Without naming Iran, UN Sec-Gen denounces his hosts for threatening Israel
DEBKAfile August 30, 2012, 4:10 PM (GMT+02:00)
In a speech at the Non-Aligned summit in Tehran, Ban Ki-moon said: “I strongly reject threats by any member state to destroy another or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts such as the Holocaust,” he said. “Claiming that Israel does not have the right to exist or describing it in racist terms is not only wrong but undermines the very principle we all have pledged to honor.
Iran slams UN for ‘overt dictatorship’
Published: 30 August, 2012, 17:42
NAM’s tri-annual gathering is attended by leaders of 120 developing nations – including India, Pakistan, and Lebanon – and represents the largest single voting bloc in the UN General Assembly.
The summit, which concludes on Friday, is viewed as a chance for Iran to assert a degree of authority it is never granted by Western countries. But Thursday’s events saw Tehran embroiled in controversies with both the UN and Egypt.
“The UN Security Council has an irrational, unjust and utterly undemocratic structure, and this is an overt dictatorship,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.
Ban refused to ignore the blunt statement and shot back at Iran in his own address, saying that Iran should build confidence in its controversial nuclear program by “fully complying with the relevant (UN) Security Council resolutions and thoroughly cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”
The remarks came just one day after the UN chief told Iranian leaders to take steps to prove the country’s nuclear program is peaceful.
Ban attended the summit despite calls from the US and Israel to boycott the event, and his attendance is widely viewed as a blow to Western efforts to isolate Tehran.
In his speech, Khamenei insisted that Iran is “never seeking nuclear weapons,” and that his country considers them “a big and unforgivable sin.” He also accused the UN of submitting to pressure from the Security Council’s permanent Western members – the US, UK and France – in its stance on Tehran’s nuclear program.
The dramatic remarks put pressure on the already tense relationship between Iran and the UN. Tehran is currently at loggerheads with the UN over its nuclear program, which has resulted in four rounds of sanctions being imposed by Security Council resolutions.
The dueling speeches by Iran and the UN weren’t the only issues of contention at the NAM summit – the ongoing crisis in Syria was also a hotly debated topic.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi criticized Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s “oppressive” regime in a speech, saying that the world should support the Syrian rebels.
The remark prompted members of the Syrian delegation to walk out of the room.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem denounced the statement, saying it was an “intereference in Syria’s internal affairs” and instigated the “continuing shedding of Syrian blood.”
Morsi’s statement clearly contradicts the views of Iran’s leaders, who have backed Assad since the uprisings began in the country last year.
Iran nuclear issue, Syria dominate tense Teheran summit
By David Ferguson
Thursday, August 30, 2012 7:08 EDT
Iran’s showdown with the UN Security Council over its nuclear activities, and clashing speeches over the bloody conflict shaking Syria dominated the opening of a summit in Teheran on Thursday.
Those issues swept aside the veneer of diplomatic harmony Iran had been trying to project over the gathering of 120 members of the Non-Aligned Movement and left several leaders squirming in their seats.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei opened the session with a speech in which he insisted his country ‘is never seeking nuclear weapons’ and accusing the UN Security Council of exerting an ‘overt dictatorship’ under the sway of its Western permanent members, the United States, Britain and France.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who looked irritated during the speech, shot back in his own address that Iran should build confidence in its nuclear programme by ‘fully complying with the relevant (UN) Security Council resolutions and thoroughly cooperating with the IAEA’ — the UN’s nuclear watchdog.
Otherwise, he warned, ‘a war of words can quickly spiral into a war of violence.’
Egypt’s new President Mohamed Morsi — making the first visit to Iran by an Egyptian head of state since the 1979 Islamic revolution — in turn embarrassed the summit’s hosts by stressing that the Syria conflict was a ‘revolution’ like the one his country went through.
‘The revolution in Egypt is the cornerstone for the Arab Spring, which started days after Tunisia and then it was followed by Libya and Yemen and now the revolution in Syria against its oppressive regime,’ Morsi said.
That directly contradicted the line put out by the Syrian regime and its closest ally Iran that the Syrian uprising was a ‘terrorist’ plot masterminded by the United States and regional countries.
The Syrian delegation, led by Prime Minister Wael Nader Al Halqi, walked out as Morsi delivered his comments.
They missed the Egyptian president adding that ‘Egypt is ready to work with all to stop the bloodshed.’
The summit to-and-fro over Iran’s nuclear ambitions had its roots in an unusually frank meeting Ban held with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad after arriving on Wednesday.
In those separate talks, Ban told them Iran needed to provide ‘concrete’ steps to ease the international showdown which has raised the spectre of airstrikes on nuclear facilities, threatened by both Israel and the United States as an option.
Tensions have been raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency unveiling a new Iran ‘task force’ to scrutinise Teheran’s nuclear programme and its compliance with UN resolutions.
Additionally, the latest IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear progress was expected to be released this week — possibly even during the two-day Teheran summit.
The report is said to highlight expanded enrichment in Iran and suspicions concerning an off-limits military base in Parchin, outside Teheran, where warhead design experiments might have taken place.
