, folks!
By Eric Zuesse | Aletho News | September 21, 2015
On September 18th, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights headlined “Statement of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns Ukraine: Lives lost in an accountability vacuum,” and condemned there the current Ukrainian Government in strong language, regarding not only the coup which had brought them to power in February 2014, but regarding also the massacre of the people who on 2 May 2014 had been peacefully demonstrating in Odessa against the coup. Specifically, the ongoing cover-ups by the Ukrainian Government concerning both of these matters were condemned by him.
The High Commissioner, Christof Heyns, said:
By allowing almost immediate access of the scene to ‘pro-unity’ protesters, members of the public or to municipal authorities, investigators lost a large proportion of potentially valuable forensic evidence. Meanwhile I am worried by indications that the Government has significantly reduced the size of the team investigating these events in the past year, before it has had an opportunity to report. The slow progress of the investigation and the lack of transparency with which it is being conducted have contributed to a great deal of public dissatisfaction and provided a fertile environment for rumour and misinformation. It is disconcerting that the Special Unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs that investigates the 2 May events cancelled our appointment in Odessa at short notice, without any explanation.
I am further concerned that administrative and personal impediments seem to have been imposed to prevent or at least discourage the families of those who died from obtaining the status of suffering or affected persons before the Courts. Meanwhile I am greatly alarmed by reports of the extent to which authorities are tolerating both verbal and physical intimidation both of families attending court proceedings and of the judges of those cases, not only outside the court building, but also inside it and in the court room itself.
Here is a brief video on the massacre, on 2 May 2014, in Odessa’s Trade Unions Building.
Also of interest might be the following articles:
The Obama Administration has a strong record of installing anti-Russian governments — not only in Ukraine. Obama enabled the 28 June 2009 coup that overthrew Honduras’s progressive democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya to succeed, and enabled the coup’s junta to stay in power though no other head-of-state supported it; and the great investigative journalist Wayne Madsen reports on 21 September 2015 that there is strong reason to believe that the Obama Administration was actually behind the recent coup in Burkino Faso. Furthermore, the Obama Administration has been involved in unsuccessful coup-plots in Venezuela and Ecuador, according to a 12 March 2015 study by the Council On Hemispheric Affairs. In addition, the Obama Administration bombed Libya and removed Muammar Gaddafi from power there, and is bombing Syria in order to remove Bashar al-Assad from power there. The Obama Administration also has continued the Bush Administration’s policy of “unsigning” to the legal authority of the International Criminal Court, but doesn’t use the same rabid rhetoric against the Court that Obama’s predecessor did. The Obama Administration has also taken a strong anti-Russian position on virtually everything at the United Nations, such as by voting against a Russian-supported resolution condemning fascism in all its forms (including Holocaust-denial), which resolution passed overwhelmingly and was opposed by only three governments: U.S., Ukraine, and Canada.
Obama is highly critical of Russia, and of its leader, Vladimir Putin. The U.S. White House in February issued its National Security Strategy 2015, and it used the pejorative term “aggression” 18 times, 17 of which referred to Russia.
So, the U.N. High Commissioner’s statement condemning the Ukrainian Government’s cover-ups might be viewed in Washington as simply the UN’s taking the pro-Russian side. Psychopaths could view it that way. But other people will (like the UN) oppose cover-ups — and oppose Obama’s international policies (such as those described). Indeed, the only U.S. President who has been as hostile toward the UN as Obama is, was his immediate predecessor, whose policies Obama publicly opposed when running for the U.S. Presidency in 2008. And, then, in his 2012 re-election campaign, Obama vocally criticized his opponent Mitt Romney’s statement that Russia “is without question our number one geopolitical foe.” But, now, Obama cites Russia 17 out of 18 times for “aggression.”
Geir Lundestad, who was the Director of the Nobel Institute, and Secretary of the Peace Prize Committee, at the time when Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, recently said that “giving Obama a helping hand” was the reason why the Committee awarded Obama the Prize, but that doing this “did not achieve what the committee had hoped for.” However, he denied “that it was a mistake to give Obama the Peace Prize.” Even all of those coups and massacres don’t mean it was a mistake. Maybe it wasn’t much different from “what the committee had hoped for.” After all: Norway, and its Nobel Institute, is a U.S. ally. Unlike the United Nations, it only pretends to represent the interests of all people everywhere.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
In the daily media march to war with Syria, as Tony Abbott, Andrew Mitchell and the former arch-bishop of Canterbury all start tooting their war horns – it’s important to savour the little things.
Like complete and utter dishonesty in the media. For example The Guardian’s article on Ban Ki Moon says this in the subhead:
But then neatly side-steps the fact he never actually said this:
I don’t think anymore need be said.
