Critics Call for Iran’s Suspension from U.N. As It Prepares to Host ‘Non-Aligned’ Summit

Patrick Goodenough | August 15, 2012 | 4:34am EDT
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Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

( – As Tehran prepares to host its largest international gathering ever – a summit it says United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend – critics launched a campaign Tuesday calling for Iran to be suspended from the U.N. for violating the world body’s charter.

The advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) argued that two articles in the U.N. Charter are applicable to Iran: One allows for the expulsion of a member state for persistently violating the charter’s principles, while the other provides for suspension of  “rights and privileges of membership” of a state against which the Security Council has taken “preventive or enforcement action.”

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed launching the campaign, UANI CEO Mark Wallace and UANI president Kristen Silverberg joined former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton in making the call.

“The U.N. Charter provides that membership is open to “peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and … are able and willing to carry out these obligations,” they noted. “The Islamic Republic clearly doesn’t fit this bill.”

They writers cited Iranian leaders’ calls for Israel’s destruction, Holocaust denial, support for the Assad regime’s violence crackdown, and nuclear activities that have drawn condemnation by the International Atomic Energy Agency and sanctions by the Security Council.

Despite this conduct, wrote Wallace, Silverberg and Bolton, “the U.N. has embraced Iranian leaders.”

They pointed to Iran’s unanimous election in 2010 onto the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, and its election last month to a leadership role at a U.N. conference negotiating an arms trade treaty.

According to articles four and five of the U.N. Charter, expulsion of a member-state, or suspension of its “rights and privileges,” requires a decision by the General Assembly, taken on the recommendation of the Security Council.

A two-thirds vote would be needed in the General Assembly – at least 128 countries out of the 192 total – while at least nine votes would be required in the 15-member Security Council, coupled with no veto by any of the five permanent members.

Wallace, Silverberg and Bolton acknowledged that achieving suspension or expulsion “would be extraordinarily difficult” but suggested that bringing the matter to a vote would have value in itself, forcing countries to take a public stand one way or the other.

“Will Russia and China veto a suspension resolution in the council, as they have recently vetoed sanctions resolutions against the Assad dictatorship in Syria? If so, let them reveal the true character of their own regimes, and the behind-the-scenes reality of the U.N. itself.”

No U.N. member state has been suspended or expelled under articles four or five of the charter, although in 1971 the General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution expelling Taiwan. Its seat was handed to the communist People’s Republic of China, and Taiwan’s attempts since 1993 to rejoin the world body have been blocked by Beijing and its allies.

A bid in 1974 to expel the white majority government of South Africa for its apartheid policies was vetoed in the Security Council by permanent members the U.S., Britain and France.  The General Assembly in response suspended South Africa from participating in its work, citing charter violations – a suspension that lasted until the first democratic election in 1994.

Last May, UANI launched a campaign calling on the International Monetary Fund to either suspend Iran’s IMF membership, or to close the accounts that it holds with Iran’s sanctioned Central Bank.

Wallace, who served as U.S. representative for U.N. management and reform in the George W. Bush administration, founded UANI in 2008, together with the late former ambassador and assistant secretary of state Richard Holbrooke, former CIA Director James Woolsey and former U.S. Mideast negotiator Dennis Ross.

Silverberg was U.S. ambassador to the European Union in the Bush administration, and held other senior posts including assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, deputy assistant to the president and advisor to the White House chief of staff.

Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in 2005-6 and was earlier the Bush administration’s top arms control official.


Iran later this month is hosting a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, a bloc of 120 developing countries. The summit also begins Iran’s three-year presidency of the organization, whose members together account for almost two-thirds of the U.N. General Assembly.

Iranian state media say secretary-general Ban will attend the August 26-31 summit, although U.N. spokesmen have repeatedly declined to comment, most recently on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier urged Ban during a phone conversation not to go.

“Even if it is not your intention, your visit will grant legitimacy to a regime that is the greatest threat to world peace and security,” Netanyahu told him, according to a statement released by the prime minister’s office.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a briefing on Tuesday the Israeli attempt would fail. He said more than 50 countries have already confirmed their delegations would be headed by their president, prime minister, vice president or foreign minister.

Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, spokesman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, said in a Tehran Times op-ed Wednesday that hosting the summit would bolster Iran’s international stature.

“Hosting a summit of such size in Iran’s capital will prove Iran’s capabilities at the international level and spike in the idea that Iran has been isolated by the West’s sanctions,” he wrote.

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