Iran holds nuclear summit of its own in response to US
A nuclear disarmament conference is underway in Iran, with up to 60 countries taking part in it. It comes as the UN discusses possible new sanctions against Iran.
The conference follows the non-proliferation summit in the US earlier this week, from which Tehran was kept off the guest list.
It is Iran’s last big push against sanctions, as it has persuaded UN Security Council members China and Russia, along with the UN’s nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to come to Tehran.
The conference opened with Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful. In a speech read out by his advisor he declared that nuclear weapons are contrary to the laws of Islam.
“The Iranian people who itself fell victim to the chemical weapons in the past, better than anyone else realizes the dangers of proliferation of mass destruction weapons and is going to canalize its energies and possibilities to encounter this,” the statement says.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has actually threatened to leave the IAEA because of what he calls double standards. He said that countries like Israel, which is suspected of possessing nuclear weapons, are not inspected by the watchdog because they are not members.
He also added that many so-called non-aligned countries actually support Iran’s program for peaceful nuclear energy.
Ahmadinejad said it would be expedient to set up “an international independent body having full authority to control nuclear disarmament.”
Ahmadinejad has called for the US to be suspended from the IAEA for its “attacks” on Iran and its refusal to rule out a nuclear strike on Tehran.
“Threatening with nuclear weapons only dishonored the American government officials and revealed their inhumane and aggressive policies more and more,” he said.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Tehran can build a prototype nuclear bomb within a year, while Israel says the Iranians could pull it off within months.
However, in a somewhat unorthodox rebuttal, Ahmadinejad himself declared that if the world doesn’t back off, Iran could have a bomb ready next month.
At this week’s nuclear summit in Washington, the US, Russia and China moved towards a consensus on so-called “smart” sanctions to come into effect as early as this month.
These sanctions will only target companies held by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Originally the president’s militia, it is now Iran’s biggest conglomerate with stakes in thousands of top industrial producers, banks and corporations.
EU countries among others are known to be unhappy at US efforts to make its ban on all trade with Iran international.
American studies show that three rounds of UN sanctions have made life harder for ordinary Iranians with the unintended consequence of boosting support for hardline nationalist politicians like Ahmadinejad.
If the latest round of sanctions fails as well, analysts warn Barack Obama will be under pressure to back up his threats with military action next year.
A massive military parade has been held in Tehran. Tanks, soldiers, and other military arsenal were on display to impress the countries which took part in the summit.
The Iranian summit’s official catchphrase is “Nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for no one”, and it comes as Russia confirms the nuclear power plant in Bushehr in Iran will be completed by August.
The IAEA is monitoring the construction of the Bushehr plant, so Iran doesn’t use the necessary technology to make a nuclear weapon.
Basically what Iran is trying to do with the help of this summit is undermine the impact of the nuclear security summit which just happened in Washington, believes Dmitry Suslov from the Council of Foreign and Defense Policy.
“It is very symbolic that there were 47 states in Washington plus three international organizations, and now there are about 60 countries participating in Tehran. So, Iran is trying to make an impression that the US is not the global agenda setter in the field of nuclear security, nuclear weapons and atomic energy,” Suslov said. “And secondly, Iran wants to show that there is no overwhelming international support for the sanctions. And those 60 countries that participate in Tehran, by the very fact of their participation, send a signal to the West, to the US, that they are against overwhelming sanctions.”
Andrey Klimov, Deputy Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Russian State Duma, says Russia only supports sanctions that do not result in Iran’s economic collapse.
“We do not want to exclude Iran from talks and international cooperation. Moreover, Iranian politicians declare that they have a peaceful policy. But at the same time their behavior is dangerous and they do not follow international rules, which causes our concerns,” Klimov said.
“When we in Russia speak about sanctions against Iran, we mean protection against possible military aggression from Iran. At the same time, we are against sanctions that can be disastrous for the country and even destroy it,” he added.
Political analyst Vyacheslav Nikonov says Russia’s role in solving the problem with Iran is crucial – that is why it has participated both in the Washington conference and has sent a delegation to Tehran.
“[Russia does] agree that at this point Iran is not violating the non-proliferation treaty, but it is definitely violating the additional protocol and at least a couple of the Security Council resolutions. That should not be tolerated. Russia is for diplomacy and it is going to keep the negotiation process alive. And that is one of the reasons Russia is there in Tehran,” Nikonov told RT.Chief of the Council of Foreign and Defense Policy Sergey Karaganov believes that “in a multi-polar world, it is impossible to impose any harsh sanctions on any country, and Iran knows that.” “So any kind of economic sanctions will only have a limited and symbolic influence,” he said.