‘I am not going to be ignored,” Glenn Close declares in one of the most riveting
scenes of Fatal Attraction, the thriller that captivated movie audiences 25
years ago. That fundamental human desire to be loved, or at least be treated
with kindness and respect, endures. And it applies as much to nations as to
Today’s Iranian leaders are not uttering those exact words,
Fatal Attraction-style. But President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Khamenei and other senior officials are quite clear that they will not
Indeed, the United States, the European Union and other
countries genuinely concerned about Iran’s nuclear program have not been
ignoring Tehran at all. The cumulative, tightening sanctions, the verbal White
House commitment that “all options are on the table” to prevent Iran from
building a nuclear weapon, and widespread public speculation on possible Israeli
or American military action show that Iran is a top concern.
not the kind of attention this regime craves. What Ahmadinejad and Khamenei most
desire is respect, and they want it on their terms. Iran has a long, proud
history. By dint of geography, population and oil resources Iran is naturally
dominant in the region, and aspires to be a global player as
Hosting the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran was a sensational
diplomatic achievement. Some observers discount the role and purpose of the NAM,
founded in 1961 to give organizational space to those countries that aligned
neither with the US nor the Soviet Union. This Cold War artifact, however, has
greatly expanded as dozens more countries achieved independence and gravitated
to what’s become the largest bloc in the UN General Assembly.
been waiting patiently to take over the NAM helm, having won election three
years ago as chair without any objection from the other NAM members. The closing
session of the summit in Tehran anointed Venezuela to assume the mantle of
leadership in 2015.
Leaders of Arab countries that are reportedly very
worried about Iran’s nuclear ambitions nevertheless came across the Gulf to
attend the NAM summit, and by their presence bestowed respect on its host,
Ahmadinejad. Indeed, only two weeks earlier, the Iranian president was welcomed
in Riyadh by Saudi King Abdullah for the Organization of the Islamic Conference
The NAM summit attracted representatives of nearly all 120
members, including 29 heads of state. Even UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did
not stay away, despite Iran’s total disregard for two UN agencies, the Security
Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Could not one
NAM country have separated itself from Iran’s dangerous course? Or is the
commitment to this bloc of nations so attractive that world leaders
instinctively set aside any concerns they may have about the host nation? Even
as the NAM bloc gathered in the conference hall, the IAEA issued a fresh report
affirming that in the past three months alone Iran has accelerated its nuclear
program, installing hundreds more enrichment centrifuges, while refusing to
disclose details on current and planned activities at nuclear research and
development sites across the country.
Iran’s leaders are undoubtedly
pleased that NAM members, like lemmings, unanimously endorsed Iran’s right to a
full nuclear fuel cycle to enrich uranium.
Iranian leaders also think
that their vision of expanding their 1979 revolution is bearing fruit. Foreign
Minister Ali Akbar Salehi proclaimed, in a recent Washington Post oped, that
what so many call the Arab Spring is actually the Islamic Awakening. They are
encouraged by the ascendance of Islamic political parties in Egypt, Libya and
There is but one exception to their praise for Arab uprisings –
Syria. Iran fully supports Syrian President Bashar Assad and endorses his view
that the regime’s opponents, young and old, are “terrorists” backed by
Iran is even more explicit than Syria itself, fingering the
US and Israel as the culprits.
But in regard to Syria, Iran stands alone
in the Muslim world. Iran failed to stop the OIC from suspending Syria’s
membership and could not get NAM agreement to back Assad in his battle for
regime survival. With Iranian troops in Syria and an open spigot of arms and
money, Iran will not relent.
Unfortunately for the Syrian people, their
situation has not risen to the level of global concern that has been paid to
Iran’s nuclear program. Innumerable efforts have been made by the UN and the
IAEA to deal with Iran. The US, together with the other four permanent members
of the Security Council and Germany, have several times given Tehran the respect
it desires by sitting at the same table with Iran’s leaders.
Iran is not
being ignored. But many nations are not paying full attention to the imminent
dangers that Iran’s nuclear program entails.
The writer is the American
Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.