TOPICS : UNSC loses credibility over Iran, Israel

The 15-member UN Security Council (UNSC) is set to lose its credibility once again as it prepares to impose a third set of sanctions on Iran while failing to pass any strictures on Israel for its continued heavy-handed repression of Palestinians in Gaza. “Many ask whether the UNSC still has any credibility left,” says Mouin Rabbani, contributing editor to the Washington-based Middle East Report. But the more pertinent question, he pointed out, “is whether it should have any — after its consistent failure to ensure either peace or security, and of turning a malignantly blind eye to so many threats to peace and security and the basic rights of many millions.”

“Indeed, the UNSC’s continued obsession with Iran’s apparently non-existent nuclear weapons programme, and its dogged determination to do nothing of consequence to address Israel’s very real occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip — to the point of currently failing to issue even the lamest of statements on the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip — speaks volumes,” Rabbani said. “And this is in a conflict the UN played a direct role in creating in 1947,” he added.

After four days of intense closed-door negotiations last week, the UNSC failed to come up either with a resolution against Israel or a unanimous non-binding presidential statement. With the United States demanding a stronger text critical of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, the UNSC lacked consensus for a collective statement condemning Israel’s decision to choke Palestinians in Gaza and cutting off electricity and humanitarian supplies. The decision-makers in the UNSC, which also has 10 rotating non-permanent members, are the five veto-wielding permanent members, namely the US, Britain, France, China and Russia.

In a strong statement issued last week, John Dugard, the UN special rapporteur on human rights, said that Israeli action violates the strict prohibition on collective punishment contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention governing conflicts. “It also violates one of the basic principles of international humanitarian law that military action must distinguish between military targets and civilian targets,” he said. Dugard singled out the killing of some 40 Palestinians in Gaza and the targeting of a government office near a wedding party venue resulting in the loss of civilian lives.

Meanwhile, “as for the Russians and the Chinese”, an Arab diplomat said, “They are trading off their vetoes in return for Western support to protect their own national interests.” “The Chinese will continue to cave in to American demands until the successful completion of the Olympics in August,” he added.

The Bush administration has come under pressure from human rights activists who say that only a US threat to boycott the Olympics could force the Chinese to drop their opposition to harsh sanctions against Myanmar and Sudan, two countries with strong military and economic ties to Beijing. But the White House is unlikely to support such a boycott. — IPS