In the first of what I expect will be a long line of critical pronouncements, Iraq's new foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, has denounced the UN for failing to help rescue his country from Saddam Hussein. No matter how Kofi Annan tries to spin it, he's going to have a hard time denying the Iraqis the moral high-ground they've earned over decades of oppression.
Taking a harsh view of the inability of quarreling members of the Security Council to endorse military action in Iraq, Mr. Zebari said, "One year ago, the Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Saddam Hussein and those who wanted to hold him accountable. ...What circumstances, pray tell? Oh right, the circumstances involving huge (illegal) weapon and oil contracts between Saddam Hussein, France, Germany, and Russia. Naturally, there wasn't anything the UN could do to oust Saddam considering that two of the permanent members of the Security Council were actively working to keep him in power. That's precisely the problem with the UN. International organizations only work when all the participants share the same goals.
It was not immediately clear how the accusatory tone of Mr. Zebari's speech affected the closed-door discussion over the United Nations' role in Iraq that followed, but Secretary General Kofi Annan, the first to emerge from the hall, appeared taken aback.
"Now is not the time to pin blame and point fingers," he told reporters. Saying that Mr. Zebari was "obviously entitled to his opinion," Mr. Annan said that the United Nations had done as much for Iraq as it could under the circumstances and was prepared to do more.
What's more, no organization can make any credible claim to authority when history has shown time and again that it will cut and run as soon as it's threatened.
Mr. Annan led off the open session of the council with a speech drawing from his report last week that ruled out a swift return of the United Nations to Iraq because of the bombing of its Baghdad headquarters in August and continuing attacks on diplomats and relief workers. ...The UN is an ineffectual debating club and a playground for murderous dictators with no more moral authority than its most corrupt veto-wielding member and no more democracy than the most tyrannical warlord who appoints a representative.
Mr. Zebari took issue with these steps, saying that Iraq could guarantee the United Nations whatever security it needed to return sooner and noting the importance of having the organization back in Baghdad.
"Your help and expertise cannot be effectively delivered from Cyprus or Amman," he said.