by Hugh Fitzgerald
The most amusing, if not necessarily most important story to come out of the Middle East this week: Iran turns out to be the biggest deadbeat in the UN, owing that body $16.2 million that it has been unable to come up with. Once Iran wallowed in wealth, suffering from an embarrass de richesse, the oil money came in torrents, and in the good old pre-Khomeini days days Iran’s rich would fly in catered meals from Fauchon and Hediard in Paris – surely the most expensive version of GrubHub ever invented. The Shah spent hundreds of millions of dollars on celebrating the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire in October 1971. But that was then, and this is now, and Iran has fallen on hard times. The UN has just announced that for failure to pay its dues, Iran will lose its voting rights in the General Assembly. One less vote in the Kangaroo Court of the UN General Assembly against Israel, one giant step for mankind. What was once an embarrassment of Iranian riches has become, in a time of economic collapse in Teheran, merely an embarrassment. The report on Iran’s empty pockets is here: “Iran loses UN voting rights over unpaid dues, blames US sanctions,” by Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, January 18, 2021
Iran and six other countries lost their right to vote in the UN General Assembly, because they have not paid their dues, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday.
Iran blamed US sanctions for blocking the Islamic Republic from paying its required contribution to the UN.
Guterres wrote a letter to General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir of Turkey that the countries in arrears to the UN will have their UNGA voting rights suspended in accordance with the UN charter, which calls for the suspension of voting rights if a member state fails to pay its fees for more than two years.
Iran owes $16.2 million, more than any other country.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the funds designated for UN payments are frozen in two South Korean banks, due to US sanctions. He said the Islamic Republic has a total of $7 billion in those banks.
Khatibzadeh demanded that the UN guarantee the payments are safely transferred without using US banks.
“Given that the United States has encroached upon Iran’s international assets before, the Islamic Republic of Iran insists that the UN not use an American intermediary bank to receive our country’s membership fee, or that this organization guarantee the financial transfer channel,” Iran International News quoted Khatibzadeh as saying.
Blaming the Great Satan for your inability to come up with $16.2 million is absurd. There are many ways to pay that UN bill without being forced to use an American bank. The Iranians could, if they wished, use a Qatari bank to transfer funds – Qatar is, as of this writing, still friendly with Iran. It hasn’t yet succumbed to the blandishments of the GCC, that has ended its blockade of Qatar and welcomed the waddling Emir with open arms. Here’s an even better suggestion: why not use a Russian bank? Surely Vladimir Putin would be glad to help out his friends in Tehran. What a marvelous way for Putin to join the Supreme Leader in jointly thumbing their noses at the Great Satan. And if Iran wants to do something really daring, why doesn’t it pay its UN bill with Bitcoin or some other up-and-coming cryptocurrency? And finally, what about the tried-and-true Suitcase Method? Just as Qassem Soleimani once delivered an even larger sum — $22 million – in bags of cash to Hamas delegates at the airport just before they left Tehran in 2006, nothing prevents the Iranian government from scraping together $16.2 million in cash – I’m sure the Supreme Leader can come with that amount from his petty cash; after all, the business empire Ayatollah Khamenei controls is worth $250 billion. That sum can be neatly placed in a few suitcases, and then Foreign Minister Javad Zarif can hand-deliver those suitcases stuffed with cash to U.N Secretary-General Guterres.
But while Iran will then be given back its right to vote in the General Assembly, it can’t undo the fact that in not paying its dues for more than two years, it has cut a sorry figure on the world stage, a seeming – albeit temporary – deadbeat, trying to pin its failure to pay the UN on the US sanctions, when there are plenty of ways to deliver that $16.2 million.
But even if Iran settles up, the world knows now that for two years it could not, or would not, out of some blend of spite, economic distress, and desire to find one more reason to blame the US, come up with what is, in international transactions, a trivial sum. This provides an embarrassing image – poor Iran, standing on a crepuscular street corner under a streetlight, one hand held out in Eleemosynary Position #1, as it quietly sings “Brother, can you spare a dime?” — that the Islamic Republic, so defiant of both the Great and the Little Satan, a braggart warrior that keeps hinting it is ready to roll, wants to be quickly forgotten. I don’t think it will fall in arrears again.
First published in Jihad Watch.