Ban’s surprisingly effective Iran visit
September 5th, 2012
11:31 AM ET

Ban’s surprisingly effective Iran visit

By Daniel R. DePetris, Special to CNN

Daniel R. DePetris is the senior associate editor of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis.  The views expressed are his own.

The highly-publicized trip last week to Tehran by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was supposed to be a prime opportunity for the Iranian leadership to demonstrate to the rest of the world that the country still has a vital role to play in international diplomacy, despite four rounds of Security Council sanctions and tough economic pressure from the United States and the European Union.

Indeed, afraid that a visit to the Iranian capital by Ban would sabotage a steady and persistent campaign against Tehran on a whole range of issues, Obama administration officials and members of Congress spent a considerable amount of time urging Ban to skip the summit and bypass Iran entirely.  The Washington Post editorial board, for its part, came out swinging with its own impassioned plea to dissuade the secretary general from making the trip: “By attending the Tehran conference, Mr. Ban will dignify a bacchanal of nonsense.”

All those concerns, however, may have been misplaced. To the delight of many in the United States, Israel, Europe, and any other country working for a more stable Middle East, Ban did what he said he would: put the Iranians on notice by expressing the international community’s worries, from Tehran’s active support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to its assault on political freedoms within the Islamic Republic.

A mere hours after exiting his plane, he publicly called upon the leaders of the Islamic Republic to improve its own human rights record, to the shock and obvious disgruntlement of Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly who was right beside the secretary general. “We have discussed how the United Nations can work together with Iran to improve the human rights situation in Iran,” Ban said. “We have our serious concerns on the human rights abuses and violations in this country.”

If those remarks were not shocking enough to the Iranian leadership, Ban had other pointed words for Iran’s leaders. Rather than catering to Tehran’s official line that its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes, Ban strongly urged the Iranian government to go out of its way to prove to the world that those words should be taken seriously. Ban’s plea rings especially true today, after yet another failed attempt by the International Atomic Energy Agency to obtain the access it needs to verify the regime’s argument.

Taken together, Ban’s statements are the equivalent of a one-two punch to the Iranian leadership. For a start, the secretary general has once again put the issues of uranium enrichment and human rights on the world’s agenda – two issues that the Islamic Republic hoped to avoid as it attempted to spin its hosting of the NAM summit as a diplomatic victory against the United States, Israel, and the EU. But what is far more important is that the comments illustrate the extent of Ban’s unease about Tehran’s behavior, particularly on some of the very same issues that NAM as an organization has dedicated itself to upholding. And while the words themselves may not have been revelatory, the fact that the head of the United Nations is making them in full public view, right beside senior Iranian officials in the middle of its capital, is the most obvious sign yet that the world’s preeminent multilateral organization is invested in solving the problem.

It was, of course, not a total loss for the Iranians. The conclusion of the NAM summit provided Tehran with at least some support for its nuclear work from the 120-nation bloc.  Yet even the NAM’s unanimous support for Iran’s peaceful nuclear program can be taken as more a reflection of the bloc’s backing for the principles of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (which includes the right of a signatory state to take ownership of the uranium enrichment cycle, provided it’s for a peaceful objective) than for their host specifically. In fact, it would not be a surprise to learn that Tehran’s uncooperative relationship with the IAEA frustrates some members of the NAM who one day may like to start their own nuclear energy programs.

Much of the commentariat in the United States and Israel was firmly against the secretary general meeting directly with representatives of the Islamic Republic.  Yet ironically, Ban’s decision to go, despite the criticism, may have succeeded in doing something Washington, Israel, the EU, and the Arab Gulf states could only dream of – pressuring Iran, on its own soil, to come clean on its nuclear program, tamp down on its dissent of political debate, and cease its material and arms support to an embattled Syrian dictator trying to kill his way out of a popular revolution.

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Topics: Iran • United Nations

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soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Bak Ki Moon

    I'm so ballin.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  2. Hahahahahahahaha

    Nothing accomplished. Why bother? Hahahahahahhahahaha

    September 5, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Killer O'Bama

      Well said, Hahahahahahahaha! Thank you.

      September 5, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  3. Patrick

    What a pleasant surprise here! It's good to know that Bak Ki Moon for one time didn't carry out orders from Washington and went ahead and visited Iran. This proves that he's not on the C.I.A. payroll!

    September 5, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Willie 12345

      The idiot calling himself Patrick has no idea what he is talking about. A little research and he would know he is wrong. However, it suits him to tell lies because he is an imbecile Pakistani muslim whose only reason to live is to create problems. He keeps stealing Patrick's name as if he feels it makes him sound smarter but, he is still an ignorant idiot. I have come to understand that he is totally masochistic and it irks me to help him along but he is a moron and his children will be morons.

      September 5, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
      • Say You Say Me

        Mahatma Gandhi and Jerry Sandusky: Strange Bedfellows

        What do these two have in common???? Terrorizing and banging boys two at a time !!!! Shame. Let us erase their memories and trash their legacies . Let us knock their statues down.

