Praised by Germany and Russia, thanked by Switzerland, Syria and, of course, Cuba, Iran recently wrapped up its four-week presidency of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. If the grand finale, on June 21, was little noted by the mainstream press (or, as far as I have been able to discover, not noted at all), perhaps that’s because, as usual with the UN Conference on Disarmament, nothing was decided. With Iran presiding, that’s just as well. One of the very few reports on the Geneva-based proceedings comes from Anne Bayefsky at Human Rights Voices, who notes that “the Conference could not even decide on its ‘programme of work.’”
For those who wish to read about the proceedings in mind-warping detail, the UN press office in Geneva (motto: “The United Nations in the Heart of Europe”) has put out a five-page summary with the thrilling headline, “Conference on Disarmament Unable to Reach Consensus on Draft Programme of Work.” Or (we read these things so you don’t have to) here are some sample excerpts of the 40 members of the Conference debating the question of how they should go about fulfilling the actual mission of the Conference (to end the nuclear arms race, prevent nuclear war, etc.): “China said that the Conference should continue to to try to reach consensus on a programme of work. … Switzerland said the events of the past few days had highlighted that the methods of work of the Conference did not facilitate its work. … Cuba regretted the low level of flexibility… .”
But amid all that hodge-podge of bureaucratic blather, too many members of the UN Conference on Disarmament did agree on one thing: The thanking and praising of Iran for piloting them through four more weeks of this inane Conference, which meets in the palatial quarters of the UN in Geneva (convenient to fine dining, luxury shopping and private banking, in the heart of Europe). More excerpts from the UN press release:
“Iran attached a great importance to the credibility of the Conference. … Syria thanked Iran. … Pakistan expressed its deep appreciation. … Iraq welcomed the President’s professional approach. … Sri Lanka thanked the President. … Germany thanked the President. … Switzerland thanked the President. … Algeria expressed its appreciation. … Cuba was grateful… .”
The real question here is, why on earth should this gathering be called the UN Conference on Disarmament? Apart from the label and the evidently irrelevant mandate, this UN outfit has nothing to do with disarmament; if anything, it provides yet another layer of diplomatic cover for countries such as Iran to pursue nuclear weapons — while Tehran’s envoys rub elbows with Swiss and German diplomats. This Conference is a relic of the UN’s failed utopian dreams. It consists of a group of countries, including some of the world’s worst despotisms, meeting under UN auspices (Note to Americans: Your tax dollars at work), with the members rotating in alphabetical order through four-week stints as president (thus ensuring that even such despotic proliferators as UN-sanctioned Iran and North Korea get a chance to preside). This past month, it served as the UN’s Thank-and-Praise Iran Conference. Does the world really need that?