Remember back to summer 2006. Hezbollah rockets rained down in northern Israel and Israeli retaliatory air strikes left hundreds of thousands internally displaced in Lebanon. For weeks, the situation remained hopelessly stuck. The Security Council had discussed ways to stop the fighting, and on August 14 authorized a peacekeeping force. But until the peacekeeping force actually asserted itself in northern Lebanon, Israel would not withdraw its forces and neither would Israel lift its sea and air blockade until other parts of the resolution were implemented.
In late summer Kofi Annan traveled to the region to address these outstanding issues and shore up the Security Council resolution. During a frantic bout of shuttle diplomacy that took the then Secretary General to 12 countries in 11 days, Annan was able to win the right set of concessions from both parties and convince member states to rapidly deploy peacekeepers to southern Lebanon.
Now, six months later, the new Secretary General has set foot in southern Lebanon where the ceasefire is holding.
The aphorism, “America cooks, Europe does the dishes,” became a popular way to describe the transatlantic relations in the late 1990s. At the time, the saying referred to Europe’s lead role in Balkan reconstruction efforts. It was not used pejoratively, but reflected the honest division of labor between allies following the American led humanitarian interventions in southeast Europe.
If the saying were updated today and applied to the Afghan war perhaps “Europe” would be replaced by “The United Nations.” To be sure, this is not to diminish Europe’s important contributions in Afghanistan. Rather, it speaks to the outsized role that the United Nations has played in reconstruction efforts there.
Yesterday, the Security Council acknowledged the centrality of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and extended its mandate by one year. Since inception in 2002, UNAMA has taken the lead in critical rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts, ranging from the repatriation of refugees to election assistance and life saving of humanitarian work. When Afghanistan becomes a self-sustaining government, it will be due in large part to the availability and expertise of UNAMA workers.
As expected, the Security Council approved on Saturday a tougher set of sanctions against Iran. The council unanimously agreed to an asset freeze and travel ban on 28 government and military officials, a ban on arm exports from Iran, and sanctions on the state owned bank, Sepah. The resolution also makes clear that if Iran complies, and suspends its uranium enrichment program, sanctions will be lifted and a previous offer of economic incentives will be made available.
Nicholas Burns, a firm international relations pragmatist in the US government, spoke to the press following the Security Council vote:
“It’s a significant international rebuke to Iran and it’s a significant tightening of international pressure on Iran,” said Nicholas Burns, undersecretary for political affairs at the State Department. If Iran does not comply, “there’s no question” that the United States will seek a third and tougher resolution, he added.
Burns said that because of a “tumultuous political environment” in Iran “we believe there is a faction inside that government that wishes to accept this offer to negotiate.”
And from the Washington Post:
“We got more than we thought we were going to get” in this resolution, said Nicholas Burns…He also said that it criminalizes Iran’s military support for Middle East extremists and exposes its political isolation. “If Iran has Qatar, a gulf Arab state, and Indonesia, a Muslim state, and South Africa, a leading member of the nonaligned movement, voting for these sanctions, Iran is in trouble internationally.”
Security Council votes have consequences. The Iranian government has long been considered a pariah-state in the West. But now, by defying the Security Council, it risks gaining an ignominious reputation in other parts of the world. The council vote also made some of Iran’s larger trading partners key stakeholders in the successful implementation of last summer’s Security Council resolution 1696, which calls for the suspension of Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities. Prior to the vote last week, Russia even suspended construction of a nuclear plant in Bushehr in southern Iran.
The United Nations Security Council has unanimously decided to tighten sanctions on Iran in response to the country’s uranium-enrichment activities.
Following the adoption of resolution 1747, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, immediately rejected it as illegitimate, maintaining Teheran’s longstanding claim that the country’s nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and therefore outside of the Council’s brief.
He also charged that the sanctions were not being imposed in response to the nuclear programme but were rather “schemes of the co-sponsors” carried out “for narrow national considerations aimed at depriving the Iranian people of their inalienable rights.”
Following up on Cordell’s post below, the scarcity of water in western Sudan is often cited as a catalyst of the conflict there. Over the past twenty years, desertification in western Sudan had increasingly pitted historically nomadic Arab tribes in competition for water and arable land with the so-called “black African” tribes of Dafur. The ruling elite in Khartoum used this underlying tension to its advantage when it hired militias from the ethnic Arab tribes to crush rebellious “black African” militias in Darfur.
Even today, as the UN plans for a possible peacekeeping force in Darfur, the scarcity of water sources in western Sudan presents a huge logistical problem. If the force ever gets off the ground, water must either be imported, or else a number of water bores must be drilled to sustain the peacekeepers.
Jane Holl Lute, UN Assistant Secretary-General of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, recently gave a short, but compelling, view of the logistical difficulties inherent in peacekeeping and the difficult mandates given to UN peacekeepers. (Earlier we posted video from the same address on the role of women in post-conflict environments.) Having fought in the U.S. Army during the First Gulf War and lectured at West Point, Lute is thoroughly familiar with the security benefits that UN peacekeeping imparts to the American public and the rest of the world.
Although Lute doesn’t make the connection in these videos, Mark Leon Goldberg, in a recent UNF Insights piece, discussed how growing U.S. arrears to UN peacekeeping are making the already difficult jobs of UN peacekeepers even harder and how “if this trend is sustained, ongoing missions will suffer, and some of the newly proposed missions, such as Darfur, could starve before they ever get off the ground.” As the U.S. continues to face significant global security threats, it would be wise for Congressional appropriators, as they tackle the supplemental and look toward FY08 appropriations, to consider UN peacekeeping’s benefits to U.S. security, the difficulties inherent in maintaining the peace in 18 conflict zones around the world, and the debilitating effects of denying proper funding. For those of you who are interested, the Better World Campaign has created tailor-made letters that you can send to your member of Congress.
Complex logistics of UN peacekeeping
Difficult mandates given to UN peacekeepers.
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.