The General Assembly: Turtle Bay’s daily roundup of U.N. news
Iran A group of four U.S. senators, including Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), urged the Obama administration not to exempt Chinese companies from U.S. legislation aimed at sanctioning firms that trade with Tehran, saying it would weaken the U.S. effort to pressure Iran to halt its enrichment of nuclear fuel, according to a ...
A group of four U.S. senators, including Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), urged the Obama administration not to exempt Chinese companies from U.S. legislation aimed at sanctioning firms that trade with Tehran, saying it would weaken the U.S. effort to pressure Iran to halt its enrichment of nuclear fuel, according to a letter (pdf) obtained by Turtle Bay.
The release of the letter, dated March 12, comes 10 days after a report in the Washington Post that the Obama administration is seeking to carve out an exemption for China and other permanent members of the Security Council in order to win their support for a fourth round of sanctions against Tehran. (Turtle Bay‘s sister blog, The Cable, first reported on the Obama administration push for exemptions.)
The group of four lawmakers, which includes Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Richard Burr, (R-N. Carolina) said that China has repeatedly violated existing U.S. sanctions, and that an exemption would undercut efforts to dissuade other foreign companies to cut their financial links to Tehran.
"Even now, China is working to undermine sanctions on Iran at the U.N. Security Council. "Yet, according to recent reports, your administration is pushing to carve out an exemption for China and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council from Iran sanctions legislation. As crucial as it is to work with our international partners to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, explicit exceptions for certain countries would weaken the effect of our sanctions."
The United States and its European partners continue to encounter headwinds in their quest to impose targeted sanctions against Iran’s military elite, as France acknowledged that a vote on a new sanctions resolution may have to wait until June.
The West had hoped to wrap up the Iran negotiations before the Nuclear Non-Proliferation review conference starting on May 4. That date now appears optimistic. "We are … talking and talking, trying to get an agreement by negotiation and at the same time working on sanctions. I believe that yes, before June it will be possible, but I’m not so sure," France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Sunday, according to Reuters.
Kouchner and several other European ministers appear to be moving closer to consider imposing additional European sanctions against Iran in the event that China, which has veto power in the U.N. Security Council, blocks the adoption of a U.N. sanctions resolution. Several key European governments, including Germany, have insisted that European sanctions should only be imposed on Iran after the U.N. Security Council acts.
But Finland’s Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said over the weekend that there was an "emerging" consensus by European governments to slap unilateral sanctions on Tehran, according to Reuters. "Failing [U.N. sanctions], I think there is an emerging consensus inside the European Union that we will take some unilateral measures from the EU side," Stubb said. "What those exact measures are have not been discussed in detail."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will indefinitely delay plans to establish an advisory council to explore how to hold perpetrators accountable for massive human rights abuses during Sri Lanka’s final offensive against the rebel Tamil Tigers. On March 10, Ban’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky told reporters that the U.N. chief had informed Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa that he "intended to go ahead with the establishment of a panel of experts" to address accountability for war crimes on both sides of the Sri Lankan conflict.
Nesirky said today that, while Ban is still discussing the idea of an accountability panel with his advisors, "it is unlikely such a panel will be established very soon." The retreat follows a letter from the 118 nation Non-Aligned Movement expressing "deep concern" over Ban’s decision to set up the panel. "The Non-Aligned Movement strongly condemns selective targeting of individual countries, which it deems contrary to the founding principles of the Movement and the United Nations Charter," Inter Press Service reports Amb. Maged Abdelaziz of Egypt as writing in a letter to Ban.
North Korea has been shaken by sharpening international sanctions, its own internal political missteps, and challenges that could "trigger instability," according to analysis published today by the International Crisis Group (ICG). Despite threatening talk and behavior in the past year by Pyongyang, including a series of provocative nuclear and ballistic missile tests, the group deems North Korea even less likely than in the past to consider military action against the south. "The balance of power has shifted against Pyongyang, and [North Korean] leadership is not likely to start a war it knows it would lose," the report reads. But its need for foreign currency will push it to raise money through dangerous trade in banned weapons, ICG predicts.
The analysis also speculates on the internal power struggles inside North Korea, noting that Chang Song-taek the brother in law of the country’s ailing leader Kim Jong Il, has been appointed to the National Defense Commission to manage the transition of power to a new generation. It predicts that Chang will serve as a regent until Kim Jong Il’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, now in his late twenties, is old enough to take power.
A severe economic recession has done little to slow rising international arms trade, the Guardian reports. The global arms sales have increased by an average of 22 percent over the past five years, with the most dramatic rise in South America and Southeast Asia, according to a report issued today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The United States remains the world’s top arms exporter, accounting for 30 percent of the total, followed by Russia with 23 percent, Germany with 11 percent, and France with 8 percent.
Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch
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