Mark Around the World — September 12, 2012
On August 31, 118 nations rebuked a cornerstone of American foreign policy by declaring their support for Iran’s nuclear program at the annual Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) conference. The concluding communiqué also criticized American-led efforts to isolate and punish Iran with economic sanctions. These positions were accepted unanimously by the nations present.
The conference can’t be dismissed as a fringe movement. Of the participants, 29 delegations were led by heads of state. The NAM includes nuclear powers such as India and South Africa. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also attended and gave one of the keynote speeches.
Nor was the conference a rubber-stamping exercise by like-minded participants. Many issues were vigorously debated and left unresolved. For example, a number of countries, led by Egypt’s President Morsi, strongly criticized Iran for its support of the Syrian government. Another example was the UN Secretary General’s criticism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2005 “World Without Zionism” speech in which he declared that Israel must be wiped off the map. The Secretary General also criticized the Iranian president for his opinion that the Holocaust statistic of 6 million Jewish deaths is an exaggeration.
Some of the arguments used by NAM members to defend the Iran nuclear program are worth noting. These include:
1. Under international law and treaty commitments, Iran has a right to a peaceful nuclear program (i.e. research, energy, medical etc.). To date, there’s no evidence that Iran’s program goes beyond these areas. U.S. objections are based on a policy of preemption and assumption.
2. NAM’s core belief that international law and enforcement should be applied equally to members of the United Nations community. They argue that the United States’ policy toward Iran’s nuclear program is hypocritical when compared to the U.S. policy toward Israel’s nuclear program. NAM members point out that Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has not. Iran has permitted many inspections of its nuclear facilities by international organizations, including the International Atomic Energy Agency. Israel has never. Iran does not have nuclear weapons. Israel holds a large arsenal.
On the surface, it appears that the U.S. enjoys broad global support for its aggressive policy toward Iran. However, the NAM communiqué is another sign of just how shallow this support is.
Before taking next steps, the U.S. should carefully weigh its national interests and options regarding this issue because the stakes are high.