Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sewage backup delays UN meetings

The UN's many critics who have called it a septic tank of corruption and incompetence were vindicated this morning, when UN meetings were postponed and the UN was partially evacuated as suspicious smells of methane and sulfur were reported. (The UN smelling of sulfur... didn't Hugo Chavez have something to say about this? Should we all cross ourselves?)

According to the UN Spokesperson's office, FDNY and hazardous material experts were brought in and determined that high tides in the East River had created a sewage problem by backing up the pipes. Gases were released from the sewage backup but were deemed not hazardous. Press were allowed back into their offices around 11:30 a.m.

So basically, the UN smells like shit.

Sidenote 1: The UN declined to speculate if the lunar eclipse had anything to do with the tides.
Sidenote 2: The UN declined to say if its sewage system was pumping directly into the river.
Sidenote 3: The UN declined to say if this had anything to do with construction or methane leaks caused by the Capital Master Plan, the UN's ongoing renovation of its own building.
Sidenote 4: The UN announced that tours will be resumed. Now the general public too can come smell the United Nations.
Sidenote 5: The United States had meticulously organized a UN "youth day" where children and teenagers would submit comments to the Security Council and participate in a Security Council open meeting. That meeting has been moved to the Economic and Social Council chamber in the North Lawn Building and is not being telecast. As a result, no one will cover this and a generation of international kids will remember the day they came to the UN and were evacuated by the smell of shit. I rather think they will all become neocons, no?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

UN Women and hypocrisy

Today the UN member states voted to decide which countries should serve on the board of the new UN Entity on Women. Note the use of the word "entity." The member states could not agree whether the new body should actually do anything, so heaven forbid it be called an "agency" because it might have, you know, agency. So it is an "entity." It exists. Whether it does anything else is an open question.

So Iran, for some reason, decided that it wanted to be on the board. Why Iran did this I do not know. It's like being the unpopular kid in school and writing a sign that says "kick me!" on your own back, just to make a point. Naturally, the West jumps on the opportunity. Days before the vote, they nudge tiny Timor-Leste into running against Iran for the last remaining seat on the board. (Stop me when this sounds like your middle school student government. What, it already does? Yeah, mine too.)

Western nations then browbeat, bribe and cajole every undecided country into swinging against the Iranians (footnote: I'm not kidding about the bribes. On voting day every delegation found a nice brown package of I-don't-know-what in red-white-and-blue ribbon on their desk. This is standard UN procedure, here.) In the end, little Timor-Leste — which barely even has a government — wins going away. Afterward, US Ambassador Susan Rice smugly speaks of how Iran was defeated, "and defeated handily."

Why is this hypocrisy? Because here are the countries that got elected unopposed, with no complaint or opprobrium by anyone:
- Libya, where women can technically own property but in practice don't, and where Muammar Qadaffi is escorted about by a phalanx of all-female bodyguards
- Saudi Arabia, ranked second to last among 93 countries on the Gender Empowerment Index, a country where women still aren't allowed to drive cars or go anywhere without a male family member escort
- Democratic Republic of Congo, where pretty much everybody — government soldiers, ethnic rebels, foreign militias, even the occasional UN peacekeeper — uses rape as a weapon of war. Three months before the vote, several hundred women were systematically raped in a 24 hour rampage in the country's lawless east and the UN didn't even find out about it for a fortnight. Five DAYS before the vote, the mass rape of over 600 women on the Angolan border was uncovered.

Rice, asked to explain why the Congolese and the Saudis got a free pass, said "I am not going to deny that there were several countries that are going to join the board of U.N. Women that have less than stellar records on women's rights, and indeed human rights."

Fair enough, Ambassador. Iran getting on the UN Women board would have been ridiculous. But DR Congo getting on was an atrocity.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Did Than Shwe's astrologer predict this one?

What is it with Myanmar getting leveled by horrendous cyclones right before shame elections? We all remember Cyclone Nargis (see all my "Burma and the Death of Responsibility To Protect" posts from a while back) striking right before the vote on the new constitution, but now category 4 cylone Giri has hit the country barely a week before its sham democratic election.

