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France circulates an alternative draft resolution to the US-British version that drops the assertion that Iraq is “in material breach” of Resolution 687 and changes the order of some paragraphs to provide a different emphasis. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin tells reporters: “There is still work to be done, progress to be made and we have said so to our American friends for weeks…. If there is no breakthrough, we shall obviously officially submit our own document.” [Washington Post, 10/26/2002]
President Bush attends a summit conference in Mexico and fails to secure a pledge of support from Mexican President Vicente Fox for the US-British draft resolution. President Vicente Fox says, “What we need to accomplish is a resolution that is satisfactory to all the parties there in the United Nations. We are listening and talking and we want to search for and do everything possible for a strong resolution.” [London Times, 10/28/2002] Mexican officials reportedly make “it clear that Mexico is siding with France in the debate at the United Nations.” Mexico’s foreign minister, Jorge G. Casteneda, says, “What we want is a resolution that is approved by all 15 or 14 members of the Security Council. We think that’s more important for the United States’ cause.” [New York Times, 10/28/2002]
The Bush administration announces that Ireland and Mauritius will vote in favor of the revised version of the US-British draft resolution, thus giving the US and Britain the required majority to pass their resolution. “We’re done,” announces one US official. “We are confident that we have a majority, and we are looking to end the diplomatic process next week.” France and Russia, meanwhile stand by their criticisms of the resolution. [Baltimore Sun, 11/2/2002]
Confident of UN support for its resolution (see November 1, 2002), the Bush administration presents the UN Security Council with a third draft for an even tougher UN resolution aimed at “disarming” Saddam Hussein’s regime. In one section the word “or” is replaced with “and,” and in another the phrase “restore international peace and security” is changed to “secure international peace and security.” France will agree to the new draft on November 7 and the resolution will be passed by the council unanimously on November 8 (see November 8, 2002) with only slight modifications. [CNN, 11/8/2002]
In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz suggests, “If you’re looking for a historical analogy [to the upcoming US occupation of Iraq], it’s probably closer to post-liberation France [after World War II].” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/17/2002]
A NATO summit is convened in Prague to welcome the Eastern European states of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, who will become members of the alliance in 2004. These seven countries, along with Albania, Croatia and Macedonia, release a statement [New York Times, 11/22/2002] , which says, “NATO allies stand united in their commitment to take effective action to assist and support the efforts of the UN to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq, without conditions or restrictions, with UN [Resolution] 1441 (see November 8, 2002).” [Daily Telegraph, 11/22/2002] The statement also says, “[W]e are prepared to contribute to an international coalition to enforce its provisions and the disarmament of Iraq.” [New York Times, 11/22/2002] Bruce Jackson, a former US Defense Department official who heads the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, helps draft the statement. France also releases a statement, which is a bit less confrontational. [Agence France-Presse, 11/20/2002] A French official explains to the London Telegraph that the Eastern states’ statement was “his [Bush’s] own interpretation [of UN Resolution 1441] and we do not share it. On December 8, we will take note of what Iraq says it has… and we will see if its behavior is consistent with its statement.” Germany remains opposed to the use of military force. [Daily Telegraph, 11/22/2002] German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer tells reporters, “We are against military action. We don’t support military action. We want the possibility not to become the reality.” [New York Times, 11/22/2002] On the night of November 21, in an interview with Dan Rather of CBS News, Secretary of State Colin Powell also makes the US position clear. He says, “If the [December 8] declaration is patently false and everybody can see it. If he does not let the inspectors do their job, then the president is fully ready to take the necessary step, which is military force.” [Evening News With Dan Rather, 11/21/2002] Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is also in town for the summit. Before he leaves Prague to meet with Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda in Slovakia, he says he will not believe Iraq if its declaration claims Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. [Associated Press, 11/22/2002]
According to a later investigation by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director for Nonproliferation informs US State Department officials that France is in possession of intelligence suggesting that Iraq made an unsuccessful attempt to purchase uranium from Niger. [US Congress, 7/7/2004] The US reportedly learns that this assessment (see March 4, 2003) is based on the forged documents. However, according to French intelligence official Alain Chouet, by this time, French intelligence has already dismissed the intelligence and communicated this to Langley (see Late April or Early May 2002-June 2002).
The US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in Marseilles, France issues a report stating that there is reportedly a large quantity of uranium being held in a warehouse in Cotonou, Benin bound for Iraq. The source of the report is a phone call that was received by the NCIS from an individual describing himself as a “West African businessman.” The man claimed to be the person responsible for coordinating the transaction and said there were 20 barrels of Niger yellowcake at the warehouse that had been sold to Iraq by the president of Niger. The man leaves his name and telephone number with the NCIS. When the CIA catches wind of the report, it contacts French intelligence as well as the country’s internal security agency, the Directorate of Territorial Security (DST). French intelligence then sends a team to Africa to check the warehouse and other sites. (This investigation is possibly the same as the one that takes place after Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address (see After (9:30 pm) January 28, 2003).) The French find nothing. “They both gave assurances from the French government that the material sitting in the port was under French control and wasn’t going anywhere else,” a former CIA officer later tells the Los Angeles Times. The CIA’s Directorate of Operations (DO) never attempts to contact the businessman. A CIA official later tells Senate investigators that the agency saw no reason to contact him. In fact, “no one even thought to do that,” the official says. The Department of Homeland Security also decides against contacting the businessman after a DHS team sent to the warehouse on December 17, 2002 (see December 17, 2002) finds nothing but bales of cotton. [Los Angeles Times, 2/17/2004; US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 59] As some observers later note, the information provided by this source corresponds exactly to the information contained within three of the forged Niger documents, suggesting that this individual must have been in some way linked to those documents. [ERiposte, 3/3/2006]
Iraq submits its declaration of military and civilian chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities to the UN one day early. It consists of 12 CD-ROMs and 43 spiral-bound volumes containing a total of 11,807 pages. General Hussam Amin, the officer in charge of Iraq’s National Monitoring Directorate, tells reporters a few hours before the declaration is formally submitted: “We declared that Iraq is empty of weapons of mass destruction. I reiterate Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. This declaration has some activities that are dual-use.” Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, a senior adviser to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, says the next day that Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear program may have been close to developing a nuclear bomb, but denies that Baghdad continued the program. Meanwhile, the Bush administration remains furious over the Security Council’s previous day ruling that no member state—including the US—will be permitted access to the report until after “sensitive information about weapons manufacture had been removed.” White House officials say they were “blind-sided” by the decision. [Daily Telegraph, 12/8/2002; Observer, 12/8/2002; New York Times, 12/8/2002; Associated Press, 12/9/2002]
Iraq's nuclear program - Roughly 2,100 pages of the declaration include information on Iraq’s former nuclear programs, including details on the sites and companies that were involved. [Associated Press, 12/9/2002; BBC, 12/10/2002]
Iraq's chemical programs - It contains “several thousand pages,” beginning with a summary of Iraq’s former chemical weapons program, specifically “research and development activities, the production of chemical agents, relations with companies and a terminated radiation bomb project.” [Associated Press, 12/9/2002]
The biological declaration - This section is much shorter than the sections dealing with Iraq’s nuclear and chemical programs. It includes “information on military institutions connected with the former biological weapons program, activities at the foot-and-mouth facility and a list of supporting documents.” [Associated Press, 12/9/2002]
The ballistic missile declaration - This is the shortest section of Iraq’s declaration totaling about 1,200 pages. It consists of a chronological summary of the country’s ballistic missile program. [Associated Press, 12/9/2002]
Iraq's suppliers of chemical and biological agent precursors - Iraq’s declaration includes the names of 150 foreign companies, several of which are from the US, Britain, Germany and France. Germany allowed eighty companies to supply Iraq with materials that could be used in the production of weapons of mass destruction since 1975, while the US allowed 24 of its own businesses. Also included in the list are ten French businesses and several Swiss and Chinese companies. “From about 1975 onwards, these companies are shown to have supplied entire complexes, building elements, basic materials and technical know-how for Saddam Hussein’s program to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction,” the Independent explains. “They also supplied rockets and complete conventional weapons systems.” [BBC, 12/10/2002; Reuters, 12/10/2002; Washington Post, 12/11/2002; New York Times, 12/12/2002; Newsday, 12/13/2002; Los Angeles Times, 12/15/2002; Independent, 12/18/2002]
French special forces soldiers later interviewed for a documentary film will claim that they had Osama bin Laden in their sights once in 2003 and once in 2004 but were never given the go-ahead to fire from their US superiors. One French soldier says, “In 2003 and 2004 we had bin Laden in our sights. The sniper said ‘I have bin Laden’.” It then reportedly takes two hours for the request to shoot to reach US officers who could authorize it, but the French soldier says, “There was a hesitation in command,” and the authorization never came. Four French soldiers are interviewed who back up this claim, but a French military spokesperson denies it. France has roughly 200 elite troops operating under US command near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan at the time. [Reuters, 12/19/2006; CBC News, 12/22/2006]
Denis Paradis, Canada’s Secretary of State for Latin America, hosts a two-day meeting at the Meech Lake Lodge called the “Ottawa Initiative.” The meeting is designed to look at the current situation in Haiti, and is held without public access. In attendance are two high-ranking officials from the US State Department, officials from France, EU, El Salvador, and Canada. No one from Haiti is invited. What is discussed at the meeting is kept secret until it is leaked in March (see March 22, 2005). [News Haiti, 8/28/2004]
Officials in the Bush administration debate whether or not they will seek a second UN resolution prior to invading Iraq. The debate centers on the issue of whether or not France and “other reluctant allies” will give in to US demands. The New York Times reports on January 17 that officials plan “to confront France, Germany and other skeptics of military action against Iraq by demanding that they agree publicly that Iraq had defied the United Nations Security Council.” Some officials believe that these nations can eventually be won over using a variety of incentives, including promises of contracts in post-Saddam Iraq. Other officials, however, believe that France will never submit to the US request, and are of the opinion that the US should “not bother to seek a second resolution condemning Iraq and authorizing the use of force.” [New York Times, 1/23/2003] Though the existence of this debate is a matter of the public record by mid-January, what is not known at this time is that some of those involved are probably obtaining their information from a “dirty-tricks” surveillance campaign that the intelligence services of the US, Britain, and possibly Australian, are conducting on the UN delegates of other UN Security Council members states (see January 31, 2003).
