Yesterday, I wrote a story -- published in the Washington Post and posted on this blog -- detailing how flawed intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program had cast a shadow over an ongoing effort to establish the facts surrounding the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. A former inspector from the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq took issue with my characterization of the Iraq effort as the "fruitless pursuit of lethal stockpiles that had long before been destroyed" and directed me to an official list of UNSCOM achievements.
It is true that UNSCOM was responsible for identifying and destroying large numbers of dormant chemical and biological weapons in Saddam's arsenals. But U.N. weapons inspections endured for so long -- more than 15 years -- because Iraq had secretly destroyed many of its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the summer of 1991, telling the U.N. it had feared U.S. military retaliation if the stocks were ever discovered.
U.N. inspectors -- unable to obtain persuasive documentary proof from the Iraqis that the weapons had been destroyed -- engaged in a largely "fruitless" effort to find them or corroborate Iraq's claims that they no longer existed. It was not until after Saddam Hussein's overthrow that the CIA's Iraq Survey Group -- headed by a former U.N. inspector, Charles Duelfer -- provided a definitive account indicating that Iraq had destroyed most of its chemical and biological weapons programs by 1991. Here's a link to UNSCOM's official achievements page for a fuller list of weapons destroyed.
"UNSCOM has uncovered significant undeclared proscribed weapons programmes, destroyed elements of these programmes so far identified, including equipment, facilities and materials, and has been attempting to map out and verify the full extent of these programmes in the face of Iraq's serious efforts to deceive and conceal," reads the UNSCOM statement.
"Examples of what has been uncovered since 1991 include: the existence of Iraq's offensive biological warfare programme; the chemical nerve agent VX and other advanced chemical weapons capabilities; and Iraq's indigenous production of proscribed missiles engines. Following these discoveries, UNSCOM has directed and supervised the destruction or rendering harmless of several identified facilities and large quantities of equipment for the production of chemical and biological weapons as well as proscribed long-range missiles."
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Iran, North Korea, Syria, and the National Rifle Association are grabbing all the headlines for opposing an Arms Trade Treaty that is designed to prohibit the delivery of weapons to countries accused of committing gross human rights violations or subject to an international arms embargo.
But they are not the only ones with misgivings about a new global arms trade treaty. In all, 23 governments cast abstentions, a gesture designed to show discomfort, if not open hostility, to the new arms accord. It would have been 24, but Venezuela, which has not paid its U.N. arrears, is barred from voting in the U.N. General Assembly.
China and Russia, two of the world largest arms exporters, abstained. Russia's U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, registered his disapproval by noting that while the draft had some "positive elements" it also suffered from " a number of other shortcomings." Chief among them: the lack of an explicit prohibition on the supply of weapons to non-state actors that would, for example, restrain the ability of Syria's armed opposition from building up its stockpile.
Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the opposition to the treaty, not only by Syria, Iran, and North Korea, but also by Russia, was politically motivated. "It's no surprise these countries are not supporting the treaty. There is no surprise that Russia expressed qualms about this. Bashar al-Assad's regime is depending on Russian and Iranian military aid and that assistance would be prohibited if this treaty were in force today."
But those arming the Syrian opposition were no happier with the arms treaty than Russia.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Persian Gulf powers reported to be arming the Syrian opposition, were among the 23 U.N. members who cast abstentions on the vote for the landmark treaty in the U.N. General Assembly. Others included their Persian Gulf allies, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Yemen. The United Arab Emirates was alone in the region voting in favor of the new arms pact.
India, a major arms importer, had complained before today's vote that the draft treaty was "tilted" in favor of the world's leading arms exporters. That was after New Delhi extracted a concession that explicitly guaranteed that the treaty would have no impact on defense cooperation agreements between governments. But during today's General Assembly meeting, India's chief negotiator, Sujata Mehta, said the text "falls short of our expectations." Among its shortcoming, he said, it "is weak on terrorism and non-state actors."
While support for the treaty was widespread in Latin America and Africa, there were notable pockets of resistance. Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua -- countries that frequently vote against the United States and its allies -- cast abstentions. A Bolivian diplomat denounced the treaty as the product of a "death industry" that cares more about "profit" than "human suffering.
In Africa, where support for the treaty was strongest, a handful of countries -- Angola, Egypt, Sudan, and Swaziland -- cast abstentions. There were reports, however, that Angola supported the treaty but accidentally hit the "abstain" button during the vote.
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The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly this morning to create the first international treaty regulating the global arms trade, a landmark decision that imposes new constraints on the sale of conventional arms to governments and armed groups that commit war crimes, genocide, and other mass atrocities.
The U.N. vote was hailed by arms control advocates and scores of governments, including the United States, as a major step in the international effort to enforce basic controls on the $70 billion international arms trade. But it was denounced by Iran, North Korea, and Syria, for imposing new restrictions that prevent smaller states from buying and selling arms to ensure their self-defense.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised the General Assembly for approving "a strong, effective and implementable arms trade treaty that can strengthen global security while protecting the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade."
Kerry said that the treaty "applies only to international trade and reaffirms the sovereign right of any state to regulate arms within its territory. As the U.S. has required from the outset of these negotiations, nothing in this treaty could ever infringe on the rights of American citizens under our domestic law or the Constitution, including the Second Amendment."
Kerry said the treaty would establish "a common national standard" -- similar to that already in place in the United States -- for regulating global trade in conventional arms. It would also reduce the risk that arms sales would be used to "carry out the world's worst crimes, including terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes."
The 193 member assembly voted 154 to 3 to adopt the treaty. There were 23 abstentions, including major arms traders like China, India, and Russia, as well as countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, that have been supplying weapons to armed opposition groups in Syria, The treaty, which will open for signatures on June 3, will go into force 90 days after it is ratified by 50 states.
The vote came four days after Iran, North Korea, and Syria -- three governments who would likely be targeted by the new measures -- blocked the adoption of the treaty by consensus, arguing that it failed to bar sales to armed groups or foreign occupiers, and that it would strengthen the ability of big powers to restrict small states' ability to buy weapons.
But the vote revealed broader misgivings about the treaty by dozens of countries -- including Egypt, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan -- that the treaty would grant an unfair advantage to the world's largest arms exporters. India's chief negotiator, Sujata Mehta, explained her government's decision to abstain, saying today that the treaty "is weak on terrorism and non-state actors." She previously objected that the "weight of obligations is tilted against importing states."
The United States, which co-sponsored the treaty, said that several U.S. agencies will conduct a review of the treaty before it is presented to President Barack Obama for signature. The treaty would also require ratification by the United States Senate.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) -- which has contended the treaty would weaken Second Amendment gun rights in the United States -- has pledged to fight the treaty's ratification in the Senate.
But U.S. officials and several non-governmental organizations, including the American Bar Association, an attorneys' lobbying group, have challenged the NRA's position, saying the treaty would have no impact on Americans' gun rights. The treaty language recognizes the "legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical and sporting activities."
Iran, meanwhile, protested last week that the treaty had provided specific protections for U.S. gun owners, while failing to provide protections for people living under foreign occupation.
Under the treaty, states are banned from transferring arms to countries, including Iran and North Korea, that are subject to U.N. arms embargoes, or to countries believed to be preparing to use them to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.
The treaty would require governments to establish a national record-keeping system that would allow them to track the trade in conventional arms, and to ensure that weapons are not illegally diverted to terrorist organizations or other armed groups. It would also require that governments conduct a risk assessment to determine the likelihood that arms exports are being used to violate or abuse human rights, particularly against women or children.
The arms treaty would apply to several categories of conventional arms, including battle tanks, combat aircraft, warships, attack helicopters, missiles, and small arms. The treaty includes exemptions that would allow the consideration of defense cooperation agreements between governments and allow states to transfer weapons across international borders, so long as the weapons remain under that state's control.
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The first phase of France's military offensive against Islamist insurgents in Mali will likely come to an end in the coming weeks or months, giving way to a more open-ended, nation-building exercise. It remains unclear what such a mission would look like, what it would do, and who would formally lead it. Though one thing appears all but certain: France is likely to be at the center.
In Paris and New York, peacekeeping and military planners have been seeking to fashion a plan that could ensure long-term stability in northern towns recently captured from militant Islamists by French and Malian forces, prod Bamako to negotiate a political settlement with the country's restive Tuaregs, and ultimately lay the groundwork for national elections.
So far, the United States, France, and Britain appear to be coalescing around a proposal to send U.N. peacekeepers to Mali to secure newly captured towns and to serve as a facilitator for future political talks. The proposal is likely to face some resistance from African powers, who will provide most of the troops for a peacekeeping mission, and who have demonstrated an increasing appetite for managing regional military and peacekeeping operations.
But the more immediate question is about France's intention. Paris has not decided what military and peacekeeping role it will play in the future, if any. Here's a series of options reportedly under consideration:
1. No French force remains in Mali. On the outer range of French planning, this contingency is probably the easiest option to eliminate. There are some 6,000 French nationals living in and around the capital of Bamako, and it was their fate that prodded French special forces into action in the first place. They're not likely to allow a repeat.
2. France could leave behind a battalion of up to 800 troops or so, kit them out with blue helmets, and have them provide the backbone of a future U.N. peacekeeping mission. The benefit of this strategy is that it would encourage other European powers -- who have advanced military capability and are comfortable serving under U.N. command -- to serve alongside the French and its African partners. France has played a similar role in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.
3. France could leave behind an independent contingent of forces under French military command. They would serve as a guarantor for a separate U.N. peacekeeping mission, which would be comprised primarily of African peacekeepers. This is similar to the role it played in Ivory Coast, where French troops played a lead role in the military campaign to force former Ivoirian leader Laurent Gbagbo from power following his election defeat.
4. France could maintain a larger military force in Mali through a bilateral agreement with Bamako along the lines of its military presence in Chad, where French forces intervened in 1986 to protect then President Hissene Habre, who had come under attack from Libya. The French operation -- dubbed Sparrowhawk -- has never formally ended, and a small force of French troops still maintains a presence. This scenario, however, seems unlikely. French President Francois Hollande has voiced reluctance to keep boots on the ground and his U.N. envoy, Gerard Araud, has insisted that France is keen to end the military operation as soon as possible, though not sooner than necessary. At the moment, France has begun discussion with other key international and African powers about the prospects of presenting a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a new force.
