Diplomat and terrorism expert to address Juneau World Affairs Council

Posted: Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A renowned diplomat and expert on trade regulation and terrorism efforts will address the Juneau World Affairs Council at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Centennial Hall. Victor Comras will outline themes from his new book “Flawed Diplomacy: The United Nations & the War on Terrorism.” It was published in November by Potomac Books.

The book comes from a career spent as an authority on international trade regulations, sanctions and combat against terrorism financing. The author is coming to Juneau to give his take on how such efforts against terrorism have not been all that they could have been.

“After 9/11, we did come up with a whole program, but I try to discuss why that program is flawed and what we need to do today to come up with a coherent strategy,” he said.

He will also explain the role the United Nations has failed to play in dealing with terrorism, plus structures and impediments in periods leading to 9/11.

“Prior to that time, for reasons we’ll call ‘failed diplomacy,’ countries like Western Europe failed to address these issues that are vital to their own interests,” he said.

He will go into how such “failed diplomacy” distorted the concept to the point of actually defending those countries employing terrorism tactics.

Comras has studied events dating back decades, including earlier plane hijackings and the 1972 Munich Olympics incident, among others, which have led to future terrorism possibilities.

“In a sense, one can almost trace a road beginning there directly to 9/11,” Comras said.

Comras says the issues of how terrorism financing has been handled is another major area where better strategies are needed, and this will be another topic he addresses. One example he cited was $105 million provided to the Taliban from external sources, according to a CIA report last year.

One such source of financing has been oil, which Comras said has provided significant funds to Iranian support of Hezbollah and Hamas. He added Saudi Arabia also continues support of Hamas through such funding.

“Syria, which continues to be part of the oil exporting community, supports terrorists, as does Sudan,” he said.

He said funds from oil are also a factor in supporting families of suicide bombers in some countries.

Comras has extensive expertise on his subject, spending 35 years with the State Department, working on sanctions for Iran, Cuba and North Korea. He has been quoted in articles and books. President Clinton appointed him as the first U.S. envoy to Macedonia in 1994.

In 2002, he was appointed by the U.N. Secretary General to serve on a panel overseeing security measures against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He was selected for another expert panel on North Korea sanctions for the U.N. Security Council in 2009.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.



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