During a meeting with foreign ministers from 13 of the 15 Security Council member states, US Secretary of State Colin Powell encounters strong resistance to the Bush administration’s view that the inspections are not working and that Iraq is not cooperating. Russia, China, France and Germany all express their satisfaction with how the inspections are proceeding and say that their preference is that the inspectors be permitted to continue their work. Only Britain appears willing to provide support for Washington’s position, reiterating the American stance that Saddam is running out of time. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin is the most vocal in his opposition to the Bush administration’s attempt to rationalize the need for war. In an interview, he says the UN should remain “on the path of cooperation” and that France will never “associate [itself] with military intervention… not supported by the international community.” He adds,“We think that military intervention would be the worst possible solution.” Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov also disagrees with the Bush administration’s insistence that military force will be needed, explaining: “Terrorism is far from being crushed. We must be careful not to take unilateral steps that might threaten the unity of the entire [anti-]terrorism coalition. In this context we are strictly in favor of a political settlement of the situation revolving around Iraq.” [Washington Post, 1/20/2003] Germany’s Joschka Fischer similarly states: “Iraq has complied fully with all relevant resolutions and cooperated very closely with the UN team on the ground. We think things are moving in the right direction, based on the efforts of the inspection team, and [they] should have all the time which is needed.” [Washington Post, 1/20/2003; New York Times, 1/20/2003] The Bush administration remains unconvinced by these arguments. Powell tells reporters: “We cannot fail to take the action that may be necessary because we are afraid of what others might do. We cannot be shocked into impotence because we are afraid of the difficult choices that are ahead of us.” [Washington Post, 1/20/2003]
During a joint press conference, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announce that they intend to work together to oppose the Bush administration’s plan to invade Iraq. Schroeder says to a crowd of hundreds of French and German students in Berlin, “We are both of the opinion… that one can never accept it when it is said that war is unavoidable.” [BBC, 1/22/2003; BBC, 1/23/2003] Back in Washington, a reporter asks Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld if he thinks the actions of France and Germany would leave the United States without European support. To this Rumsfeld, responds: “Now, you’re thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don’t. I think that’s old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east…. Germany has been a problem, and France has been a problem…. But you look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe. They’re not with France and Germany on this, they’re with the United States.” [US Department of Defense, 1/22/2003; BBC, 1/23/2003]
Unilateralist comments from the Bush administration, especially
Rumsfeld’s reference to France and Germany as “old Europe,” (see January 22, 2003) further antagonize the already tense relationship between the two continents. Following these comments, France, Germany, Russia, and China reaffirm their opposition to the Bush administration’s policy toward Iraq. Washington, in turn, responds with veiled threats that countries opposing the war will have little influence in the post-Saddam Iraq. [Reuters, 1/23/2003; BBC, 1/23/2003; Irish Examiner, 1/23/2003; London Times, 1/24/2003; Washington Post, 1/24/2003; USA Today, 12/23/2003]
Spanish police arrest 16 alleged al-Qaeda operatives in Barcelona, Girona, and other cities in northeastern Spain. Officials say the men may have links to the recent alleged ricin plot in Britain (see January 5, 2003). [CBC News, 1/24/2003] Police allegedly discover large quantities of bomb-making material, manuals on chemical warfare, and equipment to manufacture false credit cards and identity documents, as well as a cache of timers, fuses and remote-control devices. [Time, 1/26/2003] Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar says the people arrested “were preparing to commit attacks”; other officials say that a major attack has been foiled. Since the 9/ 11 attacks, 35 suspected Islamic terrorists have been arrested in Spain. [CBC News, 1/24/2003] The British media quickly identifies chemicals confiscated by Spanish police as ricin. However, it soon emerges that the Spanish police report refers to “resina” (resin). Other “evidence” gathered in the raid soon proves to be equally useless. The chemicals discovered by police are comprised of “two drums with liquids which in the first analysis contain aliphatic hydrocarbons, and a bottle, also with liquid, in which appear substances present in resins and synthetic rubber.” Subsequent tests prove that the liquids are harmless. Tests by US experts on the alleged ricin powder reveal it to be detergent. The electronic equipment proves to be equally innocuous (mobile phones, wires, etc.). It is also revealed that the raid was instigated by a French examining magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, dubbed Europe’s leading al-Qaeda investigator. Bruguiere had claimed that four of the Algerians arrested by French police in December in connection with the planned bombing of Strasburg cathedral had been in contact with the suspects. But when Guillermo Ruiz Polanco—the Spanish examining magistrate in charge of the case—asks to see the French court’s evidence, he is met with bureaucratic delay. Then, a month after the arrests, Bruguiere communicates he will not be asking for the extradition of any of the 16. Even Mohamed Amine Benaboura, who allegedly lived with one of the French al-Qaeda suspects, or Mohamed Tahraoui, who was found with a false French passport, arouse no interest from Paris. By April, all the suspects will be released, the court citing lack of evidence. “Very weak,” is Polanco’s view of the evidence the police have presented so far against the Algerians and Moroccans accused of plotting mass murder. [New Statesman, 4/14/2003]
French officials are shocked by the claims Bush made in his state of the union speech (see 9:01 pm January 28, 2003) concerning Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Africa. One government official will later recall in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that French experts considered Bush’s claim, which he attributed to the British, as “totally crazy because, in our view, there was no backup for this.” Notwithstanding, the French launch another investigation (see Late April or Early May 2002-June 2002) and again, find no evidence supporting the US and British claim. [Los Angeles Times, 12/11/2005]
The United States, Britain and Spain submit a draft to the UN Security Council for a second resolution declaring Iraq in “further material breach” of previous UN resolutions. The draft claims that the declaration Iraq submitted to the UN Security Council on December 7, 2002 (see December 7, 2002) contained “false statements and omissions” and that Iraq “has failed to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of” UN Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002). Meanwhile France, Russia and Germany field an alternative plan aimed at achieving peaceful disarmament with more rigorous inspections over a period of five months. China expresses support for the alternative plan despite efforts by Secretary of State Colin Powell to convince its government to support the more aggressive proposal. [Fox News, 2/24/2003; United Nations, 2/24/2003] At this point, it seems that only Bulgaria will support the American-British-Spanish resolution. Eleven of the fifteen council members have indicated that they favor allowing the inspectors to continue their work. Fox News suggests that the US may be able to convince some countries—like Angola, Guinea and Cameroon—to support the resolution since “there is the possibility that supporting the resolution may reap financial benefits from the United States.” [Fox News, 2/24/2003]
The foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Russia issue a joint declaration which says that in light of “encouraging results” from the renewed UN weapons inspections in Iraq, they cannot approve of a UN “resolution that would authorize the use of force.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 292]
Some of the documents turned over to the UN by Iraq. [Source: CIA]United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission chief arms inspector Hans Blix provides a quarterly report to the UN Security Council on the progress of inspections in Iraq, as required by UN Security Resolution 1284 (1999). It is the twelfth such report since UNMOVIC’s inception. Blix’s report to the Council does not contain any evidence to support US and British claims that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or the programs to develop such weapons. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ; CNN, 3/7/2003] International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei also reports to the Council and says there are no signs that Iraq has reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ]
UNMOVIC Report by Hans Blix -
There is no evidence that Iraq has mobile biological weapons factories, as was recently alleged by Colin Powell in his February 5 presentation (see February 5, 2003) to the UN. “Several inspections have taken place… in relation to mobile production facilities,” Blix says. “No evidence of proscribed activities has so far been found.” He further explains that his inspectors had examined numerous mobile facilities and large containers with seed processing equipment. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ; CNN, 3/7/2003; Agence France-Presse, 3/7/2003]
The Iraqi government has increased its cooperation with inspectors since the end of January. It is attempting to quantify the biological and chemical weapons that it says were destroyed in 1991. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ; CNN, 3/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003]
Iraq’s destruction of several Al Samoud II missiles represents a real step towards disarmament. “The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament,” he says. “We are not watching the destruction of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed.” [CNN, 3/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003] Blix adds, “The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament—indeed, the first since the middle of the 1990s.” Major Corrine Heraud, the chief weapons inspector for UNMOVIC in this operation, calls the level of cooperation from the Iraqis “unprecedented,” something that she never would have expected and did not encounter during the 1996-98 inspections. [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Blix says that the UN inspectors needed a few more months to finish their work. “Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude induced by continued outside pressure, it will still take some time to verify sites and items, analyze documents, interview relevant persons and draw conclusions,” he says, concluding, “It will not take years, nor weeks, but months.” [CNN, 3/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003]
Iraqi scientists have recently accepted inspectors’ requests to be interviewed without “minders.” “Since we started requesting interviews, 38 individuals were asked for private interviews, of which 10 accepted under our terms, seven during the past week,” Blix explains. [CNN, 3/7/2003]
