President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad campaigned in Uganda and Zimbabwe. Behind the scenes, his flunkies twisted arms and offered favors. For weeks, feelers were sent out to all kinds of unlikely allies. What was the diplomatic prize at stake? Nothing less than a seat on the U.N. council on human rights.
All this was perfectly appropriate. Despite its title, this is a committee whose past members—Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Zimbabwe among them—have not been renowned for their adherence to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. On the contrary, authoritarian regimes have long battled to join the council and its predecessor organizations, the better to prevent any outsiders from investigating their own governments. Once they became members, much of their time was spent denouncing Israel and the United States, while studiously avoiding anything that might sound, say, like criticism of Russian behavior in Chechnya.