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On Syria and Iran, Ban Ki-moon Eschews Security Council, Gets Dominated by US

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 22 -- After UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon un-invited Iran to the Syria talks in Switzerland, many focused on the obvious, that Ban had been openly dominated by the United States.

  This was nothing new - but Ban has gone further in excluding and devaluing the other members of the UN Security Council, not only debasing but delegitimating the UN Secretariat.

  On January 21 as the Security Council concluded a scheduled meeting about Central Asia, at the stakeout outside there were at most two media.

  This month's Security Council president, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan, stopped and amiably told the Press his impressions of Ban's reversal and of the upcoming talks, asking that some but not all of it be off-the-record.

  Significantly, Prince Zeid told Inner City Press of Ban's invitation to Iran to attend the talks, "we learned about it like everybody else, most other people," when Ban held a hastily arranged press conference on the evening of Sunday, January 19.

  Along with contrasts to the 1995 talks on Bosnia and more recent negotiations on the Crime of Aggression, Prince Zeid returned to Ban's reversal. "Clearly there was a miscalculation somewhere," he said, "yesterday there was a lot of back and forth." Not being "a principal," he said, he had not been told. (Inner City Press joked that if not a principal, he is a Prince.)

  But it's not just that he's a Prince, or a long-time Permanent Representative to the UN for a country directly impacted by the situation in Syria, taking in wave after wave of refugees. It's that he's the President of the Security Council, the body charged with international peace and security and that ostensibly oversees and thus legitimates Ban Ki-moon as Secretary General.

  But Ban has institutionalized a two-tier marginalization of most of the Security Council's Elected Ten members, for example meeting first with the Permanent Five and then with "the others."

  When Ban included nine other states with Iran in his last round of invitations to the Syria talks, these were Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Greece, the Holy See / Vatican, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands and South Korea.

  Ban's native South Korea and Luxembourg are on the Security Council. But not among his invitees to the talks in Switzerland from among current Security Council members are not only Chad -- which Ban uses for peacekeepers in Mali and, through MISCA, Central African Republic, and Rwanda, used there and in Darfur, but also Argentina, Lithuania, Chile and Nigeria.

(Argentina's Permanent Representative Perceval told Inner City Press that, in the Council's day to day work, she was headed to Darfur on January 18, as part of her work chairing the Council's Sudan Sanctions Committee.)

  While Security Council member countries like Argentina, Rwanda and even Jordan were kept out of the loop in the run-up to Ban's invitation to (and then dis-invitation of) Iran, Jordan's Prince Zeid for example has a wealth of experience. On January 21 he told the Press, "if in July of 1995 someone said in four months there'd be peace in Bosnia, after so much killing, after everything had failed, what analysts could have seen fighting would have stopped in three months?"

   Prince Zeid added another hopeful analogy, to the more recent negotiation of amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: "when we went to Kampala to negotiate the amendment to the crime of aggression, no one thought you could succeed, 193 lawyers, these are heads of legal departments, to agree there should be structure for this, no one thought it possible... It must be ratified by parliaments, it touched on the Charter. A colleague told the media, no way... In end, we had consensus."

  This seems unlikely for these Swiss talks on Syria. But Zeid said, "if two days after the start of the talks, both still there discussing baskets, something may happen."

  While respecting that, we note that something has already happened: Ban Ki-moon has eschewed the Security Council and been openly dominated by the United States. Where the legitimacy in that? Watch this site.


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