Tough Response Needed to Counter UN Slander

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

Guest Commentary

I have lost all respect for the United Nations. It has evolved into a largely impotent entity dominated by a handful of veto-holding nuclear powers, which wield undue influence over its decision-making. Not only has its lofty status been undermined with accusations of corruption, UN peacekeepers are alleged to have sexually exploited vulnerable women and children in Haiti and the Central African Republic.

Most significantly, it is proven not to be fit for the purpose for which it was founded: “To maintain international peace and security” and, if necessary by “taking preventive or enforcement action.” A glaring example of the organization’s failure to live up to its responsibilities was the genocide that took place in Rwanda.

A report written in 1994 and released in 1999 accused senior UN officials of ignoring evidence that a slaughter of mega proportions was underway and of failing to protect the Rwandan people. Kofi Annan issued an apology. Its record since has been no better.

It was just as useless in Srebrenica as the mass graves of Muslim men attest and it has done practically nothing to end the bloodshed in Syria where over 150,000 have been killed and millions have been displaced. Conflicts blaze and all the UN does is hold high profile meetings that more often than not achieve nothing other than give delegates the excuse to rub shoulders at cocktail parties.

It is one thing for the UN’s New York headquarters to exist as an expensive and fairly useless white elephant, but quite another for its secretary general to hurl unsubstantiated accusations at Saudi Arabia and nine of its Arab coalition partners invited by the internationally-recognized Yemeni president to help free his country from Houthi rebels funded and armed by Iran.

Saudi Arabia and its prime partner the United Arab Emirates have sacrificed blood and treasure to this legitimate cause that has been supported by America and Britain. Almost 1,000 coalition officers and soldiers have been killed and hundreds have been wounded. And now that the conflict is winding down, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon chooses to slap Yemen’s rescuers in the face with the announcement that the Saudi coalition is to be equated with terrorists, militias and Houthi devils in the pay of expansionist Tehran.

For the first time ever, an international coalition, in this case the Saudi-led Arab coalition, has been included in the UN’s annual blacklist, designed to shame factions that have engaged “in the recruitment and use of children, sexual violence against children, the killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools and/or hospitals and attacks or threats against protected personnel and the abduction of children.”

Ban Ki-Moon has arbitrarily attributed 60 per cent of almost 2,000 child casualties of the conflict to the Kingdom’s air campaign while accusing the coalition of striking a hospital run by Doctors without Borders, which Saudi has vehemently denied. Here it is worth noting that while the US has admitted bombing a hospital in Afghanistan, also managed by Doctors without Borders, the report disingenuously blames that tragedy on “international forces” which are not being blacklisted.

Worse, the Israeli government is persistently left off the hook when over 1,000 Palestinian children have been victims of Israel’s aggression on Gaza alone. Rights groups have condemned Israel for using Palestinian children as human shields and Defense for Children International –Palestine (DCIP) maintains 440 are currently illegally held in military detention, three-quarters of whom claim they have been physically abused. It seems the plight of the sons of Palestine are not worthy of Mr Ban’s concern or alternatively he is too scared of his masters to open his mouth.

To be frank, I was shocked and angered to read this dreadful news. I am still struggling against disbelief that the powers that be within the United Nations could stoop so low as to infer that ten Arab countries would deliberately target Yemeni children! Our Arab children, we love and wish to protect just like the young ones we cherish at home.

While admittedly airstrikes are not always 100 per cent precise, but in any theatre of war there are civilian casualties and all of us wish that were not so. Wars are sometimes necessary, but always ugly. Just ask Iraqis who lost up to a million of their compatriots as a result of 2003 US-led intervention to deprive Saddam Hussein of mythical weapons of destruction or Afghans and Pakistanis who have lost hundreds of their innocent brethren to US drone attacks.

This damning UN report reeks of bias, double standards, insult and unsubstantiated claims. What is the game here? What is the agenda? What is the reason behind this unjust offensive classification? I have dismissed various claims that the United Nations acts as the political tool of certain nations. But now I am persuaded there might be something in those assertions, especially in light of the fact that there is a bill going through US Congress, supported by all presidential candidates, that would embroil Saudi Arabia in court cases related to the 11 September attacks even though the 9/11 Commission report completely exonerates the Kingdom from playing any part in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Whatever the truth may be, I would strongly urge the coalition’s member states, the Arab League and the GCC to issue firm statements in response to the UN’s slurs. What is needed is for the Kingdom and its allies to make a firm stand. We need to be strong and unyielding. Diplomacy is a two-way street and since there is nothing diplomatic about the coalition’s shameful inclusion in this disgusting list, we are not bound by diplomatic protocol to pull punches.

It needs to be made clear to Ban Ki-Moon that either the coalition is immediately removed from this blacklist of rogues or we will cancel our memberships of this suspect body that is supposed to be a unifying force, not one that alienates and divides. Either that or we must insist upon his resignation forthwith.

He will not be missed. His grasp of crucial issues is negligible and when he speaks he is barely coherent. And for that matter what has he ever done to save the children of the Middle East or anywhere else apart from throwing food parcels in their direction and erecting tents?

I never imagined I would agree with anything from the lips of former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, who was instrumental in pushing for the invasion of Iraq, but his suggestion that the UN secretariat could do just as well without its top ten floors rings true. The UN needs to shape up and behave in a responsible fashion or the Arab nation should ship-out.

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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