Iran's Latest Scheme to Bolster International Support
Iran's regime has an opportunity this week to divert international attention away from its nuclear ambitions. Its intransigence in the face of a recent IAEA report concerning its increase in uranium enrichment, along with its unwillingness to allow inspectors to investigate its Parchin nuclear facility, has resulted in more saber-rattling on the part of Israel and the U.S. But as world leaders make their way to Tehran this week to meet at the 16th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) conference, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to take steps to deter Western threats of war. He will use the gathering to strengthen Iran's diplomatic position among the 50 to 100 high-level officials planning to attend, including Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Russia, China, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, and India have also acknowledged that they will be sending representatives to the gathering.
The theme of the conference is titled "Lasting Peace through Joint Global Governance." The original purpose of the Non-Aligned Movement, which today boasts 120 members and 17-21 observer states, has been to find ways of helping developing countries in areas of security, food, the environment, and governance. Established in 1961, members claim they do not align their countries with any major power bloc. However, with the host country being Iran, assurances are that Ahmadinejad will try to exploit this claim by bringing up controversial issues that are politically at odds with the West.
The NAM has explicitly called for nuclear disarmament, which is disconcerting to Western leaders who have called on Iran to cease developing nuclear power for military means. Ahmadinejad may use the nuclear disarmament platform to put pressure on Israel to give up its alleged nuclear weapons. He may also look to convince Iranian supporters that when Iran goes nuclear, the Persian State could provide an umbrella to those who want to develop their own nuclear power. In effect, this conference in Tehran could exploit nuclear proliferation rather than nuclear disarmament.
Iran claims that it will present a proposal to conference attendees which will solve the civil war in Syria, hoping NAM countries will then join in support of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Persian State is looking to bolster its axis in the Middle East (currently with Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria) by extending that alliance to nations interested in guaranteed Iranian diplomatic, military, and economic support in the face of increased political uncertainty, worldwide. Iran has already offered to provide needed financial security to Egypt in order to turn Morsi away from yearly dependency on U.S. aid.
Iran is taking over the chairmanship of the conference from Egypt and will lead the Non-Aligned Movement into 2015. This will be the first top-level visit between Iran and Egypt since the two countries severed relations in 1978. At that time, the Egyptian regime aligned itself with the U.S. against the Iranian revolution.
Today, while Egypt is flirting with Iran, it is already aligning itself with the Muslim Brotherhood. The tenets of the Brotherhood have been the basis for encouraging Islamic terror groups throughout the Middle East, which is something they have in common with Iran.
Though Morsi claims he has stepped down from his position in the Muslim Brotherhood, he still adheres to the goals and ideology of the Sunni Islamist organization, which not only has gained power in Egypt, but also is interested in shoring up support in Syria, Jordan, Tunisia, and Libya. In the future, Egypt's Morsi may be the kingpin who brings radical Islamists together, through the rise in popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood, promoting sharia law throughout the region.
Meanwhile, countries attending the conference are putting aside their sectarian divisions, as well as their differences with Shiite Iran. If Iran can gain their trust, it may bode well for Iranian leaders in dealing with Islamists in Arab states who have become empowered by the Arab Spring.
Arab Gulf states do not plan to attend the NAM gathering. They both are threatened by Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood and fear a takeover of their dictatorships.
A common thread between both the Sunnis and the Shiites is their hatred for Israel. Every country that attends the NAM gathering in Tehran undermines Israel's efforts at exposing Iran's threat to the global community.
A controversy surrounding the conference is the expected attendance by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Both the U.S. and Israel appealed to him not to attend the gathering, but Ban felt it was his obligation to be there representing more than two thirds of U.N. nations that are members of NAM. Ban has been dismayed by recent anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic comments made by Iranian leaders. Yet that has not dissuaded him from coming to the gathering, which could result in Iran gaining greater legitimacy in the face of continued non-compliance with U.N. requests. Despite multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions that have placed severe sanctions on Iran, Tehran leaders have not stopped their pursuit of nuclear capability.
Israel and the U.S. have a lot to worry about as this NAM event progresses throughout the week. The fact that the conference is being hosted in Tehran has already contributed to a political confrontation with the West. The tactics of Iranian leaders to use the conference in order to pursue their quest for hegemony, especially in the Middle East region, is another headache for Western nations. Furthermore, the IAEA recent report, so important to Israel's claim that Iran is pursing weapons-grade materials to build nuclear bombs, may get lost in the media fray that focuses on Iran's new quest for power and influence throughout the international community.
C. Hart is a news analyst reporting on political, diplomatic, and military issues as they relate to Israel, the Middle East, and the international community.