Vijay Prashad is a professor of international studies at Trinity College. Among the many books he has authored are The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World and Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. He also writes regularly for Asia Times Online, Frontline magazine and Counterpunch.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.
Sunday, the Non-Aligned Movement is meeting in Tehran. In fact, 50 heads of state are heading to Iran for this meeting. It doesn’t sound like Iran is quite as isolated as the West would like it to be.
VIJAY PRASHAD, PROF. INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, TRINITY COLLEGE: Pleasure. Thank you.
PRASHAD: Well, the Non-Aligned Movement was created in 1961 at a meeting in Belgrade in Yugoslavia. It brought together the newly freed countries of North Africa and Africa, of Asia, some countries in Latin America, notably Cuba, which had just won its revolution in 1959, and of course the host, Yugoslavia. The point that they had when they created the Non-Aligned Movement was to suggest that there had to be an independent path that is independent from the Western alliance, the NATO pact, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization pact led by the United States and Western Europe, and on the other hand by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact. So the idea was: neither the West nor the Soviets were going to be able to fully provide the independence that the new states have come to expect, and they wanted to create a platform, a position for themselves where they could articulate their own views. And that was the Non-Aligned Movement, which they created in 1961 in Belgrade.
JAY: But who’s going is very interesting. First of all, they’re sort of people you expect would go, which are people that are at odds with the U.S. But there’s quite a few American allies going. So give us a sense of who’s heading there.
PRASHAD: Well, the first thing to keep in mind is the Non-Aligned Movement, despite the fact that it has been a little adrift since the 1980s, is the principal gathering point for the countries of the world. You know, there are now 193 states that are members of the United Nations, and about 150 countries are going to be represented at the Non-Aligned meeting. So these countries have gone, despite the fact that they’ve had some great disagreements with each other over the years.
PRASHAD: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you know, when the Cairo meeting was held, there was already pressure against Iran. You know, this pressure against Iran is now almost seven years old in terms of trying to create the sanctions regime that isolates Iran economically and, of course, politically. So despite the fact of this pressure, countries like India, countries like Egypt, all these countries, at the time very friendly to the United States, nonetheless agreed to put forward Iran as the next chair of the NAM meeting.
So this is a slap in the face of this campaign to isolate Iran.
That means that all these countries are essentially thumbing their noses at Washington and at Tel Aviv. You know, in Washington there have been many statements trying to make the secretary-general of the United Nations stop his trip to Tehran. And indeed Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has also called upon Mr. Ban Ki-moon to not go to Tehran. But Mr. Ban has quite correctly said that it is the place of the UN Secretary-General to go to the Non-Aligned Movement meeting. And, in fact, he proposes to have a conversation, a dialog with the Iranians. So I think this—just the fact of the meeting being held in Tehran despite the agenda, the fact that everybody is coming ,the fact that there is this event happening, the first major international event in Tehran since 1997, when Iran hosted the organization of Islamic communities meeting—so this itself is a very important thing to bear in mind.
PRASHAD: Well, frankly, I interact quite a bit with people at the ambassadorial level from many of these countries, people who are involved in the NAM network, and the fact is that many of them will tell you quite candidly that they are mainly afraid of the United States but don’t admire U.S. foreign policy. In other words, they don’t take seriously this form of, you know, what you might consider a, you know, suffocation of countries around the world, whether it’s Cuba in the Western Hemisphere or it’s Iran. You know, these ambassadors look at this form of foreign policy as very destabilizing, very dangerous, and when they have to make allowances for the United States, it’s often simply as a consequence of U.S. power, not as a consequence of their admiration for the kind of diplomacy that the United States does. And I think this is also a point that people don’t often consider, which is that the United States diplomatic service has for a very long time lost the faith of diplomats elsewhere, who don’t—who look at United States and say, these people are simply not serious.
PRASHAD: Well, that is indeed the most important thing. Of course, the principal issue that is going to divide the NAM is the question of Syria. And here what’s already been put on the table is that the Turks may not come to the NAM meeting. There is a great divide that is there in the NAM. The Indian delegation is trying to hold all the sides together to create some kind of consensus statement. The pre-meeting of the NAM, which was held in Egypt, fell apart on the question of Syria. And I think this is going to be the issue that actually defines whether the NAM is able to go forward into the 21st century with some energy, that is, if they can come up with a common and, I think, humane solution for Syria. If they cannot do that, they will fail.
PRASHAD: Well, the fact is, at the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting in Egypt that was the pre-meeting for the NAM, the Saudis, Turks, and Qataris wanted a strong condemnation of the Syrian government. Well, the Syrians who are also part of the NAM were able to block the strong condemnation. So at the very most what they got was they got an affirmation of the so-called Annan Plan. But between the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting and this Tehran meeting, Kofi Annan has resigned, largely because the kind of context for his plan was not possible.
JAY: Well, if Iran, the Saudis, and the Turks could talk to each other and come to any kind of a scenario here, I mean, that really would be the major players, wouldn’t it?
JAY: Okay. Well, we’ll come back to you after the meetings are over and we’ll see if this evolved. Thanks very much for joining us, Vijay.