Iran and Non-Aligned Movement: From Tehran 2012 to Caracas 2015

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Behzad Khoshandam
Expert on International Issues

Successful holding of the summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran on August 26-31, 2012, is considered a major turning point in Iran’s political and foreign relations as well as in essential and trend-based developments of the movement. The important NAM summit has wrapped up in Tehran, but two significant questions still remain to be addressed in this regard. Firstly, since Islamic Republic has assumed rotational presidency of the movement, how will Iran possibly use its chairmanship of this international institution to the benefit of its national interests for the next three years before the next summit meeting is convened in 2015? Secondly, which possible advantages and capacities will Iran’s chairmanship generate for achieving strategic goals of this international movement?

A realistic approach to NAM summit in Tehran will reveal that increasing influence of the movement and cooperation among member states as well as emphasis on such concepts as network formation, institutionalism, multilateralism, normativism, interactionism, resistance, cooperativeness, moralism, pluralism and pacifism are among the most important achievements of the summit both for Tehran and for the NAM itself. The aforesaid achievements are in line with the movement’s goals and activities in the past decades, while conforming to the quality of and developments in Iran’s foreign policy, especially in the past three decades. They are also conformant to foreign policy goals which this political institution will be pursuing in its future outlook. Presence of such foreign dignitaries as Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, the newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and high-ranking diplomatic delegations from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iraq, in addition to numerous paragraphs included in the final resolution of the summit and other instruments related to the Tehran event reflect just part of Iran’s primary achievements through the summit.

The undeniable fact is that the Non-Aligned Movement is currently a political symbol for promoting the influence of member states in the present “pole-less” political system of the world. Therefore, to the same degree that Iran’s presidency of the movement during the next three years is a remarkable opportunity for the country’s diplomatic apparatus, it will also be of use for the modification of the behavior of big powers as well as other international organizations and players with regard to impartial foreign policy goals of Iran. However, this issue should not cause analysts of Iran issues to solely focus on other hubs of power, wealth and determination in the present international system which aim to contain Iran’s power.

Iran’s presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement, which started in Tehran in 2012 and ends in Caracas in 2015, will provide a remarkable opportunity for promoting South-South cooperation and Iran’s “look to the east” strategy. Taking the helm at the movement will provide Iran with new capacities for reducing tension with other poles of global power and will be also effective in adjusting the impact of unfair international sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Despite the above facts, another point which should be born in mind is that this movement is only one of the institutional tools available to Iran’s foreign policy apparatus during the next three years. Tehran will also take advantage of exceptionally important capacities of the movement in line with its own geopolitical, ideological, and soft power capacities.

Iran’s presidency will also impact the entire Non-Aligned Movement as well as its individual members. Iran’s chairmanship of the movement for the next three years can be analyzed at three global, regional and national levels. At global level, Iran’s three-year presidency of the NAM will revive the whole movement and help to define the identities of revisionist, resistance-based and leftist currents within the context of new global trends. It will also challenge unilateralism and discriminatory attitudes in other important international institutions such as the United Nations Security Council, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the European Union (EU), the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC], and the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations. At regional level, it will lead to emergence of South-South political and cultural movements of a regional nature among the NAM members while counterbalancing the conduct of big powers against resistance-based behavior of some member states of the NAM. At national level, political units which are members of the movement will experience increased national solidarity and more powerful willingness to take strategic and political advantage of such global moves in order to “inspire” other countries which are aligned with their strategic goals.

On the whole, Iran’s chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement from Tehran summit of 2012 to Caracas summit of 2015 will be a trump card in Iran’s hand to achieve its foreign policy goals. The Islamic Republic can also help this international institution to reclaim its credit and identity, and play a balancing and discourse-building role against other multilateral and unilateral international mechanisms.

In view of the lessons learned in the past three decades and Iran’s presidency of the NAM, Tehran will most probably not only take advantage of its other potential and active capacities in the field of foreign policy until 2015, but will also boost its strategic influence over regional and international equations and order. As put by George Friedman, such a situation is a telltale sign of Iran’s success and win in the complex diplomatic game within framework of the ongoing international interactions.

Due to nature, influence and developments of the Non-Aligned Movement, when its next summit is held in Caracas in 2015, the movement will not be very different from what it was during Belgrade summit of 1961. However, Iran in 2015 will be very different from Iran in 2012. Let’s not forget that the standing of Egypt in the scene of international strategic and security developments in 2012 is quite different from what it was in 2009. This scenario will be a major turning point as it marks the breakdown of the policy followed by big powers and other multilateral institutional mechanisms which seek to isolate member states of the NAM movement by imposing sanctions against them and intensifying those sanctions. Emergence of this situation will undoubtedly be a focus of attention for many in-depth politico-strategic and cultural analyses on the role of the NAM member states in such spheres as common global politics, governance and management.

Key Words: Iran, Non-Aligned Movement, Tehran 2012 to Caracas 2015, National Interests, Institutionalism, Multilateralism, Normativism, Interactionism, Resistance, Cooperativeness, Moralism, Pluralism and Pacifism, Khoshandam   

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