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Iran Courts Empty Victory at Non-Aligned Summit

Iran may be something of a pariah at the moment in western circles, but that hasn’t precluded the Islamic Republic from hosting this year’s international conference of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The New York Times reports that Iran is making the most of this get-together, which will include appearances by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a 250-man delegation from India, and new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Above all else, Tehran will be asking all attendees to take a formal stand against its international isolation via sanctions over the regime’s nuclear development:

Given that history [of Western interference in its affairs], Iran says it has decided not to take any chances and has launched a comprehensive security operation. More than 110,000 security forces are controlling the streets, the deputy national police commander, Ahmad Radan, told the Fars news agency over the weekend.

They are supported by 30 helicopters and nearly 3,000 patrol cars. There are roadblocks on all highways leading into Tehran, and at night there are checkpoints throughout the city.


But the tight security might have another goal: to ensure Iran’s narrative is not spoiled by its domestic political difficulties, three years after the country was convulsed by antigovernment protests that followed a disputed election and were quashed in a harsh crackdown.

Foreign-based opposition Web sites called for renewed rallies against the government during the summit meeting.

So the Islamic Republic plans to refute its designation as a pariah state…by initiating a police crackdown to silence dissent during an international conference.

Ahmadinejad might as well enjoy wearing his non-aligned general secretary’s hat for as long as he can, because this is an empty victory for his country. Although the Non-Aligned bloc has remained active since the end of the Cold War, it was an impotent talking shop long before the end of the Cold War made “nonaligned” a meaningless concept in international affairs. Few organizations in world history have said as much and achieved as little: reams of hotheaded, unrealistic and unworkable resolutions, to no measurable effect. Think of it as the General Assembly of the United Nations, with even less cohesion and power.

If things at the conference go smoothly, Tehran will posture and strut before the assembled delegates. Many harsh words will be uttered, mostly about the United States (already: the U.S. “exploited” 9/11 to further its “hegemony”). But when the summit is over and the delegations go home, the regime will still be as alone as ever, with an embittered public, crumbling allies, and an international community showing little willingness to help out.

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  • Luke Lea

    Non-aligned has lost its meaning since the end of the Cold War. Now it sounds like what happens to a bar magnet when you heat it up: pieces pointing every which way.

  • Jack Straw

    “Few organizations in world history have said as much and achieved as little: reams of hotheaded, unrealistic and unworkable resolutions, to no measurable effect.”

    If a new name is in order, I bet Occupy Wall Street would be happy to co-brand. They appear to share similar goals and organizing methods.

    Has anyone heard Ahmadinejad give a mic check? What about the spirit fingers?

  • Ken R.

    At least wait for another three years before predicting doom and gloom for NAM. At the expense of it citizens, Iran has shown that after almost 30 years of sanctions, is able to survive. Even after an eight year war. Presidents like Ahmadinejad come and go and President Obama would probably be here dealing with yet another President of Islamic Republic of Iran. How little people know of Iran’s persistence and resilience.

    India’s president with 30 officials is in Iran, probably site seeing, that by itself is a victory not to mention the visit by Ban Ki-Moon!

    The American Interest lies in friendly relations with Iran and the Islamic World.

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