by Stephen Lendman
After the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is the most important world body. Hopefully its 16th summit will infuse it with new life.
As host, Iran has a historic opportunity. At the same time, it can enhance its own prestige and enlist support against hostile Washington/Israeli designs.
August 26 began six days of sessions and discussions. Proceedings began with an experts meeting.
During the opening session, Egypt's permanent UN representative, Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil, ceremonially passed NAM's presidential baton to Iran. For the next three years, Tehran will head the organization.
Hosting NAM is significant. Assuming leadership affords added prestige. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mihmanparast said 118 foreign delegations will attend. Russia and China are there as observer nations. So is Australia.
Participants sent 27 presidents, eight prime ministers, nine vice presidents, six special envoys, up to 25 foreign ministers, other high-level ministers, and two kings.
The Tehran Times named some of the participating dignitaries. They include:
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, North Korea's parliamentary chairman Kim Yong-nam, Cuba's Raul Castro, Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisyan, Lebanese President Michel Sulaiman, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
Despite tensions between the two countries, Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (King Abdullah's son) will attend. He's currently acting deputy foreign minister.
Bahrain's foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa will also participate. In March 2011, Manama recalled its ambassador in protest over Tehran's condemnation of Bahraini police state violence. Iran responded in kind by recalling its envoy.
On August 12, Bahrain returned it ambassador to Tehran. Days later, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein amir-Abdollahian said Iran wouldn't return its ambassador to Manama as long as crackdowns continued.
In advance of the summit, a document with 688 articles was prepared. They'll be discussed during the two-day meeting of experts. Topics include international issues, regional crises, human rights, food and health security, as well as matters relating to economic development.
One statement will focus on Palestine. Another will be a comprehensive plan to end Washington's war on Syria. A contact group will be established to help defuse the conflict. One-on-one and multilateral discussions will be held on how to do it.
Iran has multiple objectives in mind. It seeks support for its lawful nuclear program, peace, and mutually beneficial solidarity.
Economic issues will be stressed. Plans will be presented to revitalize NAM. Participating delegations will be urged to transform it into a more significant organization by making its "approvals" binding. Since founded in 1961, it's only issued statements relating to world problems.
On August 26, Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi delivered the opening speech. Press TV said he "called on all member states of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to use their utmost potential and make collective efforts to establish peace and justice in the world."
"At the current juncture, we have made our utmost efforts to promote general objectives of the Non-Aligned Movement including fostering solidarity among all member states, which is a prerequisite for an efficient movement."
He said a "destructive mind" affects international relations. He urged solidarity and respect for national sovereignty in the face of a collective threat.
"We need to revive our movement in accordance with the current conditions in the world," he urged. NAM participants "must seriously oppose unilateral economic sanctions which have been enacted by certain countries against non-aligned members."
During its leadership period, he said Iran will try to strengthen NAM and increase its importance.
He added that world views top NAM officials share, show a clear mutual "determination to support and strengthen the movement and turn it into an effective tool to protect the interests of member states."
He hopes mutual concerns will translate into effective peace offensive plans.
On August 26, the Tehran Times said Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei will deliver the opening speech of the summit of heads of state and government.
It said the summit "will mark a turning point in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran at a time when certain Western countries and the Zionist regime are making efforts to isolate Iran in the international arena."
Mehr News said NAM participants are invited to visit Iran's nuclear facilities. At issue is showing them they're peaceful and non-threatening. Scheduled trips are also scheduled to industrial and scientific sites.
Mehr News also said Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will attend. Reports disagree on whether Palestine's elected Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh will participate.
Maan News said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad invited him. On August 26, it said he accepted the invitation and will attend.
Unelected Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad objected, saying:
"This is a serious escalation by Iran against Palestinian unity and against the Palestinian Authority's role as the guardian of the Palestinian people both in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank including Jerusalem."
The PLO Executive Committee also issued a statement. It accused Iran of promoting Palestinian disunity.
Hamas is Palestine's elected government. Abbas' presidential term expired in January 2009. He and appointed prime minister Fayyad have no legitimacy.
Confirming Haniyeh's attendance, Gaza spokesman Taher Al-Nunu called on all parties to respect the Palestinian people's democratic choice. He added that Haniyeh will participate in Tehran as elected prime minister.
On August 26, a second Maan News report said Iran's foreign minister told his PA counterpart that Haniyeh wasn't invited.
PA foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki said Abbas won't attend with him and other Gaza delegates. Palestine remains a divisive issue. At the time of this writing, no further information is available.
Dominant discussion themes include solidarity, national sovereignty inviolability, economic development, and peace. The summit represents a major opportunity for Iran to enlist support. It also provides a platform against Western/Israeli imperialism.
Top officials from 118 delegations shows Washington's attempt to isolate Iran failed. World participation is impressive.
Fidel Castro's 1979 Havana Declaration will be stressed. He said NAM's purpose is to ensure "the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and security of non-aligned countries (in their) struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as as against great power and bloc politics."
Six days of discussions will focus on these and related themes. Hopefully at summit's end Iran will have gained prestige at the expense of Washington, Israel, and key NATO allies. Perhaps unity on how to end Syria's conflict will also emerge.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said NAM participants oppose foreign interference. A "new proposal will be presented at the sidelines….and evaluated by members."
He added that NAM participants "want to hear the standpoints of the Syrian people and see a comprehensive plan to settle the crisis."
"No foreign states but the people of Syria should decide about their political future."
Achieving broad agreement on that principle alone would make Tehran's summit successful. Translating agreement into policy matters most.
A Final Comment
Western media attempts to ignore, downplay, or demean the NAM summit may backfire. The event's significance may be enhanced. A Washington Post editorial called it an anti-American "festival of resistance," a "useless recreational club," and a "bacchanal of nonsense."
These type comments reflect imperial arrogance, the shameful state of America's media, and why US policies and its supporters are condemned.
Iran's UN mission press office head Alireza Miryousefi responded, saying:
The Post editorial "unjustifiably smeared Iran and mocked the upcoming" NAM summit shamelessly. Doing so "ignore(s) the growing importance of the movement…" Most UN member states belong. Other key ones are observers.
"In light of its focus on multilateral cooperation, disarmament, sustainable world peace, rights of nations and horizontal relations defying hegemonic structures, the Non-Aligned Movement is a major cross-regional group in the United Nations…."
Participation by dozens of world leaders "promises to make significant contributions to (NAM's) lofty objectives."
Iran's agenda is peace and mutual cooperation, he stressed. Its legitimate nuclear program threatens no one. NAM principles "always supported Iran's inalienable nuclear (and other) rights and opposed" illegal Western/Israeli threats.
Washington has other ideas. So does Israel. Hopefully this year's summit will show solidarity against them. What's more important than world peace.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.