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Holbrooke Scoops UN's Ban as de Mistura Brags, Nepotism by Proxy

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 9 -- With the UN still desperately claiming no decision has been made to name Staffan de Mistura as its envoy to Kabul, de Mistura bragged to the U.S.' Richard Holbrooke that the job is his. Holbrooke in turn told Foreign Policy's nimble Cable, which published it late Friday, to the Web and yes, to Inner City Press, which earlier in the week had predicted de Mistura and asked Ban Ki-moon about it.

  This UN is the gang that can't shoot straight. By Saturday, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky was insisting to AFP's Washington bureau that no decision had been made, that Ban was the only one who could make it. But the moment for him to have done so was, at latest, on January 6, when he briefed the Security Council on Afghanistan.

  Afterwards Ban read notes to the Press and took some questions. Inner City Press asked about the New York Times' editorial, which plugged Jean Marie Guehenno over de Mistura, who it called a low key bureaucrat. The choice is "my prerogative," Ban told Inner City Press, not for the NYT to make. This telegraphed the choice. But still Ban let his choice and Richard Holbrooke scoop him.

  Why would de Mistura brag? Perhaps to nail it down, and not wait until the January 28 conference in London. Anything could happen, between now and then.

  Inner City Press and the Washington Post (and Friday's Foreign Policy, which Ban and the South Korean press have previously been quick to point out is owned by the Washington Post) have already noted that de Mistura's stock rose with Ban when he hired Ban's son in law Siddarth Chatterjee as his chief of staff while serving in Iraq.

  (This pattern of nepotism by proxy, or by Chatterjee, has continued in Copenhagen, where Jan Mattsson of UNOPS in turn hired Chatterjee, for a D-1 post in the process of being upgraded to D-2, another leap).

   But de Mistura whole rise has been fueled by "suck-up hires," as one long time observer put it. Under Kofi Annan, de Mistura hired the son of Annan's chief of staff Iqbal Riza. Since as Ban's Congo envoy Alan Doss knew and worked around, parent and child can't both work for the UN, Riza's son got his paychecks through another name. But the effect was the name: rise by hiring the close relatives of Turtle Bay's powerful.

UN's Ban and Holbrooke, knife (or Cable) in back not shown

  Just as Hamid Karzai previously vetoed Paddy Ashdown, Inner City Press is told he'd like to veto de Mistura, probably even more so now that Holbrooke has endorsed him. But he'll likely lack the leverage to do so at the January 28 conference. So what can happen, between now and then? Watch this site.

Footnote: late Friday in the UN's new three story building on its East River fronting Norht Lawn, Inner City Press informed three well placed officials about Holbrooke's use of The Cable. One who said Holbrooke was behind the NYT editorial shook his head and called it deft and even devious, while asking, "What has Holbrooke accomplished, in either Af or Pak?"

  Another said the puppet master behind the NYT editorial wasn't Holbrooke but rather the U.S.' Permanent Representative to the UN. (She was in DC Friday, among other things meeting with Hilary Clinton.) The third mused that Guehenno, something of a dandy and man about town, might have met the retired NYT editorial writer Unger at some expensive restaurant. The rest, as they say, is history.

* * *

At UN, Kai Eide's Swansong and Ban's Prerogative, Afhgan Veto in Wings

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 6, updated Jan. 7 -- As outgoing UN envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide spoke in the Security Council Wednesday morning, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin slumped next to him, non-plussed. Eide fell under fire not only for allegedly covering up President Hamid Karzai's election fraud in 2009, but also from Russia and others for being, in their view, too willing to talk with the Taliban.

  The question of who will replace Eide has already been decided by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a senior Ban advisor told Inner City Press on the evening of January 5. Publicly, it's between Staffan de Mistura, favored by the U.S. and Ban, and Jean-Marie Guehenno, favored by France (and pronounced by the Russian mission as "Gavno," or excrement.)

  The self-styled Paper of Record slammed both Kai Eide and de Mistura's "low key style" and "bureaucratic instincts." The UN's response, seeming decided on at a meeting Monday morning and crystallized in talking points, was to question why the paper chimed in with an editorial at this time.

As the Security Council's gabfest on Afghanistan came to an end, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon what he made of the New York Times editorial. He said he had read it, but that choosing the replacement of Kai Eide is his "prerogative." But what about Hamid Karzai's veto?

 As to the origins of the Gray Lady's editorial, while the U.S. State Department is pushing de Mistura, there are other views in Foggy Bottom, with direct access to Times Square.  The finger points at Richard Holbrooke, and as the actual author the retired op-ed writing Robert Unger. Last time, Holbrooke lobbied Ban to get Peter Galbraith appointed. Given how that worked out, the theory goes, Holbrooke couldn't lobby Ban directly, but rather had to work through the Times. But Ban has in essence shot it down.

UN's Ban, Kai Eide moving out of focus, Karzai veto

   Left unanswered for a week now are questioned posed to spokesman Martin Nesirky about Ban Ki-moon's son in law Siddarth Chatterjee, hired by de Mistura in Iraq, later promoted by Jan Mattsson at UNOPS in Copenhagen, in both cases reportedly to gain favor with Mr. Ban. On January 6, Nesirky for the first time cut off questions, saying at 12:30 that Ban was about to speak at the Security Council stakeout. But up to 12:50, Ban had still not appeared.

