Iran’s Track Records as Chair of NAM and Future of NAM after Venezuela Takes Over in 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Behzad Khoshandam
Ph.D. in International Relations & Expert on International Issues

In order to balance its international interactions, Iran became an official member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) during it sixth summit meeting in Cuban capital city of Havana in 1979. Now, in 2016, Iran is handing over presidency of this 55-year movement to another member of the NAM from Latin America, namely, Venezuela. This development is going to take place on the eve of the 71st annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, more than one year after the conclusion of Iran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of countries, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and during the 17th NAM summit, which is underway in the Venezuelan Caribbean island of Margarita in September 2016.

Iran’s term as the chair of NAM was mostly affected by the traditional approach of “impartiality” and “constructive interaction,” which dominates the strategic thought that underlies Iran’s politics and its foreign relations with international institutions. In line with that policy, Iran’s chairmanship of NAM was another strategic institutional trump card for the achievement of the country’s foreign policy goals. Boosting the movement’s credit and identity in addition to helping it play a balancing and discourse building role vis-à-vis other international multilateral and unilateral mechanisms were among expectations of this institution with 120 countries as its members, during Iran’s term as the chairman, which were relatively met.

It must be noted that in the course of such issues as Iraq’s imposed war against Iran, reforms in the United Nations, and Iran’s right to take advantage of peaceful nuclear energy, NAM has consistently taken positive positions in favor of Iran’s national interests over the course of about four decades during which Iran has been a member of this movement.

Iran’s chairmanship of NAM started in 2012 at a time that big global powers and major multilateral global institutions like the UN and the European Union (EU) followed a policy to isolate Iran through their sanction strategy and also through intensification of sanctions against this prominent member of NAM. However, as Iran delivers the key to Venezuela in 2016, the Islamic Republic is an effective partner in the field of fighting terrorism, extremism, occupationism, unilateralism, weapons of mass destruction and nonproliferation, and protection of environment, and is also a driving force in the campaign against Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. Iran’s model when it was the chair of NAM has turned the country into an effective and constructive element with regard to the role that NAM member states play in the field of global politics, governance, norm building as well as common and effective management of international affairs.

Another measure taken by Tehran during its tenure as chair of NAM was an effort aimed at turning NAM into a more organized, institution-oriented, and plan-oriented organization, while reactivating the movement on global level, especially within framework of the UN and its affiliated organs, which boosted identity of this movement and made its international activities more effective.

Evidence related to Iran’s chairmanship of NAM from 2012 to 2016 shows that in 2016, in parallel to taking advantage of other active and potential capacities of its foreign policy, Iran is witnessing an increase in its influence and strategic legitimacy in both regional and international equations and orders.

Past records show that the most important result of Iran’s membership in NAM following the Islamic Revolution was that the seventh and eighth summits of the movement were not held in Baghdad and this is apart from this institution’s practical, partial and categorical support for Iran’s national goals and interests. Apart from this positive historical memory, constructive and positive stances taken by NAM members, either separately or within known groupings of the movement inside the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency during the past decade, have been recorded as another positive memory of how NAM has justly supported inalienable rights of Iranians.

Countries like Iran, Venezuela, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, and Cuba have traditionally played an important role in NAM’s developments. Without a doubt, coordination among future approaches of these countries will play an important role in achievement of strategic goals of this international institution under chairmanship of Venezuela, which starts in 2016. The role and participation of Iran’s smart diplomacy on the basis of experiences that the country has gained during its chairmanship of NAM and in other fields of global and regional management will be certainly effective and offer new opportunities for the realization of NAM’s goals under the chairmanship of Venezuela.

Key WordsIran, Track Records, Chair, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Venezuela, 2016, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Impartiality, Constructive Interaction, Trump Card, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, Cuba, Smart Diplomacy, Khoshandam 

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*Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency