Saturday, July 21, 2012

Work it!







This morning there were many interesting articles about Martin Kobler's presentation on Iraq to the United Nation's Security Council yesterday.  Kobler is the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq.  And the few articles this morning about the presentation were nothing like what Kobler delivered yesterday.  (This afternoon, UPI produced a report that demonstrated their correspondent saw the actual presentation.)  But the reports this morning were a lot like the press conference Kobler held after -- about an hour after -- the Security Council presentation.  You have to wonder how editorial boards ever pretend to have an ethical stature to call others out from when their reporters lie?  A press briefing is not the report Kobler presented to the UN Security Council. 
Kobler's report was interesting for what it said.  It was even more interesting for what it didn't say but you probably needed to hear the report to know that and you probably needed to have heard the April report to be able to offer context in July. 
April 10th was when he made his previous presentation and we covered that in the April 10th snapshot and the April 11th snapshot.  His Thursday report we covered yesterday and we'll continue that coverage now.  When we left off yesterday, he was talking about 12 acts of violence a day and over 1,300
UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler:  Each victim is one victim too many.  The Iraqi authorities must continue to make every effort to identify the perpetrators of these acts of violence and bring them to justice.  These attacks are intended to ignite further violence.  Despite the sufferings, Iraqis from all walks of life and religious backgrounds must turn their backs on past divisions and unite for a peaceful future.  Mr. President, human rights are a cornerstone of Iraq's democratic future and are at the core of United Nations mandate  in Iraq. To this end, UNAMI [United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq] continues to support activities of the Ministry of Human Rights in ensuring that Iraq meets its international humanitarian rights obligations.  As I informed the Council members last April, the Council of Representatives endorsed the appointment of the Commissioners of Iraq's first Independent High Commission for Human Rights.  And I am pleased to further report the commissioners have now met and started their work.  UNAMI and UNDP [United Nations Development Programme]  are supporting the Commission in this process.  The findings of the 2011 United Nations report on the Human Rights Situation in Iraq published in May underlined the fragility of human rights situation in Iraq.  The report's conclusions largely coincided with the  Ministry of Human Rights own findings.  While it is recognized that the government of Iraq has made progress in implementing measures to protect and promote human rights, the impact on the overall human rights situation remains limited.  The UN is assisting the Iraqi authorities in strengthening the rule of law and boosting protections for human rights in Iraq to bring an end to abuses like arbitrary arrests and detentions.  The economic, culture and social rights of Iraqis are also a matter of real concern.  Poverty, high unemployment, economic stagnation, environmental degradation and a lack of basic services continue to effect large sections of the population.  It is vital that Iraqis -- in particular, vulnerable groups -- be provided with better access to basic services, social welfare and community development programs and opportunities for education.  Nothing less is required in order to provide for the success of future generations.  The rights of all Iraqis -- including minorities -- must be protected as stipulated in the Iraqi Contrib -- Iraqi Constitution.  Mr. President, Iraq retains the death penalty for a large number of crimes.  I therefore reiterate the call by the Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] and the High Commissioner of Human Rights for the government of Iraq to establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to their abolition.  I welcome that the authorities of the Kurdistan Region continue to implement a moratorium on carrying out executions which has been in place since 2007. 
That's not the end of his report.  We'll continue noting from there in order but we're breaking parts up.  It was interesting how in both the written report (July 11th) and the oral report Kobler gave yesterday, the Russian bikers were ignored.  5 men threatened with the death penalty, 5 men arrested and beaten.  An international incident and not a word on it.  But Kobler wasn't very interested in words.  There was time to whine about his budget taking a 20% cut next year but not time to note, as the written report did:
Journalists and media professionals in Iraq continue to face arbitrary arrest and detention and to suffer from intimidation and attacks as a result of their profession.  During the reporting period, UNESCO and UNOPS [United Nations Office for Project Services] trained 240 media professionals in Basra, Erbil and Baghdad on security, self-protection, risk management and trauma first aid to enable them to cope with existing professional threats and risks.
The issue so bothered Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that he raised it twice in the written report (the first time is quoted above).  When Kobler states he's repeating the Secretary-General's point about stopping death penalty, he's referring to the written report (it's the 72nd paragraph in the written report). 
Iraq being discussed before the UN.  That means what topic gets touched on that the US media usually ignores?  Chapter VII.  Iraq was placed in that status by the UN as a result of Iraq's war on Kuwait. 
Speical Envoy Martin Kobler:  Let me now turn to some of the regional and international developments pertaining to Iraq.  As you know, Prime Minister Maliki's visit to Kuwait in March was followed by the historic visit of the Emir of Kuwait [Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah] to Baghdad to attend the Arab League Summit.  These two visits have markedly improved bi-later relations between Kuwait and Iraq and facilitated the resumption of the meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee. Iraq has also taken decisive steps to finalize the Iraqi-Kuwait border maintenance project in accordance with Resolution 833.  At the request of both parties, the United Nations is preparing now for maintenance work to start by 31st of October provided that key prerequisites -- like the removal of obstacles on the borders -- are met bringing all Chapter VII obligations pertaining to Kuwait to a satisfactory close will boost prospects for bilateral trade, investment, promote regional cooperation and lead to the restoration of Iraq's rightful standing within the international community.  In this regard, I would also like to take the opportunity to welcome the adoption of on 28th of June by the Council of Representatives of a law ratifying the additional protocol to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and encourage the government of Iraq to take the remaining steps to ensure its entry into force as soon as possible.   Mr. President, the intensity and frequency of sand and dust storms mainly generated from inside Iraq has increased in recent years.  They have significant impact on public health in Iraq and in the wider region --  especially for the most vulnerable --  and they effect transport and trade. During my visit to Kuwait in June and following an offer by the Emir of Kuwait to invest a portion of Iraq's outstanding war compensation funds back into Iraq, I proposed an environmental fund to combat sand and dust storms.  If Iraq and Kuwait agree, the fund could be used to undertake activities to reduce this health hazard which is impeding daily life in the region.  Such activities might include improving water resource management, anti desertification, re-forestification and agricultural projects.  Mr. President, needless to say that the ongoing violence in Syria is a source of deep concern given the potential for the spread of instability and violence, humanitarian fall out and political repercussions.  The UN system in Iraq is putting in place contingency plans for possible humanitarian emergency.  In this connection, I recently visited a refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region for those displaced by the conflict in Syria.  So far, with 7,000 refugees, their number are manageable.  On 10th of July, the United Nations and League of Arab States Joint-Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Kofi Anan, visited Iraq and met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  The government of Iraq was very clear on the policy of a political transition that is Syrian-led and Syrian-owned and ensures that the legitimate and democratic aspirations of the Syrian people are fully realized.
So there's a refugee camp in the KRG.  And the KRG has a moratorium on the death penalty.  Wonder how much bleaker the state of Iraq would be reported to the Security Council as being if the Special Envoy didn't keep including the semi-autonomous KRG region?
As he continues, he'll note some basic numbers.
Special Envoy Martin Kobler:  Mr. President, the United Nations in Iraq also continues to support the development of effective, accountable and transparent state institutions.  My new deputy and resident humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Ms. Jacqueline Babcock, took up her duties on 13th of May.  She has already shown her determination and leadership in coordinating the UN country team to deliver as one.  I have asked her to ensure that the country team  strengthens its presence and activities across the country.  This is taking shape in Basra. There, the UN funds and programs can assist in bringing the quality of life in this oil rich province to those levels found in other oil rich countries in the region.  Mr. President, let me briefly highlight two of the priority areas with important political, security and development implications where the UN system in Iraq is working together.  Iraq is one of the most youthful countries  in the world with 50% of the population under the age of 18.  At the same time, the unemployment rate for youth is more than double the domestic average with 23%.  The UN system is supporting programs aimed at increasing youth participation in social, political and economic spheres.  Building on the International Year of Youth 2011, the UN is supporting civil-society groups to strengthen their role in ensuring democratic spaces and freedom.  The third UNDP National Development Report focuses on youth and will be published later this year.  As with youth, women are important actors in Iraq's development. Yet the illiteracy rate among Iraqi women is more than double that of Iraqi men.  In my meetings with the Iraqi governmental interloculators, as well as women's civil-society organizations, I advocate for the adoption and implementation of the proposed National Strategy on the Advancement of Women.  The UN family is working to support women take up their role also in political and economic life.  The UN is also continuing to implement Security Council Resolution 1322 and to encourage the government to fulfill its committment in this regard. 
Now we're getting to Camp Ashraf.  Camp Ashraf were approximately 3,500 residents who were Iranian dissidents.  They came to Iraq in the 80s and had protection up to the Iraq War.  When the US-launched war toppled the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the US government -- largely via US military officers -- began a dialogue with the residents which resulted in their surrendering their arms and becoming protected persons under the Geneva Agreement and international law.  Though never legally revoked, that protection would be ignored once Barack Obama was sworn in as US president.  Nouri would twice attack the camp resulting in multiple deaths and a large number of wounded.  Humanitarian organizations -- Amnesty, for example -- would decry the attacks but the US government would remain silent.  When you read over Kobler's remarks in a second, focus on what's really harming Camp Ashraf right now.
UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler:  Finally, Mr. President, I still remain very concerned by the lack of progress in resolving the issue of Camp Ashraf. 2,000 residents of Camp Ashraf have relocated to Camp Hurriyah [Liberty] in the last months.  Approximately 1,200 remain in Camp Ashraf.  The several deadlines set by the government of Iraq have been extended. I thank the government of Iraq for their flexibility in this regard and I appeal to the Iraqi authorities to continue the process to resolve the relocation peacefully. Our committment is strictly humanitarian, to facilitate a voluntary, temporary relocation of residents to Camp Hurriyah as the first step of resettlement to countries outside of Iraq; however, the success of a facilitator depends at least on good will. Their can be no facilitation without constructive and practical dialogue.  We are faced with three main challenges.  First, recent weeks have witnessed difficulties in maintaining dialogue between UNAMI and the residents and between the residents and the government of Iraq reinforcing a perception that the residents lack genuine will to participate in the process faciliated by UNAMI.  Second, responsiblity also falls on the many international supporters.  It is of great importance that they contribute to positively influence the residents' position.  And third, to  date almost no memeber-state has stepped forward to offer resettlement to eligible, former Ashraf residents.  There must be a way out of Hurriyah in the foreseeable future.  Without prospect for resettlement, the ongoing process runs the risk of collapsing.  The tempoary transit location at Camp Hurriyah has the capacity to accomodate the remaining 1,200 residents and meets acceptable humanitarian standards.  Both UNAMI and UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] have devoted substantial energy and resources to resolving this issue.  More than 100 staff are dedicated to the project in the meantime.  I appeal to the government of Iraq to be generous -- particularly in terms of humanitarian needs like water and electricity and to avoid violence under any circumstances.  I also appeal to camp residents to abide by Iraqi laws and avoid provocation and violence.  Time is running out to find a sustainable solution.  The government's patience is wearing thin. I would therefore like to echo the Secretary-General and urge Camp Ashraf residents to cooperate with the Iraqi authorities and to relocate from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriyah.  It is also imperative that third countries step forward to accept eligible residents for resettlement as soon as possible without which there can be no durable solution. 
The residents have stopped moving to Camp Liberty.  They want to take items such as generators.  Why? 
Nouri doesn't want them to take items such as generators.  Why?
Because both sides don't believe that the Camp Ashraf residents will soon leave Camp Liberty.  Why don't they believe it?
Because no one's left so far and that's because other countries aren't willing to take them in.  In Nouri al-Maliki's view, Camp Liberty is just a place to store Camp Ashraf residents for another lengthy period.  In his view, he's being conned and then in a year or two, he'll be told they'll be moved somewhere else in Iraq.  It's a view Camp Ashraf residents can share.  Because both they and Nouri have seen 1200 moved and not resettled anywhere.  They're just remaining in Camp Liberty, the same way they remained in Camp Ashraf.   If Nouri (or the government in Tehran) is to believe that the residents are being resettled, they're going to have to see some resettled.  It's not that complicated.
