NAM in Tehran

Since the Cold War's end, the Non-Aligned Movement has fractured into a heterodox grouping whose members range from leftist regimes to conservative monarchies. Why does it survive, and what will Iran's new three-year term at the movement's helm mean for key members' relations with the West?

NEW DELHI – Nowadays, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is no longer much of a movement. Since the Cold War’s end, it has fractured into a far more heterodox grouping whose members range from leftist regimes, as in Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela, to the conservative monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar) of the Persian Gulf. So it should be no surprise that ideological cacophony has severely diluted the group’s founding impulse of avoiding entanglement in the disputes of the world’s superpowers.

Thus, today’s NAM finds itself as a group in search of purpose and principle. Its sole comfort, it seems, is that it has not yet withered away.

But, despite its diminished status, the recent NAM summit in Tehran was able to claim the world’s attention. Why hold the summit in Tehran, some members asked? This, however, only raised heckles from those who still see the group as a means to stare down the superpowers. Their retort – “Why not in Tehran?” – angered more than it soothed.

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