Disarming is not a word you’d normally associate with the government of Iran. But the context here is the United Nations, so normal is not exactly a word that applies either — especially not in the case of Iran’s affinity for UN bodies officially tasked with promoting disarmament (of which the UN has many, all of which have failed to disarm such rogue states as North Korea, Syria, Iran…).
Thus do we arrive at the moment when, fresh from presiding at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament, Iran is now campaigning for a post as rapporteur of the UN committee on Disarmament and International Security.
It’s all outrageous. But let’s get specific. What’s the difference between those two posts?
Well, the Conference on Disarmament meets at the UN complex in Geneva, and while heading it might sound quite special — and in the case of Iran, quite monstrous — it is largely a formality. The Conference meets for periodic sessions, and during those meetings the presidency rotates alphabetically, every four weeks, through all 65 members of the Conference. This ensures that not only does Iran get a turn every so often as president but so do such aficionados of peace and disarmament as Russia, China, Belarus, Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe. Fortunately, the Conference has been gridlocked for years, so apart from sporadically exalting heavily militarized dictatorships with the title of president, and providing a lot of delegates with access to the shopping and banking facilities of Switzerland, nothing much gets done.
By contrast, the UN committee on disarmament offers more diplomatic heft. Convening at the UN’s headquarters in New York, it is one the six main committees of the UN General Assembly, on which all 193 member states of the UN are represented. Dubbed the First Committee, this group, as described on its web site, “considers all disarmament and international security matters within the scope of the Charter,” and concerns itself with taking positions on everything from principles of cooperation on global peace and security, to “the regulation of armaments.” The rapporteur reports on the doings of this committee, and rapporteurs serve for a full year. According to Reuters, Iran is competing against Kuwait to serve as disarmament committee rapporteur for the UN’s next annual session, a term that would start this October, for the 68th General Assembly, 2013-2014.
But could Iran possibly win this race? After all, Iran is under four UN Security Council sanctions resolutions for its illicit nuclear program — which threatens to kick off a major nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
No problem, at least not at the UN. It’s not guaranteed, but of course Iran has a shot at the disarmament committee slot. Iran already holds the 2012-2015 chairmanship of the second-largest voting bloc in the UN General Assembly, the Non-Aligned Movement (119 UN member states plus the Palestinian Authority). Iran already sits on the governing boards of such major UN agencies as UNICEF and the UN Development Program. And for the 2011-2012 General Assembly, Iran got itself elected as rapporteur of the UN’s Committee on Information — which, given Tehran’s record of censorship and propaganda, was at least as perverse as running for rapporteur of the committee on disarmament.
For Samantha Power, now on her way to becoming President Obama’s next ambassador to the UN, it ought to be a top priority to shut down Iran’s exploitation of these plum UN slots. In her confirmation hearing earlier this month, Power noted the absurdity of Iran presiding at the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. That’s the least of it. And if the U.S. administration cannot find a way to stop Iran’s raw abuse of the UN facilities and charter mission, not to mention the complete perversion of such terms as “disarmament,” then the very least America’s leaders could do is stop forking over U.S. tax dollars to pay for it.