Did Feltman have a choice? After all, he left his career with the U.S. government, and on July 2 joined the UN, where he now works for Ban. Though it’s tacitly understood at the UN that the U.S. administration actually decides which American will fill the slot — a double-edged arrangement in which the U.S. in theory has special influence over the UN’s Department of Political Affairs, but by the same token is implicated in its doings. A question at a UN press briefing last week (which received no answer) suggested Feltman may have tried to warn Ban against going to Tehran — but whatever went on behind the scenes, the result is now clear. Both Ban, and Feltman, made the trip.
Yes, Feltman did have a choice. On the simplest level, to take one classic UN dodge, he could have complained at the last minute of some phantom health problem or other — a sudden need for a few days of vacation, or whatever — and begged off the trip. And if, on principle, he’s unwilling to fib for the sake of the free world, he could have taken things further and, also on principle, resigned.
As it is, Ban’s pilgrimage to Tehran, with American former administration official in tow, is not going to discourage the malice and nuclear ventures of the Iranian regime; it is going to fuel the mix. The real message is that no matter how monstrous Iran’s transgressions, the high-level petitioners will line up deferentially, shoulder-to-shoulder, on Khamenei’s couch, the cherries on top of Khamenei’s “Non-Aligned” confection, while the photographers snap publicity photos to enshrine the occasion. Perhaps, when Feltman returns from his UN jaunt to Tehran, he’d be willing to reconsider the effusive thanks he expressed to Ban upon taking the UN job — video of that moment posted here, thanks to Matthew Lee of Inner-City Press. Among other things, Feltman upon joining the UN told Ban that he found it “humbling” to be in the presence of so much UN expertise. Just how humbling is becoming every more clear.