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SG; Syria; Libya

SG: Today the SG travels to Haiti to launch the “Total Sanitation Campaign” and inaugurate the “Sports for Hope” Centre. The SG will then travel to the DR to meet with Government officials and visit the country’s “Quisqueya sin Miseria” anti-poverty program.

Syria: The SG welcomed Resolution 2165 which permits the delivery of aid through four border crossings to the three million Syrians lacking access to food and basic healthcare.

Libya: The SG expressed concern over the increase in violence following an incident at Libya’s airport yesterday. He called on all parties to engage in dialogue to agree on a peaceful way forward. UNSMIL continues to reduce its staff in the region until security conditions improve.

Middle East: Referencing the worsening situation in the Gaza Strip, the SG urged both Israeli and Palestinian sides to end the violence and work towards peace and security. The Commissioner-General for UNRWA travelled to Gaza today and reported that 174 people have been killed, 1,100 have been wounded, and 17,000 refugees remain displaced in UNRWA’s premises.

Afghanistan: UNAMA welcomed the agreement of the two Presidential candidates in Afghanistan to break the electoral impasse. The agreement includes an audit of the election run-off and the formation of a government of national unity following the final election results.

South Sudan: UNMISS reported artillery explosions and small-arms fire yesterday in South Sudan. The Mission is protecting 97,000 displaced civilians across the country and continues to urge all parties to abide by agreements to cease hostile actions and end the violence.

Somalia: CERF allocated $1.4 million  toward an emergency campaign to combat measles in Somalia. The funding will vaccinate half a million children under five years of age.

New Climate Change Envoy: The SG appointed Mary Robinson of Ireland as the Special Envoy on Climate Change. Robinson will play a major role in mobilizing Heads of State and Governments ahead of the SG’s 2014 Climate Summit in September.

Malala Day: Today marks “Malala Day” in honor of 17-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai’s heroic stand against the Taliban to ensure education for all, especially girls.

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The Security Council’s Syria Cross-Border Aid Gamble

The Security Council just voted unanimously on a resolution that would authorize the cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria.  This is undoubtedly a necessary goal: there are 9.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria. Right now, only about 4 million people are being reached with food aid and medicine. There are a number of reasons for this huge gap, but chief among them is hat aid flows through Damascus. The government indirectly controls which needy populations get this aid–and which are excluded.

The Security Council’s proposal to remedy this is to authorize the delivery of humanitarian aid across border points that are not controlled by the Syrian government. This is a good idea in theory–after all, aid would reach about 1 million more of the people who need it the most. But in doing so, the Security Council is also taking a huge risk.

The delivery of humanitarian aid to a crisis zone like Syria requires some degree of cooperation from the government of the country receiving the aid. Despite the conflict Syria is still a sovereign country, and as such it treats its borders like most countries do, requiring visas, imposes customs duties, etc. In order to reach the 4 million civilians that are currently receiving international aid, agencies must work with Syrian authorities, as uncomfortable as that may be.  If the Assad regime objects to the cross border delivery of aid to areas it does not control, it may very well retaliate against these agencies by booting them from Damascus, which would disrupt aid flows to people currently receiving it.

But it gets worse. The Syrian government has said that it would consider the non-consensual delivery of humanitarian assistance as tantamount to an attack on Syria. In a letter to the Security Council last month, Syria’s Ambassador to the UN stated: “importing aid in coordination with terrorist organizations and without consultation with the Syrian State would amount to an attack on the Syrian State.”  This raises the very real possibility that the Syrian air force would bomb humanitarian convoys as soon as they cross the border.

The Security Council is betting that Russian support for the resolution would mitigate the risk that Syrian military would attack aid convoys. (The resolution contains a provision for the monitoring of the aid convoys, insisted by Russia, to ensure that no weapons are smuggled to rebel groups.) If Russia supports this resolution, then presumably Moscow would encourage Damascus to abide by its strictures–or at the very least, not retaliate against humanitarian agencies.

It’s logical to assume that Damascus would not cross it’s main protector at the Security Council by violating a resolution that Russia supports. And it’s welcome to finally see some unity at the Security Council. But this is still very much a gamble.

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Episode 25: Joseph Cirincione

Joseph Cirincione is on the line this week. The nuclear policy wonk and President of the Ploughshares Fund discusses Iran, Bush’s troubled non-proliferation record and why the jury is still out on President Obama’s nuclear legacy. He tells me about his first memories of living under the threat of nuclear war and how his life and career has tracked the ups and downs of American nuclear policy.

It’s timely conversation, kicked off with a brief discussion of the Iran nuclear talks, and also a timeless conversation about the history of America and the bomb. Enjoy!  

And remember to subscribe on iTunes. You won’t miss a show. Plus,  subscribing raises the visibility of the podcast in iTunes, helping other globally curious people discover the show! 




