As hosts of the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, NAM, in Tehran, Iranian officials tried to advance their agenda. Top of their list was to secure NAM's endorsement of their right to peaceful nuclear energy. Next was to get NAM to condemn foreign armed interference in Syria, a strategic ally of Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979. The summit's final communiqué supported Iran's stance on the nuclear issue. But it made no mention of backing for the beleaguered regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Iran's officials also saw an opportunity to present their country as a victim of international terrorism, not perpetrator. To that end, they displayed the cars wrecked in the killings of five Iranian nuclear scientists - widely attributed to agents of Mossad, the Israeli secret service - outside the conference venue.
By the summit's end, Iran could claim that US-led efforts to isolate it diplomatically and economically with unilateral sanctions had failed and that it had made progress in presenting itself as a victim of international terrorism rather than perpetrator.
In the process, however, Iran had to endure jarring criticism from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, on its failure to come clean on past nuclear activity.
The mere fact of Iran hosting the NAM summit - attended by all 120 members, a quarter represented by their heads of state, but also most of its 21 observers - contradicts the Western-inspired notion of its diplomatic isolation. For the next three years, its leader will act as the secretary-general of the NAM, based at the United Nations. In 2015 chairmanship will pass to Venezuela, another bête noire of Washington.
Before the summit, both the United States and Israel publicly urged Ban to boycott the event, asserting that the Iranian government would manipulate this opportunity to deflect attention from its own failings in human rights and cooperation with the IAEA on its nuclear program. Ban ignored the advice, replying that as the UN secretary-general he had "a mandate to engage with all the member states of the United Nations" As it is, NAM's membership is second only to the UN's.
Iran has a positive trade balance with 92 of the 179 countries that traded with it during the fiscal year ending March 2012. For example, in defiance of Washington's call to end purchases of Iran's oil, India imported Iranian petroleum worth $12.5 billion while exporting $2.5 billion worth goods to the Islamic Republic. To rectify the imbalance, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh brought a delegation of 250 businessmen and industrialists with him to confer with Iranian counterparts while he attended the NAM summit.
Iran is the second largest source of imported Middle Eastern oil for India after Saudi Arabia. Given the urgent need for energy security to ensure robust GDP growth, Delhi has no intention of accepting the extraterritorial application of US law imposing unilateral economic sanctions on Iran. It abides only by UN Security Council resolutions. That's also the case with China and Russia, which attended the NAM gathering as observers.
Much to the disappointment of Western capitals, the summit's final communiqué, published 31 August, supported Iran's claim that under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons it signed in 1968, it has the right to peaceful nuclear energy as well as the right to ownership of a full nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment, a contentious issue. The document stated that these rights belong to all NAM members.