Non-Aligned Movement

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Peers, we’ll be hearing a lot more from the nations in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) from now on.  Can this not be seen as a positive development?  The Helsinki Conference convenes next month.  Date to be announced.

Armageddon appears to be approaching climax.  Is it possible to make a distinction between the good guys and the bad guys?  Let’s focus on the issues and participate in the International Debate.

I’ve done some highlighting in the article pasted below.  Does everybody see the irony in this situation? 

Peace,Roy

Iran Calls for Nuclear Abolition by 2025 at the NAM Summit in Tehran

By Alice Slater

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), formed in 1961 during the Cold War, is a group of 120 states and 17 observer states not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. The NAM held its opening 2012 session yesterday under the new chairmanship of Iran, which succeeded Egypt as the Chair.

Significantly, an Associated Press story in the Washington Post headlined, “Iran opens nonaligned summit with calls for nuclear arms ban”, reported that “Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi opened the gathering by noting commitment to a previous goal from the nonaligned group, known as NAM, to remove the world’s nuclear arsenals within 13 years. ‘We believe that the timetable for ultimate removal of nuclear weapons by 2025, which was proposed by NAM, will only be realized if we follow it up decisively,’ he told delegates.”

Yet the New York Times, which has been beating the drums for war with Iran, just as it played a disgraceful role in the deceptive reporting during the lead-up to the Iraq War, never mentioned Iran’s proposal for nuclear abolition. The Times carried the bland headline on its front page, “At Summit Meeting, Iran Has a Message for the World”, and then went on to state, “the message is clear. As Iran plays host to the biggest international conference …it wants to tell its side of the long standoff with the Western powers which are increasingly convinced that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons”, without ever reporting Iran’s offer to support the NAM proposal for the abolition of nuclear weapons by 2025.

Surely the most sensible way to deal with Iran’s nascent nuclear weapons capacity is to call all the nations to the table to negotiate a treaty to ban the bomb. That would mean abolishing the 20,000 nuclear bombs on the planet—in the US, UK, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel—with 19,000 of them in the US and Russia. In order to get Russia and China to the table, the US will also have to give up its dreams of dominating the earth with missile “defenses” which, driven by corrupt military contractors and a corporate- owned Congress, are currently being planted and based in provocative rings around Russia and China.

The ball is in the U.S. court to make good faith efforts for nuclear abolition. That would be the only principled way to deal with fears of nuclear proliferation. The US must start with a genuine offer for negotiations to finally ban the bomb in all countries, including a freeze on further missile development. It should stop beating up on Iran and North Korea while it hypocritically continues to improve and expand the US arsenal, with tens of billions of dollars for new weapons laboratories and bomb delivery systems, and fails failing to speak out against the nuclear activities of other nations such as the enrichment of uranium in Japan and Brazil and the nuclear arsenal of Israel.

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As per usual, Avnery speaks with wisdom and insight about the developing situation in the Middle East, and it’s encouraging to see that he is still quietly confident that there will be no Israeli attack on Iran. At the same time, as Avnery recognises, Netanyahu is a volatile figure, and I suspect that most of us will sleep more easily when he has exited the scene.

Father Dave

Read more wisdom from Uri Avnery on the Gush Shalom website

The March of Folly

NOTHING COULD be more scary than the thought that this duo – Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak – is in a position to start a war, the dimensions and outcome of which are incalculable. 

It’s scary not only because of their ideological fixations and mental outlook, but also because of the level of their intelligence.

The last month gave us a small sample. By itself it was but a passing episode. But as an illustration of their decision-making abilities, it was frightening enough.

THE ROUTINE conference of the Movement of Non-Aligned Nations was to take place in Tehran. 120 states promised to attend, many of them represented by their presidents or prime ministers.

This was bad news for the Israeli government, which has devoted much of its energies during the last three years to the strenuous effort to isolate Iran – while Iran was devoted to a no less strenuous effort to isolate Israel.

If the location of the conference was not bad enough, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, announced that he would attend, too. And as if this was still not bad enough, the new president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, also promised to come.

Netanyahu was faced with a problem: how to react?

IF A wise expert had been consulted, he might have asked: why react at all?

The Non-Aligned Movement is an empty shell. It was created [or “founded”] 51 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, by Nehru of India, Tito of Yugoslavia, Sukarno of Indonesia and Abd-al-Nasser of Egypt. 120 nations joined. They wanted to steer a course between the American and the Soviet blocs.

Since then, circumstances have changed completely. The Soviets have disappeared, and the US is also not what it was. Tito, Nehru, Nasser and Sukarno are all dead. The Non-Aligned have no real function anymore. But it is much easier to set up an international organization than to disband it. Its secretariat provides jobs, its conferences provide photo opportunities, world leaders like to travel and schmooze.

