Monday, December 13, 2004

Knives are out

Dec.13 2004
Knives are out

pv vivekanand

IT IS retribution time for the Bush administration against those who pulled the rug from under the feet of its justification for the unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq and its plans for action against Iran. That is why people like UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who stood firm against granting UN legitimacy for the war and called it illegal, and Mohammed Al Baradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who certified Iraq did not have an ongoing programme of nuclear weapons, are finding themselves at the receiving end of allegations and targeted for efforts to remove them.

In Annan's case, the UN chief is facing allegations that his son, Kojo, received upto $150,000 from a Swiss company which had benefited Iraq's oil-for-food programme administered by the UN. Seen against the light of revelations that some senior UN officials had also gained from the same programme, which was allegedly misused by Saddam Hussein to divert funds to illegal beneficiaries, the pressure on Annan was immense. Add to that allegations over a sexual harassment case dismissed by Annan, and of exploitation by peacekeepers in Congo.

For the moment, however, the Bush administration is holdings its horses against Annan after it found an overwhelming majority of world leaders, including American allies such as Tony Blair, rallying behind the UN chief and reaffirming confidence in him and his abilities to lead the world body.

It was a clear volte-face when US Ambassador to the UN John C Danforth said on Thursday that the Bush administration did not want Annan to leave the UN.

"Some have suggested to me that it appears what the US wants to do is to force the resignation of the secretary general," Danforth said. "It is important for us, the United States, to clarify our position. We are not suggesting or pushing for the resignation of the secretary general. We have worked well with him in the past. We anticipate working with him very well in the future for the time to come."

Bush's reticence

Danforth's comment had to be seen against President George Bush's reticence, only a week earlier, to support Annan. Bush had repeatedly declined to issue an unambiguous expression of support. Asked whether he believed Annan should resign, Bush said last week "there ought to be a full and fair and open accounting of the oil-for-food programme" so American taxpayers will "feel comfortable about supporting the United Nations."

Danforth had also defended Bush's stand by asserting that a public expression of confidence in Annan might prejudge investigations into alleged irregularities in Iraq's oil-for-food programme. However, he could not offer any explanation why only the US felt so while almost all other members of the UN expressed confidence in Annan. Those expressions came in the one week between Bush's public statement shying away from voicing confidence in Annan and Danforth's outright statement saying the US "anticipated working with him in the future for the time to come."

Obviously, the world majority's stand on Annan persuaded Washington to publicly freeze its drive to get rid of him.

Some suggest that the neocons are going after the UN through Annan, who has two more years of his second term to serve as UN chief.

Edward Luck, a Columbia University professor who specialises in the UN, said in recent comments carried by the Boston Globe:

"On a strategic level, much of the (Bush) administration rejects what the UN stands for. . . . The secretary general has been a Teflon secretary general and has had a relatively high and positive public profile as a vanguard of multilateralism, while looking for an alternative of American dominance. They haven't had a good way of going after him until now."

No doubt, the neoconservatives of Washington are behind the smear campaign against the UN chief for his firm stand against the war against Iraq. Indeed, Annan has given them additional reasons by calling the war illegal and then denouncing the recent American-led assault against Fallujah.

Annan's warning against the assault was strong. He said: "The threat or actual use of force not only risks deepening the sense of alienation of certain communities (in Iraq), but would also reinforce perceptions among the Iraqi population of a continued military occupation."

He also frustrated Washington by refusing to send more than two dozen electoral workers to help with elections in Iraq

The evidence of the neocon drive against Annan is there. The news that Anna's son received payments from the Swiss company that was a contractor in the oil-for-food programme first appeared in The New York Sun, which belongs to Canadian Conrad Black and which is seen to serve as a mouthpiece for the neocons (according to Jude Wanniski, a former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal).

Conrad is a long-time associate of Richard Perle, the most prominent neo-con in the Bush camp and a director of the Jerusalem Post, one of Black`s many media holdings, Wanniski points out.

Moving against UN

Richard Holbrooke, the US ambassador to the United Nations under president Bill Clinton and an Annan backer, has said: "The danger now is that a group of people who want to destroy or paralyse the UN are beginning to pick up support from some of those whose goal is to reform it."

