What Cable News didn’t Tell You: The Non-Aligned Movement Meeting Strengthened Iran’s Hand vs. US, Israel (Azad)

Armin Azad writes in a guest column for Informed Comment

Although it was largely ignored by the Western media, the Teheran Non-Aligned Summit concluded its work last Friday. It approved a statement supporting Iran on the nuclear issue; opposing unilateral economic sanctions (i.e. US-led sanctions against Iran), and; condemning any attack or threat of attack against peaceful nuclear facilities (an indirect reference to Israeli threats of attack against Iranian nuclear facilities). Iran claims that it has scored a big diplomatic victory by securing the support of all NAM members on these issues. Against the background of the strong campaign carried out by the US and Israel prior to the conference to discourage Non-Aligned leaders as well UN Secretary General from participating in the meeting, it arguably seems so – at least to informed Iran observers!

To the delight of the Iranian authorities, all 120 Members of the Movement sent representatives to the conference and about 50 of them at the head of states level. From the perspective of the Iranian authorities, the conference and its final statement provided a convincing argument to counter the claims by U.S and the West that in their accusations against Iran over nuclear and other issues they speak for international community.

No matter how the Iranian authorities present the results of this conference, the wide participation in the meeting could also be indicative of another point: many countries feel unhappy about being pressured by the U.S to take positions and/or act in ways in which they are not comfortable with or do not serve their interests. In this sense, their positions in the meeting might be interpreted as a sign of protest to the US and Israeli policies – rather than enthusiastic support for Iran.

However, the strong support of Non-Aligned movement for Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy and particularly the right to have a full nuclear fuel cycle (uranium enrichment) may have the immediate impact of strengthening Iranian hand in its show down with the West over its nuclear issue. It may also make it more difficult for Israel to push forward its campaign to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

These points about the Teheran meeting and its impact for Iran might equally be considered:

– For the next three years, Iran will be the chairman of the NAM. It will undoubtedly seek to use this opportunity to influence the agenda along with the outcome of meetings to better align with its interests. Indeed, the chairmanship of NAM arguably facilitates Iranian efforts to mobilize the support of NAM members in its show- down with the west on nuclear and other contested issues.

– In parallel to the meetings that were recently held in Teheran, Iran hosted bilateral meetings with leaders and high-ranking officials from many countries to discuss bilateral economic issues. Given the economic difficulties that Iran is now facing as a result of US-led sanctions, it spared no efforts in exploring the potentials for strengthening its economic ties with those countries and finding ways to circumvent the sanctions. The Iranian oil minister was especially active in this regard, holding separate talks with many ministers participating in the conference

– The participation of Muhammad Morsi, the Egyptian president in the conference was an important development in itself. Although the western media mainly focused on the parts of Morsi’s statement criticizing the Syrian regime and highlighted the differences between Egypt and Iran on this issue, reading the whole text of Morsi’s speech indicates that on most other issues, the two countries had more or less similar positions. One should not, therefore, read too much into their differences over Syria. Morsi is the first Egyptian president to visit Iran since 1979 Islamic revolution. This visit took place despite the known sensitivities of both the U.S. and Israeli governments.

– The UN Secretary General’s visit which took place against direct opposition of U.S. and Israel got a lot of media attention inside and outside Iran. Before his visit, the Iranian opposition had requested Mr. Moon to ask the Iranian authorities to permit him to visit imprisoned Green Movement leaders, Mr. Musavi and Mr. Karubi. This visit did not take place and it is not known if Mr. Moon had ever asked for such a meeting. According to Mr. Moon, however, he raised the question of respect for human right in his talks with the Iranian authorities.

– While the conference was taking place in Teheran very tight and strong security measures were enforced in the city. The hard line Guardians of the Islamic Revolution were in charge of security. All the government offices were closed for 5 days and residents of Teheran were encouraged to use this week-long holiday for traveling outside the city and to other parts of the country. Many people used this opportunity for traveling and the city was calm during the conference.

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Armin Azad is a former Iranian diplomat now living in Europe.