If Netanyahu had kept quiet, chances are that the world media would have ignored the non-event altogether. CNN and Aljazeera might have devoted a full three minutes to it, out of courtesy, and that would have been that.

But for Netanyahu, keeping quiet is not an option. So he did something exceedingly foolish: he told Ban Ki-moon not to go to Tehran. More precisely: he ordered him not to go.

The aforementioned wise expert – if he existed – would have told Netanyahu: Don’t! The Non-aligned make up more than 60% of the UN membership. Ban wants to be re-elected in due course, and he is not going to insult 120 voters, much as you wouldn’t want to insult 80 members of the Knesset. His predecessors have attended all former conferences. He cannot refuse now – especially not after you publicly ordered him around.

Then there was Morsi. What to do about him?

If another wise expert, this time on Egypt, had been asked, he would have given much the same advice: let it be.

Egypt wants to resume its role as the leader of the Arab world and as an actor on the international stage. The new president, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, certainly would not want to be seen giving in to Israeli pressure.

So, as the Hebrew saying goes, better to swallow a frog – even two frogs – then do something foolish.

BUT NETANYAHU couldn’t possibly follow such advice. It’s would be contrary to his nature. So he and his assistants proclaimed loudly – very loudly – that the 120 attending countries are supporting Iran’s effort to annihilate Israel, and that Ban and Morsi are promoting a Second Holocaust.

Instead of isolating Iran, Netanyahu helped Iran to isolate Israel.

The more so as both Ban and Morsi used the Tehran stage to castigate the Iranian leadership and its Syrian allies. Ban condemned Ahmadinejad’s denial of the holocaust as well as his proclaimed hopes for the disappearance of the “Zionist entity”. Morsi went even further and castigated the murderous Syrian regime, Iran’s main ally.

(This speech was broadcast live on Iranian television. The translator evoked general admiration for his presence of mind. Whenever Morsi said in Arabic “Syria”, the translator said in Farsi “Bahrain”.)

THIS WHOLE episode is important only insofar as it illustrates the incredible folly of Netanyahu and his close advisers (all of them handpicked by his wife, Sarah, easily the most unpopular person in the country). They seem to be cut off from the real world and to live in an imagined world of their own.

In this imaginary world, Israel is the center of the universe, and Netanyahu can give orders to the leaders of the nations, from Barack Obama and Angela Merkel to Mohamed Morsi and Ban Ki-moon.

Well, we are not the center of the world. We have a lot of influence, owing in part to our history. We are a regional power, much beyond our actual size. But to be really effective, we need allies, moral standing and the support of international public opinion, just like everybody else. Without this, Netanyahu’s pet project, to secure for himself a place in the history books by attacking Iran, cannot be carried out.

I know that many eyebrows were raised when I categorically stated that neither Israel nor the US would attack Iran. It seemed that I was risking my reputation – such as it is – while Netanyahu and Barak were preparing for the inevitable bombing run. When talk about the impending attack reached a crescendo, my few well-wishers were sincerely worried.

However, during the last few days, there has been an almost imperceptible change of tone here. Netanyahu declared that the “family of nations” must lay down a “red line” and timetable for stopping Iran’s nuclear arms effort.

Translated into simple Hebrew: there will be no Israeli attack, unless approved by the US. Such approval is impossible before the coming US elections. It is highly unlikely afterwards, too, for the reasons I tried to set out. Geographical, military, political and economic circumstances make it impossible. Diplomacy is called for. A compromise based on mutual interests and respect may be the best outcome.

An Israeli commentator has made the interesting suggestion that the President of the United States – after the elections – personally travel to Teheran and reach out to the Iranian people. That is no more improbable than Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China. I would add the suggestion that while he is at it, the President come to Jerusalem, too, to seal the compromise.

A YEAR and a half ago, I also dared to suggest that the Arab Spring would be good for Israel.

At the time, it was a common assumption in Israel, and throughout the West, that Arab democracy would lead to a surge of political Islam, and that this would present a mortal danger to Israel. The first part of the assumption was right, the second was wrong.

The obscurantist demonization of Islam can be dangerously misleading. The painting of Islam as a murderous, inherently anti-Semitic religion, can lead to destructive consequences. Fortunately, the dire forecasts are being disproved daily.

In the homeland of the Arab Awakening, Tunisia, a moderate Islamic regime has taken root. In Libya, where commentators foresaw chaos and permanent civil war between the tribes, chances for stability are growing. So are the chances that Islamists will play a positive role in post-Assad Syria.

