If you'd like to vacation in Iran, you're never going to find a safer time to travel there then next week. That's when United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will attend a summit meeting with Iran despite objections from the U.S. and Israel who are trying to isolate the regime. Beginning next week, Ban will join 120 countries of the Nonaligned Movement in Tehran in a summit Iran is already heralding as vindication of its importance on the global stage. “The secretary general is fully aware of the sensitivities of this visit,” Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky announced on Wednesday. “He’s heard the views of some of those who said he should not go. At the same time, the secretary general has responsibilities that he is determined to carry out.”
The visit will put a temporary halt to rampant speculation in the Israeli press that Israel is going to launch air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities in a matter of days. Beginning last week, a series of leaks inside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration reported in Haaretz and Ma'ariv claimed Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were planning a strike in weeks, not months. That's not going to happen as long as Ban and an international coalition are booking hotel rooms in Tehran. The worry of the U.S. and Israel is that Iran will use the visit as a propaganda opportunity, The New York Times' Rick Gladstone reports. "According to Mr. Netanyahu’s office, he had telephoned Mr. Ban on Aug. 10 and told him that such a trip, even if well intentioned, would be a mistake." Netanyahu reportedly told Ban, “Your visit will grant legitimacy to a regime that is the greatest threat to world peace and security.”
For its part, the U.S. has reportedly discouraged countries from attending the summit privately, while insisting publicly that members who do attend challenge Iran on its nuclear program. "If people choose to participate, we believe they should take the opportunity of any meetings that they have with Iran’s leaders to press them to comply with their international obligations without further delay,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said. At the moment, placing world famous political leaders in the Middle East seems to be the prevailing strategy for keeping Israel from striking the country. As The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in his Bloomberg View column last night, the best chance at staving off war is Obama hopping on a plane for Tel Aviv and offering his reasons for restraint to Netanyahu. "A visit to Israel would do more to delay a strike on Iran than any other step the administration could take," he wrote. "Such a visit could prevent war. Which, of course, is a very presidential thing to do." Hey, whatever works.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.