In the growing gloom of world politics, it’s a bit of good news that Iran has dropped its bid for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Having tossed its turban into the ring back in February, Iran’s regime quietly withdrew its candidacy this past week.
But as good news goes, this is a complex nugget. Iran’s withdrawal redeems neither the UN Human Rights Council, nor Iran. The Human Rights Council has yet to move beyond, or rise above, the bigotry underlying its hosting last year of the Durban Review Conference (starring Iran’s semi-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and the bias of the Goldstone Report (giving a pass to the Hamas terrorist crowd ruling Gaza, while vilifying Israel). As for Iran’s regime, it had no business presenting itself in the first place as a candidate for anything to do with human rights — even if only in name. That Tehran had the gall to attempt this was obscene, though understandable in light of the sleaze that has permeated the Human Rights Council itself.
Nor does Iran’s withdrawal from this candidacy mean it is relegated to the ranks of UN wallflowers. Iran currently holds seats on the governing boards of a number of major UN agencies, including UNICEF, the UN Development Program, or UNDP (which it chaired last year) and the World Food Program. For the past five years, Ahmadinejad has enjoyed a place on the stage of the General Assembly opening in New York,and there’s every reason to expect he’ll be back this September. The UN Security Council remains perversely reluctant to approve any measures strong enough to flummox the mullahs into dropping their bomb program or respecting the human rights of their own people.
So, how should we read Iran’s withdrawal from the running for a seat on the Human Rights Council?
Was it due to the backroom maneuvering of senior officials at the UN, who surely must have realized that seating Iran on the Human Rights Council would open up the UN itself to global ridicule, on a level anyone could grasp? Or was it the product of genuine work behind the scenes by diplomats with the integrity to draw a line? Or perhaps some multi-motivated convergence of the twain?
President Obama has been following a policy of “engagement,” which has included dignifying the Human Rights Council with U.S. membership, thus overturning the former President Bush’s policy of avoiding this gang altogether. Was it engagement that persuaded Iran to drop its bid? If so, that’s great, and congratulations are due to those who worked behind the scenes to achieve this result. But was it also engagement that encouraged Iran to seek a seat in the first place?