Iran and International Organizations after Arab Spring

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Behzad Khoshandam
PhD Candidate in International Relations

The beginning of Arab Spring in December 2010 has led to many developments for the Middle Eastern nations and governments. Various international organizations have become involved in the course of those developments in an unprecedented manner. The United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Arab League (AL), African Union, (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, and the European Union (EU) were among those world bodies.

Just in the same way that international bodies have been involved in political and social developments in certain Arab countries like Libya and Syria in the past year, Iran's relations with those organizations has also been affected by the context of developments in the Arab world.

As a result of developments known as Arab Spring and influenced by the Islamic Republic of Iran's foreign policy attitudes in the past one year, Iran's interaction with a great number of international organizations, such as the UN, NATO and EU has become more negative and more challenging.

Although Iran's relations with the UN have not experienced serious and profound challenges, the country has raised serious protest to double standards applied to the Arab Spring by the UN Security Council. Critical letters sent by Iran's foreign minister to secretary-general of the United Nations on the organization’s unfair approaches to Arab Spring developments in Bahrain constitute one of the most challenging examples of Iran's confrontation with the UN. Another prominent challenge in Iran's relations with the United Nations as a result of Arab Spring was the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on November 18, 2011, which charged Iran of complicity in an assassination attempt targeting the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

Iran's approach to NATO has also become challenging following the developments which resulted from Arab Spring. Iran's top leaders have frequently criticized NATO’s approach to those developments, especially in the past year.

Iran's relations with (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council also became challenging as an outcome of developments in Arab countries. Iran has been especially and seriously critical of the Council’s approach to Bahrain during the past year which has caused diplomatic contacts between Iran and the Council to become more aggressive in relation to matters of dispute.

Although relations between Iran and the European Union have not been directly affected by objective changes resulting from Arab Spring, relations between Iran and EU have become more challenging after the beginning of the Arab Spring up to the middle of January 2012 as a result of EU’s unilateral sanctions against Iran.

Given the above facts and subsequent to the Arab Spring, major players in the international system, especially the United States, have been using such mechanisms as international organizations to meet the interests of big powers in the Middle East and North Africa, and also to control political equations and regional balance.

In view of Iran's central role in regional developments after the Arab Spring, it seems that the international system is using these players to manage, surround, and contain Iran in a purposive manner. US, especially as an international superpower, is using important international organizations like EU, (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, NATO, Arab League, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to mount pressure on such countries as Iran in order to change their regional and international behavior.

Therefore, at a time that major international players are determined to put more pressure on countries like Iran by taking advantage of such mechanism as regional and international organizations and by relying on such doctrines as preemptive war, protection of civilians, responsibility to protect, and humanitarian intervention, it is of great import to pay renewed attention to raison d'être of these organizations.

In fact, the primary duty of these organizations is to maintain international peace and security, not to be influenced by big powers in the course of international developments.

As regional developments resulting from Arab Spring go on, more challenges in Iran's interactions with these organizations will be neither beneficial to those organizations’ functions and goals, nor will change Iran's attitude to major international players. Undoubtedly, a change in direction and mode of play of any of the aforesaid players will further stabilize regional equations and modify the attitudes of the Middle Eastern nations and governments, especially the people of Iran, toward goals and functions of important international bodies and prevent repetition of tragic and pointless events such as the attack on Afghanistan in 2001 or the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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