The 64th UN General Assembly Session

With the opening of the 64th session of the UN General Assembly last Wednesday, September 23, the UN building and the entire New York City seemed to be busier than ever before. Leaders came from all around the world –” from Iran’s Ahmadinejad, Brazil’s Lula, Bolivia’s Morales and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to Israel’s Netanyahu, France’s Sarkozy, UK’s Gordon Brown and Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, just to name a few –” to attend the session. There was also a trilateral meeting hosted by President Obama with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday that tried to resume the stalled peace talks.

As expected, the Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi also attended the session, his first appearance in the UN. With his nearly 90-minute long speech, he surely stole the show on the first day. Because of opposition from the local community, Libyan officials agreed not to pitch Col Gaddafi’s tent in the grounds of a Libyan-owned property in the New Jersey town of Englewood. An alternate site in Bedford, 30 miles north of New York, was rented from the real estate mogul Donald Trump. Even there the town attorney Joel Sachs, acting like an arrogant cowboy, would not allow the erection of the tent citing that it "violated several codes and laws of the town of Bedford”.

This rude welcome, which violates the UN’s host-nation obligation, did not however deter the Libyan leader to speak his mind before the United Nations. Dressed in a traditional Libyan cap and robe, he slammed both the U.N. Security Council and the United States, and called for moving the U.N. headquarters out of the USA. He urged investigations of U.S. military activities. He took aim at UN and elaborated on the unfairness of the structure of the U.N. Security Council, which has five permanent members: the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain, each with veto power. He said, "No one is objecting to the preamble [of the U.N. charter], but everything that came after that is contradiction of the preamble. The preamble says the nations are equal whether they are small or big. Are we equal in permanent seats? No, we’re not equals." He chided the Security Council for failing to provide security but "terror and sanctions." He said no one should accept the resolutions of the Security Council, which he said should be called the "terror council." He suggested abolishing the Security Council in favor of the General Assembly, which would become a "world parliament." If that is not possible, he called for a permanent African presence on the Security Council.

While those words may not jive well with veto-wielding members of the UNSC, they surely reflect the views of almost everyone else. If the UN is serious about promoting democracy in our world, it better show the path first by democratizing its own institute.

Gaddafi called the invasion of Iraq "the mother of all evils," criticizing the hanging of deposed leader Saddam Hussein and the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He also called for investigations into many incidents, such as the Afghan war, the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war, Israel’s Gaza offensive and the killings in the 1960s of former President Kennedy and civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King. As a solution to the current Israeli-Palestinian problem, he called for a one-state solution in the region. The way things are, many keen observers of the six decade-long conflict now believe that the two-state solution may not be practical any more.

In his maiden address before the UN General Assembly, President Barack Obama said that his Administration would work with all Members States to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al-Qaida and its extremist allies. He pledged to keep his promise to remove all troops by the end of 2011. He said that Iran could play a significant role in shaping the future of the world and its security, should it abandon "the pursuit of nuclear weapons."

On the issue of nuclear non-proliferation, Obama suggested that the US was eager to take a step toward a world without nuclear weapons. He said that his government was ready to work with Russia on arms reduction as well as joining in discussions of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the US has refused to sign. He, however, warned the leaders of Iran and North Korea that their nuclear programs would take the world down a "dangerous slope" with the prospects of arms race rising in East Asia and the Middle East. This, in spite of the fact that Iran has signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and maintains that its nuclear program is a civilian one and has called for the removal of all weapons of mass destruction around the globe.

Obama mentioned that the United States would continue to seek a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, and the Arab world, and reiterated that America did not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This latter statement sounded hypocritical given the fact that on Tuesday, just a day before Obama’s speech on Wednesday at the UN, in a trilateral meeting the US Middle East envoy George Mitchell asserted that a full Israeli freeze on settlement construction on the occupied Palestinian land is not essential for the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. It is worth noting that the Palestinian officials have repeatedly said that they will agree with the resumption of the long-stalled ‘peace talks’ only after Tel Aviv halts its Jewish settlement expansions in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, a position that was also echoed earlier by the Obama administration. However when push comes to shove the U.S. has always caved into the Jewish pressure. This time it was no different either. Netanyahu came out as a winner and Abbas a loser, with the Obama administration in the middle losing its credibility in the Middle East. Mahmoud Abbas, who could not say no to Obama’s request to attend, returned home empty-handed and politically weakened after the summit. Overall, the New York summit yielded no signs of a breakthrough on freezing construction of Jewish settlements or restarting the long-stalled Palestinian-Israeli talks. The development indicates yet another round of hypocritical efforts by successive US administrations to supposedly bring ‘peace’ in the Middle East that, in effect only strengthens the apartheid Israeli state at the cost of making a mockery out of Palestinian rights, statehood and dignity.

