15 OCTOBER 2009


Did anyone around the Secretary General check Peter Galbraith's profile before appointing him last June as Deputy Special Envoy to Afghanistan? Similarly, did anyone around the Secretary General take time to consider the possible repercussions of abruptly and singularly firing him in September?

Or did Mr. Kim just take his marching orders as duly received? Anyone familiar with U.S. politics knows that Mr. Galbraith had a close political connection with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Whether the Vice President intervened on his behalf and through what channel is another question. The fact is that the appointment was made swiftly in June.

Actually, one far-fetched conspiracy theory has it that Galbraith was intentionally planted just before the Afghanistan elections in order to push for the Vice President's approach there and, if necessary, embarrass Ban Ki-moon to pave the way for a specific candidate for Secretary General whom Mr. Biden had supported. That is nonsense, of course. Peter Galbraith may be fiercely opinionated but he is not a conniver and the U.S. Vice President is so pre-occupied with many other matters, including his own ego, to think of other trivial and premature questions.

However, the main question is: did the Secretary General know precisely what he was getting into when he agreed to nominate Mr. Galbraith under Mr. Eide? Did he have a full background check, a considered review of his previous positions on Iraq, for example, and what it meant for Afghanistan and the U.N. Or did he merely aim to please?

On Thursday, 8 October, Peter Galbraith was walking his dog in Bergen, Norway, where he was spending time with his Norwegian wife (introduced to him by his current adversary, Kai Eide). He was confronted by Norwegian journalists who wanted to ask him not about Afghanistan but about his oil deals in the Kurdish area of Iraq.

Galbraith, like his close political ally, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, was a staunch proponent on breaking down Iraq into a federation of autonomous states. While the Vice President's approach was somewhat a softer sort of partition, Galbraith was very much for a sharper breakdown leading almost to the "End of Iraq," a title of one of his books. In it he clearly indicated his involvement with Kurdish groups while he was supposedly "a consultant for ABC News." He admitted in the book however, that "for a few months" between 2003 and 2004, "I did some compensated work for Kurdish clients." And in another work he vaguely referred to "corporate clients" with whom he has "an ongoing business relationship."

The Norwegian reporters mainly worked for Dagens Næringsliv, one of the most respected financial newspapers, which has been focusing on a small Norwegian private oil company in Kurdishan named DNO. It is particularly interested in the share partnership and contractual arrangements regarding an oil field called Tawke in the predominantly Kurdish province of Dahuk. The focus was on a "third party" in the initial sharing agreement negotiated starting in 2004 but was squeezed out in a newly converted contract in 2008 -- that is last year. A claim of about $500 million is at stake. The Norwegian paper suggested that one of the two "mystery stake-holders" in that claim is...Peter Galbraith, who allegedly held five percent, according to the agreement, in the Tawke field through his Delaware-based company, Porcupine. (Question: Would you know who was the long-time Congressman from Delaware until January 2009?!) After reporting the name of Galbraith's Yemeni partner, the paper published a photocopy of Galbraith's signature. It also showed a photo of the former Deputy Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General in Afghanistan running away with a dog in tow. (For a more detailed background, see article by Reidar Visser in www.historiae.org.)

Obviously, the publishing of that story on Iraq is timed with Galbraith's duel with Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, who is as armed with political and media ammunition as his former American friend.

However, the undisputed facts are that a senior envoy appointed by the U.N. Secretary General for Afghanistan had a vested interest in an oil venture, and -- more important -- was an active advocate to break down Iraq, a founding member of the United Nations, whose unity and sovereignty the U.N. Secretary General is committed to uphold.

Another embarrassing fact is that those around the current Secretary General could have done their homework better in order to protect him and the Organization he represents.

Peter Galbraith trying to escape from journalists in Bergen on 8 October after having been confronted with the Tawke revelations. Scan from Dagens Næringsliv, 10 October 2009