In Montreaux Switzerland, Syrian peace talks have begun towards the so-called Geneva II process. Nobody thinks the conference will lead to peace. Even optimists call it a "possible first step" to ending three years of appalling civil war. President al Assad has gained strength by giving up chemical weapons and fighting extremists, despite charges that he's a war criminal. Will the US have no choice but to deal with him, rather than ending his rule-if only to gain a temporary ceasefire for humanitarian reasons?
This week, Washington grasped that Ban Ki-moon might be a bit of a chump. The United Nations secretary-general, despite his seven years on the job and nearly four decades before that as a South Korean diplomat, appeared both overzealous and amateurish as he extended and then rescinded a last-minute invitation to Iran to join the Syrian peace talks in Switzerland. The Obama administration’s unconcealed irritation with this gambit has left Ban, who has always prioritized good relations with the United States, looking foolish.
A last-minute decision by the United Nations to invite -- and then disinvite -- Iran to this week's widely-anticipated Syrian peace conference threatened to unravel the entire diplomatic effort on Monday. The invitation, delivered by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, exposed a rare fault line between Ban and Secretary of State John Kerry, two close allies who have been working together for months.
It is an absolute certainty that 2014 will be a turbulent year for the United Nations. The organization is struggling with crises ranging from the chaos in the Central African Republic (CAR) to the plight of Syrian refugees. There is little hope that these challenges will dissipate soon. Yet two sets of peace talks this month could well decide whether the U.N. faces a truly dreadful year ahead, or just a very difficult one.
Jordan takes over the U.N. Security Council presidency on Wednesday, the first day of its two-year stint on a 15-nation body struggling to cope with conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali and elsewhere.
Turbulence in the Arab world and crisis in North Africa. The Middle East peace process on life support at best. Oil and food prices rising, causing global economic stresses and hardships. Mounting concerns about the sustainability of our growth. In the world’s dominant power, economic doldrums exacerbated by political gridlock; in Europe, policy confusion depressing growth. A competitor power rising, testing America’s weaknesses, probing for vulnerability.
The European Union, most often preoccupied with its economic problems over the past few years, grappled with two strategic challenges last week. The first involved a tug-of-war with Russia over Ukraine. The second centered on Geneva, where the union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, chaired talks on Iran’s nuclear program.
The United States and Iran, having clinched a landmark interim deal suspending some aspects of Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, turned their attention this week to addressing the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
The United Nations Security Council has different tools at hand to maintain international peace and security. Yet, beside prominent blue helmets and controversial sanctions, another sophisticated instrument often goes unnoticed: Political Missions.
Providing humanitarian assistance amid conflict has always been a dangerous and difficult endevour; however, over the last decade aid worker casualties tripled, reaching over 100 deaths per year. From 2005 onwards the largest numbers of violent attacks on humanitarian personnel have been concentrated in a small number of countries representing the most difficult and volatile operating environments. Attacks in some of these settings have also grown more lethal and sophisticated and the number of kidnappings has risen dramatically.