Commentary Magazine


Obama’s Mythical “International Norms”

At Tuesday’s press conference, Barack Obama said, “We have provided a path whereby Iran can reach out to the international community, engage, and become a part of international norms. . . It is up to them to make a decision as to whether they choose that path.”

Take a quick glance at the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council, and you’ll find that Iran is already toeing the international line like a real team player. Security Council permanent member Russia has, for a decade, been disappearing journalists, poisoning the opposition, assisting bad actors, and saber rattling throughout Eurasia. Permanent member China provided the very palette for the kind of brutal state crackdown on dissent we now see in the streets of Tehran. Needless to say, both countries will obstruct any effort at international condemnation of Iran should the “global community” attempt something of the sort. For the “international norms” with which Tehran is fully compliant have been reified and defended by the Security Council for decades.

So too with the Human Rights Council. The 47-seat body is the very cradle of the kind of anti-Semitism that is the lifeblood of the Iranian regime. The group UN Watch found that over 80% of the Council’s country resolutions are devoted to condemning Israel. This is the ayatollahs’ psycho-theater in global form. Or, you could say, in Iran we see the “international community” in microcosm.

Pre-press conference ingestion of truth serum would have compelled Obama to say: “We have provided a path whereby Iran can reach out, engage, and become a part of American norms.” However, one need not self-identify as a realist to see the inadvisability of that line.

But Obama’s call for the Iranians to allow assembly and dissent in the name of international norms is undermined by his twin hope: that the U.S. embrace the international bodies that embolden regimes like the one in Tehran. The week before the Obama administration announced its intention to have the U.S. sit on the UN Human Rights Council, the group passed five nonsensical resolutions against Israel and one limiting free speech. For Obama, the poles of protected freedom and accepted tyranny are really just another false choice.