Some Iraqi scientists have agreed to interviews without “minders”—but more cooperation is needed. Blix says, “While the Iraqi side seems to have encouraged interviewees not to request the presence of Iraqi officials or the taping of the interviews, conditions ensuring the absence of undue influences are difficult to attain inside Iraq.” [CNN, 3/7/2003] Iraq needs to turn over more documents. “Iraq, with a highly developed administrative system, should be able to provide more documentary evidence about its proscribed weapons. Only a few new such documents have come to light so far and been handed over since we began.” [CNN, 3/7/2003] There is no evidence of underground weapons facilities. Blix says: “There have been reports, denied by Iraq, that proscribed activities are conducted underground. Iraq should provide information on underground structures suitable for the production or storage of weapons of mass destruction. During inspections of declared or undeclared facilities, inspectors examined building structures for any possible underground facilities. In addition, ground-penetrating radar was used in several locations. No underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found.” [CNN, 3/7/2003]
IAEA report by Mohamed ElBaradei -
There is no evidence that the aluminum tubes imported by Iraq in July 2001 were meant for a nuclear weapons program. ElBaradei says: “Extensive field investigation and document analysis have failed to uncover any evidence that Iraq intended to use these 81mm tubes for any project other than the reverse engineering of rockets.… Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminum tubes in question.” [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003]
There is no evidence that Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Niger. Documents provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency by the US were determined to be forgeries. The documents were a collection of letters between an Iraqi diplomat and senior Niger officials discussing Iraq’s interest in procuring a large amount of uranium oxide (see Afternoon October 7, 2002). “Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that documents which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic,” ElBaradei explains. “We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded”
(see June 12, 2003). [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003; Globe and Mail, 3/8/2003; Guardian, 3/8/2003]
The IAEA has yet to come across evidence of a nuclear weapons program. “After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq,” ElBaradei states. “[T]here is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.” [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003; Globe and Mail, 3/8/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003]
In a direct response to allegations made by Colin Powell on February 5 (see February 5, 2003) related to the attempted procurement of magnets that could be used in a gas centrifuge, ElBaradei, says: “The IAEA has verified that previously acquired magnets have been used for missile guidance systems, industrial machinery, electricity meters, and field telephones. Through visits to research and production sites, reviews of engineering drawings, and analyses of sample magnets, IAEA experts familiar with the use of such magnets in centrifuge enrichment have verified that none of the magnets that Iraq has declared could be used directly for a centrifuge magnetic bearing.” [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ]
Iraq’s industrial capacity “has deteriorated” at the inspected sites because of lack of maintenance and funds. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ]
ElBaradei concludes: “After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.… I should note that, in the past three weeks, possibly as a result of ever-increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been forthcoming in its cooperation, particularly with regard to the conduct of private interviews and in making available evidence that contributes to the resolution of matters of IAEA concern.” [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Inspections 'Fruitful,' Say French, Russians - Both sides claim that the reports give further support to each of their respective stances on the issue of Iraqi disarmament. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin tells the Council that the reports “testify to the progress” of the inspections. He states that France will not support another resolution because “we cannot accept any ultimatum, any automatic use of force.” Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says that the reports demonstrate that inspections have been “fruitful.”
Inspections Not Working, US Claims - The Bush administration does not alter its position, despite statements by the two inspectors that Iraq is cooperating with inspections and complying with demands to disarm. Colin Powell, responding to the inspectors’ reports, reiterates the administration’s position that the inspections are not working and that Saddam is not cooperating. “We must not walk away,” Powell says. “We must not find ourselves here this coming November with the pressure removed and with Iraq once again marching down the merry path to weapons of mass destruction, threatening the region, threatening the world.” He claims that Iraq’s behavior is a “a catalog still of noncooperation” and repeats the administration’s allegation that the “Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” Back at the White House, Ari Fleischer tells reporters, “As the president has said, if the United Nations will not disarm Saddam Hussein, it will be another international organization, a coalition of the willing that will be made up of numerous nations that will disarm Saddam Hussein.” [CNN, 3/6/2003; CNN, 3/7/2003; Independent, 3/7/2003; US Department of State, 3/7/2003 ]
Bush: Missile Destruction 'Meaningless' - Bush himself will call the destruction of Iraqi missiles “meaningless” and nothing more than an Iraqi “campaign of destruction,” shocking UNMOVIC inspectors: “We didn’t know what to make of [his words],” one inspector says afterwards. Former State Department official Patrick Lang will write: “In the final weeks of the countdown to war, the administration’s actions resembled nothing so much as some of the madder scenes from Alice in Wonderland. The fact that the documents the administration had used to ‘prove’ that Iraq was working on nuclear weapons were forged only led to greater insistence that Iraq was a danger. The absence of discovery of WMD by the UN inspectors was only further evidence that the Iraqis were the greatest deceivers in history and that they had succeeded in concealing their location. The destruction of the Al Samoud missiles was just more evidence of a ‘grand deception.’” [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Uranium Allegations 'Outrageous,' Says Former Ambassador - The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times do give the story front-page coverage, and on CNN, former ambassador Joseph Wilson (see July 6, 2003) calls the uranium allegation “outrageous,” adding that the claim “taints the whole rest of the case that the government is trying to build against Iraq.” The US government is “simply stupid” for not finding out the truth sooner: “a couple of phone calls” could have proven that such a deal between Iraq and Niger could not have happened: “All this stuff is open,” Wilson says. “It’s a restricted market of buyers and sellers.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 71]
IAEA Report 'Widely Ignored' - Author and media critic Frank Rich will later note, “With America’s March 17 deadline for war (see March 17, 2003 and March 17, 2003) dominating the news, ElBaradei’s pronoucements were widely ignored. The news of the forged uranium documents did not make any of the three network evening newscasts and did not appear in the following day’s New York Times. (It would turn up a day later, in a four-hundred word story on page A13.)” [Rich, 2006, pp. 71]
Entity Tags: Corrine Heraud, Ari Fleischer, Colin Powell, Dominique de Villepin, Patrick Lang, Frank Rich, Mohamed ElBaradei, International Atomic Energy Agency, Joseph C. Wilson, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Igor Ivanov, Hans Blix
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
A suspicious substance is discovered in a train station locker at the Gare de Lyon in central Paris. Agents find two vials of powder, a bottle of liquid, and two other vials with liquid. The Interior Ministry says the contents of the vials are “traces of ricin in a mixture which has proven to be a very toxic poison.” [Newsday, 4/12/2003] Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy calls for greater public vigilance and says there could be a connection with a network of Islamic extremists who were detained around the capital in December. Officials have in the past linked ricin production to al-Qaeda and Iraq. On January 5, British police claimed to find traces of ricin in a raid on a London flat during which five men of North African origin with alleged al-Qaeda connections were arrested (see January 5, 2003). [BBC, 4/11/2003]
Terrorism Scare - The discovery sparks widespread terrorism concerns just two days before the invasion of Iraq. French authorities double the number of soldiers in the streets to 800 and order increased surveillance in train stations and ports. Flights are temporarily banned over nuclear power plants, chemical, petrochemical and other sensitive facilities. [Newsday, 4/12/2003] Ricin, which is derived from castor beans, is relatively easy to make and stockpile. If added to food or drinks, or injected into a victim, it causes severe and rapid bleeding to the stomach and intestines. If the poison gets into the bloodstream, it can attack the liver, kidneys and spleen, often leading to death. It may be inhaled, ingested or injected. There is no treatment or antidote. [New York Times, 4/12/2003]
Alleged al-Qaeda link - US officials said in August that the Islamic extremist group Ansar al-Islam tested ricin along with other chemical and biological agents in northern Iraq, territory controlled by Kurds, not Saddam Hussein. The group is allegedly linked to al-Qaeda. UN weapons inspectors, who left Iraq in 1998 after a first round of inspections, listed ricin among the poisons they believed Saddam produced and later failed to account for. [Newsday, 4/12/2003]
False alarm - The ministry soon downgrades the assessment, saying the traces of suspected ricin are too minute to be lethal. In fact, the substance later proves to be entirely harmless. Further Defense Ministry laboratory tests show the vials contain a mixture of ground barley and wheat germ. “Preliminary tests pointed towards ricin but they were not confirmed by more complete analysis,” an official says. [BBC, 4/11/2003] They said the grain was mistakenly identified as ricin because it consists of protein whose structure is similar to that of ricin. [New York Times, 4/12/2003] However, French officials are still not entirely satisfied that the substances found are not in some way related to a planned terrorist attack. A senior Interior Ministry says the substances may be “the product of an experiment” or the remains of an effort to produce a toxic weapon. Antiterrorism police agents will continue to investigate the incident, the officials says. [New York Times, 4/12/2003]
