but the three Arab countries that have toppled their governments this year have switched their votes in the UN from supporting Iran on human rights to opposing it.
In 2010, before the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya had been toppled, all three regimes voted no on the annual UN resolution highly critical of Iran’s conduct on human rights. Although Iran now says all those governments were American lackeys, all three were solidly with Iran and against the United States when it came to Iran’s human rights conduct. Many analysts assume they voted that way mainly because they feared the human rights issue being turned on them and were making statements against resolutions making judgments on human rights.
But last week, when the UN General Assembly voted on its 2011 human rights resolution on Iran, none of the three any longer supported Iran. Egypt abstained while Libya and Tunisia both voted for the Canadian-sponsored resolution condemning Iran.
Beyond that trio, Iran lost much other support. In fact, a third of the countries that supported Iran in 2010 abandoned it in 2011. The vote in 2010 was 78-45 with 59 abstentions. The vote this year was 89-30 with 64 abstentions.
Many countries that had previously voted with Iran abstained this year, while many countries that had abstained in previous years voted against Iran this year. Tunisia and Libya were the sole countries to make the big leap all the way from voting with Iran to voting against Iran.
The biggest shift was among Muslim states. In 2010, a bare majority of the members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) supported Iran. This year, only a quarter of the membership supported Iran. Here are the numbers.
No 29 15
Yes 4 6
Abstain 18 31
Absent 5 4
Two countries went against the grain and moved in Iran’s direction. India, which abstained last year, voted no this year. India has been trying to work with Iran to allow Indian supplies to reach Afghanistan through Iran as India seeks to build up Afghanistan as a bulwark against Pakistan. That may have influenced India’s shift. The other country, Sierra Leone, voted for the human rights resolution last year, but abstained this year. Countries sometimes abstain when they haven’t received instructions from home in time for the vote. That was the most likely explanation for Sierra Leone’s abstention.
A noteworthy vote was Senegal’s. It normally abstains. But in the last year, Iran was caught shipping arms to Gambia, Senegal’s neighbor where a Senegalese rebel movement takes refuge. In apparent anger with Iran, Senegal this year voted for the resolution criticizing Iran. Gambia voted for the resolution both last year and this year.
Iran’s Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf have had many frictions with Iran over the years but have mostly stuck with Iran on the human rights issue. Cracks showed up this year. No one voted against Iran, but there was a shift toward abstentions. Last year, only Saudi Arabia abstained. This year, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE all abstained. Only Oman and Qatar stuck with Iran.
The UN has 193 members. So only 16 percent of the membership supported Iran by voting against the human rights resolution this year, down from 23 percent last year.
The proportion voting against Iran is still a minority, however. It rose from 41 percent last year to 46 percent this year.
In the decade since the UN resumed voting on human rights resolutions regarding Iran, the Islamic Republic consistently drew support from 45 to 55 countries. The huge drop-off this year to just 30 supporters had to leave the leadership in Tehran worried. It has been loudly denying US assertions that it is increasingly isolated in the world. But this year’s vote shows precisely that.
Of the 29 countries that voted with Iran last week, five were neighbors (Afghanistan, Armenia, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar), five were political outcasts (Belarus, North Korea, Myanmar, Syria, Zimbabwe), five were Latin American allies (Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela), nine were other Muslim-majority countries (Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) and five didn’t fit categorization (Russia, China, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka).
Tehran will undoubtedly note the support from Russia, China and India.
Here are the UN votes since the General Assembly resumed taking up Iranian human rights resolutions in 2004. This tabulation shows the yeas, nays and abstentions: