Commentary Magazine


Topic: Nonaligned Movement

Iran’s Prominent Visitors Go Off Script

It’s always nice to see a totalitarian propaganda show disappoint its sponsors. Thus it’s hard to avoid chortling at the embarrassment suffered by Iranian leaders today when the much-heralded meeting of the Nonaligned Movement in Tehran went off in an unscripted direction.

The ayatollahs had made much of the attendance of President Mohammad Morsi of Egypt–the largest Arab state–and of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations. But they could not have liked what they heard from the two prominent visitors. Morsi openly came out in support of the revolt being waged by the Syrian people against Bashar Assad–Iran’s closest ally in the regime. “The Syrian people are fighting with courage, looking for freedom and human dignity,” he said prompting the Syrian ambassador to walk out.

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It’s always nice to see a totalitarian propaganda show disappoint its sponsors. Thus it’s hard to avoid chortling at the embarrassment suffered by Iranian leaders today when the much-heralded meeting of the Nonaligned Movement in Tehran went off in an unscripted direction.

The ayatollahs had made much of the attendance of President Mohammad Morsi of Egypt–the largest Arab state–and of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations. But they could not have liked what they heard from the two prominent visitors. Morsi openly came out in support of the revolt being waged by the Syrian people against Bashar Assad–Iran’s closest ally in the regime. “The Syrian people are fighting with courage, looking for freedom and human dignity,” he said prompting the Syrian ambassador to walk out.

Ban also denounced the repression carried out by the Syrian government with Iranian help. Then, even better, he upbraided the Iranian leadership for threatening to annihilate Israel and for denying the Holocaust. “I strongly reject threats by any member state to destroy another or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts, such as the Holocaust,” he said.

The Iranian news media apparently did not report Morsi’s or Ban’s remarks but it seems certain that they will be become widely known within Iran, thus presenting a strong counterpoint to the propaganda line of the regime.

That said, we should not get carried away–ruthless dictatorships like the one that rules Iran can suffer a lot of embarrassment with impunity. And however discredited the regime becomes, it still yields considerable power both within Iran and outside of it–and that power will only grow unless something more is done to stop its nuclear weapons program, which has not been slowed in the slightest by the latest diplomatic efforts emanating from Washington nor even, so far, by a new round of sanctions. The Wall Street Journal reports, for example, that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s top nuclear weapons scientist, is back at work.

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