France’s Secret Service raids the compound of the Iranian terrorist opposition group, Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an anti-Iranian group that has been on the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations since 1997. Among those arrested are husband-and-wife leaders Maryam and Massoud Rajavi. Following the arrests, nine MEK members across Europe set themselves on fire in protest. At least three of the protesters die. Critics claim that the self-immolations were ordered by MEK’s leadership. [New York Post, 6/17/2003; CNN, 6/22/2003; BBC, 7/1/2003; Los Angeles Times, 12/5/2004]
France, Germany, and Britain succeed in persuading Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and permit intrusive inspections by United Nations monitors. The US refuses to join this effort, and continues to attempt to have Iran referred to the UN Security Council for violating its safeguard agreements. Unable to affect the negotiations between Iran and the Europeans, Bush officials are reduced to mocking the negotiations, with the State Department’s John Bolton asking, “How many IAEA meetings does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” Bolton is later asked what he thinks about the Europeans’ “carrot-and-stick” methodology of negotiating with the Iranians, and he replies, “I don’t do carrots.” Author J. Peter Scoblic later writes: “The problem was that the administration didn’t really do sticks, either. Although the Bush administration repeatedly made it clear that ‘all options were on the table,’ it never explicitly threatened military action or established red lines beyond which it would force Iran to pay some explicit price. Absent coercion or diplomacy, the Bush administration’s strategy was essentially one of hope—hope that the Iranian regime would collapse, yielding morally pure victory. Unfortunately, just as with North Korea (see May 4, 2003), dramatic change was unlikely; not only was the regime relatively stable, but Iranian reformers appeared committed to the nuclear program as well.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 249-250]
In a speech, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski observes that in 1963, during the Cuban missile crisis between the US and the USSR, Secretary of State Dean Acheson offered to show French President Charles de Gaulle satellite photographs of Soviet missiles in Cuba to support President Kennedy’s request for French support in case the US needed to go to war with the US. De Gaulle replied that he did not need to see the photos, that Kennedy’s word was good enough for him. In April 2004, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, reflecting on Brzezinski’s words and the raft of lies and misinformation that led the US to invade and occupy Iraq, will write, “Who would now ever take an American president at his word, in the way that de Gaulle once did?” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 426]
Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide demands that France return the money Haiti had paid to its former colonizer in service of a dubious debt agreement the country had been forced to accept—under threat of recolonization—in 1825 (see 1825). The exact amount, with interest added and adjusted for inflation, is $21,685,135,571.48. [Haiti Action (.net), 8/5/2003; Newsday, 12/3/2003; Miami Herald, 12/18/2003; London Review of Books, 4/15/2004] France will later back the removal of Aristide in February 2004 (see February 25, 2004). [New York Times, 2/26/2004]
Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge raises the nationwide terror alert level to orange. He states that “These strategic indicators, including al-Qaeda’s continued desire to carry out attacks against our homeland, are perhaps greater now than at any point since Sept. 11.” In his announcement, Ridge cites further reports that al-Qaeda is planning further operations, and that “extremists abroad” are anticipating attacks on the scale of those on September 11, 2001. He states that “credible sources suggest the possibility of attacks against the homeland around the holiday season and beyond.” Officials repeatedly warn about threats to the aviation sector. [CBC News, 12/21/2003] The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says it has reliable and corroborated information from several sources indicating that a plot, similar to 9/11, is in an advanced stage. US officials focus their investigation on the “informed belief” that six men on Air France Flight 68, which arrives in Los Angeles daily at 4:05 p.m., are planning to hijack the jet and crash it near Los Angeles or Las Vegas. Officials say some names on the passenger manifest match those of known Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists, with one of them being a trained pilot with a commercial license. Six Air France flights between Paris and Los Angeles are canceled by French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/24/2003] The terror alert turns out to be baseless. The names identified as terrorists turn out to be a five-year-old boy, whose name had been mistaken for an alleged Tunisian terrorist, an elderly Chinese lady who used to run a restaurant in Paris, a Welsh insurance salesman, and three French nationals. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ] Further investigation of the Tunisian man reveals that he has no plans to leave the country, no criminal record, and no links to extremism. [Red Orbit, 12/25/2003] Despite criticism of the investigation, French authorities praise the level of cooperation between intelligence agencies. A spokesman for the prime minister says “What is important is that the evaluation of threats continues, and they are undertaken between the Americans and the French in a framework of intense cooperation. Franco-American cooperation in this domain is exemplary.” [Red Orbit, 12/25/2003] This alert comes in the wake of the comments of the chair of the 9/11 Commission, Tom Kean, suggesting that the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented. President Bush is criticized in the press for the continuing failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ]
Mohamed ElBaradei, the president of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meets with Secretary of State Colin Powell to ask a second time for the US’s participation in European-led negotiations with Iran over that nation’s nuclear program (see Fall 2003). Powell refuses. The IAEA and the Europeans—France, Germany, and Britain—believe that the US’s participation in the negotiations is essential to convince Iran to make real concessions. Iran wants assurances that the US will not attack it. Moreover, Iran knows that the Europeans will wait for US approval for any incentives they offer, such as membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). During the negotiations, an Iranian diplomat tells British negotiator John Sawers not to keep pressing the Iranian delegation to give up its nuclear weapons development program: “Look, John, that’s what we are saving up for the Americans. We can’t spend all our possible concessions in negotiating with you. We’ll have nothing left.” As the Europeans continue to jockey with the balky Iranians, the US continues to stand apart—“leaving the driving to the EU,” as State Department neoconservative John Bolton will later comment. Only in 2005 will the Bush administration begin giving its grudging support to the negotiations, but it will continue to refuse to actually participate in them. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 249-250]
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin outlines a proposal he will submit to the UN on February 26, which calls for Aristide’s resignation and recommends that an international security force be dispatched to Haiti to help stabilize the country. According to the minister, President Aristide “bears heavy responsibility for the current situation” and it is his responsibility “to accept the consequences while respecting the rule of law.” Villepin adds: “Everyone sees quite well that a new page must be opened in Haiti’s history.” [New York Times, 2/26/2004] Notably, a few months before, Aristide’s government had called on France to pay some $21 billion in reparations to Haiti (see November 2003). [London Review of Books, 4/15/2004]
Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue drops a demand that former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had made to France—that the country’s former colonizer pay reparations to Haiti in the amount of $21 billion (see November 2003). “This claim was illegal, ridiculous and was made only for political reasons,” Prime Minister Gerard Latortue claims, adding that Haiti wants to have good relations with France. “This matter is closed. What we need now is increased cooperation with France that could help us build roads, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure.” France, significantly, had called for Aristide’s resignation before his ouster (see February 25, 2004), leading many to speculate that its involvement in the intervention had been motivated by its interest in ending the reparations demand. During a visit earlier in the month, Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie denied this allegation, saying that French involvement had been motivated solely by a desire to help Haiti. [Reuters, 4/18/2004]
The Senate passes Senate Concurrent Resolution 81 (S.Con.Res.81) calling on Iran to immediately and permanently halt all efforts to acquire nuclear fuel cycle capabilities, in particular uranium enrichment activities. It is not voted on by the House. A concurrent resolution requires approval by both chambers of Congress. [US Congress. Senate, 11/20/2003] The proposed resolution, introduced by Senators Jon Kyl (R-Az) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) the year before [Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein, 10/15/2003] , reminds Iran of its obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) never to develop or acquire nuclear weapons, lists several areas of concern, and urges the European Union to take a tougher stance against the country. It also calls for Japan to halt development of Iran’s Azadegan oil field, and France and Malaysia to withdraw their agreements with Iran to develop Iran’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) fields. Additionally, it orders the suspension of all investment and investment-related activities that support Iran’s energy industry. [US Congress. Senate, 11/20/2003]
Four French nationals, detained at Guantanamo, are transferred to the French government. They had never been charged with any crime. [US Department of Defense, 7/27/2004] They are Mourad Benchellali, Nizar Sassi, Imad Kanouni, and Brahim Yadel. [BBC, 10/4/2004] Apart from these French detainees, 18 have been transferred to the control of their governments: seven to Russia, four to Saudi Arabia, one to Spain, one to Sweden, and five to Britian. A total of 129 detainees have been released. [US Department of Defense, 7/27/2004]
An Iranian exile group says it has evidence that Iran is still enriching uranium and will continue to do so despite an agreement it signed pledging it to halt such activities. The group, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), the political arm of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), also charges that in the mid-1990s, Iran bought the plans for a Chinese nuclear bomb from the global nuclear technology network led by Pakistan’s A. Q. Khan. Khan’s network sold the same type of bomb blueprint to Libya, which has renounced its nuclear ambitions (see December 2003). The NCRI’s Mohammed Mohaddessin says the Khan network also provided Iran with a small amount of highly enriched uranium, though the amount is too small to use for a weapon. While the NCRI provided information in 2002 that helped disclose Iran’s secret nuclear program, many of its subsequent allegations have been proven false.