The U.N. has had mixed feelings about France's approach to Mali. In December, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed serious misgivings about the wisdom of France's initial plan to have African and European officers, and supported by the United Nations, back a campaign by the Malian army to retake the north by force from Islamist insurgents, saying that military force should only be used as a "last resort." Ban's hesitance reflected anxiety about the consequences of direct U.N. participation in a military operation against al Qaeda. While Ban has applauded the French military intervention as a necessary response to a sudden Islamist military advance towards the capital, Ban has resisted appeals for greater direct support for the mission.
"I am obliged to bring to the attention of the Security Council the assessment of the Secretariat that, if the United Nations were to provide logistics support to military forces engaged in an offensive operation, it would place civilian United Nations personnel at grave risk, and undermine their ability to carry out their current tasks," Ban wrote in a January 20 letter to the Security Council.
But the view inside the U.N. has not been monolithic. The U.N.'s chief peacekeeper, Herve Ladsous, a former French diplomat, has pushed for greater involvement in the French-led military operation, primarily through the provision of logistical support for poorly equipped African troops. In the end, the Security Council will decide what role the U.N. will play in Mali. So far, that remains unclear.
Will, for instance, U.N. peacekeepers play any role in confronting the ongoing threat posed by terrorists? Will they be mandated to crack down on the illicit weapons and narcotics trade that fuels the insurgency in northern Mali? Will they be required to maintain law and order?
In the meantime, the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping has already begun its own contingency planning, focusing on three key options:
1. A full-fledged U.N. peacekeeping mission led by a U.N. special representative. This is the preferred option for French, American, and British officials, as well as U.N. peacekeeping officials. It provides the U.N. political leadership with full control over the mission and gives key Western powers, particularly in Europe, greater confidence to participate. But the vast majority of peacekeepers in the mission will come from Africa and leaders there will not want to cede decision-making to the United Nations.
2. A hybrid force. Facing demands by African leaders for a greater say in regional matters, the U.N. established a joint U.N.-African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan. This hybrid force established the notion of joint AU leadership in the mission. The force has been viewed as a model for the future within Africa, but it has been criticized as cumbersome and ineffectual by U.N. peacekeeping officials. France and Britain strongly oppose it.
3. A compromise option would involve splitting the mission into two. The United Nations would command a stabilization force in northern Mali, where most of the fighting has occurred. A second political mission in Bamako would be managed jointly by the AU and the U.N. It would help facilitate political talks between the Malian government and the country's ethnic minorities, particularly the northern Tuaregs, and pave the way for national elections.
As the key players consider the various options, a more strategic question will have to be addressed. What kind of Mali do the French and its African and U.N. partners want to leave behind? And do they have the capacity to make that happen?
"What we are looking for is a strategy that will not return Mali to the status quo ante," said one senior U.N. official. "We need to support the rule of law and transform the institutions so that this will be the last time blue helmets are needed in Mali."
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French President Francois Hollande and his defense and foreign ministers will arrive in Bamako, Mali, tomorrow to mark the country's military victory over an Islamist-backed insurgency. But the French leader's victory lap is being marred by reports of brutal reprisal attacks by his Malian allies.
Senior French officials are voicing increasing alarm about reported abuses by Malian troops, saying they have made several formal requests to Malian authorities to rein in troops accused of summarily executing suspected insurgents.
"We are really, really worried about the situation and we are doing our utmost to avoid human rights violations," Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, told reporters. For many Malians, he said, "the sprit is not reconciliation but revenge."
The French government, he added, has instructed its troops to prevent violent reprisals by Malians soldiers against civilians, and appealed to the United Nations to deploy human rights monitors on the ground in Mali.
The French envoy's remarks follow the publication on Thursday of a report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, claiming that Malian troops summarily executed at least 13 men in Konna and Sevare, while insurgents killed at least seven Malian soldiers, including five who were injured. The rights group expects the scale of killing is even higher.
The episode highlighted the challenges for the French and other supporters in ensuring that its military intervention in Mali does not become marred by reports of abuses by its Malian allies. Hollande's visit is intended to highlight French military successes against the Islamists, who have fled key towns they had captured during the past year, including Gao, Kidal, and the tourist outpost of Timbuktu.
Philippe Bolopion, Human Rights Watch's U.N. representative, and his colleagues visited the towns of Konna and Sevare, where they found three recently murdered corpses in a water well, executed in broad daylight by Malian troops, according to local witnesses. The rights advocates also paid a visit to a nearby police station, Bolopion recalled today in an interview with Turtle Bay.
"Do you know there are bodies of dead people in the well?" Bolopion and his companions asked the local police chief, who refused to provide his name. "Yes," he answered. "I think I've seen something in the press."
Informed that he could see the crimes for himself if he simply walked 300 meters from his office, the official declined, saying he would need instructions from his superior. "I think the whole town knows what happened, the military knows what happened, and nobody is investigating," Bolopion said. "They killed over a dozen people, most of them in broad daylight in the middle of the town, a few hundred meters from the gendarmerie."
Bolopion also said that Human Rights Watch is investigating a claim that a woman and three children were killed by a helicopter strike at their home in Konna.
The French government has informed the rights group that it was not flying at the time the attack allegedly occurred. Bolopion said the group is currently trying to establish whether the Mali army has an operational attack helicopter.
Bolopion said that the French government has made some "good statements" underscoring the need to respect human rights, but he said he would like to see France and other outside powers apply greater pressure on Mali to investigate alleged abuses by their troops. "They hold much sway over Mali's military authority and so they should be able to get them to investigate in Sevare," he said. He also said he would like to see France, which has a presence in Sevare, help secure crime scenes and protect evidence for a possible investigation by the International Criminal Court.
In an interview with France Radio Inter last Thursday, Defense Minister Jean Yves Le Drian, said there are limits to what France can do. "It's not our responsibility to maintain order in the towns; there are mayors, the mayors have returned to Gao and Timbuktu; the Malian authorities, the institutions are returning. So it's important for the Malian army, the Malian gendarmerie to ensure there are no acts of violence or reprisals, which people may be very tempted to carry out. I know orders have been given, they must be obeyed. We're very vigilant about that, and we'd also like United Nations observers to be able to ensure things are going properly in the towns we and the Malian forces have recaptured."
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France's President Francois Hollande today announced plans to increase the number of French troops in Mali, marking an escalation in France's intervention in its former colony.
Despite the socialist president's efforts to mark a break with a history of French meddling in Africa's affairs, Paris finds itself back in a familiar role in Africa.
Nearly two years ago, President Nicolas Sarkozy led international campaign to intervene in Libya to oust Muammar al-Qaddafi. He also ordered French forces to help U.N. peacekeepers take down Laurent Gbagbo, the former Ivoirian leader who refused to accept step down after losing his presidential election.
So, was France's intervention in Mali a return to its past or is it something different? "I don't think this is more of the same; I think this is part of an emerging model of intervention where counterterrorism is the core," said Bruce Jones, director of NYU's Center on Global Cooperation. He said the Mali operation bears more similarity with Somalia -- where U.S. forces target suspected terrorists while African troops provide security -- than it does with historical efforts to intervene to shore up African leaders.
Whatever the similarities, France's role in Africa was supposed to look different from this under Hollande.
In a recent visit to the continent, the French leader assured African audiences that the era of Franceafrique, a period marked by frequent French military intervention on behalf of Africa's post colonial autocrats, was done with.
"I didn't come to Africa to impose my way, or deliver a lesson on morality," Hollande told Senegal's parliament in October. "The era of Franceafrique is over. There is now a France and there is an Africa. And there is a partnership between France and Africa, based on relationships that are founded on respect," he added during the visit.
But others recalled that Sarkozy had initially vowed to end the era of Franceafrique, only to find himself responding to the French urge to act in Libya and Ivory Coast. That urge reflects the enduring influence of Africa’s traditional interventionists in French politics, and in the case of Mali, the fact that 6,000 French nationals live in Mali, most of them in Bamako.
“If we go back to when Sarkozy came into office and talked about the end of Franceafrique and surrounded himself with a new generation of French Africa advisors those guys lost out and within two years the old guard reasserted itself,” said Todd Moss, an expert on West Africa at the Center for Global Development. “I’m sure the old French guard is very, very powerful if they were able to maintain their influence under Sarkozy. I wouldn’t’ be surprised if it is strong under Hollande.”
But other diplomats say France’s calculation was simpler, noting that one of the Islamist factions fighting in Mali, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, already holds eight French hostages captured in Mali and neighboring states.
“You can’t neglect the fact that the French have a large population in Bamako,” said one European diplomat. “The Islamists were moving towards those people, raising the threat that hundreds more could have been taken hostage. I’m sure the French government felt it had a responsibility to them.”
Still, Mali was supposed to be a model of that new relationship.
When separatist Tuareg fighters, backed by armed Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda, seized control of northern Mali last year, France vowed to keep its expeditionary forces in their barracks. They turned to regional leaders, backed by the United Nations, to help Mali's troubled army confront the Islamists.
Last month, France championed a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a European-backed, African-led force to train the Malian army and help it reconquer its northern territories. But the effort has been complicated by a number of factors, not least of which is the fact that Mali's army came to power by staging a military coup against the country's elected leader.
The planned force was plagued by delays, making it unlikely that it would even arrive in Mali until September or October, providing the rebels with a window of opportunity to strike. Last week, they seized it, and began marching towards the south, capturing the town of Konna, and threatening the strategic town of Mopti. Mali's U.S.-trained military collapsed.
France's U.N. envoy Gerard Araud on Monday told reporters outside the U.N. Security Council that France had reluctantly entered Mali.
"Our assessment was that they were totally able to take Bamako," he said. "So, we decided that what was at stake was the existence of the state of Mali and beyond Mali was the stability of all West Africa."
While France's military action has its critics inside France and beyond (former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin denounced it), the strike has drawn widespread diplomatic, if not military, support.
The Group of 8 political directors today issued a statement welcoming the French military action. Vitaly Churkin, Russia's U.N. envoy and a vocal critic of the Western interventions in Libya, said Monday that France's intervention -- which followed a request for assistance from the Malian government -- was perfectly legal and that its operation enjoyed unanimous support in the 15-nation Security Council.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who had earlier cautioned that military intervention in Mali should be considered a last resort, backed the French move. The reaction from within the U.N. ranks could best be described as "quiet applause," said one senior U.N. official. "So many of us are so relieved, even though we don't know how this will end."
Jones said that the U.N.'s reticence about military action was driven primarily by concerns about "the limitations of their own capacity" to play a supporting role in an African-led war against Islamists in Mali. "I don't think the U.N. had any difficulty with having someone deal with al Qaeda in the Maghreb. They just didn't want to be in a position of doing it themselves. They were worried about taking on more than they could chew."
But having taken charge, France will be confronted with a new challenge: ensuring that its allies in the Malian army don't follow up any military victories by launching a revenge campaign against its enemies.
"There is no doubt that the human rights situation in Mali before the intervention was already catastrophic, with civilian populations suffering abuses at the hands of all the parties to the conflicts, whether Islamist groups, separatist rebels, as well as the Malian army itself," said Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. representative for Human Rights Watch. "But the risks and human rights challenges that come with military intervention are many. It's important that neither the French nor [African peacekeepers] empower "the Malian army] to commit more."
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The U.N. Security Council today voted unanimously to establish a U.S. and European-backed African military force to rebuild Mali's troubled military, and to begin preparing it for a possible military offensive to retake control of northern Mali from a coalition of Malian separatists and Islamic extremists.
The European Union plans to send military trainers to Bamako in the coming months to begin training the Malian army, which -- disgruntled by the government's inability to counter insurgent forces -- staged a military coup in March and forced the removal of the interim leader this December.
A reconstituted and reequipped Malian army is intended to lead a campaign to conquer the north. But the supporting African force -- which is expected to be made up of several thousand troops from West Africa and the Sahel -- is unlikely to be sent to Mali before September or October, 2013.
The Security Council resolution does not specify what role the United States would play in the military campaign against al Qaeda and its allies. But it provides wide legal scope for foreign governments, including the United States, to "take all necessary measures" -- including the use of lethal force -- and provide "any necessary assistance, " including military training, equipment, intelligence and logistics, in support of the Malian fight against Islamic extremists.
The Obama administration has harbored deep misgivings about the ability of a Malian-led force to prevail in combat with al Qaeda and its allies. But today's vote ended weeks of tense negotiations between France, which was determined to authorize a new intervention force before the year's end, and the United States, which wanted to wait until the country had elected a new civilian president.
Washington agreed to co-sponsor today's resolution after securing a commitment from Paris to ensure that the United States and other Security Council members would be give another shot at reviewing the military plan before the force receives a green light for offensive operations.
Following the vote, France's U.N. ambassador Gerard Araud said a military attack on Islamic forces in northern Mali was not inevitable, however, and that his government still held out hope that the crisis could be resolved through political dialogue with Mali's moderate northern insurgents. The resolution, he said, "is not a declaration of war."
Long a model of African stability and democracy, Mali's civilian government has faced a series of existential threats to its rule this year, including a rebellion in northern Mali by an alliance of Malian Touareg's and al Qaeda linked groups, primarily Ansar Dine, followed by a military coup by soldiers embittered by the failure of President Amadou Toumani Toure to adequately supply troops seeking to put down the rebellion.
In recent months, Islamic militants -- including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement of United and Jihad in West Africa -- have seized control the uprising, driving out their erstwhile Touareg allies from key northern cities, including Timbuktu and Gao, imposing sharia law, and committing widespread human rights abuses. Their presence has raised concern in Washington, which is expected to help train, equip, and provide transport for the new force, known as the African-led International Support Mission, or AFISMA.
But the political turmoil in Mali has complicated Washington's role. U.S. law restricts financial assistance or military aid to Mali, because its democratic government was ousted in a coup in March, led by Capt. Amadou Sanogo, who remains the power behind a fragile transitional government. Earlier this month, the military again showed its strength and displeasure, ordering the arrest of the interim Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra, and forcing his resignation. Django Sissoko was later named to replace him.
The United States has insisted that Mali conduct new presidential elections, preferably in April, before any final decision is made to send a Malian-led African force into the north.
The new force, which will be made up primarily of troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Sahel, including Nigeria and Senegal, is intended to put military muscle behind a broader plan to restore stability and democracy in Mali.
Today's resolution urges Malian authorities to commit to a "transitional roadmap," including inclusive political talks with northern groups -- including the Touaregs -- that "cut off all ties to terrorist organizations" linked to al Qaeda. It also calls for holding elections "by April 2013 or as soon as technically possible."
The resolution aims to place a wedge between ethnic Malian rebel groups and the more hardline Islamists, threatening to impose sanctions on individuals who maintain links with al Qaeda and its associates. It also expresses its "readiness to consider appropriate measures" against Malian officers to who stand in the way of the country's transition to civilian rule.
Today's vote, said Ivory Coast's U.N. ambassador, Youssoufou Bamba, speaking on behalf of ECOWAS, "is a great message of hope and solidarity" for Malians "who can now begin to believe [there will be an] end of their nightmares."
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Key U.N. powers said today that Mali's military's arrest and ouster of the country's transitional leader, Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra, would not deter the U.N. Security Council from forging ahead with plans to intervene in Mali to confront Islamists militants in the north of the country. But it did little to paper over differences between the United States and France on how to get the job done.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, offered a decidedly uncharitable assessment of a French- and African-backed plan to retake control of northern Mali from a coalition of Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda. "It's crap," the U.S. envoy told a gathering of U.N.-based officials, according to one of the officials. Rice's office declined to comment.
The American envoy's assessment reflected deep misgivings that the Malian army, supported by a Nigerian-led coalition of 3,300 troops from 15 Western African countries has the manpower or the skills required to contend with a battle-tested insurgency with experience fighting in the Sahel's unforgiving desert. Rice's candor also deals a setback to a long, drawn-out effort by France and West African countries to secure U.N. Security Council mandate for a regional intervention force in Mali.
The United States is not alone in having misgivings. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently issued a report that argued against an immediate military intervention in Mali, saying the international community should devote its attention to stitching together a political agreement among Mali's squabbling groups, setting force aside as a "last resort." Herve Ladsous, the head of the U.N.'s peacekeeping department and one of the U.N.'s few advocates of military intervention, said recently that even if the intervention plan is approved it would take until September or October, 2013, for the international force to be deployed.
"We should not forget that in any military intervention, even when successful, tens of thousands more people are likely to become displaced both inside the country and across borders," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Monday. "Newly arriving refugees in the neighboring countries are increasingly citing the prospect of military intervention as one of the reasons that pushed them to flee."
Despite these concerns -- and Rice's frank remark -- the United States supports military action in Mali to confront Islamist militants. Just not yet. And not without a role for some of America's most important counterterrorism allies (principally Algeria) that are not members of the West African peacekeeping coalition, and which have so far proven reluctant to sign on to a risky fight with Mali's Islamists that could provoke the group's allies inside Algeria.
The predicament has contributed to the impression of American policymaking as confused in confronting the spread of terrorism and militant Islam in Mali, where insurgents have benefited from an influx of weapons from Libya in the wake of Muammar al-Qaddafi's downfall. But some officials believe the muddled picture is more a reflection of the fact that America's counterinsurgency strategy in the region remains a work in progress.
The Obama administration is seeking broader congressional support for counterterrorism operations in Mali and other northern African countries, while U.S. military planners have been pressing Mali's neighbors with desert fighting experience, including Algeria, Chad, and Mauritania, to participate in military action. William Burns, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, traveled to Algiers over the weekend to prod the government into deepening its role in Mali.
But American diplomats in New York have been urging the Security Council to go slowly, putting off a foreign campaign to confront the Islamists until a new president is elected.
Washington favors what it calls a "two-step authorization" of military force. The first step would involve the swift approval of a resolution authorizing the deployment of an African force to train the Malian army, which put up virtually no resistance to the Islamists, and would express an intention to conduct offensive operations in the north, but only if it is satisfied with a refined military plan -- known as a concept of operations -- that would be due to the council within 45 days. A second resolution, according to the U.S. plan, would authorize offensive operations in northern Mali, as well as a follow-up effort to stabilize a reconquered northern Mali. It remains unclear what military role the United States would play in the counterterrorism operation.
America's diplomatic caution reflects misgivings about the African military plan, questions about who will participate in -- and pay for -- the mission. But it is also stems from American legal constraints. The United States is prohibited by law from providing financial support to Mali's government because the democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup in March. Thus it is pressing Mali's interim government to hold presidential elections, initially scheduled for April 2013, before sending foreign armies into Mali to confront the Islamists.
"Mali needs now more than ever a strong democratic government to restore its democratic tradition and provide the strong leadership necessary to negotiate a political agreement with northern rebels, reform its security sector, and lead a military intervention in the north to restore and maintain Mali's territorial integrity," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said last week.
At the Security Council on Monday, Rice said the effort to confront al Qaeda in Mali will require a broader effort by governments in the region to combat transitional crime, including drug trafficking, and the proliferation of terror organizations. "The rise of violent extremism and organized crime across the region is aggravating the situation in Mali," she told the council.
Rice said there is a need to pursue a multifaceted strategy, including political, humanitarian, environmental, and military pieces, to address the crisis. "Given Mali's delicate situation, we must be careful to address the crises in Mali without further destabilizing the entire region," she said. "Any military intervention in Mali must thus be designed to minimize the operation's humanitarian impact and the impact on human rights." But she provided few insights into what role Washington would play in support of the counterinsurgency operation in Mali.
France agrees that the U.N. needs to pursue a coordinated strategy that addresses many of the country's political, humanitarian, and environmental needs. But it also believes that yesterday's ouster of Prime Minister Diarra only highlights the need for swift military action. "These developments underline the need for the rapid deployment of an African stabilization force," France's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Philippe Lalliot, told reporters on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
The crisis in Mali underscores the rising threat of anti-Western Islamic militancy in North Africa and the Sahel. But it also marks the clearest evidence of blowback from the U.S.-backed military campaign that toppled Qaddafi.
Early this year, Touareg separatists -- many of whom served as Qaddafi's mercenaries -- fighting under the banner of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, struck an alliance with Islamist groups, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Ansar al-Dine, to fulfill their long-held dream of establishing an independent Touareg nation. Backed by an influx of weapons from the Libyan war, they quickly defeated the national army, triggering a military coup in the capital, Bamako, by younger officers angered that the government had not supplied them with enough military equipment to meet the fight in the north. But the Touaregs were quickly forced out of the way by their Islamist allies, who had little interest in securing Touareg independence.
The movement now claims control of more than half of the country's territory, including the key northern cities of Timbuktu, Kidal, and Gao. U.N. and African mediators are trying to persuade more moderate factions to break ranks with militants linked to al Qaeda. While there have been some statements, U.N. diplomats say it is too early to say whether those efforts are succeeding or not.
