Commentary Magazine


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Iran Isolated? Tell it to the UN

The Obama administration is still asserting that diplomacy and sanctions will halt Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons without the need for either Israel or the United States to resort to force. At the core of this argument is the assertion that the effort to squeeze Tehran led by Secretary of State Clinton has been largely successful with tough sanctions strangling Iran’s economy. But no one in Washington really believes that the P5+1 talks will ever be successfully revived and the methods by which the Iranians are getting around the loosely enforced sanctions are making a joke out of Clinton’s boast that her efforts would be “crippling.”

Far from being isolated, the Iranians are still enjoying the support of much of the world, something that will be made all too clear next week when the so-called Non-Aligned Movement convenes its annual meeting in Tehran. It’s bad enough that 120-member states of the group will send representatives to the gathering that will undermine any thought that the Islamist regime has no friends. But if United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon goes to the meeting too it will put a fork in the notion that the Iranians have much to worry about. That worries left-wing columnist Chemi Shalev, who writes in Haaretz that the symbolism of the UN chief arriving in the Iranian capital will be used by both Israeli and American critics of Obama’s feckless policy. He’s right.

Shalev ruefully notes that even if Ban listens to his critics and avoids the Tehran conference, the Non-Aligned Movement event will mark a watershed in the failing effort to bring the ayatollahs to heel. It will not only embarrass President Obama but also make it all too clear that those who believe the bulk of the world is against Israel are right. Since he is opposed to a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, that appalls him.

Shalev would much prefer that Ban and the rest of the world’s leaders start acting as if a regime that spouts anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and pledges to eliminate a member state of the UN — Israel — should be isolated, not honored. So would those who disagree with his views about both Iran and the peace process. But the fact remains that it is democratic Israel that is isolated. Not Iran.

This meeting will occur only a week after Iran held its annual Israel hate fest where the country’s governmental, religious and military leaders vied with each other for the honor of saying the most extreme things about the Jewish state and their ideas about wiping it off the map. That Ban would choose this particularly sensitive time to go to Tehran is a terrible miscalculation even if the non-aligned nations make up the bulk of the UN’s membership.

But whether he goes or not the non-aligned circus will just be one more piece of evidence showing the wisdom of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s belief that further reliance on diplomacy with Iran is futile. Ban’s presence will make it clear that the institution that President Obama values so highly is on record showing that his Iran policy has collapsed.