The appointment by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of one of his most hawkish and outspoken rivals as Israel’s new ambassador to the United Nations has prompted widespread consternation.
As one Israeli analyst noted last week, Danny Danon’s appointment amounts to a “cruel joke” on the international community. The new envoy “lacks even the slightest level of finesse and subtlety required of a senior diplomat”.
Last year Netanyahu sacked Danon as deputy defence minister, describing him as too “irresponsible” even by the standards of Israel’s usually anarchic politics. Danon had denounced the prime minister for “leftist feebleness” in his handling of Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer.
Danon is a UN official’s worst nightmare. He is a vocal opponent of a two-state solution and has repeatedly called for the annexation of the West Bank.
Back in 2011, days before the UN General Assembly was due to vote on Palestinian statehood, Danon dismissed the forum as irrelevant: “Even if there will be a vote [in favour], it will be a Facebook state.”
On the face of it, Netanyahu’s timing could not be worse. Danon is to represent Israel as the Palestinians are expected to step up efforts at the UN to entrench recognition of their statehood. He will also be a leading spokesman as Israel tries to fend off war crimes investigations at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
The generally accepted explanation is that Netanyahu’s move is driven by domestic, not diplomatic, calculations. Danon is the Israeli right’s poster boy, one who makes the prime minister look too cautious and conciliatory.
The two faced off for the Likud party leadership last November. Danon lost but Netanyahu doubtless fears, as his party and the Israeli public shift ever rightwards, that his rival’s time is coming.
The posting removes Danon as head of the Likud’s powerful central committee, dispatches him to a distant land, and should provide him with opportunities aplenty to self-harm.
But that is not the whole story. Danon’s appointment reveals something more significant about Israel’s deteriorating relations even with its international supporters.
It is hard nowadays to recall that Israel once took the UN very seriously indeed. It had to.
In the decade following 1948, Abba Eban, the country’s foremost diplomat, sought to carve out international recognition and respectability for Israel at the UN.
Eban often used deceit and misdirection – he is reported to have avowed that “diplomats go abroad to lie for their country”. But he never forgot the importance of creating a façade of moral justification for Israel’s actions, even as it launched wars of aggression in 1956 at Suez and again against Egypt in 1967.
Reality caught up with Israel when the UN adopted a resolution in 1975 equating Israel’s official ideology, Zionism, with racism. The resolution was only revoked 16 years later, after the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States emerged as the world’s sole superpower.
Washington arm-twisted the General Assembly with promises that Israel would engage in a peace process with the Palestinians, culminating a short time later in the Oslo Accords.
But as Oslo slowly unravelled, and Israel’s leaders – not least Netanyahu himself – were exposed as the true rejectionists, Israel was forced on to the back foot again.
Today, the consensus in Israel is not only that the UN is a bastion of anti-Israel prejudice but that it is an incubator of global anti-semitism, much of it supposedly spawned by Arab states. Israel is blameless, so this story goes, but the world has fallen under the haters’ spell.
The parting shot of Danon’s predecessor, Ron Prosor, last week was to accuse yet again a leading UN official, Jordan’s Rima Khalaf, of anti-semitism for pointing out the untold misery caused by Israel’s near-decade blockade of Gaza.
Earlier this year, after stepping down as Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren went further, arguing that the plague of anti-semitism had infected even America’s leading Jewish journalists. Their critical coverage of Israel was proof of self-hatred, he claimed.
The need for such desperate diplomacy has grown as Israel’s moral image has tarnished, even for its allies. But the hectoring and intimidation by seasoned diplomats like Prosor and Oren has produced diminishing returns.
Danon’s posting is part of a discernible pattern of recent appointments by Netanyahu that reflect a growing refusal to engage in any kind of recognisable diplomacy. Confrontation is preferred.
The trend started with Netanyahu’s decision in 2009 to let the thuggish Avigdor Lieberman lead the foreign ministry and Israel’s diplomatic corps.
Notably, Netanyahu picked Ron Dermer, a high-profile partisan of the US Republican party, to replace Oren in 2013. Dermer is widely credited with engineering Netanyahu’s provocative address earlier this year to the US Congress, in an undisguised effort to undermine President Barack Obama’s talks with Iran.
Danon’s appointment, like Dermer’s, indicates the extent to which the Israeli right has abandoned any hope of persuading the international community of the rightness of its cause – or even of working within the rules of statecraft.
Just as Dermer has turned Obama’s White House into a diplomatic battlefield, Danon can be expected to barrack, abuse and alienate fellow ambassadors at the UN in New York.
An Israel that has no place for negotiations or compromise wants only to tell the world that it is wrong and that Israelis don’t care what others think. Danon is the right man for that task.