The international community's boycott of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech to the New York nuclear non-proliferation conference this week was a cynical gesture that belied the rationality of what he said.
Here is the Iranian president's analysis of the causes of the NPT's problems (such a review being, after all, the purpose of the conference):
- States seeking dominance by suppressing others.
- The policy of producing and using nuclear weapons in the past.
- Nuclear weapons used as a means of deterrence.
- Threatening countries such as Iran with the use of nuclear weapons.
- Exploiting the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
- The United States' double standards towards Israel's nuclear stockpile.
- Equating nuclear weapons with nuclear energy.
- Imbalance in the mandates of the NPT and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Among the responses is this praise for the walkout from Abraham H Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League:
While there may be legal and diplomatic obligations to grant Ahmadinejad the UN podium, there is also a moral obligation to condemn his words, his actions and what he stands for. Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, denies there are homosexuals in Iran, and denies the existence of Iran's nuclear weapons programme. To this list of lies he added another -- that the US and Israel pose a nuclear threat to Iran, when in fact the opposite is true.
Despite the usual formula of "the Zionist regime" to refer to Israel, there was no mention of the Holocaust in the president's speech, nor did Ahmadinejad repeat his ridiculous denials of the existence of homosexuality in Iran. His remarks on the double standards and recent belligerence of Washington towards Iran compared to other countries in the Middle East add nothing to criticisms already made frequently in the western media.
And, despite the standard out-of-hand rebuttal that he received, Ahmadinejad has repeated his basic message since the speech: Iran does not fear US sanctions, Iran does not want the bomb, Iran is open to further discussions.
If the US, the UK, France and the other countries that walked out cannot deal with this scripted Ahmadinejad, it is difficult to maintain hope for the increasingly important diplomatic process. The truth is that western leaders' ears are closed.
Naturally, by so firmly disavowing the pursuit of nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad has left his administration on a collision course with Washington over its nuclear ambitions. If Tehran cannot prove its benign principle, these will be seen as nothing but weasel words.