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Propaganda war takes over Teheran's showpiece summit

By Smita Prakash
Last updated on: August 29, 2012 11:34 IST
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Teheran's Imam Khomeini International Airport is located 30 miles southwest of the city, but the drive from the airport to the downtown area where the hotels are located is a smooth drive despite the traffic.

Clearly the roads have been cleared for buses of delegates to pass through. Just like Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt, which hosted the earlier NAM summit, Teheran too has pulled out all stops to ensure that it showcases it self in the best possible light as the host of the XVIth Non-Aligned Summit.

There are posters of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dotting the roadsides. Some of the roads look like they have been freshly tarred and railings look like they have had a fresh coat of paint.

All this reminds one of the way Delhi was spruced up for the Commonwealth Games in 2010 -- the pretty plants, the bright bus stops, the poor and unhappy hidden away…oh look, we are all a cheerful lot.

However, filming is restricted to just the summit areas. Media delegates are warned that if they take their camera units without permission anywhere out of the summit area, they could be arrested.

Iran is trying to use the summit and the meetings on the side to end its diplomatic isolation by challenging the Western powers.

General Mohamed Ali Jafari , the head of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, told the website Sepah News, "God willing, a glorious holding of the summit."

"The extraordinary effort that the Iranian leaders have put into the summit is intended to showcase Iran's global role and offer concrete evidence that the US policy of isolating Iran has failed," said Farideh Farhi, an independent Iranian scholar at the University of Hawaii, as quoted by the New York Times.

There is formidable security in and around the summit venue. A five-day holiday has been declared so there is lesser traffic on the roads.

Some 11,000 policemen have been deployed across the country, a majority of them in Teheran itself.

The main street intersections, hotel entrance points, summit venues are spruced up, and there are escorts for heads of state and governments who have arrived here for the summit.

The authorities are making sure that no street protests are held during the weeklong event that could embarrass the Ahmadinejad regime.

Underground Iranian activists had launched some Facebook pages urging UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon not to attend the summit thereby granting legitimacy to the Iranian government and its nuclear weapons programme.

Iran is tomtomming Ban Ki-moon's visit to Teheran as proof of its diplomatic prowess. Israel and the United States tried to dissuade the UN secretary general from attending, but despite intense diplomatic and media pressure, he has decided to not break with convention.

The secretary general's spokesman, Martin Nesirky, said that Ban Ki moon expects "meaningful and fruitful discussions."

He is "fully aware of the sensitivities" of the visit, Nesirky claimed, but added not going (to Iran) "would be a missed opportunity."

The propaganda war has taken over the NAM Summit. Outside the meeting site, Iran has displayed three cars damaged by bomb blasts that it blamed on agents of Mossad, CIA and MI6.

At least five members of Iranian scientific community, including nuclear experts, have been killed since early 2010 as part of a suspected covert war.

Teheran, the capital does not give the impression of being a city facing any kind of economic sanction. The fact that its economy is crippled and that it is isolated diplomatically due to its nuclear programme is bravado that Iran's ruling elite is wearing as a badge of honour.

Teheran is trying to elevate its international standing, even as the United States seeks to cripple its economy and isolate it diplomatically over its nuclear program. The Iranian regime is looking for validation from the NAM Grouping for its stand, and in true Arab fashion, it expects its guests to do the right thing, be gracious and praise the host for everything under the sun and ignore the warts.

It remains to be seen how pragmatic India is in its dealings with Iran over the next few days, as all eyes focus on how the Indian and the Iranian delegations conduct themselves on the bilateral front on the sidelines of the summit.

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Smita Prakash in Teheran
Source: ANI
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