Iran's UN Pals in Vienna
Over at the United Nations offices in Vienna, Iran has just gotten a boost from the biggest intergovernmental outfit of developing states at the UN -- the Group of 77, (or G-77), which these days lists a membership of 130 nations plus "Palestine." This group, which includes more than two thirds of the UN's 192 members, has just picked, to chair its Vienna chapter for 2011, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
That implies an alarming disconnect between the G-77 and the series of UN sanctions meant to isolate the nuclear-fixated Iranian regime. This latest outrage hasn't made the mainstream news in the U.S., perhaps because it happened too recently to be included in a wikileaked diplomatic cable. But you can read about it in a Dec. 6 dispatch from the Islamic Republic News Agency. The Iranian envoy who will chair the G-77's Vienna chapter, starting next month, is none other than Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali-Asghar Soltanieh.
For the G-77 (also known as the G-77 plus China) this is almost par for the course. The G-77 has chapters at major UN offices worldwide, and last year the chairmanship of the G-77 at the UN's headquarters in New York was held by Sudan. This year, the New York chair is Yemen.
For Iran at the UN, this fits into a pattern of exploiting the institution to the hilt. Iran holds an extraordinary number of seats on the governing boards and committees of various UN agencies, and already fields a hefty presence in Vienna -- here's a rundown I put together for a column in July on Iran's Mini-Empire at the UN. With the clock ticking toward the Iranian nuclear bomb, and Iran in brazen violation of binding UN Security Council sanctions, you might suppose the G-77 could have dredged up from among its 130 member states a less malign candidate to chair its doings next year in Vienna. But this is the UN, this is the G-77, this is crunch time for the Iranian nuclear program ... and in the home town of the IAEA and OPEC, it seems that "engagement" translates into Iran's pals rallying round Iran. Lots here that begs to be explored in a diplomatic cable, if anyone at the U.S. Mission in Vienna is still willing to send one, and anyone in Washington cares to pay attention.