Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan got plenty of attention for his remarks at a UN forum in Vienna last Wednesday, in which he equated Zionism to fascism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism (not that Erdogan seems to object to anti-Semitism; but as Andy McCarthy notes, rational discourse is not Erdogan’s strong suit).
What’s been largely overlooked, however, is Iran’s supporting role in this episode. Turkey and Iran may have their differences right now over such matters as who should reign supreme in Syria. But when it comes to slandering Jews and threatening Israel, Iran and Turkey under Erdogan have become something of a mutual support society. In this instance, the UN event at which Erdogan spoke, to applause, in Vienna – a forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations – had its origins in a 1998 proposal of Iran’s then-president Mohammad Khatami. Khatami pitched the idea that the UN should sponsor a “Dialogue of Civilizations.” Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan embraced the proposal, the General Assembly approved it, and Annan appointed an Italian former UN official with longtime connections in Iran, Giandomenico Picco, to run it. The “Dialogue” went on for a couple of years, filing a report in 2001 that vanished into the archives of the UN library; holding a conference in 2004 in Tehran – basically providing a platform for a lot of travel and palaver under the UN umbrella, to no obvious good result.
Then, in 2005, Annan grandfathered out of the Iranian-proposed Dialogue a similar “initiative” – the current Alliance of Civilizations, co-sponsored by Turkey and Spain. It, too, has an Iranian tang – including the membership on its guiding “high-level” panel of the same former Iranian president, Khatami, who proposed its precursor, the Dialogue of Civilizations. There is no one on this panel from Israel. (More about this Alliance, its Iranian ties, and its exploitation of the UN system, in my article on “The UN’s Anti-Semitic Alliance.”)
The recent meeting in Vienna also served as a vehicle for Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi – amid Iran’s erstwhile “isolation” – to show up in town, get his latest photo-op handshake from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and huddle in closed-door meetings in Vienna. This at a time when officials of the Iranian regime – meeting in Kazakhstan last week with representatives of the U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany – have hardly been suffering from a dearth of diplomatic channels.
In sum, the seed planted at the UN by Iran, and nurtured with the help of Iran, has grown into the UN “Alliance of Civilizations” that just provided a pretext for Iran’s foreign minister to tend to his country’s projects and influence in the UN/OPEC hub that is Vienna, plus a glittering stage from which Turkey’s Erdogan, starring as one of the patrons of a UN-blessed event, could deliver his anti-Semitic remarks. Quite the Alliance.