Iran's continued failure to comply with international mandates on its nuclear program is casting a shadow over the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference, according to a top U.S. energy official.
Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman called the NPT the cornerstone of global non-proliferation efforts and said it is being "seriously challenged" by Iran's behavior.
"If the Non-Proliferation Treaty is not viewed as a useful mechanism ... then I think continued support of it will come increasingly into question," Poneman told an audience at a Washington think tank on Wednesday.
Poneman said governments signed the NPT out of self-interest and he predicted the restraints in the treaty will mean nothing to the nations surrounding Iran, if Iran develops nuclear weapons.
"If that calculated self-interest leads them to a different conclusion that the NPT no longer provides them the kind of protection that they thought, of a stable region in which they could prosper in peace without the need to consider those other kinds of weapons, than I think we're going to have some problems," said Poneman.
He cited a recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report which criticized Iran on a number of issues including its failure to provide adequate notification of its decision to enrich uranium at a higher level, and Iran's not satisfactorily responding to the IAEA's concerns about Iranian military involvement in its nuclear program.
Although the door to diplomatic engagement is not closed, Poneman said
President Barack Obama has made it clear the U.S. is turning its attention to developing a "significant regime of sanctions" to pressure Iran to meet its international obligations.
The United States and its allies have maintained Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons despite Iran's claim its program is for peaceful energy purposes.
The NPT review conference is scheduled for May.