Libya's Lessons

by Chris Toensing | published March 5, 2012

Libya is commonly counted as a success story among the ongoing Arab uprisings. NATO bombing, the story goes, saved thousands of lives and allowed Libyans to overthrow the absurd and murderous Muammar Qaddafi. The intervention proves that the West has aligned its interests in the Arab world with its values -- and may even be a measure of redemption for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the deeper colonial past.

Not much of this comforting tale rings true.

The Middle Powers Amid the Arab Revolts

by Imad Mansour | published September 29, 2011

The UN Security Council has been a key arbiter of international action regarding the upheavals in the Arab world in 2011. In late February, the Council issued Resolution 1970 calling for an “immediate end to the violence” in Libya, imposing sanctions and an arms embargo, and asking the International Criminal Court to investigate the regime of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. Less than a month later, on March 17, the Council passed Resolution 1973 authorizing NATO “to take all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, leading to Qaddafi’s eventual fall from power. In late September, the Security Council will also take up the request of Palestinian leader Mahmoud ‘Abbas for full UN membership for a state of Palestine.

Blocking Palestinian Statehood

by Chris Toensing | published September 26, 2011

When President Barack Obama addressed the UN General Assembly in September 2010, he sounded hopeful that by the following year there would be “an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations -- an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.” Sure enough, in September 2011, the Palestinians asked the UN Security Council to recognize a state of Palestine -- but Obama ordered the US delegate to veto the request. What gives?

The Question of Palestine in Miniature

by The Editors | published September 16, 2011

The countdown to September 23 has begun. On that day, if he does not renege on his September 16 speech, Mahmoud ‘Abbas will present a formal request for full UN membership for a state of Palestine. The UN Security Council, which must approve such requests, will not do so, because the United States will act upon its repeated vows to exercise its veto. And then?

"Eventually There Can Only Be an Arab Solution"

An Interview with 'Abdallah al-Ashtal

by James Paul
published in MER169

Amb. ‘Abdallah al-Ashtal is Yemen’s representative to the United Nations. He served as ambassador for the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen from 1971 until May 1990, when he became the representative of the newly unified Republic of Yemen. In March and December 1990, he chaired the UN Security Council. James Paul interviewed him in New York City on December 26, 1990.

How would you assess the role of the United Nations in the Gulf crisis?

Even before the crisis, the UN had begun to work differently. One could sense a spirit of accommodation between the superpowers. The Security Council was no longer a forum for rhetoric but a place to lay out possibilities and try to come to a common position.

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The Use and Abuse of the UN in the Gulf Crisis

by Erskine Childers
published in MER169

Is the United Nations at “a new threshold” in its history as a result of the Security Council actions in the Gulf crisis? This needs careful assessment. There has long been a tendency to veer from indifference to short-term exploitation of the UN and then, if this does not turn out well for the United States, to fall back to UN bashing.

There is one basic fact. The government of Iraq committed an act of aggression under international law and the UN Charter’s Article 2.4: It used force against the territorial integrity and the political independence of a state recognized in the community of nations.

Report of the UN Mission to Assess Humanitarian Needs in Iraq

published in MER170

Conditions in Iraq in the aftermath of the US military assault have been difficult to ascertain. The most authoritative report to date is that of the UN mission led by Undersecretary-General Martti Ahtisaari, which spent March 10-17 in Iraq. The mission, which included representatives of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and other UN programs, had intended to examine conditions first in Kuwait and then Iraq, but the Kuwaiti authorities requested it delay its arrival there until a UN Environment Program mission had completed its work.

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Dilemmas of Relief Work in Iraq

by Atallah Kuttab
published in MER174

The allied attack on Iraq in January-February 1991, and the hardship inflicted on the civilian population, prompted many UN agencies and non-governmental organizations to mobilize relief efforts in the country. I spent seven weeks in May and June leading a relief team in southern Iraq. Relief work was already underway in the Kurdish north, in the center (Baghdad) and in the largely Shi‘i south.

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From the Editors

published in MER180

“Propaganda to Journalism” was the New York Times headline on a year-end story about mass media in former Socialist countries, without the slightest self-consciousness about how US coverage of events like the Somalia intervention exemplifies “journalism to propaganda.” Perhaps there have been equally bizarre landings in the history of the US Marines -- Beirut, for instance, in July 1958, when they splashed onto a beach full of sunbathers and Coca-Cola vendors. In this latest patriotic spectacle, troops landed in camouflage uniforms and greased faces, only to find their high-tech night vision goggles rendered useless, even hazardous, by the glare of the television camera lights.