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Exclusive: President Frank Underwood Wants a Seat at the Security Council. Is Anyone Brave Enough to Say No?

President Frank Underwood, the ruthless, scheming protagonist of the Netflix series House of Cards, murdered his way to the Oval Office. What will he have to do to get a seat at the U.N. Security Council?

Netflix producers recently approached the United Nations to see if they can film two episodes of the program, starring Kevin Spacey as the president and Robin Wright as the first lady, in August, according to U.N. officials and diplomats. Shooting would take place in the North Delegates' Lounge and in the U.N. Security Council room itself. Like anything serious happening at the United Nations, that means getting the approval of all 15 members of the Security Council, in particular big powers like Britain, Russia, and China. And it's not at all clear that they'll all be willing to say yes without some Hollywood-style diplomacy.

The request has been passed along to Britain, which will preside over the council's presidency in August. British diplomats have detailed the request to the rest of council's 15 member states. The issue might be the subject of debate by Security Council diplomats as early as Tuesday.

"The filming will depict interior scenes inside and outside of the council and some discussions between ambassadors," said one council diplomat, who said the crew would shoot on the weekends and at night. "But there is no details about the script. And there is no information yet about whether Kevin Spacey will be present."

The petition comes at a time when the United Nations has been assiduously courting Hollywood in the hopes it can harness the film industry's star power to promote U.N. causes.

The U.N. Creative Community Initiative -- a U.N. public relations outreach to the Hollywood film industry -- brings U.N. peacekeepers and humanitarian relief workers together with filmmakers and actors to develop story lines around issues the U.N. tracks, such as political conflict and sexual trafficking. When creators of the since-canceled NBC series Revolution needed help imagining what life would be like for Americans if they lived in a failed state lacking the basic necessities, including electricity, they turned to U.N. staffers.

"The U.N. offered the show's writers access to U.N. staff with field experience in not only life without electricity but also areas of the world suffering the catastrophic impact of both man-made and natural disasters," according to an NBC promotion describing the relationship." Show creator Eric Kripke and his team heard stories of negotiating with warlords for the release of child soldiers, building relationships with rebel forces to gain humanitarian access for their people and the struggle to survive in a refugee camp."

The U.N.'s relationship with Hollywood wasn't always so cozy. The U.N. denied Alfred Hitchcock's request to film a murder scene for his 1959 masterpiece, North by Northwest, in the North Delegates' Lounge. For more than four decades, Hollywood filmmakers were not welcome at Turtle Bay.

But top U.N. officials came around to recognizing the public relations value of setting blockbuster films at the United Nations, particularly if they could secure agreements with filmmakers that they wouldn't trash the organization.

The U.N. has opened its doors increasingly to film and TV production companies since 2004, when Kofi Annan yielded to repeated pleas from Sydney Pollack, the late Academy Award-winning director of Out of Africa, to film The Interpreter, a political thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, on the U.N. campus.

The U.N. has since green-lighted filming in the U.N. General Assembly for Steven Soderbergh's 2008 biopic, Che, starring Benicio Del Toro as the leftist Argentine revolutionary, Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Other film and TV programs that have been shot at U.N. headquarters include an episode of Ugly Betty that dealt with malaria; Law and Order, which addressed the plight of Central African child soldiers; and an Israeli cooking program called the Flying Chef. In 2010, it opened the General Assembly Hall open to the producers of the robot action flick Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

U.N. officials have already reviewed the House of Cards script to determine whether it contains a storyline that might be deemed too offensive to U.N. member states. They have assured the council members that if they approve the plan, the filmmakers will get out of the way in the event of an international crisis requiring an emergency session of the world's premier security body. Officials declined to discuss the script, citing a confidentiality agreement with Netflix, which distributes House of Cards.

But the final decision will have to be made by the U.N. Security Council, where the United States, Britain, China, and Russia all have the power to veto any filming around the iconic horseshoe table that has launched military interventions from Iraq to East Timor and Somalia.

