Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

The Twilight Zone at the UN

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"There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man" may have kicked off each new episode of the Twilight Zone but it can equally be applied to the alternate reality that is the United Nations.

Bizarrely, this week, North Korea assumed the presidency of the UN's Conference on Disarmament despite being under a sanctions regime for its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea is considered an international pariah for its nuclear weapons testing, support for terrorism, human rights violations, counterfeiting, drug smuggling and missiles and nuclear technology transfers to other unsavoury regimes.

Under UN procedural rules the chair of the Geneva-based conference rotates in alphabetical order among all 65-member states.

North Korea's chairmanship is even more extraordinary in light of the latest accusations that Pyongyang allegedly sent secret agents to murder South Korea's defence minister.

Hillel Neuer, director of the NGO UN Watch, condemned North Korea's chairmanship of the conference:

"No system should tolerate such a fundamental conflict of interests. It's common sense that a disarmament body should not be headed by the world's arch-villain on illegal weapons and nuclear proliferation, notorious for exporting missiles and nuclear know-how to fellow rogue regimes around the globe."

UN Watch, which organised a protest in front of the UN's Geneva HQ, has a good article on the long history of North Korea's blatant disregard for international norms.

Meanwhile, Iran, which currently chairs the Organisation of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC) - which sets the prices and production levels of oil - has appointed as its point man Rostam Ghasemi - a man under international sanctions for involvement in the country's nuclear weapons program.

In a blog post on the development, analyst Barry Rubin writes that Ghasemi "is a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and runs one of its big military-industrial operations. In other words, he makes arms some of which are sent to Iraq to kill Americans."

As Rubin explains, Iran has few Western investments that may be harmed if it succeeds in ratcheting up oil prices:

It isn't that Ghasemi will do whatever he wants, of course, but having a doctrinaire Iranian Islamist radical heading OPEC...is somewhat scary, right?

As I wrote in a blog posting last week, Iran desperately needs the revenue from high oil prices to prevent its population rioting after subsidies were removed across a range of essential goods and services in 2010.

Allon Lee

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