The Non-Aligned Movement’s statement of support for Iran’s nuclear program and policies, along with its ongoing opposition to sanctions against the regime, again calls into question Obama administration claims that the international community is solidly united on the matter.
Not only do NAM’s 120 members make up a majority of states in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly, they also include several U.S. allies and some of the top recipients of U.S. foreign aid. Iran is the current chairman.
In a statement delivered in Vienna, NAM welcomed “the continued cooperation between Iran and the IAEA as was stated in the last report issued by the Director General Yukiya Amano.”
In fact, Amano’s latest report to the IAEA’s 35-member board of governors highlighted ways in which Iran is not cooperating, including blocking inspectors’ access to a military site suspected to have been used for nuclear weapons experiments.
“The agency remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” Amano wrote in the Feb. 19 report.
In its statement, NAM reiterated its view that negotiations and diplomacy alone can lead to a resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue.
It voiced again its support for the “undeniable right of all nations to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” and its opposition to any attempt to restrict any country’s rights in doing so.
IAEA head Amano underlined the concerns about Iran’s cooperation in an address to the board of governors in Vienna this week, saying that the IAEA “is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”
“Iran has yet to provide explanation that enables the agency to clarify two outstanding practical measures,” he added, referring to unresolved questions about Iran’s experimentation in large-scale high explosives work and neutron transport studies – both of which can be relevant to nuclear weapons development.
Amano called on Iran to increase its cooperation and to provide in a timely fashion “access to all relevant information, documentation, sites, material and personnel in Iran, as requested by the agency.”
Noting that Iran was meant to have addressed the outstanding issues by last August, he added, “The process cannot continue indefinitely.”
“Once the agency has established an understanding of the whole picture concerning issues with ‘possible military dimensions,’ I will provide a report with our assessment to the board.”
Amano said he had stressed in a recent meeting with Zarif “the need to resolve as soon as possible all outstanding issues relating to Iran’s nuclear program.”
His statement did not elaborate on the lack of access to “sites,” but his report does, saying Iran continues to deny inspectors access to Parchin, a military site near Tehran.
Furthermore, it says that activity which has taken place at Parchin over recent years will make it more difficult to establish what has been going on there, even if the agency is admitted in the future.
The world ‘stands as one’
The administration periodically asserts that the international community is “united” or “unified” in the effort to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear programs.
“Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one,” President Obama said in his 2012 State of the Union address.
“[T]he world is united in its resolve to address this issue,” he said in a Persian new year greeting to the Iranian people in 2013
“The world is united,” Obama repeated in a statement when an interim nuclear agreement was reached with Iran later that same year.
In a joint press availability with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month, the president referred to a trust deficit between “the world and Iran.”
While it is true that all five permanent U.N. Security Council members are involved in the negotiations attempting to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran in the coming weeks, NAM is a reminder that a significant number of governments do side with Iran in the dispute.
Often dismissed by the West as an irrelevant talking shop, NAM still enjoys considerable potential clout at the U.N. – including at the IAEA, where it accounts for 40 percent of the current board of governors.
The grouping, which was formed as a bloc of supposedly non-aligned developing nations during the Cold War, has been led at times by countries hostile to the U.S., with Cuba (twice), Zimbabwe and now Iran at the helm. Venezuela is expected to take over from Iran later this year.
NAM also includes several close U.S. partners, including India, Singapore, South Africa, Colombia, and Saudi Arabia, as well as nine countries designated “major non-NATO allies” by U.S. administrations since 1989 – Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand.
NAM members include nine of the ten countries in line to receive the most U.S. foreign aid in fiscal year 2015 – Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Mozambique. (The exception is Israel.)
When Iran assumed the rotating chairmanship in 2012, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), then-chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on “responsible” democracies to withdraw from the bloc.
Only a small handful of NAM members have left over the years: Malta and Cyprus left the bloc when they joined the European Union in 2004, and Argentina withdrew in 1991, arguing that NAM’s raison d’etre no longer existed given the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Yugoslavia was a founding member and hosted the first NAM summit in 1961, but after the country disintegrated in the 1990s none of the successor states joined.
Ukraine was an observer member until late last year, when lawmakers passed a bill abandoning their country’s official non-aligned status.