NAM Summit: Outcomes and Opportunities

Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview with Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh, Executive Editor of Iran Review
By: International Peace Studies Center (IPSC)

Iran will be holding the biggest international gathering it has hosted in the past decades in late August by holding the 16th summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). During the meeting, Iran will also assume rotational chair of the organization for the next three years. In the following interview, Dr. Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh, Executive Editor of Iran Review website explains about approaches taken by various countries to this meeting as well as presence or absence of some Arab states. He also elaborates on the most important outcomes of the NAM summit and the opportunities that it provides Iran with.

IPSC: How important is the role played by the Non-Aligned Movement within framework of the new international system as opposed to other power poles, unions, equations as well as global-level economic and political arrangements?

A: I think that the movement is still of high symbolic significance. Of course, the Non-Aligned Movement is also facing challenges while having its own weaknesses. At present, the biggest weakness facing this great movement is heterogeneity of its member states as well as their goals and policies. This issue has not been so prominent from the time that NAM was established, since early 1990s, when the former Soviet Union fell apart. However, this challenge has drawn a lot of attention due to its influence on the performance of the movement during the past decade. High number of member states, their dispersion over all geographical areas and their affiliations with different and sometimes conflicting systems of governance in addition to pursuit of different and multiple goals which are sometime at loggerheads with one another, has barred and at times made it impossible for the movement to make firm decisions on important global issues at a suitable speed. On the opposite the movement has its own strengths which are not few and their importance should not be downplayed. The emphasis that the movement puts on the principle of cooperation among nations; continued support for peace; regular emphasis on the importance of disarmament; insistence on the nations’ right to self-determination; emphasis on the need for structural changes in the United Nations and its many organs, especially the Security Council, in order to encourage optimal participation of the international community in international processes related to the fate of humanity; insistence on the adoption and implementation of multilateral policies as well as strong focus and unanimity on such issues as human rights and cultural pluralism are major fortes of the movement.

IPSC: The forthcoming summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement will be held in the last week of August. Is Iran obliged, according to official protocols, to extend an invitation to all member countries?

A: Naturally, in such circumstances, almost all host countries forget about their possible differences with other member countries and observe formalities related to hosting the meeting by inviting all the member states.

IPSC: Some people have pointed to the ongoing oppression of Bahraini people and have urged the Iranian government not to invite the ruler of Bahrain to the NAM summit in Tehran. They have noted that in addition to inviting Bahrain revolutionary figures, an independent seat should be also allocated to them. What is your opinion?

A: The Non-Aligned Movement, like any other organization has been, and still is, influenced by political processes. Permanent tension between India and Pakistan has been a regular feature of this organization. Now, in view of the existing rifts among the Muslim countries over such critical issues as the necessity of supporting the revolution in Bahrain, the issue of Syria, policies adopted by Saudi Arabia and Qatar and many other instances, it would be possible that the forthcoming meeting may be heavily overshadowed by politics. However, not inviting a member country, either Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or any other member state would not be appropriate. Let’s not forget that the worst thing that may happen to politics is when it is influenced by pure sentiments. Many rival countries are actually expecting us to take such an approach in order to strip the Islamic Republic of benefits of this great opportunity (hosting the summit and taking advantage of potentials that it offers) and further isolate Iran.

IPSC: By holding the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Iran, the country will also assume rotational chair of the organization with 118 member states (which makes it the second biggest international organization after the United Nations) for three years. What are the most important opportunities that this development may offer Iran's foreign policy?

A: First of all, if Iran managed through an overarching and smart approach focused on long-term goals, to provide rational and suitable leadership for the organization, it would be possible for NAM to evolve into an efficient organization once more with a lot of clout at international level. This leadership problem is a big vacuum which existed under the chairmanship of Egypt and before that and no basic step has been taken to correct it.

Secondly, if Iran succeeded to provide as much maneuvering space as it can for nongovernmental organizations and civil society institutions from member states to play their part, it would be a great achievement. If there were nongovernmental organizations with enough support from NAM, they could have been very influential in many international organizations and this will be certainly in line with the national interests of member countries.

Thirdly, if Iran can establish and prove its managerial prowess in the organization and activate potential capacities of the movement, it will no doubt have many benefits for the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic.

Fourthly, taking good advantage of high media and publicity potentials as a means of achieving these goals is another important point which should not be forgotten. It would prove Iran’s true intelligence if the Islamic Republic could take advantage of media capacities of even al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya news networks in the service of the movement in order to increase the power of the Non-Aligned Movement’s mechanisms to introduce new changes in the existing international system.

IPSC: What effect can holding of the 16th NAM summit in Tehran have on the course of Iran’s nuclear case as well as on Iran’s problems with the West?

A: This will depend on many factors. The West will certainly try to prevent any development, which may impart a greater role to the Islamic Republic’s diplomacy, with the help of its allies inside the movement. However, if Iran managed to convince the NAM members, as it did in previous years, to adopt a final resolution in which they would confirm Iran’s right to take advantage of peaceful nuclear energy and also condemn presence of a single regime with nuclear weapons in the Middle East region (Israel) and the West’s use of double standards in this regard, it would be a great achievement for the Iranian diplomacy.

IPSC: In view of the current situation that governs Iran’s relations with the member states of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC] and Egypt, what consequences will presence or absence of these countries in the 16th NAM summit in Tehran have on Iran’s overall regional relations?

A: There is no doubt that their presence at the highest level will be more positive than presence at lower levels. Sometimes, the impact of the appearance of an event is much more powerful than what is actually going on and the content of discussions therein. However, let’s not forget this principle that living in continued tension with neighboring countries is not desirable for any country, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, Iran has always tried to convince its neighbors to solve their differences among themselves and believe that presence of transregional forces has never and in no juncture of the region’s history had a positive outcome for the regional states.

IPSC: What are the most important challenges and barriers on the way of holding the 16th summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran?

A: I think politicization of the meeting’s subject matters will be the most formidable impediment on its way. Although developments resulting from the Islamic Awakening have apparently had negative effects on relations among some of the regional states – almost all of which are NAM members – and this may have an undesirable impact on the summit, if this event is taken advantage of in a smart way, it will be easily turned into an opportunity. If Iran succeeds as the host of the summit to bring the viewpoints of member countries, especially Muslim ones, even slightly closer and pave the way for the adoption of a joint statement on the regional developments, this potential threat can be turned into a unique opportunity.

IPSC: In what case, holding the 16th summit meeting of NAM in Tehran could have negative consequences for the national interests of Iran?

A: The mere hosting of the meeting, regardless of its positive outcomes is, per se, in favor of the country’s national interests. However, if discussions and debates move in a direction that would make observers and mass media conclude that there is a profound divide among member countries, it would be detrimental both to us and for the entire movement. Iran should use all its diplomatic smartness, capacity and might both in this meeting, and through the next three years to prevent a number of rival or hostile states from making the rest of the world believe that the rifts among member countries have deepened under Iran’s leadership. Undoubtedly, the value and capacities of the movement, especially after its further evolution under exemplary, dynamic and powerful leadership of Iran during the next three years, will become a source of soft power for the Islamic Republic of Iran for many years to come. This is an opportunity which should not be squandered.

Key Words: Non-Aligned Movement Summit, Opportunities for Iran, New International System, Iran’s Nuclear Case, Challenges and Barriers, Golshanpazhooh

Source: International Peace Studies Centre (IPSC)
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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