September in New York. In the coming days, concrete blocks will be placed around
the Waldorf Astoria, Intercontinental and other hotels, along with metal
detectors and scanners at their entrances. Barricades will be erected to
redirect pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Heightened security is part of the
annual ritual to welcome government leaders and their entourages from around the
world for the UN General Assembly opening session.
This ritual has become
just as ordinary as the end of summer over Labor Day weekend and the start of a
new school year. New Yorkers, traditionally a resilient population, will go
about their daily business and endure the additional inconveniences associated
with living and working in a city that hosts UN headquarters.
will not heed what these visiting foreign leaders say from the UN podium. That’s
too bad. Several of these heads of state are downright evil. Were it not for US
commitments to international law, their planes might be prohibited from landing
at Kennedy Airport.
Which brings us to another September ritual: the
visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While attention for much of this
year has been diverted to other hot spots in the Middle East, the Iranian leader
is just as dangerous as ever.
Lest anyone forget, while hosting Iran’s
annual Jerusalem Day event last week, at the end of Ramadan, Ahmadinejad again
called for the eradication of Israel. Iran would “never ever withdraw from this
standpoint and policy,” he declared.
Persistent threats against another
UN member-state should prompt automatic outrage and condemnation. But instead of
reprimanding Iran, the world body remains silent as it prepares to welcome him
as it will any other head of state coming to UN headquarters.
Ahmadinejad this year will have the opportunity to address the world at least
twice. Once at the General Assembly and a second time at the tenth anniversary
of the infamous UN World Conference on Racism, first held in Durban in 2001. At
the 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva, Ahmadinejad spewed his venomous
attacks, denying the Holocaust and Israel’s right to exist. Precious few walked
out and, worse, most applauded.
THAT ALONE should raise concerns about
Ahmadinejad’s upcoming New York visit. But that’s not all. The Iranian regime
has ignored the international community’s entreaties to desist from pursuing its
nuclear program, including four UN Security Council resolutions, economic
sanctions by the US, EU and other countries, and appeals from the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which released on Friday its latest and perhaps
most damning report of Iranian intentions.
A year ago, Arab countries,
notably Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as other GCC members, were expressing
concerns about the looming Iranian nuclear threat. It seemed, momentarily, that
these Arab nations and Israel shared a common view of Iran.
have been pushed aside by the dramatic upheavals across the Arab world. As Egypt
and others look inward to focus on developing new governments, hopefully
democracies, following the overthrow of their own longtime despots, the
ever-present Iranian threat has become a less urgent priority.
Iranians, of course, have not refrained from attempting to take advantage of
instability in the region. From supporting Syria’s Bashar Assad, to
supplying Hamas and Hizbullah, to meddling in Iraq and Bahrain, Iran continues
to assert itself in ways that are harmful to peace and security.
Director Yukia Amano is increasingly frustrated with Iran, a grave concern he
shared in an interview with The Washington Post
earlier this year. Since he
assumed the position of IAEA director last year, the organization has come to
accept the view that Iran is set on building a nuclear weapon.
clarity of that threat is set forth in the new IAEA report. Strongly criticizing
Iran for failing to provide information about its nuclear activities, the IAEA
warns that Iran may already have enough enriched uranium to produce four nuclear
weapons. Coupled with media reports that Iran has taken additional measures to
protect its nuclear program from cyber attacks as well as military actions, the
likelihood that Iran will indeed test a device is becoming a grim
“We remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear
weapons,” President Barack Obama declared in a May speech in
Washington. Unfortunately, the Security Council, which last adopted a
resolution on Iran in June 2010, seems unlikely to take further action. It can’t
even come together on Syria.
Ahmadinejad’s arrival in New York
constitutes another display of mockery of the international system. An Iran with
nuclear weapons capability will pose new perils to Iran’s immediate neighbors,
to countries within range of Iranian missiles – and beyond, if Iran transfers
that technology to terrorist organizations or similarly hostile
If there ever was a clear and present danger to global
security, an unchecked Iran intent on building nuclear weapons is it.
writer is the American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.
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