If ever there was an organization that had outlived its raison d’être, it is the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The 16th summit of NAM will be held at the end of this month under the auspices of its new chairman, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
NAM is a fossil leftover from the Cold War, and like the Cold War itself, NAM should have been consigned to the pages of history long ago. Founded in Belgrade in 1961, it was conceived as an instrument to enable states in the developing world to steer a middle course between the two superpowers of the time – the USA and the Soviet Union.
Its founding fathers were Yugoslavia’s then-president Josip Broz Tito, India’s Jarwahala Nehru, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and Indonesia’s Sukarno. Like the original rationale for the movement, these leaders are long gone and the world’s geopolitical landscape has shifted radically since.
Yet even in its heyday, the movement didn’t demonstrate much logic or cohesion. Members of NAM fought each other (vide Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980) or, in clear defiance of their basic aims, lined up with one or the other of the superpowers − a situation that eventually blew up in the movement’s face when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. As a result, NAM’s member countries were split into Muslim states and those that were supported by the Soviets.
Representing the hopes of smaller, developing countries to achieve some sort of clout on the world stage, the NAM membership consists of no less than 120 nations - some 55 percent of world population. In the words of Fidel Castro, NAM’s purpose is to "struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony.”
To paraphrase Castro, this means opposition to Western values as well as a rooted opposition to the US and Israel. It is perhaps not surprising to learn that of NAM’s 120 member states, 32 states do not even recognize Israel.
Leaders such as Kim Jong Un of North Korea and Egypt’s President Mohammad Morsy have both announced their intention to attend the international summit. Following these announcements, the US State Department spokesperson opined, “Iran is going to try to manipulate the NAM summit and the attendees to advance its own agenda.”
Iran’s own “covert” agenda, of course, is to continue defying the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) in its ever-accelerating quest to acquire nuclear weapons and achieve domination of the Middle East. Its “overt” agenda is to eliminate Israel from the map of the Middle East. Needless to say, if Iran succeeds in garnering support from 120 nations and 55 percent of the world’s population for either of these twin ambitions, it would deal a grievous blow to Western interests.
The scope of golden opportunities that NAM’s revolving chairmanship has afforded Iran is almost endless. And Iran will have the power to speak in the name of all NAM states over the next 3 years. In all likelihood, Iran will begin by building support from NAM countries ahead of Ahmadinejad’s slated address to the UN General Assembly in September. No doubt the president hopes to have better luck than he had in 2011 when, during the course of his diatribe, diplomats from more than a dozen countries walked out.
One would think that all of this would provide a good enough excuse for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to exclude himself from the summit. Unfortunately, Ban showed himself to be remarkably coy, and far from announcing in no uncertain terms that he would not be attending such a summit, he procrastinated for as long as possible before finally accepting the invitation to attend.
One wonders if Ban actually believes Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, who recently assured the world that the purpose of the forthcoming conference was to “eliminate world problems and help resolve ongoing crises.” One further wonders precisely which issues “central to the global agenda” will be solved in Tehran.
The statement of Seyyed Mahmoud Madani, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative, seems nearer the mark: “The world has accepted the Islamic Republic as a country that has stood up to the bullying powers and is capable of confronting them.”
Let's hope the "bullying powers" are taking note.
Published in the on-line Jerusalem Post today, 23 August: