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IAEA Report Roundup

The International Atomic Energy Agency released a report (pdf) yesterday on Iran’s nuclear program. Nearly all reports about the report called it “mixed,” which I tend to think is more of a comment about how various constituencies reacted to the report, than descriptive of the content of the report itself. The big question on everyone’s mind at the United Nations is whether or not this report provides justification for pursuing a third round of Security Council sanctions against Iran. And as you can see, the reactions to the “mixed” report are, in fact, mixed.

Chinese UN Ambassador Wang Guangya: “I don’t like to see this issue being discussed here [in the Security Council]. We already have two resolutions on the sanctions, and what do we have?”

American UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad: “For diplomacy to succeed, it needs widely supported, broad and biting sanctions to affect the calculations of the regime in Iran. I don’t believe the Chinese would want to take responsibility for the failure of diplomacy by not cooperating with the effort at additional sanctions.”

UK UN Ambassador John Sawyers: “The IAEA showed that they can’t even resolve questions about Iran’s past, that knowledge of present activities is diminishing, and they cannot clarify Iran’s future intentions because of the lack of cooperation. That is really worrying.”

Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili: “All the claims that Iran’s nuclear activities have a military agenda and are deviant are not true. The report says clearly that most of the ambiguities…have been removed.”

Former UN weapons inspector David Albright: “The main issue is that Iran now has 3,000 centrifuges. The report doesn’t even judge the quality of the information being offered, but it’s clear it is giving minimal answers.”

Meanwhile, hot off the presses, the Washington Post is reporting that Beijing canceled a Security Council meeting on Iran scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving. So at least for the time being, it looks like there will be no third round of sanctions.

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WFP sends relief to Bangladesh

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is sending relief in the wake of Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh—the organization is sending food to feed 400,000 people in the affected areas.

“We have to move as quickly as possible to get food to the most vulnerable,” said WFP Bangladesh Representative Douglas Broderick, pointing out that the biscuits are critical “when there is a scarcity of clean water for drinking and cooking.”


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They Write Letters

Yesterday, Scott Paul railed against the inaccuracies found in this Washington Times editorial about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Apparently, Scott wasn’t the only person to raise an eyebrow. Captain Patrick J. Neher, director for international and operational law of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps at the Pentagon, wrote the following letter to the editor in today’s Washington Times.

LOST will enhance security

The editorial “Defeat the Law of the Sea Treaty” (yesterday) contained four errors.

First, President Reagan supported the convention except for six specific objections to Part XI on deep seabed mining. Those objections were fixed in the 1994 agreement formally modifying Part XI, to which the United States is a signatory. Mandatory technology transfer was rescinded outright in Section 5, paragraph 2 of the agreement annex.

Second, the convention’s provisions on “peaceful purposes” do not constrain U.S. military activities. They restate binding obligations we already have and support under the U.N. Charter. The negotiating history on this point is clear.

In 1976, Ecuador attempted to turn the “peaceful purposes” provisions into arms control obligations. They went nowhere. Why does The Washington Times raise today a long-discredited and failed socialist argument from the 1970s?

Third, the convention not only supports the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), but not being a party hinders efforts to recruit PSI countries.

But you don’t have to believe me: As then-Under Secretary John Bolton testified before the Senate in 2005, “the PSI statement of interdiction principles says very clearly that any actions taken pursuant to PSI would be done in accordance with existing national and international authority. And of course all of our other core group members of the PSI are states party to the Law of the Sea Treaty.”

The PSI interdiction of the vessel BBC China, which broke the back of Libya’s weapons of mass destruction program, was conducted in accordance with the Law of the Sea Convention.

Fourth, our maritime interdictions as well as all our military activities will be exempt from dispute resolution. Article 298.1 of the convention expressly provides that it is the right of a state, and solely the state, to pre-emptively and completely reject all the dispute resolution procedures for activities it determines are military activities.

All permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (except us) and numerous other countries have taken the military activities exemption. They, like us, would never accept a court or tribunal acting ultra vires beyond the limits of the convention itself. And by the way: Iran is not a party to the convention; like us, North Korea, Libya and Syria they are on the outside.