I blame the new flag.

Speaking of elections, I'm off to vote now myself. And you should do the same.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Week 7 Picks

The spread:

steelers (-3) over DOLPHINS
FALCONS (-3.5) over bengals
jaguars (+9) over CHIEFS
TITANS (-3) over eagles
redskins (+3) over BEARS
SAINTS (-13) over browns
RAVENS (-13) over bills
49ers (-3) over PANTHERS
BUCS (-3) over rams
SEAHAWKS (-6.5) over cardinals
patriots (+3) over CHARGERS
BRONCOS (-8.5) over raiders
vikings (+2.5) over PACKERS

COWBOYS (-3) over giants

Last week: 7-6-1
Season: 41-44-5

Friday, October 15, 2010

Week 6 picks

Well, I finally got over .500 for Week 5. Let's see if I can keep it going and get back to .500 for the season. You know, so that my guesses will be more accurate than actually guessing. Here's the spread again:

STEELERS (-13.5) over browns
saints (-4) over BUCCANEERS
chargers (-8) over RAMS
PACKERS (-3) over dolphins
falcons (+2.5) over EAGLES
PATRIOTS (-2.5) over ravens
chiefs (+4.5) over TEXANS
GIANTS (-10) over lions
BEARS (-7) over seahawks
raiders (+6.5) over NINERS
jets (-3) over BRONCOS
VIKINGS (-1.5) over cowboys
colts (-3) over REDSKINS

titans (-3) over JAGUARS

Last week: 8-6
Season: 34-38-4

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Week 5

The spread:

broncos (+7) over RAVENS
jags (pk) over BILLS
COLTS (-7) over chiefs
rams (+3) over LIONS
falcons (-3) over BROWNS
bucs (+6.5) over BENGALS
PANTHERS (-1) over bears
packers (-2.5) over REDSKINS
TEXANS (-3) over giants
saints (-6.5) over CARDS
RAIDERS (+6) over chargers
titans (+7) over COWBOYS
eagles (+3) over 49ERS

JETS (-4) over vikings

Last week: 7-7
Season: 26-32-4

Friday, October 1, 2010

Week 4 picks

Here's the spread.

Here's my picks:

TITANS (-6.5) over broncos
STEELERS (-1.5) over ravens
bengals (-3) over BROWNS
lions (+14.5) over PACKERS
SAINTS (-13.5) over panthers
FALCONS (-7) over 49ers
seahawks (-1) over RAMS
jets (-5.5) over BILLS
JAGUARS (+7) over colts
texans (-3) over RAIDERS
CHARGERS (-8.5) over cardinals
EAGLES (-6) over redskins
GIANTS (-4) over bears

patriots (-1) over DOLPHINS

Last week: 7-9
Season: 19-25-4

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Week 3 NFL picks

OK, so Week 2 was a total fiasco, let's see if I can get this under control for Week 3. Once again, against the spread. Home team in CAPS.

titans (+3) over GIANTS
PATRIOTS (-14.5) over bills
RAVENS (-10.5) over browns
steelers (-2.5) over BUCCANEERS
bengals (-3) over PANTHERS
SAINTS (-3.5) over falcons
CHIEFS (-3) over 49ers
lions (+11) over VIKINGS
TEXANS (-2.5) over cowboys
redskins (-3.5) over RAMS
eagles (-2.5) over JAGUARS
colts (-5.5) over BRONCOS
chargers (-5.5) over SEAHAWKS
raiders (+4.5) over CARDINALS
DOLPHINS (-2) over jets

packers (-3) over BEARS

Last week: 5-9-2
Season: 12-16-4

Monday, September 20, 2010

the spread

I went 5-8-2 on Sunday. Horrible. Worse than guessing. I gotta right this ship before I start putting any money down. We'll start with New Orleans blowing out San Francisco tonight.


