The Second Coming, Cartoon Bombs, and Angry New York Mobs: Mosaic's UNGA Roundup

 Press TV / United Nations


The UN General Assembly's yearly get-together is a time for high-flying international diplomacy between world leaders. The General Debate, in particular, allows all world leaders who participate in the United Nations to deliver a public address to the General Assembly. As such, it has been used as a highly-visible platform by many countries' representatives to push their views.

This year's debate theme was "Adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations by peaceful means," which seems a little tongue-in-cheek given the current situation in parts of the Middle East and Africa.

As BBC Arabic reported that Somali and African forces were closing in on the final al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ali gave his remarks at the Assembly, saying that there was no place in Somalia for the "few ideological extremists" in the Islamist group's ranks.

Barack Obama's appearance at the UN was brief, which some say was to avoid tough discussions with other world leaders on Iran and Syria. He honored Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in an attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, and condemned the American-made film that criticized Islam's Prophet Muhammad and sparked anti-US riots across the Muslim world. Meanwhile, Libya's new president, Mohamed Yousek al-Magariaf, apologized for the attacks, and apologized to the world on behalf of Libya for Muammar Gaddafi's decades-long rule.

With regard to Syria, world leaders condemned the violence across the board, but their approaches to end the conflict varied greatly. According to IBA News, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Jordan's King Abdullah II both called for Bashar al-Assad to step down, saying that the Syrian president's ouster is vital to the success of peace efforts.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad supported the Syrian regime, and criticized the efforts by the Western world to interfere in what he sees as an internal conflict. Ahmadinejad, in his last speech to the Assembly as a world leader, also spoke of his belief in the imminent arrival of Jesus Christ and the twelfth imam, Imam al-Mahdi, whom Shiites believe will come at the end times with the prophet Jesus to help humanity. The United States and Israel were both absent from the General Assembly Hall when he gave his remarks.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also addressed the United Nations with a long-anticipated bid to join the UN General Assembly as an observer. The Palestinian Authority previously asked the UN for full member status last year, but had been rejected by the Security Council, which has the Israel ally, the United States, as a permanent member with veto power. Press TV reports that Abbas also lambasted Israel for its "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians, as well as the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land. A UN report that came at the beginning of the week and before the General Assembly meeting echoed similar statements-- that Israel must do more to halt the abuse of Palestinian rights.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stole the show by using a prop, which has not been done in the General Assembly since the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi pulled out a copy of the UN Charter and threw it in the air in 2009. Netanyahu used a picture of a cartoon bomb and drew a red line through it to illustrate how far Iran has come in enriching uranium, and how the United Nations must draw a red line for the country before it acquires enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb. Press TV analysts expressed concern over Netanyahu's mental health following this incident.

Outside of the Assembly Hall, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Rahmin Mehmanparast captured the attention of the American channel Fox News after he was attacked by a group of "about 100" Iranian dissident protestors on a New York City sidewalk. He managed to flag down an NYPD police car, but according to Dubai TV, the cops appeared "uninterested."


Image: Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red line on a bomb illustration at the UN General Assembly, September 27, 2012. Press TV / United Nations


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Trouble Brews in Yemen, Words Fly at NAM Summit, and More Top Stories This Week

REUTERS/Mehr News Agency


Words fly at Non-Aligned Movement summit

On Wednesday, Al-Alam reported that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Tehran to take part in the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, despite outcry from the United States and from Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu over Iran taking over NAM leadership. However, Ban went on later in the week to sharply condemn Iran's denial of the Holocaust during WWII, as well as Israel's right to exist, in a speech at the summit.

Ban's comments were part of a number of verbal attacks at the meeting, which was heavily covered by Mosaic's broadcasters. BBC Arabic reported that the Syrian delegation left the summit's conference hall when Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi criticized the Syrian government during his speech, in which he affirmed his country's "full solidarity" with those seeking freedom and justice in Syria. Additionally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Western countries of fabricating crises around the world, and of monopolizing the UN Security Council.

