U.N. Credentials Committee Can Reject
August 3, 2005
By Mark G. Levey
The U.N. doesn't have to accept John Bolton's credentials. This
may come as a rude surprise to George W. Bush, who Monday morning
appointed Bolton U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, despite
his rejection several weeks ago by the Senate.
The unintended consequence of Bolton's appointment, which is creating
a lightning rod at the U.N. for resentment, anger and fear of Bush
administration foreign policy, is a possible move by the General
Assembly to limit U.S. actions in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
It is likely that one or more General Assembly member states will
challenge Bolton's credentials. In that case, under Articles 27-29,
he will be seated provisionally until the nine members of the Credentials
Committee can vote on the question.
The members of the Credentials Committee appointed
at the 59th session are:
Trinidad and Tobago
This could force what Bush likes to call an "up or down" vote
on the issue, and likely Bolton's first direct conflict with Russia
and China at the U.N. It is unclear how the smaller states on the
committee might vote.
U.N. RESISTANCE LARGELY OVER BUSH IRAN POLICY
Bolton's nomination signals the Bush Administration's intention
to use the U.N. to legitimize an attack against Iran - something
most of the world surely wants to avoid. A challenge to Bolton's
credentials may be a tactic to stall or delay a U.S. push toward
a resolution authorizing force against Iran. Some members may welcome
this opportunity to make their influence felt on this little-known
committee, rather than risk an open vote challenging the United
States in the General Assembly.
Opponents of Bolton at the U.N. certainly have an unusually large
amount of ammunition to use against him, should they take a stand.
Democrats in the U.S. Senate had blocked his nomination through
parliamentary maneuvering, even though the Republicans control that
body. Allegations have arisen that Bolton misrepresented the fact
that he was questioned by investigators looking into his possible
role in the illegal disclosure of Valerie Plame, a CIA officer.
Bolton is furthermore on record as making numerous hostile statements
against the U.N., and perhaps on this basis opponents could mount
a challenge. It will likely not happen, but it's worth contemplating.
Bolton's appointment to the U.N. is perhaps most alarming as he
is a principal leader of the neocon faction that has been most aggressively
pushing the Bush administration toward military action intended
to overthrow the government of Iran. Bush's move to appoint him
during a Congressional recess is likely to be taken as sign that
U.S.-Iranian relations have entered a dangerous new phase. This
is not a welcome development by the vast majority of U.N. members.
U.N. MAY TAKE OPPORTUNITY TO TRY TO IMPOSE LIMITATIONS ON U.S.
While challenges are not infrequent, actual rejection of the credentials
of U.N. representatives is extraordinary. In the last 30 years,
the committee rejected the credentials of Burmese and Cambodian
U.N. representatives because of serious doubts about the legitimacy
of the regimes and factions that sent them.
While Bolton is widely feared and disliked among diplomats, Bolton's
outright rejection by a majority of the committee would be stunning,
almost unimaginable. It is far more likely that the General Assembly
may take this opportunity to attempt to impose conditions on U.S.
international actions, such as its occupation of Iraq and any arm-twisting
it may attempt to force the world body to authorize military action
No doubt, many delegates would welcome a low-risk opportunity to
send a clear message to the U.S. that Bolton's notoriously undiplomatic
methods are unwelcome. Representation in the world body It's not
an internal U.S. matter - the U.N. chooses who it finds acceptable
among its own representatives.
Ironically, the U.S. helped to create precedent for this three
decades ago. In 1991, a block of Arab states moved (unsuccessfully)
to limit Israel's membership in the U.N. by declaring its occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza to be illegal. As the Arab states pointed
out at the time, the U.S. had itself in 1973 voted
to impose limitations on Portugal's credentials at the U.N.,
effectively forcing it to abandon its colonial claims on Angola.
Therefore, the Bolton appointment presents an opportunity for
a state or states to motion to limit U.S. actions or jurisdiction
in some way, both in its occupation of Iraq and in whatever unilateral
designs it may have on Iran.