Iran will preside over the United Nations arms control forum this month, despite the fact that it is under U.N. sanctions for illicit nuclear activities and routinely supplies arms to the terrorist organization Hezbollah in violation of international law.
The U.N.’s annual Conference on Disarmament, which Iran is slated to lead from May 27 to June 23, is the organization’s primary multilateral forum for negotiating arms control agreements.
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The forum has given way to major international treaties on nuclear non-proliferation, prohibitions on chemical weapons, and bans on nuclear tests.
UN Watch, a Geneva-based watchdog group, blasted the decision to allow Iran to chair the conference.
"This is like putting Jack the Ripper in charge of a women’s shelter," said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer in a statement. "Iran is an international outlaw state that illegally supplies rockets to Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas, aiding and abetting mass murder and terrorism. To make this rogue regime head of world arms control is simply an outrage. Abusers of international norms should not be the public face of the U.N."
The organization said it plans to hold protests with Iranian dissidents outside the U.N. hall.
Neuer called on U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and EU High Commissioner Catherine Ashton to "make clear that when the United Nations imposes four rounds of sanctions on Iran for illicit nuclear activities, condemns it for illegally arming the murderous Syrian regime, and denounces Tehran’s massive abuse of human rights, this kind of appointment just defies common sense and harms the U.N.'s credibility."
U.N. officials say Iran is simply the next country in rotation for the conference chair slot, according to UN Watch.
The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said Ambassador Rice would not attend any meeting of the disarmament conference presided over by Iran in a statement Monday evening.
The U.S. mission also denounced Iran’s leadership role as "unfortunate and highly inappropriate."
"While the presidency of the CD is largely ceremonial and involves no substantive responsibilities, allowing Iran—a country that is in flagrant violation of its obligations under multiple UN Security Council Resolutions and to the IAEA Board of Governors—to hold such a position runs counter to the goals and objectives of the Conference on Disarmament itself," said the statement. "As a result, the United States will not be represented at the ambassadorial level during any meeting presided over by Iran."
The U.N. Secretary-General’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Iran has not halted its nuclear weapons efforts despite international sanctions and condemnation. The country is a top benefactor of the Syrian regime, which is suspected of using chemical weapons against rebel forces. Iran also supplies rockets and other arms to its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah.
The United Nations has previously hosted the Holocaust-denying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at its World Conference Against Racism, where he has equated Zionism with racism and claimed Israel exploits the Holocaust to persecute Palestinians.
Neuer said Iran’s record of human rights abuses and U.N. sanctions should make it ineligible for a leadership position.
"Any member state that is the subject of U.N. Security Council sanctions for proliferation—and found guilty of massive human rights violations—should be ineligible to hold a leadership position in a U.N. body," Neuer said. "The U.S. and Canada have asserted this principle in the past, and should do so again."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), who authored the United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act of 2011, said Iran chairing the UN Conference on Disarmament "is like allowing the inmates to run the prison."
"When the absurd at the U.N. becomes the norm it should be a clear indication that the objectives of that body have run afoul of its original intent and founding mission," said Ros-Lehtinen in a statement provided to the Washington Free Beacon. "Sadly, having Iran—an international pariah state that is under UN sanctions for its illicit nuclear activities—chair this year's Conference on Disarmament nears the top of the list of absurdities to come out of the UN in recent years."
Ros-Lehtinen added that the administration has failed to hold the United Nations accountable for its actions, which is why she will be reintroducing her U.N. reform bill from last Congress.
"To continue to send billions of hardworking American taxpayer money to the U.N. without calling for reforms is indefensible in our current economic situation; and even if we weren't in tough economic times, continuing to accept the mediocrity of the U.N. is irresponsible," she said.