When Iran hosts an international summit in any climtae, let along the current one, you can bet its going to be complicated. Nonaligned Movement (NAM) members who've gathered in Tehran have certainly had a taste of geopolitics on speed.
If ever there’s a complicated mix of geo-political agendas its on display in Tehran this week with the summit of the nonaligned members - NAM.
Iran was hoping to prove, through the number of invitees who turned up, that it was not actually the isolated pariah the ‘West’ makes it out to be.
The logic of this is the presence of enough presidents, kings, emirs and associated political hoi polloi represent a show of solidarity against the sanctions which are biting Iranians.
But there are simply too many conspiracy theories and too much instability in the region for anything to be so simple.
The most high profile guest, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, quite rightly resisted the pleas of the United States, Canada,Israel and others to boycott the summit.
Amazing how they recognise the heft of the UN when it suits.
Ban did not however, play to the tune of the Iranians either.
He called on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad to prove their nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only, and made it clear he he is irritated by the game playing surrounding transparency and inspections.
And just to stick the boot in a little further, he bluntly condemned his hosts for their threats against Israel, including “outrageous” Holocaust denial.
Not enough for Israel however. Netanyahu, currently embroiled in whipping up enough fear over Iran’s nuclear programme to force the US to bomb it out of existence, kept the fear aflame with cries that the Tehran summit is proof that the world’s post-Holocaust pledge of ‘never again’ rings hollow.
Netanyahu conveniently deduces from Iran’s bombastic rhetoric that the NAM countries who don’t have, or don’t want, a protector such as the US, have no right turning up to their own summit.
Their very attendance is apparently proof the anti-genocide treaties many are signatories to are irrelevant, and they are really in cahoots with Iran to bring about second Holocaust.
Well Israel signed treaties that were supposed to protect occupied peoples, and the Palestinians will tell you just how relevant undertakings have proven. Perhaps Israeli adherence to its own promises, and, maybe signing up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty given its own arsenal of nukes, will render Israel a little more credibility when slagging others.
If Ban’s not-so-host-friendly speech wasn’t enough to cause a little Persian blush, try Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s.
He executed a 4-5 hour fly-in so as not to give an impression there is a thaw in the Egyptian-Iranian relations - not just yet at least.
Morsi had to satisfy some domestic concerns that his very visit to Tehran might be interpreted as a betrayal of Syrian victims of the Assad regime; he had to be mindful of the longstanding history between the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran; the proxy complications of Iran’s support of Hizbollah which in terms of Syria is problematic for the Brotherhood, but also Iran’s support of Brotherhood Palestinian off-shoot Hamas; Morsi needed to heed the Brotherhood’s published belief that Sunni (e.g. Egypt largely) and Shiite (e.g. Iranian theocracy) should reconcile their differences; and, the fledgling Egyptian President also had to show the international community that he is no Mubarak clone, so would attend the meeting on his terms to deliver a message, then cut. He did.
As the first Egyptian President to visit Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Morsi’s attendance was quite a symbolic achievement for Ahmadinejad & Co., but it was no state visit and, while Iran plays benefactor to Syria’s Assad regime, there were no warm fuzzies in the diplomacy department.
Morsi rebuked Syria’s Assad for slaughtering his own people, slammed him as now lacking any legitimacy, and linked Egypt with the revolutionary struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive ruling regime.
The Syrian delegation walked out, and Assad accused Morsi of inciting violence.
As predictable as a speech with no reference to Syria from Ayatollah Khamenei.
Also as unsurprising as Khamenei’s highly valid attack on the bullying dictatorship that is the UN Security Council. Rational, logical, justifiable...but...wrong messenger.
And therein lies the crux of the problems with such summits involving such players at this time...or maybe any time really.
Technically few NAM countries are qualified to cast the first stone on dictatorships, lack of democracy, political crackdowns, torture, prisons - certainly not Iran, not Egypt, not the Saudis, not Fiji, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, nor China (observer status)....the list goes on.
But while one Cold War relic - the UNSC - refuses to reform by widening its own power bloc to include Asian, African and South American contemporary economic and geo-political realities, the other Cold War relic - NAM - will continue to rail against UNSC self-interested power, hypocrisy and protectionism.
Given Tehran has the NAM Chair for the next three years, wailing and railing are certainties in a highly uncertain region.