        September 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
      • Joseph McCarthy/Quigley/LyndsieGraham/krm1007©™/JoeCollins/J. Foster Dulles/Marine5484/OldManClark/Willie12345/KillerO'Bama/Patrick-2/USMCForever

        What about Mohammed the pedophile?

        September 6, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  4. j. von hettlingen

    Indeed Ban Ki-Moon and Egypt's president Mohammed Morsi were the stars of the NAM summit in Tehran last week. They stole the show from their hosts, who didn't seems to have reaped the diplomatic prestige Iran had been looking for. Ban, who had himself been criticised for attending the event, spoke out against Iran's position on Israel.
    Morsi, then attacked the Syrian government, calling the uprising a "revolution against an oppressive regime", causing a walk-out by the Syrian delegation and his hosts an embarrassment. But it didn't raise hackles in Iran as his speech had been "misinterpreted". Egypt had been holding the rotating NAM presidency and Morsi was handing the duty over to Iran during his short visit in Tehran, the first from an Egyptian president since the 1970's.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Ekram

      Why everyone hyping/making so much of Ban ki moon's visit to Iran? I am sure Iranians were not expecting any Noble Peace Prize from him anyway. But the press, mostly in the west, is making such a big deal deal by trying to prove hey guys even the head of UN think Iran is a bad country......well, since when we think that Iran was in UN's good book? It was never in the good books so why Iran will expect any different now? Ban ki Moon is just the head of a UN body and he is suppose to do what he did by going to Iran and attending NAM. If he had not done that I, for one, would have labled him being a biased man. So he did go and did or said was up to him, period!

      September 6, 2012 at 2:08 am |
      • Willie12345

        Had Ban Ki Moon not made that trip to Iran Ekram, I's suspect him of being on the C.I.A. payroll. Like Patrick said, we should be very glad that he's not! There are already far too many people on that payroll as it is!!!

        September 6, 2012 at 5:28 am |
      • Willie12345

        I have PMS (Pakistani Muslim Sc um).
        My brain is full of puss.
        I resent my mother monkey although I find it attractive.
        I have no idea what I say, I only hope to hurt someone, anyone.

        September 6, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  5. r.c.lawson

    well done I say, there is nothing quite like "a few well placed words",.. and what better location than in the belly of the beast,, smart move sir!,..quaere??.. how many Iranians heard those words?.. how many react? many will now compare Mr Moons words with their "leaders"??.. language is very important[as we can see from some of the comments here, no?],, how you say something is just as important as what you say,, and at times where!! you say it,..nice to see the UN waking up to this reality and using the tool where it can be the most!! effective,..more please!["please sir, we want some more"[dickens]..

    September 6, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  6. mardjan

    I don't think Iranians were looking for prestige. They are the presidents of the NAM and they hosted a meeting. I believe the speech of Moon has as much influence in Iran as if the ayatollah would come to the states and say that all women should wear the hijab. It is just an alien concept for them. However it was a good opportunity for the UN to size up the ayatollah. He has turned into an amazing politician over the last 30 years and he is a force to be reckoned with.

    September 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  7. USMC Forever

    Joseph McCarthy/Quigley/LyndsieGraham/krm1007©™/Joe Collins/J. Foster Dulles/Marine5484/OldManClark/Willie12345/KillerO'Bama/Patrick-2/USMC Forever
    I am the same guy. I am a useless piece of camel dung who works at the moron stage. I post anti-American, anti GB, anti-Semite, anti-India, anti-modern anything because I am a good Moslem from Pakistan. I am so ashamed of myself and I post the most stupid comments because I am an imbecile. Mohammed the pedophile has taught me well. When people get angry with me, I claim they are the stupid ones. If I am not careful, my brain will explode because it is so full of hate and puss.

    September 6, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  8. James Elvert

    This is the US media that is hyping Ban's and Morsi's speeches in Iran. It is part of the propaganda war. Morsi needs the annual 3 billion dollars US help. He also needs Saudi's and Persian Gulf Arab states' financial support. Egypt is bankrupt. Moon's loyalty to the US is not questioned although he discovered that it is more intelligent to travel to Iran rather than being so dumb as to staying away and making himself the laughing stock of the 120 NAM members that make the bulk of general assembly. CNN should stop calling 20-30 countries for international community. China+India+Russia and plus all those countries in NAM make at least 80% of the world population. Aren't they international community ?

    September 7, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • mardjan

      I think that Iranians as a growing regional power are just asserting themselves as a player in many different issues, Syria, Lebanon, etc. The fact that there are people holding a different point of view is normal and it is always good to have a forum for discussion and where smaller countries can go for help.

      September 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  9. to the point

    Ok all that worries for nothing. Ban proved to be our dog after all. LOL

    September 7, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Patrick

      Whom do you mean by "our"?
      You certainly are not American nor European, you are a muzzie pig.

      September 7, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  10. great- rocky-mountains


    I tend to agree with you. However, given the fact that John Bolton called Mr. Ban Ki-moon a "great man for the job " would indicate that he is "our" guy, period. John Bolton calls no one a great guy unless "WE" are holding his leash.

    September 7, 2012 at 4:44 pm |

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