13 Responses

  1. US diplomacy has been practically begging a reaction from the rest of the world. Obama’s first misstep came with the US’ denial of uranium for the Tehran Research Reactor. Basically, the US told the world that their supply of nuclear fuel for electrical production would henceforth be held hostage to the whims of the P5+1.

    More recently, by banning Iran from SWIFT, the US informed the world that their ability to conduct international financial transactions would be held hostage to the whims of the US and Israel.

    How could the world not respond to such blackmail? I expect alternative financial systems to be developed quickly and, tragically, more countries to develop nuclear enrichment capabilities.

    What was Obama thinking?

    • JohnH, I fully agree with your points. These points have been ignored by the western media for the most part. The rest of the world (world without west), is looking for better alternatives as soon as possible, and we the west will wake up only when it is too late. We are winning the tactical battle with sanctions but will lose the strategic war.

  2. President Morsi’s visit carries with it a powerful symbolic break with a pro-West forign policy.

    Egypt had been a traditional anchor in promoting U.S. interests in the region. This development has had to cause great concern in not only American, but also Israeli diplomatic circles.

    • Traditional American alliances have been distancing themselves for a decade toward a new global polarization where America is not number one, and probably not number two or three. US media, scared spitless of being anything other than entertainment subservient to dying American myths, right wing bluster, and Israel continues to hum lullaby of Broadway. Absent American attention to a shifting reality, the world will go on without America.

    • Maybe some Republican yahoos in congress are concerned. But you really have not been paying attention, American attitudes towards the middle east have shifted and distanced. The Obama adminstration accepts that Egypt will have a more independent foreign policy.

      Knowledgable people know that Egypt is hardly going to fall deeply under Iranian influence. Even Iraq right next store is not going to dance to Iran’s persian tune.

  3. It’s encouraging that the rest of the world can be brave enough to hold such an event, especially in Iran. It allows me to breathe a sigh of relief, as it shows the bullying tactics of the US are not sustainable and will be circumvented.

  4. Azad is engaging in wishful thinking with his suggestion that we ought to downplay Morsi’s criticism of Syria. Iran is obviously quite concerned and stands to suffer a major strategic defeat if Assad falls. He can spin it however he likes but aligning with the regime is going to cost Iran and its client Hezbollah dearly.

    • Morsi’s criticism of the Syrian regime does indeed align him with American interests in that regard as the CIA is now reportedly arming the Free Syrian Army, but do not forget that his view is consonant with that of most members of the Arab League.

      Morsi was educated in the United States and served as a NASA engineer, so he has some degree on connectedness to the U.S. and its culture. I do not view him as some type of Islamic extremist but rather one who be indepedent on foreign policy issues, which may be a good thing.

    • Well said. I wonder why Azad is downplaying the huge struggle over Iranian influence in the Arab World. Surely he knows better.

  5. Very interesting, I had heard nothing at all about this meeting.

    PS.
    Ban is the family name of the secretary general, so it is Mr Ban, not “Mr Moon”.
    link to un.org

  6. Azad has not mentioned the new IAEA report that the West is trying to distort; it makes clear Iran’s truthful explanation of its civil nuclear activity.
    Why on earth is he calling the UNSG Mr Moon????It is Mr Ban,as anyone should know.

  7. “Although the western media mainly focused on the parts of Morsi’s statement criticizing the Syrian regime and highlighted the differences between Egypt and Iran on this issue, reading the whole text of Morsi’s speech indicates that on most other issues, the two countries had more or less similar positions. One should not, therefore, read too much into their differences over Syria.”

    This is a bizarre spin. The Sunni-Shitte fault quaking through Syria is the issue of the day. I can not think of a more dramatic and salient statement than the president of Egypt lambasting the Assad regime.

  8. Nice perspective you put here. However NAM is still a big talkshop and I don’t think it doesn’t have any impact toward the stances of its members. It can’t even accommodate conflict resolution among its member states.

    NAM is relic of past and it takes more than rhetorics to make it more relevant and fall into obscurity. Unless Iran could bring NAM into a regime with profitable results (NAM-trade blocs anyone? dispute settlement device? investment fund?) it will not go anywhere.

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