The UN's Mugabe Moment, and Its Perennial Iran Problem

Every so often the United Nations decides to dignify a tyrant, or a tyranny, in ways so in-your-face perverse that it draws public attention, provokes highly embarrasing protest -- and the UN scuttles to back away. So it went with the recent decision by the World Health Organization to appoint as one of its goodwill ambassadors the longtime tyrant of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe.

On Oct. 18, the director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, of Ethiopia, announced he was "honored" to name Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador. For good measure, Tedros praised Zimbabwe as "a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the center of its policies to provide health care to all."

On Oct. 20, Geneva-based UN Watch put out a press release calling Mugabe's appointment "sickening," and noting that Mugabe's brutal rule had turned Zimbabwe from the breadbasket of Africa into a basketcase, devastating its health care system along the way -- while Mugabe went outside the country for his own medical needs. There was plenty of other protest, from the U.S., the UK, medical professionals worldwide, and so forth. On Oct. 22, Tedro announced he was rescinding Mugabe's appointment.

So... problem solved?

Nope, not by half. For the UN, the embarrassment will likely fade. But the over-arching problem here -- of which Mugabe's fleeting four days as a goodwill ambassador is merely a symptom -- is a United Nations that inveterately dignifies and honors tyrants and tyrannies, though usually in less prominent fashion.

For a sampling of just how deep this problem runs, take the case of Iran -- ruled since 1989 by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. This is a regime that President Trump accurately described in his Oct. 13 speech on the Iran nuclear deal as "having raided the wealth of one of the world's oldest and most vibrant nations, and spread death, destruction, and chaos all around the globe." Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and leading predator of today's Middle East, with a record of terrorist bombings and assassinations carried out by its agents and mascot terrorist groups from the Middle East to Latin America to Europe to Asia. Iran's regime -- a longtime client of North Korea's weapons bazaar -- spent years cheating its way around UN sanctions on its rogue nuclear and missile programs, and under the current UN-approved nuclear deal has carried on, with brazen bad faith, testing ballistic missiles. Iran's regime brutalizes its own citizens, especially women, and in 2009 crushed mass protests by beating and shooting its own people in the streets. Remember the murder of Neda Soltan.

There's a solid argument to be made that under the UN's 1945 Charter, which says that membership is open to peace-loving states that respect human rights, today's Iran does not belong in the UN at all.