Not to be alarmist, but I'm a bit leery of this new genetic advancement on salmon that makes them grow twice as fast as normal salmon. To wit:

"There is virtually no possibility of escape and interaction with wild populations,” says Stotish.

That’s because the fish eggs will be sterile, and they will all be female. Plus, they'll be grown in tanks on land, rather than nets or pens, floating in the ocean, the way most conventional farmed fish is raised.

I hate to break it to these guys, but I'm pretty sure they relied on that trick in Jurassic Park and it didn't work then either. How long before mutant mega-salmon are roaming the earth, seeking revenge on their human creators? FDA, thou shalt reapeth what thy soweth.

As Shaggy 2 Dope of Insane Clown Posse memorably opined, "I don’t want to talk to a scientist, y’all mother fuckers lyin, and gettin me pissed."

MDG Summit in twitter form

Live-tweeting the silliest highlights of the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals. I'm here so you don't have to be.

Friday, September 17, 2010

puts it in perspective

Remember reading a few weeks back about those Chilean miners that were trapped a third of a mile underground?

Well, they're still there. And it'll be a few weeks before anyone can get them out. Amazing story...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I hope that "unnamed team" is the Bears

So ESPN is reporting that the Chargers' Vincent Jackson's suspension will be reduced if he's traded and that an "unnamed team" is already in talks with San Diego.

Chicago needs a deep threat and already has the NFL's 3rd-best collection of screw-ups and head cases (trailing only Cincinnati and the New York Jets).

Sidenote: what sense does it make to reduce a guy's drunk-driving suspension if he's traded? Like, if he goes to New York and it's a public transport city, he's less of a risk? I don't really get it.

NFL picks week 2

In other obvious news, it's much harder to pick against the spread in the NFL than it is to just pick the winners outright. Nonetheless I'll be trying again, and here's my best shot for Week 2:

kansas city (+2) over CLEVELAND
GREEN BAY (-13) over buffalo
baltimore (-2.5) over CINCINNATI
TENNESSEE (-5) over pittsburgh
philadelphia (-6.5) over DETROIT
chicago (+7.5) over DALLAS
CAROLINA (-3.5) over tampa bay
arizona (+6.5) over ATLANTA
miami (+5.5) over MINNESOTA
OAKLAND (-3.5) over st. louis
DENVER (-3.5) over seattle
houston (-3) over WASHINGTON
jacksonville (+7) over SAN DIEGO
new england (-3) over NY JETS
INDIANAPOLIS (-5) over ny giants

new orleans (-5) over SAN FRANCISCO

Last week: 7-7-2

The discomforts of terrorism

Today in the Security Council meeting on Somalia, the Kenyan Ambassador said:

"If the Transitional Government would fall, the group called al Shabaab would take over and export an ideology dedicated to the destruction of all non-Muslim people in the region. And we would be uncomfortable with a situation like that."

I don't know about you, but "uncomfortable" is a word I use when, say, the air conditioning is too high, or when I try on a pair of shoes and they do not fit. Not when a militia dedicated to wiping me off the face of the earth seizes control in a large neighboring nation.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dispatches from the 9/11 Memorial Circus

NEW YORK - The road to lunacy is paved with good intentions.

Before today's 9/11 ceremonies, several 9/11 family groups had requested people not to protest, either in favor of or against the proposed "Ground Zero mosque," out of respect to the sacredness of the day. Good intention, right? Well, the end result was that all the reasonable people stayed home and the crazies came out of the woodwork like a horde of termites. Today was the political equivalent of World's Deadliest Swarms. A complete three-ring circus.

Qurans? We got 'em. You want to stomp on them? There was a guy doing that on Chambers street. You want free ones? A Muslim group was handing them out on Broadway outside the Duane Reade. I almost took one, but let's face it, I'm a bit behind in my summer reading list, and I already read the most inflammatory bits in Sam Harris.

