Mosaic Blog

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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Occupy Wall Street: An American "Arab Spring"?

"Ever since the Arab Spring, many people here have been pining for an American Autumn," says Charles Blow in the New York Times. "The closest we've gotten so far is Occupy Wall Street." For almost four weeks, Occupy Wall Street activists have gathered in Manhattan's financial district to protest corporate greed, corruption, and social and economic inequality, among other things. The movement's website states, "We Are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends." 

Occupy Wall Street protester marches up Broadway in New York


Is Occupy Wall Street the beginning of America's own "Arab Spring"? According to Micah Sifry at techPresident, "America is about to experience the same youth-driven, hyper-networked wave of grassroots protests against economic inequality and political oligarchy" that swept the Arab world. After travelling throughout the Middle East to cover the "Arab Spring" protests, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof said "the protest reminded me a bit of Tahrir Square in Cairo." 

 

Many disagree. Blow describes the protests as "a festival of frustrations, a collective venting session with little edge or urgency, highlighting just how far away downtown Manhattan is from Damascus." James Joyner at Outside the Beltway states, "What these movements have in common: frustrated youth loosely organized using social media …It's simply insulting to compare the two."

 

What can the American protestors learn from the more experienced "Arab Spring" protestors? In a Foreign Policy Magazine article entitled "From Tahrir Square to Wall Street," veteran Egyptian protestor Mosa'ab Elshamy offers his advice to the Occupy Wall Street activists on what makes a successful protest movement. Most importantly, Elshamy says, is that protestors have a unified platform. They must first agree on a set of simple and broad demands in order to attract a wide base of support, which is exactly what Occupy Wall Street lacks, according to most critics.  

 

Almost one month after the start of protests in New York City, the Occupy Wall Street movement has shown surprising staying power. The movement has spread to over 70 US cities and has been endorsed by several labor unions, celebrities, and politicians. But will it succeed in bringing accountability and equity to the US financial system, or will it fizzle as protestors are dispersed by a cold New York winter? 

 

(Photo: Occupy Wall Street protestor marches up Broadway in New York.  Mike Segar / Reuters)

 
 

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