Part 8 of “The Isolation of Israel: Peril and Opportunity”
This is part eight of Professor Paul Merkley’s series, “The Isolation of Israel: Peril and Opportunity.” Access to the previous installments can be found by clicking on the following links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.
From the moment when Syrian President Assad’s troubles started to attract the world’s attention, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran got busy proving himself Syria’s eternal friend.
There have been several visits to Damascus of the most senior persons in his regime; Ahmadinejad himself has travelled great distances to confer with the best-known despisers of the United States; and ad hocconferences have been held for the purposes of giving Assad’s diminishing cohort of friends opportunity to stand together and affirm their faith. The leitmotif for these occasions has been proclaimed by the head of Syria’s National Security Council: “What is happening in Syria is not an internal issue but a conflict between the Axis of Resistance on the one hand and the regional global enemies of this axis on the other.” On August 9, Iran hosted a quickly-organized foreign ministers’ conference whose mission, said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was “to replace military clashes with political, indigenous approaches to settle the disputes.” Those attending were described as having “a correct and realistic position” on the Syrian conflict – which, being translated, meant that Syrian opposition elements were not welcome. [See, Paul Merkley, “What Does the Impending collapse of the Assad regime mean for Israel?” The Bayview Review, August 25, 2012. ]
Iran’s worldwide network of friendly regimes
Further from home, Ahmadinejad has in recent weeks visited member states of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas, an eight-nation regional bloc founded by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. In the course of Ahmadinejad’s rapid-fire tour in mid-January of Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela, he and Chavez of Nicaragua signed the latest of over two hundred agreements between Iran and Venezuela for cooperation in industry, science, technology, trade, culture and politics and pledged to cooperate closely to fight poverty and the “imperial insanity” of the United States.
The Ahmadinejad-Chavez alliance goes way back. In July, 2006, Chavez appeared side-by-side with President Ahmadinejad of Iran in a press conference in Tehran and, in effect, declared himself and all the people whom he imagines that he represents as partners in Ahmadinejad’s jihad. The two statesmen are in agreement regardingIsrael: “From the depths of the soul of the peoples, a force will emerge that will put an end to imperialism and all its lackeys.” U.S intelligence services believe that Venezuela is providing shelter and other assistance to many terrorist organizations, some local to the Americas, others, like Hezbollah, occupied in redeeming the middle East. [“Venezuela and terrorists,” Washington Times, May 21, 2006.]
Improbable though this will seem to most Western media and intellectual types who imagine that Chavez is the voice of secular populism, another Fidel Castro, Chavez seemed determined make his 2006 visit to Tehran an occasion to align himself with Ahmadinejad’stheological interpretation of world affairs, proclaiming: “I say today, ‘God, if there is any justice, send bolts of lightning from Your hands upon the monsters.’ “Állah” he noted, “has given to Iran and to Venezuelaabundant supplies of petroleum, which the United and the world will need increasingly. …..I believe all Third World countries should support Iran’s resolute attitude in developing its atomic energy.” (www.memri.org , August 2, 2006; New York Times, July 30, 2006.]
The Non-Aligned Movement
These many activities on behalf of the Assad regime have attracted much less media attention, and certainly much less approval, in our part of the world than Ahmadinejad must have hoped. This last week, however, Ahmadinejad’s campaign went Five Star, as Ahmadinejad took up his duties as President of the Non Aligned Movement, summoning and lavishly entertaining the heads of government of 120 UN member states, together with their large retinues, to meet with him in his capital, Tehran. [“At Summit Meeting, Iran Has a Message for the World,” New York Times, August 26, 2012; “The Non-Aligned Movement Confernce In Tehran – A show of strength against the West,” MEMRI, August 27. 2012. memri.org.]
The Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries was founded in 1961 in Belgrade by President Josef Tito of Yugo-slavia. Leading lights in the original plenum included India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Egypt’s President Nasser, Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkruma, and Indonesia’s first President Sukharno. Tito had, in effect, anticipated by about three decades the dissolution of the Soviet Empire by defying the Soviet Union’s command to enter the Warsaw Pact and he now intended to face down the Soviets by attaching to himself all those nations that had resisted the invitation to join NATO or one of the several mutual-defense blocs organized under U.S. auspices (including the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization and its equivalent in the Middle East, the Central Treaty Organization.)
Since the end of the Cold War, there have been defections and reconfigurations of membership. Along the way, politicians with global ambitions have been attracted to the project of re-invigorating the NAMas a vehicle for rallying anti-American sentiment wherever it can be found.
Ahmadinejad no doubt finds confirmation of the mandate that he carries from his God in the circumstance that the rotating succession to the presidency of the NAM, consisting of roughly two-thirds of the membership of the UN, has come around to Iran just in time to rally the world around the cause of resistance to the conspiracy of America and Israel to crush Syria and seize its assets for themselves.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s insistence on attending the summit baffled many governments and angered some, particularly since they know that he was recently informed that Iran does not plan to cooperate with the UN nuclear agency’s inspectors and that Iran is continuing to transfer weapons and equipment to Syrian forces loyal to President Assad. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird implored the Secretary-General to reconsider his upcoming visit to the Summit, citing the Islamic Republic’s “egregious human rights record” and its president’s calls for the annihilation of Israel. “Iran’s current rulers,” he warned, ”will use your presence to further their own, hateful purposes.” [“Baird to Ban Ki-Moon: ‘Don’t go to Iran Summit,” Globe and Mail,August 28, 2012.]
The Backfire Heard Round the World
Now that it has come and gone, the NAM conference must seem downright providential to Israel. Ahmadinejad has been humiliated — upon his own turf, and before the eyes of the world.
Even before the red-carpets were in place, there was a head-on collision between “Palestine” and Iran. According to the Jerusalem Post, “[The Iranians] consider President Abbas a traitor because he believes in the two-state solution and has renounced violence.” Iran originally issued an invitation to Hamas’s “Prime Minster” Haniyeh — a stupid gesture; but then Abbas and Haniyeh blew up at each other and Iran was compelled to let Abbas invite himself while Haniyeh phoned in regrets. [Jerusalem Post, August 30, 2012.] Just as the PA cranks up this year’s version of the campaign to win a seat for Palestine at the United Nations – a gesture intended as an end run around the “Peace Process — Abbas has succeeded in giving the world its best portrait to date of the toxic division within the Palestinian camp while simultaneously displaying to the world his contempt and that of most Arab Muslims, for the Tehran regime.
Even worse humiliation followed for Iran, when Egyptian President Morsi, making in effect his first grand appearance as a Muslim brother bringing Egypt out of secular, U.S.-dominated darkness, used his time at the podium to dramatize the disarray caused by the misbehavior of Iranand Syria. Morsi spoke of the “moral duty” to support the Syrian opposition, whose struggle “against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy” he now sees is just like that of the Palestinians! [Simon Tisdall, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 30 August 2012; “Selected Excerpts of Morsi’s Speech, “ New York Times, August 30, 2012.]
And finally, the icing on the cake: UN Secretary General, whose decision to attend the fest elicited alarm from friends of Israel, used his moment in the opening procedures to (in the paraphrase of the New York Times) “publicly upbraid … Iran for threatening to annihilate Israeland for describing the Holocaust as a politically motivated myth. “ “I strongly reject,” said the Secretary-General, “ threats by any member state to destroy another or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts, such as the Holocaust.”
So far as I can see, no commentator foresaw this debacle. The scene calls out for a Psalm:
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;The Lord shall hold them in derision.– Psalm 2:2-4