US President Barack Obama’s pledge to one day rid the world of nuclear weapons runs up against global realities this week when representatives from 47 countries try to craft an agreement on keeping nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.
Sweeping or even bold new strategies were unlikely to emerge from the two-day gathering. But Obama invited the swarm of world leaders as an important step to intensify global focus on one of the most serious nuclear proliferation threats: a world in which non-state actors — like the Al Qaeda terrorist organisation — obtain nuclear materials.
“The single biggest threat to US security, both short-term, medium-term and long-term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organisation obtaining a nuclear weapon. This is something that could change the security landscape in this country and around the world for years to come,” Obama said as he conducted a series of bilateral meetings with world leaders on Sunday.
“We know that organisations like Al Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, and would have no compunction at using them,” Obama said.
On the table, too, will be Iran’s perceived attempts to build a nuclear weapon in violation of the global Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile and exports of nuclear materials and technology.
“We want to get the world’s attention focused where we think it needs to be with these continuing efforts by Al Qaeda and others to get just enough nuclear material to cause terrible havoc, destruction and loss of life somewhere in the world,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview broadcast on Sunday on ABC’s This Week.
Russian prez warns
Meanwhile, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America on Monday that Iran’s nuclear program must be watched closely, but he said sanctions on the regime would have to be smart and effective because sanctions often don’t work.
“They should not lead to humanitarian catastrophe, where the whole Iranian community would start to hate the whole world,” he said.