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How US Pressure Bends UN Agencies

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Source: Consortium News

Ahmet Uzumcu, a Turkish diplomat who is the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

For at least the past dozen years, the U.S. government has aggressively sought to gain control of the leadership of key United Nations agencies, including the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) which is central to the dispute over the Syrian government's alleged use of Sarin gas on Aug. 21.

Yet, despite evidence that this U.S. manipulation can twist the findings of these UN groups in ways favored by Official Washington, the mainstream American press usually leaves out this context and treats UN findings -- or at least those that side with the U.S. government -- as independent and beyond reproach, including doubts about the OPCW's recent reporting on the Syrian dispute.

For instance, the background of the current OPCW director-general, Ahmet Uzumcu, is rarely if ever mentioned in American news articles about the OPCW's work in Syria. Yet,  his biography  raises questions about whether he and thus his organization can be truly objective about the Syrian civil war.

Uzumcu, who was chosen to take over the top OPCW job in 2010, is a career Turkish diplomat who previously served as Turkey's consul in Aleppo, Syria, now a rebel stronghold in the war to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; as Turkey's ambassador to Israel, which has publicly come out in favor of the rebels; and as Turkey's permanent representative to NATO, which is dominated by the United States and other Western powers hostile to Assad. Uzumcu's home country of Turkey also has been a principal backer of the rebel cause.

While Uzumcu's history does not necessarily mean he would pressure his staff to slant the OPCW's findings against the Syrian government, his objectivity surely could be put in question given his past diplomatic postings and the interests of his home government. Plus, even if Uzumcu were inclined to defy Turkey and its NATO allies -- and insist on being evenhanded in his approach toward Syria -- he surely would remember what happened to one of his predecessors who got on the wrong side of U.S. geopolitical interests.

That history about how the world's only superpower can influence purportedly honest-broker UN outfits was recalled on Monday in an article by Marlise Simons of the New York Times, describing how George W. Bush's administration ousted OPCW's director-general Jose Mauricio Bustani in 2002 because he was seen as an obstacle to invading Iraq.

Bustani, who had been reelected unanimously to the post less than a year earlier, described in an interview with the Times how Bush's emissary, Under-Secretary of State John Bolton, marched into Bustani's office and announced that he (Bustani) would be fired.

"The story behind [Bustani's] ouster has been the subject of interpretation and speculation for years, and Mr. Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat, has kept a low profile since then," wrote Simons. "But with the agency thrust into the spotlight with news of the Nobel [Peace] Prize last week, Mr. Bustani agreed to discuss what he said was the real reason: the Bush administration's fear that chemical weapons inspections in Iraq would conflict with Washington's rationale for invading it. Several officials involved in the events, some speaking publicly about them for the first time, confirmed his account."

Bolton, a blunt-speaking neocon who later became Bush's Ambassador to the United Nations, continued to insist in a recent interview with the New York Times that Bustani was ousted for incompetence. But Bustani and other diplomats close to the case reported that Bustani's real offense was drawing Iraq into acceptance of the OPCW's conventions for eliminating chemical weapons, just as the Bush administration was planning to pin its propaganda campaign for invading Iraq on the country's alleged secret stockpile of WMD.

Bustani's ouster gave President Bush a clearer path to the invasion by letting him frighten the American people about the prospects of Iraq sharing its chemical weapons and possibly a nuclear bomb with al-Qaeda terrorists.

Brushing aside Iraq's insistence that it had destroyed its chemical weapons and didn't have a nuclear weapons project, Bush launched the invasion in March 2003, only for the world to discover later that the Iraqi government was telling the truth. As a result of the Iraq War, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, along with nearly 4,500 American soldiers, with the estimated costs to the U.S. taxpayers running into the trillions of dollars.

Bush's Bullying

But U.S. bullying of UN agencies did not start or stop with replacing the OPCW's Bustani. Prior to Bustani's ouster, the Bush administration employed similar bare-knuckled tactics against UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary C. Robinson, who had dared criticize human rights abuses committed by Israel and Bush's "war on terror." The Bush administration lobbied hard against her reappointment. Officially, she announced she was retiring on her own accord.

The Bush administration also forced out Robert Watson, the chairman of the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]. Under his leadership, the panel had reached a consensus that human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, contributed to global warming. ExxonMobil sent a memo to Bush's White House asking, "Can Watson be replaced now at the request of the U.S.?"

The ExxonMobil memo, obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council through the Freedom of Information Act, urged the White House to "restructure U.S. attendance at the IPCC meetings to assure no Clinton/Gore proponents are involved in decisional activities." On April 19, 2002, the Bush administration succeeded in replacing Watson with Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian economist.

Commenting on his removal, Watson said, "U.S. support was, of course, an important factor. They [the IPCC] came under a lot of pressure from ExxonMobil who asked the White House to try and remove me." [For details, see's "Bush's Grim Vision."]

This pattern of pressure continued into the Obama administration which used its own diplomatic and economic muscle to insert a malleable Japanese diplomat, Yukiya Amano, into the leadership of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], which was playing a key role in the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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