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A host of "systemic and systematic violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights" continue to plague Iran despite the election of the purportedly reformist President Hassan Rouhani. That's part of a stinging assessment of the current human rights landscape according to Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Recent elections for the new non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council went off with a predictable yawn. Countries representing regional groups gained the coveted two-year rotating membership without opposition and basically by acclimation. A secret ballot was set; vote for one out of one. So when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia won a coveted seat for the Asian group, there was polite applause, wry smiles, and then later political shock and awe when the Saudi's rejected the seat and renounced the Council's role in the Syrian war.
An arc of political and social instability exists on the soft underbelly of the Sahara Desert, as Islamic militants and ethnic separatists chip away at the fragile political geography of five states on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert. The West African country of Mali, wracked by a military coup, an Islamic power grab and tribal fighting, has only regained a fragile stability in the wake of French military intervention earlier this year and the subsequent U.N. peacekeeping mission. Yet Mali's precarious situation, and that of the many regional states, could be slipping backwards.
Chinese President Xi Jinping went on a charm offensive in Southeast Asia, preening and posturing about the widening role Beijing plans to play in the business of this vital region. U.S. President Barack Obama was stuck back in Washington pouting and posturing over the partial government shutdown but making few effective moves towards Congressional Republicans to resolve the crisis.
The raging civil war in Syria has dominated headlines as well as both the debate and emotions at the U.N. General Assembly. But beyond the grisly statistics of over 100,000 people killed as well as the toxic political aftermath of chemical weapons use, there remain three other glaring, but often overlooked, issues.
The Somalia-linked terrorist carnage perpetuated in a Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall killing 70 innocent bystanders, the attacks on a church in Peshwar, Pakistan by Taliban fighters murdering at least 75 worshippers, and the consistent harassment of Christians in Egypt by Muslim Brotherhood militants offer stark and stunning subjective evidence of Islamist militants perpetuating violence.
Presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, and potentates will be in New York for the 68th annual U.N. General Assembly. The ongoing Syrian crisis and the toxic haze of recent chemical weapons use, clouds the diplomatic horizon at the global gathering as delegates confront issues of war, peace and widening humanitarian disasters.
We are witnessing an intense geopolitical chess game over Syria as I wrote last week. The players: Barack Obama, president of the United States, former senator and Chicago community organizer versus Vladmir Putin, president of the Russian Federation and former Soviet KGB intelligence operative. Moscow has just made a move which seems to have offered Obama a brief political respite, but equally has prompted Washington to do yet another policy turnaround on the Syria crisis.
The geopolitical chess game over Syria continues as the world enters autumn with the clouds of war swirling in the Eastern Mediterranean. The civil war which has engulfed Syria since 2011 killing 100,000, and now having crossed U.S. President Barack Obama's proverbial "red line" of chemical weapons use allegedly by the Assad regime, has triggered an American response set to punish the Damascus ruler.
I chanced upon Ronald Reagan walking towards Freedom Square here in Budapest. Actually his bronze statue, set in a brisk stride, larger than life, and facing a Soviet war memorial, sums up so many of the political emotions, poignant memories, and ghosts which still swirl round the Hungarian capital, even in the bright Summer sunshine. Budapest of course has seen darker days so it's all the better to celebrate freedom.
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