Vijay Prashad writes: A blog visited mainly by UN insiders announces that US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman is up for a very important UN job. Former UN Assistant Secretary General for Public Information Samir Sanbar’s blog, UN Forum, notes that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is set to replace B. Lynn Pascoe with Feltman in the post of UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs. The office was created in 1992 to help identify and resolve political conflicts around the world. Pascoe ran at least a dozen missions in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, notably in Burundi, Somalia, Iraq, Lebanon and Libya. The longest running mission is in Somalia (since 1995) and the most recent is in Libya (since September 2011). With a budget of $250 million and funds for special political missions that amount, this year, to $1 billion, the post allows its leader to intervene in political crises around the world.
When Secretary General Ban began his second term in January, he promised to reshuffle some of his senior staff. Pascoe’s replacement is part of this process.
Of the proposed new appointment Sanbar writes, “Designating someone with varied field experience, though controversial, and from a substantially senior post, may mean that more issues could be referred to the Security Council.” The UN Security Council’s Secretariat is handled by the Department of Political Affairs, which would be able to have some sway on its agenda. The post is central to the UN bureaucracy.
News of Feltman’s resignation from the State Department next week simply confirmed all the rumors. Another rumor suggests that the UN will announce the appointment on Monday, May 28.
Is Jeffrey Feltman the best person to run such an influential office in the UN? Why did Sanbar believe that this appointment is “controversial.”
Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, told me that Feltman is “an accomplished and respected American diplomat.” He has been involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran, Lebanon and Syria, and other hot spots. These bring up “inevitably controversial issues,” Telhami continued. “Feltman would have his share of detractors, including in the Middle East,” he said.
But why would Feltman have these “detractors” and how did he come off on the “controversial issues”?
On one issue Feltman is remarkably consistent. When it comes to the Middle East, Feltman has been outspoken about the threats posed by Iran in the region. Whether in Beirut or Manama, he has publically denounced Iranian “interference” outside its own boundaries. At the same time, Feltman has generously offered US assistance to these same regimes. In other words, US interference is quite acceptable, but Iranian interference is utterly unacceptable. This might be adequate behavior for the diplomat of a country, but it is hardly the temperament for a senior UN official. It raises doubts about Feltman’s ability to be even-handed in his deliberations as a steward of the world’s political dilemmas.
Feltman’s intemperate logic was not of the distant past. It was on display in March 2012 at a Lebanese American Organization’s meeting at the Cannon Office Building in Washington, DC (as Franklin Lamb reported on this site this week). At this meeting, the former US Ambassador to Lebanon, instructed the Lebanese people as to what they must do in their next election, “The Lebanese people must join together to tell Hezbollah and its allies that the Lebanese state will no longer be hijacked for an Iranian-Syrian agenda.” The people must “use the 2013 parliamentary elections to defeat the remnants of the Syrian occupation, the pillar of which is Hezbollah.” [Continue reading…]