Developments regarding Iran's nuclear program are in the process of supplanting the results of the G-20 summit as the focus of attention of this period of intense multilateral diplomacy, in New York and in Pittsburgh.
On Monday Iran admitted in a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna that it is in the process of developing a second nuclear enrichment facility at a site near the Shiite Muslim holy city of Qom. The U.N. Security Council, chaired by President Barack Obama as part of America's leadership role this month, met Thursday morning on the subject of nuclear disarmament. The parties focused on efforts to get better international observance of the various treaties, including by nuclear weapons powers India, Israel and Pakistan, which have not signed the non-proliferation treaty.
The Iranian announcement was followed by a statement four days later on Friday morning in Pittsburgh by Mr. Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stating that the three nations had provided information to the IAEA about Iran's newly announced facility. They condemned Iran for operating outside the world's nuclear rules and implicitly threatened further sanctions against it.
Probably the most important Iran-related development is the meeting scheduled for next Thursday between Iran, Security Council permanent members -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- plus Germany to discuss Iran's nuclear intentions as well as other pending issues.
Another relevant piece in the puzzle is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's performance in New York during the U.N. General Assembly, including a number of interviews he has given American and other media.
Yet another is Israel's ongoing threat to attack Iran's nuclear facilities and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to give any ground on his government's insistence on increasing settler construction in the Palestinian West Bank. This position on his part in a tentative tripartite meeting with Mr. Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas -- along with the Palestinians' own lack of will to reach a common position between competing parties Fatah and Hamas -- disappointed the American president by casting a dark pall over prospects for constructive forward movement toward a Middle East peace agreement for the moment.
Attempts on the part of governments to spin the media and the public are an ever-present element in high-level summitry in New York and Washington, and in Pittsburgh. Washington would not like the American public to focus on the fact that both Mr. Netanyahu and the Palestinian leadership stiff-armed Mr. Obama on a Middle East settlement, one of his top foreign policy priorities. Nor would any of the parties to the G-20 summit find it helpful for people to focus on the fact that international agreement on global steps to avoid a repeat of the past year's bank and investment firm-caused economic recession will likely come to naught.
A little movement on the Iran issue may be being put forward as a distraction, or as a consolation prize, although little has actually changed on the Iran issue and the main event will be the direct meetings with it next week.