Trouble brews for a shaky Yemen in transition

New protests have broken out in the Yemeni capital Sanaa to denounce the deteriorating security situation in the country, and to demand the dismissal of relatives of deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh from their military positions. Al Jazeera reported that this comes after an assassination attempt targeted Yassin Saeed Noman, the most prominent leader of the Joint Meeting Parties opposition coalition.

In addition, Press TV reported another US drone strike in Yemen killed at least eight people in Hadhramaut Province, the second such attack in the region this week. Dubai TV reported the killing of three al-Qaeda members in an air raid in the Khashamir area of the Qatan district, but the source did not specify the origin of the plane that carried out the raid.

Yemen has been experiencing difficulty in restructuring the country's government after the fall of former president Saleh. Earlier this week, members of the Southern Movement in Yemen refused to participate in the national dialogue conference scheduled for the end of the year. They demand the south's secession from the north, which would mean a return to the country's pre-unification division.

More leaders express stance on Syrian Civil War

As the Syrian army's shelling intensified all across Syria this week, Press TV reported that President Bashar al-Assad sat down for an interview with Syrian channel Al-Dunya, saying more time is needed to end the insurgency in his country and that a buffer zone, the idea being championed by "hostile countries" and "Syria's enemies," is unrealistic.

Meanwhile, some leaders expressed their stance on the Syrian war during the NAM summit, most notably Egypt's President Morsi, Iran's President Ahmadinejad, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who opposed any kind of military intervention, as well as criticized the ongoing flow of weapons to insurgents. The head of Russia's army also rejected media reports this week that Moscow was winding down its military presence in Syria, saying that it is not in the process of evacuating its naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus, which it has leased since Soviet times.


Image: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks to Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (R) after his speech during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Majid Asgaripour/Mehr News Agency


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Link TV Presents Comprehensive Coverage of Iran-US Relations


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Freed In Iran: US Hikers Urge Freedom for All Political Prisoners

American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were released yesterday after over two years in Iranian prison on allegations of trespassing and spying for the US. Fattal and Bauer were arrested, along with travelling companion Sarah Shroud, while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan in July 2011. On August 20, 2011, Fattal and Bauer were sentenced to eight years in prison. The American hikers were released yesterday on $500,000 bail and taken to Oman where they were reunited with their families.


Some analysts believe that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad strategically announced the release of Fattal and Bauer just weeks before his visit to New York for the annual UN General Assembly in order to receive a warmer welcome by the US and project a noble and gracious image among fellow world leaders at the UN. Others believe it was a tactical move in the ongoing political feud between Ahmadinejad and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Ahamenei. Only a day after his announcement, the Iranian judiciary denied the president's statement and said the hikers' release was 'not imminent.'


Democracy Now's Amy Goodman interviews Shon Meckfessel, who was also travelling with the trio in 2009, but who stayed at the hotel the morning of their hike because of a cold. 



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Iran: Ahmadinejad 'Asks to Resign'

(Al Jazeera English: 1532 PT, May 16, 2011) There is a serious and growing rift in Iran between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader. Ahmadinejad has reportedly asked the Khamenei if he can resign. Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari reports from Tehran.




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Ahmadinejad's Boycott of Duty Stirs Controversy

(Al Jazeera English: 1356 PT, May 4, 2011) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ended an apparent boycott of his official duties by chairing his second cabinet meeting this week. While a rift with the Intelligence Minister seems to have ended, another confrontation appears to be developing.


The president's actions are now the cause of much debate. While Ahmadinejad has made no comments about his 10 day absence from his job, it has given his critics reason to question his ability to govern. Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari reports from the Iranian capital of Tehran.




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Iranian Leaders Push to Suppress Protests

(Associated Press: 0840 PST, February 16, 2011) Iranian authorities stepped up their campaign Wednesday to repress the protest movement in the country, two days after tens of thousands marched in the capital. But reform leaders remained defiant in postings on the internet.




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Nuclear Iran: Is There An Option?

The US treasury has recently expanded its blacklist on Iran to include another state-controlled bank, a shipping line, and more of its elite Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The latest move is the first step by the US in implementing new restrictions adopted by the UN Security Council last week. The Treasury also took a separate step to squeeze Iran's energy sector by identifying some 20 petroleum and petrochemical companies as being under Iranian government control--an action that puts them off limits to U.S. businesses under a general trade embargo.

