The decision to toss our head of state into the boiling political pot of the Middle East might or might not have been a piece in its campaign to win a 12-month seat on the United Nations Security Council. Look, here’s our man at the UN shaking hands with Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, and there he is enjoying a bilateral chat with Lebanon’s president!
Whatever the purpose of such photo opportunities, and however much they get hearts beating with excitement on and around Merrion Street, it’s likely that they count for little in New York or, for that matter, anywhere else. But that’s politics, and if politics is show business for ugly people, they don’t get much uglier than the people who currently govern Iran and its client state, Lebanon.
Rouhani, allegedly a moderate, told the UN in 2014 that he came from a region of the world “whose many parts were burning in the fire of extremism and radicalism”. Extremists, he said, threatened Iran’s neighbours, “resorting to violence and bloodshed”. That appears to be a fair summary of the Middle East mess, until he adds, as he’s done this week: “America, unfortunately, is the supporter of terrorism in our region... Wherever America has gone, terrorism has expanded in the wake.”
So, of course, there’s not a fraction of a scintilla of truth in the allegation that it’s the Iranian regime, not the US government, that inspires and funds terrorism throughout the region by proxy through Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban and militias in Iraq, Syria and the Gulf. Meanwhile, we learn this week that Iran — which remains committed to the destruction of Israel — continues to breach the international agreement designed to limit its nuclear development programme.
Good governments must sit down with bad ones. But President Michael D Higgins, a man of letters, might be familiar with Chaucer’s warning in ‘The Squire’s Tale’: He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon.