Iran, not invited to the Washington nuclear security summit that opened on Monday, says it will not be bound by any agreement between the 47 nations represented. Yet Iran will be near the top of the agenda, because Washington and some other Western nations accuse Iran of having a nuclear weapons program.
The Islamic Republic – which has made steady advances in nuclear technology that it says will produce energy, not weapons – has for many years called for a nuclear-free Middle East. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is known to have nuclear weapons.
“The outcome of the Washington conference is already known. Any decision taken at the meeting is not binding on those countries … not represented at the conference,” said Iran’s envoy to the Vienna-based United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, on Monday. “The new US [nuclear] policy proves Islamic Republic of Iran’s argument that the US is not committed to any global rules and regulations.”
Netanayhu: Don't let Iran rise like Nazi Germany
Iran, North Korea, and Syria were not on the guest list, in a deliberate snub that some analysts say was designed to further isolate those regimes and perhaps help convince them to adhere to safeguards of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel – which is believed to have some 200 nuclear warheads, but along with Pakistan and India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – decided at the last minute not to attend the conference.
Israel, whose politicians have raised the loudest alarm bells about Iran’s nuclear efforts, had been expecting to hear calls to dismantle Israel's own nuclear arsenal. Israel marked its annual Holocaust memorial day on Sunday, with Mr. Netanyahu attempting to link a threat from Iran with the rise of Nazi Germany.
“We encounter in the best case a limp reaction, and even that is fading,” Netanyahu said. “If we have learned anything from the Holocaust, it is that we must not be silent or be deterred in the face of evil.”
US reserves right to attack Iran, a non-nuclear state
The Washington summit comes as Tehran readies for its own counter-proliferation meeting in Tehran next weekend. Iran has strongly objected to the updated US nuclear policy that singles out Iran and North Korea as exceptions to a policy which otherwise rules out attacking nonnuclear states.
On Sunday, supreme religious leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei – who has frequently stated that nuclear weapons are against Islam and therefore not Iran’s aim – accused President Obama of threatening Iran.
“The US president has implicitly threatened the Iranian nation with nuclear weapons. Their remarks are very strange,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, according to state TV. “The world should not ignore it because in the 21st century ... the head of a state is threatening a nuclear attack. The US president’s remarks are disgraceful. These remarks mean the US government is a villain government; that can’t be trusted.”
Iran announces technical advances
The heated rhetoric comes as Iran in recent days announced a series of technical advances that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday should be taken “with more than a grain of salt.”
On Friday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran was producing a third generation of centrifuges to enrich uranium – the process that creates nuclear material for power plants or, at higher levels, for bombs. He said it would enrich uranium six times faster than the decades-old Pakistani design now installed at Iran’s primary site of Natanz.
On Sunday, the chief of Iran’s atomic energy organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the Islamic Republic would soon begin mass production of second-generation centrifuges that are three times faster than in the past.
US presses for fourth round of UN sanctions
UN Security Council resolutions require Iran to stop all enrichment work, pending resolution of several outstanding issues that appear to show Iranian weaponization work.
Iranian “belligerence” was helping Washington make its case “every single day” for a fourth round of UN sanctions against Iran, Mrs. Clinton told ABC on Sunday. Iran’s key trading partner China has now signaled that it will play a larger role in a new layer of sanctions.
“Countries that might have had doubts about Iranian intentions, who might have even questioned whether Iran was seeking nuclear weapons, are having those doubts dispelled as much by the evidence we present as by what comes out of the leadership of Iran,” said Clinton.