Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 12:42 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 12:42 | SYDNEY

Iran: NAM, bam, thank you ma'am


Rodger Shanahan


31 August 2012 13:53

It is sometimes said that the thing Iran hates most is being ignored. Iran's view of itself as a country of stature, with a rich culture and history of artistic and literary endeavour, demands attention. Which is why this week's hosting by Tehran of the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) plays very much into a desire to shake off its international isolation.

But things didn't quite go Tehran's way.

The lead-up to the main leaders' meeting was full of public messaging designed to emit an air of hope and show off Iran as a gracious host. The reality behind those words was quite different. A deputy foreign minister claimed that delegates to the NAM meeting might be able to visit the Parchin military base (translation: not on your life), although the UN Secretary-General's office said he had no plans to make such a visit anyway (translation: you're not going to use me for a cheap media stunt).

And while large multinational gatherings normally don't give you much insight into the state of bilateral relations, there is little doubt where Egypt sees its future lying. 

With the fall of the stridently anti-Iranian President Hosni Mubarak, some sensed an opportunity for closer relations between Cairo and Tehran. As late as June, there was even talk of restoring full diplomatic relations. But President Morsi's NAM speech, his first foreign policy speech, would not have given Iran's leaders much hope that they had a potential ally. 

Invoking the names of the first four caliphs (which never goes down well in uber-Shi'a Iran), his condemnation of the Syrian regime (an Iranian ally) caused the walkout of the Damascene delegation and stole much of the positive messaging that Iran would have been hoping for from this meeting.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's condemnation of holocaust deniers and people who call for the destruction of other countries was directed at Iran's President Ahmadinejad, but given Ahmadinejad is very much yesterday's man in Iran, the comments wouldn't have had much impact. 

Of course, the importance of such multilateral gatherings is the opportunity they afford for 'sidebar' meetings, where meaty issues can be discussed. The leaders of Pakistan and India took the opportunity the NAM meeting provided, while Ban Ki-Moon had a private meeting with the Supreme Leader. Interestingly, the former US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (now senior UN diplomat) Jeffrey Feltman was also in attendance, and looked totally at ease, as this photo shows.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.