The Mission of Iran’s Chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement

Friday, September 7, 2012

Interview with Mohammad Farhad Koleini
Former Iranian Ambassador to Armenia & Expert on Strategic Issues

Borhan political group: Iran’s chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a unique opportunity. During this period, Iran can play an important and crucial part in various regional designs and also redefine its power in the area of international political game. Tehran can also take advantage of this opportunity to build ideas and bolster its friendly ties with allied countries.

Throughout 16 summit meetings from Belgrade to Tehran, the Non-Aligned Movement has gone through many ups and downs part of which has been the result of diversity of cultures among the Non-Aligned Movement member states as well as the influence of other countries. Due to special importance that restoration of the member states’ identity has for the NAM, and in view of its position in shaping new international order, Borhan has discussed these and other issues in the following interview with Mohammad Farhad Koleini, former Iran’s ambassador to Armenia and a senior expert on strategic issues.

Q: Given its vastness and diversity of ideological, cultural and social issues among the NAM member states, can we possibly say that a single approach is followed by the apparently heterogeneous members of the movement in order to lessen the effects of the existing diversity among them?

A: First of all, we must see what important role is played by the common demands of member countries in promoting adhesion among NAM members and how their common motivations may guide them toward more cooperation which is the main goal of the movement? In the past, the Non-Aligned Movement had been founded to realize the goals which were meaningful under the bipolar political atmosphere of the Cold War. Establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement at that time had a special meaning because every one of two superpowers aimed to use the movement in order to achieve their own goals.

For example, the leftist political currents had a special attitude toward the movement and considered it part of a period of political and ideological transition. Drawing on theories which explained growth of non-capitalist currents, they believed that the Non-Aligned Movement would practically strengthen the leftist camp. On the other hand, the West tried to use the NAM in order to defend its culture and strategy and prevent the progress of the leftist political culture among the Third World countries.

This is why  early members and leaders of the movement were greatly influenced by the viewpoints and wishes of the big powers. A review of positions taken by countries like former Yugoslavia, Cuba, India, Indonesia and Egypt at that time will reveal how European countries tried to influence the decisions of the NAM leaders.

After the implosion of the Soviet Union and the United States’ efforts to turn into the sole hegemonic power in the world followed by the idea of “one world, one power,” the West did its best to prevent the NAM from claiming a new identity and achieving a new form of solidarity among its members. This was aimed to prevent emergence of a new political power in the international sphere. In fact, the nature of the movement, which is based on non-alignment with big powers, has been somehow influenced by the general situation in the world and political games played by major powers. As a result, the goal of building ideas as a third path in front of non-aligned countries has lost its importance.

Considering this issue, restoring the identity of the Non-Aligned Movement is of utmost importance because it would allow the movement to use its power within framework of its main mission to address existing problems in the world more effectively than any time before.

Under the present circumstances, common demands can lead to definition of new goals. A cursory glance at the present world will show that the world has entered a new era in the third millennium when new issues are of concern to international community. For example, issues related to climate change are not merely environmental concerns, but before long, they will lead to very important changes in geopolitical structure of the world. In the near future, the world will have to deal with serious changes in global food price, population shifts, conflicts over water resources, and various issues related to immigration. Therefore, such emerging issues will provide all member states of the Non-Aligned Movement with an opportunity to work on the new structure of this world body.

Another issue related to system of powers is the position and role that Russia and China have pursued in international system. At the same time, the West’s power is in gradual decline. Reduced power of the West will create a new situation in global relations which has been described by some analysts as “new multilateralism.” Anyway, the Non-Aligned Movement can enter the scene from this angle as a global player and assert its important position in the multilateral world order more than before.

It is almost certain that the world is entering a new era characterized by a combination of multipolarism and multilateralism. This situation will leave its mark on various cultural, military and economic fields, though in different ways. On the other hand, due to differences on the quality of generating solutions to problems in international system, the NAM member states shoulder an important responsibility. In fact, entering the present fluid sphere of diplomacy and making a timely effect has become very important. As a result, all countries are required to ponder establishment of a diplomatic network among countries as well as international organizations across the world.

The status of the Non-Aligned Movement as an old and overarching organization is very remarkable. The movement, due to its influence, should assert its positions on various important global issues with more care. For example, even inside the United Nations, some member countries are calling for changes in the structure of the Security Council. Some countries, which include Japan, Brazil, Germany or India, have frequently pushed for the membership in the Security Council in view of their position and their share in the international system.

