Obama Follows European Lead on Libya in Maneuvering at UN


UNITED NATIONS – Struggling to develop a coherent strategy on Libya, Washington is attempting instead to rehabilitate the image of international institutions, including the Security Council and, amazingly, one of the United Nations’ most odious organs, the Human Rights Council.

Today’s suspension of Muammar Gadhafi’s Libya from the Geneva-based 47-member human rights body was hailed by our ambassador here, Susan Rice, as an act in the “noblest traditions of the United Nations.” But the U.N. has traditionally acted as fig leaf for inaction, and its record on human rights is suspect at best. The case of Libya is no exception.

In a hearing at the House foreign relations committee today, Secretary of State Clinton indicated that the administration’s policies of international cooperation have pushed the Security Council to adopt quickly sanctions on Mr. Gadhafi. But if it decided to use more robust means than sanctions, America would need to renegotiate the council’s resolution. Such lengthy diplomatic maneuvering would delay for weeks such proposed actions as imposing a “no fly zone,” rendering them all but useless.

Today’s General Assembly adoption of a resolution to eject, for the first time in history, a sitting Human Rights Council member invites another question: How did Mr. Gadhafi become an arbiter of global human rights in the first place?

The General Assembly’s election of Libya as an HRC member last summer was a “shameful act that bolstered Gadhafi’s regime, demoralized his victims, and stained the reputation of the United Nations,” says Executive Director of United Nations Wath, Hillel Neuer, who has acted for years as a thorn in the side of Mr. Gadhafi, exposing in the process the hypocrisy of his Geneva enablers.

Even after the General Assembly resolved today to “suspend” Libya’s HRC membership, the remaining 46 council members in Geneva are expected to adopt this week a report expressing “appreciation” for Mr. Gadhafi’s “commitment to upholding human rights on the ground.”

The report, which was prepared just before the most recent events in Libya, is ostensibly an annual peer review meant to guarantee accountability for council members. Despite the review and other measures that were enacted to assure that no human rights violators serve on the council, the General Assembly elected President Mubarak’s Egypt for membership, as well as Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Communist China, to name a few.

Even as accounts of carnage against Libyan protesters started to emerge last month, no member of the Human Rights Council thought to initiate action against its prized colleague. Only after Mr. Neuer led several Geneva-based NGOs in a call to suspend Libya’s membership did European countries decide to act. America followed their lead.

Three days after the HRC recommended that the General Assembly suspend Libya’s membership, Ms. Clinton’s was dispatched to Geneva yesterday. Her belated appearance in Geneva seemed designed more to justify President Obama’s decision shortly after his election to join the HRC than an act on Libya.

But even here, where America is only one of five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, it wasn’t Washington that initiated action. The council first convened to deal with a Middle East situation that’s unrelated to Israel only after a defecting Libyan official, the deputy ambassador here, Ibrahim Dabbashi, pleaded for some U.N. action.

The Security Council finally authorized sanctions against Mr. Gadhafi’s inner circle on Saturday. But Mr. Gadhafi has thrived under international sanctions for decades. Only after the 2003 Iraq war, fearing he might follow Saddam Hussein’s fate, did he decide to rid Libya of weapons of mass destruction and to subject his nuclear program to international scrutiny.

Similar action to end the current bloodshed, including proposals to impose a no fly zone over Libya, is unauthorized by Saturday’s Security Council resolution, which specifically allows only non-military means of enforcement.

Yet, hours after top Obama administration officials declared that to stop Gadhafi “all options are on the table,” Ms. Rice made clear today that at least one military option is off: after Venezuela’s ambassador here, Jorge Valero, alleged that President Obama is hatching an “invasion plan against Libya,” Ms. Rice retorted that Mr. Valero is trying to “spread lies, foster fear, and sow hate.”

And so he did. The question is why the Obama administration’s only activity on the current Arab upheaval revolves around such international venues as Turtle Bay, where lies, fear and hate are the norm.

March 2, 2011 | 1 Comment »

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  1. I couldn’t make out, from perusing the article, how Obama was following the “European lead”. From what I could make out as these events unfolded, was that Obama was the first to react, stabbing Mubarak in the back, while the Europeans were still completely in a fog.

    For all practical political purposes, Obama IS a European. In fact, as the leader of the most powerful country in the European sphere, he pretty much sets the tone for European policy. The American Right and Center are not in the European shere, but they are not in power at the moment.