Dear UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon,

 
In a matter of days, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit will take place in Tehran, where Iran will assume the rotating, three-year presidency of the group.
 
Iran attaches great importance to your presence. Indeed, the regime has already announced your participation.
 
That should come as no surprise.
 
For the Iranian regime, your attendance—should you go—could not occur at a better time. It would be used as proof positive that Iran, far from diplomatically isolated, is able to conduct business as usual.
 
No wonder that Iranian leaders place great stock in your participation and are trying hard to make your presence a fait accompli.
 
No doubt, they are already dusting off the red Persian carpet and planning the photo opportunities.
 
But I have a question: Why would you play into their hands?
 
I know that would not be your intention, but, frankly, it is an unavoidable outcome of such a journey. Your decision to go would be enough for the regime to declare victory. 
 
And it is entirely your decision. It is not mandated by any provision of the UN Charter or determined by the vote of a UN body.
 
True, as UN Secretary General you speak to the leaders of all UN member states, including the morally repugnant, but a full-blown trip is certainly not the only way to communicate with a member state''s officials.  
 
The strongest argument for going would be that your voice and presence in Tehran could change Iranian government thinking. Regrettably, however, history has amply demonstrated that is not possible.
 
You and other distinguished world leaders have tried valiantly to alter the regime’s course and every now and then it seemed as if you made a dent in its outlook, only to discover later that nothing had changed.
 
Iranian officials have ramped up their arrogance and defiance on the very eve of the NAM summit, counting on your presence there. This only goes to show what attendees are in store for. 
 
Mr. Secretary General, I urge you to stay away. 
 
Don’t fall into the trap being set. Don’t confer respectability on the unrespectable. Don’t allow Iran’s leaders to try to use you and thereby tarnish the name of the UN.
 
Mr. Secretary General, the Iranian regime opposes all that you stand for.
 
You are against racial and religious incitement, including anti-Semitism, and have spoken out against these evils.
 
Iran’s government peddles an ever cruder and more despicable anti-Semitism, as documented by the U.S. State Department and exemplified by the comments of Iranian Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi. 
 
Rahimi asserted earlier this year that the Talmud – a Jewish source also studied, I’ve learned, in your own native South Korea for its wisdom and methodological argumentation – teaches to “destroy everyone who opposes the Jews.”
 
You stand for the right of UN member states to live in peace.
 
But Iran’s leaders call for a world without Israel, a UN member in good standing since 1949. 
 
Iranian President Ahmadinejad just gave a fiery speech in which he referred to the “Zionist regime” as a “malignant cancer” and an “insult to humanity.” He expressed the hope for a “new Middle East with no memory of the American or Zionist presence.” 
 
Apropos, are his comments not in violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the Genocide Convention and UN Charter?
 
You are a member of the Quartet, together with the United States, European Union, and Russian Federation, which seeks a peaceful agreement between Israel and her neighbors.
 
Tehran has sought to undermine any chance for such an accord by actively supporting those forces opposed to coexistence with Israel.
 
You recognize the singular evil that was the Holocaust. Indeed, the UN has laudably chosen to commemorate January 27th as a day of remembrance and education.
 
The Iranian regime denies the very fact of the Holocaust, claiming it to be a “Zionist” fabrication.
 
You oppose acts of terrorism. 
 
Iran today is a state sponsor of terrorism. Both directly and through its proxies, it has fomented attempts at violence – some successful, others foiled – from Africa to Asia, from Latin America to Europe, from the United States to the Middle East. Many innocent people have been killed.
 
You are appalled by the carnage in Syria.
 
Tehran has been an active party to that barbarism, openly supporting the Assad regime, illegally exporting weapons to Syria, and putting special troops on the ground alongside forces loyal to the Syrian leader.
 
You stand for the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
 
The Iranian regime tramples on them daily. Executions, torture, prisons, and intimidation all attest to this government’s view of human rights.
 
And, yes, you oppose any further spread of nuclear weapons, wishing to see decisions of UN agencies, from the Security Council to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), heeded.
 
But Iran continues its march toward nuclear-weapons capability, flouts the four binding resolutions of the UN Security Council, pokes its finger in the IAEA’s eye, and makes every effort to circumvent UN sanctions imposed on it.
 
Mr. Secretary General, let the Iranian-sponsored summit take place without you. 
 
If I may, there are more than enough pressing global matters requiring your attention. 
 
Why waste time and squander prestige in an Iranian-produced exercise in self-promotion?
 
What a powerfully eloquent message your absence would send!
 
Respectfully,
 
David Harris
AJC Executive Director
 

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