‘Live from Tehran, it’s Nuclear Summit 2!”
That’s how Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should have opened his nuclear summit with representatives from 60 countries. Ahmadinejad’s two-day forum convened the week after President Barack Obama’s star-studded nuclear security summit in Washington, D.C.
The Iranian kicked off his summit with a monologue laced with howlers, including a demand that the United States be the first to disarm. “Threatening with nuclear weapons only dishonored the American government officials and more fully exposed their inhumane and aggressive policies,” he said.
Ahmadinejad’s not funny — but he’s no idiot either.
On Feb. 11, he celebrated the 31st anniversary of the Iranian Revolution by proclaiming Iran a “nuclear state.” He knows that no one believes Tehran is pursuing a nuclear program just to power light bulbs.
The London Times spilled the beans months ago, documenting how Iranian scientists were working on a neutron initiator, a key nuclear weapon component.
Ahmadinejad knows U.S. officials estimate Tehran may have a missile that could hit America by 2015. He knows the world knows he is a threat.
He knows his summit — officially themed “Nuclear Energy For All, Nuclear Weapons For None” — was a joke. Indeed, that was the point.
The Iran conference was a perfect parody of Obama’s nuclear security summit — Ahmadinejad’s version of a “Saturday Night Live” spoof. Hearing the American president offer pious statements about a world without nuclear weapons and vapidly urging the world to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous actors, the Iranian president mockingly followed suit.
The satirical situation raises a serious question: Does Iran think U.S. nuclear policy is a joke? Looking at the world from Ahmadinejad’s perspective, the answer may well be “yes.”
U.S. officials recently declared that, if everything goes right, they might be able to provide a missile-defense shield for Europe by 2018. But if the Iranians finish developing their nuclear missiles by 2015, the shield will arrive way too late.
Administration officials have played fast and lose with the truth about what their missile-defense plans can achieve. The White House has continued President George W. Bush-era investment in short- and medium-range missile defense, but it’s cut back the ground-based interceptor program that would defend against Iran’s long-range missile threat.
That can only encourage Iran to accelerate its long-range missile program to take advantage of America’s vulnerability. And that’s not all.
Obama has let a tough bill on Iran sanctions idle in Congress. The administration has hardly pressed to move the bill quickly.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has made little real progress in getting tough sanctions approved in the United Nations Security Council or in closing a deal with Iran on nuclear processing. Since Obama settled into the Oval Office, Iran has played rope-a-dope, feigning just enough interest in cooperating to keep the international community from pressing for real action.
At the same time, the White House has announced no plans to modernize America’s aging nuclear arsenal. Rather, it plans to lessen America’s nuclear deterrent by locking us into an arms-control treaty with the Russians that offers Moscow every advantage. That’s hardly likely to make us look stronger in Iran’s eyes.
Ahmadinejad can be excused for believing that Obama’s “vision” of a nuclear-free world looks more like a “Saturday Night Live” skit than a serious plan. He may be right.
But what’s troubling is his criticism and ridicule of the U.S. It suggests Ahmadinejad doesn’t take the administration’s opposition to Iran’s nuclear weapons program seriously.
Right or wrong, that’s an extremely dangerous perception for Iranians and Americans alike.
James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for national security at The Heritage Foundation.