Costumed heroes? Yeah, we got those. A guy dressed in a homemade Captain America costume, complete with USA flag cape. Affiliation? Unknown. Some guy showed up with a gorgeous blue and yellow parrot on his arm. "Does it talk?" we asked. "When it wants to," he said. We got clowns, too. Loony Lenny showed up in full costume. I know his name because it was on his hat. Not sure which side he was on either. Not everybody had one. One guy was just holding up a peace sign at the midpoint between the two protests. All he wanted to know from me was whether I'd seen any violence. Not here and not today, I said. Not in 9 years, actually.

Completed unrelated causes turned out, because, hell, it's a protest, right? Anti abortion groups arrived in matching t-shirts and a decked-out minivan. 9/11 family groups were literally screaming at 9/11 Truthers. Nothing like wearing a "9/11 Was An Inside Job" t-shirt to rile up a crowd of flag-waving patriots. An ironic bunch of college kids trolled about with signs that read "Bigots are Americans too!" and "Bigotry is a right!" So there!

Religiously, the full gamut was on display. Between Broadway (site of the pro-mosque protest) and West Broadway (anti-mosque) was the ironically named Church Street, and that's where the crazier elements of each protest gathered to shout at each other. One Christian group came to decry the sins of abortion and homosexuality. Atheists came out to support the First Amendment. Jews came out to support Israel. Or protest Israel. Or whatever. One man wanted to burn all religious books. He got into a shouting match with a Muslim cleric who said, "Hitler burned all religious books! It was called Kristallnacht." Since the old debate adage says that the first side to mention Hitler loses, I'm afraid the book-burning guy took that argument.

The anti-mosque protesters were certainly better organized. They had a giant TV screen. They had far more people. That didn't, of course, make their speakers make any more sense. At least the aldermen and activists had enough media experience to avoid saying anything incredibly awful. But cue the groans when some speaker gets up there and begins "I'm just an ordinary American citizen and I want to have my say..." That's really what this day was about. But it's kind of like Terry Jones in Florida. The guy can have his say if he wants to. It's a free country. But I'm free to ignore him.

Moving east to City Hall, Broadway was blanketed in a pu pu platter of leftist causes from the past 40 years. Free Palestine! Free Lynne Stewart! Works of the world unite! Islamophobia is Racism... So Join The Socialist Workers Party! USA Exports Ground Zeroes In Iraq and Afghanistan! Viva Chavez and Ahmadinejad! These were actual signs, by the way. It was all so caricatured, I began to suspect this was actually a right-wing crowd pretending to be a left-wing crowd. I'm still not convinced it wasn't. I mean, viva Ahmadinejad? Really?

One speaker lamented that "the revolution" was being undermined "because we can't get organized!" Which was painfully obvious from the disparate causes jockeying for elbow room. Right after him, an activist lawyer attempted to get the crowd riled up about the rights of Guantanamo Bay inmates — what does this have to do with Park51 exactly? — but was drowned out when the protest was buzzed by a giant motorcade of anti-mosque biker guys in leather revving their engines at north of 100 dB. Since when did the Hell's Angels join the Tea Party?

As the anti-mosque protest dispersed, along came a 4th-of-July-parade-style float that can only be described as an anti-Islammobile. "America Repent!" its placards screamed. "Islam is a false religion." And at the top, larger than anything else: "STOP THE INSANITY!"

My thoughts exactly.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Week 1 Predictions

Hey all, it's time for another year of football prognostication. This year, I'm gonna do it a bit differently by picking against the spread. Home team in caps:

NEW ORLEANS (-5) over minnesota

carolina (+6.5) over NY GIANTS
miami (-3) over BUFFALO
PITTSBURGH (+2.5) over atlanta
CHICAGO (-6.5) over detroit
NEW ENGLAND (-4.5) over cincinnati
cleveland (+3) over TAMPA BAY
denver (+2.5) over JACKSONVILLE
indianapolis (-2) over HOUSTON
TENNESSEE (-6) over oakland
green bay (-3) over PHILADELPHIA
san francisco (-3) over SEATTLE
arizona (-4) over ST LOUIS
dallas (-3.5) over WASHINGTON

baltimore (-2) over NY JETS
san diego (-4.5) over KANSAS CITY

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Quinn is the new Salinger, and other thoughts on the Discovery Channel hostage crisis

A few thoughts on today's bizarre 4-hour standoff at Discovery Channel headquarters...

