A lesson in diplomacy

John Bolton, the controversial US Ambassador to the UN Security Council is taking his turn as Council President, and he’s cracking the whip:

At Bolton’s order, the bell that calls envoys to the council’s meeting room rang precisely at 10 a.m. New York time today, a scheduled starting time rarely met, and Bolton later said he was alone in the room when he “brought the gavel down” at that time.

“I took a list of when they came in,” Bolton said, referring to his council colleagues. “I believe in discipline. Starting on time is a form of discipline.”

And of course, you know what happened next.  They all rocked up at a quarter after 10.

It’s a trivial event, of course, but the whole affair has to bring into question John Bolton’s judgement.  He simply doesn’t seem to recognise that the other members of the Security Council view it as a forum, a place for debate (however pointless that debate may be at times), and they expect to be treated as equals in that forum.  Treating them as naughty schoolboys just winds them up into petulant furies, and distracts attention from the serious issues that they are actually there to debate.
Having said all that, here’s the irony:

The funny thing is,  Bolton’s right.  The UN is too prone to operate like a laid-back international coffee house.   It hardly seems too much to ask that the 15 people responsible for global peace and security meet to discuss the subject each morning.

He is right.  Just too stupid to know how to get his point across.

Syrian blogosphere

Yet more good news about the way that blogging is reaching into Middle Eastern society – in this case, Syria:

He has glasses and the kind of baby face that relatives probably like to pinch. But beneath the mild exterior of this Syrian mobile phone operator there is some righteous, youthful anger.

He expresses that anger in a blog.

“I write about everything I’m pissed off about, the things that make me angry: extremism, poverty, religion,” he says with an incongruous smile.

However, it looks as though the Syrian blogging community beginning to reach the critical mass that attracts the unwelcome attention of the authorities:

And even though he and the other two bloggers, Ghalia and Sara, have made great efforts to emphasize to me they are not political, Majd’s blog has already garnered the blogger’s badge of honor: enough notoriety to prompt authorities to block access to it. For Majd, this happened at work.

“My blog got banned at the office,” he says, after he posted “Calm Tsunami,” a fable of sorts.

One to watch.

Blair invited to Iranian holocaust debate

Via Aljazeera comes the clearest indication yet of the Iranian government’s sincere desire to build a lasting partnership with Britain – an invitation to speak at their debate on the conference on the holocaust (or, rather, the imaginary holocaust):

Hamid Reza Asefi, a foreign ministry spokesman, said: “It would be good for Mr Blair to participate in the Holocaust seminar in Tehran.

“He can also contribute with an article. If he wants to defend the Holocaust in that article, he can do so. We will give him the time to read out his article so others can hear his point of view.”

Unfortunately, I think Tony probably has to wash his hair that day.

Saddam walks out of trial

Saddam Hussein has just walked out of his trial in protest at the approach of a new ‘hard-line’ judge.

Judge Rahman moved to immediately stamp his authority on the proceedings and ordered the removal of Mr al-Tikiriti, who hurled insults as he was dragged away.

The judge then rounded on the defence lawyers saying that they had contributed to the atmosphere that allowed defendants to think they could make lengthy speeches and disrespect the authority of the court.

Next, a defence lawyer was ejected from the court, and as a result the rest of Saddam’s defence team stormed out.

I’m all in favour of allowing domestic courts to judge cases, rather than international tribunals, or the international court.  But, only if the domestic courts are capable of doing so in a fair and balanced manner.

But, sadly, this trial is descending into farce. Defence lawyers have been killed, and not offered any real protection, and the first judge has been publicly accused by members of the government of being too lenient on the defendants.  And now we have a hard-line judge who seems more intent on matching Saddam every step of the way in the game of playing to the audience than he is on ensuring justice.

Any pretence that justice Saddam would get a fair trial – which was vital to assuaging the fears of Iraq’s Sunni majority – is now gone.