Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should get out more. We mean that without irony. The Iranian President spoke yesterday in New York at the start of the U.N. conference reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and nothing could have done more to expose the folly of relying on arms control to maintain global security.
The Iranian couldn’t have been clearer that his country intends to ignore any and all U.N. pressure to stop building its bomb. He averred that the world has “not a single credible proof” that Iran intends to build a bomb, notwithstanding the world’s discovery of its secret uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz in 2002 and its secret underground facility near Qom last year. He even said the U.S. should be suspended from the U.N. atomic agency’s board because “it used nuclear weapons against Japan” and depleted uranium weapons in Iraq.
Delegates from the U.S., U.K. and France walked out during the speech, to their credit. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs chimed in that the remarks were “wild accusations,” and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took to the podium later in the day to accuse Iran of “flouting the rules” and declaring it is “time for a strong international response.”
This is all true enough, but it ignores Mr. Ahmadinejad’s real message, which is that Iran won’t be deterred by a stricter world antiproliferation treaty, or by one more U.N. Security Council resolution, or by the moral example, as President Obama likes to put it, of a new U.S.-Russian arms treaty. Iran wants the bomb in order to become a more potent Mideast power that can do as it pleases without having to worry about opposition from the world’s largest nations.
Give Mr. Ahmadinejad credit for lack of artifice. He says what he and the ruling class in Tehran believe and thus betrays what they intend, however “wild.”
The truly humiliating spectacle is the sight of the world’s leading powers devoting a month to updating a treaty designed to stop proliferation even as Mr. Ahmadinejad makes a mockery of that effort before their very eyes.
If Iran does get a nuclear weapon, or even the capacity to make one at a moment’s notice, it would be the most damaging act of proliferation since Stalin got the hydrogen bomb. The event would set off a regional nuclear arms race, as Turkey, Egypt, the Saudis and perhaps even the Gulf states seek their own nuclear deterrent. The rest of the world would see that Iran was able to face down the world’s leading powers—and prevail. The damage to world order would be traumatic. And that is before the increased risks of global nuclear terrorism from Iranian proliferation.
If Mr. Obama and other world leaders were serious about Iran, they wouldn’t merely walk out on Iran’s president. They would rally the world to stop him, explaining the grave stakes to the public, and making clear to Iran that there is a deadline to diplomacy and that military force will be used if diplomacy fails. The only serious person at the U.N. on Monday was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Editorial, Wall Street Journal