Traore Rokiatou Guikine, Mali's minister for African integration, warned the U.N. Security Council last week that foreign Islamists are taking advantage of the security vacuum in northern Mali to consolidate their gains. "The deployment of the force is urgent," she said. "Terrorists have stepped up their activities and are seeking reinforcements to carry out jihad from Mali. Mali is on the way to becoming a breeding ground for terrorists."
The government in Bamako has received firm backing from France, South Africa, India, and other council members for a military response. "The situation in Mali requires an urgent response from the international community," South Africa's U.N. envoy Baso Sangqu said on Monday. "If left unchecked, the situation in the Sahel threatens to spread and affect the countries in the region and beyond, and pose a threat to international peace and security," said Sangqu.
France, meanwhile, favors the adoption of a single Security Council resolution authorizing a foreign intervention force by Christmas, although it could be many months before it is ever sent to Mali.
The French favor what they call a "two track" approach -- promoting a democratic political transition while training Malian security forces to conduct offensive military operations. Unlike the Americans, however, French officials believe it is illogical for the military operations to be put off until after Mali's presidential election, particularly as Malians living in territory seized by the Islamists would not be able to vote. "Do you think that al Qaeda will be securing voting booths for a fair election?" asked one Security Council diplomat.
And with Diarra now removed from office by the military officers who toppled his predeccesor, the country's political future is now even murkier.
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More than one year after President Barack Obama sent roughly 100 elite U.S. military advisors into Central Africa to help African armies bring an end to a reign of terror by the messianic guerilla leader Joseph Kony, the mission remains stalled.
The African Union Regional Task force -- envisioned as a 5,000-strong regional expeditionary force tasked with hunting down Kony's Lord's Resistance Army over a 115,000 square mile area -- has never mustered all the troops needed for the mission, nor formed into a real mobile force capable of mounting a cross border chase.
"The [task force] is not close to realizing the vision of a multinational force conducting effective offensive operations against the LRA and protecting civilians," reads a paper entitled "Getting Back on Track," released today by a coalition of human rights groups, including the Enough Project and Resolve. "It exists only on paper and cannot be considered operational."
The paper presents a harsh critique of the broader United Nations and African Union strategy for confronting Kony's forces and restoring stability in their area of operation. The report does credit the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with designing an ambitious framework for ending the 26-year conflict, and promoting a diplomatic, military, and economic strategy for undermining Kony's power base. But it faulted the U.N. for sluggish progress in implementing it, noting that more than five months after the strategy was introduced virtually "no projects are sufficiently developed to be funded."
"As a whole, U.N. departments, agencies, and offices, have shown a lack of urgency," the report states. "As a result of this dynamic, the [U.N.] strategy has thus far failed to achieve any of its objectives. Without urgent action, it will fail permanently."
Four African countries participating in the military operation -- Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda, and South Sudan -- have not reached agreement on a basic military strategy, or even struck a deal that would permit members of the task force to cross one anothers borders, according to the report.
Washington's most powerful ally in the cause, Uganda, has threatened to pull out of the mission altogether over an unrelated dispute with the United Nations: the government in Kampala claims that a U.N. Group of Experts panel has unfairly accused its military of sponsoring and aiding another murderous insurgency in the DRC.
"The government of the Republic of Uganda is totally disappointed at the manner in which the United Nations system has treated her contribution to conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peace-building in the region," Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi wrote Ban in a confidential October 23 letter, which was obtained by Turtle Bay."We have now decided, after due consultations with our African brothers...to completely withdraw from the regional peace efforts."
U.N. officials and Security Council diplomats suspect that Uganda may be bluffing, and that it will remain committed to regional peace efforts that confer international prestige and serve their own security interests.
But the regional squabbling has dealt a blow to one of the Obama administration's signature campaigns to confront mass atrocities. It has also shown the limits of American military technology in tracking down a low-tech military movement which uses runners to deliver command instructions, and whose favored terrain consists of forest canopy that blocks out the prying eyes of drones and satellite cameras.
Kony, a Ugandan national, established an armed resistance movement, later named the Lords Resistance Army, more than 25 years ago. The movement -- which relies heavily on forced recruitment of child soldiers -- has committed massive atrocities across a wide swathe of Central Africa, including Uganda, the DRC, Central African Republic, and Sudan. Kony and his top lieutenants are wanted by the International Criminal Court.
The United States has supported regional efforts to pursue Kony's army, but those efforts had produced little success. In October 2011, President Obama stepped up the campaign, deploying approximately 100 "combat equipped" troops to provide advise, assist, and provide intelligence to African governments.
"For more than two decades, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa," President Obama wrote last year. "I have authorized a small number of combat equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield."
But most of the regional forces they're supposed to be working with lack the capacity or willingness to track Kony's fighters. The DRC has not committed a single troop to the effort, and has barred regional rival Uganda, which stands accused of arming anti-Congolese rebels, from entering its territory in pursuit of Kony. For its part, Uganda accuses the DRC of providing safe haven to anti-Ugandan rebels.
"Troops provided by South Sudan and Central African Republic lack the capacity to conduct effective operations against the LRA and protect civilians," according to the human rights coalition's report. "The SPLA [Sudan People's Liberation Army] battalion in Nzara, South Sudan, reportedly lacks elemental supplies like rations and fuel for their vehicles, making it impossible for them to conduct the most basic operations."
The Central African Republic forces are even worse off. "Even the available troops are hamstrung by three interrelated problems that are at their root, political: no clear command and control structure, inadequate troops capacity, and a lack of access to key LRA safe havens," the report states.
In recent months, the mission has seen a surge of MI8 transport helicopters provided by American contractors. Ugandan military units, supported by U.S. equipment, intelligence and logistics, have been pursuing the Lord Resistance Army in Central Africa Republic. But the rebels have found several safe havens, including Congo, Sudan, which has reportedly provided protection to the LRA, and large swaths of Western Central African Republic, which is beyond the reach of Ugandan forces.
The U.S. contingent deployment in the region was recently extended through April, raising concerns among anti-LRA activists about what happens after that.
"My concern is that if there have not been significant progress in capturing senior LRA commanders and encouraging defections there will be pressure in both Kampala and Washington" to phase out the mission, said Paul Ronan, policy director for Resolve. "Without solid U.S. and Ugandan military support, there is no possibility for viable military action against the LRA."
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Mutineers effortlessly seized control of the eastern Congolese capital of Goma, laying claim to the region's political and commercial capital, and embarrassing Congolese armed forces and U.N. peacekeepers that did little to stall their advance.
In New York, France and the United States this evening reached agreement on a draft resolution that condemns the M23 mutineers' capture of Goma, and demands their immediate withdrawal from the city. The resolution -- which is expected to be voted on tonight -- will impose additional sanctions on M23's commanders and ask U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to report on "external support" for the rebel group.
The French-American pact followed days of difficult negotiations over the appropriate response to the crisis, and whether to blame the mutineers alleged backers -- Rwanda and Uganda. France, a longtime ally of Congo, favored directly naming the regional powers. But the United States, which has close ties to Rwanda, opposes such action.
An independent U.N. panel has accused Rwanda, and to a lesser extent Uganda, of organizing, arming, training, and financing the mutiny in eastern Congo.
In recent days, the mutineers -- who allegedly take their orders from Rwandan Defense Minister James Kaberebe -- have received supplies of advance military equipment, including night vision goggles and mortars.
The panel, which was established by the U.N. Security Council to monitor compliance with the country's arms embargo, has accused the M23 of committed widespread human rights abuses, including murder, rape, and the forced recruitment of children.
Rwanda and Uganda have denied playing any role in backing the mutineers.
France, which has the lead on Security Council action in the Congo, has privately expressed an interest in sanctioning Rwanda, or at least citing their alleged role in aiding the insurgency. But they have faced resistance from the United States, according to Security Council diplomats.
The French mission said today in a tweet that the "proposed text requests" that Ban "report on external support to M23 in the coming days [and] expresses readiness to take action." The United States, however, raised concern about that provision, according to council diplomats.
The U.S. mission to the United Nations declined to discuss the content of its closed-door discussions. But a U.S. official said: "Our concern about the situation in Eastern Congo and the M23's appalling military campaign is clear, and our objective is to end the rebellion. Any action by the Security Council should be measured against whether it supports the ongoing diplomatic efforts toward that goal."
The debate in the council unfolded as M23 marched largely unopposed into the eastern Congolese city of Goma.
The U.N. deputy spokesman, Eduardo del Buey, cited reports that the M23 mutineers have "wounded civilians, continued abductions of women and children, looted property and intimidated journalists and those who have attempted to resist their controls."
Del Buey said that as of midday the U.N. still had control over the city's airport and that 17 U.N. rapid reaction forces were carrying out patrols in Goma and would "continue all efforts within their capacity to protect civilians from imminent threat."
France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, sharply criticized the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known as MONUSCO, saying it was "absurd" that a force that numbers 17,000 peacekeepers, (although far fewer are deployed in the area of fighting), was unable to repel the advance of several hundred insurgents into Goma. "MONUSCO is 17,000 soldiers, but sadly it was not in a position to prevent what happened," Fabius said.
Britain, meanwhile, urged its nationals not to travel to the conflict zone.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, meanwhile, said that his government's minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, was headed to the region to assess developments.
"The M23 must withdraw their forces immediately and allow legitimate government control to be restored," Hague said. "I urge once more those with influence over the M23 to encourage them to stop fighting and to withdraw immediately."
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Uganda has threatened to withdraw from U.S.- and U.N.-backed regional efforts to hunt down Joseph Kony, the notorious leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, and to restore peace in Somalia, if the world body fails to clear it of charges of supporting an armed mutiny in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The threat, which was contained in a Ugandan letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and to 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, follows last month's leak of a report by an independent U.N. Group of Experts alleging that Rwanda and Uganda are sponsoring a military mutiny in eastern Congo.
President Yoweri Museveni's special envoy, Ruhakana Rugunda, Lt. General Katumba Wamala, the commander of Ugandan land forces, and other senior officials, traveled to New York last week to underscore Kampala's anger over the panel's findings. In his meeting with U.N. officials and diplomats, Rugunda expressed "disappointment and grave concern about the false accusations against Uganda" contained in the Group of Experts report, according to a Ugandan statement.
"The government expressed that it was unacceptable to malign Uganda's contribution to regional peace and security by alleging that it supports the M23 Group," read the statement. "The government informed that Uganda's withdrawal from regional peace, including Somalia, CAR, etc. would become inevitable unless the UN corrects the false accusations made against Uganda."
The Security Council panel, known as the Group of Experts, alleged that "senior government of Uganda (GOU) officials have ... provided support to M23 in the form of direct troops reinforcements in DRC territory, munitions deliveries, technical assistance, joint planning, political advise, and facilitation of external relations," according to the confidential report, which was reviewed by Turtle Bay.
