When it comes to selling copy, it’s a good bet that sex trumps multilateral finance. That’s an axiom of human nature. It would be asking too much to expect that the media, or its customers, would be as fascinated by the in-house diplomacy of the International Monetary Fund as all concerned have been by the scandal surrounding the recently handcuffed and dethroned IMF managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Most eyes are now on the prosecutor’s cratering case, the curious past of the maid who alleged the sexual assault, and the media now analyzing its own coverage of these sordid events.
But in glancing through some of the documents related to l’affaire Strauss-Kahn, there’s a tangential item I’ve run across — which ought to raise big questions about the IMF itself, and deserves its own line of inquiry.
I came across it in the course of reading a 2007 letter from the IMF’s 24 member executive board, which governs the IMF’s daily doings. This letter spelled out for Strauss-Kahn the terms of his appointment as managing director of the institution, and was put out by the IMF in 2007 in a press release that didn’t exactly make headlines at the time. By IMF standards it has some reasonably juicy passages, laying out the benefits of the job. There is a section on the managing director’s annual salary, effectively tax-exempt, of $420,930, plus an allowance of $75,350 “to enable you to maintain, in the interests of the Fund, a scale of living appropriate to your position as Managing Director and to the Fund’s need for representation.” There’s a provision for increasing both these sums every year to keep up with any increase in Washington consumer prices. For business travel, there are per diem payments, plus reimbursement for “all hotel expenses,” as well as travel and hotel expenses for his spouse to attend IMF annual board meetings outside Washington, or accompany him on any official travel “where this is in the interest of the Fund.” The letter goes on to detail generous retirement provisions, and so forth. By the time you’re done reading it — especially after the recent news that when Strauss-Kahn encountered the now-famous immigrant maid this past May, he was staying in a New York hotel suite that cost $3,000 per night — you might well wonder if the IMF, like most bureaucracies of the United Nations “family” of institutions, hasn’t become a tad too generous in lavishing other people’s money on its senior staff.
But that’s not the most interesting part. What needs attention is that this letter to Strauss-Kahn from the IMF executive board was signed, as it happens, by someone named Abbas Mirakhor.
Who is Abbas Mirakhor? When he signed that letter to Strauss-Kahn in 2007, he was Iran’s representative at the IMF. Iran, it seems, was not only a member of the executive board, but Iran’s director was the point man of the board for communicating the terms of employment to the IMF’s new boss. Never mind that the previous year, Iran’s terror-sponsoring regime had already come under sanctions from the UN Security Council for its rogue nuclear program.
That’s not remotely to suggest that Iran’s Abbas Mirakhor hired Strauss-Kahn, or that Strauss-Kahn had any responsibility for who signed the letter spelling out his salary and perquisites. Mirakhor simply served as an important functionary in formalizing the terms of the deal. But it’s a good example of the disturbing degree to which the UN and its related institutions, including the IMF, give a warm welcome — in the name of “neutrality” — to officials of regimes that actively seek to subvert the civilized order that the UN and IMF are supposed to promote. As with almost all these outfits, America is the biggest source of funding for the IMF. But it wasn’t an American official who signed the letter spelling out for Strauss-Kahn the comfortable terms of his employment. It was Iran’s main man at the IMF.
Mirakhor has since moved on, retiring from the IMF in 2008. There’s a bio for him on the web which says he is now a professor at INCEIF, the Global University of Islamic Finance, in Malaysia (where he is described as having been the IMF’s “Dean of the Board”). But Iran still holds one of the 24 seats on the IMF’s executive board, and in that position its current IMF director, Jafar Mojarrad, represents not only Iran, but also Afghanistan, Algeria, Ghana, Morocco, Pakistan and Tunisia. Apparently these are the results that protocol and the IMF system tend to produce. Is it perhaps worth asking what else Iranian officials might have been doing, or signing, at the IMF? It is perhaps even worth asking if America, before lending more support to the IMF, ought to be seeking a change in the IMF system that confers such plums on Tehran?