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Somali Starvation Shows Security Council Schizophrenia, Humanitarian Window Eyed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 18 -- Days after the UN Security Council expressed concern about its Somalia Sanctions report of food aid being diverted to Al Shabab, some Council members realized that merely blocking the World Food Program from working with three allegedly Al Shabab affiliated transportation companies had led to starvation.

While the Sanctions Committee's mandate was scheduled to be extended on March 19, now that will be March 22 or later. Inner City Press is told by numerous Council delegations of a discussion of a "humanitarian window" in which needed food aid could be delivered in Somalia, without regard to sanctions.

One delegation explained this to mean that the Sanctions Committee would "look away" for a period of time. "Willful blindness," it was called.

The U.S., which vociferously denies leaking the Sanctions report to the New York Times in Nairobi, has Al Shabab on its terrorism list. No Security Council resolutions, or lapse in UN sanctions regime, can change that.

The consideration of a humanitarian window seems to be an acknowledgement, if only implicitly, that the UN Sanctions regime has caused humanitarian harm to civilians. Does the U.S. / Obama Administration acknowledge that? One would need to hear from Ambassador Susan Rice, but hasn't. Watch this site.

US' Susan Rice, stakeout and humanitarian window not shown

Footnote: earlier this week, Inner City Press asked Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller, chairman of the Somalia Sanctions committee, about starvation in Somalia and the leak of the Sanctions report. Heller said that there was strong criticism of the leak inside the Council; Inner City Press was later told that Russia and the U.S. were the most vehement.

Ambassador Rice previously denounced the leak -- to Inner City Press -- of a draft North Korea sanctions resolution. Some believe that the U.S. -- not necessarily the mission -- leaked the Somalia Sanctions report to the NY Times in Nairobi. Would the U.S. Mission know if this were true?

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Staged Leak of UN Somali Sanctions Report Echoes Bogus  Shabab in Lebanon Claim of 2006

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON, March 11, updated -- A Somali firm fired back Thursday night at the staged leak of a UN sanctions report to the New York Times and then other media. Deeqa Construction and its principal Abdulkadir Nur issued a two page denial, via a public relations firm after first having hired a Washington law firm. Click here to view.

  Noteworthy in the coverage in the New York Times and then wire services of the report by the UN Somalia Sanctions Committee was the failure to mention that this same committee (and newspaper) reported in 2006 that many Somalis had been trained in South Lebanon alongside Hezbollah. This report gave rise to denials and derision and has never been substantiated. But this week's leak was taken at face value.

  The report was shown in a coordinated, almost choreographed process of leaking, although in more than one city, in which reporters were shown but not given a copy of the report, allowed to record themselves reading the document but not taking notes on it. This is not investigative journalism, it is being a ventriloquist. Although some at least held out to see the whole report, and not only the portions, doled out in Naibori, which support the US' cut of aid to WFP.

UN's Ban and TFG president, Shabab in Lebanon not shown

  Inner City Press is rarely an apologist or defender for UN agencies like the World Food Program. In fact, Inner City Press is inclined to believe that WFP and UNICEF would allow diversion of aid, just as up to 25% of aid after Cyclone Nargis was allowed to be stolen by the Than Shwe military regime in Myanmar, with the UN covering it up.

  But these reports of diversion in Somalia, with the aura of the Al Shabab Islamist insurgency, have resulted in the cutting of aid by the U.S. and reportedly the UK, and increased starvation of Somali civilians. At a UN stakeout on camera, Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice for specifics, but none were provided. Click here for that story.

  Earlier this week, Inner City Press timely submitted this question to the UK's David Miliband, again without promised response. Click here that (non) story. Not all leaks are created equal. Scooter Libby feeding the New York Times' Judith Miller lies about Iraq was not investigative journalism, but the manipulation of elite media by those in power. And this? Watch this site.

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Susan Rice of US Insists UN "Misconstrues" Somalia Aid Restrictions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 19 -- Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN, accused the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden of "misconstruing" US restrictions on aid. Ambassador Rice asserted a "diversion of resources" to the Islamist group Al Shabab. Since it is on US terrorism lists, US law requires the restrictions the US is demanding.

   But what are these U.S. restrictions? Bowden, while publicly complaining about them, would not provide any description. Rather, he said that when he went to Washington to discussed them with US aid officials, they told him the issue was "above [their] pay grade."

  Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rice about precisely this quote. She insisted that it is Al Shabab which is responsible for the lack of aid. Video here, transcript below.

  But what of Bowden's quoting of US aid officials? A US State Department official in Washington, described as "irritated," has said of Bowden, "We're going to talk to him." The quote reminded on UN observer of "something from the Sopranos," or the Mafia film "Good Fellas."

 When Bowden's boss, top UN humanitarian John Holmes, stood before a UN microphone on Thursday evening, Inner City Press asked him to explain what Bowden had said, and to describe the US restrictions to which the UN is publicly taking exception.

  But Holmes responded that the message was only that the UN needs more funds. Even pressed, he declined to follow or back up Bowden. Video here, last question.

  Was this "good cop, bad cop," an observer mused afterwards. Or was Holmes showing his political stripes, declining to criticize the U.S. as, for example, his predecessor Jan Egeland did after the tsunami?

Susan Rice back on Jan. 26, US Somalia aid restrictions not shown

  Following Ambassador Rice's two responses to the Press about Somalia, she went in to a Security Council meeting about Haiti. Speaking first, from a prepared text, was the UN's John Holmes. So goes diplomacy at the UN.

Footnotes: While Ambassador Rice also took two questions about Iran's nuclear program, the Press was not able to ask for her views on developments in Sudan and Darfur, or on anti-democratic moves in Niger and Cote d'Ivoire, nor the incorporation of a presumptive war criminal into Guinea's interim government. But the answers on Somalia, although of a piece with Washington's script, were appreciated.

  Thursday a UN official told Inner City Press that "Susan Rice, as an expected future Secretary of State, is playing it safe. She will not, for example, criticize [former South African president Thabo] Mbeki about Sudan." Until questions are asked, and answered, we'll stick to an open mind.

From the US Mission to the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: On Somalia, the U.N. has said that the U.S. is politicizing aid, and has made restrictions that make it impossible to feed people in southern Somalia. Could you say what the restrictions are and what the reasons for them are?

Ambassador Rice: Well, first of all we utterly reject that claim; we think it's false and unfounded. The reason why aid is not now proceeding to the people of southern Somalia is one reason alone and it's quite clear: it's Al Shabaab's attacks on WFP and other U.N. agencies, its kidnapping of innocent relief workers, its extortion of funds which prompted WFP on January 5th to take the decision that it could not and would not continue to deliver life saving assistance in southern Somalia. That's an unfortunate development but it is a direct consequence of Al Shabaab's attacks and efforts. The U.S. is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Somalia, we have been consistently over many years, and in 2009 we contributed $150 million in humanitarian assistance to Somalia. So, as I said we reject that claim as false and unfounded.

Inner City Press: One follow up, Mark Bowden of the UN had said when he traveled to Washington and met with USAID officials they said to him that the decision was above their pay-grade and was being made by the State Department on a political basis.

Ambassador Rice: He's conflating and misconstruing two different things. The reason why the people of Somalia in the South are not able to receive the assistance that we and others have traditionally provided at present is because WFP took a decision, a decision they felt compelled to take and we understand why they had to take it, that they could no longer continue to provide assistance safely, given Al Shabaab's harassment, attacks, and terrorist activities. The question of how the U.S. government has responded, and we have been in discussions with humanitarian delivery agencies about the fact that we have grave concerns about the diversion of resources to Al Shabaab and other terrorist organizations in contravention of U.S. law. And we have had those discussions, they have been ongoing but nonetheless, the U.S. provided $150 million of humanitarian assistance to Somalia last year. We remain, as we have been for many years, the largest donor, and what is precluding the delivery of assistance to people in southern Somalia is Al Shabaab.

 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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