"Units of the Ugandan People's Defense Forces (UPDF) and the Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) jointly supported M23 in a series of attacks on July 12 to take over the major towns of Rutushuru territory" as well as a Rwandan military base.
The M23 movement was founded by Laurent Nkunda, a former Congolese general who led a rebellion against his former comrades in eastern Congo. But the mutiny was commanded by Bosco Ntaganda, a former Congolese rebel and accused war criminal who appointed a general of the Congolese army (known as the FARDC), in 2005 as part of a peace deal and Col. Sultani Makenga, another defector, who is likely to face U.N. sanctions for his role in the mutiny. But the supreme leader of the M23, the panel alleged, is James Kabarebe, Rwanda's defense minister, a charge the Rwandan government has denied.
The Group of Experts accused the rebel movement of extensive human rights abuses, including the forced recruitment of hundreds of young boys and girls into the movement, and the "extra-judicial executions of dozens of recruits and prisoners of war."
In August and September, Colonel Makenga ordered a notorious Congolese militia group, Raia Mutomboki, "to carry out brutal ethnically motivated attacks, burning over 800 homes and killings hundreds of civilians from Congolese communities" in eastern Congo, according to the experts' report.
The group of experts has recommended that the U.N. Security Council sanctions committed call on Uganda and Rwanda to "cease" violations of the arms embargo and to submit regular reports on what measures they are taking "to halt the activities of the M23." It also calls on member states to review and consider future military assistance to Rwanda and Uganda."
Security Council diplomats are unwilling, for now, to single out Rwanda and Uganda for condemnation in the council. Any effort to pressure Kigali to halt its alleged support for the M23 will be complicated by Rwanda's recent election to the U.N. Security Council, where it will begin serving a two-year term on January 1.
The expert group first accused Rwanda of sponsoring the M23 back in June, prompting the United States, Britain, and other European governments to freeze military assistance and other aid.
But council diplomats have shown less enthusiasm for taking on Uganda, which provides a vital logistic base for U.N. peacekeepers in Congo, and which is leading diplomatic efforts to end the violence in eastern Congo. They also note that Uganda stands accused of playing a far less central role in backing the M23 than Rwanda.
Throughout the week, senior council diplomats and U.N. officials have sought to keep the Ugandan letter secret, and downplayed the gravity of Kampala's threat, saying that the country's 6,500 troops serving in a U.N.-backed African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia have not been formally ordered back to the barracks. They hope that they can gradually convince the Ugandans to back down.
Some officials say they suspect that Uganda simply needs to blow off steam and that they will recognize that it is not in their long-term interest to withdraw from regional peace efforts, which have boosted their political standing in the region. Earlier this week, Secretary General Ban reached out to President Museveni to convince him to cool down. But the issue is not likely to disappear. The Group of Experts is scheduled to brief the U.N. Security Council sanctions committee on Monday. And diplomatic sources say they will present new evidence of alleged Rwandan and Uganda support for the mutiny.
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I've been busy over the past couple of days reporting out a story on the collapse of U.N. diplomacy in Syria, but I wanted to take out a few moments to weigh in on a report in the Guardian this morning on Rwanda.
The Guardian's Chris McGreal reported that the Obama administration's ambassador-at-large for war crimes, Stephen Rapp, warned Rwandan President Paul Kagame that he may face prosecution for war crimes if his government continues to support a Congolese mutiny, known as M23, led by Bosco Ntaganda, an accused war criminal wanted by the International Criminal Court.
"At this stage, I'm not sure if we are there in terms of criminal conduct," Rapp told the Guardian. "But if this kind of thing continued and groups that were being armed were committing crimes ... then I think you would have a situation where individuals who were aiding them from across the border could be held criminally liable."
The stark warning follows the release of a damning U.N. Group of Experts report that accused Rwandan military leaders, including Kagame's defense minister, James Kabarebe, of backing the mutineers. (See my previous posts on this here and here.) The report accused the Rwandan brass of recruiting, organizing, funding, and arming the rebellion.
On Saturday, the U.S. State Department announced a cut off $200,000 in military assistance to Rwanda, citing its alleged support for the mutiny. It is considering whether to pursue additional steps.
"The Department is deeply concerned about the evidence that Rwanda is implicated in the provision of support to Congolese rebel groups, including M23," read the State Department announcement. "As a result, we will not obligate $200,000 in Fiscal Year 2012 FMF [Foreign Military Assistance] funds that were intended to support a Rwandan academy for non commissioned officers."
For anybody that has followed Rwanda in recent years, the U.S. action amounts to a dramatic shift in its approach to Kagame's government.
The Clinton administration's top national security leadership -- including Susan Rice, the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who served as Clinton's assistant secretary of state for African affairs -- had long expressed regrets over having failed to act decisively to halt the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
But Washington has strongly supported the government since, and successive Democratic and Republican administrations have rallied behind President Kagame, even as he and his top advisors have faced allegations of war crimes in the years following the genocide in Rwanda and Eastern Congo. Only last month, Congolese officials and human rights advocates had accused the United States of blocking the release of the U.N. Group of Experts report, a claim that the Americans denied. The United States ultimately supported the report's publication.
Rwanda, meanwhile, has denied the U.N. charges of backing Congo's mutineers, saying that the Americans are acting on bad information. "We must make clear to our friends in Washington and elsewhere that this decision is based on bad information, and is wrong in facts," Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, said in a response to the U.S. decision to cut military aid. "As we have made clear from the outset, Rwanda is neither the cause nor the enabler of instability in DRC."Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
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Rwandan Defense Minister James Kabarebe and other top Rwandan military officers played a central role in organizing, funding, and arming mutineers in the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to a report by the U.N. Group of Experts.
The U.N. panel also charged that Kabarebe's personal assistant, Celestin Senkoko, and other Rwandan officers mounted a "wide-ranging" effort to convince Congolese businessmen, politicians, and former rebels that had joined the ranks of the Congolese army to join the so-called M23 mutiny with the aim prosecuting "a new war to obtain a secession of both Kivus," the eastern Congolese provinces that share ethnic and historical ties to Rwanda.
The Rwandan government issued a statement denying the allegations contained in the report, which was obtained by Turtle Bay, but which has not yet been made public. "This is a one-sided preliminary document based on partial findings and is still subject to verification," it stated.
"The UN Group of Experts has accepted our invitation to Kigali to do what should have been done before; carry out relevant consultations and obtain the facts. We intend to provide factual evidence that the charges against Rwanda are false. These, as well as Rwanda's own allegations, will hopefully be reflected in the final UN report due in November."
The U.N. report -- technically an annex to a separate U.N. report on enforcement of the U.N. embargo in eastern Congo -- focuses on the former Congolese rebel movement, known as the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), that was integrated into the Congolese military in 2009, and which formed the core of a Rwandan-backed mutiny within the ranks of the Congolese army.
Laurent Nkunda, the founder of the movement; Bosco Ntaganda, an accused war criminal who led defectors; and Col. Sultani Makenga, another former rebel who defected from the army, form the core leadership of the M23 mutiny. But the U.N. report -- excerpts of which were published by Turtle Bay last night -- claims that the Congolese mutineers coordinated their mutiny with top Rwandan leaders. Here's a new selection of previously unpublished excerpts that name Rwanda's alleged plotters.
Rwandan officials have also been directly involved in the mobilization of political leaders and financial backers for M23. Based on interviews conducted with M23 members, ex-CNDP officers and politicians, intelligence officers, FARDC [Congolese Army] senior commanders, the Group [of Experts] has established that Rwandan officials have made extensive telephone calls and organized a series of meeting with Congolese politicians and businessman to promote and rally support for M23.
Throughout the Group's investigations, it has systematically gathered testimonies from former M23 combatants, M23 collaborators, ex-RDF [Rwandan Defense Forces] officers, Congolese intelligence, FARDC commanders, and politicians which affirm the direct involvement in the support to M23 from senior levels of the Rwandan government.
a) General Jacques Nziza, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, supervises all military, financial, and logistic support as well as mobilization activities related to M23. He has recently been deployed to Ruhengeri and Gisenyi to coordinate M23 assistance and recruitment.
b) General James Kabarebe, the Rwandan Minister of Defense, with the support of his personal secretary Captain Celestin Senkoko, also is a central figure in recruitment and mobilizing political and military support to M23. Kabarebe has often been in direct contact with M23 members on the ground to coordinate military activities.
c) General Charles Kayonga, the RDF Chief of Staff manages the overall military support to M23. Kayonga is frequently in communications with Makenga and oversaw the transfer of Makenga's troops and weapons through Rwanda.
d) The military support on the ground has been channeled by General Emmanuel Ruvusha, RDF Division commander based in Gisenyi, as well as General Alexi Kagame, RDF Division commander based at Ruhengeru, Both facilitate recruitment of civilians and demobilized soldiers to M23 as well as coordinating RDF reinforcements in Runyoni with M23 commanders.
e) Colonel Jomba Gakumba, a native of North Kivu, who used to be an RDF instructor at the Rwandan Military Academy at Gako, was redeployed to Ruhengeri since the creation of M23, where he has been in charge of commanding locally military operations in support of M23.
Ex-RDF officers, politicians, M23 collaborators also informed the Group that Ntaganda and Makenga have been regularly crossing the border into Rwanda to carrying meetings with any of the above mentioned senior RDF officers at Kinigi, on several occasions. Those same sources also stated that former CNDP chairman General Laurent Nkunda, officially under house arrest by the Rwandan government since January 2009, often comes from Kigali to participate in these meetings.
Rwanda's ambassador the African Union, Joseph Nsengimana, vigorously denied the allegations in a June 21 statement to the African Union Peace and Security Committee. "I want to state categorically that Rwandan is neither a cause nor an enabler of the ongoing crisis in the DRC. To the contrary, a pattern of undisputable facts indicate that Rwanda cannot be an obstacle but a strong partner for peace in the DRC," he said in the statement, which was attached to the report.
"Direct high-level engagement between Rwanda and the DRC diplomatic and defense officials have been at the forefront of Rwanda's efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the worrying situation in the DRC since the beginning of the current rebellion in DRC in April 2012."
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As the late Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's forces prepared to crush the Libyan uprising last summer in Benghazi, Britain, France, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and other allies moved quickly to reinforce the beleaguered rebel forces.
With military supplies, training, advice -- and of course the backing of NATO war planes -- this coalition of governments provided critical support to change the course of the conflict, ultimately leading to Qaddafi's downfall.
The U.N. Security Council's arms embargo was primarily intended to constrain Qaddafi's capacity to use its massive oil wealth to import new stocks of weapons and foreign mercenaries to help put down the rebellion. But it also placed restraints on the supply of weapons to the rebels, prompting the Security Council to later introduce an exemption -- providing significant cover for governments seeking to arm the rebels.
A new report by a U.N. panel of experts responsible for monitoring the arms embargo in Libya sought to itemize a list of military supplies -- everything from sandbags to shouldered propelled rockets -- that flowed into Libya after the U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Libya in February 2011. The list, however, is incomplete because NATO and some of the insurgents' chief military backers, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have refused to provide a full account of their contributions.
The report identified numerous attempts by the Qaddafi regime "to secure arms deals and use mercenaries from neighboring countries," citing reports in the Globe and Mail about a July 2011 visit to Beijing by Libyan officials seeking to purchase military supplies from three Chinese arms manufacturers. (China denied that the talks led to any deals.) The panel also cited reports that much of Libya's military capacity had been reconstituted after 2004, following years of Western and U.N. sanctions, with the aid of Western European countries and ex-Soviet states (The panel also noted that is conducting an ongoing investigation into Qaddafi's use of mercenaries, adding that so far it had found "no conclusive evidence.")
But the 78-page report provides insights into how the international community combined diplomatic pressure, military airpower, and clandestine arms deliveries, to topple a regime. It would not be surprising if some of those countries considering backing the Syrian campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in Syria are drawing from the same playbook.
The United States
Though U.S. airpower proved decisive in crippling Qaddafi's defenses, the United States maintains that it provided only non-lethal military support to the rebels. The report notes that on February 6, the United States provided the panel with a list of its contributions, including 8,000 uniforms, 8,000 boots, 5,825 load-bearing vests, 2,850 bullet proof vests, 1,975 military helmets, and "items for defensive positions (sandbags, Hescos...)."
The Italian government notified the panel on February 14 that it supplied 10 military trainers, 10,000 uniforms, 5,400 helmets and 2,800 leather boots.
On February 9, the United Kingdom informed the panel that it supplies the rebels with 6,000 sets of body armor and no more than 20 military personnel. The British action, according to the report, was intended to "provide a military assistance team to the Libyan authorities for the purpose of providing operational assistance, training and mentoring on security issues, including reform of the armed services, counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency."
In April 2011, the French government notified the United Nations that it had sent a small team of military advisors to Libya to provide the National Transitional Council with "support and advice on ways to organize its internal structure, manage its resources and improve its communications." In June, it went further, notifying the UN that it had "airdropped self-defence weapons for the civilian populations that had been victims of attacks by Libyan armed forces." The panel's report contains no detailed list of these contributions as the French asked it to keep the details confidential.
The panel said that it has obtained information that several flights operating from Tirana, Albania, transported military materiel to Benghazi over a three day period in September, 2011. The case remains under investigation.
One of the more tantalizing revelations in the panel report is the suggestion that Darfuri rebel groups, including members of the Zaghawa tribe and fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement, may have backed Qaddafi's counterinsurgency campaign. The panel said that while it was not able to "definitely corroborate" numerous reports of the military role in the conflict, ‘the accumulative strength of intelligence gives substantial credibility to these findings." No to be outdone, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, extended overflight rights over Sudanese territory to NATO, according to senior U.N. diplomats, and allegedly supplied arms to the insurgents, according to the panel. The panel cited claims by the Benghazi rebel defense ministry that Sudan provided "small arms and light weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades," and transported other supplies to Bengazhi on two Ilyushin-76 aircraft. "According to media reports, on 26 October, the President of the Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir, gave a speech in Kasala in which he acknowledged weapons deliveries from the Sudan to Libya and that the weapons had reached revolutionaries in Misratah, Al-Jabal Al-Gharabi and Zawiya." The Sudanese government did not reply to the panel's request for information.
In March 2011, Qatar notified the United Nations that it would participate in NATO enforcement of the U.N.-authorized no-fly zone over Libya, contributing "a number of military aircraft, military transport aircraft and helicopters." Qatar categorically denied media reports that "it had supplied the revolutionaries with arms and ammunition," saying only that it had "sent a limited number of military personnel to provide military consultations to the revolutionaries, defend Libyan civilians and protect aid convoys." The only weapons and ammunition it had furnished was for the use of Qatari military advisors in self-defense.
But the Qatari contention had one big hole in it. In July, 2011, a Swiss television station discovered spent Swiss ammunition used by the Libyan revolutionaries. The Swiss ammo had been exported to the Qatar armed forces in 2009 by a Swiss arms company, FGS Frex, and made its way to Libya. Confronted by Swiss authorities, who noted that Qatar was prohibited from re-exporting the ammunition, the Qatari ambassador appeared to have confirmed its role in the supply of ammunition. "The ambassador of Qatar explained to the Swiss representatives that the ‘transfer of the aforementioned ammunition to the Libyan opposition was a misadventure in the course of his country's support of the NATO operation in Libya.' He reassured the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs that ‘Qatar took the appropriate measures to prevent similar errors in the future.'"
The United Arab Emirates
The panel provided few details about alleged arms transfers by the United Arab Emirates, partly because it is conducting an ongoing investigation into the matter, and partly because the Gulf state refused to provide the panel with a list of its contributions. On March 25, "the United Arab Emirates notified the [UN] Secretary General that it would participate, within the framework of the international coalition, by providing military aircraft. No notification was given regarding transfers of weapons or ammunition or provision of military personnel." The panel visited the UAE to inquire about its role in arming and advising the Libyan insurgents. The government insisted that it had acted in conformity with UN resolutions and under the umbrella of the NATO operation" to protect civilians. "They did not provide more precise information and said that NATO would be in a better position to answer those questions."
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's role in Libya was decisive in crippling Qaddafi's military defenses and providing support for insurgent offensive operations. While its air campaign is not the subject of the panel's inquiry, the report notes that it wrote to NATO "asking it to provide a detailed list of military materiel, including weapons and ammunition, sent by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates or any other country that participated in the NATO operation and information regarding the number and roles of military personnel sent by those countries to Libya since the imposition of the embargo. While NATO acknowledged the receipt of the panel's request for information on 25 January 2012, no answer has been provided to date."
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Kofi Annan today announced a rare breakthrough in his efforts to halt the bloodshed in Syria, saying that President Bashar al-Assad had endorsed his six-point diplomatic plan calling for an immediate cease-fire, access for international aid workers, and the start of political talks leading to a multiparty democracy.
But there was a sense among observers that we've been here before.
Last November, the Syrian government signed a deal with the Arab League to withdraw its military forces from besieged towns and to accept a "road map" for political reform. But Assad never implemented the pact. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, has become so weary of Assad's promises to rein in his security forces that he hasn't even bothered to call him in several months. "He made all these promises," Ban told reporters last September, "but these promises have become now broken promises."
Indeed, many Syria observers believe Assad is seeking to bog down Annan and his team of mediators in a fruitless diplomatic process that will provide him with political cover to continue his military campaign to crush the opposition. Even today, the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group that monitors the violence, said 20 people had died by mid afternoon, according to a report in the New York Times, and fighting was reported along the Lebanese border.
"Assad has everything to gain from accepting the Annan initiative," said Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. "The president is looking for a way to end the uprising without stepping down, or turning power over to the revolutions. The new U.N. peace plan does not insist on having Assad handing over power, which is why Assad finds it acceptable.... He can play along with this because ultimately he needs to slow down the stampede towards greater and greater sanctions and [secure international] pressure on the opposition not to send weapons inside Syria."
Despite the grim assessment, many observers say that the diplomatic campaign to rein in President Assad has been gaining strength, driven in part by waning interest in the West for military intervention in Syria.
Russia and China, Syria's strongest defenders at the United Nations, have thrown their political weight behind Annan's peace initiative, prompting Assad to commit to a deal he had rejected two weeks ago.
The fragmented Syrian opposition attracted hundreds of anti-Assad representatives, including the exiled Muslim Brotherhood, to a meeting in Istanbul. Turkey and Norway, meanwhile, have shuttered their embassies in Damascus, furthering the country's diplomatic isolation.
"I do think conditions for diplomacy at the international level are better than last time," said Marc Lynch, a fellow Foreign Policy blogger and Middle East scholar at George Washington University. "Am I optimistic? No. My best guess is that Assad will try to play this the same way he played the Arab League plan," he said. But he "may find himself with less room for maneuver."
Lynch and other observers say that President Assad's standing -- which has been boosted by a series of military victories against the opposition -- risks the prospect of being weakened through a political process. "Assad is clearly winning at the military level," Lynch said. But his military gains, he added are "empty tactical victories. At a broader level, all signs say to me he is losing control, losing legitimacy."
Richard Gowan, a U.N. specialist at New York University's Center for International Cooperation, writes today in World Politics Review that the renewed push for a diplomatic outcome reflects a realization by "all the main players in the debate, that their disputes, which had been poisonous since mid-2011, were spiraling out of control." But Gowan also voiced concern that it may be too late for Annan's plan to succeed.
Russia and China, which have seen their standing in the region suffer from repeated vetoes in the Security Council, saw Annan's diplomatic overture as a way out of their isolation. And Western powers, reluctant to intervene militarily in Syria if diplomacy fails, are showing renewed interest in promoting a U.N. diplomatic effort to end the crisis.
But Western diplomats also struck a cautious note. "The Assad regime's acceptance of joint United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan's six point plan would represent a significant first step towards bringing an end to the violence and the bloodshed, but only if it is genuinely and seriously meant," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said after the announcement. "This has not been the case with previous commitments the regime has made. The key will be concrete implementation that brings a cessation of all hostilities and leads to a genuine political transition accompanied by freedom of access for humanitarian assistance and the media, and the release of political prisoners. We will continue to judge the Syrian regime by its practical actions not by its often empty words."
Landis remained even more doubtful about the prospects for a peaceful outcome, saying the opposition has failed to present a viable alternative to the regime while the ongoing crisis is bringing greater economic hardship to ordinary Syrians.
"I see Syrians starving to death and Assad remaining in power for a long time," he said. "Even if he can destroy the opposition, he can't put Syria back together again. But the country will ultimately collapse in disorder."
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Kofi Annan today raised the prospect of President Bashar al-Assad's stepping down as part of a final peace deal, marking the first time the international envoy on Syria has hinted that his mediation efforts might lead to a change in leadership.
