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Resisting the Rhetoric of Proliferation


11 May 2010 01:0118 Comments
Mahmoud-Ahmadinejad-addre-006.jpgAhmadinejad's guileful rationalizations require a firm response.

[ opinion ] Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again came to New York City, this time to participate in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. While discussion of Iran's nuclear program dominated the session, he delivered a speech that made no mention of his government's uranium enrichment policy. Brandishing typically fiery rhetoric, he instead railed against the West, and particularly the United States, which he accused of hypocrisy and belligerence.

Ahmadinejad, whom Western powers see as an aggressive proliferator, also questioned the effectiveness of the treaty's enforcement. "Nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation have not come true," he told the assembled delegates. "The International Atomic Energy Agency has not been successful in discharging its mandate," he lamented. While perhaps disingenuous, he is clearly right: The NPT framework has recently been unsuccessful in preventing nuclear proliferation in India, Pakistan, and North Korea, driven in each case by factors such as internal defense calculations outside the treaty's sphere of control. If Western suspicions turn out to be true, an Iranian bomb will be seen as the NPT's fourth and most catastrophic failure.

And the Iranian president did not confine himself to criticizing the efficacy of the institutions charged with enforcing nonproliferation. He went even further by attacking the very legitimacy of the NPT itself. Engaging in rhetoric designed to appeal to his rogue-state allies and some quarters of the Western left, Ahmadinejad described the treaty as a mechanism used by the United States and its democratic partners to abrogate the sovereignty of emerging powers and target those who would dare challenge a global order undergirded by overwhelming American military supremacy. Since it allows a handful of established nuclear powers to maintain their stockpiles while blocking the nuclear aspirations of all others, his criticism is not entirely without merit. The United States must answer him directly and forcefully on this issue.

It is not enough for the Obama administration to point to its commitment to drastically reduce America's stockpile of active warheads, as evidenced by the recent nonproliferation agreement between the United States and Russia. Indeed, the Iranian leadership may have read this move as yet another portent of American weakness and decline. Instead, the United States and its partners in the United Nations must argue that the current nonproliferation pact, even with its flaws, is necessary to prevent dangerous, unpredictable state actors like the Islamic Republic from one day acquiring nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad and his cohorts have not been shy about their adherence to a particularly extreme version of Twelver Shiism that commands its followers to actively hasten the return of Mahdi, the "Hidden Imam," by sowing chaos and enmity around the world. As American diplomats work to impose a fourth round of sanctions to persuade Iran to live up to its obligations under the NPT, they should warn that even a single nuclear warhead in the hands of leaders beholden to such a violent, messianic ideology would jeopardize the security of not just the Middle East but the entire world.

It may well be that the current NPT framework is unbalanced and unfair. It was designed, after all, to respond to superpower concerns of the Cold War era. That said, American officials should insist that the Iranian regime lacks the moral credibility to reform it. Just hours before Ahmadinejad appeared at the General Assembly podium, a judge in Tehran convicted and sentenced to death two young dissidents -- Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei and Jafar Kazemi -- on charges of being "enemies of God." Over the weekend, Iran hanged another 11 people. These and thousands of similar brutal acts of repression committed by the Islamic Republic make it clear that the butchers of Tehran should not be the ones leading the charge to reform the NPT and the global order it represents. That task must be left to responsible members of the international community, be they great powers or the tiniest of island nations, genuinely concerned with the treaty's pillars.

In making this argument, the Obama administration would also honor the Iranian opposition's repeated calls for governments around the world, particularly democratic ones, to refuse to legitimize the junta currently misruling their country. Many Iranian dissidents have emphasized that the most painless way to ensure a denuclearized Iran is to empower its democratic opposition. Refuting Ahmadinejad's challenge to the NPT by pointing to his apocalyptic ideology and dismal human rights record would be a powerful step toward marrying these two causes. All this is not to say that the diplomatic track should be abandoned. It does mean that in pursuing engagement, the West should resist the temptation to abandon its highest principles.

Sohrab Ahmari is an Iranian-American blogger and Northeastern University law student.

Photo: Peter Foley/EPA

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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For a law student, this author is quite ill informed about the legal standing the Islamic Republic of Iran commands, with respect to the NPT.

Even most critics of President Ahmadinejad concede he gave a powerful performance last week in New York, scoring multiple direct hits against the obvious hypocrisy of the major powers, in not living up to the NPT's basis of disarmament and sharing nuclear power technology.

No, this author is obviously blinded an agenda based on political subversion, in writing against the interests and aspirations of a solid majority living inside the motherland.

Tehran Bureau, when are we going to get some level of political balance established on this site? Please make the effort. And please, in the future try and pass on publishing this sort of meaningless shrill.

Pirouz / May 11, 2010 4:10 AM

Sorry, I thought I logged into Tehran Bureau. I guess I got Fox News instead.

