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WATCH: Press Corps Hammers U.S. State Dept Spokesperson On U.S. Impotence In Middle East

by on Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 12:00 pm EDT in Middle East, Politics, World

This U.S. State Department press briefing exemplifies how the United States’ foreign policy in the Middle East is both nonsensical and indefensible.

State Dept. Spokesperson Victoria Nuland (the wife of Neocon Robert Kagan) could not give a sound and plausible answer to a single question she fielded. The press corp questions continued to come back to one central theme: Why is the U.S. impotent in its ability to influence Israel to stop its illegal settlement expansions, and to engage with the Palestinians for peace, when it gives this tiny country $3 billion per year in military aid — which could clearly be used to pressure them?

Two reporters asked her outright if the Israel Lobby’s influence, as it pertains to President Obama’s 2012 reelection prospects, has made it impossible for the United States to act as an honest broker in the ‘peace process.’  

One reporter, when referring to U.S. legislation which automatically defunded UNESCO this week for accepting Palestine as a member, thus harming America’s own national security interests in the process, asked Nuland about the lobbying required to force Congress to change the two laws:

Does the Administration find it unpalatable that it has to go to another government [Israel], to other government officials, to lobby members of its own legislature?



How The U.S. Has Undermined Its Own Vital Interests To Appease Israel At The UN

by on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm EDT in Middle East, World

Yesterday, the Palestinians’ bid for full membership at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was approved by a vote of 107-14, with 52 abstentions.

This move will help to prevent the Palestinians’ cultural-heritage sites and artifacts from being plundered, as Israel continues its efforts to Judaize the occupied territory. 

But what might come as a surprise to many in the United States, is that the U.S. Congress created virtual ‘UN poison pills’ in past legislation that automatically damages the U.S.’s own strategic interests the moment Palestinians gain membership at any UN agency:

Legislation dating from 1990 and 1994 mandates a complete cutoff of American financing to any United Nations agency that accepts the Palestinians as a full member. State Department lawyers judged that there was no leeway in the legislation, and no possibility of a waiver, so the United States contribution for 2011 and future years will not be paid.

This means the U.S. (as confirmed by the State Department) will withhold its $80 million annual commitment to UNESCO’s funding (with a $60 million portion of this total being stopped immediately). The U.S. is responsible for 22% of the organization’s total funding.

The Palestinians are reported to be seeking membership in other UN organizations as well, which too would face U.S. funding cuts. These include: UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), World Health Organization (WHO), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and others.

How will this damage U.S. strategic interests? 

President of the UN Foundation and former U.S. Senator (D-CO) Timothy Wirth writes that the U.S. will lose its leverage over these international bodies, and with it, the ability to advance America’s interests and ideals around the world. He believes some of America’s global rivals might even volunteer to cover America’s reneged financial commitments, filling its leadership void in the process.

Sen. Wirth explains the significance of UNESCO’s work:

To Americans, UNESCO is best known for designating World Heritage Sites. It also leads global efforts to bring clean water to the poor, promotes educational and curriculum building in the developing world, and manages a tsunami early warning system in the Pacific, among other important tasks. This critical work would be jeopardized if UNESCO’s top funder stops paying its bills.

UNESCO’s director general, Irena Bokova, reveals that the U.S. funding cut will directly impact America’s security interests in Afghanistan and Iraq, where UNESCO is “helping governments and communities prepare for life after the withdrawal of U.S. military forces.”

Sen. Wirth details how U.S. economic interests abroad will be negatively impacted when it cuts its funding for WIPO:

This is a lesser known UN agency that serves American businesses and brands by setting global standards for copyrights and adjudicating cross border patent disputes. In the last year alone, dozens of major American companies brought cases before WIPO — the American Automobile Association, Apple, The North Face, Costco and Facebook to name just a few. If Palestine joins WIPO, the United States will have to pull out, limiting its ability to steer policies in ways that advance American economic interests and create jobs here at home.

He explains how IAEA is critical to U.S. national security interests:

In recent years the IAEA has been a critical part of American attempts to constrain the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea. In 2006, the Bush administration successfully lobbied other members of the IAEA executive board to refer Iran’s nuclear program to the Security Council for sanctions. Should the United States stop paying membership dues to the IAEA–which it could be forced to do under current legislation if Palestine is admitted as a member — the United States would give up our vote on the executive board. It would literally lose a seat at the table during the next nuclear crisis.

And he stresses the importance of WHO:

The WHO works closely with the United States–particularly the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — to keep infectious diseases like the Avian Flu from reaching our shores. If the Palestinians are admitted to the WHO, that cooperation would have to stop under the current law.

Here is the irony: These legislative ‘poison pills,’ so harmful to U.S. interests, were passed entirely for the benefit of Israel, and yet Israel has no similar legislation of its own to trigger a cut in funding for UNESCO (Israel contributes 3% of the organization’s funding). In fact, while U.S. international interests have been marred by this automatic funding cut, Israel is rationally mulling over what it might do. Because, of course, only a fool would rush to action, and risk harming his own vital interests in the process.

When the U.S. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked why the Administration felt it was even necessary to vote against this Palestinian membership bid at UNESCO, she stated that it undermines the ‘peace process.’

The peace process?

The U.S.-lead Israeli-Palestinian peace process was effectively buried in December 2010 after Benjamin Netanyahu refused Obama’s unprecedented offer of an additional $3B in military aid, plus a guarantee that the U.S. would veto any UN Security Council Resolutions against Israel for 1 year, regardless of what Israel might do; all this for a mere 3-month extension of a partial moratorium on Israel’s illegal settlement expansions. 

This rejection made it clear to the entire world that Israel has no intentions of ever ceding any part of the occupied territories to the Palestinians to foment peace. No one, outside the Obama Administration, pretends the U.S.-led Middle East peace process is still a legitimate undertaking. Yet, this is the only excuse the Administration can come up with to explain why it continues to sabotage America’s own vital interests in the name of Israel.

Just as banking lobbyists have seized control of our political establishment, making it impossible for politicians to regulate them, or to hold them to account for bringing the entire U.S. economy to its knees, the Israel Lobby has effectively hijacked our political establishment with regards to U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Will it take an #OccupyAIPAC movement to ensure that U.S. politicians put the national security interests of American citizens — all 100% of us — above the interests of a foreign country?