Ban castigated in Iran despite exquisite service in statements on Riyadh
Tehran, Iran, June 12
By Mehdi Sepahvand - Trend:
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon seems to have been gotten wrong in Iran as his service to the cause of the Islamic Republic, namely intense and vast disputes with Saudi Arabia, seems to have been misinterpreted.
It was extraordinary to hear the secretary-general admit publicly June 9 that he had had his arm twisted to change tack in the wake of anger from Riyadh.
Ban Ki-moon publicly acknowledged Thursday that he removed the Saudi-led coalition currently bombing Yemen from a blacklist of child killers - 72 hours after it was published - due to a financial threat to defund United Nations programs.
The secretary-general didn't name the source of the threat, but news reports have indicated it came directly from the Saudi government.
The U.N.'s 2015 "Children and Armed Conflict" report originally listed the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen under "parties that kill or maim children" and "parties that engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals." The report, which was based on the work of U.N. researchers in Yemen, attributed 60 percent of the 785 children killed and 1,168 injured to the bombing coalition.
"The report describes horrors no child should have to face," Ban said at a press conference. "At the same time, I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many U.N. programs. Children already at risk in Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and so many other places would fall further into despair."
But although the secretary general seems to have rang a bell for Iran vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, the harshest of Riyadh critics in Iran seem to have taken him wrong. Many news outlets in Iran criticized Ban for his statements.
Ya Lasarat, a far rightwing Iranian newspaper interpreted Ban's statements as his "prejudice toward Saudi Arabia".
Tabnak filed a report with the headline "Ban has rewarded Saudis".
In the meantime, the Islamic Human Rights Student Association in an open letter to the secretary general chastised him on the grounds of having delisted Saudi Arabia.
Only one news outlet seems to have actually grasped the idea of Ban's statements. The right-wing Keyhan newspaper published a review under the title "Ban confesses UN for rent", stating the very thing Tehran could have used as lever to further pressurize Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia is one of the U.N.'s largest donors in the Middle East, giving hundreds of millions of dollars a year to U.N. food programs in Syria and Iraq. In 2014, Saudi Arabia gave $500 million - the largest single humanitarian donation to the U.N. - to help Iraqis displaced by the Islamic State (aka IS, ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh). Over the past three years, Saudi Arabia has also been become the third-largest donor to the U.N.'s relief agency in Palestine, giving tens of millions of dollars to help rebuild Gaza and assist Palestinian refugees.
Tehran and Riyadh have been engaged in serious dispute over a lot of issues in the recent years. Disagreement over developments in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen on one hand, allegations of human rights violation on the other, not to mention the nuclear activities of Iran.
In late 2015 Iran accused Saudi Arabia of violating the rights of expression by beheading a dissident Shite preacher. Rage over the execution led to the torching of the Saudi embassy in Tehran by protestors. Following that, Riyadh severed ties with Iran.
Around the same time Iran lost around 700 souls in a stampede in the Muslim ritual Hajj held in Saudi Arabia. Tehran directed a heavy barrage of criticism at Riyadh, accusing the Saudi government of mishandling the situation and causing the heavy toll.
Iran also saw itself the main victim of a downward oil price race triggered by Riyadh over a year ago. Tehran later refused to comply with a Saudi-initiated oil output freeze, calling the move a new set of sanctions against the Islamic Republic just at a time when the country was being freed from international nuclear sanctions.
Mehdi Sepahvand is Trend Agency's Tehran-based correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @mehdisepahvand