1. Why the hell did this guy go after the Discovery Channel? This would be like a Tea Partier hijacking Fox News for not being right wing enough. They were on your side!!!! Initially, all my Japanese friends were afraid the guy was a Japanese radical protesting Whale Wars, and were relieved to learn he was of Korean descent instead. In other news, had this been an anti-Whale Wars protester, I think that would have made for the best season finale of any show in Discovery Channel history.

2. On the same point, this guy clearly had an obsession with the Discovery Channel. Not only had he previously caused a public disturbance outside their offices two years earlier, but he also claims to have learned bomb-making tips from Mythbusters. Mythbusters happens to be one of my favorite shows on TV, and I'm pretty sure the Mythbusters guys are quite clear that you're not supposed to try this stuff at home, dude.

It's a pity this ended in tragedy—though thankfully not for the hostages, who all survived. Because James Lee's "manifesto" is one of the funnier documents I've read in years. Most of it is suggestions for programming content.

Focus must be given on how people can live WITHOUT giving birth to more filthy human children since those new additions continue pollution and are pollution. A game show format contest would be in order.

Furthermore, Lee doesn't understand that this is a manifesto, not an SMS. Otherwise, why would he feel the need to write:


I'm pretty sure neither the Communist Manifesto nor the Unabomber's Manifesto (both of which, mindblowingly, I read for class in high school), had that many exclamation points or capitalized passages.

4. What is it with crazy gunmen sending their shit to NBC News? Is NBC news the "it" place for these guys to contact? First it was the Virginia Tech killer sending an entire press kit of photos and video to them, and now this.

5. Daniel Quinn is the new J.D. Salinger. His disassociations notwithstanding, people will forever associate Ishmael with this lunatic, and any future eco-lunatics who follow in his footsteps. The same fate awaits Ishmael that has befallen Catcher In The Rye. Now I have my issues with Quinn's book, but no author deserves this sort of thing. Except possibly Ayn Rand.

The more you know... Equatorial Guinea edition!

UNITED NATIONS - Equatorial Guinea executed 4 people yesterday for attempting to assassinate the President. The prisoners were reportedly executed 1 hour after conviction, with no appeal. Since some in the international community viewed this as something of a human rights violation, Equatorial Guinean Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba held a press conference at the UN today attempting to explain his country's actions. Let's see how his attempts fared:

1st Attempt: These guys were terrorists!
Analysis: Since 9/11, this has been perhaps the single most often employed justification by every state for anything that could conceivably be called a human rights violation, and they do it largely to shut the US up. This sort of thing was more effective in the Bush years, but even yesterday's protest from the State Department was qualified.

2nd Attempt: "Legislation set out in the constitution ... provides for the application of capital punishment for crimes such as those judged in this case."
Analysis: This would have been more convincing if his strong accent hadn't made "this case" sound like "discos." The law in discos, I believe, is not recognized internationally.

3rd Attempt:
Critics do not even know our country. They cannot even find our country on a map.
Analysis: True!

4th Attempt: We support the UN's Millennium Development Goals.
Analysis: A naked appeal for developing country support. When in doubt, name-drop the Millennium Development Goals. The Secretary-General does it all the time. Why shouldn't Equatorial Guinea?

5th Attempt: We protect our environment.
Analysis: An even more naked appeal, this time for leftist support in the developed world. The way the Equatorial Guineans see it, the same people who care about the environment are the sort who care about human rights in oil-rich countries. And they're absolutely right. What's more, Equatorial Guinea actually does a fairly decent job of protecting its environment, particularly its primate population on the island of Bioko. Despite being completely unrelated to the charges at hand, this proves to be, sadly, the Ambassador's best defense.

