Iran to Assume Leadership of Bloc That Includes Key U.S. Allies and U.S. Aid Recipients

By Patrick Goodenough | August 8, 2012 | 4:36 AM EDT

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets with former President Fidel Castro during a visit to Cuba in January 2012. Iran is assuming the rotating chairmanship of the NonMovement for three years, a position held by Cuba from 2006-2009. (Photo: Iranian presidency)

( – At a time when the U.S. is leading efforts to isolate Iran, almost two-thirds of the worlds independent nations including key recipients of U.S. aid and nine of Americas major non-NATO allies belong to a intergovernmental organization that is about to let Tehran set its agenda for the next three years.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is preparing to host the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a grouping of developing nations formed during the Cold War as a supposedly neutral bloc aligned neither with the West nor the Soviet Union.

The August 26-31 summit kicks off Irans three-year chairmanship of the 120-member organization, taking over from Egypt. As the NAM lacks a permanent structure or secretariat, the government chairing it plays a key role in directing the bloc.

(When communist Cuba hosted the 14th summit in 2006 to begin its three-year presidency, the gathering produced documents and declarations laden with veiled criticism of the U.S. numerous references to hegemony, unilateralism and attempts to impose a unipolar world as well as expressions of support for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez  in the face of U.S. aggression and backing for Irans right to nuclear energy.)

Iran has already announced that one of its primary ambitions is to launch an international news agency to promote NAMs agenda. That agenda, according to a 1979 document called the Havana Declaration (the product of the last time Cuba held the chair), is to ensure the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries in their struggle against imperialism, colonialism, apartheid , racism and Zionism and all foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.

Irans foreign ministry says more than 30 heads of state have so far accepted invitations to attend the summit while others will send foreign ministers, ambassadors or other senior officials.

NAM comprises scores of countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and even one in Europe, Belarus together accounting for just short of two-thirds of the 193 countries making up the U.N. General Assembly.

Members include nine of the ten countries receiving the most U.S. foreign aid in fiscal year 2012 Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania. (The exception is Israel.)

NAMs ranks also include nine countries designated major non-NATO allies by U.S. administrations since 1989 Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, the Philippines, Thailand, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Other NAM members, regarded as crucial U.S. partners in their respective parts of the world, include India, Singapore, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Governments whose relations with the U.S. or hostile or at least cool have dominated the NAM leadership in recent years, including Malaysia (chair from 2003-2006), Cuba (2006-2009) and now Iran (2012-2015). In three years time, Venezuela is set to take the helm.

Once again, the so-called Non-Aligned Movement reveals itself to be very much aligned with anti-American rogue regimes, including its upcoming head, Iran, and former heads like the Castro brothers Cuba and Mugabes Zimbabwe, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commented Tuesday. Apparently, at the NAM, sponsoring violent extremism and pursuing illicit nuclear weapons capabilities is an asset, not a black mark.

Iran will use its new leadership position and the upcoming NAM summit in Tehran to advance its anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-freedom agenda, charged Ros-Lehtinen. Those member countries of NAM who do not buy in to this poisonous program should leave NAM, ending their association with this tool for rogue regimes.

A handful of NAM members have withdrawn over the years, including Malta and Cyprus, which left the bloc when they joined the European Union in 2004; and Argentina, which pulled out in 1991, arguing that it had no reason to exist after the Soviet Union collapsed. Yugoslavia was a founding member and hosted the first ever NAM summit, in 1961, but after the country disintegrated in the 1990s none of the successor states joined the bloc.

The bulk of members remained in the organization despite the end of the Cold War, however, and despite in some cases strong ties with the United States.

While NAM is far from cohesive, bloc voting by many of its members is common in the U.N. General Assembly, where by sheer force of numbers it can wield considerable influence.

Last October, for instance, NAM circulated in New York a request from the Assad regime for members not to support a European-drafted resolution on human rights abuses in Syria.

That appeal from Damascus was not particularly successful, given the strong Arab views on the conflict, but even so, NAM members provided all 11 no votes as well as almost all of the 43 abstentions when the resolution was passed in December.

The situation was basically repeated in February, and again last week, when the General Assembly voted on two further Syria resolutions.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow