The road to Geneva began in New York. The historic deal struck in late November between Iran and the P5+1—the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany—appears to owe as much to the series of resolutions passed by the Security Council since 2006 as it does to the skills of the negotiators in Geneva. Moreover, the international legal basis provided by the UN resolutions and the unity of the Security Council facilitated the tough sanctions largely credited with bringing Iran to the negotiating table.
The 68th General Assembly opened at the end of September with historic breakthroughs, a burst of productivity and an unusually serious discussion on nuclear disarmament. The United Nations, as UN Dispatch Editor Mark Goldberg noted, “demonstrated its value…as a venue where the world can come together to craft global solutions.”
Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani is on Twitter. On July 23, he tweeted: “131 Congressmen have signed a letter calling on President #Obama to give peace a chance with Iran’s new president #Rouhani.” Both the tweet and the letter Rouhani refers to are indicators of major changes now underway in the United States and Iran, which may ultimately lead to a breakthrough in the nuclear crisis between the two nations.
Standing at Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to end the threat of nuclear weapons. “So long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe,” he declared to waves of applause. Obama promised bold cuts in strategic and tactical nuclear weapons and pledged again to prevent more nations from acquiring nuclear weapons, ban nuclear testing, and end production of bomb materials. But the president delayed implementing any of these steps pending further reviews and discussions. It is thus unclear if the much-anticipated speech will generate the active cooperation from members of the United Nations that is needed to reduce nuclear dangers.
Earlier this month, six world powers met with Iran in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to discuss Tehran’s nuclear program. The talks with the “P5+1” of the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, and Germany were the latest in a series of negotiations that have taken place over the last few months. The talks did not result in a major breakthrough, but neither was there a breakdown. Meanwhile, bipartisan support is building in Washington for a new approach to break the stalemate.
President Barack Obama’s recent remarks to the UN General Assembly regarding Iran’s nuclear program raised some critical questions. How effective are UN sanctions in limiting the nuclear capabilities of uncooperative nations? Moreover, are UN specialized agencies adequately in line with such sanctions?
This past week, Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), cautioned its Board of Governors about Iran’s refusal to allow inspectors into the Parchin nuclear facility site. “It is a matter of concern that activities which have taken place since February 2012…will have an adverse impact on our ability to undertake effective verification there,” Amano warned. His plea for Iran to grant the UN nuclear watchdog unfettered access echoed comments from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a recent visit to Tehran.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will preserve dialogue with Iran and express a litany of concerns from the international community when he travels to Tehran for the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). At a press conference on Wednesday, the Secretary-General’s spokesman Martin Nesirky said such concerns “include Iran's nuclear program, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria.”
BEIJING – The Haeju pediatric hospital in rural North Korea is overflowing with malnourished children. Racked with hunger, many are too weak to stand. One lays unresponsive, his ribs protruding. Another is covered in purple splotches like round rubber stamps. In just a few moments of video, recorded by Jonathan Dumont, the television communications officer at the World Food Program (WFP), in September 2011, North Korea's catastrophic humanitarian situation is vividly on view. And if the UN’s predictions are correct, this year will be much like the last.