And most importantly – the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is behaving with exemplary caution. Six thousand years of Egyptian wisdom is having a moderating effect on the Brothers, including Brother Morsi. In the few weeks of his rule, he has already demonstrated a remarkable ability for compromising with divergent interests – with the secular liberals and the army command in his own country, with the US, even with Israel. He is now engaged in an effort to settle things with the Sinai Bedouins, addressing their (justified) grievances and calling a halt to military action.

It is, of course, much too early to tell, but I believe that a rejuvenated Arab world, in which moderate Islamic forces play an important role (as they do in Turkey), may form the environment for Israeli-Arab peace. If we desire peace.

For this to happen, we must break out of Netanyahu’s imaginary world and return to the real world, the exciting, changing, challenging world of the 21st century.

Otherwise we will just add another sad chapter to the late Barbara Tuchman’s brilliant book, The March of Folly.

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Father Roy writes:  This article was published in today’s Jerusalem Post.  The highlights are mine.  The meeting will take place from August 29 – 31.   

Peace, Roy 

UN chief announces he will attend Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Tehran despite US and Israeli opposition.

08/22/2012

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s decision Wednesday to go to Tehran for the Non-Aligned Movement’s (NAM) summit will make it more difficult for him and others to convince Israel to give diplomacy more time in dealing with Iran, government officials said.

The official said this was a “bad day for all those who wanted to see the exercise of vibrant diplomacy” end the Iranian crisis, because Ban’s visit will decrease Iran’s isolation and render hollow the argument that all peaceful means are being used – including diplomatic isolation – to press Tehran.

“This undermines the diplomatic pressure,” the official said. “Iran will view this as a victory, and say that as a result they are not isolated.

On the contrary, the leadership will be able to tell their people that international leaders are visiting their capital.”

By deciding to attend the conference, Ban has turned a deaf ear to direct appeals from the US and Israel, who urged him not to go.

A statement issued by his office said Ban will visit Tehran from August 29-31 and “looks forward” to the summit and working with the visiting leaders, “including the host country,” towards solutions on issues that are “central to the global agenda.”

The statement said Ban “takes seriously his responsibility and that of the United Nations to pursue diplomatic engagement with all of its member states in the interest of peacefully addressing vital matters of peace and security.”

His decision to attend the conference comes just days after he condemned the Iranian leadership’s recent “offensive and inflammatory” comments about Israel.

“The secretary-general is dismayed by the remarks threatening Israel’s existence attributed over the last two days to the supreme leader and the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the UN press office said over the weekend.

Wednesday’s statement said that Ban would use his visit to “convey the clear concerns and expectations of the international community on the issues for which cooperation and progress are urgent, for both regional stability and the welfare of the Iranian people. These include Iran’s nuclear program, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a phone conversation with Ban two weeks ago, implored him to stay away from the conference, saying his presence would grant legitimacy to the regime at a time when it needed to be isolated. He said Ban’s visit now would be a “horrible mistake” that would forever stain both Ban and the UN.
“Mr. Secretary-General, your place is not in Tehran,” Netanyahu told Ban.

Netanyahu came under some criticism at the time for publicizing what he said in the conversation. Some also argued that he backed Ban into a corner, and that if the secretary-general then decided not to go he would appear to be doing Israel’s bidding.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office rejected that criticism, saying it was important to make this message public and that Netanyahu did not violate any diplomatic codes by making public what he – not what Ban – said in the conversation.

On Monday US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also called on Ban to stay away from the conference.

“Iran is going to try to manipulate this NAM summit and the attendees to advance its own agenda, and to obscure the fact that it is failing to live up to multiple obligations that it has to the UN Security Council, the International Atomic Energy Agency and other international bodies,” she said.

Indeed, Iran’s official FARS news agency quoted the vicechairman of the parliament’s national security and foreign policy commission, Mansour Haqiqatpour, as saying the summit “will promote the Islamic Republic’s political face and also serve as a good political backup for Iran in its future talks” with the world powers negotiating over the nuclear program.

He also said the summit would boost the Iranian economy, and that the presence of senior world officials would “prepare the bed for bilateral and multilateral negotiations to help Iran bypass the [Western] sanctions, establish joint banks, set up transportation and transit networks, and other areas of economic cooperation.”

Meanwhile, US Jewish organizations – which launched an effort to try and persuade Ban to stay away – slammed the decision to attend.

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, issued a statement saying “we are stunned” that Ban “would honor a regime that consistently ignores both him and the world body he heads in ways that threaten regional and global security.”

Iran, at the meeting, will assume the rotating chairmanship of the 120-member organization for the next three years.