Astonishing Display of Naïveté

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has egg on his face and only himself to blame for it.

After inviting the Iranians to attend Syria peace negotiations — because he believed their assurances that they had accepted the original Geneva declaration calling for a transitional government and free elections — he was forced to turn around and uninvite them.

“The secretary-general is deeply disappointed by Iranian public statements today that are not at all consistent with that stated commitment,” his spokesman told reporters Monday.

The secretary-general is not just deeply disappointed; he is deeply embarrassed at having been caught in an astonishing display of naïveté.

Despite having Western intelligence that proves Iran’s direct involvement in the murder of more than 100,000 Syrians — it has provided Syrian President Bashar Assad with gunmen, intelligence and communications — Ban decided that Iran was a worthy partner to peace talks because he had received “a stated commitment” from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Ban’s decision to invite Iran got him into trouble with the United States and the Syrian opposition, which said it would not attend the conference if Iran was a presence there. His decision to uninvite Iran got him into hot water with Russia which, predictably, insisted that Iran was a legitimate partner in talks aimed at a peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis.

The lesson for Ban is that Iranian officials cannot be judged by what they say, but by what they do. It is a lesson that needs to be applied in the Syrian context and, most importantly, in the nuclear context.

Iran’s new leadership is good at sweet talk. The international community must learn from the Ban debacle and insist on verifiable actions as it proceeds to negotiate a final agreement on Tehran’s nuclear aspirations.