Anti-Ahmadinejad protestors in New York last time: The Iranian leader will hope to see the Israeli flag flying prominently among those denouncing him
The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was clearly unsettled by the news that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, plans to show up in New York on Monday at the UN’s Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
As far as the US is concerned, Iran is a pariah in the international conversation about proliferation, and halting its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons is one of Washington’s key objectives at the New York conference.
“If [Mr Ahmadinejad] believes that by coming he can somehow divert attention from this very important global effort or cause confusion that might possibly throw into doubt what Iran has been up to … then I don’t believe he will have a particularly receptive audience.” At least she hopes not.
Somewhere in Tehran, Mrs Clinton’s remarks will have prompted Mr Ahmadinejad to smile his pantomime villain’s smile. He’s going to New York because he believes he’ll have an opportunity to confound US objectives.
Sure, he’ll be the focus of much opprobrium – senators from Mrs Clinton’s own party tried to reverse her administration’s decision to grant him a visa, apparently ignorant of their country’s obligations as host to the United Nations. And there will be hundreds of demonstrators across from the UN headquarters, perhaps some waving Israeli flags. At least, Mr Ahmadinejad hopes so, because he too intends to make an issue of Israel – not by threatening to wipe it out, but by pointing that Israel possesses a nuclear arsenal capable of wiping out Iran 20 times over, and yet doesn’t feature in Washington’s non-proliferation agenda.
So while the US hopes to use Iran’s failure to fully comply with the transparency requirements of the treaty to raise support for new sanctions against Tehran, the Iranians plan to draw attention to western double standards in applying the NPT.
Exhibit A will be America’s own nuclear arsenal, and the Obama Administration’s new doctrine that claims the right to launch a nuclear first-strike on Iran so long as Washington deems Tehran to be outside its obligations under the NPT. The treaty, of course, makes no provision for the use of nuclear weapons in policing non-proliferation; on the contrary, it requires countries that already have such weapons to make credible moves towards complete disarmament.
The recent US-Russian agreement to trim their nuclear arsenals to some 1,500 active warheads each – enough to destroy the entire planet many times over – will do little to convince developing countries that the nuclear club is keeping its end of the bargain.
Iran will try to rally those countries with a message that those who complain loudest about Iran’s nuclear programme are systematically violating the spirit of the agreement, which was never about safeguarding the nuclear-weapons monopoly of a handful of nations.
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