Voir la version complète : Ban Ki-Moon’s Moment of Truth

17/08/2012, 17h42
By Ruth Wedgwood

There seems to be a moment in the life of every U.N. secretary general when he jumps without a parachute from the 38th floor. Perhaps it’s the thin air of an elevated office, or a wish to escape the U.N.’s dreary view of the Queens waterfront and its ancient neon sign for Pepsi-Cola.

Or perhaps it is because each successive secretary general is prone to exaggerate his power over the tug and pull of crisis politics. He may even have begun to believe that he is the president of world.

But the office of the U.N. secretary general has no magical power to create world peace or to calm the roiling seas. And a secretary general can certainly make things worse if he allows unworthy actors to exploit his prestige and sully his name.

That’s the potential fate awaiting the likable man from South Korea named Ban Ki-Moon, the current U.N. secretary general, now in his second term.

Ban has been invited to a celebratory meeting in Iran of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement (“NAM”), smack dab in the midst of Iran’s support of the ongoing Syrian slaughter, Iran’s refusal to come clean on its nuclear-weapons program, and Iran’s recent attempt to assassinate a Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil.

Ban would be hosted by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the two men who lead the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism.

He should know what lies ahead if he goes to the Tehran festival of violence.

First, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will seat Ban in the front row of this “global South” festival — or better yet, on the dais. And when Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei begins his tirade, pledging once more to destroy the State of Israel and to launch further acts of violence against the Jewish diaspora, as well as pitching Iran’s supposed right to have a nuclear bomb, it will be rather awkward if the secretary general tries to walk out in a one-man protest.

A representative of the butcher of Damascus will be present as well, proud of a recent buddy-buddy meeting between Ahmadinejad and the Syrian foreign minister; the unembarrassed alliance of these two thuggish regimes will be front and center at the six-day Tehran regional meeting that begins August 26.

The U.N. secretary general’s presence at the gathering is wildly unsuitable at a time when the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency are working desperately to force Iran to give up its nuclear-weapons program and to isolate the bloody regime of Syria’s president. The U.N.’s advocacy for human rights and arms control will be visibly cast aside.

Yet the Iranian government has been brazenly and successfully manipulating Ban by announcing that he is attending the NAM summit even before he has made up his mind.

To be sure, the chairmanship of key voting blocs at the United Nations, such as the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement, has sometimes been passed down to ridiculous countries via the usual political shenanigans. Iran put its name in the hopper several years ago when no one was paying attention.

And it’s also true that the NAM is sometimes an important player. Decisions in the U.N. General Assembly can be predetermined in the closed-door meetings of the group and in the so-called “Group of 77” — 132 states from Asia, Africa, and Latin America whose more sober members are typically afraid to “break consensus,” leaving the field to earnest players such as Cuba and Venezuela.

But this palliative explanation for the impending celebration of blood lust in Tehran shows why outsourcing key foreign-policy decisions to the United Nations can be such clear folly. It amounts to empowering a wholly anti-American caucus.

One would assume that Ban’s advisers are giving him better counsel. The right decision is not in doubt, unless Ban wants his own version of the famous “Kofi in Baghdad” moment.

Perhaps a secretary general would hope that his mere presence could miraculously turn events around. Or that he might be excused for his largely passive presence among bad company in Tehran by making a few strong statements delivered in a tepid voice, even as he is drowned out by the repeated anti-Semitic tirades, Holocaust denials, and 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Perhaps Ban’s hesitation in saying “no way, Mahmoud” is based on his desire to garner the global South’s political support for the U.N. administrative reforms in his “vision for the U.N.” Maybe the secretary general hopes to show that he is not constrained by the foreign-policy preferences of the Western democracies.

But such a rationale would be politically naïve, morally bankrupt, and just plain dangerous. In fact, Ban Ki-Moon would be cutting the struts of his own multilateral institution in its struggle to stop the fighting in Syria and to deter Iran’s race for a nuclear weapon. Ban’s trip would deliver a public-relations gift to Ahmadinejad and Khamenei — allowing them to claim worldwide influence as head of the NAM, respected by the secretary general, in exchange for a mess of potage.

No one in the U.S. Congress will pay a nickel for Ban’s program of U.N. administrative reforms once the program is to be purchased as part of a public-relations coup that seeks to position Iran as a key global broker.

For an honest and earnest secretary general who has taken worthy steps to address U.N. corruption, protect women and children from sexual violence, and call attention to the climate-change debate, this is not the right move.

Will Ban sit on on his hands while the Iranian president repeats the sentiments of his recent Ramadan speech? “Anyone who loves freedom and justice,” said Ahmadinejad, “must strive for the annihilation of the Zionist regime in order to pave the way for world justice and freedom.” The secretary general had better believe that the Iranian wild man will venture a repetition of this genocidal theme.

It was another statesman of the non-aligned world — Sri Lanka’s U.N. ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala — who chaired the important and successful Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty extension conference in 1995. But the core ambitions of the NPT will also be visibly undercut by the secretary general’s visit this month, for Mahmoud Ahamdinejad is expected to announce that the “West” has no right to limit the nuclear activities of the non-aligned world.

As indecision swirls in the secretary general’s executive suite, the iconic headquarters of the U.N. on the East Side of Manhattan are still undergoing renovation. A temporary building has been erected on the tract of land donated by the Rockefeller family in 1946 and the U.N.’s reconstruction project is running over budget. New York City taxi drivers will remind you that the U.N.’s “Turtle Bay” neighborhood was once a slaughterhouse and meatpacking district. The 1st Avenue Tudor City apartments facing the United Nations have no windows on their east façade because the stench of the abattoir was too ripe.

Ban Ki-Moon should take a lesson from this architecture, and stay away from the predictable stench of Ahmadinejad’s Tehran festival of hate.

Otherwise, he will be condemned by the U.S. Congress — and by history — for undercutting all efforts to isolate Iran, which remains the leading state sponsor of terrorism and threat to moderate Muslim states.

The residents of the 38th floor have often blamed operational disasters on U.N. member states. After the debacles in Rwanda and Srebrenica, there were long investigations of how to prevent another such mistake. But going to Tehran is a political calamity that will be blamed only on the secretary general himself.

— Ruth Wedgwood is a law professor and member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on Law and National Security. She served for eight years as the U.S. member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva and New York, and directed the Council on Foreign Relations’ Diplomatic Roundtable on the United Nations.