Claims - Mohaddessin uses satellite photos to show what he says is a new nuclear facility inside Tehran’s Center for the Development of Advanced Defense Technology (CDADT). He says that the CDADT also houses chemical and biological weapons programs, and that Iran began enriching uranium at the site in early 2003. Mohaddessin refuses to provide any evidence for his claims, instead saying, “Our sources were 100 percent sure about their intelligence.” Those sources, he says, are scientists and other people working in the facilities, and local citizens living near the facilities who see what he calls suspicious activities.
Reaction - Many diplomats and arms control experts dismiss the NCRI’s claims, saying the claims are an attempt to undermine the recent agreement Tehran signed with Britain, France, and Germany to restrict its uranium enrichment program. In return, the agreement says, Iran can continue working on developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. [Washington Post, 11/18/2004]
Secretary of State Colin Powell tells reporters that the US has intelligence showing Iran’s active pursuit of a nuclear warhead. The evidence, Powell says, documents Iran’s attempt to adapt ballistic missiles to deliver nuclear payloads. He says: “I have seen some information that would suggest that they have been actively working on delivery systems.… You don’t have a weapon until you put it in something that can deliver a weapon.… I’m not talking about uranium or fissile material or the warhead; I’m talking about what one does with a warhead.” Powell does not claim that Iran has the nuclear material—enriched uranium—to actually construct a bomb. “I’m talking about information that says they not only have these missiles, but I am aware of information that suggests that they were working hard as to how to put the two together.… There is no doubt in my mind—and it’s fairly straightforward from what we’ve been saying for years—that they have been interested in a nuclear weapon that has utility, meaning that it is something they would be able to deliver, not just something that sits there.”
Implication - Nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione says that Powell is implying that Iran is trying to reduce the size of a nuclear warhead to fit on one of its ballistic missiles, a difficult task. “Powell appears to be saying the Iranians are working very hard on this capability,” Cirincione says. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said just days before that it had not seen any information that Iran had conducted weapons-related work, Cirincione notes. The Bush administration is likely to press for sanctions from the UN. Powell says that the US will monitor international verification efforts in Iran “with necessary and deserved caution because for 20 years the Iranians have been trying to hide things from the international community.” [Washington Post, 11/18/2004]
Claims Said to Be Unverified - A day later, US officials say Powell’s claims are unverified, and come from a single, unvetted source that has not yet checked out. The single source is an Iranian citizen who approached US intelligence officials with a laptop computer crammed with documents and sketches purporting to be from Iran’s nuclear weapons program (see Summer 2004). Powell and other senior Cabinet members were briefed on the laptop revelations last week, and though it was stamped “No Foreign,” meaning it was not to be shared with any foreign nations, President Bush decided to share some of the information with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Administration officials tell diplomats from Britain, France, and Germany that Powell misspoke in alluding to the laptop intelligence. Powell’s office says Powell stands by his remarks. [Washington Post, 11/19/2004]
Iran agrees to suspend nuclear enrichment activities at its Isfahan and Natanz nuclear plants. The deal was arranged by Britain, France, and Germany. Iran insists the facilities are for peaceful civilian use and are not capable of producing the quantity or quality of refined products needed for the development of nuclear weapons. [BBC, 11/22/2004]
Six Algerians are convicted in France of trying to blow up the US embassy in Paris. The ringleader is a top Islamist militant named Djamel Beghal, who was arrested in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) based on a US tip-off in 2001 (see July 24 or 28, 2001). Beghal is sentenced to ten years in prison, his associate Kamel Daoudi gets nine years, and the four others get between one and six. The sentences are for criminal association relating to a terrorist enterprise, although the alleged would-be suicide bomber, Nizar Trabelsi, is not charged or tried in France, and few details of the plot are offered in court. Trabelsi was arrested in Belgium shortly after 9/11 (see September 13, 2001), and is in prison there on other charges (see September 30, 2003). Beghal and the others say they are innocent, and Beghal alleges that the confession based on which the arrests were made was tortured out of him in the UAE. [Washington Post, 3/16/2005]
The foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany write to Hassan Rouhani, head of Iran’s Supreme Security Council, warning that they will end negotiations with the Iranian government if it resumes its nuclear energy program. The letter marks the first time European countries have threatened to sign on to the Bush administration’s hardline strategy in dealing with Iran. [Washington Post, 5/12/2005]
The French government secretly warns that Britain could be attacked by al-Qaeda. The Renseignements Généraux, or DCRG, France’s equivalent of Britain’s Special Branch, concludes in a report on the Pakistani community in France that Britain “remains threatened by plans decided at the highest level of al-Qaeda.… They will be put into action by operatives drawing on pro-jihad sympathies within the large Pakistani community in [Britain].” Three of the four suicide bombers in the 7/7 London bombings less than one month later (see July 7, 2005) will be Britons of Pakistani origin. The report is shared within the French government, but British and French officials will later refuse to confirm or deny if it is passed to the British government as well. This report comes about one week after the British government concluded that “at present there is not a group with both the current intent and the capability to attack” inside Britain, and lowered the general threat level (see Mid-June 2005). [Guardian, 8/9/2005]
The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions is adopted at the 33rd UNESCO General Conference held in Paris, France. It is the first major international convention to be adopted that reaffirms the sovereign right of states to formulate and implement cultural policies. The convention’s approval is seen as a challenge to the legitimacy of the global regime of bilateral, regional and multilateral free trade agreements revolving around the World Trade Organization (WTO), in particular regarding international trade in cultural goods and services and the related cultural policies effected by governments. The approval of this international instrument is seen as a major culmination of years-long efforts led by Canada and the European Union, specifically France, to arrest liberalization commitments in various free trade agreements that tend to strengthen Hollywood’s overwhelming advantage in the global film, music, publishing, advertising, and other cultural industries. The convention is overwhelmingly approved despite a strong counter-lobby by the United States. A hundred and forty-eight vote in the convention’s favor, four countries (Australia, Honduras, Liberia, and Nicaragua) abstain, and only two countries—the United States and Israel—vote against its approval. [Coalition Currents, 10/2005]
Osama bin Laden is again rumored to be dead. The rumor is first sparked by the French newspaper L’Est Republicain, which publishes what it describes as a confidential document from the French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure saying that bin Laden died of typhoid on August 23. The report is apparently based on information from Saudi Arabian intelligence. The issue becomes, as Time magazine puts it, “the question of the day,” but the accuracy of the report is questioned by French President Jacques Chirac, Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Turki al-Faisal, CIA Director Michael Hayden, and others, who all tell the media they think bin Laden may still be alive. Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, remarks that leaks can be used for manipulation, saying, “When there are leaks… one can say that [they] were done especially.” [Time, 9/23/2006; MSNBC, 9/24/2006] Another video of bin Laden footage will be released a week later (see September 30, 2006), apparently by the US. A rumor of bin Laden’s death also preceded an audiotape released earlier in the year (see January 16, 2006, January 19, 2006, and January 19, 2006).
The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions enters into force. In accordance with the ratification procedure, this happens three months after 30 countries deposited their instruments of ratification at UNESCO. UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura notes, “None of UNESCO’s other cultural conventions has been adopted by so many states in so little time.” The 30 countries are Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Guatemala, India, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Namibia, Peru, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Togo. By the time it comes into force, 22 more countries have deposited their ratification instruments at UNESCO. [UNESCO, 3/2007]
French investigative journalist Guillaume Dasquie writes an article for Le Monde detailing the extensive knowledge obtained by the French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) about al-Qaeda between July 2000 and October 2001. The article is based on a series of DGSE reports leaked to Dasquie about al-Qaeda’s funding (see July 24, 2000), aerial photographs of Osama bin Laden (see August 28, 2000), and al-Qaeda threats against the US (see Between September 2000 and August 2001), including aircraft piracy. [Le Monde (Paris), 4/15/2007; Le Monde (Paris), 7/4/2007]
In an op-ed, the New York Times calls the idea that the US has “the best health care system in the world,” as recently stated by President Bush, or provides “the best medical care in the world,” as recently stated by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giulani, a “delusion.” “That may be true at many top medical centers,” the Times writes. “But the disturbing truth is that this country lags well behind other advanced nations in delivering timely and effective care.” The Times notes that in 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the health care systems of 191 nations. France and Italy were first and second; the US came in 37th. The Times notes a more recent study by “the highly regarded Commonwealth Fund,” which “has pioneered in comparing the United States with other advanced nations through surveys of patients and doctors and analysis of other data”; the latest Commonwealth Fund study put the US last among six highly developed nations (see May 15, 2007). “Other comparative studies also put the United States in a relatively bad light,” the Times notes.
Lack of Universal Coverage - Unlike every other major industrialized nation, the US does not provide universal health coverage. In the US, some 45 million people have no health insurance whatsoever, and millions more suffer with poor coverage. The Times writes, “Although the president has blithely said that these people can always get treatment in an emergency room, many studies have shown that people without insurance postpone treatment until a minor illness becomes worse, harming their own health and imposing greater costs.”
Lack of Access - While citizens of foreign nations often face longer waits before they can see specialists or undergo elective surgery than do Americans in comparable situations, “[t]he real barriers here are the costs facing low-income people without insurance or with skimpy coverage.” However, “even Americans with above-average incomes find it more difficult than their counterparts abroad to get care on nights or weekends without going to an emergency room, and many report having to wait six days or more for an appointment with their own doctors.”
