Non-aligned movement: a two-edged summit in Tehran

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The summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, which begins officially in Tehran tomorrow, is being hosted at great expense by a bankrupt Iran to prove a point: sanctions-racked it may be, but isolated it is not. The meeting is the biggest international gathering in the capital for three decades. The leaders or foreign ministers of 120 countries, and observers from 17 more, will be in town, however fleetingly, to prove the Supreme Leader’s point.

Iran is pleased to be seen welcoming so many allies; but it is Egypt, not the hosts, whose presence most takes the eye

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 29 August 2012 20.54 BST

The summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, which begins officially in Tehran tomorrow, is being hosted at great expense by a bankrupt Iran to prove a point: sanctions-racked it may be, but isolated it is not. The meeting is the biggest international gathering in the capital for three decades. The leaders or foreign ministers of 120 countries, and observers from 17 more, will be in town, however fleetingly, to prove the Supreme Leader’s point.

Some of the callers – the Saudis, Bahrainis, Qataris – are Iran’s neighbours, who are arming themselves to the teeth in case another Gulf war breaks out. But their presence should not surprise: they rarely miss an opportunity for a diplomatic knees-up with Iran. Others, such as the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, arrive with catcalls ringing in their ears. If America and Israel are foolish enough to broadcast their disapproval, they can only expect Ban’s stock to rise commensurately.

The summit’s most significant guest will be the new boy on the block, the Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. His arrival is two-edged. On the one hand, he is the first Egyptian leader to visit Tehran since the Iranian revolution. On the other, his arrival fills a vacuum that Iran exploited in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Iraq. Morsi is saying, and saying it with more speed than anyone predicted in June when he was elected, that Egypt is back as a regional player. That he arrives in Tehran fresh from a domestic political victory over his military will not have gone unnoticed either. He is both democratically elected and powerful.

Morsi comes to Tehran with a proposal that the four regional powers – Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt – convene a conference on Syria. Before dismissing this out of hand, consider what damage a fire burning uncontainably in Syria is doing to the interests of each of its three immediate neighbours.

Iran is quickly losing support it toiled at such cost to confect among the Arab people. A prolonged conflict in Syria makes it more vulnerable to an attack by Israel, and isolates its ally Hezbollah in Lebanon. For south-eastern Turkey, Syria spells trouble: more refugees, more attacks from Kurdish militants, more stirring of the Alawite minority in Turkey and more al-Qaida. And Afghanistan has taught a state like Saudi Arabia that what goes out generally comes back. The jihadis they export return one day, battle-hardened, to challenge the status quo at home. Each country must be thinking hard about a post-Assad solution.

Morsi is both a supporter of the right of the Syrian people to resist a brutal tyranny, and an opponent of foreign intervention. Unlike Turkey, Iran or Saudi Arabia, Egypt is not involved in the fighting. As all the alternatives are worse, a regional conference is not a bad place to start building a diplomatic solution.
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Daily Telegraph
30 august

UN report to detail how Iran continues nuclear programme
A United Nations report is expected to detail how Iran is continuing to expand its nuclear programme despite painful

economic sanctions and the spectre of Israeli military action.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, meets with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, left, at his office in Tehran Photo: AFP/Getty Images/Behrouz Merhri
By Alex Spillius, Diplomatic Correspondent
6:39PM BST 29 Aug 2012
Just as Iran seeks to improve its image by hosting a Non-Aligned Movement summit attended by Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, the report will show how Tehran is boosting uranium enrichment in defiance of Security Council resolutions.
Diplomatic sources told AFP that the International Atomic Energy Agency report, which will be circulated this week to member states but not published, is also expected to criticise Iran sharply over its suspected “sanitization” of the Parchin military base.
The base was identified in an earlier report as a suspected testing location for nuclear explosive devices.
The agency will reportedly say that Iran has since May installed 350 new centrifuges to enrich uranium at its Fordow facility near the holy city of Qom.
Fordow is not only dug into a mountain, making it tough to bomb, but it is also enriching uranium to purities of 20 percent, which technically speaking is a short hop from the 90 percent needed in the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.
The IAEA’s last report said that Fordow contained just over 1,000 centrifuges, some 700 of which were operating. Iran has told the IAEA that eventually it plans to have 3,000 machines in place there, while maintaining that the programme is only intended for civilian uses.
“Our enrichment activities will never stop and we are justified in carrying them out, and we will continue to do so under IAEA supervision,” said Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, ahead of the summit.
The report will embolden those Israeli leaders who have threatened to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities, though many senior defence and intelligence officials think such action would be counter-productive.
The consensus view of Western intelligence agencies is that the Iranian leadership has not yet decided to build a bomb though it clearly wants to keep progressing towards that goal.
Tehran has failed to yield despite tough sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe, with Britain severing all banking links with the country.
Mr Ban’s attendance at the summit among representatives of 120 countries has been touted as a propaganda coup by Tehran over Israel and the US, which both asked him not to attend.
But the secretary general’s aides said he was determined to use meetings with key leaders to call for urgent action by Iran over its disputed nuclear programme, human rights record and its support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s conflict.
“Iran has a crucially important role in the region, especially when it comes to Syria. I am going to discuss this with [Iran’s] supreme leader,” Mr Ban said on his arrival.

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