But there were no signs that Assad was prepared to yield to international pressure to step aside or to even halt a military campaign that drew fresh claims by opposition activists that government forces continue to shell parts of the city of Homs.
Asked by a reporter in Moscow whether Assad should resign, Annan, who is serving as the joint envoy on Syria for the Arab League and the United Nations, said: "That is one of the issues the Syrians will have to decide. Our effort is to help the Syrians come to the table and find a way out of all this. It may in the end come to that, but it's not up to me, it's up to the Syrians."
So far, Annan has not been able to secure agreements from either the Syrian government or the armed opposition to accept a U.N. supervised cease-fire agreement. But he held high-level meeting with top officials from Russia, including President Dmitry Medvedev over the weekend, and headed out today for a visit to Beijing for meetings with top Chinese officials tomorrow, part of a last ditch effort to persuade Assad to rein in his security forces and negotiate a political settlement with the opposition.
"Time is of the essence. This cannot be allowed to drag on indefinitely," he told reporters at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. "The message I would also like to put out today is that the transitional winds blowing today cannot be easily resisted, or cannot be resisted for long. The only way to deal with this is through reform, through change that respects democratic principles, individual dignity, the rule of law and human rights."
Annan is seeking to enlist the support of top Russian and Chinese leaders in ratcheting pressure on the Syrian leader to halt a year-long crackdown on anti-government demonstrators that has left more than 8,000 people dead and delivered the country to the early phases of a civil war.
Annan said he was confident that Russia, which has been accused by the United States and other Western partners of abetting President Assad, is acting in good faith to achieve a peaceful outcome to the crisis. "They are prepared ... to work with me not only in supporting the approach and the plans I've put on the table but also in encouraging the parties to move in the same direction ... to settle this issue peacefully."
"I think they do have influence," he added, "and they have indicated they will use that influence to help me constructively."
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Syria's top military commanders and government officials have committed widespread and systematic human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity, according to the findings of a U.N. human rights commission that documented abuses carried out during the Syrian government's brutal crackdown on protesters.
The three-member U.N. Commission of Inquiry presented the U.N. Human Rights Council with a secret list of the names of individuals and military units suspected of bearing greatest responsibility for orchestrating or carrying out these abuses.
The report, which was released this morning in Geneva, represents a devastating account of the Syrian government's role in using excessive force -- including the indiscriminate shelling of restive towns -- to crush an uprising that began in March 2011, as a peaceful protest movement. The commission also documented rights violations by members of the armed opposition movement formed by military defectors, which has drawn increasingly from members of the general population.
But it said the overwhelming majority of abuses were carried out by government security forces and pro-government militias.
"The government has manifestly failed in its responsibility to protect the populations; its forces have committed widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations, amounting to crimes against humanity, with the apparent knowledge and consent of the highest levels of the State" reads the commission report. It added: "anti-government armed groups have also committed abuses, although not comparable in scale and organization with those carried out by the state."
The violence in Syria began more than 11 months ago, when Syrian protesters, inspired by pro-democracy demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, took to the streets to demand democratic reforms. The government responded with a brutal armed crackdown that has led to the death of more than 6,000 people, according to estimates cited by the United States and Britain.
"The response of the security apparatus to what started as a peaceful dissent soon led to armed clashes," the report states. "One year later, the Syrian Arab Republic is on the brink of an internal armed conflict. Diverging agendas within a deeply divided international community complicate the prospects for ending the violence."
The commission expressed reservations about the Arab and Western push to strangle Syria's economy with ever stiffer sanctions, saying that it "does not support the imposition of economic sanctions that would have a negative impact on the human rights of the population, in particular of vulnerable armed groups."
The commission instead called for an "urgent, inclusive political dialogue, bringing together the government, opposition and anti government actors to negotiate and end to the violence.... The continuation of the crisis carries the risk of radicalizing the population, deepening inter-communal tension and eroding the fabric of society."
The report notes that the standoff has become "increasingly violent and militarized" in recent months, particularly in the town of Homs, Hama, Idlib, and Rif Dimashq -- where armed opposition have clashed with government forces. Syrian authorities initially withdrew their forces from the area and then surrounded the key towns, posting snipers at strategic locations and "terrorized the population, targeting and killing small children, women and other unarmed civilians."
In recent months, the Syrian authorities have also intensified the shelling of opposition strongholds. Following the withdrawal of Arab League monitors late last month, the army intensified its bombardment of key towns with heavy weapons.
"It gave no warning to the population and unarmed civilians were given no chance to evacuate," notes the report. "As a result, large numbers of people, including many children, were killed. Several areas were bombarded and then stormed by State forces, which arrested, tortured and summarily executed suspected defectors and opposition activists."
On Dec. 20, 2011, the report states, local residents in the Idlib region discovered the bodies of 74 defectors in a deserted stretch between the villages of Kafar Awid and Kasanfra. "Their hands had been tied behind their back and they appeared to have been summarily executed."
The commission report also notes that while the entire Syrian security apparatus has been engaged in rights violations, elite units close to the regime -- including the Special Forces, the Republican Guard, and the Fourth Division -- and the pro-government Shabbiha militia have played an increasingly central role in operations that have resulted in civilian abuses and deaths.
The commission said the Syrian government, while denying U.N. observers entry into the country and access to key government officials, supplied it with a list of alleged attacks by armed opposition forces and "terrorists." The commission said that government's refusal to provide on-the-ground access made it more difficult to verify anti-government attacks, since the victims remain inside the country.
But the team also documented some instances of "gross human rights abuses" by representatives of the armed opposition, known loosely as the Free Syria Army (FSA). For instance, in Homs, armed opposition elements "were found to have tortured and executed" suspected members of the pro-government Shabbiha militia. And, in late January, members of the Free Syria Army "lynched a man suspected of working for the state security forces, and paraded his body on a pick-up [truck] through the streets."
"Some armed civilians in Homs, including armed civilians belonging to the FSA, sought to exact blood revenge for abuses by killing family members of security personnel or Shabbiha," the report found. "The commission highlights the fact that FSA members, including local commanders that have command responsibility, may incur criminal responsibility under international law."
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Of the 60 people who have died in 14 reported drone attacks in Pakistan tribal areas since September, the names of all but one of the victims, an alleged leader of the Haqqani terror network named Janbaz Zadran, remain classified.
Since 9/11, the United States has dramatically expanded its covert drone program, killing between several hundred to more than 2,000 people, mostly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, according to human rights groups. Carried out it in near total secrecy (even the existence of the drone program is classified), it's impossible for outsiders to assess whether U.S. kill operations meet the standards of international law.
The drone program has proven highly controversial in Yemen -- where a U.S. strike, prompted by bad intelligence, in May, resulted in the killing of a Yemeni official -- and in Pakistan, where it has strained U.S. relations with a key ally in the war on terror. Last month, the Central Intelligence Agency temporarily suspended drone operations in Pakistan in an effort to repair the two countries' relationship. But the U.N. leadership has shown little interest in registering concern about a practice considered highly controversial -- even before the United States launched its war on terrorism after 9/11. While some of Washington allies' are reportedly troubled by the scope of the U.S. killing campaign they have registered little public concern about it at the United Nations, leaving Iran as a relatively lone voice of protest against the program following their capture of an American surveillance drone in December.
Last month, Turtle Bay asked U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at his year-end press conference about his views on the use of drones, and whether he worries about countries like Iran or Russia taking up the practice. "I don't have much to say about all this, what kind of means the member states use," Ban answered. "This is something which national governments, military authorities, they may decide."
Ban said that while he hoped these nations act within the bounds of "international regulations and understandings" he realizes that "with the rapid development of technology, many countries develop their own military means of getting, collecting information. Other than that, I do not have comments on this matter."
Ban's reluctance to address the drone policy stands in contrast to his predecessor Kofi Annan's criticism of other controversial aspects of the U.S. led war on terror, particularly its detention and rendition policies.
Ban's human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has also kept relatively silent about the U.S. drone program, though she has expressed concern about President Barack Obama's decision to order a targeted killing of Osama Bin Laden..
Pillay's aides said that international law does allow for the use of targeted killings in the course of an armed conflict. "The issue of drones is a very complex one, and depends on the circumstances in which they are used," Pillay's spokesman, Rupert Colville, told Turtle Bay in an email. "When used in the course of an armed conflict the use of armed drones must respect all norms of International Humanitarian Law -- in other words the same norms applicable to any other weapon.... When used outside the context of an armed conflict, a number of rules and principles of general international human rights law would become relevant, and each situation would have to be assessed on the basis of its own particular set of facts -- which makes it a bit difficult to generalize."
The Obama administration sees the drones as an important asset in the U.S. effort to confront al Qaeda at a time when U.S. forces have withdrawn from Iraq and are prepared to scale back in Afghanistan. They say that they inflict far fewer casualties on civilians than cruder weapons.
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Iran denounced the United States at the United Nations on Thursday night for engaging in a pattern of "provocative and covert operations," including the use of an RQ-170 unmanned spy drone that was captured by Iranian authorities, and warned that Tehran "reserves its legitimate rights to take all necessary measures to protect its national sovereignty."
Iran's U.N. ambassador Mohammad Khazaee wrote in a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the United States has stepped up covert operations against Iran in recent months, perhaps referring to the assassination of three Iranian nuclear scientists. He called on the United Nations to condemn what he described as "acts of aggression" and to take "clear and effective measures" to "put an end to these dangerous and unlawful acts."
The diplomatic protest comes as the Iranian government has itself come under intensive criticism at the United Nations over its nuclear program, its human rights conduct, and its alleged role in an assassination plot against Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United Nations.
Earlier this month, the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report expressing serious "concern" that Iran has been seeking to master the technology to develop nuclear weapons capability. The U.N. General Assembly's Human Rights Council, meanwhile, adopted a resolution deploring the alleged assassination attempt.
A copy of the latest Iranian letter, which will also be presented to the presidents of the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly, was emailed to Turtle Bay by the Iranian government.
It says the American drone "violated Iran's air space" by flying "250 Kilometers deep into Iranian territory up to the northern region of the city of Tabas, where it faced prompt and forceful action by the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
"This is not the only act of aggression and covert operation by the United States against the Islamic Republic of Iran," Khazee wrote. "My Government emphasizes that this blatant and unprovoked air violation by the United States Government is tantamount to an act of hostility against the Islamic Republic of Iran in clear contravention of international law, in particular, the basic tenets of the United Nations Charter."
(Full text below.)
