The Non-Aligned Movement summit held this week in Tehran has been touted by the
Islamic Republic as an opportunity to advance Iranian interests.
Iran has presented the summit – being attended by representatives from 120
countries – as evidence of the failure of the US and other Western countries to
impose sanctions and to isolate it from the rest of the world.
mullah Ayatollah Ali Khamenei emphasized this in a speech, as did Iranian
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. “We want unilateral [sic] sanctions refuted
by the participants,” Salehi told English-language press on the sidelines of the
summit, refusing to acknowledge that steps taken against the Islamic Republic
were a collective effort of Western states, not “unilateral.”
of serving as a platform for Iran to improve its international status, the
summit has revealed dissent, even among states supposedly united by their shared
dislike of “Western hegemony,” “neocolonialism” and “neo-liberal
It has also shown how vulnerable the Shi’ite Islamic Republic
can be vis-à-vis Sunni interests.
Iran’s role in Syria – providing
essential arms, manpower and know-how to Bashar Assad’s Alawite regime – has set
it on a collision course with the interests of Egypt, the NAM’s most prominent
member and outgoing chairman. Complete cohesion and unit of purpose have always
eluded the NAM.
But Thursday’s session was a particularly vivid example
of how the NAM summit has not only failed to advance Iranian interests, it has
become a stage for Iran bashing.
President Mohamed Morsy, who was making
the first visit of an Egyptian head-of-state to Iran in more than three decades,
called to intervene against what he called the “oppressive” Syrian regime. The
Syrian delegation walked out in protest. The mullahs were put on the
This was a blow to Tehran on two levels: First, it was a
direct attack on the Islamic Republic, a prominent supporter of the Assad
regime. Morsy all but said outright that Sunni Arab nations should join forces
to depose Assad. And since Assad is being supported by Iran, Morsy’s statements
were tantamount to a declaration of war against Iran. It was abundantly clear
that at least with regard to Syria, Sunni interests in the region deviate
sharply from those of Iran’s Shi’ite rulers.
This was a bold move on
Morsy’s part and it transformed the NAM summit into a forum for lambasting, not
In another, far less significant, setback for Iran, United
Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon – who should never have been at the summit
in the first place – rescued a modicum of credibility by standing up, albeit
half-heartedly, to iniquitous statements made by Khamenei.
reject any threat by any [UN] member state to destroy another, or outrageous
comments to deny historical facts such as the Holocaust,” Ban said without
mentioning Khamenei or Iran.
“Claiming another UN member state does not
have the right to exist or describ[ing] it in racist terms is not only utterly
wrong but undermines the very principles we have all promised to uphold,” the UN
But if Ban truly had a moral backbone, he would call for
Iran to be removed from the UN altogether. How can he suffice with mere
statements at a time when one UN member calls for the destruction of another?
While it is disheartening to see representatives of 120 nations and the UN
secretary-general grant recognition and honor to Iran by attending the summit,
it must be remembered that the NAM is gradually losing what little importance
and relevance it had. Attempts to convince Russian President Vladmir Putin and a
high-ranking statesman from Turkey to attend failed
Thankfully, Tehran’s attempt to exploit the summit to advance
its interests has backfired. Morsy openly attacked Iranian involvement in Syria.
Even Ban took Iran to task. Too bad the secretary-general did not take one step
further and remove Iran from the United Nations altogether.