Conflicts over the war in Iraq and turmoil at the Justice Department are obscuring a rare case of cooperation between the Administration and Capitol Hill.
The White House has asked for greater support for the United Nations’ budget and operations, and the Democratic Congress is responding with appropriations that meet or exceed the Administration’s requests.
The House has approved its foreign operations funding bill, and the Senate plans to consider in September a bill approved by its appropriations committee.
UN dues. The House fully funded the Administration’s request for UN dues, which are $291 million in arrears, and for dues to 47 other international organizations. While seeking Senate confirmation, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said that the “United States should pay its dues in full and on time.”
When the United States pays its dues on time, there are several benefits for U.S. interests: international organizations can manage their budgets and operations effectively, the U.S. hand is strengthened in pressing for administrative reforms, and the United States has a stronger case to make to other countries that are delinquent in dues payments.
Peacekeeping. The Administration’s funding request for UN peacekeeping operations, for which the United States is $622 million in arrears, is three percent below this year’s spending – in spite of the fact that during the past year the Administration has supported the extension or expansion of missions in Haiti, Darfur, Lebanon, and East Timor.
The Senate bill provides $1.35 billion for peacekeeping, $245 million more than requested by the Administration. The House bill exceeds the Administration’s request by $195 million.
These UN operations involve 100,000 deployed personnel in Haiti, the Middle East, Sudan, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and elsewhere in Africa. They provide security and humanitarian benefits and employ other countries’ military forces in places where U.S. troops might otherwise have to be deployed.
Iraq. The Administration is seeking to involve the UN in political efforts to improve the situation in Iraq, by mediating both among Iraqi political factions and with neighbors such as Syria and Iran, with which U.S. contacts are limited. Khalilzad has cited the UN’s “comparative advantages for undertaking complex international and regional mediation efforts.” Fulfillment of U.S. obligations to the UN will increase chances that an effective UN effort will be undertaken.
If Congress completes work on UN funding after its August recess, it will be a victory for American interests and for bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy.
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