The big powers have previously allowed the chamber to be used for an Annie Leibovitz's shoot of Susan Rice for Vogue Magazine and for the filming of a French diplomatic comedy, Quai D'Orsay, by the French director, Bertrand Tavernier.

So far, no one has objected to House of Cards, though diplomats are keeping a close watch on China. U.S.-Chinese relations figured prominently in several episodes of the show's second seasons, including a storyline that had Underwood negotiating land deals with a corrupt Chinese businessman. "Chinese cyber-theft, currency manipulation, a trade dispute involving rare-earth minerals, and escalating tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea all make an appearance in the show, rendered in the kind of detail that will ring mostly true with China watchers," according to a review in the Wall Street Journal. But the show is reportedly highly popular with Chinese viewers, including members of China's communist leadership. A spokesman for the Chinese mission to the United Nations did not respond to requests for comment.

Perhaps the producers could offer some enticements, say a cameo appearance for a top Chinese diplomat. Other diplomats say they are already angling for a moment in the spotlight.

One council diplomat mused about the possibility of landing a supporting role in the show, but then thought better of the idea.

"There are a lot of people dying brutal deaths," the diplomat said, recalling Underwood's murder of journalist Zoe Barnes, played by Kate Mara, by pushing her in front of an oncoming train. "Maybe it's a little too dangerous to participate."

Jason Kempin/ Getty Images

The Cable

Exclusive: Yes, Syria's Humanitarian Crisis Can Get Worse. Much Worse.

It is hard to fathom the humanitarian crisis in Syria getting any worse than it already has.

But it is, with the number of Syrian civilians residing mostly beyond the reach of United Nations relief workers swelling from 3.5 million to about 4.7 million, according to new U.N. estimates.

Those enduring the brunt of the misery are civilians trapped in rebel-controlled terrain, cut off from life-saving assistance by a dizzying array of bureaucratic regulations and subjected to a relentless barrage of indiscriminate barrel bomb attacks by the Syrian Air Force, according to the internal U.N. data as well as a June 20 report to the U.N. Security-Council by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Last April, the Syrian government introduced procedures ostensibly designed to speed deliveries to civilians in hard-to-reach areas. Damascus maintains the steps were necessary to prevent aid trucks from smuggling weapons or other assistance to armed rebels or extremists.

The new measures -- which involved placing seals on the cargo hold of aid trucks so they could pass quickly through government checkpoints -- helped prevent some "petty pilferage" at the checkpoints but "failed to improve the reach of humanitarian aid" and "resulted in fewer people being reached," Ban wrote in his 18-page report on Syria's humanitarian crisis. The government is now planning to impose additional bureaucratic impediments -- including a requirement that the Syrian government's National Security Office sign off on every aid shipment -- that "will result in lengthier, rather than reduced, approval processes," according to Ban.

"Efforts to expand humanitarian assistance to those most in need have been met with continued delays and obstruction," Ban wrote. Conflict has played a part in the delays, "as has the government of Syria's refusal to ease bureaucratic obstacles imposed on humanitarian work," Ban added. "Far from improving access, new procedures rolled out two months ago have resulted in more delays and reduced the reach of humanitarian partners further."

Internal U.N. estimates indicate that the scale of need in opposition areas in Syria is far greater than previously acknowledged by the United Nations. The figures paint a picture of a sharply divided society, with those living outside of government-controlled territory deprived of the basic necessities needed for survival, including food and medicine. In Aleppo, for instance, about 250,000 residents of rebel-held and contested areas were receiving U.N. food in March 2013. In March, practically none were.

The imbalance was caused in part by the flight of Syria's displaced from rebel-held conflict zones to safer government-controlled areas. But the new internal U.N. figures show that a significant percentage of civilians have been left behind, and they have access to a dwindling share of international aid entering the country.

The U.N.'s emergency relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, is scheduled to brief the 15-nation council Thursday morning on Syria's humanitarian crisis and appeal for council support for U.N. plans to ship relief to the neediest areas across Syria's across battle lines and border crossings into rebel strongholds.

