Thursday,21 September, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1360, (14 - 20 September 2017)
Thursday,21 September, 2017
Issue 1360, (14 - 20 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Inside Washington: Acts and scenes

Followed by Thomas Gorguissian

Trump to UNGA 72: US President Donald Trump is heading to the United Nations next week. As is always the case with the beginning of the new session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA – this year is the 72nd), the US administration will move to New York. But like anything else since the president’s inauguration, the Trump administration wants to stress that the era of “business as usual” is over for the United Nations, too.

The size of the US team going to New York will be smaller than ever at about one third the size of previous teams. The day before he is scheduled to give his speech at the UNGA on 19 September, the US president will participate in a summit meeting dedicated to the reform of the United Nations. This was an issue raised by Trump and many of his advisers and supporting groups during the US presidential elections campaign of 2016.

The United Nations is “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time,” Trump has said. Other critics of the UN have stated that although 22 per cent of the organisation’s budget is paid for by the United States, most of its agencies usually disagree with US policies. They complain that the UN has an “anti-Israel approach” and always “condemns Israel’s right to self-defence.”

President Trump, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (who also took office last January) and US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley are scheduled to speak at the 18 September event. Also at that gathering, a US-drafted 10-point “UN Reform Political Declaration” will be submitted for adoption by member states.

During his UN/New York days Trump is expected to stay at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and his meetings with world leaders will probably be held there as well about 40 miles west of New York City. The list of meetings for now includes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Political observers are expecting the prominent presence of Trump’s daughter Ivanka at both public and private UN meetings. Her husband Jared Kushner will be there as well. The two visited UN headquarters last month for a private luncheon with Guterres, as reported in the US Foreign Policy magazine.

 

The next war in the Middle East: “As far as Syria is concerned, we have very little to do with Syria other than killing ISIS,” President Trump said on 7 September at a White House press conference in Washington with the emir of Kuwait. 

He added that “what we do is we kill ISIS. And we have succeeded in that respect. We have done better in eight months of my presidency than the previous eight years against ISIS,” referring to fighters of the Islamic State terrorist group. However, the concern about the lack of a post-IS policy in Syria is unfortunately real, and only one angle of it was reflected in a Wall Street Journal editorial entitled “The Next War in the Middle East.”

In the article the Journal warned that “the larger context is the confrontation that is building between Israel and Iran as the war against Islamic State moves to a conclusion in Syria and Iraq.” It said that “Iran is using Syria’s civil war, and the battle against ISIS, as the cause to gain a permanent military foothold in Syria that can threaten Israel either directly or via its proxies in Syria and Lebanon.”

The newspaper also wrote that Trump needs a strategy for post-ISIS Syria that contains Iran “if he doesn’t want the US to be pulled back into another Middle East war.” Iran’s role in the region and its nuclear deal was also revisited recently by US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who was in Washington on 5 September and spoke at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, suggesting that Iran was cheating and “hundreds” of “suspicious” sites were out of reach of UN nuclear inspectors. Haley also pointed to the crisis with nuclear-armed North Korea, saying that something similar could happen if Iran secretly developed nuclear arms.

 

Divine felines: The US capital will soon see an exhibition entitled “Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M Sackler Gallery. It will open on 14 October as part of the museum’s reopening weekend celebration.

The exhibition, which will last till 15 January next year, explores the role and meaning of cats in ancient Egypt through a selection of works of art, many from the world-famous Egyptian collections of the Brooklyn Museum in New York. It comprises 80 objects dating from the Middle Kingdom (2008–1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395–642 CE). They include statues, coffins, amulets, textiles and a mummified cat from the Smithsonian’s own National Museum of Natural History.

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