Unfair Disparities - The dichotomy between the care provided to economically well-off Americans and their more economically challenged fellows is worse than in any other industrialized nation. “Americans with below-average incomes are much less likely than their counterparts in other industrialized nations to see a doctor when sick, to fill prescriptions, or to get needed tests and follow-up care.”
Unhealthy Living - The US ranks last among 23 nations in its infant mortality rate—more American children die in infancy than in 22 other countries. “But the problem is much broader,” the Times continues. “We rank near the bottom in healthy life expectancy at age 60, and 15th among 19 countries in deaths from a wide range of illnesses that would not have been fatal if treated with timely and effective care. The good news is that we have done a better job than other industrialized nations in reducing smoking. The bad news is that our obesity epidemic is the worst in the world.”
Varying Quality - The Commonwealth Fund study notes that the US ranks first in providing the correct care for a given condition, and does very well in providing preventative care to its citizens. But it does much worse in coordinating the care of chronically ill patients, in protecting the safety of patients, and in meeting the needs and preferences of patients. Overall, the quality of health care in the US is the lowest among the six nations profiled by the study.
Varying Survival Rates - US citizens live longer than their foreign counterparts with breast cancer, and second-longest with cervical cancer and childhood leukemia. But US citizens rank last or next-to-last in life expectancy for patients with kidney transplants, liver transplants, colorectal cancer, circulatory diseases, respiratory diseases, diabetes, bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema.
Poor Patient Satisfaction - Only 40 percent of Americans are satisfied with the nation’s health care system. Of 17 countries surveyed, the US comes in 14th. The US ranks first in negative public perceptions, with a third of Americans calling for a system-wide revamp of American health care.
Poor Use of Information Technology - American health care providers are years behind their foreign counterparts in their use of information technology, electronic medical records, electronic prescriptions, and more. “This makes it harder to coordinate care, spot errors, and adhere to standard clinical guidelines,” the Times writes.
Conclusion - “With health care emerging as a major issue in the presidential campaign and in Congress, it will be important to get beyond empty boasts that this country has ‘the best health care system in the world’ and turn instead to fixing its very real defects,” the Times concludes. “The main goal should be to reduce the huge number of uninsured, who are a major reason for our poor standing globally.… The world’s most powerful economy should be able to provide a health care system that really is the best.” [New York Times, 8/12/2007]
On January 16, 2007, a young man known as Asim arrives in Barcelona. He had recently been living in the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan as an informant for French intelligence. He comes to Barcelona to inform on a group of Pakistanis living in that town who spent time in Pakistani training camps and allegedly are planning a series of suicide attacks in Spain and possibly other European countries. He is posing as one of the suicide bombers. Fearing that an attack is imminent, Spanish authorities arrest most of the suspects three days later (see January 19, 2008). But the Spanish decide that they don’t have enough physical evidence to successfully prosecute the arrested suspects, and they turn Asim into a protected witness for the prosecution. The New York Times will comment, “the case has caused diplomatic friction among investigators. Spain’s handling of the French informant has enraged officials at France’s intelligence agencies and eroded trust between the countries, French and other European officials said. The informant’s value as a source was destroyed when he was made a prosecution witness and the contents of his statements were leaked to the news media.” Asim’s case contradicts the commonly held notion that intelligence agencies have been unable to penetrate al-Qaeda’s central command (see March 20, 2008). But many questions remain. It is unclear when he first penetrated Waziristan as an informant, how much time he spent there, and how high level his al-Qaeda contacts there were. [New York Times, 2/10/2008]
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) predicts “a full-fledged crash in global stock and credit markets over the next three months as inflation paralyzes the major central banks.” RBS credit strategist Bob Janjuah says, “A very nasty period is soon to be upon us—be prepared.” Bolstering Janjuah’s dire predictions, the RBS bank research team warns that the Wall Street equities index, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 index is likely to fall by more than 300 points to around 1050 by September as “all the chickens come home to roost” from what the Daily Telegraph describes as “the excesses of the global boom, with contagion spreading across Europe and emerging markets. Such a slide on world [markets] would amount to one of the worst bear markets over the last century.” Janjuah also warned of the credit crisis in 2007. RBS predicts that Wall Street would rally a little in early July before quickly fizzling out. “Globalization was always going to risk putting G7 bankers into a dangerous corner at some point. We have got to that point,” Janjuah says. RBS debt market chief Kit Jukes says Europe will not be immune from the problems: “Economic weakness is spreading and the latest data on consumer demand and confidence are dire.” [Daily Telegraph, 6/19/2008]
A poll shows that 53 percent of Americans believe torture should be unequivocally abolished, and 44 percent of Americans favor torture when dealing with terrorists. Thirteen percent say torture should be allowed in general. The poll was taken by WorldPublicOpinion.org, which is associated with the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes. US support for torturing terrorists has grown since 2006, when 36 percent favored the idea. Citizens in other countries were also polled about torture, and they generally show stronger opinions against torture. For instance, 82 percent in Britain, France, and Spain believe torture should be unequivocally abolished. [Deutsche Presse Agentur, 6/24/2008]
Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, believes the US war strategy there is doomed to failure and that public opinion should primed for “an acceptable dictator” to be installed in Kabul, according to a leaked diplomatic cable sent by a French diplomat who met with Sir Sherard. The ambassador’s comments are recounted in a coded diplomatic dispatch sent by deputy French Ambassador to Kabul François Fitou to President Sarkozy and the Foreign Ministry. They are later published by the French investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaîné. Claude Angeli, the veteran Canard journalist who reports the cable, says that he has a copy of the two-page decoded text, which is partially printed in facsimile in his newspaper. “It is quite explosive,” he tells the London Times. According to the leaked memo, Sir Sherard, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, tells Fitou that the only realistic outlook for Afghanistan would be the installation of “an acceptable dictator” within five or 10 years, and that public opinion should be primed for this. He says that Britain had no alternative to supporting the United States in Afghanistan despite the fact that the US-led NATO military operation was making things worse. “We should tell them that we want to be part of a winning strategy, not a losing one,” he is quoted as saying. “In the short term we should dissuade the American presidential candidates from getting more bogged down in Afghanistan.… The American strategy is doomed to fail.” The French Foreign Ministry does not deny the existence of the cable but denounces its publication by Le Canard Enchaîné. Acknowledging that the meeting between Sir Sherard and Fitou did take place, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office says that the cable does not accurately reflect the ambassador’s views. Sources in the British government say the French account is a parody of the British Ambassador’s remarks. The exact date of the meeting is unclear. The Times reports that Sir Sherard imparts his thoughts to Mr Fitou on September 2, but The Guardian and the New York Times clarify that Le Canard Enchaîné reported that the cabled dispatch was sent to the Élysée Palace and the French Foreign Ministry on September 2, relating a meeting that had just happened. [Guardian, 10/2/2008; London Times, 10/2/2008; New York Times, 10/3/2008]
The Swiss government says it will consider allowing Guantanamo detainees to be repatriated to Switzerland if it will help shut down that detention facility. In a statement, the Swiss government says: “For Switzerland, the detention of people in Guantanamo is in conflict with international law. Switzerland is ready to consider how it can contribute to the solution of the Guantanamo problem.” The Swiss government says it welcomes the expressed intention of President Obama to close the prison, and says it will investigate the security and legal implications of possibly taking in detainees. After calling for years for the detention camp to be shut down, European governments are now under some pressure to help find a home for the approximately 245 detainees. Many of the detainees’ home countries are refusing to take them back, and the US under former President Bush says it will not allow them to remain in the US if released. Switzerland is a traditional supporter of refugees, and the home of international organizations such as the Red Cross and the United Nations’s refugee agencies. At least two other European nations, Portugal and France, have stated their willingness to accept detainees. [Reuters, 1/21/2009]
Global recession fears deepen as uncertainty regarding bank bailout plans drives negative investor sentiment on Wall Street. The Dow Jones index closes down 196.01 points, or 2.7% at 7169.66, the lowest since October 1997. The S&P 500 index loses 2.9% to 747.94, below its lowest close since April 1997. Investors initially welcomed reports that the Feds would convert an earlier investment in Citigroup into a large common stock holding, but enthusiasm faded as long-standing uncertainty about the government’s ultimate plan for banks resurfaced to pull indexes lower. European stocks also retreat, sending the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index to a new six-year low. It slides 0.9% to 175.29, dropping for a second straight day and closing at its lowest level since March 13, 2008. National benchmark indexes dropped in 15 of the 18 western European markets. [National Business Review, 2/23/2009]
European Union Leaders hold an emergency summit in Brussels, saying they are determined to avoid protectionist moves in response to the economic crisis that might cause a rift between nations in the East and West. The summit comes on the heels of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s pledge to help his nation’s car industry, if jobs were safeguarded in France. Sarkozy’s pledge raised fears that national protectionism could scuttle hopes of a Eurozone recovery. Speaking after their meeting, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says, “There was consensus on the need to avoid any unilateral protectionist measures.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that the newest EU member states that are former communist countries were not all in the same situation. Czech Republic Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, the current EU president who also chairs the talks, condemns Sarkozy’s comments, saying: “We need a Europe without barriers but also a just and fair Europe. I think that it was perfectly clear that the European Union isn’t going to leave anybody in the lurch.” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown adds: “Today was the start of a European consensus on all these major issues that are facing the world community, including ‘no’ to protectionism. Bold global action, a global grand bargain, is not now just necessary, but it is vitally urgent.” President Sarkozy denies accusations of protectionism levied at his €6 billion (approximately $8 billion) bail-out plan to keep French carmakers manufacturing in France, but says that if the US defended its own industries, perhaps Europe should do the same. There is no announcement of a new EU aid package for the badly-hit economies of Central and Eastern Europe. The summit comes a week after the same EU leaders met to discuss reforming the EU’s financial system. Brown says the G20 talks next month represent an opportunity to agree on a new deal. “Only by working together will we deliver the EU and international recovery we need,” he says. This week, Brown will become the first European leader to hold talks with President Obama, who is also expected to visit Prague in April. [BBC, 3/1/2009]
