In an apparent effort to repair its regional and international standing, Iran hosted its second counter-terrorism conference in two months this weekend in Tehran, according to a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). The goals of the two-day "World without Terrorism" conference, as outlined by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the opening ceremony, were to define terrorism and identify its main causes.
Echoing statements made in Iran's May 14-15 conference, Khamenei told attendees that there exist "satanic world powers which use terrorism in their policies and in their planning to achieve their illegitimate goals." In particular, he said, the "Zionist regime" had from its inception been a perpetrator of global terrorism. He also accused the U.S., the U.K., and other Western governments of having "a black record of terrorist behaviors."
While pointing fingers at Israel and the West, Iran conveniently failed again to mention its own support of designated terrorists Hizballah and Hamas, or other noted militants.
In light of recent setbacks, it is suspected that the more likely purpose of the conference was for Iran to reassert itself as a leading regional and international force. Domestically, Iran has struggled as of late due to a growing rift between Khameini and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. On a regional scale, the conflict in Syria has threatened one of Iran's closest allies while the Islamic Republic also lost a standoff with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in the recent crisis in Bahrain. To add to its current issues, the EU also refused to renew talks with Iran over its nuclear program.
Despite its situation, the conference attracted several noteworthy heads of state, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, as well as representatives from Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Mali.
The conference, however, did not generate the turnout Iran had hoped for. Though Tehran tried to make the conference an international event, ultimately the attendees were only neighbors who share Iran's security interests, and satellites of the regime. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states refused to participate in protest of Iran's support of Shiite protests in Bahrain and other Arab countries.
In spite of the blatantly anti-U.S. and anti-Western agenda of the conference and the involvement of Sudanese President Bashir, who is wanted by the United Nations for war crimes, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended Iran for its effort in organizing the event.
"The U.N. has an important role in fighting terrorism and I hope that the Tehran conference can attain [this] great goal," Ban said in a message delivered to the conference through a special envoy. "Moving towards negotiation[s] and recognition among nations according to the U.N. charter, having friendly relations with nations and improving relations among them, and performing humanistic activities are some of the important strategies against terrorism."
For more information on the conference, click here.