It is not difficult to surmise that Obama administration’s foreign policy priorities have shifted. Finding peace in the Middle East and withdrawing forces from the region have taken now a back seat to the tough talks of sanctions and looming war against Iran. With the latest disclosure of a newly constructed nuclear facility near Quom, the West, spear-headed by Israel, seems bent on punishing Tehran, which it accuses of pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program. The Iranian regime has repeatedly denied such accusations.

In a meeting held outside the Assembly Hall, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday, “Our level of enrichment is currently at 3.5 percent – within a range of 3 to 5 percent. The materials go to nuclear power plants. They are useless for a bomb. A bomb needs enriched uranium to the grade of 99.7 percent. We believe that the possession of nuclear bombs is immoral.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva following his meeting with Ahmadinejad said that Iran was entitled to the same rights as any other country in its use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. “I defend for Iran the same rights with respect to nuclear energy that I do for Brazil,” Lula told reporters outside the United Nations General Assembly. “If anyone is ashamed of having relations with Iran, it’s not Brazil,” he added.

President Ahmadinejad, in his address to the 64th session of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday said that the reform in the structure of the UN should turn the body into a "fully democratic organization, capable of playing an impartial" role in international relations. He also called for reforming the structure of the Security Council, especially by abolishing "the discriminatory privileges of the veto right". He said that the Israeli regime is committing "genocide" against the Palestinian people. "How can one imagine that the inhumane policies in Palestine may continue to force the entire population of a country out of their homeland for more than 60 years by resorting to force and coercion; to attack them with all types of arms and even prohibited weapons," Ahmadinejad said. To the chagrin of the international community, the occupiers are called "peace-lovers", he said, hinting at Israel. He continued, "How can the crimes of the occupiers against defenseless women and children and destruction of their homes, farms, hospitals and schools be supported unconditionally by certain governments, and at the same time, the oppressed men and women be subject to genocide and heaviest economic blockade being denied of their basic needs, food, water and medicine?" "They (Palestinians) are not even allowed to rebuild their homes which were destroyed during the 22-day barbaric attacks by the Zionist regime while the winter is approaching, whereas the aggressors and their supporters deceitfully continue their rhetoric in defense of human rights in order to put others under pressure." He stated that the "unfair capitalism" system has reached the end of the road and the world needs fundamental changes. "It is no longer possible to inject thousands of billions of dollars of unreal wealth to the world economy simply by printing worthless paper assets, or transfer inflation as well as social and economic problems to others through creating severe budget deficits," Ahmadinejad said. "The era of capitalist thinking and imposition of one’s thoughts on the international community, intended to predominate the world in the name of globalization and the age of setting up empires is over," Ahmadinejad concluded.

France was the first to walk out of the room on Wednesday as President Ahmadinejad once again accused Israel of committing Palestinian ‘genocide’. Other than the US and France, delegations from Argentina, Australia, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy and New Zealand left the room. Such walkouts don’t surprise us any more knowing quite well that all these countries have had blood in their hands, and are now making a mockery of human rights by behaving like the cheerleaders for the apartheid state that is responsible for the Palestinian Holocaust. Obviously, the word “shame” is not in their dictionary.

In his speech on Thursday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told the General Assembly, "It doesn’t smell of sulfur here anymore. It smells of hope." This was a marked departure from his last year’s speech in which he depicted the former U.S. president as a racist, imperialist devil who smelled of sulfur. He said he was moved by President Obama’s assertion that no country should dominate another, but he expressed frustration that the new U.S. leader has not acted on that view more firmly. He called upon Obama to lift “murderous embargo” on Cuba. He said, "Are there two Obamas? I would like to believe the Obama I listened to yesterday." Who won’t?

But let’s face it: hypocrisy still remains the modus operandi of the U.S. foreign policy. It can be all vocal about Iran’s nuclear program but has no problem closing its eyes to Israel’s nuclear program despite a landmark resolution adopted recently by the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) urging Israel to open its entire nuclear program to IAEA inspection and join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Since 1958, when it began building its Dimona plutonium and uranium processing facility, Israel has reportedly manufactured scores of nuclear warheads earning reputation as the sole possessor of such hardware in the Middle East. Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, aerial footage and decades of recurrent reporting have attested to the existence of the armament. But not a single western leader, and surely not the clowns like Sarkozy and Gordon Brown, chastised the only nuclear power in the Middle East. President Obama can hypnotize the world audience with his sweet, smooth talk but when it comes to walking the talk there is a gigantic gap, which is so frustrating to all those who aspired for change and tried to believe in him as the change agent!

The general assembly session will continue until the end of this month.