6th Attempt: "Please, give the opportunity of Equatorial Guinea to at least know it properly. Instead of condemning what is being done, nobody is speaking of development in the country. We are building hospitals, schools, roads. Equatorial Guineans are free to go anywhere, anywhere in the world!"
Analysis: First of all, if you have to advertise this, it's probably not true. Equatorial Guinea has one of the highest per capita incomes on earth, but its citizens are some of the world's poorest. Virtually all of its oil wealth goes to the President and his family and friends, and Transparency International ranks Equatorial Guinea 168th out of 180 on its corruption index. The President's son is a rap mogul in LA, so, yes, that's at least one Equatorial Guinean who travels the world freely. As for the rest, the country's government is regarded as one of the most autocratic and brutal to political dissent and no country in Africa save possibly Eritrea is as tightly or ruthlessly controlled.

7th Attempt:
Responding to allegations that the President's son spends his ill-gotten millions on Bentleys, a recording studio, a private jet, and lavish nights on the town with his sometimes-girlfriend Eve: "Anybody is free to do his business."
Analysis: True... I guess. Sigh...

Meanwhile, Equatorial Guineans also packed the press room with pro-government people who all applauded after the Ambassador's opening statement. This trick is so transparent to real journalists that even North Korea doesn't do it.

Equatorial Guinea! Staking its own little claim to be the worst-governed country on earth.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Anti-mosque protesters don't know where halal food is from

But they do know it's delicious.

And yes, the picture shows some 500 anti-Park51 protesters marching by Ground Zero, passing a halal stand on the way, and, in some cases, ordering falafel and kebabs from it. Islamic house of worship near Ground Zero? No way! But Islamic food near Ground Zero? Yum.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Covered the anti-mosque protests in lower Manhattan today. This photo pretty much sums it up.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I'm on twitter now!

It's like blogging, but faster and stupider. I'll be there more often for these next couple weeks, trying it out and seeing if I want to stick with it.

Find me on twitter here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chili bomb!

India has weaponized the world's spiciest chili, creating "chili grenades" to incapacitate terrorists and other evil-doers.

No, really.

I guess if you are famous for the world's spiciest chili pepper, you can't pass an opportunity like that up. Wouldn't the world be a better place if there were more stories about NPT-flouting nations weaponizing chilis and less about them weaponizing plutonium? I think so.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

America sucks at nation-building?

James Traub thinks so.

Women's rights on the decline in Iraq

For all the talk about how we need to stay in Afghanistan to make sure that women have rights and young girls can go to school, few are pointing out that in Iraq our intervention has had the exact opposite effect. Terraviva points out that the new Shiite regime has significantly curtailed women's rights relative to the old secular Baathist regime of Saddam. The "Women Miss Saddam" headline the authors went with is a little inflammatory, but the fact is, if you were a woman in the Baathist party, you probably had more rights and opportunity for advancement under Saddam than you do today.

Somalia and the Death of Responsibility To Protect

Went to a Foreign Affairs Live talk on state-building featuring Somalia expert Bronwyn Bruton yesterday. While the other panelists (James Dobbins and Claire Lockhart) were optimistic on state-building, Bruton was not, arguing that in places like Somalia, foreign aid and international state-building efforts can actually make things worse. Some points she made:

- Countries like those in the Horn of Africa can't raise enough tax revenue to actually have a central government. Ethiopia gets 80% of its budget from aid. It creates a cycle of dependency for the government to even exist. (One can also apply this to Afghanistan, where the military and police forces being trained are far in excess of what the country will ever be able to pay for.)
- In a conflict zone, if you want to build a state you have to pick a winner and once you do it is hard to rein them in. You wind up with incompetent or autocratic regimes like the Somali Transitional Federal Government or the Ethiopian government, and it looks much more like a necolonialist or Cold War arrangement.
- America has struggled to discern international threats to itself from local Islamist groups. Al Shabaab and any threat it poses to the US is a result of this. The organization basically did not exist until the establishment of the TFG.
- In a place like Somalia, trying to build a central government is not necessarily a good idea. The Siad Barre government was a terrible regime and most Somalis distrust central authority now. By contrast, in the years after the Black Hawk Down incident, Somalia was relatively stable and had living and economic standards comparable to its neighbors without having a central government.
- To the extent Somalis even want a state, they want it to include parts of several other countries, including much of Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya. It might not be best to encourage this sort of thing.