Previous episodes

A Migrant’s Story: Why are So Many Children Fleeing to the USA?

Episode 23: Live from the UN 2014 (Volume 2)

Inside the Iran Nuke Talks

Episode 23: Jillian York, Digital Free Speech defender

Turkey’s Strategic Interests in Iraq

Episode 22: Live from the UN, 2014 (Vol 1); A special edition, featuring the President of the General Assembly,  the UN Ambassadors from Vietnam and Jamaica, the head of the UN Association, and more!

The UN’s View of the Iraq Crisis

Episode 21: Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to the UN, Israel, Jordan, Russia, India and more.

Dying for the World Cup

Episode 20: Jessica Tuchman Matthews, foreign policy trendsetter

Egypt After the Counter Revolution 

Episode 19: Louise Arbour, human rights pioneer.

What Obama Left Out of His Big Foreign Policy Speech

Episode 18: Zalmay Khalizad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

Why Libya is Suddenly on the Verge of a Civil War 

Episode 17: Gov Bill Richardson, he frees hostages.

The Foreign Policy Implications of India’s Elections

Episode 16: Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children

What Boko Haram Wants

Episode: 15 Laura Turner Seydel, philanthropist

Episode 14: Douglas Ollivant, Iraq expert

Episode 13: Gary Bass, historian

Episode 12: Mark Montgomery, demographer

Episode 11: Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watcher

Episode 10: Live from the UN, Volume 2.

Episode 9: Mia Farrow, humanitarian activist and Goodwill Ambassador

Episode 8: Suzanne Nossel, Big Thinker

Episode 7: Live from the UN, Volume 1. 

Episode 6: PJ Crowley, former State Department Spokesperson

Episode 5: Octavia Nasr, reporter

Episode 4: Arsalan Iftikhar, “The Muslim Guy”

Episode 3: Dodge Billingsley, filmmaker.

Episode 2: Laura Seay,  @TexasinAfrica

Episode 1: Heather Hurlburt, national security wonk

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France Sending Troops to the Sahel

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France to Significantly Extend Counter-Terror Operations Across the Sahel…With its operations winding down in Mali, France is planning to shift resources and deploy troops throughout the Sahel region. “The new operation, codenamed Barkhan, will kick off in the coming days and is being implemented in partnership with five countries in the Sahel-Sahara region, Le Drian said, without detailing which nations these were…the operation would consist of around 3,000 soldiers supported by drones, helicopters and fighter jets. (France 24

A Way Out of the Afghan Election Crisis? John Kerry to the rescue. “Secretary of state John Kerry said on Saturday both of Afghanistan’s presidential candidates were committed to abiding by the results of the “largest and most comprehensive audit” of the election runoff ballots possible. Kerry stood with the two candidates who are disputing the results of Afghanistan’s presidential election. He announced that finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah had agreed to abide by a 100%, internationally supervised audit of all ballots in the presidential election in Kabul.” (Guardian


Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has claimed responsibility for two blasts on June 25 at a fuel depot in Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos, AFP reported on Sunday, which, if true, would be the first recorded attack on the city by the militants. (Reuters

Obtaining healthy food is difficult in the Central African Republic capital city of Bangui, where conflict has caused prices to soar, while across the country many peasant farms lie barren. (AFP

Central African Republic‘s mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group has reinstated Michel Djotodia as its leader, a spokesman said, months after international pressure forced him to step aside for failing to halt violence that erupted after he seized power last year. (Reuters

In Sierra Leone, people are accusing doctors of administering lethal injections to the Ebola patients or removing vital organs for sale in European markets. As a result, doctors and nurses in the hospitals have been attacked and many nurses are not wearing their uniforms on the way to work for fear of being attacked in the streets. (IPS

Women’s rights activists in the Gambia are insisting that more than 30 years of campaigning to raise awareness should be sufficient to move the government to outlaw female genital mutilation. (IPS

Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai is in Nigeria to campaign on behalf of the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by the rebel group Boko Haram in northeastern Borno state. (VOA

Goma, a city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, sits by one of the world’s largest freshwater reservoirs and has some of Africa’s heaviest annual rainfall, yet it is a thirsty place. Most of the city’s one million residents, living close to the shores of Lake Kivu, have to struggle every day to fetch water home. (AP


Thousands of Palestinians were fleeing northern Gaza on Sunday after a night of intense Israeli strikes and an explicit warning from the army that the raids were set to intensify. (AP

The mother of a two-month-old Syrian girl rescued from the rubble of a bombed Aleppo building appealed on Saturday for help to raise her son. (AP

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is to ask the United Nations to put the state of Palestine under “international protection” in light of the worsening violence in the Gaza Strip, the PLO said. (AFP