Infighting between Syria's rebel groups, including the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, in northeastern Syria has killed thousands of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Rebel groups have continued to lay siege to about 45,000 people in pro-government towns surrounding the government-controlled city of Aleppo. In one particularly bloody incident in May, insurgents fired mortars at pro-government election workers in Daraa, killing 43 and wounding many others. Ban wrote that the deliberate targeting of civilians by both sides "is a war crime."

Beyond the fighting, the Syrian government's bureaucratic red tape has exacted a heavy toll on the civilians living in rebel strongholds from the suburbs of Damascus to Aleppo. 

Over the past three months, humanitarian relief deliveries to opposition areas throughout the country have fallen by 75 percent compared to the quantities of aid delivered in the first three months of the year. According to Ban, the Syrian government has systematically blocked the delivery of medical supplies -- particularly syringes and blood supplies -- to civilians in rebel-held areas. This was "in clear violation of international humanitarian law," Ban wrote. "Tens of thousands of civilians are being arbitrarily denied urgent and life-saving medical care."

For instance, the share of food deliveries to residents in rebel-controlled territory dropped from 40 percent of overall aid distributed throughout Syria in March 2013 to 14 percent in March 2014, according to confidential estimates -- here and here -- produced by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance. Food shipments to civilians in government-controlled territory climbed from 60 percent of overall aid distributed throughout Syria to 86 percent during the same period.

The sharp difference between the quantities of aid delivered to citizens of government-held areas and rebel-held ones was particularly striking in Aleppo, the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the years-long civil war. Food assistance in government-controlled areas in the city surged from 100,000 people in March 2013 to more than 860,000 a year later. During the same period, about than 250,00 civilians living in rebel-controlled or contested neighborhoods in Aleppo received food aid. In March, that figure was approaching zero.

Aleppo isn't the only conflict zone being hit hard. In total, more than 5 million Syrians living in opposition-controlled territory -- including more than 1 million living in areas where extremist groups, including ISIS, yield influence -- needed food aid, according to internal U.N. estimates - here and here. By contrast, some 4.8 million Syrians living in government-controlled areas are in need of international handouts, according to the U.N. figures.

The gloomy assessment comes nearly nine months after the U.N. Security Council issued its first call to Syria's warring parties to grant humanitarian aid workers unfettered access throughout the country, and about four months after it passed a resolution demanding it do so or face unspecified "further steps."

The United States, Australia, Britain, France, Jordan, and Luxembourg have been trying to negotiate a new follow-up resolution that would require Syria to allow U.N. aid workers to deliver aid directly into rebel-controlled areas across Syria's battle lines and across Syria's borders with neighboring countries.

The U.N., Ban wrote in his report, is prepared to "put in place speedy, pragmatic and practical arrangements at critical border crossings to facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid."

"Such arrangements," he added, "would allow United Nations convoys to cross the border into Syria -- in their own vehicles, without the need for specific permits or visas -- to deliver urgently needed relief to people in need."

Those talks are stalled because of resistance from Russia and Syria, which has insisted that any cross-border aid deliveries be approved and coordinated by Syrian authorities.

The negotiations are playing out against a backdrop of increasing violence. The Syrian conflict has left more than 150,000 people dead, destroyed the country's economy, displaced 6.4 million people, and placed 10.8 million in need of international handouts. Two hundred and forty thousand people live in besieged areas, including nearly 200,000 prevented by Syrian government forces from leaving their villages.

"I am particularly concerned that the government of Syria, a signatory to the U.N. Charter, continues to indiscriminately drop hundreds of barrel bombs on defenseless men, women and children in populated neighborhoods," Ban wrote. But he also faulted the armed opposition, saying, "I am equally concerned at the relentless and indiscriminate use of mortar and shelling of residential neighborhoods by armed opposition groups. These actions are flagrant violations of international law."

In Aleppo, about 250,000 residents of rebel-held areas and neighborhoods where insurgents were battling government forces received U.N. food aid in March 2013. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the only Aleppo residents receiving those supplies lived in rebel-held areas. 

Stan Honda/ AFP/Getty Images