In the parade of United Nations absurdities, here comes Iran’s four-week presidency of the UN Conference on Disarmament — an arrangement that the U.S. Mission to the UN has described as “unfortunate and inappropriate,” and Hillel Neuer of UN Watch has more accurately compared to “putting Jack the Ripper in charge of a women’s shelter.”
But should anyone be surprised? This is how the UN works. Being a despotic state that sponsors terrorism while pursuing nuclear weapons — while under multiple UN sanctions — is no bar to holding fancy posts at the UN. Clearly, Iran’s regime has become expert at availing itself of this setup. Currently, and through 2015, Iran heads the second-largest voting bloc in the UN General Assembly (the Non-Aligned Movement, which includes 119 states plus the Palestinian Authority). Iran also sits on the UN Commission on the Status of Women (of course), as well as the executive boards and governing councils of such major agencies as UNICEF, the UN Development Program, and the UN Environment Program. For a fuller list, here’s a link to my article last month, “At the U.N., Iran is a Powerhouse, Not a Pariah.”
In the case of the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, the good news — in keeping with another of the UN’s dysfunctional aspects — is that this body has been gridlocked for years. When Iran takes charge, from May 27-June 23, that’s unlikely to change. The bad news is that this conference serves as a yet another UN platform for dignifying a procession of the world’s worst regimes. Among the 65 members of the conference, alongside such staple UN players as Russia and China, are Belarus, Cuba, North Korea, Syria, and Zimbabwe, as well as Iran. The presidency rotates through all the members in alphabetical order, so they all get a turn as president. When North Korea took the top chair, in 2011, I labeled it “Beyond Parody.” But let’s face it. Moves that in any sane or morally competent venue would qualify as beyond parody are treated as nothing out of the ordinary at the UN. They are standard procedure.
It is also standard procedure that some of the developed democracies that bankroll the UN, especially the U.S. (and in recent years, Canada), issue a denunciation of such proceedings as Iran presiding at the disarmament conference, and maybe even withdraw their ambassadors — but nonetheless, appear helpless to stop such outrages. So, let’s just note that there are ways to avert this sort of thing. Back in 2003, as the alphabetical rotation of the disarmament conference’s presidency would have it, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was due to take the top chair. It didn’t happen. Saddam’s regime did not get its turn that round, for the dramatic reason that the U.S. and a coalition of the willing toppled Saddam. Not that I’m expecting the U.S. administration to launch a ground invasion of Iran. Just sayin’ — if there’s no way to change UN procedure, and no way to change the alphabet, there’s still more than one way to clean up some of the monstrosities at the UN.