Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Saturday, September 8, 2012

How Successful Was the Non-Alignment Movement Summit in Tehran for Iran?

So how successful was the recent Non-Alignment Movement summit in Tehran for Iran?

Tehran is using all of its tools to show what it believes is a diplomatic triumph, that not all countries in the world are joining the United States in isolating Iran, and most likely to make a case to end the Syrian regime's diplomatic isolation. Yet it did not receive what it wanted.

First, Mohammed Mursi, the first Egyptian president to visit Iran since 1979, bluntly stated that the Non-Alignment Movement had a moral duty to support the struggle of Syrian people. Then Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General whose presence was considered a diplomatic victory for Iran, warned of the dangers of nuclear proliferation, and rebuked Iran for threatening to destroy Israel and claiming the Holocaust a myth.

Therefore, while Iran might want to use the Non-Alignment Movement as a way to break America's attempts to isolate itself and build a counterbalance, Tehran placed its hope in the wrong place. The Non-Alignment Movement is an impressive array of 120 states that made claims of not aligning formally with or against any superpower in the world, though it has one major weakness: it is a jumble of 120 states with diverse interests and foreign policy objectives.

Iran can rely on the usual suspects (e.g. North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba) to provide it with much needed support, but other countries are not willing to explicitly support Iran, because they prefer to maintain cordial relations with the United States. In fact, most of the countries attending the summit in Tehran were there simply because it was the Non-Alignment Movement summit, a good soapbox to grandstand, to show to their publics back home that they are "major players" in international affairs, and maybe to throw around their sometimes bizarre ideas to countries that might listen out of politeness, without fear of condemnation.

Take the example of Indonesia, one of the founder nations, which sent its Vice President Budiono to Tehran to attend the conference. Back in Indonesia, not much ink was spilled about the Non-Alignment Movement. The leading newspaper Kompas only devoted one small column buried in page 6 and all discussions about summit was buried deep in the newspaper.

And what has lately transpired in Indonesia should make Iran pause. Indonesian newspapers have mostly focused on the recent attacks on Shiites in Sampang, Madura, with Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali raising many eyebrows with his declaration that Shia was a deviant sect. Considering that the theocratic regime of Iran is based on the teachings of Shia, these are most likely not the kinds of development that Iran would like to see.

Thus, the summit ended with whimper. Iran might play up the summit for domestic audience purposes, but  internationally, Iran's position was exactly at the same spot where it was before...well, maybe worse vis-a-vis Bahrain.

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