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Although this Tribunal is supposed to be an impartial international body, it depends on financing and other cooperation from the Lebanese government. However, the government of national unity collapsed when 11 cabinet ministers from Hezbollah and allied groups resigned after months of negotiations brokered by Saudi Arabia and Syria failed to produce a compromise over the Tribunal.
Hezbollah, fearing that some of its members would be indicted by the Tribunal for involvement in the assassination, preemptively withdrew from the Lebanese government in the hope of sabotaging the Tribunal. As of the writing of this article, the Tribunal received its first indictment, but its contents remain confidential at this stage.
The Secretary General stressed the importance of continuing the work of the Tribunal but was unable to answer what would happen if a new government in Lebanon ceased funding the tribunal. “The Lebanese Government — whoever may be in power — has the responsibility to provide the funding,” he said.
Even if the Tribunal is able to continue to function and issue indictments against members of Hezbollah and others allegedly responsible for the assassination, who is going to enforce the indictments? The United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon – over 12,000 strong – has been unable to prevent Hezbollah from re-arming itself in violation of the ceasefire that ended hostilities with Israel in 2006. As a result, Hezbollah is not only better armed than the Lebanese army and police. In the words of a U.S. State Department spokesman, it is “the most technically-capable terrorist group in the world and a continued security threat to the United States.”
These three peacekeeping missions in the Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan and Lebanon illustrate the United Nations’ impotence in dealing with flashpoints of violence in the world. Such failures alone undercut its legitimacy. But the UN also manages to shoot itself in the foot by sponsoring hate fests such as the discredited Durban conferences against racism. The third such conference event is scheduled to be held at the UN’s New York headquarters this September.
Iran played a key role in the first two Durban conferences. At the 2009 Durban II conference, held in the UN’s Geneva headquarters, Iranian President Ahmadinejad opened the conference with an attack on Israel, which he called the most racist country in the world.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did publicly condemn Ahmadinijad’s speech, calling it “unacceptable,” a “very disturbing experience” and “destructive.” However, he remained seated during the entire speech, rather than walk out and thereby salvage whatever shred of dignity the UN had left. Although later admitting Iran had given him false assurances that its remarks at the Durban II conference would be “moderate,” the Secretary General stayed put while Israel and the UN itself were verbally attacked.
The reason Ban Ki-moon provided for his inaction, during a private meeting with high-level Israeli officials (which I reported on in my book Lethal Engagement) was that, as the presiding UN officer of the conference, he was obliged to stay.
Thus, I asked the Secretary General at his January 14th press conference what steps he intended to take to ensure that this September’s Durban III conference would not follow the same destructive pattern of the first two conferences. Here is his verbatim response:
” I’m aware of concerns over the Durban Conference. The Durban meeting itself is to promote reconciliation and dialogue and cooperation among different cultures and traditions and ethnic groups. So this in itself has a very good purpose. Somehow, in the course of debate, this Durban Conference has been very controversial and that is very unfortunate. The Durban meeting which is going to be held in September is not the formal meeting. This is going to be an event; therefore, we will have to manage, first of all, properly, not to raise such controversial emotional feelings. How to deal with this, how to use this Durban process — we may be able to expect and contribute to more a harmonious relationship between and among different understandings, religious faiths and traditions. As Secretary-General, and as I did last time during the Geneva Durban meeting, I will give my best effort to have smooth proceedings of this meeting.”
Unfortunately, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was not successful in Geneva. He needs to do much better this September at the Durban III conference in New York if the United Nations is to begin having even a shred of the “legitimacy” or “pulling power” that Ban Ki-moon is so intent on building.
Joseph A. Klein is the author of Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam.
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