Iranian mullahs had high expectations having the NAM meeting convene in Tehran hoping to find an escape route out of crippling problems chocking the Islamic regime. The problems include regime’s growing isolation in the international arena, the crippling international sanctions, and the falling regime of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, just to name a few. Establishing relations with Egypt and also a solution for the nuclear crisis was also on the agenda for the mullahs.
But with all the high hopes, the meeting in Tehran was a total failure for its host.
To its own internal supporters, the Iranian regime tried very hard to portray the presence of Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary General and the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, at the conference in the country as a sign of breakout from the international isolation that the western countries are imposing on it in light of Tehran’s persistence in continuing a suspicious nuclear program and refusal to cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
But President Morsi and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon completely disappointed the mullahs.
Ban Ki-moon, for his part, urged Iran to clarify suspicions about its nuclear activities and complained about the country’s human rights record.
Iranian interpreters censored and altered Morsi’s speech during the meeting, replacing Bahrain whenever he spoke about Syria and Syrian uprising. This, by itself, turned into a scandal for the regime forcing Ahmadinejad to avoid mentioning anything about Syria during the rest of the conference.
Before his travel to Tehran, President Morsi’s spokesperson told the media that Egyptian president’s presence will only be to follow protocol and to handover the presidency of NAM and it is not to seek any relationship with the Iranians. In spite of repeated requests from various Iranian officials, Morsi did not agree to meet with Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei and only briefly met Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s President. It is considerable to note that despite protocol, Morsi did not turn over the presidency immediately following his speech and instead continued to introduce follow-up speakers starting with Secretary Ban Ki-moon. He left the meeting when Ahmadinejad started his speech.
On the economic side, during the conference Iran signed some minor contracts with Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon totaling $43 million which is far below expected and considering the fact that the contracts had already been discussed before and their signings were irrelevant to the NAM conference. In addition, only Nigerians agreed to consider oil deals with Tehran.
The only, somewhat positive achievement in the final NAM statement for Tehran was to recognize that the Islamic Republic’s usage of nuclear technology for peaceful applications should be respected. But even for that, Iranian experts complain that recognition of the right for member countries to use peaceful nuclear technology is nothing new and NAM has already done that before. Nevertheless, the recognition has never prevented member countries from voting positive to sanctions against Iran.
As Iranian media said following the conference, “Iran’s primary objective in the international diplomacy scene is to circumvent sanctions and diminish their pressure.” An objective that was obviously not achieved at the conference.
An Iranian website, Digarban, wrote following the conference that, “Iran’s biggest and most important international meeting ever in the history of the country, after spending billions of Dollars, was turned, in effect, into a forum for critics of the Islamic Republic and its policies, and that of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.” Digarban added that, “Such criticism coming from an internal forum, has been unprecedented during the past 34 years.”
Nima Sharif is an Iranian-American human rights and political activist. He is the editor of Stop Fundamentalism. (facebook.com/nima.sharif1)
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