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Lessons from the UN on the Iraq War

Ten years ago, the US flouted the UN Security Council and invaded Iraq without an international mandate.


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How Sanctions on Iran Hurt Ordinary Afghans

The US and EU sanctions on the Iranian economy, which have taken a hard toll on common Iranians, have also adversely affected Afghans – both in the refugee community in Iran and families in Afghanistan dependent on income from their breadwinners working in the Islamic republic next door.


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Palestine Will Get Upgraded Status at UN. Then What?

Later this month, the Palestinians will ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade their status at the United Nations to become a non-member observer state.  This would put them on the same membership level as the Vatican. It would not change very much about how the UN operates.


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Live-Blogging Susan Rice Confirmation Hearing

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12:22. Kerry concludes, “the UN is too valuable, and the issues are too urgent.” He expects to have Rice sworn in by next Wednesday at the latest.

12:20. Kerry’s message to the UN: “this is a new moment,” and it’s time for the UN to reform. He seems to be addressing those few countries that frustrate reform efforts to “stick it in the eye of the UN.” It’d be important to remember that this “new moment” may decrease the numbers of those countries.

12:13. Senator Casey brings up the General Assembly vote on decriminalizing homosexuality. Good for him.

12:06. Casey says “Lugarrrr” a day after Clinton does. A mutiny in the SFRC?

12:02. This is newsworthy: Rice says the incoming administration has not yet made a decision on whether or not to join the Human Rights Council.

12:00. “What might have been different with U.S. participation and leadership” in the Human Rights Council? A worthwhile question.

11:53. Wyoming Senator Barrasso asks the black helicopter questions on guns and global taxes. Rice responds that the UN can’t change the U.S. constitution nor impose taxes on American citizens absent the consent of Congress. So your guns are safe, Senator Barrasso, and a UN “global tax” is about as likely as a UN attempt to raise an army of giant green swamp monsters.

11:50. Rice navigates a tricky answer about involving U.S. personnel in UN operations; they will not operate under UN “command responsibility,” but can contribute to UN missions.

11:47. Boxer likes her International Human Rights Convention on the Rights of the Child. Rice calls it a ” shame” that the United States stands only with Somalia in not ratifying the treaty. READ MORE

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Zal’s Tips for Being An Effective UN Ambassador

Moments before Susan Rice’s confirmation hearing to become the next U.S. Ambassador to the UN (which we’ll live-blogging shortly, as we did so vigorously with Secretary of State-designate Clinton’s) begins, it seems appropriate to reflect on some of current Ambassador Khalilzad’s pragmatic points from his “exit interview” at the New America Foundation yesterday.

  • “Reasonable” resolutions do wonders. Khalilzad revealed a simple strategy for reversing the Bolton-esque 14-1 votes, featuring a ham-handed U.S. veto, that made the United States look like a not very eager partner. If a country like Libya tried to introduce an inflammatory resolution on Israel-Palestine, Khalilzad related, instead of fulminating against it, he would take up the challenge and work to transform the piece of Israel-bashing into a reasonable resolution, including language, for instance, condemning terrorist attacks. Libya, beholden to its own domestic politics, could not then agree to its own resolution, and it would become the isolated 1 in the 14-1 vote, thus withdrawing its resolution.
  • Employ an “Adjective-Maker-in-Chief.” This is the term that moderator Steve Clemons used to underscore Khalilzad’s comment on the importance of coming to Security Council meetings prepared with a, er, flexible vocabulary. If one word doesn’t work, try another. A thesaurus can be a handy tool for diplomacy.
  • Listen! Clemons reported that all the other UN ambassadors with whom he spoke expressed pleasant surprise — and sometimes downright shock — that Khalilzad would call upon them in their offices. Once there, Khalilzad stressed, he actually listened to what his counterparts had to say. Style and tone, in turns out, matter a lot up at Turtle Bay.
  • And finally, Khalilzad admitted: always have a resignation letter tucked away in a drawer somewhere, just in case. READ MORE

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    UNanimoUS Support for a Stronger UN-U.S. Relationship

    (cross-posted at On Day One)

    A sneak preview of an ad, signed by dozens of Republican and Democratic foreign policy luminaries, that will run in Thursday’s New York Times.


    In today’s rapidly changing world of interdependence, globalization, and transnational threats, the United States must balance a strong military with creative diplomacy to secure America’s interests. We must recognize that the United Nations is a critical platform and partner for advancing international cooperation on today’s global threats and challenges, such as poverty and disease, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and climate change.

    The UN cannot succeed without strong U.S. leadership and support. The next President has a unique opportunity to revitalize the U.S.-UN relationship as a symbol of America’s commitment to constructive international cooperation. This investment will pay off substantially by helping to enhance our standing internationally and strengthen our ability to keep America safe and strong.

    The letter, sponsored by the Partnership for a Secure America and the UN Foundation and spearheaded by former Democratic Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Republican National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, also includes the signatures of various high-profile Senators, Representatives, and officials from both parties. These foreign policy experts express a UNanimoUS (UN-U.S., get it yet?) consent that the incoming Obama administration should, among other important steps, pay U.S. debts to the UN on time, seek a seat on the Human Rights Council, and provide concrete support for UN peacekeeping.

    If you can’t wait to see the ad in tomorrow’s Times, check out coverage in WaPo and Reuters, or take a look at the pdf version. READ MORE

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