The 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM ) took place in Teheran, from August 26 to August 31. Most of the Western media ignored the event. In their view, the Movement is of no importance. Yet, 120 states participated, representing the majority of the world’s population as well as the world’s economy. Are we really supposed to believe that all these delegations made the trip for no reason?

Historically, the Non-Aligned Movement created by Nasser, Nehru, Tito, Sukarno and Nkrumah in 1961 aimed at asserting the independence and sovereignty of nations beyond the logic of military pacts. During the Cold War, its members were the military allies neither of the United States nor of the Soviet Union. However, since Soviet imperialism confined itself to exercising dominion over the countries liberated by the Red Army during World War II, the Non-Aligned Movement had more to fear from U.S. imperialism and French and British sub-imperialisms than the Soviet Union with which the member countries often made political alliances.

The Non-Aligned were a "movement" rather than an "organization." Every three years, their Summit was a forum which attempted to forge a consensus rather than produce formal decisions. Therein, small states pressured by the great powers to vote in accordance with their own agenda in the U.N. General Assembly learned to shape and adopt collective positions. In this way, they were able to withstand bilateral pressures. Following the disappearance of the USSR, the NAM was termed obsolete. The Cuban attempt to reanimate the Movement in 2006 failed in the face of two major obstacles: a lack of financial resources and the bad faith on the part of some member states which had aligned themselves with the United States during the new unipolar period or even before.

The Final Declaration of the 16th Summit once again resumed the classic themes of sovereignty, disarmament and equality among nations (meaning the rejection of the global governance exercised by the U.N. Security Council and the "pay-to-play" arrangement applied by the international financial institutions.) However, there are new elements reflected in the Declaration which stand out for their unprecedented support for the Islamic Republic of Iran. They take up themes dear to Teheran, namely, access to energy for economic development, particularly the right to civilian nuclear programs, condemnation of unilateral sanctions put in place by the U.S. and the European Union in violation of the United Nations Charter and condemnation of the large-scare practice of targeted assassinations carried out by Tel-Aviv and Washington to eliminate their opponents across the world.

One can better measure the success of Iran by recallig that the U.S. State Department exercised strong pressure on the participants to dissuade them from sending a delegation to Teheran other than their ambassadors already in Iran. Fracturing the "containment" imposed by Washington since the departure of Shah Reza Pahlevi, some thirty heads of State and more than eighty foreign ministers defied the United States and made the trip.

The most startling appearance at the Summit was that of Mohamed Morsi, the new Egyptian president. His predecessors boycotted the Islamic Republic of Iran yet it was Morsi—a member of the Muslim Brotherhood—who renewed contact, interrupted since the beginning of the Khomeini Revolution of 1979. Egypt could not afford to let Iran hijack the Movement, thus proceeding to reoccupy its seat and reclaim its historical place as founding member. Shiite Iran considered it a major priority to uncouple Cairo from Riyad and was ready to bypass the conflict which has been opposing it to the Brotherhood. Undoubtedly, President Morsi made a speech offensive to Syria and prevented the mention of that country in the Final Declaration but the rules of the game were overturned. The longstanding "containment" of Iran came to an end just as a process of diplomatic marginalization of Saudi Arabia got underway.

Iran is now positioning itself as an arbiter between rival Sunni states. Qoms (the city of Shiite theologians) endorses the Al-Azhar University in Cairo to the detriment of Saudi TV preachers. Although the Muslim Brotherhood has been up to now largely controlled by the Anglo-Americans and financed by the Gulf Cooperation Council, it is attempting to become more autonomous, favoring a rapprochement with Teheran at a time when their access to power in several North African countries is supplying them with signficant resources and giving them financial independence. The current alliance being forged may seem contradictory but it benefits their domestic populations by reducing the sectarian tensions fed by Wahhabist Monarchies.

This diplomatic turnaround grants real power to the Non-Aligned countries. Unexpectedly, the transformation from Movement to an Organization has changed the stakes. Without waiting for the debate to culminate in a solution, the Islamic Republic has set up a Provisional Secretariat appointed for three years. It is directed by a troika consisting of Iran, Egypt of course, and Venezuela, a country which has shown itself to be an uncompromising actor in international relations. These three states represent the three continents of Asia, Africa and America but also signify three types of society: a spiritual revolution, the embrace of liberal capitalism and socialism in the 21st century.

The opening of the Summit was the occasion for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to publicly give advice to the United states: free yourself of Israeli influence, defend your own interests and cease discrediting yourself by your support for Israeli crimes. Like an echo, General Martin Dempsey, head of the Joint Chiefs, responded to him several hours later during a press conference in London. Denouncing as impossible Israel’s proclaimed intentions to bomb Iranian nuclear sites, he announced that if Tel-Aviv went forward, he would hope that Washington would not be an accomplice to this crime. For the first time since the Suez expedition in 1956, a high U.S. official is warning that the U.S. will refuse to support future Zionist adventures.

In announcing in this fashion a strategic change, Washington is registering this new state of affairs and acknowledging the reappearance on the international scene of Iran and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Michele Stoddard
Information Clearing House (USA)