On Wednesday, Iran announced that it will build four new reactors to expand its atomic research. It denies Western allegations that it is seeking atomic weapons, insisting that it only wants to develop the peaceful use of nuclear energy. In a televised speech, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed to force the West to "sit at the negotiating table like a polite child" before agreeing to further talks, adding that Iran will not make "one iota of concessions."

The Obama administration says the goal of the punitive measures is to deter Tehran from its nuclear-enrichment program. Will these sanctions further that goal? Not really.

Lest we forget, the sanctions that were passed at the UN have been watered down during negotiations with Russia and China rendering them practically ineffective. The additional sanctions by the US and the ones planned by the EU have no crippling effect on Iran's economy and do not entail an oil embargo. Sanctions can be effective only if they threaten the regime's survival, and since these sanctions are all based on Iran's nuclear energy program and not human rights, they remain ineffective. The vast majority of Iranians support their government's nuclear-enrichment policies.

Additional sanctions will most likely come at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable, as they did in Iraq from August 1991 through March 1998.

"[The sanctions] will most probably lead to the suffering of the people of Iran and will play into the hands of people on all sides who do not want dialogue to prevail," according to the Brazilian ambassador to the UN, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti. Brazil, along with Turkey, voted against the draft resolution of the UN Security Council to impose new sanctions against Iran.

Furthermore, the sanctions would allow Tehran to blame outsiders for its economic woes. In fact, the sanctions will do Iran a favor that the Iranian government can't do for itself.


As for making a dent in Iran's import- export traffic of energy products, the sanctions will have little effect. Turkey has indicated that it plans to increase its imports of natural gas from Iran. Also, according to The Wall Street Journal, oil traders and oil industry analysts say Iran will have little trouble finding other gasoline supplies in the Persian Gulf, where a black market in fuel products thrives, even if Washington passes measures that would penalize firms or individuals with business in the U.S. that supply gasoline to Iran.

Capt. Mousa Murad, general manager of the United Arab Emirates' Port of Fujairah, says gasoline sanctions will likely give a lift to a thriving black-market fuel trade in the Gulf. The region has no shortage of suppliers, he says, who will continue to hide gasoline shipments to Iran because "prices will go up two times, three times."

What options does the US have?


Those who are anxious to stop Iran's nuclear program keep reminding us that the "military option is still on the table." For years, the US has tried to stop India and Pakistan from joining the nuclear club and briefly turned off aid to them. Today, it works secretly with Pakistan to secure its arsenal and has signed a treaty with India permitting it to buy nuclear material. The Unites States option might be no option.


Article originally published on the Huffington Post
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Look Who's Missing from Washington

On Thursday President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev signed an arms control treaty hailed by the White House as a big step forward "to reset relations with Russia", as well as for the US president's broader nuclear agenda. The treaty, signed at a ceremony in a ballroom in Prague, reduces the number of strategic nuclear warheads each side can deploy to 1,550, along with cuts in launchers and new verification procedures.

"This day demonstrates the determination of the US and Russia - the two nations that hold over 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons - to pursue responsible global leadership," President Obama said.

But let's not kid ourselves and celebrate, there will be enough nuclear firepower left on each side to devastate the world many times over.

"Nuclear weapons are not simply an issue for the United States and Russia," Mr. Obama continued to say. "A nuclear weapon in the hands of a terrorist is a danger to people everywhere, from Moscow to New York, from the cities of Europe to South Asia."

In other words, with the more immediate concern being attempts by terrorist groups like al-Qaeda to acquire nuclear weapons, the remaining 10 percent of the world's nuclear arsenal becomes a significant concern. Significant in that it is in the hands of countries half of which are not signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), such as India, Pakistan North Korea, and Israel.

This upcoming Monday and Tuesday, President Obama will also meet with leaders of more than 40 countries with the expectation of issuing a joint statement on the challenges and importance of nuclear security. He hopes to bring everyone to agree on a common "work plan" for cracking down on the illicit trade of nuclear material. Of course we know that Iran, which will be absent from the summit, will top the agenda.