Annan, like his predecessors, is a bitter critic of Israel and that gives the neocons all the more reason to seek to get rid of him. He has repeatedly condemned Israel's brutal crackdown against the Palestinians and its blatant refusal to abide by UN resolutions and international laws.

In Baradei's case, the Egyptian who assumed the helm of the IAEA in 1997 is facing unofficial charges that he somehow helped Iran escape international punitive measures for developing a programme to make nuclear weapons. However, his real "crime" in the neocons' eyes is that he repeatedly reported the truth to the international community that IAEA inspections had failed to find any sign of Saddam developing nuclear weapons since the 1990s at a time when the Bush administration insisted that he had large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

It was reported on Sunday that the administration had secretly recorded Baradei's phone calls with Iranian diplomats and is scrutinising them in search of ammunition to oust him as IAEA director.

According to the Washington Post, which broke the story, "the efforts against Baradei demonstrate the lengths some within the administration are willing to go to replace a top international diplomat who questioned US intelligence on Iraq and is now taking a cautious approach on Iran."

Baradei an obstacle

Obviously, the US sees Baradei as an obstacle in the way of diplomatic as well as military action for "regime change" in Iran -- a priority for Bush in his second term.

While the taped conservations have not produced "any evidence of nefarious conduct" by Baradei, "some within the administration believe they show Baradei lacks impartiality because he tried to help Iran navigate a diplomatic crisis over its nuclear programmes."

Baradei, 62, who used to teach international law at New York University before becoming IAEA chief, is known to be well-respected inside the UN. A majority of the members of the IAEA board is said to favour a third term for him beginning next summer.

Many analysts believe that Washington found it difficult to convince the required number of IAEA board members to vote against a third term for Baradei and therefore is seeking material to strengthen its argument that Baradei should be retired so that he no longer poses a hurdle in the way of American action against Iran in the name of Tehran's nuclear programme.

That the US is planning military action against Iran was made clear by another prominent neoconservative in the Bush administration.

Under-Secretary of Defence for Policy Douglas J. Feith, one of the most hawkish neocons who orchestrated the invasion and occupation of Iraq citing Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction, shrouded the warning against Iran in diplomatic jargon.

In an interview with Israel's Jerusalem Post, Feith, who will stay on with Bush in the president's second term at the White House, says Washington hopes that Iran will follow Libya's lead in abandoning its nuclear programme, but nobody should rule out the possibility of military action against Teheran's nuclear sites if it does not.

Follow Libya

According to Feith, the US is now concentrating on "a process to try to get the existing international legal mechanisms -- the (Nuclear) Non-Proliferation Treaty (and) the International Atomic Energy Agency -- to work, to bring the kind of pressure to bear on Iran that would induce the Iranians to follow the path that Libya took in deciding that they were actually better off in abandoning their WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programmes."

However, he added, "I don't think that anybody should be ruling in or ruling out anything while we are conducting diplomacy."

Feith is one of the most controversial members of the Bush administration and is a staunch supporter of Israel. He was co-author of a strategy document drafted for the then Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, advising him to "eliminate" the Saddam Hussein regime first if Israel were to gain domination of the Middle East region against Arab resistance.

Israel is campaigning for military action against Iran's nuclear facilities. However, military strategists say, it would take attacks on at least 300 different sites in Iran to destroy what the US claims as that country's nuclear weapons programme. Tehran denies it is working on developing nuclear weapons, and this position is largely endorsed by the IAEA.

Among those anxious to see Baradei go is Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control John R. Bolton, whose declarations on Iran have been contradicted by the IAEA chief.

According to Robert Einhorn, a former assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation, "however this effort (to remove Baradei) is justified by the administration, the assumption internationally will be that the United States was blackballing Baradei because of Iraq and Iran."

The US State Department has already started tapping potential candidates to succeed Baradei and these include, according to the Washington Post, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, two Japanese diplomats, two South Korean officials and a Brazilian disarmament expert.

However, Downer is in the shortlist of one, but he is reportedly unwilling to challenge Baradei. The deadline for submitting alternative candidates is Dec. 31.

It is clear that the neoconservatives have pulled out their knives now that Bush has been re-elected, and they are going after anyone and everyone of significance who stand in the way of their designs for American supremacy of the globe in a manner best suited to serve Israeli interests in the bargain.