In its May 2009 Global Employment Trends Update, the United Nation’s International Labor Organization (ILO) revises its 2009 unemployment projections to levels ranging from 210 million to 239 million unemployed, with corresponding global unemployment rates of 6.5 and 7.4 percent respectively. The ILO specifically cautions that youth around the globe are hardest hit, and warns that the world was headed for an “impending labor crisis.” Describing the global unemployment crisis as “unprecedented,” ILO Director General Juan Somavia says that despite reports of a 2010 global economic recovery, “On average, it can take four to five years after a crisis starts for pre-crisis unemployment levels to be recuperated.” Somavia warns of political unrest should unemployment increase with little or no safety nets in place, and states that more workers are at risk of losing their jobs and falling into poverty. The report is released one week ahead of the June 3-19 Annual International Labor Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, where at least 10 heads of state, including US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, and Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, are expected to attend. Somavia also says that attendees will consider an emergency “global jobs pact” designed to promote a coordinated policy response to the global jobs crisis. “We are seeing an unprecedented increase in unemployment and the number of workers at risk of falling into poverty around the world this year,” he says. “To avoid a global social recession, we need a global jobs pact to address this crisis, and mitigate its effects on people. The choice is ours and the time to act is now.” [Thaindian News, 5/28/2009; International Labour Organisation, 5/28/2009]
US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy review French troops during Obama’s 2009 visit to Strasburg. [Source: Shawn Thew / EPA]Jon Scott and Jane Skinner, hosts of Fox News’s “straight news” program Happening Now (see October 13, 2009), air selectively edited clips of President Obama to give the false impression that he has singled out the US for criticism during a trip to France. The segment hinges on an upcoming trip by Obama to Europe and the Middle East. Scott asks if “the president’s upcoming trip [will] be what conservatives might call another apology tour”; in teasing Scott’s segment, Skinner raises the same point. Both Scott and Skinner then air cropped clips from Obama’s April 2009 visit to France. During his April speech, Obama both praised and criticized actions taken by the US, and criticized anti-American sentiment in Europe. However, Scott and Skinner air carefully selected portions of the speech to give impetus to their contention that Obama only criticized the US during his time in France. Fellow Fox News host Sean Hannity has suggested that Obama embarked on a “blame America first” visit and “apology tour.” On-air text and graphics illustrate the “apology tour” contention. Neither Scott nor Skinner inform their audience that in the same speech, Obama criticized Europe and praised the US. Guest Elliott Abrams, the convicted Iran-Contra conspirator (see October 7, 1991), advises Obama “to stop apologizing for our country,” and adds that Obama is making a mistake in spending time talking to Muslims during the trip. [Media Matters, 6/2/2009]
According to unemployment statistics compiled by Eurostat, the European Union unemployment rate has risen to 9.2 percent, its highest since September 1999, with 3.1 million jobs lost in April 2009, an increase of 556,000 from March. In the Eurozone, 396,000 jobs were shed and almost 15 million became unemployed. The lowest unemployment figures were in the Netherlands at 3.0 percent and Austria at 4.2 percent. The highest figures were in Spain at 18.1 percent, Latvia, 17.4 percent, and Lithuania, 16.8 percent. Eurostat is the Statistical Office of the European Communities located in Luxumbourg and is charged with providing statistics for comparisons between European countries and regions. The Eurozone is comprised of the 15 EU states that have adopted the euro and created a currency union. [MercoPress, 6/3/2009; Eurostat.com, 6/3/2009; Ezine Articles, 6/3/2009]
The US spends more than any other nation in the world on health care, but ranks only 50th among 224 nations in life expectancy, according to the 2009 CIA World Factbook. Experts say that this fact could raise serious questions in the debate over health care reform. Americans have an average life span of 78.1 years; the populations of 49 other nations live longer, on average. Japan is first in life expectancy, at 83 years; Australia, Iceland, Italy, San Marino, Switzerland, Andorra, Canada, and France round out the top 10 countries. Other countries, such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Singapore, Greece, Spain, and Portugal also do better than the US in life expectancy. The bottom 10 nations are, in reverse order, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, Chad, Uganda, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau, with life spans ranging from averages of 41 to 48 years. Some experts note that the US is the only developed nation to have a virtually completely privatized health care system. “What we are able to find in the industrialized world is that life expectancy will be influenced in a beneficial manner to the extent that health care expenditure is publicly financed,” says public health professor Harvey Brenner. “The higher the government expenditure on health care, the lower will be the mortality rate.” A study from the University of Chicago shows that a single-payer system—government-run health care—may be associated with higher life expectancy. The governments of such nations as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, and Canada have government-run health care, and their citizens have some of the longest life spans in the world. The author of the study, Bianca Frogner, writes: “Inevitably the conversation about reforming our health care system focuses on the question of what are we getting for our money and how are others doing with their health care dollars. Life expectancy, along with mortality and morbidity rates, are fairly straightforward numbers to rely on.” Other comparisons show that Scandinavian and other European countries have lower birth mortality numbers than the US, though babies born with abnormally low birth weights tend to fare better in the US system than in the Scandinavian systems. [CNN, 6/11/2009]
Group of 8 (G-8) leaders from across the globe release a statement from their meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, saying that economic recovery from the worst recession since World War II is too frail for them to consider repealing efforts to infuse money into the economy. US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, European Commission President Jose Barroso, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev assembled for the annual gathering where Obama pressed to maintain an open door for additional stimulus actions. A new drop in stocks generated global concern that, to date, the $2 trillion already sunk into economies had not provided the economic bump that would bring consumers and businesses back to life. “The G-8 needed to sound a second wakeup call for the world economy,” Brown told reporters after the gathering’s opening sessions. “There are warning signals about the world economy that we cannot ignore.” A G-8 statement embraces options ranging from a second US stimulus package—advocated by some lawmakers and economists—to an emphasis by Germany on shifting the focus to deficit reduction.
What Next? - Disagreements over what to do next, as well as calls from developing nations to do more to counteract the slump, emphasize that the Group of 8 has little if any room to maneuver, since the largest borrowing binge in 60 years has, so far, failed to stop rising unemployment and has left investors doubting the potency of the recovery. Even as G-8 leaders held their first meeting, the Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) World Index of stocks continued a five-day slide, and the 23-nation index had dropped 8 percent since its three-month rally that ended on June 2. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) upgraded its 2010 growth forecast, saying the rebound would be “sluggish,” and urged governments to stay the course with economic stimuli. The IMF also said that emerging countries such as China would lead the way, with an expansion of 4.7 percent in 2010, up from their April prediction of 4 percent. “It’s a very volatile situation,” said European Commission President Barroso in a Bloomberg Television interview from L’Aquila. “We are not yet out of the crisis, but it seems now that the free fall is over.”
Exit Strategems Discussion - “Exit strategies will vary from country to country depending on domestic economic conditions and public finances,” the leaders conclude, but deputy US National Security Adviser Mike Froman tells reporters, “There is still uncertainty and risk in the system.” Froman says that although exit strategies should be drawn up, it’s not “time to put them into place.” The IMF forecasts that, in 2014, the debt of advanced economies will explode to at least 114 percent of US gross domestic product because of bank bailouts and recession-battling measures. German Chancellor Merkel, campaigning for re-election in September and the leading opponent of additional stimulus, warned against burgeoning budget deficits, which the IMF has predicted will rise to an average of 6 percent of the EU’s 2009 gross domestic product, from 2.3 percent in 2008. At last month’s European Union summit, Merkel pushed through a statement that called for “a reliable and credible exit strategy,” and insisted, “We have to get back on course with a sustainable budget, but with the emphasis on when the crisis is over.” [G8 Summit 2009, 7/2/2009; Bloomberg, 7/9/2009]
Entity Tags: Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) World Index, Mike Froman, Jose Manuel Barroso, International Monetary Fund, Taro Aso, National Security Council, Nicolas Sarkozy, Silvio Berlusconi, Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown, Barack Obama, Standard & Poor’s, Stephen Harper, Dmitriy Medvedev
Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises
The tasks before the forthcoming Group of 20 (G-20) summit to be hosted by President Barack Obama in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are rolled out in the media. The number one agenda item for global leaders will be restraining financial institutions’ compensation and forcing them to clean their balance sheets to avert a duplicate of the near-meltdown of global financial systems. They will also attempt to find new methods for controlling over-the-counter derivatives markets, which are said to have augmented the global crash. The leaders are also scheduled to “increase oversight of hedge funds, credit rating agencies, and debt securitization.” Most leaders agree that it is essential to find a resolution for the huge financial imbalances in trade, savings, and consumption, all of which played a role in the global financial crisis, and ultimately may leave global economies vulnerable to future financial shocks. Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister, says that signs of economic recovery should not act as an excuse to avoid economic reforms. Officials of France and Germany are recommending stringent financial sector regulations, which incorporate limits on executive pay. The mandate of the G-20 is to “promote open and constructive discussion between industrial and emerging-market countries on key issues related to global economic stability.” The G-20 is comprised of finance ministers and central bank governors from 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, which is represented by the rotating council presidency and the European Central Bank. [Reuters, 9/22/2009; New York Times, 9/22/2009; Voice of America, 9/22/2009; G-20.org, 9/22/2009]
In his first speech to the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, President Obama says all nations bear responsibility for addressing the global problems of nuclear proliferation, war, climate change, and economic crises. “We must build new coalitions that bridge old divides,” Obama says. “All nations have rights and responsibilities—that’s the bargain that makes [the UN] work.” Obama acknowledges that high expectations accompanying his presidency are “not about me,” adding that when he took office at the beginning of the year: “Many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and mistrust. No world order which elevates one nation above others can succeed in tackling the world’s problems. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.” Obama devotes a considerable portion of his speech to discussing the challenges inherent in finding a peaceful solution to settlements in the Middle East. He calls for the resumption of Israel-Palestine negotiations “without preconditions,” and also uses his speech to indicate that the US has returned to the global arena as a team player.
