The Islamic State’s brazen terrorist attacks in Paris last November and its follow-up attacks in Brussels last month cast a shadow over a summit of world leaders in Washington, D.C., about tightening global controls on nuclear materials usable in a terrorist bomb.
President Obama, speaking on April 1 at the capital’s convention center to 37 heads of state or prime ministers and delegations from 52 countries, said significant progress has been made over the past eight years, during which he led four summits on the subject.
Agreements were reached at the meeting to keep the discussion alive within the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and INTERPOL, the international crime-fighting agency. But Obama also warned — as he has at previous summits — that “there’s still a great deal of nuclear and radioactive material around the world that needs to be secured.”
U.S. officials said the task was made more urgent by the discovery last year that Islamic State sympathizers in Belgium were monitoring the movements of a nuclear official there, as part of an apparent plot to steal radioactive materials that could be attached to a so-called “dirty bomb” that would sow wide contamination. Obama screened a video for the leaders depicting the chaotic consequences of such a blast in an urban center.
US President Barack Obama has downsized his country’s nuclear arsenal, helped to negotiate a deal to halt Iran’s nuclear-weapons programme and led a global initiative to secure radioactive materials. But Obama’s legacy on nuclear issues remains uncertain as he prepares for a major global summit this week on nuclear terrorism.
The meeting, which begins in Washington DC on 31 March, has taken on new significance in light of revelations that operatives of the Islamist extremist group ISIS may have been targeting nuclear facilities in Belgium. Obama began a series of biennial summits on nuclear security in 2010, after calling on the world to secure all nuclear materials within four years. But progress has been slow, and it is already clear that this week’s summit — probably the last in the series — will come up short.