Houshang / May 11, 2010 5:39 AM

I agree with Pirouz. Even though this article is under the commentary section, Sohrab Ahmari's one sided views should be countered by someone of the opposing view.

Nona / May 11, 2010 6:10 AM

That NPT is not balanced cannot be disputed. But, it is unbalanced in favor of the US and its allies. Then, there are other allies of the U.S., such as Israel and Pakistan, which do not give a hoot to the NPT, and then there is India that is allowed to obtain US nuclear technology with a cartoonish "safeguards agreement" with the IAEA, even though it has not even signed the NPT. By giving its nuclear technology to India, the US has violated the NPT brazenly.

True, butchers rule Iran and they believe in little, if any, morality, at least as far as treatment of Iranian people is concerned. But, the NPT has nothing to do with morality, but is a specific international agreement regarding nuclear technology. After all, making nuclear bombs and using them is immoral, and the US remains the only nation that has used nuclear bombs.

The US also just threatened Iran with nuclear attack. That did nothing but enhancing Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei's position vis-a-vis the US regarding nuclear weapons. By threatening Iran, the US is threatening its national security and territorial integrity, issues that go beyond the type of political system any country may have.

So, I suggest to the author to analyze the issue more even handedly. This needs, first and foremost, a sober, objective, and cold analysis, not emotional of the type that the author has posted. He should review the history of Iran's nuclear program. To start with, he should read the article by Tehran Bureau's columnist, Muhammad Sahimi, posted last week, which has been discussed extensively over the internet:


Based on his articles that I have read on this site, Sahimi is a strong supporter of the Greens, and is totally opposed to the IRGC. Yet, in his analyses of Iran's nuclear program he presents a sober, scientific and objective analysis of all the facts and fictions.

George Stewart / May 11, 2010 7:59 AM

The Iranian President and his twelver buddies. Let the whole world see the Barbaric Republic and its fanatical stance.


Let the whole world see what they are teaching the Iranian youth.


Would you trust Ahmadinejad and his twelver buddies yearning for their Mahdi?

"Refuting Ahmadinejad's challenge to the NPT by pointing to his apocalyptic ideology and dismal human rights record would be a powerful step toward marrying these two causes."

The Barbaric Republic has one destiny, the garbage of history. Stay focused Iran, victory is at hand.

Niloofar / May 11, 2010 8:37 AM

"If Western suspicions turn out to be true, an Iranian bomb will be seen as the NPT's fourth and most catastrophic failure."

Which countries have the largest number of nuclear warheads?
What are their historical records?

Hiroshima, anyone? Nagasaki? (USA has a few warheads)
Gaza? If not for proximity, it would have been used by Israel already. (Israel has a few war heads)
Tzarian wars on Iran? (Who took azerbaijan? have they changed? They have a few warheads.)
Mongolian invasion of Iran (China has a few warheads, and most high level politicians are of mongolian ancestry).

No PC here. History is on my side.

People don't change. Barbarians remain barbarians. A look at history shows who has been the aggressor and who has been invaded because it always has wanted peace.

NPT was drafted and voted by the winners, those who had already locked up the nuclear club, armed to the teeth and every orifice on their land has a warhead in it.

NPT is not valid until everyone has disarmed.

All those with warheads should join for a charshanbeh-souri in space, and launch all their warheads into the Sun. Then we can open the NPT book. Please shut up about the NPT until then. Thanks.

Anonymous / May 11, 2010 5:33 PM

My first thought after listening to the speech was: yet another briefing-pack, full of instructions given to his (still-)followers. Guys, now you know how to think and how to act. Don't answer a single question, raise a bunch of accusations, spend a lot of words to a few of unresolved problems. Keep away from thinking, remain battlesome and all will be done!

Lauter / May 11, 2010 8:28 PM

For a less manipulative, more balanced evaluation of Ahmadinejad's latest blitz, I suggest this piece by Leila Forouhar's pundit nephew, Reza Aslan:


*** *** *** *** ***

A model "Iranian-American," this Sohrab Ahmari.

Here he is six months ago, earning his Zionist spurs by writing to the the Norwegian University of Science & Technology to urge them not to boycott Israeli academic institutions:


Soft and mushy on Israeli apartheid, unyielding on Iranian messianism and human rights transgressions.

But it gets better.

Here he is again, sponsored by a Boston Jewish organization for an ill-fated talk today on "Being Gay in Iran" to a BGALA association, in partnership with an Israeli govt. agent, Yehuda Yaakov:


So what does Sohrab's co-speaker, Yehuda Yaakov, know about gay life in Iran?

Well, you can judge from his formidable background here:


Yaakov earned his masters thesis from the Israeli Defence College on the subject: "The Implementation of Coercive Diplomacy in the International Nuclear Crisis with Iran, 2003-2004."

