Diplomats gathered in Geneva for the UN Disarmament Conference

Outrage As Iran Chairs UN Disarmament Conference

Tuesday, 03/19/2024

Iran's chairmanship of the UN Conference on Disarmament sparked outrage on Monday, as activists and US lawmakers expressed concerns about the erosion of trust in the international body.

The 2024 session of the conference began in Geneva in late January and will continue till mid September. The Presidency of the conference rotates among its member states in alphabetical order, each member holding office for four weeks.

Iran took over from Indonesia o March 18 amid harsh criticism over its non-compliance with the demands and rulings of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“Why does @UN_Disarmament think that it’s a good idea to allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to preside over negotiations on arms control and disarmament agreements,” Congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna asked on X. “The Islamic regime’s history and continuous breaches of nuclear agreements go against the very purpose of the conference. It’s disgusting that the UN is continuing to legitimize the Mollah’s murderous regime.”

This is not the first time the United Nations is criticized for handing leadership positions, symbolic or inconsequential as those may be, to representatives of the regime in Tehran.

In November 2023, Iran's envoy was picked to chair a UN human rights council meeting in Geneva, not more than a few months after the brutal crackdown of widespread protests now known as Women, Life, Freedom movement. The US envoy boycotted that meeting, calling the appointment an "affront to the collective conscience of the global community".

Following that example, on Monday, campaigners led by the Swiss-based NGO, UN Watch, called on member states to boycott the plenary Tuesday when Iran’s envoy “take the gavel”.

“We urge all world leaders to STOP legitimizing a radical regime that sponsors terrorism around the globe, kills its own people for protesting for their human rights, and is racing to build a nuclear bomb to threaten the world,” campaigners wrote in their petition –which gathered more than 13,000 signatures before the morning plenary Tuesday.

Iran typically dismisses all such criticism as “enemy offensive” against the “holy Islamic system.” All such appointments at UN bodies –even if a matter of pure formality– are met by glee in Tehran and trumpeted with pride on media platforms.

“Western appeasement of Iran, especially in assuming this role, only serves to degrade the institution and its efforts,” said Congressman Mike Gallagher in a statement issued Monday, “Iran should be prohibited from occupying this post, and banned from holding any leadership role in the international community, especially any to do with weapons of mass destruction.”

Iran has been stockpiling highly enriched uranium (at 60%) for some time, according to the IAEA, whose experts have said enriching at such levels cannot be explained outside a weapons program. The issue is coupled by lack of transparency and restrictions set by Iran on International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors on the ground.

Earlier this month, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi warned about being blinded to Iran’s nuclear activities. “The Agency has lost continuity of knowledge in relation to [Iran’s] production and inventory of centrifuges, rotors and bellows, heavy water and uranium ore concentrate,” he said.

US Congressman and House Majority Whip, Tom Emmer, pointed this out Monday, condemning the appointment. “Today, the UN Conference on Disarmament begins with Iran serving as its Chair –a country brazenly pursuing nuclear weapons,” he posted on X, “The decision to reward Iran with a leadership position only further degrades the UN’s legitimacy and its ability to uphold global peace.”

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