What could possibly make the Lebanon situation worse today than it was yesterday? Only yesterday the hapless Israeli defense minister, Amir Peretz, said that Israel expected the “international community” to take control of Lebanon’s border crossings. Peretz’s pointless whine was in response to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s statement on Saturday that the new UN force in Lebanon won’t either disarm Hizballah terrorists or try to interdict shipments of weapons to Hizballah from Syria. But what Peretz said changed nothing. The Son of UNIFIL force won’t do anything to inconvenience Hizballah or its Syrian and Iranian suppliers.
But yes, today, things are worse. Kofi Annan is in Lebanon. He’s on a grand tour of the Middle East, with other stops to be made in Damascus, Tehran, and wherever else His Excellency the SecGen goes. Kofi is laboring manfully to improve history’s judgment of his performance in office which now would fairly place him somewhere below Boss Tweed and above Jimmy Carter. To accomplish that elevation, Annan will reprise his performance of 1998.
For those who forgive and forget too quickly, Annan — without the sanction of the Security Council — took it upon himself to visit Baghdad in February 1998. There he met with Saddam Hussein and negotiated away the inspection regimen that Amb. Richard Butler, then chief UN arms inspector in Iraq, had fought to maintain. Annan excluded Butler and his team from meetings in which Annan negotiated a “memorandum of understanding” with Saddam’s foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, which placed unworkable restrictions on Butler’s team and doomed the inspections to failure. (The whole “MOU” is reprinted beginning on page 141 of Butler’s book, The Greatest Threat.)
Let’s be clear about what happened. Annan visited Saddam and gave away the terms of the inspections that had been established by UN Security Council resolution. He acted on his own authority, which, as Secretary General, under the UN Charter, he doesn’t have. He took it upon himself to act contrary to the wishes of the member nations, and contravened their decisions. When he was done, he announced that Saddam was a man, “I can do business with.” Bill Clinton didn’t renounce Annan’s “MOU,” and Saddam soon after threw the UN inspectors out altogether. Kofi Annan was in charge, not the members of the Security Council.
Annan’s trip comes at a fortuitous time. For our enemies, at least. August 31 — Thursday — is the UN’s deadline for Iran to cease enriching uranium. Annan is scheduled to arrive two days later. Ahmadinejad and the mullahs have already said they won’t to stop uranium enrichment and are pushing ahead with their nuke program. Appearing at the commencement of a “new phase” of operation at Iran’s (probably) plutonium-capable heavy water reactor a few days ago, Ahmadinejad said, “No one can deprive a nation of its rights based on its capabilities.” (A curious formulation. If capabilities create rights, why shouldn’t we or the Israelis obliterate him and the rest of the Iranian kakistocracy?)
Annan will follow his established routine. He will “negotiate” with Ahmadinejad and reach understandings contrary to Security Council resolutions. He’ll establish a “good working relationship” with Ahmadinejad, and return to New York suggesting that despite the August 31 deadline it is premature to impose sanctions against Iran. He will, predictably, call for resuming talks unconditionally with Iran, echoing Tehran’s suggestion of “serious” negotiations. Will President Bush move quickly to disavow Annan’s actions and insist on UN action? If he intended to control events, why did he allow Annan’s trip to begin without issuing a stern warning against giving in?
The Sunday Times of London said of Iran yesterday: “These Muslim revolutionaries have transformed international politics and the West is still struggling to deal with them. This would be farcical if it were not so fraught with danger.” That transformation occurred in 1979. It is farcical for President Bush to allow Annan to act independently again. We expected that of John Kerry, but were assured time and again that George Bush would never subordinate U.S. foreign policy to the UN. For conservatives, this may be the last straw that opens an unbreachable gap with President Bush. It may become an open revolt if Annan cuts a deal with Iran and the president doesn’t openly disavow it and press on to deny Iran nuclear weapons.
Kofi won’t come back before accomplishing other political mischief designed to protect terrorist-sponsoring nations.
We should all be grateful for the release of Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and his cameraman Olaf Wiig. But don’t expect Kofi to proclaim the need to protect reporters. When he visits Mahmoud Abbas, the PA chief, he’ll praise the Palestinians for their wonderful work in freeing the kidnapped journalists. In Beirut, he’ll hold the Lahoud government up as a model of democracy, despite the fact that Hizballah controls part outright, and holds the rest hostage. And he’ll call upon the world for a great outpouring of aid to rebuild Lebanon. There will be no mention of protecting northern Israel from rocket attacks or rebuilding Israeli towns. Where else will he go and what other damage will he do? It staggers the mind.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004) and, with Edward Timperlake, Showdown: Why China Wants War With the United States (Regnery, May 2006 — click here to obtain a free chapter).