He was deputy ambassador of Israel to New Zealand in the mid-90s, media affairs officer in Israel's New York consulate in the late 90s, director of non-proliferation and counterterrorism affairs in the strategic affairs division of the Israeli Foreign Ministry from 2004 to 2007, and is now director of 'special projects' in that division.

And helping Sohrab Ahmari rile up a BGALA crowd on the plight of gays in Iran is indeed a very 'special' project for Israel.

Because, as we all know, Iranian human rights, particularly gay rights, are the foremost concern of Israel and its precocious sayanim.

Ali from Tehran / May 11, 2010 9:04 PM

"Mongolian invasion of Iran (China has a few warheads, and most high level politicians are of mongolian ancestry)."

Wow, anonymous, do you realize how absurd and paranoid and empirically-challenged your thinking is?

Concerned Iranian / May 11, 2010 10:14 PM

Dear Anonymous @ 5:33 PM,

With such poor arguments, you actually undermine the position you claim to be defending.

You say: "People don't change. Barbarians remain barbarians."

If this were true, the viking nations of Norway, Finland and Sweden would be the most bellicose and rapacious in Europe.

Please examine your thoughts carefully before exposing them to public scrutiny.

Ali from Tehran / May 12, 2010 1:24 AM


Unlike in your beloved IRI, the base politics of guilt by association, character assassination, and antisemitic insinuation will not get you far here. Let me know when you are ready to meet me on the merits of the debate at hand.

Sohrab Ahmari / May 12, 2010 1:44 AM


I have researched you. You have attacked Iranian-American organizations in a dishonest way by using MEK propaganda. This is shameful and makes me cautious of what you write.

When you wrote:

"The NPT framework has recently been unsuccessful in preventing nuclear proliferation in India, Pakistan, and North Korea..." you forgot one country. And I know they haven't signed NPT, but you must mention they have acquired nuclear weapons, otherwise it appears you are hiding something.

So please be honest. You are an Iranian-American and I want to support your success but you must start with honesty. This article is true in what you say, but you don't mention certain things. You are very one sided and ideological.

Nona / May 12, 2010 2:31 AM

Dear Sohrab Ahmari,

Very cute.

How did you extrapolate my love for the IRI from my post @ 9:04 PM above?

Actually, George Stewart's post of 7:59 AM above mirrors my sentiments on IRI and related issues. And Dr. Sahimi's principled views are the perfect counterpoint to your agitprop.

You seem to have mastered the passive-aggressive use of the "anti-semitism" weapon. This skill, plus a letter of recommendation from Yehuda Yaakov, can take you very far indeed in contemporary America.

But don't worry about me not getting far as well. I don't like to travel much anyway.

Ali from Tehran / May 12, 2010 3:04 AM

Sohrab Ahmari:

But, you still have not responded to the substantive comments by Ali from Tehran.

How can you urge your university not to boycott Israel, but moan about violations of human rights in Iran? You do not seem to know the most elementary principle about human rights:


So, you are either concerned about HR or you are not. If you are, you cannot be selective.

In addition, what did Ali say that you interpreted as anti-semitic? You support the Zionists in whatever crime they commit in the occupied territories, you are blind to their crimes, you repeat the same nonsense about Iran's nuclear program as Israel does, you associate yourself with Zionists, but you expect no one to comment on all this? And, if someone does, he/she is anti-semitic? Shame on you.

George Stewart / May 12, 2010 3:46 AM

Pirouz, you seem to have a lot of strong opinions about Iranian politics and the direction that Tehran Bureau is going. Perhaps you should spend your time more constructively and write your own piece, rather than belittle everything that everyone else writes. I look forward to reading about your perspective in article format.

Thomas@Pirouz / May 12, 2010 4:12 AM

Whilst we are busy exposing the religious apocalyptics of the Twelver Shia Islam variety. Can you also shed some light on the famatics that currently rule Israel and who already have 200 to 300 nukes at their disposal and who have no qualms of inflicting a slow genocide against the people of Gaza not to speak of their aggressive wars against Lebanon and oft repeated threats against Iran. IRI is actually behaved angelically and on this AN cannot be faulted when it is Iran that is surrounded by nuclear armed states on all sides including one, the US, which has actually used a nuke not once but twice.

rezvan / May 12, 2010 4:21 AM

Sohrab, what does "anti-semitism" have to do with anything? Can you please answer the quite valid points made by George Stewart and Ali from Tehran and others about your position?

If you're main concern is human rights, why not pinpoint the barbaric human rights abuses of Israel or the United States? I am definitely more worried about these rogue states actually OWNING nuclear weapons.

I said it before and I'll say it again: is this Fox News or Tehran Bureau? Or have they managed to merge into one? Thank goodness for Muhammad Sahimi!

Houshang / May 12, 2010 6:35 AM

president ahmdi nazad you are a lion...

syed imran shamsi / July 19, 2010 1:22 PM