Friday, May 7, 2010

Tehran: Champion of Nuclear Non-proliferation?

Is Washington ceding the diplomatic initiative on nuclear proliferation to...Tehran?!?

The issue of Israel’s rogue nuclear status (i.e., possessing the weapons but rejecting the NPT) has officially been on the IAEA’s plate since a majority of its members so voted last year and is now being actively pursued by Amano in the form of an official letter to world governments requesting comment. Amano’s timing seems designed to raise the level of attention; in the context of Ahmadinejad’s reasonable call at the U.N. for a nuclear-free Mideast—an idea now also being championed by Cairo—and Washington’s rather inept murmuring of theoretical agreement but only after finding a solution to the Palestinian issue, which Washington’s Tel Aviv partner is conveniently blocking (!), global diplomatic initiative on nuclear proliferation is passing to Iran.

For Iran to emerge from the U.N. NPT review conference as the innovator and moral leader on the issue of nuclear proliferation would be not just ironic but a major blow to the prestige and influence of the U.S. This is exactly the outcome predicted by the hypothesis that if Ahmadinejad presented a moderate face at the conference, he would “win big.” For Iran clearly to gain the moral high ground on the nuclear issue would underscore the harm that American subordination to the Israeli right wing does to U.S. national security. It would, perhaps quite dangerously over the long run, empower militarist circles in Iran. It would also seem likely to undermine pro-American moderates that have been trying to find a solution to the nuclear impasse with Tehran. Ceding the initiative to Tehran, which is on a crusade to redesign the international political system, is quite different than ceding it to the likes of Ankara and Brasilia, which are relatively comfortable in the Western-led international political system, albeit desiring certain rather reasonable reforms.

Washington needs to find a way to evade a completely negative position as a roadblock to global progress on nuclear proliferation. Tel Aviv’s militarists are pulling Washington into a dangerously reactive position that only undermines Obama’s professed interest in making progress on this issue. It is bad enough for Washington to fail to offer a reasoned response to Ahmadinejad; but when Washington falls so far behind even the IAEA, it looks like a very tired superpower.

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