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* * *
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
No. 1396 8 December 2011
Upon instructions from my Government, I have the honor to draw your kind attention to the provocative and covert operations against the Islamic Republic of Iran by the United States Government, which have increased and intensified in recent months.
In the continuation of such trend, recently, an American RQ-170 unmanned spy plane, bearing a specific serial number, violated Iran 's air space. This plane flied 250 Kilometers deep into Iranian territory up to the northern region of the city of Tabas , where it faced prompt and forceful action by the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In the past, the Iranian Government lodged its strong protests against similar acts by submitting several Notes including Notes No. 164440 dated 29 October 2008 and No. 268483 dated 11 February 2009 to the Government of the United States.
My Government emphasizes that this blatant and unprovoked air violation by the United States Government is tantamount to an act of hostility against the Islamic Republic of Iran in clear contravention of international law, in particular, the basic tenets of the United Nations Charter. The Iranian Government expresses its strong protest over these violations and acts of aggression and warns against the destructive consequences of the recurrence of such acts. The Islamic Republic of Iran reserves its legitimate rights to take all necessary measures to protect its national sovereignty.
My Government, hereby, calls for the condemnation of such acts of aggression and requests for clear and effective measures to be taken to put an end to these dangerous and unlawful acts in line with the United Nations' responsibilities to maintain international and regional peace and security, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter.
I am sending identical letters to the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council. It would be appreciated if this letter could be circulated as a document of the General Assembly under the agenda item 83 and of the Security Council.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General of the United Nations
cc: H.E. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin
President of Security Council
United Nations, New York
cc: H.E. Mr. Nasser A. Al-Nasser
President of General Assembly
United Nations, New York
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to end the NATO-led no-fly zone over Libya, marking the conclusion of a controversial military conflict that deeply divided the 15-nation security body, but ended with the collapse of one of the world's most reviled dictatorships.
Yesterday's action came one week after Africa's longest ruling leader, Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, was killed in the custody of militia fighting under the banner of the National Transitional Council. The Security Council decided to terminate by Oct. 31 a U.N. mandate which has permitted foreign forces to enforce a no-fly zone and to use military force to protect civilians during the past seven months.
Following the vote, U.S. ambassador Susan Rice hailed the council's role in halting Qaddafi's crackdown on civilians and unmitigated success.
"For the United Nations Security Council, this closes what I think history will judge to be a proud chapter in the Security Council's history," she told reporters. The council, she added, "acted promptly and effectively to prevent mass slaughter in Benghazi and other parts of the east, and to effectively protect civilians over the course of the last many months."
The council's decision ended months of acrimonious debate. China, Brazil, Russia, and India -- who joined Germany in abstaining on the vote authorizing the use of force -- had sharply criticized the NATO-led military coalition, saying its role in aiding the rebel campaign exceeded the Security Council mandate to use force only for the protection of civilians.
In the end, however, those governments gave their approval to a resolution that welcomed the "positive developments in Libya which will improve the prospects for a democratic, peaceful and prosperous future" for the North African country.
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Is austerity making the world a more dangerous place? Republican hawks are making the case that the Obama administration's planned Pentagon cuts are making the world safe for bad guys, and now European governments are looking at their defense expenditures as well -- and they're targeting the blue helmets budget line, particularly in peacekeeping missions favored by the United States.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, fended off a push last month by European governments to press to consider cuts next year in U.N.-backed peacekeeping mission in Liberia, which costs upwards of $525 million a year, more than Liberia's $459 million annual national budget. Rice has also resisted calls from other European governments, like Britain and France, to consider deeper cuts in U.N. peacekeeping missions in Haiti and in Sudan.
France and Britain are required to pay, respectively, 7.5 percent and 8.16 percent of all U.N. peacekeeping costs.
U.S. officials say that peacekeeping missions must be adequately funded to ensure their success, and that European governments, who each pay a far smaller share of the U.N. peacekeeping budget, are in some instances motivated by a desire to shift funding to their own "pet" missions, not the commitment to fiscal discipline that they claim.
"There is no country that has a greater interest in the economies, effectiveness, and efficiencies of U.N. peacekeeping missions [than the United States]. We pay 27 percent of the bill while the Europeans pay a smaller percentage," Rice said in an interview with Turtle Bay. "For them to be holier than thou is a bit rich, to say the least."
"We want missions to succeed at maximum efficiency and minimum cost," she said, noting that the United States has already agreed to send thousands of U.N. peacekeepers from Haiti and Liberia back home. "We are all feeling the strain.... But we are not going to sacrifice the effectiveness and success of missions by prematurely closing them or prematurely cutting them down beyond what the security situation on the ground will allow."
But while Rice is backing a prominent contribution to peacekeeping, the Obama administration is seeking cuts elsewhere at the United Nations, delivering a series of sharply critical statements about the organization's failure to tighten its belt and cut waste in these hard times.
The debate is unfolding at a time when the United States and other major donors are facing major financial crises at home, prompting their envoys to press for deeper cuts while securing support for operations of critical national interest. The U.N.'s administrative and peacekeeping budget, however, has been expanded over the past decade, and shows little sign of contracting.
"We meet at a time of severe -- and worldwide economic challenge.... Member states around the world are under financial strain," said Joseph M. Torsella, the U.S. representative for U.N. Management and Reform, in a Sept. 29 speech calling for more belt-tightening before the U.N.'s main budget committee. "That is the simple reality we face, all of us: in a time of scarce resources, the United Nations cannot afford business as usual. But that unfortunately, is exactly what is represented in this budget."
The United Nations currently has about 120,000 peacekeepers serving around the world at a cost of more than $8 billion, with about 27 percent of that amount paid by the United States. Indeed, those costs don't even include a series of expensive "special political missions" in Afghanistan ($200 million), Iraq ($200 million) and now in Libya ($10 million in start-up costs) that are favored by the United States. (The U.S. pays only about 22 percent of the costs for these missions.)
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While the U.N. Security Council spent last week debating sanctions and the pursuit of an investigation into crimes against humanity in Libya, the U.S. delegation had another idea on its mind. U.S. diplomats sought to insert language into the U.N. resolution on Libya that would have raised the possibility of an international military intervention, two Security Council members familiar with the discussions told Turtle Bay.
The U.S. amendment called for authorizing member states, working with the cooperation of the United Nations, to use "all means necessary to protect civilians and key installations." In the diplomatic terminology of U.N. resolutions, the phrase "all means necessary" has traditionally served as a code for military action.
The debate over the use of force unfolded behind closed doors last week as the Obama administration began exploring options for ensuring the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Libya. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will arrive in Washington on Monday to discuss international plans to address the worsening violence in Libya. Over the weekend, the U.S. held talks with Europe and other countries to explore the possibility of establishing a no-fly zone over Libya, according to a report in the New York Times.
One U.S. official, while declining to comment on confidential negotiations over the Security Council resolution, cautioned that the U.S. diplomatic effort in New York was purely humanitarian. "Our intention on any of the language that had to deal with this particular issue was humanitarian in nature. None of this has to do with putting U.S. boots on the ground."
The United States had hoped its amendment would be included in the resolution that was eventually unanimously adopted on Saturday by the U.N. Security Council resolution, which imposed a range of financial and military sanctions on the Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi and his closest associates, and authorized an investigation into crimes against humanity. The U.S. had conditioned its support for the sanctions resolution on the inclusion of another provision that ensured that no foreign nationals inside Libya would be subject to prosecution by the International Criminal Court, according to France's U.N. ambassador, Gerard Araud.
The resolution's primarily goal is immunize non-Libyan nationals whose governments, like the United States, are not members of the criminal court in the event that they participate in a U.N. authorized operation in Libya. No such operation has been established, but the resolution suggests that the Western drafters of the resolution are considering it
The decisive provision was included in the final resolution at the insistence of "one country," Araud said Saturday night. "It was absolutely necessary for one country to have that, considering its parliamentary constrains. It was a red line for the United States, it was a deal breaker. This is the reason why we accepted this unanimously."
The U.S. provision allowing for the use of force, however, was shelved. Instead, Britain, which led the negotiations, proposed somewhat more cautious language, but still sweeping enough to allow Western powers to enter Libya with force. It proposed a provision authorizing states to "adopt all measures necessary" to enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Western diplomats said the language was not intended to provide a legal basis for a military invasion in Libya, and that the U.S. and its European partners have no intention of entering the fighting in Libya. But they said they hoped it would provide their forces with some flexibility in the event that they had to go into Libya to secure a humanitarian relief operation or to ensure the delivery of medical supplies.
The dilemma is not entirely theoretical. Britain has docked the HMS Cumberland vessel at the port in renegade city Benghazi to evacuate British and other foreign nationals. The British RAF has also used Hercules aircraft in Libya to collect foreign oil workers. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, meanwhile, said on Saturday that the U.S. and its allies are exploring ways to support humanitarian assistance operations in Libya. They have not and are not likely in the future to secure approval from Qaddafi's government.
But the effort to secure legal cover for action inside Libya encountered implacable opposition from Russia. Russia's reservation over the Western approach dates back to the 2003 U.S. and British invasion of Iraq. In that case, the United States invoked the breach of a resolution twelve years after the fact - namely, the 1991 ceasefire resolution that ended the first Persian Gulf War by imposing a set of cumbersome disarmament obligations on Iraq.
"Resolution 687 imposed a series of obligations on Iraq, including, most importantly, extensive disarmament obligations, that were conditions of the cease-fire established under it," John Negroponte wrote in a letter to the U.N. Security Council after the U.S launched its military invasion. "Iraq continues to be in material breach of its disarmament obligations under resolution 687." (h/t to @lailaokabbaj for locating the Negroponte letter.)
Russia's U.N. ambassador at the time, Sergei Lavrov, who now serves as Russia's foreign minister, never forget the Anglo-American maneuver. He has insisted that all subsequent sanctions resolution -- all of which are adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, the article that authorizes both sanctions and military force -- include a provision that expressly prohibits the use of military force.
The latest negotiations on the Libyan resolution were no different. In order to ensure Russian support for the resolution, Britain agreed to include a provision that explicitly prohibits the use of force to enforce the council's demands. "The legal trick that the allies tried to pull before the Iraq invasion is now tying their hand to intervene in Libyan," said Carne Ross, a former British diplomat who oversaw negotiations on Iraq before the war.
Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly claimed that Resolution 1970 would shield large numbers of foreign mercenaries operating on behalf of Qaddafi from possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court. However, it does not require countries that have not joined the ICC to surrender suspected criminals to the court if they flee Libya.
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Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.