Jerusalem Post, 17 ottobre 2008
by Allison Hoffman
Iran lost its bid to become a temporary member of the UN Security Council on Friday. As expected, the Asian seat went to Japan, which received 158 votes compared to the Islamic Republic's 32.
Austria, Turkey, Uganda and Mexico also won nonpermanent seats on the council.
Austria and Turkey beat Iceland Friday in the battle for two European seats on the council. Mexico ran unopposed for the Latin American seat as did Uganda for the African seat. The five new members of the council will serve two-year terms.
Iran may be under three sets of sanctions from the UN Security Council over its nuclear program, but that did not stopped it from campaigning for the temporary membership.
The chances of Iran winning the Asian regional seat against rival Japan in Friday's voting were widely viewed as slim-to-none: Victory would have required support from two-thirds of all General Assembly member countries that turn up for the secret ballot.
Yet experts said just being in the race at all may be prize enough for Teheran, which announced its candidacy in September 2007.
"As with many governments, the Iranian government sometimes finds it advantageous to portray itself as an outsider that's challenging the status quo," said Ian Hurd, a political scientist at Northwestern University in Chicago who has written about legitimacy and power on the Security Council. "They may want to run and lose to keep that outsider status," he said.
Iran, which last sat on the Security Council in 1956, may be the only country to vie for one of the body's 10 rotating seats while under active sanctions. Rwanda already held a seat on the Security Council when genocide erupted there in 1994. Libya, which currently holds a seat, expressed interest but did not make a formal bid until after sanctions linked to the investigation of the 1988 Pan Am jet bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland were lifted in 2003, according to analysts with the Columbia University-affiliated Security Council Report.
UN rules allow any member country to declare its candidacy, but the charter instructs representatives to consider candidates' contribution to the "maintenance of international peace and security."
Teheran claimed in its candidacy documents that it had played an "undeniable" role in regional security matters and "was firmly committed to pursuing the realization of the goal of a world free from weapons of mass destruction," according to the Iranian Fars News Agency.
The agency also reported Wednesday that Teheran had offered to support a permanent seat for Japan in exchange for its withdrawal.
Japan, which has held nine terms, last sat on the Security Council in 2006.
While Tajikistan and Pakistan have reportedly offered their support to Iran, few expect the matter to go to more than one ballot. Nonetheless, the Italian government passed a resolution this week vowing to block Iran's election on the basis of sanctions if its candidacy proceeds.
"This resolution encourages a decisive and joined European action aimed at safeguarding not only the decency of the international discourse, which must be totally clean of any anti-Semitic or anti-West hint, but also the [Security Council's] credibility," said Fiamma Nirenstein, the vice-president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
Turkey, meanwhile, is mounting its own bid against Austria and Iceland, whose financial crisis has cast a shadow on its candidacy for one of two open European seats.
Analysts expect balloting to go more than one round, with the outside possibility of a new candidate entering at the last minute in the event of a deadlock.
Israel's UN delegation declined to comment on which country it planned to support.
The Turkish government, which put up a banner across the street from UN headquarters in New York advertising its bid, has positioned itself as a bridge between East and West, building on its role brokering talks between Syria and Israel.
Iceland was considered a strong candidate until the recent global crisis threatened its economy and crushed its banks.
"There's no doubt the financial crisis has had an impact on Iceland's international standing," a Western diplomat familiar with the discussions said.
But all three European countries have issues that they can expect to come under scrutiny.
"Icelanders have to defend themselves against their financial problems, Austrians have to defend themselves against the 30-percent right-wing vote, and the Turks have to defend themselves against their internal problems and the role of the military in the government," the diplomat said. Austria's two anti-immigration rightist parties - the Freedom Party and the Alliance for the Future of Austria - earned almost 30 percent of the vote during parliamentary elections on September 28.
Mostly Muslim Turkey has long been a strongly secular country, but recently the country has been buffeted by conflict between the Islamic-rooted government and secularists such as the country's urban elite and many in the military.
During Friday's voting, Turkey was expected to get strong support from Islamic countries.
When Iceland's UN Ambassador Hjalmar Hannesson was asked if he thought the country's economic turn would hurt its chances for a seat, he told The Associated Press, "I don't know really... this is a global crisis and a global problem, and we have been an active player in the global marketplace."
venerdÃ¬ 17 ottobre 2008