And now comes a report from today that as much as half of the aid going to Somalia goes not to the needy but rather to corrupt contractors and pirates. Call me a pessimist, but can we all agree to just stay the hell out of Somalia now?

Monday, March 8, 2010

the most dysfunctional Security Council ever

Ambassador At Large has added it up and determined that over half the current members of the UN Security Council have active wars or ethno/sectarian secessionist movements within their territory. New members Bosnia, Lebanon and Nigeria tipped the balance, joining Turkey with its Kurdish problem, Mexico with its drug cartel war, Uganda with its war with the Lord's Resistance Army, China with Xinjiang/Tibet, and Russia with Chechnya.

Technically the UK has sovereignty disputes too (Northern Ireland, Falklands), though neither is currently extracting a high death toll, so this list could be higher than it is. Not to exclude any nation from Council membership, but one should probably have one own's house in order before joining. Eg. Because Lebanon's Hezbollah militia has ties to Iran, that country cannot take any action for or against on the question of Iran sanctions. A country like Lebanon has enough issues without the added geopolitical stresses of being on the Council.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Iran sanctions update

So you know all these stories about Iran sanctions? A few things that should be cleared up.

1. Where are we now? It has been reported that the US circulated a draft in New York to the six powers who negotiate on Iran. Actually, the text is still being negotiated in capitals and is not a "draft" at all but rather elements of what the US would like to be in one. We're a long way from new Iran sanctions.

2. Will Russia and China support sanctions? Russia has been much more open about sanctions than China, though both are reluctant. But yes, eventually, diplomats tell me they will both probably sign on to some sort of sanctions resolution. The Chinese even reaffirmed today in the UN Security Council that they favor the "dual-track approach" of both diplomacy and pressure, and one senior UN diplomat told reporters that the Chinese resistance is a "moving target." But Russia and China will see to it that the final resolution will be a lot weaker than what has been proposed... and certainly nothing to convince the Islamic Republic to play ball without a great deal more diplomacy.

3. What about the rest of the Council? even if Russia and China sign on, this will not be a unanimous resolution like some of the previous ones. For starters, there is no way in hell Lebanon will vote in favor, given Iran's ties to Hezbollah. An abstention is almost inevitable from the Lebanese. Not only that, but yes votes cannot be assured out of Turkey, which values its role as regional peacemaker, and Brazil, which has its own reasons. If China signs on, most of the Council's nonpermanent members will likely follow, but the US, UK and France will have to work hard to get the support of these and other nonperms. For starters, they'll have to not piss off the Turks.

4. When will it get passed? Not in May. Lebanon happens to be Council's rotating president that month. Also, the NPT Review Conference will take place in New York that month and it would be "unfortunate," in the words of one UN diplomat, if the Iran resolution overlapped. Ideally, it will be done in April, when Japan is the President. If not, maybe June. But not May.

That's what the Ambassador At Large knows today.

Ambassador At Large Is Back

After computer troubles knocked me out of commission, and sloth and indolence kept me there, I am back to continue blogging about global affairs and the UN!

I am NOT going to blog about football... at least for the next few months. I'm still in a postmortem over the Colts' heartbreaking loss in the Super Bowl.

I would, however, like to recall my last Colts-related post and how prophetic it was. Specifically, I said the team couldn't reach the Super Bowl if it had to play New England, San Diego, or Pittsburgh along the way. Well.... Pittsburgh played its way out of the playoffs, Baltimore took down the Patriots and the New York Jets upset the Chargers, and lo! The Colts merely had to handle two 9-7 clubs at home to make the Big Game... where they promptly lost to the first double-digit win team they hit in the postseason. Gooooo Indy!