Today, President Obama is gathering with leaders from over 40 countries in Washington, D.C. for a two-day nuclear security summit. The summit’s goals are to discuss the nature of the nuclear threat, develop “steps that can be taken together to secure vulnerable materials, combat nuclear smuggling and deter, detect, and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism,” and agree “on a joint communiqué pledging efforts to attain the highest levels of nuclear security, which is essential for international security as well as the development and expansion of peaceful nuclear energy worldwide.”
The summit, billed by the White House as the biggest conference in the U.S. since the 1945 meeting that created the UN, is a matter of personal prestige for President Obama. Indeed, Obama campaigned on a promise to secure “loose nukes” within his four year term. However, while President Obama says this meeting will yield a concrete plan and not “some vague gauzy statement,” diplomats close to the program say U.S. officials will focus on areas of common ground and brush over large differences. Those differences include beliefs about the nature and extent of the nuclear threat, as well as the level of outside nuclear monitoring that should be allowed inside each country.
Additional issues have clouded the affair. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he would not attend, causing speculation over the status of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Even more, on Friday, Iran celebrated its third annual National Day of Nuclear Technology, and used the day to announce the development of a new generation of uranium-enrichment centrifuges. “Today, Iranian scientists and experts have fully mastered the nuclear and have been taking giant steps…in the field of nuclear energy,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a celebratory speech.
At this point, there is no telling what will come of the conference. However, if President Obama fails to discuss the threat of the Iranian nuclear ambitions, this summit will most likely prove to be a missed opportunity.