Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, and United Nations Secretary-General… (Chris Hondros / Getty Images )
Reporting from Washington — A top-level Iranian delegation garnered worldwide attention this week with appearances at the United Nations aimed at winning international support for its position on nuclear issues. But the effort instead underscored many of the challenges Tehran faces in its quest.
Iran's foreign minister held a dinner Thursday evening in New York for U.N. Security Council members, including a U.S. official, who are weighing a new round of sanctions against Iran. U.S. officials and their allies contend Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing atomic weapons, a charge Iran denies.
Earlier in the week, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, kicked off a conference on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty with a fiery denunciation of the United States. Iranian officials were hoping to demonstrate during a month-long treaty review conference that Iran retains strong support from others, especially in the developing world.
Some diplomats and private analysts said Ahmadinejad's speech worked against Iranian interests. Though many countries agreed with some of his arguments, the Iranian leader's strident approach was of concern.
Analysts suggested that the Iranians had some of the right arguments, but the wrong delivery.
"They made some key arguments on disarmament, but the way they wrapped it in anti-Americanism, they kind of missed an opportunity to be taken seriously," said Deepti Choubey of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
At one session, Iran unsuccessfully sought to block an effort to set up a committee that, among other issues, would consider new penalties for countries that cheat on treaty provisions. The Iranian delegation portrayed the issue as a conflict between Western nuclear states and members of the Non-Aligned Movement of smaller countries.
Undercutting Iran's narrative, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano used their opening speeches to criticize Iran, even as Ahmadinejad sat in the audience.
"Let us be clear: The onus is on Iran to clarify the doubts and concerns about its program," Ban said.
The deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Alejandro Wolff, was sent to the New York dinner Thursday. Diplomats from several countries said Tehran offered no new proposals.