  Others muse that Ban Ki-moon's call for NATO to name a civilian / humanitarian czar is a fall back position. If de Mistura is vetoed by Karzai, he could go for the UN-urged NATO position. It would be nice to get more of these questions answered, but at this UN it is not happening. Watch this site.

Footnote: as the Council meeting broke up Mona Jul, Norwegian Deputy Ambassador, and lambaster of Mr. Ban, waited and greeted Kai Eide. In her anti-Ban memo, the only SRSG she praised was... her paisan Kai Eide. Eide will hold a press conference at the UN on January 7. We'll be there.

Update January 7, 8:21 a.m. -- And then it was canceled:

Please note that the press briefing that had been scheduled for 10:00 am on Thursday by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, has been cancelled. Mr. Eide is traveling to Washington, D.C. today and is unavailable for the briefing.

   And so Kai Eide goes out as he came in. Al Kai Eide, we hardly knew ye...

* * *

UN's Afghan Selection Colored by Nepotism and No-Show Jobs, Karzai Veto Threats

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 1 -- With the short list for the UN's top post in Afghanistan reportedly narrowed down to three, UN sources confirm to Inner City Press that the push is on to get approval for Staffan de Mistura, currently in a virtually no-show job with the World Food Program.

  What many in the UN but few outside it talk about is di Mistura's previous choice of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's son in law Siddarth Chatterjee as his deputy in Iraq, and the role they think this plays in de Mistura's frontrunner status.

  While Mr. Ban has shown discomfort and anger about any questions concerning the fast promotions his son in law has received since he became Secretary General, few explanations have been given.

  That UN officials like de Mistura and now Jan Mattsson of the UN Office of Project Services, where Chatterjee has been given a D-1 position that is quietly being upgraded to D-2, ingratiate themselves with UN Headquarters by promoting the Secretary General's son in law has also not been addressed.

  Inner City Press, which covered both of these Chatterjee promotions, the latter exclusively, was chided by Mr. Ban's previous Spokesperson Michele Montas to stop asking about Chatterjee in the UN's noon briefings, but rather to get answers from Ban's senior advisor Kim Won-soo.

   This meeting was quickly changed to be "off the record," and then canceled. South Korea's Deputy Permanent Representative then took Inner City Press to lunch and provided a detailed defense of the promotions and of Mr. Ban. (Later, he claimed the lunch was only about September's UN General Debate.)

   Chatterjee himself took to calling and making legal threats to journalists who had picked up on Inner City Press' reports on his promotions, and getting them removed from the Internet, at least from web sites hosted in his native India.

  It is not clear if Chatterjee made these calls during time he was being paid by UNOPS. It is clear, however, that UNOPS devoted staff time to media strategies to defend Chatterjee's promotions and Chatterjee himself, work it hard to imagine being done if he was not the UN Secretary General's son in law.

  In the week between Christmas and New Year, Inner City Press submitted to Mr. Ban's new Spokesman Martin Nesirky questions about Siddarth Chatterjee, including about his promotions, qualifications and fitness.

  While on the afternoon of Christmas Eve Mr. Nesirky's office provided at least cursory answers to other questions asked, including referring questions about possible nepotism by a Ban appointee to another spokesperson, the questions about Ban's son in law not only were not answered, they were not mentioned. But they will not go away. The responses are being sought only in fairness, explicitly on deadline. Watch this site.

UN's Ban and de Mistura, son in law answers and Karzai veto not shown

   The other two named candidates are Jean Marie Guehenno, strangely with the backing of the New York Times, and Ian Martin, currently in an ill-defined role with the UN Department of Political Affairs. What the Times did not mention about Mr. Guehenno, in fairness, is that after he was replaced by fellow Frenchman Alain Le Roy, he was given a no show UN Under Secretary General position for "Regional Cooperation."

  While that post should have involved liaising between the UN and NATO, for example, or ECOWAS or even the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, months into the job Guehenno candidly admitted to Inner City Press that he had done no work at all. He was shut in writing a book. How its publication, or the timing of its publication, may be related to the current campaigning for the Kabul post is not clear.

  Following his candor, Guehenno clammed up. At a recent forum about illegal mining in the Congo, at which questions about the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Congo's involvement with rogue Army units who mine and massacres, Guehenno explicitly refused to answer any questions from Inner City Press. While in the midst of his campaign for Kabul he perhaps felt he had nothing to gain, ham handed rebuffing of the press would not make Guehenno that different front Kai Eide, outgoing in only one of the word's two senses.

  Ironically, Guehenno is also mentioned by human rights groups as a candidate to take over from Alan Doss at the UN Mission in the Congo. Doss is himself embroiled in a nepotism scandal since Inner City Press received and published his e-mail telling the UN Development Program to bend and break UN rules and give a job to his daugther.

  Mr. Ban five months ago promised an investigation, but some attribute the delay to Ban's own resistance to nepotism questions. Doss may be allowed to serve out his contract then Guehenno, if still available, be given the Congo job.

  Ian Martin appeared to go a good job in Nepal, although it appears now to be unraveling. When Inner City Press asked him in a UN hallway about Kabul, Martin laughed. Later he clarified he was not laughing with Inner City Press, only laughing. And laughter may be one of the many things there is not enough of in Kabul.

Footnote: Inner City Press is also told that the U.S., not wanting to be upstaged in Afghanistan, has joined Ban in pushing President Hamid Karzai to accept de Mistura. But Karzai, who previously vetoed the proposal to make Paddy Ashdown a "Super Envoy" to Afghanistan, is near to issuing a similar veto of di Mistura. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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