Therefore, it seems that the Non-Aligned Movement is totally entitled to claim a right to vote in the Security Council which can be given to rotational chair of the movement. The right will be then carried over to the next rotational chair. From this angle, the Non-Aligned Movement can use its international position and weight to give more impetus to the idea of network diplomacy and present updated versions of the ideas of its member states about new and serious issues with which the world is currently facing.

Q: Under conditions when the West aims to remain a hegemonic power and boost its status and, on the other hand, regional powers are thinking about designing a multipolar and multilateral world system, how do you think the future world order will be? Which one of these two tendencies will prevail at the end of the day?

A: Shaping the future world order is not necessarily based on will and power, but it depends on how international basic and strategic paradigms lead to definition of a new world order. Therefore, there is a relationship between two areas of will and power, on the one side, and strategic puzzle of the world, on the other side. The new world order will be determined by a combination of these two states. Another issue which is very important in view of the position of the Non-Aligned Movement is the issue of weapons of mass destruction. “Nuclear weapons for nobody, nuclear energy for all,” is Iran's current motto in this regard which makes complete differentiation between peaceful use of the nuclear energy and its savage applications.

At present some member states of the Non-Aligned Movement have nuclear capabilities and can act as vanguards to defend the peace in international environment. Since many issues and conflicts among global powers have remained unsolved yet, NAM members can do their best to change the situation for the better. For example, a review of the West’s proposed missile defense shield will clearly reveal how the new arrangement of weapons of mass destruction and strategic defense systems has practically restricted the possibilities of peace as well as maneuvering space of many countries. The Non-Aligned Movement can play a serious role in important and sensitive plans and throw its weight behind efforts aimed at promoting global peace, creating a world free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and counteract serious international threats.

As said before, many emerging threats may not be directly related to political issues. For example, the issue of natural disasters like floods and earthquakes are of high import, especially to member states of the NAM. Therefore, this movement can have a say on how to minimize damages resulting from natural disasters, redefine its role in the global power game, appear more powerful in confrontation with new global challenges and also provide the world with more effective strategic guidelines. Today, the main issue for the Non-Aligned Movement is the need to shape a new identity and organize the movement in its confrontation with new global conditions.

Q: Due to complexities of international relations and interactions, especially at a global level, we have to interact with world powers in political fields. Now, will the independent identity that the movement is going to define for its members lead to self-centeredness, or will the Non-Aligned Movement necessarily have to interact with global powers?

A: The identity of the Non-Aligned Movement should be determined through interaction and without any imposition. This is the way that the movement’s relations with powerful countries are defined today. It seems that preventing imposition of any country’s will on others is among the most important duties of the Non-Aligned Movement because, basically, giving the opportunity to every member state to have an independent free vote is one of the main values embedded in the Non-Aligned Movement. From this viewpoint, the issue of interaction with big powers within framework of international organizations should be followed up through a more powerful and integrated mechanism in order to increase tolerance of big powers under new conditions. Due to their attitude toward their own interests and considerations as well as strategic goals, the big powers have no interest in seeing a new player entering their strategic domains.

Therefore, they are trying to downplay the importance and status of the Non-Aligned Movement. The reaction shown by some Western countries to the NAM summit in Tehran attests to this fact. Anyway, it seems that the main approach adopted by the world powers is to prevent entry of a new player into the world’s political scene. As a result of this attitude, the approach taken by the NAM member states should seek to increase solidarity among them and boost their capacities to play a global role. Members of the Non-Aligned Movement should prove this and try to force the powerful states of the world to recognize the voice of the non-aligned states more than before.

Q: What is your opinion about Iran’s role in shaping general strategy of the Non-Aligned Movement?

A: Iran should watch the actions and reactions of the leaders of some member states like India while following up on the issue of anti-American resistance in the Latin America. In fact, issues related to the Latin America should not be considered as merely regional, but should be dealt with at an international level within framework of the Non-Aligned Movement. Iran should also change priorities in the case of Syria. In fact, Tehran must take the initiative and set the priorities. On the whole, all Iranian institutions should have gotten involved in this summit. On the other hand, we must make the most of the summit’s capacities in dealing with different issues, including the Islamic human rights.

Key Words: Iran’s Chairmanship, NAM, Regional Designs, International Political Game, Diversity of Cultures, New International Order, Koleini

Source: Borhan News Site
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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