The U.S. Should Seize the Opportunity to Reform the UN Human Rights Council

Oct. 26 2021

In 2018, Washington withdrew from the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC), where representatives of the world’s most brutal dictatorships join with those of democracies to condemn Israel. The Biden administration obtained a seat for America on the council earlier this month, and has argued that the U.S. will be able to do more to correct the body’s flaws from within than by boycotting it. Richard Goldberg and Orde Kittrie urge the White House to make good on its commitments:

Since the council’s creation, it has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than every other country in the world combined. In contrast, the council has adopted zero resolutions on the gross human-rights abuses in China, Cuba, and Russia. In addition, Israel is the only country to which the council dedicates a standing agenda item.

The council currently is preparing its most insidious assault on Israel to date: . . . a new commission of inquiry designed to produce a report falsely accusing Israel of committing apartheid. . . . The commission’s objectives are clear: label Israel as committing apartheid; leverage the commission’s reporting to support the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS), and pressure the International Criminal Court to expand its illegitimate investigation of Israel.

The UNHRC’s fatal flaws stretch beyond its bias against Israel, of course. The council’s membership is dominated by countries that violate human rights, including China, Cuba, Eritrea, Libya, Russia, and Venezuela. The UNHRC’s disproportionate focus on Israel seems designed to distract attention from the gross and systemic abuses committed by the council’s own member states, which are rarely if ever condemned by the council.

In a statement issued moments after the UNHRC election results were announced, Secretary of State Antony Blinken put anti-Israel bias at the top of the Biden administration’s reform agenda. . . . The Biden administration should . . . start building allied support for a resolution to dissolve the [new anti-Israel] commission. There is precedent for the U.S. successfully leading such a reversal when it uses its diplomatic muscle: the 1991 General Assembly vote to repeal a 1975 resolution declaring Zionism to be racism, which is essentially what the UNHRC’s commission of inquiry was established to conclude.

Read more at The Hill

More about: Antony Blinken, U.S. Foreign policy, UNHRC, United Nations


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy