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On Iraq US Pulls Staff Back From Baghdad and Erbil While UN Guterres Junkets In Fiji Failing Censor

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR Letter PFT Q&A

UNITED NATIONS GATE, May 15 – Back on March 11 with the new proposed U.S. budget the topic of a briefing at the State Department, Inner City Press went to ask about the provision that 15% of U.S. contributions to the UN should be cut if, as is the case, the UN is not protecting whistleblowers. See March 11 photos here, and see below for State Department answer and read-out. On May 15, the State Department issued a new travel advisory on Iraq: "full text of the new Travel Advisory is as follows:  Level 4: Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism, kidnapping, and armed conflict.   U.S. citizens in Iraq are at high risk for violence and kidnapping. Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq. Attacks by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad.  The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq is extremely limited. On May 15, 2019, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil; normal visa services will be temporarily suspended at both posts.  On October 18, 2018, the Department of State ordered the temporary suspension of operations at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah. The American Citizens Services (ACS) Section at the U.S. Embassy Baghdad will continue to provide consular services to U.S. citizens in Basrah.  U.S. citizens should not travel through Iraq to Syria to engage in armed conflict, where they would face extreme personal risks (kidnapping, injury, or death) and legal risks (arrest, fines, and expulsion). The Kurdistan Regional Government stated that it will impose prison sentences of up to ten years on individuals who illegally cross the border. Additionally, fighting on behalf of, or supporting designated terrorist organizations, is a crime that can result in penalties, including prison time and large fines in the United States.   Due to risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of Iraq, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) and/or a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR)."

