There is a key difference between sports and politics. Results of a sporting game are decisive, clear and quantitative. But the results of a political act are qualitative, debatable and even justifiable. An example of a sporting event is that Iran could not go to World Soccer Cup games. It is a clear failure and defeat, and can’t be rationalized. But some Iranian officials are trying to present Iran’s failure in stopping the passage of UN Security Council resolution against it as a victory! Their argument is that this time there were two votes against the resolution! So much for a resolution that Ahmadinejad called a “worthless piece of paper.” But despite the possibility of justifying a political event, there are times when the actual results of a political act are too obvious. A look at the recent Security Council resolution is just one of these latter examples.
But before any analysis of the resolution, one must bear in mind that the legality of a resolution is not based on the number of its votes but from its passage. In other words if the resolution had passed even with 9 votes (with no negative votes of its key members), as opposed to 13, it would enjoy no different legal status, and its binding nature would remain the same. It is like the passage of bills in a national parliament. Few people pay attention to the number of votes that a bill gets or does or does not get after a bill is passed into a law. Those who opposed the bill and those who voted for it are all committed to implement it. So a resolution with maximum votes or a minimum votes carries the same legal weight. There is a difference in the two from a political perspective but that is not lasting and its impact is short and not very deep. Still, among the 15 votes at the Security Council, a number carried political weight.
The votes of Russia and China are important because they indicate to the managers of Iran’s foreign policy that realities of the international order are different from what they imagine it to be. This order is multi-polar from one perspective, but on the other hand has a unipolar aspect as well. Its unipolar reality is related to the whole international order in the sense that if a government tries to challenge the whole order, it will face a united challenge. But if this totality is recognized and accepted, then the reality under that picture will be multi-polar, allowing states to pursue their own national interests through the use of available poles. So being optimistic in getting support from other poles such as Russia and China on attacks on the totality of the international order is a major mistake.
Even though Brazil and Turkey’s votes did not affect the outcome of the resolution, their position had turned into an issue of image for them. They were defending their own image and integrity, not Iran’s interests. By coming to Tehran and getting a major concession from the Iranian government, they believed that they had opened a negotiations channel. When they saw the negative response to the deal, they had no choice but to vote down on the Security Council resolution. Otherwise, their political image would be harmed. I do not believe that the US was seriously opposed to their opposition either because by getting the deal, the two countries were in a way just doing their job.
The two important votes were Lebanon and Bosnia. Lebanon cast an abstention. It could have voted against the resolution knowing that nothing would have changed, but it chose not to. Their decision and calculations show that if the claims that Iranian authorities have been making about Lebanon since the 33 day-war in Gaza were true, then we should have witnessed a negative vote for the resolution. The conclusion is that we should not be too optimistic about the all the expenses and investments that the regime is making in Lebanon. As a matter of fact, Lebanese Hezbollah cleverly and only after the vote announced its object to the government’s abstention so that it could continue to receive its benefits. I think Bosnia’s position and vote on the resolution was more important. Bosnia voted for the resolution against Iran. This was the first opportunity for Bosnia since its independence from Serbia to pay back Iran for the support that Iran provided it in its war of independence. But not only did it not abstain or cast a negative ineffective vote, it actually chose to support the resolution and even announce this well before the vote. This shows that the policies of supporting Bosnia were not of the kind and nature to be reciprocated towards in Iran when the latter needed it, even if just superficial. If the support that Gharaei (a Friday prayer) provided to the people of Bosnia during Yugoslavia’s civil war was directed at the people of this country, they would have come to his help when he needed them. But one can say that the outcome of the support that Iran provided to Bosnia and Herzegovina are precisely what we witnessed at the Security Council and this is just another example of Iran’s foreign policy and international relations.
* Published in Iran's ROOZ on June 16.