Monday, September 21, 2009

What to Expect at the UN Session

By Barry Rubin

The UN session is shaping up to be a bit more interesting than the usual. Here are briefly some things to look for:

1. Will President Barack Obama engineer a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas? If so, this will be a big public relations’ gimmick. Actually, and this is a fair reading, Obama will proclaim as a great achievement in September what he could have accomplished the previous February more easily. It was Obama’s big initiative on freezing construction on settlement that was then taken up by Abbas as an excuse to postpone any talks.

By the way, to show how things work in the world, a journalist interviewing me asked if Netanyahu would change his position and meet with Abbas at the UN. Of course, Netanyahu has been seeking a meeting for months but so intense is the idea of Netanyahu as “hardliner” and Abbas as “moderate” purveyed by much of the media it is understandable journalists would turn things on their head.

2. How will Obama do in his speech? There is the normal question of how it will be perceived but also the special one of the extent to which Obama talking about a world without nuclear arms will play into the hands of Iran and North Korea who complain, Why should we stop building nuclear weapons until everyone gives them up? In other words, will Obama do harm to his own efforts to stop Iran from doing so?

3. Will there be prominent photos of Obama shaking hand or being hugged by the Libyan and Iranian delegates?

4. Will the United States stand up to the ever-stronger radical bloc or seek excessive compromises thus emboldening them on various issues?

5. How tough a stand will the U.S. government take against the dreadful Goldstone report which plays into Hamas’s hands and bashes Israel?

6. Is there going to be any sign of increased support for higher anti-Iran sanctions, especially from Russia and China or will Obama’s strategy have failed (despite West European support which could lead to higher sanctions. (And incidentally how long will the U.S.-Iran engagement effort go on, for just one meeting or for months and months? How much will the Russians and Chinese use this as an excuse for opposing sanctions?

7. What will Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi and Iranian dictator Ahmadinejad say and how will they be received. How will the level of applause they are given compare to that received by Obama?

8. One question that’s already easy to answer: Will the Obama Administration campaign vigorously against the UN’s rampant corruption, extreme ideological bias, and domination by dictatorships? No, because that would make it unpopular.

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