Monthly Archives: February 2009
Well, at least Greek and Turkish Cypriots can agree about something:
U.N. peacekeepers have upset traditional wild asparagus harvesters on the ethnically divided island of Cyprus by preventing them from entering a buffer zone to gather the tasty shoots.
U.N. soldiers, restricting access to the buffer zone which splits the island from east to west after Cyprus was divided in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a Greek-inspired coup, say they are only doing their job, but residents are livid.
The peacekeepers are clearly “only doing their job” here, as maintaining the buffer zone is, after all, what they are stationed in Cyprus to do. On the other hand, maybe a little harmonious bout of asparagus-gathering would make it clear to the country’s multiple governments that reaching a solution to their 35-year impasse would eliminate the need for a buffer zone, and enable Cypriots from both sides to harvest as many “tasty shoots” as they’d like.
The fringe candidates of the U.S. presidential primaries are long since forgotten, but some of them seem to be trying to outdo one another with the wacky bills that get introduced from time to time in the House of Representatives. Back in September, just days after Republican President George W. Bush affirmed the importance of the United Nations before the General Assembly, Republican Tom Tancredo introduced a bill aimed at kicking UN headquarters out of the New York City. Now Ron Paul has sought to one-up his former rival by not only booting the UN from the premises, but withdrawing from every international organization he can think of.
UN peacekeeping? Nope, not worth it. The UN Environmental Program? Extinct. The World Health Organization? Kill it. Heck, he even wants out of the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. And what about all those people around the world who benefit from these programs? As New York City’s own Rudy Giuliani might say: Fuhgeddabout ‘em! This is the “American Sovereignty Restoration Act.” And when can these UN organizations expect their polite letter of withdrawal? Well, that’s the best part of this going-nowhere legislation.
Except as otherwise provided, this Act and the amendments made by this Act shall take effect 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act.
Which is to say, approximately two years after never.
I’m just back from a briefing with economists Paul Collier (of Bottom Billion fame) and John Page of Brookings. The duo recently co-authored a report for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) called “Breaking in and Moving Up: New Industrial Challenges for the Bottom Billion and the Middle Income Countries.”
For fans of Collier (and I count myself as one) the report offers a follow-up to one of the key arguments of the Bottom Billion: that a robust manufacturing sector is critical to lifting least developed countries out of their poverty trap. Accordingly, the authors write that we should eschew “least developed countries” from our lexicon and instead refer to the world’s poorest countries as “least developed manufacturing countries.”
American Enterprise Institute Fellow John Bolton stopped being relevant a long time ago. Still, its a wonder that op-ed editors tend to publish him at a rate of stark-raving mad op-ed a week.
Mixed news for the UN tribunal designed to investigate the assassination four years ago of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. On the one hand, the tribunal’s work is scheduled to begin in The Hague on Sunday, a welcome milestone for a process that some feared would never get underway. On the other hand, though, three of the seven suspects held in Lebanese jails were summarily released by a judge yesterday, a mysterious development to say the least, given the proximity of the tribunal’s start date.
The judge did not have to give a reason for his decision, which is perhaps discomfiting but also perhaps understandable because of various legal restrictions, et cetera. The timing of the release, though, coupled with the celebrations of the news in a reputedly “Islamic fundamentalist stronghold” to which the three civilian suspects returned, do add a certain questionable aura to the proceedings.
This is not to say that there is reason for skepticism about the tribunal itself. It is rigorously supported by many Lebanese, and its staffing and funding is split relatively evenly between international and Lebanese sources. The same questions still loom, though: if the chain of suspects does in fact lead up to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, how will the tribunal handle this tricky issue? I imagine the folks working on this one are relieved that the ICC’s potential indictment of Sudanese president Bashir is going to come down first.
(image of Rafik Hariri, 2003)
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.