How Team Biden helped bail out a state sponsor of terrorism at the UN

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By John J. Metzler

In a truly bizarre twist of international diplomacy which would have baffled even the denizens of Monty Python, the Islamic Republic of Iran whose UN membership dues were in arrears and thus barring the country’s General Assembly voting rights, was figuratively bailed out by an unlikely source, a hidden hand.

Iran’s voting rights were restored with a flick of the cyber switch when South Korea magically released $18 million in Iran’s sanctions frozen assets thus delivering the overdue payment. Those funds were frozen in South Korean banks where Iran has more than $7 billion in cash for oil shipments from its brisk commerce with the East Asian state.

Iran has its voting rights back at the UN thanks to Team Biden and South Korea.

It was widely suggested by media sources that the Biden Administration quietly supported this move by Seoul’s leftist government who midwifed the diplomatic deal.

The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control facilitated the release of the funds. Iran’s assets in South Korean banks remained frozen since the Trump administration tightened sanctions on Iran.

You can’t make this up. Teheran thus regained its voting rights and privileges in the 193-member General Assembly.

Article 19 of the UN Charter clearly states, “A Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years.”

A word about the UN’s contributions or assessed annual dues member states must pay.

The USA remains the largest donor state assessed at 22 percent (it used to be 25%) or $693 million. Communist China, now the second largest donor’s assessment, stands at 15 percent or $481 million. Islamic Iran has a 0.37 percent assessment and must pay $11.7 million.

Given the lingering political animosity between Washington and Teheran since Jimmy Carter’s tenure in the White House in the late 1970’s when Iran’s Islamic regime came to power, it would hardly seem logical than any American Administration would actually help facilitate Iran’s voting rights in the United Nations of all places.

Teheran’s deadbeat status moreover underscored the acute embarrassment for an oil-rich country which hardly falls into the category of a Least Developed Country but nonetheless faces a severe cash flow crisis given sanctions.

Iran joined a few other member states including Papua New Guinea and Venezuela that fall into the delinquent category.

Why would Washington even indirectly help a country it has deemed a State Sponsor of Terror as well as an embryonic nuclear weapons power? Quite simple really.

The Biden Administration wants to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which granted Teheran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. That controversial accord, never approved by the U.S. Senate, was scrapped by the Trump Administration. Now there are delicate diplomatic negotiations to resume the six-nation ( U.S., Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany), Iran nuclear process in Vienna.

Such a move could be viewed as an incentive or a political sweetener to restart the Iran nuclear talks.

Does this hand of friendship to the Ayatollahs reflect some sort of political quid pro quo? Has Teheran renounced terrorism? Or support to Hizbullah in Lebanon or to their Houthi proxies in beleaguered Yemen? Or what about brutal political repression against dissidents inside the Islamic Republic itself?


But now the Teheran regime has its UN vote back; and this is OK?

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]