Ban had been criticised by the United States and Israel for attending the Teheran summit. But before heading to Iran, he promised he would raise the sensitive issues of the nuclear programme, human rights and Syria.
He made good on that promise, and also took Iran’s leaders to task for recent comments calling Israel a ‘cancerous tumour’ that should be cut out of the Middle East, while telling both Iran and Israel to cool the bellicose language.
‘I strongly reject any threat by any (UN) member state to destroy another, or outrageous comments to deny historical facts such as the Holocaust,’ Ban said in his summit speech.
‘Claiming another UN member state does not have the right to exist or describe it in racist terms is not only utterly wrong but undermines the very principles we have all pledged to uphold,’ he said.
‘I urge all the parties to stop procovative and inflammatory threats. A war of words can quickly spiral into war of violence. Bluster can so easily become bloodshed. Now is the time for all the leaders to use their voices to lower, not raise, tensions,’ he said.
A total of 29 heads of state or government are attending the Teheran summit, including those of Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority, Sudan, Qatar and Zimbabwe. North Korea was represented by its ceremonial head of state, parliamentary president Kim Yong-Nam, rather than the country’s leader Kim Jong-Un.
McCain, Condi call for wars at the Republican Convention that even Republicans don’t want
By Megan Carpentier
Thursday, August 30, 2012 11:41 EDT
On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie told the Republican National Convention, “Real leaders don’t follow polls. Real leaders change polls.” On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a valiant effort to do just that, by laying out the cases for military interventions in Iran and Syria while slamming the President for his Afghanistan withdrawal plans.
A July poll showed that 60 percent of Americans (and slim majority of Republicans) believe the United States should not be involved in Afghanistan right now. A March Washington Post/ABC News Poll showed that 63 percent of Americans (and a majority of Republicans) believed that we should wait to see if sanctions work in Iran, and people of all political stripes supported sanctions and direct diplomatic talks with Iran over bombing their nuclear sites. In an August CNN poll, despite the preponderance of concern for the situation in Syria, a slim majority of Americans still opposed air strikes and 64 percent opposed ground troops.
Rice, in particular, said the United States had an obligation to respond:
Yet, the promise of the Arab Spring is engulfed in uncertainty; internal strife and hostile neighbors are challenging the fragile democracy in Iraq; dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their own people and threaten the security of the region; China and Russia prevent a response; and all wonder, “Where does America stand?”
Indeed that is the question of the moment — “Where does America stand?” When our friends and our foes, alike, do not know the answer to that question — clearly and unambiguously — the world is a chaotic and dangerous place. The U.S. has since the end of World War II had an answer — we stand for free peoples and free markets, we are willing to support and defend them — we will sustain a balance of power that favors freedom.
“My fellow Americans,” she added later, “we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead — and one cannot lead from behind.” Americans, however, seem to generally disagree.
A CNN poll in May and a Pew one in March asked respondents “Do you think the United States has a responsibility to do something about the fighting in Syria between government forces and anti-government groups, or doesn’t the United States have this responsibility?” Fully 61 percent and 64 percent, respectively, said no.
The reaction in the Tampa Bay Times Forum last night was indicative of the war-weariness that even Rice herself acknowledged from the podium: the attendees sat in relative silence throughout Rice’s call to military action except when asked to acknowledge the sacrifice of the troops and in response to the zinger both McCain and Rice both aimed at Obama — that America cannot “lead from behind.”
McCain’s calls to action was even more specific than Rice’s more oblique efforts to encourage support for potential wars in Iran and Syria and the continuation of the almost-11-year war in Afghanistan.
“By committing to withdraw from Afghanistan before peace can be achieved and sustained, the president has discouraged our friends and emboldened our enemies,” McCain told the crowd. Romney said last year he disagreed with the troop withdrawal schedule, but General John Allen, who heads the American force in Afghanistan, said in committee hearing earlier this year that he was committed to the 2014 withdrawal schedule but did not recommend further withdrawals until later in 2012 — which is the President’s reported current timeline to withdraw another 10,000 troops. Allen’s second-in-command, Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, told NPR in May that he would prefer to push any further withdrawals off until 2013, and it appears that McCain’s statements referenced Scaparrotti’s desires, as well as speeches made this month by Lt. Gen. Dan Allyn, who used to command troops in the east of Afghanistan, and retired Gen. John Keane, the reported architect of the Iraq surge.
McCain also explained what he perceives as the President’s failure to commit to military action against Iran.
When Iranians rose up by the millions against their oppressive rulers, when they beseeched our president, chanting in English, ‘Are you with us, or are you with them?’, when the entire world watched as a brave young woman named Neda was shot and bled to death in a street in Tehran.
The president missed a historic opportunity to throw America’s full moral support behind an Iranian revolution that shared one of our highest interests: ridding Iran of a brutal dictatorship that terrorizes the Middle East and threatens the world.
Neda is Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot watching a protest on June 20, 2009. While Obama did respond to her death at the time, critics have long charged that, despite the lack of official diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Iran and the regime’s tendency to use any American support for a person or cause to discredit said person or cause, Obama should have done more in his capacity as president to support the Green Revolution there. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service’s June report notes that the Administration made efforts to improve relationship prior to the crack-down in service of its desire to end Iran’s nuclear program, but resumed pressure from sanctions in 2010 after Agha-Soltan’s death and Iran’s failure to comply with a nuclear deadline in 2009. Obama openly put military solutions in Iran “on the table” in an interview in March 2012. Furthermore, the report notes that Iranian experts agree that having American fingerprints on any Iranian opposition movement “would make the aid recipients less attractive to most Iranians,” and Iranian expert Hooman Majd wrote in Foreign Policy in 2010 that, “Coming out squarely on the side of the opposition in Iran is likely to undermine its credibility, and perhaps even lend credence to the government’s assertion that the movement is a foreign-inspired plot that will rob Iran of its independence.”
Finally, McCain slammed the Administration’s response to the civil war in Syria, stating that our lack of military engagement “to help [dissidents]” is prevail” is “not being true to our values.” Meanwhile, Obama threatened military action against the Syrian regime on August 20 if the regime used chemical weapons against its people, and has called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign for almost a year. In April, however, Obama said in response to critiques of his lack of action in Syria that he condemns the violence against civilians but, “That does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there’s an injustice in the world. We cannot and should not.”
McCain and Rice apparently feel differently — but it’s clear from polls and the crowd reactions that, after almost 11 years of war, even many Republicans do not.
Egypt wouldn’t fire on Iran ship
August 29, 2012
Egypt’s Navy refused a U.S. request to fire on an Iranian weapons ship heading for violence-torn Syria through the Suez Canal, al-Arabiya reported.
“The Suez Canal is a narrow waterway and it is impossible for military action to take place there,” Mohab Mamish, recently appointed chairman of the Suez Canal Authority and former Egyptian Navy commander told al-Arabiya.
The U.S. request was made recently, the report said.
Military Muppet: TV character urges Israelis to prepare for strike on Iran
August 28, 2012
A new emergency pamphlet in Israel instructs residents to prepare for the worst if Tel Aviv conducts a military strike on Iran. But the face on the brochure isn’t the country’s President or Prime Minister – it’s a Muppet.
The cover of the 15-page leaflet pictures a smiling Moishe Oofnik, the Israeli Muppet version of Oscar the Grouch. He’s the resident pessimist on Rechov Sumsum, Israel’s co-production of the long-running American children’s program ‘Sesame Street.’
Muppets on the popular show are known for teaching children numbers and the alphabet, but Moishe Oofnik has taken on a different job with this pamphlet – instructing Israelis how to react if their nation’s government launches a war against Iran.
The booklet, issued by the Israeli military, says that once air raid sirens sound, residents of the Jewish state would have between 30 seconds and three minutes to find cover before rockets hit their area. The brochure, which is being distributed across the country, also teaches Israelis how to prepare a safe room or shelter for emergency situations.
The furry Muppet puts a happy face on the warnings, though the issue is anything but lighthearted: Israeli ministers have estimated that up to 500 civilians could die in the conflict that would follow a strike on Iran.
The pamphlet comes in the wake of recent remarks by Israeli officials suggesting that Tel Aviv may soon launch a unilateral attack on Tehran’s nuclear program. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly favor a strike on Iran. Public statements and anonymous quotes to Israeli media in the past week have raised speculation that Israel may soon attack Iran.
The bellicose rhetoric comes over Israeli and Western allegations that Iran’s nuclear program is a cover for the development of atomic weapons, while Tehran claims the facilities are for civilian purposes.
Less than two weeks ago, Netanyahu announced that negotiations with Iran had “failed,” and claimed that Israel will attack Iran in the near future, with or without US consent.
The Israeli Defense Minister also supports military action against Iran: “Barak is advocating for action and the defense establishment is investing billions to prepare for an Israeli military operation,” an Israeli official told Ynet News.
But the ambition to set back Iran’s nuclear program could come at a high cost to Israel’s citizens, causing many Israelis to protest a potential attack. The country’s president also recently spoke out against a unilateral strike against Iran.
“It’s clear to us that we can’t do it alone. We can only delay [Iran's progress]. Thus it’s clear to us that we need to go together with America,” Shimon Peres told Israel’s Channel Two television.
Iran has promised to retaliate against in Israeli attack in what could lead to a wider regional war among several different forces. Tel Aviv fears that Tehran could induce its Hezbollah guerrilla allies in Lebanon and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip to launch rocket strikes against Israel if Iran were attacked.
As the Israeli government prepares for the worst, it is urging residents to have a “family talk” about preparing for a national emergency. But it’s not just pamphlets that indicate that an attack may be imminent – Israel increased the distribution of gas masks and other protective gear to the public several weeks ago.
“There are always innovations the public needs to know about, it doesn’t mean anything is going to happen today, tomorrow or the next day,” an Israeli military source told Reuters.
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