Heavy fighting broke out between rival militias vying for control of Libya’s main airport on Sunday, killing at least seven people and forcing a halt of all flights in the worst fighting in the capital for six months.(Reuters


Poor sanitation and lack of toilets may be a root cause of malnutrition in India (NYT

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today the BRICS summit to take place in Brazil next week will allow his country to strengthen ties with Latin American nations. (Prensa Latina

The Americas

Venezuelan Environment Minister Miguel Leonardo Rodríguez warned against the negative effects of the severe drought that is affecting the state of Zulia, which is causing serious water shortages. (Prensa Latina


Can this Man Save Syria? (UN Dispatch

Prabowo loses election, but how will he respond? (The Interpeter

A chat with Oxfam America chief rabble rouser Ray Offenheiser (Humanosphere

What explains peace? (Rachel Strohm

Creating Consequences for South Sudan’s Political Elite (The Daily Beast

Those Girls Haven’t Been Brought Back (NY Times

A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis (NY Times

West Africa’s Misguided War on Drugs (Policy Innovations

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Afghanistan; Middle East; Lebanon

Afghanistan: After meeting with President Karzai, UNAMA proposed an audit of Afghanistan’s polling stations at the request of both candidates in order to increase the credibility of the country’s election process following serious allegations of fraud.

Middle East: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay expressed alarm at the Israeli killings of Palestinian civilians in Gaza as well as the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel. She called on all sides to abide by international humanitarian law and echoed the SG’s call for a ceasefire. The SG, Pillay, and humanitarian partners condemn and prohibit the targeting of civilians in these recent attacks.

Lebanon: Earlier today UNIFIL radars detected the firing of three rockets toward Israel from south Lebanon, and the Israel Defense Forces responded with artillery fire toward the source of the rocket. No casualties have been reported, but UNIFIL continues to investigate the incident.

Syria: UNHCR called on European countries to strengthen their response to the Syrian crisis as 123,600 Syrians have sought asylum in Europe since 2011.

South Sudan: UNHCR launched an appeal to donors for $658 million to respond to the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in South Sudan as the number of refugees is expected to reach 715,000 by the end of 2014.

Nigeria: The UN Special Envoy for Global Education called on the global community to support the Nigerian schoolgirls on July 22nd to mark the 100th day of their captivity by holding vigils and sending letters to the community for their safe return and for the Safe Schools Initiative.

Development Cooperation Forum: Yesterday marked the opening session of the 2014 Development Cooperation Forum where Ambassador Sadjik remarked that development cooperation will play a big role in supporting the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. He stressed the need to explore other sources of financing and the necessity of domestic resource mobilization, business sector participation, and a renewed global partnership for development uniting the Monterrey and Rio+20 conference tracks.

World Population Day: In the SG’s message on World Population Day, he called on the world to renew its commitment to empower young people in order to progress toward a more sustainable future. The SG remains particularly concerned about adolescent girls and called for investments in health, education, training to aid youth in their transition to adulthood.

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Can this Man Save Syria?

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Ban Ki Moon yesterday appointed Staffan de Mistura as his newest special envoy for Syria. He follows Lakdhar Brahimi and Kofi Annan as the latest international mediator for the conflict.

de Mistura is well-known in UN circles. He’s a duel Swedish-and Italian citizen, former foreign minister of Italy and top UN official in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s a veteran diplomat and skilled troubleshooter. But can he succeed where Kofi Annan and Lakhdhar Brahimi failed?

Probably not. And that has very little to do with his diplomatic acumen and very much to do with the fundamental diplomatic dynamic that has so far stymied an internationally backed peaceful resolution to Syria’s civil war.  The Security Council is paralyzed on Syria, with the gaps between Russia on the one hand and the USA, UK and France growing wider by the day. Russia has vetoed four previous resolutions on Syria, and there’s no prospects for unity at the Security Council in the horizon.

This lack of cohesion at the Security Council has made it impossible to compel the Assad government to enter into good faith negotiations; and it has made it impossible to work cooperatively with the regional actors that are backing various sides of the conflict. No one wants to see the Syria conflict drag on, but there is a wide gulf between the outcomes that Russia seeks and the outcomes that the USA and the west seek.  Without unity, there is very little the Security Council can do to affect outcomes in Syria. It cannot sanction instigators of the conflict; it cannot compel compliance with a peace accord; and it cannot threaten coercive action to force the sides to the negotiating table.

This brings us back to Steffan de Mistura. He is set up to fail in the same way as Brahimi and Annan — two other exceptional diplomats. He is a lone mediator without the backing of the Security Council. Until the Security Council finds unity, there is very little he can do or say to affect the situation on the ground.  At this point, Prince von Metternich himself could come back to life and even he would not be able to mediate away this crisis.

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