Irrelevance of the UN
The casual contempt with which Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rejected Kofi Annan's attempt to mediate in the stand-off over Teheran's nuclear ambitions is alarming. There was a time when the UN Secretary General was a figure of genuine authority. No longer.
Mr Annan's personal standing has, of course, been diminished by his failure either to root out corruption or to introduce meaningful reforms. But the malaise runs deeper. The UN is in danger of becoming an expensive irrelevance, feebly led and increasingly ill-fitted for the job of policing the international community. READ MORE
In Darfur, the Security Council last week resolved to create a peacekeeping force some 20,000 strong. But the Sudanese government has rejected such intervention as "imperialism" and will not accept the force.
End result? There will be no peacekeeping force and the bloodshed will continue. The situation in Lebanon is equally dispiriting. In March, 1978, a UN force was deployed to south Lebanon under Resolution 425 and has achieved precious little. The current deployment is sanctioned by Resolution 1701, whose terms are near-identical to those of 425 — 28 years on, and no progress to report.
In Iran, however, the stakes are infinitely higher and the UN's impotence the more alarming. The Security Council is split over sanctions, with Russia and China opposed. Teheran also brazenly points out that, as the world's third largest producer of oil, any serious sanctions regime would have a deleterious effect on Western economies.
As the impasse continues, we inch ever closer to the frightening prospect of a fundamentalist state at the heart of the world's most volatile region acquiring nuclear weapons. There's a powerful sense of déjà vu here. It was the UN's persistent failure to deal effectively with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein that prompted the American-led military invasion of Iraq.
It is inconceivable that Washington will allow Iran to become a nuclear power. That simple fact should spur the United Nations into making a more serious effort to bring President Ahmadinejad to heel.