The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) hasn’t exactly been high in the western news since Iran took over its three-year presidency last August at a summit in Tehran, attended and praised as as strong partner of the United Nations by none other than UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. But the NAM bears watching. Iran has been toiling away to keep the Non-Aligned Movement focused on such Iranian government interests as pursuing aggressive alignments against Israel. For instance, here’s a recent report from the Palestinian Authority’s WAFA news agency on yet another in the long series of NAM condemnations of Israel.
This past week, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met in Cairo with the Arab League’s Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi, and Iran’s PressTV news service reports that in that meeting Salehi proffered that “Iran, as the rotating president of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)is ready to cooperate with [the] Arab League on Palestine.” In other words, Salehi isn’t merely holding out the hand (or should that be, the fist) of Iran. He is presenting himself as a voice, an envoy, of the entire Non-Aligned Movement. At the UN, this kind of exchange can translate into a a proposal of cooperation not simply between Iran and Egypt, or Iran and the Arab League, but between two hefty voting blocs in the General Assembly, one of those voting blocs headed by Iran. In similar manner, Salehi invoked the NAM during a meeting last Sunday with the president of Benin, Thomas Yayi Boni, who heads the African Union. According to the Tehran Times, Salehi “said that the consultations between Iran and Benin, as current presidents of the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Union, respectively, may be very constructive.”
It’s no surprise to find Iran using its chairmanship of the NAM as a diplomatic calling card. That was always one of the appalling aspects of Iran taking the helm of the NAM, and it’s high time for any NAM member states that disagree with Iran to simply pull out of the NAM and stop lending legitimacy to Tehran’s diplomatic forays. At the very least, could we start with a little more truth in advertising? Instead of calling it the Non-Aligned Movement, how about renaming it Iran-Aligned Movement?