Back on May 5 John Bolton issued a statement that "in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force. The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces." On April 22 Pompeo said, "Today we are announcing the United States will not issue any additional Significant Reduction Exceptions to existing importers of Iranian oil. The Trump Administration has taken Iran’s oil exports to historic lows, and we are dramatically accelerating our pressure campaign in a calibrated way that meets our national security objectives while maintaining well supplied global oil markets. We stand by our allies and partners as they transition away from Iranian crude to other alternatives. We have had extensive and productive discussions with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other major producers to ease this transition and ensure sufficient supply. This, in addition to increasing U.S. production, underscores our confidence that energy markets will remain well supplied.  Today’s announcement builds on the already significant successes of our pressure campaign. We will continue to apply maximum pressure on the Iranian regime until its leaders change their destructive behavior, respect the rights of the Iranian people, and return to the negotiating table." Back in March before UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres came to Washington on March 13 reportedly hat in hand, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres would speak at his photo spray with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Inner City Press went - but Guterres, as is his way, said nothing. Photo here. Then this read out -- from US State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino: "The below is attributable to Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino:‎     "Secretary Michael R. Pompeo met today in Washington with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.  The Secretary extended his condolences on the tragic loss of life of United Nations affiliated personnel on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.  The Secretary and UN Secretary-General discussed the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, ongoing events in Venezuela, and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, among other matters.  The Secretary expressed concern that Iran’s destructive and disruptive activities across the Middle East undermine the UN’s efforts to resolve conflicts." Hours later UN Spokesperson tweeted a read out that was, it seems, not emailed out, and that does not mention Iran: "The Secretary-General met with H.E. Mr. Michael Pompeo, United States Secretary of State, today in Washington. They discussed the need for strong cooperation between the United States and the United Nations and addressed several issues of concern, such as Yemen and Venezuela. Additionally, they raised efforts under way, both for prevention and conflict resolution in several African and Middle East situations.   The Secretary-General also provided a status update on the on-going UN reform effort and encouraged continuing US engagement and support." Guterres' spokesman Dujarric did not answer, despite his promise, banned Inner City Press' questions including "March 13-3: On today's and tomorrow's SG team trip to Washington, (1) state how many and which UN staff are on the trip, (2) how much it costs, (3) which members of Congress the SG is meeting with, (4) whether this includes Sen Marco Rubio and if not, why not- did the SG request a meeting? (5) provide read-outs of all meetings or state why not." We'll have more on this. On March 11, too few questions were taken but afterward it was suggested to Inner City Press ask the question in writing. So it did: "Hi - earlier this afternoon after the (short) briefing about the budget, I asked about the provision that 15% of US contributions to the UN would be cut if the UN is not protecting whistleblowers.   It was suggested to me that I email you to ask: does the State Department currently believe that the UN is or is not sufficiently protecting whistleblowers, in light of such case as Anders Kompass and others who blew the whistle on UN and French peacekeepers' sexual abuse in CAR, recent cases at WIPO, etc." On March 12, this was the response to Inner City Press from a State Department spokesperson on background: "The United States believes that all international organizations should operate under modern, accountable management practices, including robust protections for whistleblowers.  The Department of States assesses these protections in the context of preparing the report to Congress required by section 7048(a) of the appropriations act, and raises shortcomings with senior leadership and other UN member states to spur corrective action.  The Department has been monitoring the UN’s protection of whistleblower protections, including recent improvements to the organization’s whistleblower protection policy, which has been a priority for Secretary-General Guterres." We'll have more on this - given Kompass, WIPO, etc. "Policy" and practice are two very different things. Watch this site. When Helen Clark who ran an open campaign for Secretary General won by the significantly less open Antonio Guterres spoke about drugs near the UN on November 19, Inner City Press went to ask and cover it. On the panel also were two UN officials, Craig Mokhiber of the office of Michelle Bachelet and Simone Monasebian, the New York Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Ms Monasebian recounted how some member states were prepared to break consensus on a paragraph on harm reduction in the annual resolution in the UN's Third Committee so that paragraph was removed. Inner City Press when called on asked the panel about the Security Council's heavy handed and military approach to drugs, for example in Afghanistan, and asked for more detail on the Third Committee which it for 138 days has been banned from accessing by UNSG Guterres. Ms. Monasebian noted that beyond Afghanistan the Security Council addressed drugs from 2009 under the Presidency of then Council member Burkina Faso through 2014. Mr. Mokhiber said that military approaches are counter productive. And Helen Clark when she spoke chided the shrinking of civil society space and attacks on journlists including exclusion from the UN across the road. Video here. It was appreciated, as were the event's hosts. Also on panel was Ann Fordham of IDPC and Moderator Jimena Leiva Roesc. The US sponsored and strong-armed statement of September was panned, and Ms. Fordham noted the US is not even pressing it in Vienna. There are relatively better parts of the UN - from which for now Inner City Press remains entirely banned by Guterres, without any due process. What other candidate would have done this? When youth leaders from South Sudan and DR Congo took questions on October 26, it was across the street from the UN and Inner City Press went to ask and live-stream. Video here. It asked about the performance of the UN Missions UNMISS and MONUSCO. Emilie Katondolo of the DRC's Young Women for Peace and Leadership said MONUSCO must do more to protect civilians, giving the killings in Beni as an example. Inner City Press before the October 26 noon briefing it was banned from for the 114th day in a row - and which featured not a single question on anything in Africa - asked Spokesman Stephane Dujarric and Farhan Haq, as well as USG Alison Smale who's banned it, "on deadline, what IS the UN doing? Also, from South Sudan Susan Kyunon Sebit William  told Inner City Press that UNMISS does not sufficiently protect civilians, particularly women, citing Terrain Hotel etc. What IS the UN doing? What did it learn?" Apparently nothing - these has been no answer. But it was an interesting GNWP event, with Lynrose Jane Dumandan Genon from the Philippines and Katrina Leclerk from Canada, where she says students in Manitoba have partnered with the Eastern Congo. Meanwhile today's UN bans press. When "the Role of Conventional Arms in Preventing Conflicts" was debated across First Avenue frm the UN on October 25, Inner City Press went, to ask a question. Video here. It asked UN Peacekeeping official Thomas Kontogeorgos what the UN has done about its negligent loss of weapons and ammunition - which Inner City Press asked about IN the UN before being banned as cover up by SG Antonio Guterres and his USG Alison Smale. Kontogeorgos to his credit answered, only somewhat evasively, that DPKO "provided inputs" to the Small Arms Survey, and now UNPOL passes information to INTERPOL (the disappearance of whose head Guterres has said nothing about, despite written questions from Inner City Press.). At the end of the IPI program, Youssef Mahmoud spoke about the elephant(s) in the room, selling arms. Afterward Dr. Mihaela Racovita of SAS told Inner City Press they are trying to make further inroads with DPKO, for example with the mission in Mali. We hope to have more on this - the lawless ban by Guterres and Smale, for reporting on UN corruption, is not helpful. But we will not stop. Back on September 5, hours after in the UN Security Council chamber UK Ambassador Karen Pierce said she supported the morning's meeting about Nicaragua due to refugee flows, across the street from the UN Inner City Press asked her why this logic didn't apply to the confict in the former British Southern Cameroons and the flight of Anglophones from state violence into Nigeria. Periscope video here.

     Pierce replied that a country is less likely to end up on the Security Council's agenda if it is taking some positive steps. But given 36 year Cameroonian head of state Paul Biya's torching of villages, what are his positive steps? A sceptic might point to the natural gas deal he signed with UK-based New Age, which UK Minister Liam Fox bragged around as showing UK companies can still get deals after Brexit.

   Also on the panel on the "Culture of Peace," moderated by Kevin Rudd, was Secretary General Antonio Guterres' head of policy planning Fabrizio Hochschild. When Inner City Press began a question to Hochschild, who had spoken with gruesome examples from Colombia of the need for opposing sides to humanize each other though “dignification,” Rudd cut it off.

Stepping off the crowded elevator at ground level Inner City Press endeavored to ask Hochschild the questions, both Cameroon and whether Guterres and his opaque Global Communicator Alison Smale, purporting to ban Inner City Press from the UN for life without once speaking with it, should engaged in some dignification. He declined to answer -- declined to dignify the question, so to speak -- then said “Ask Steph.”

It was a reference to Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who Smale has twice written would answer Inner City Press' question but who has refused to for a full week.

  This as Inner City Press, already banned from the UN for 64 days amid its questions on Guterres' inaction on Cameroon with the country's ambassador Tommo Monthe heading the UN Budget Committee, has an application pending to cover the UN General Assembly as it has for the past 11 years. Dignification, indeed. We'll have more on this.


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