Also, the Senate resolution will reject the World Court and International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and instead choose arbitration for dispute resolution of nonexempt issues.

The Times should know better than to repeat myths on important national security matters. We are at war. The president, his war cabinet, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commandant of the Coast Guard agree that joining the Law of the Sea Convention will enhance our national security.

Judge Advocate General’s Corps
Director, international and operational law



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Why Helicopters Matter

attack helicopyer.gif

The head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guehenno, warns of possible mission failure should 24 helicopters — including six attack helicopters — not be made available for UNAMID, the joint AU-UN Darfur mission. The United Nations has been asking member states to provide these important “force multipliers” for weeks, but so far those pleas have fallen on deaf ears. In a not-so-subtle jab to stingy member states, Guehenno says, “I think it tells a sad story on the commitment for Darfur, frankly.”

Why are attacks helicopters so important? First, peacekeepers deployed to Darfur will likely be subject to attack themselves — out gunned and out manned, the African Union lost ten soldiers in an attack last month. “If [UNAMID] was to know humiliation in the early stage of its deployment,” warns Guehenno, “then it’d be very hard to recover.”

Second, the extent to which the joint AU-UN Darfur mission will be able to deter attacks on civilians is reliant on the availability to superior firepower. Attack helicopters can be decisive in deterring attacks on civilians, especially when the attackers are using supped-up Toyotas and horses; it is widely acknowledged that a key turning point for UN peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was the deployment of Indian air force attack helicopters, which were then used to proactively target militias that attacked civilian enclaves. A similar dynamic will likely occur once peacekeepers are deployed to Darfur. “Peace enforcement,” the euphemistic term for aggressively deterring spoilers, will be a critical to the success of the Darfur mission. But without the right equipment, peace enforcement would be nearly impossible. This why Guehenno is warning that UNAMID might fail if member states do not supply the UN with the helicopters.

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UN Names New Chief Prosecutor at the Hague

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has nominated Belgian criminologist Serge Brammertz as the new chief prosecutor at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

From The New York Times:

Mr. Brammertz’s candidacy became known informally this summer, but he had to complete his mandate as the head of the United Nations inquiry into the killing in 2005 of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon. Mr. Ban also nominated Daniel Bellemare, a Canadian prosecutor, to take over the Lebanon investigation. Both appointments require the approval of the Security Council, which is likely.

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Outlook on Bali and American Involvement

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing yesterday on the upcoming climate negotiations in Bali. While many have noted that the prevailing idea seems to be that the world is in a holding pattern for the next U.S. President to see how the post-Kyoto agreement will shake out, we shouldn’t give up hope that there can be significant forward movement in the short term, at least according to two former climate negotiators who testified.The post-Kyoto framework will be divided into four broad efforts — mitigation, adaptation, finance, and technology. While pushing for substantive change on mitigation and finance might not be this Administration’s cup of tea, Jonathan Pershing, director of the Climate, Energy, and Pollution Program at the World Resources Institute, and Tim Wirth, a former Senator and U.S. climate negotiator, found hope in Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula J. Dobriansky’s testimony (video) on the other two fronts. Pershing sees hope here:

Adaptation is an increasing priority both at home and internationally, and we are promoting effective planning as part of broader development strategies. The United States is leading efforts such as the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), which gives communities early warning of natural disasters, and improves decision-making for agriculture, coastal development and other economic sectors that are affected by climate variability and change.

And Wirth notes this as positive:

And, to accelerate the uptake of clean energy technologies around the world, President Bush has proposed a new international clean technology fund. Secretary Paulson is working with international partners in developing a new approach for spurring investments in the global energy infrastructure that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Only time will tell whether these initial actions will grow into worthwhile efforts.

In the meantime, as Senator Wirth noted, the Senate has a responsibility to help maintain proper expectations on the Bali negotiations. The final post-2012 agreement will be the most complex and, arguably, most important ever forged, and the process, in order to work, must be appropriately long and thorough. Senator Wirth stressed that Bali is a meeting “not of substance but process,” in that it sets up the next meeting, which eventually leads to the final agreement. The Secretary General’s High-Level Event in September served a similar purpose. Matt Yglesias explains the process well.

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