But it's not only Ahmadinejad who will be missed at the summit on nuclear security; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cancelled his visit to the US.

According to Israeli media sources, PM Netanyahu made the decision after learning that Egypt and Turkey intended to raise the issue of Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal. "Presumed" that is because Israel has never confirmed or denied that it possesses atomic weapons.

"The prime minister has decided to cancel his trip to Washington to attend the nuclear conference next week, after learning that some countries including Egypt and Turkey plan to say Israel must sign the NPT", Reuters news agency quoted a senior Israeli official as saying. Israel's Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor will take Netanyahu's place in the nuclear summit.

Mr. Netanyahu's cancelled visit to Washington comes at a time when relations between Israel and the US have hit rock bottom.

One hundred and eighty-nine countries, including all Arab states, are party to the NPT. Only Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea are not.

In late March, during a closed-door session, the Arab League called for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and a review of the 1970 NPT in order to create a definitive plan for eliminating nuclear weapons. They also called on the UN to declare the Middle East as a nuclear-weapons-free region.

Interestingly enough, the similarities between Iran's and Israel's desire for nuclear dominance can be seen in Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's claim that Iran is developing its nuclear program for "peaceful purposes." That assertion brings to mind David Ben-Gurion's own statement in December of 1960. When U-2 spy planes identified Dimona as an Israeli nuclear site, Ben-Gurion claimed that it was only a nuclear research center built for "peaceful purposes."


Article first published on the Huffington Post
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Iran Opposition Unplugged

Last June, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proclaimed a "landslide" victory election triggering months of upheaval. Tehran and other cities have seen the largest street protests and rioting since the 1979 Iranian Revolution by supporters of reform candidates alleging voter fraud. For the past several weeks, Iranian opposition groups and various media outlets have been predicting a repeat of this past summer's events during the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. The anniversary is the most important day in Iran's political calendar.

Instead, the opposition turnout was dwarfed by huge crowds at the state-run celebrations in the center of Tehran waving Iranian flags and carrying placards declaring the "US and Britain the brothers of the devil", and "Down with Israel."

A triumphant Ahmadinejad declared that Iran was now a "nuclear state" and would soon triple its output of 20% enriched uranium.

"By God's grace, it was reported that the first consignment of 20 per cent-enriched uranium was produced and put at the disposal of the scientists," he addressed the cheering crowd who had gathered in Tehran Azadi square to mark the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

But as Iranian state-controlled television beamed images of rallies supporting the regime in different cities, several Western and Arab television networks were reporting clashes between protesters and security forces in Tehran, Mashhad, Esfahan, Ahvaz, Shiraz and Tabriz. Opposition news websites alleged that security forces opened fire on anti-government demonstrators north of Revolution Square in Tehran, killing at least one person. A video posted on YouTube showing an Iranian security official pummeling an unarmed demonstrator was rebroadcast on several media outlets without confirming whether the video was shot recently or during the June events.

News quickly spread on Twitter that "opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi was attacked by security forces as he neared the main route of the march in Tehran." This was tweeted and retweeted hundreds of times. "His youngest son, Ali, was arrested," another tweet followed.

If one followed the "hashtag" (#IranElection) on Twitter on Thursday, he or she would have had the impression that the "Velvet Revolution" was rekindled. Although this was the wishful thinking of many, it was far from the truth. What went wrong?

Despite weeks of calls to action, the opposition movement failed to derail the holiday's agenda set by supporters of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian government had spent weeks co-opting the opposition plans. Dozens of activists and journalists were arrested, along with individuals suspected of using social networking websites to encourage protests against the regime.

Following in the footsteps of China, Google and other internet service providers had been blocked in Iran. SMS messages were interrupted, and internet communication was brought to a halt. Three major international broadcasters operating in the region, the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America, have recently accused the Iranian regime of "deliberate electronic interference" in their broadcasts.

It seems that the balance in the Iranian uprising is shifting in the regime's favor. This time Ahmadinejad was prepared... he succeeded in "unplugging" the opposition.


Article first published on the Huffington Post

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