Warm but Restrained Reception - Although warmly received, applause appears slightly restrained, perhaps an indication that expectations for the Obama presidency are becoming more realistic, given the global problems with which most nations now struggle. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opens the 64th Session’s proceedings by saying, “Now is the time to put ‘united’ back into the United Nations.”
Followed by Libyan Leader - Libya’s President Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi follows Obama and speaks for over an hour, vehemently criticizing the UN’s power structure as uneven, archaic, and unjust. From a copy of the preamble to the UN Charter, al-Qadhafi reads: “It says nations are equal whether they are small or big—are we equal in the permanent seats? No, we are not equal. Do we have the rights of the veto? All nations should have an equal footing. For those who have a permanent seat, this is political feudalism. It shouldn’t be called the Security Council; it should be called the Terror Council.” Despite reigning in Libya for over 40 years, this is al-Qadhafi’s first UN General Assembly speech. [BBC, 9/23/2009]
With President Obama serving as chairman, the United Nations Security Council collectively approves Resolution 1887 to decrease withdrawals from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The measure also decreases the opportunity for civilians to divert nuclear resources for the development of sophisticated weaponry. Although they are not specifically mentioned, it is believed that the resolution is to ensure compliance by countries such as North Korea and Iran, each of which has either banned inspectors or rigorously restricted their access. “The resolution is not about singling out nations,” Obama says. “We must demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced.” Officials of the Obama administration say that the resolution will not become binding unless and until the Security Council takes steps to subject nuclear exports to supplementary restrictions. Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, as well as France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, say that current sanctions against Iran and North Korea are inadequate, and ask the council for “far tougher sanctions” against Iran. Sarkozy says, “What I believe is that if we have the courage to affirm and impose sanctions on those who violate resolutions of the Security Council, we will be lending credibility to our commitment to a world with fewer nuclear weapons and ultimately with no nuclear weapons.”
"A World without Nuclear Weapons" - During his opening speech, Obama describes his vision of “a world without nuclear weapons,” as reflected in the text of Resolution 1887. He says the resolution “revitalized” the Security Council’s commitment to a world without nuclear weapons, while reaffirming nuclear proliferation as a threat to global peace and security. “We harbor no illusions about the difficulty of attaining such a world,” Obama notes, “but there will also be days like today that push us forward—days that tell a different story.”
Rare Security Council Session - Today’s session is unusual in that it is only the fifth time the Security Council has held a summit-level meeting since the founding of the United Nations in 1945. Obama, as chairman, makes history as the first US president to head a UN Security Council session.
US and Russia Meet - The day before, Obama met with Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev for the first time since he announced that former President George W. Bush’s Eastern Europe missile defense program would be replaced by a system that Moscow sees as less menacing. Although Obama administration officials publicly deny that the missile defense replacement decision was a result of quid pro quo, for the first time, Medvedev indicates that his country would be agreeable to repeated American requests for drastically tougher Iran sanctions, should the October nuclear talks scheduled with Iran fail. “I told His Excellency Mr. President that we believe we need to help Iran to take a right decision,” Medvedev says. “Sanctions rarely lead to productive results, but in some cases, sanctions are inevitable.”
Dignitaries in Attendance - Among the dignitaries attending the session are former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, media mogul Ted Turner, and Queen Noor of Jordan; all three are active in efforts toward nuclear disarmament. [New York Times, 9/24/2009]
The Group of 20 (G20)‘s pledge to return balance to the world economy may place the US dollar in a precarious position in the long run, experts feel. Over recent weeks, the dollar has fallen 4.3 percent this quarter because of equity market weakness as well as emerging major currencies as other countries begin their recovery from the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. Some G20 meeting attendees see the dollar as susceptible to damage while questioning its stability as well as its status as the global reserve currency, although the recent weakness of the dollar is not being blamed on the weakness of the US economy. Analysts say that short-term effects to the G20 meeting of other wealthy, developing economies will be subdued; however, they say that over a longer period, bank stocks and energy prices as well as the dollar may be harmed by G20 economic balancing actions. World leaders have expressed concern that the US economy’s recovery cannot be sustained because its rebound is due to government stimulus and increased borrowing. During the meeting in Pittsburgh, the leaders agree that to balance the global economy, the US needs to save more while the massive exporter China needs to consume more to support its growth. David Gilmore, partner at FX Analytics in Essex, Connecticut, explains, “The real problem is the world needs a huge consumer and the US has been basically doing it for decades, and now it’s spent.”
US Dollar as Reserve Currency - Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, says the US should not take the dollar’s status as the key global reserve currency for granted now that other options are emerging. Zoellick says that shifting global economic forces reveal that it is time to prepare for growth to come from multiple global sources. Although the world’s largest economies also agree to phase out subsidies on oil and other fossil fuels over the “medium term” to combat global warming, they acknowledge that the phase-out probably will not affect energy markets in the short term. In the long term, they say, the move could weigh on energy markets, cutting fuel demand in emerging markets. As for emergency economic support, G20 leaders promise to continue support until recovery is “at hand,” thus providing some relief for foreign currencies.
Economic Rebalancing Equals Shift from Dollar as Reserve Currency? - Global economic balancing is a two-edged sword for the dollar because the currency has been damaged by extremely low interest rates and the glut of dollars in the international monetary system. But the recession already has triggered partial rebalancing as US consumers cut spending while China spends $600 billion to stimulate its economy while making itself less dependent on exports. Analysts quickly note that minus tangible steps, the pledge only serves as lip service. The analysts also say it is improbable that countries would bend to G20 rules on how to run their economies. Nonetheless, the plan would be a clear shift, signaling a move away from the dollar. Currency strategist Kevin Chau of New York’s IDEAglobal says: “In the long run, I think they want another reserve currency, whether it’s the Special Drawing Rights or the Chinese yuan. For any country’s currency to gain that kind of credibility and trust, it would take years of development.” Still, last week, the dollar fell to a new low against the euro and even dropped below the key 90 yen-per-dollar level. [Reuters, 9/27/2009]
Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) hires lawyer Laurent Platini, son of UEFA president Michel Platini. QSI, an arm of the Qatari government, owns a majority interest in the leading French club Paris St. Germain (PSG—see May 31, 2011) and is also Barcelona’s shirt sponsor. Michel Platini voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup (see Around 2:30 p.m. December 2, 2010). [Goal(.com), 1/28/2011] Platini is also one of the men responsible for ensuring PSG complies with incoming financial fair play regulations, something it may have difficulty doing. [Observer, 1/29/2011]
The Qatari Investment Authority buys a 70 percent stake in the leading French club Paris St. Germain. The club’s former controlling investor, the US Colony Capital group, retains an interest of nearly 30 percent. The takeover comes after PSG finished fourth in Ligue 1—their highest placing since 2004—and reached the French cup final. [ESPN, 5/31/2011] The investment will be operated by Qatar Sports Investments, an arm of the new owners. [Guardian, 11/22/2011]
Instead of releasing €12 billion ($17.2 billion) to help the Greek government’s worsening economic and political crises, EU leaders assembling in Luxembourg for seven hours, from Sunday night into Monday morning, place more pressure on the Greek government after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) required Europe to guarantee Greece’s finances for the next 12 months. Rather than act with a sense of urgency, EU finance ministers expect the Greek Parliament and President George Papandreou to pass an austerity bill. Greece’s crises threaten to topple the euro and EU financial markets. [New York Times, 6/20/2011]
Eurozone policymakers fail to reach an agreement over the weekend on financial aid to bail out Greece, resulting in a sharp market drop on Monday morning as disappointed traders react to the leaders’ failure to guarantee the next €12 billion installment of Greece’s original bailout. Widespread speculation is that a disorganized Greek default will send Eurozone single-currency nations, as well as nations around the globe, into another panic. [Guardian, 6/20/2011]
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