National Security Network

The New Middle East, Iran and the United Nations

Ted Piccone offers remarks on how the democracy movements sweeping the Arab world are interacting with regional dynamics to create new opportunities and challenges for the United States—and how this is playing out at the United Nations—at a panel discussion hosted by the National Security Network and the Project on Middle East Democracy.

Ted Piccone: The United Nations has really been a great instrument, in many ways, for what U.S. goals are, and I think this administration has very effectively used the UN to achieve what it set out to do. It’s really hard to line those things up. And, of course, what you say is heard not just in Washington but all around the world, and lining those things up and finding the right messaging is a very tricky thing to do when it comes to public diplomacy. In terms of the positive side of the equation for the United States: If the Arab states, as they evolve, have more buy-in to the UN system and the international rules of the game, starting with some of the basic values of democracy and human rights, then I think that will be a big plus for the United States. That fits with our overall arching strategic view that a world made up of democracies at peace is good for the United States.

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Piccone: I think a lot of it depends, quite frankly, on what happens in the elections in the United States after 2012. You have certain voices in the Republican Party, and we see it very clearly in the [Rep. Ileana] Ros-Lehtinen legislation that would take this in a very different direction, that would assert very strongly a muscular U.S. unilateral point of view that will really hurt our ability to work through the UN and other multi-lateral mechanisms to support these kinds of transitions in the rest of the world. So I think that’s really going to be one of the critical issues to watch in the race to see how that plays out next year, because you really do – again, depending on who the nominee is and the emphasis – but I think it’s there, it’s in the cards right now that you’re going to set up a real debate on U.S. foreign policy and what role it should play going forward, and the UN is kind of a pretty key component of that debate.

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Piccone: I think the Security Council reform story is pretty brief at this point, although it’s going to take a long time to play out, which is that it’s still on the agenda very much. We have Japan, Germany, and India and Brazil at the door. And that has become such an important issue for those states – in particular Brazil, where it determines a lot of the other things they do in their foreign policy. I think a lot of people felt that their effort to work with Turkey on Iran was an example of Brazil’s effort to show that they belong on the Security Council – that they can play with the big boys, and that they can be taken seriously – backfired for them. But I think that it’s an issue that will not go away. I think there are various behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiations going on about different formulas so that you would find a way to get some of these states on the Security Council but without a veto, and would they be willing to accept that, etc. But I still think it’s going to take many years before that solution is found, but it’s not going to go away, and they’ll keep at it.

Watch the full discussion at democracyarsenal.org »