Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a big deal over UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s trip to the Non-Aligned Movement’s summit in Tehran. He tried to get a social media wave going telling Ban not to go. That didn’t work. And you might think that a politician capable enough to become Prime Minister might understand that public pressure on another politician is likely to result in the opposite of what the pressure is intended to achieve. (Note to students: Work out the analogous situation for one politician urging another to go to war for the first politician’s priorities.)
The Iranians have been hoping to make hay with their presidency of the NAM, which was formed to present a counterweight against both Western and Soviet influence during the Cold War. As such, it has frequently been critical of Western actions. So this would be a great setup to boost Iran’s status (President: Cool!) and to get out some criticism of the P5+1 and support for Iran’s nuclear program.
So, contrary to Netanyahu’s wishes, Secretary-General Ban is now in Iran. But he is not going to allow Iran to make his presence part of their advertisement for themselves. He has criticized Iran’s human rights record. He has met with the Supreme Leader, along with Jeff Feltman, the UN Under Secretary for Political Affairs, who until last May was the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. This has reporters all a-twitter with the thought of backchannel negotiations, which of course are possible but would be denied by all parties at this point. There’s no way to know.
There is real value in this kind of face-to-face discussion. A thought that comes to my mind is how useful it might be for Iranians and Israelis to talk to each other. Not calling names through the media, but sitting down around a table. Probably won’t happen soon.
Cross-posted at Phronesisaical.