Why are so many nations so reluctant to take them?  Because the US government refuses to do their job.  Camp Ashraf residents are part of the MEK.  The MEK is considered a terrorist group by the US government -- the Clinton administration put them on that list in the late 90s in an effort to make an overture to the government of Iran.  Though ordered by a federal court to resolve the MEK status quickly, the State Dept refused and now has until October to do so or the court will impose a punishment.  (Whether Barack Obama is re-elected president or not, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already stated she will not serve a second term in her post.  An October deadline from the court is a joke because the administration will treat it as such -- either because they will quickly become a lameduck one or because they will be looking for a new Secretary of State.)   Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and those under them have repeatedly and falsely equated MEK and Camp Ashraf residents as one grouping.
The US government does not recognize the MEK as protected persons.  The US government does recognize Camp Ashraf residents as protected persons.  This issue should have been resolved a long time ago, the US government made promises and needs to keep them.  The easiest way is to create an excpetion for the Camp Ashraf residents.  That's 3,200 people currently.  They are all in Iraq.  Those in Iraq transferring out would not be considered "terrorists."  This is due to where they were located, due to the stationary aspect of their location and due to the fact that the US government already gave them protected persons status.  That status expires only when they are out of Iraq so it is in the US government's best interests to get them out of Iraq quickly.  The State Dept could easily create a subgrouping of those residents in Iraq to allow other countries to take them in.
The refusal to do so means the Barack Obama administration will likely have blood on their hands because one side will likely explode in a very short time.  This has been going on too long and neither Nouri nor the residents are seeing any progress.  If the US government can not seriously assist the Camp Ashraf residents by creating a subgrouping/classification for them and violence takes place, those deaths -- Iraqis or Ashraf residents -- will be the responsibility of the US White House.
There was a lot mentioned in the report.  A lot overlooked as well.  As he winds down, Kobler makes the decision that UNAMI itself -- and its budget -- is more important than any Iraqi topic that he could include in the final moments.
Special Envoy Martin Kolber:  Mr. President, in my introduction, I posed the question of whether the people of Iraq still need UNAMI?  I am convinced that UNAMI is needed more than ever to help Iraq complete its transition to a stable and prosperous democracy.  UNAMI has the legitimacy and the standing to represent the international community in Iraq.  Iraqis from all communities look to UNAMI to protect their aspirations and to ensure their needs are met.  With Security Council support, UNAMI will continue its efforts to address the many outstanding issues crucial to securing Iraq's future.  The substantial cut of 20% of UNAMI's budget in 2013  requires that we do more with less.  In this context, the mission may need to reconsider some areas of operation.  Mr. President, I should like to sincerely thank the members of the council for their continued support, the government of Iraq and the wider membership of the United Nations as well as the staff of UNAMI for their unrelenting commitment and dedication to implement our mandate.  Thank you very much.
And that was it.  Last April, in his presentation to the UN Security-Council, he refused to note the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community.  In the written report (written in March), there was a passing reference ("perception of their sexual orientation") with the promise that the UN was in the process of corroborating the reported deaths and would address it when they had.  It's months later, presumably the UN has been able to corroborate those reports in some fashion by now.  So why can't Martin Kobler talk about it?  It's not even in the written report (which was published July 11th).  There is no mention made of it.  If Martin Kobler wishes to represent Iraqis, he needs to represent all Iraqis.  He needs to find it in his comfort zone to use the terms "gay" and "lesbian."  If that's too much work for him, if it's too much of a stretch, he needs to find a new position.  The United Nations was silent as young Iraqis were targeted -- males and females -- because they were believed to be gay or to be Emo or both.  Rolling Stone and NME covered it.  But the United Nations stayed silent.  The US State Dept covered it in their own human rights report.  But the United Nations stayed silent.  That's unacceptable.

Recommended: "Iraq snapshot"

No comments: