Press TV has conducted an interview with Soraya Sepahpour Ulrich, an independent researcher and writer, in Irvine, to get her take on the stance of Iran and other countries over the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Mohammad Javad Zarif’s spokes of fairness and equity when it comes to the implementation of the NPT, has that been like that ever since this treaty came into effect?
Sepahpour: Regrettably, not at all and under the international law there ought to be no discrimination whatsoever. In fact, scholars have argued that the only time that discrimination if he wants to be called that is acceptable in international law is to elevate the status of a state to be on par with the rest. But right now as we said the international law has been hijacked and we see that powerful states are doling out favors to those that are pariah states, especially Israel in the region, and in fact, rewarding them for violating international law, while again themselves violating international law by not rendering assistance to those who are signatories to this treaty.
Press TV: How imperative is this for this NPT treaty to remain relevant to be able to bring Israel’s nukes under its control or supervision and also compel nations like the United States to clamp down on their own arsenals?
Sepahpour: I think if the former director general of the IAEA Mr. ElBaradei had listened to Mr. Zarif and perhaps he has, he would have applauded him. In 2004, Dr. ElBaradei, in fact, said that we need to talk seriously to Israel about its nuclear weapons whether it wants to admit to having them or not. And in fact, he called on a Middle East free of nuclear weapons. So, Mr. Zarif is right on the point in calling out, Israel is not a signatory to the NPT, is being rewarded for having nuclear weapons. And as far as the other states are not abiding by the NPT, again I’d like to quote Mohamed ElBaradei, he was the IAEA chief for three terms and he was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize together with the IAEA, and he said of nuclear powers, it is like them having it, “dangling a cigarette in their mouth while telling others not to smoke”. You can not violate international law and expect others to comply. This will create total chaos, disorder and it is a threat not just to the Middle East but to the entire world.
Press TV: When you speak of international law, so let’s not forget Iran is a signatory to the NPT and yet it has faced multiple sanctions regarding its peaceful nuclear energy program. That in itself is another violation, would not you agree?
Sepahpour: It is absolutely a violation. The whole purpose of the IAEA, when it was established in 1957 as a body of the United Nations, was to enable peaceful nations, those there were party, there was no treaty at that time, but to spread nuclear technologies, peaceful use around the world and NPT which was presented in 1968 for signature, in fact the whole spirit of the NPT was not only to render assistance in peaceful nuclear technology to the signatories but to ultimately eliminate all nuclear weapons, total disarmament and stop proliferation none of that has happened, in fact, Iran is a victim of policies here. There are nations that would want to use this law, this international treaty as a tool to dole out favors to the nations to that their working with and to those that are demanding their rights under the international law. So, it is very hypocritical, it is very dangerous and I think that this was a good occasion for the world to listen to a representative of 120 nations. And I just want to add that Iran has asked in numerous occasions for there to be total nuclear disarmament in the Middle East and even in 2009 the Arab League had said they could no longer tolerate Israel’s nuclear weapons without it is being subjected to… become a part of the NPT and have its nuclear facilities inspected. So, the vast majority of the world understands what is going on and what needs to happen. It is for more powerful nations that have hijacked the NPT that are keeping it as hostage to come on-board and be law abiding.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Israel is the main impediment to the universality of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the single violator of the accord.
“Unfortunately, Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons and its refusal to engage with the international community has become the greatest impediment to the universality of this treaty,” Zarif told Press TV correspondent in New York upon the arrival of Iran’s delegation of nuclear negotiators in the city to attend the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT.
Israel is widely believed to be the sole possessor of a nuclear arsenal in the Middle East with up to 400 undeclared nuclear warheads. Tel Aviv has rejected global calls to join the NPT and does not allow international inspectors to observe its controversial nuclear program.
“Israel is the single most violator of this international regime (NPT) which is the requirement of the international community,” Zarif stressed.
The top Iranian diplomat further underlined the need for the establishment of a nukes-free zone in the Middle East.
“Since [the] 1970s, the General Assembly of the United Nations has been calling for the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East, he said.
He underlined that the call for such a nuclear-free zone is not something new.
“In 1995, when the NPT was renewed, there was a declaration on the need for the universality of the NPT as well as the need for the establishment of the nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East. This request, or requirement and demand of the international community and member states of the NPT was again repeated in 2010 in the last review conference,” Zarif said.
“One of the most important issues in the NPT review process is to look into ways and means of bringing about universality and bring about the Israeli compliance with NPT,” he added.
He also elaborated on the function of the NPT, stressing that the treaty “rests on three pillars: nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
He also said that the issue of Israeli compliance with the NPT will top the agenda in the 2015 Review Conference.
Zarif further noted that he will probably have a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the event during which the will discuss the issues surrounding negotiations on Iran’ nuclear program. The meeting will be the first time since the groundbreaking talks on Iran’s nuclear program in the Swiss city of Lausanne earlier in the month.
The top Iranian diplomat said he will also hold separate meetings with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and some foreign ministers of the P5+1– the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany, engaged in talks with Iran over its nuclear program.
Zarif also said that he will make a speech on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement countries as Iran is the movement’s current chair. The countries of the Non-Aligned Movement represent nearly two-thirds of the United Nations members and contain 55 percent of the world population.
He further stressed that he will also sit for talks with foreign ministers of the countries in the region to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria, Iraq, and especially in Yemen.
The NPT review conference, slated to be held from April 27 to May 22 at the UN headquarters, will address issues such as nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, safeguards measures and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
When the 2015 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) opens in New York next week, the 190 member states will have to come to terms with some hard facts.
The NPT is 45 years old, and while most observers agree that it has worked reasonably well over that time to curtail the spread of nuclear weapons to countries that did not have them in 1970, it has not achieved its most important goal—a world in which no countries have nuclear weapons.
There are still more than 16,000 nuclear weapons in the arsenals of nine states, three of which have never joined the NPT. Despite reductions from Cold War levels, the US and Russia have more than 90% of that total between them, and the prospects for negotiating deeper bilateral reductions while NATO and Russia glare at each other from opposite sides of Ukraine look dim.
While giving lip service to the goal of nuclear disarmament, all nine nuclear-armed states—the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea—are modernizing their warheads, delivery systems, and infrastructure. India and Pakistan, which are not NPT members, are engaged in a nuclear arms race reminiscent of the Cold War. In the always tense Middle East, a nuclear-armed Israel is making a precarious agreement with a not-yet-nuclear-armed Iran even more precarious.
With the risks increasing that nuclear weapons could be used in warfare for the first time since the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago, nuclear disarmament takes on added urgency. The NPT is supposed to be the most effective tool the world has for producing a world without nuclear weapons. So how is it doing on the eve of another five-year review? Not so well.
At the last NPT Review Conference in 2010, the Member States adopted a 64-point action plan. The first 22 actions, pertaining to nuclear disarmament and Article VI of the treaty, were largely recycled priorities that have been on the table for a decade or two.
According to a report prepared by Reaching Critical Will, progress has been made on only five of the 22 disarmament actions. Four of the five relate to maintaining the existing nuclear testing moratorium and strengthening support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its technical infrastructure, and were happening anyway. The US and Russia ratified New START, but have engaged in no further disarmament negotiations since then. Worse, they have undermined a modest set of reductions through provocative and expensive modernization of the weapon systems they have retained. If 60% is an “F,” then the grade for this part of the action plan is much further down the alphabet.
The NPT is stuck in quicksand. Elsewhere, however, there has been a seismic shift in the political and diplomatic landscape regarding nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament. Scientific evidence about the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons (HINW), presented at a series of three groundbreaking international conferences, has put the dangers into chilling context. The evidence was summed up this way at the third conference, held in Vienna in December 2014 and attended by 158 states, along with many international organizations and civil society groups:
“The impact of a nuclear weapon detonation, irrespective of the cause, would not be constrained by national borders and could have regional and even global consequences, causing destruction, death and displacement as well as profound and long-term damage to the environment, climate, human health and well-being, socioeconomic development, social order and could even threaten the survival of humankind.”
Put another way, a single nuclear weapon can destroy a city; as few as 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs, used in a limited, regional nuclear war, would disrupt the global climate so severely that at least two billion people—more than a quarter of the world’s population—would face starvation from a “nuclear famine”; a nuclear war between the US and Russia, each with thousands of warheads, would shut down the Earth’s life-sustaining ecosystems, bringing an end to humanity itself.
From this perspective, to use American slang, the NPT needs a real kick in the pants. That kick is about to be delivered at the 2015 Review Conference in the form of the Austrian Pledge. At the conclusion of the Vienna HINW conference, Austria pledged that it would “cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, States, international organisations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements, parliamentarians and civil society, in efforts to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks.”
The first step identified in the Pledge was to bring the evidence from the three HINW conferences into the NPT Review and to challenge the member states “to renew their commitment to the urgent and full implementation of existing obligations under Article VI, and to this end, to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”
The Pledge has been adopted by 69 states during the run-up to the NPT Review, and more endorsements are expected during and after the month-long conference.
The Austrian Pledge is a gift to the NPT member states—a way out of the malaise that has prevented the treaty from delivering on its promise of a nuclear-weapons-free world for 45 years. Should the NPT fail to make the most of this gift at the upcoming Review, the time will have arrived to look for a more effective means to close the legal gap and to prohibit and eliminate weapons that threaten each and every one of us with extinction.
Russia says the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is preparing the ground for the use of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear countries in contradiction to the Western military alliance’s obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“NATO, contrary to the obligations taken under the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, is still conducting preparations for the use of nuclear weapons by countries that are non-nuclear states,” Alexander Grushko, Russia’s envoy to NATO, said at the Fourth Moscow International Security Conference on Thursday.
The NPT, which was ratified in 1970, constitutes the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to open up access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Non-nuclear signatories to the treaty have agreed not to seek to develop or acquire nuclear arms.
The Russian official further accused the military bloc of seeking to revive the Cold War ideology.
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu told the conference that NATO military exercises in the Arctic and Eastern Europe are against Russia.
The minister also warned that the participation of NATO’s non-nuclear states in the drills stimulate “the use of US tactical nuclear weapons” in violation of the NPT.
In February, NATO defense ministers agreed to increase from 13,000 soldiers to 30,000 the size of the alliance’s rapid reaction force. They also announced plans to set up six new command posts in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.
The Western military bloc has over the past year increased its presence and conducted several drills in Eastern Europe amid the crisis in Ukraine. Moscow, however, has repeatedly condemned NATO’s exercises and military buildup near Russia’s borders.
Moscow-West relations have been extremely tense in recent months. The West accuses Moscow of supporting pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine, an allegation strongly denied by the Kremlin.
Nuclear disarmament has for too long been about waiting. Waiting for nuclear-armed states to fulfill their obligations. Waiting for the so-called “conditions” to be right for disarmament.
While we wait, we do not get closer to the elimination of nuclear weapons or to a more secure world. While we wait, the risks of the use of nuclear weapons remain or even increase. While we wait, the catastrophic and overwhelming consequences of such use do not diminish.
We do not have time to wait.
The conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons hosted by Norway and Mexico have clearly explained and documented these consequences.
Physicians, physicists, climate scientists, humanitarian agencies, and survivors have all presented alarming evidence about the effects of nuclear weapons.
This evidence has shown that a single nuclear weapon can destroy an entire city, inflicting massive numbers of instantaneous casualties.
This evidence has shown that acute radiation injuries kill people in a matter of minutes, days, or weeks; and that radiation-caused cancers and other illnesses continue to kill for years among those directly exposed and across generations.
This evidence has shown that the use of even a small fraction of existing nuclear arsenals would cause environmental devastation, including disruption of the global climate and agricultural production.
This evidence cannot be ignored.
We know that the only way to ensure these consequences will never occur is to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. And the only way to do that is to eliminate them entirely. The General Assembly, NPT states parties, the International Court of Justice, the overwhelming majority of states that belong to nuclear-weapon-free zones, and civil society have all said this repeatedly. That part of the debate is over.
We don’t have time to wait. States are in fact legally bound not to wait. Every state party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is committed to pursuing effective measures for nuclear disarmament.
Most importantly, we do not have to wait.
While the nuclear-armed states modernise their arsenals and refuse to engage in multilateral negotiations for nuclear disarmament as they are obliged to do, there is at least one effective measure that the rest of the world can take.
That is to prohibit nuclear weapons through a legally-binding instrument.
This is not a radical proposal. Indiscriminate weapons get banned. It is what we do as human society in the interests of protecting ourselves. We have done it before with other weapon systems, including biological and chemical weapons. A treaty banning nuclear weapons would complete the set of
prohibitions against WMD.
This should not be a controversial proposal. An international prohibition is merely the logical outcome of an examination of the risks and consequences of nuclear weapons detonation. It is complementary to existing international law governing nuclear weapons.
This is a meaningful proposal. It could have a variety of effects on the policy and practice of states. It could establish a comprehensive set of prohibitions and provide a framework under which the elimination of nuclear weapons can be pursued.
This is a feasible, achievable proposal. It can be negotiated in the near-term, and have normative and practical impacts for the long-term.
Naturally, as we get closer to beginning a diplomatic process, thoughts will turn to how and where such a treaty should be negotiated.
ICAN has no fixed view on this except that effective processes that have meaningful results tend to be based on some important principles of multilateralism. Negotiations must be inclusive, democratic, and involve civil society and international organizations.
A crucial foundation for our confidence in this idea is the conviction that such a treaty can and should be negotiated by those states ready to do so, even if the states with nuclear weapons oppose it and decide not to participate. A few recalcitrant states should not be able to block a successful outcome. It would be better for all states to participate and to move towards prohibition and elimination without delay. But this seems unlikely at the present time.
While we must keep working towards that goal with absolute determination, we believe states should put a prohibition in place now.
To the nuclear-armed states that see this as a hostile idea: it is not. You have applauded groups of states for adopting nuclear-weapon-free zones in their regions. Globalising this prohibition on nuclear weapons will give increased political and legal space for you to pursue elimination. All of you have registered your commitment to a nuclear-free world. A prohibition of nuclear weapons is an important part of the process to achieve that universal goal.
To the states in alliances with nuclear-armed states that are concerned such a treaty would be inconsistent with existing commitments: it would not be. All states have agreed that nuclear weapons should be eliminated. No security alliances have ever crumbled because a weapon system was outlawed and eliminated. Any states that consider humanitarian action a priority should understand that a ban treaty would be consistent with their existing obligations and principles.
To the states that have already foresworn nuclear weapons through the NPT and nuclear-weapon-free zones, and that might baulk at the idea of taking on more of the burden for nuclear disarmament: this ban treaty will not be a burden. It will reinforce the stigma against nuclear weapons. It will undermine their purported value. It will further erode any misplaced perceptions that these weapons of mass destruction confer symbolic power and prestige. It will make global the commitments you have already made regionally. It will give you an opportunity to take charge, for nuclear disarmament is the responsibility and right of everyone. Finally, it will have normative and practical impacts that will facilitate elimination. We welcome the opportunity to consider this approach with you. As Kenya said earlier this month, discussions about this should not cause anxiety.
A window of opportunity is now open to take an important next step towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. We should seize this opportunity before it closes. The conferences in Oslo and Nayarit have helped us see nuclear weapons as the devastating and inhumane weapons they are. We’re confident that the Vienna conference in December will reinforce that humanitarian perspective.
It is clear to us that the logical conclusion of these evidence-based gatherings is to begin a diplomatic process to prohibit nuclear weapons through a legally binding instrument.
This will take courage. We have confidence that the overwhelming majority of states will join this process. And we look forward to accompanying you along the road to a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) represents more than 360 partner organizations in 93 countries.
The Nuclear Age – risk of omnicide and our new responsibilities
Lund, Sweden – Nuclear weapons came into the world and were used for the first time in 1945. Their specific feature as weapons of mass destruction and “omnicide” – able to kill us all – has changed what it means to be alive on this earth and to be responsible for its existence.
Until nuclear weapons, human beings could not decide whether or not to end project humankind and project planet earth.
Today we know that the arsenals and missile projection methods are such that a few decision-makers, or a technical malfunction, could blow up enough of the world to make the living – if any – envy the dead.
We live in the Nuclear Age. It means living with the permanent daily threat of extinction.
Nuclearism undermines security and democracy
The Nuclear Age has undermined not only security but also democracy.
No nuclear weapons state has ever held a referendum on whether to maintain these weapons or not. There is not a single opinion poll ever made that shows that the citizens of those states want these weapons.
The overwhelming majority of the world’s population want nuclear weapons to be abolished.
In recognition of the fact that these weapons are immoral and useless for any human political purpose, the world’s nations have signed numerous UN resolutions to the effect that we shall seek “general and complete disarmament.”
The nuclear weapons states grossly ignore their responsibilities while pointing fingers at others
The most well-known is the NPT – the Non-Proliferation Treaty (1970). It declares that those who do not have nuclear weapons should abstain from acquiring them and as a quid pro quo the nuclear states should negotiate their arsenals down to zero “in good faith” and assist those who abstained to acquire nuclear technologies to meet their civilian energy needs.
Today the nuclear weapons states have many times more and more advanced nuclear weapons and much more sophisticated missiles, submarines and aircraft to project them to all parts of the world.
Possession – not proliferation – is the essential problem
In short, the main problem is nuclear weapons possession and growth and not – as the media and nuclear leaders want us to believe – their proliferation.
The mechanism is simple: As long as some – mostly Western countries – maintain and develop their arsenals, other will want to have them too.
This argument tends to be ignored when interventions, occupations and bombings are on the agenda, be it Iraq, Pakistan, India, North Korea or Iran.
That Israel possesses 100-300 nuclear weapons in contravention of UN resolutions that declare that the Middle East should remain a zone free of such weapons is equally forgotten.
Thus, while worldwide nuclear proliferation is seen to be the major obstacle to be surmounted, we at TFF argue that nuclear possession is the fundamental problem – as is the perverse thinking it is based upon.
Nuclearism must end – like slavery and cannibalism – and here is how
We insist that nuclearism – the political view that nuclear weapons are essential for the maintenance of national security and international stability – must come to an end and be seen as incompatible with human civilization.
TFF’s pro-peace perspective is three-fold:
a) To abolish nuclear weapons, we need to think of alternative defence, security and peace concepts, policies and strategies that will render nuclear weapons superfluous; and we must undermine the “fearology” and propaganda that makes people believe that nuclear weapons offer security, protection and peace.
b) We must build on the energy and hopes embedded in the fact that so many countries that could have been nuclear weapons states today have made political decisions to abstain from them.
This is the case for Sweden, Switzerland, former Yugoslavia, South Africa, Libya, Austria, Mongolia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.
Hope-inducing is also the fact that 60% of the world’s 193 states are now parts of Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones (NWFZ).
c) It remains essential to educate the general public about the risks of nuclear weapons and what the consequences would be if they were used.
The risks comprise both technical and human failure; moreover, there remain a few elites who believe that for certain political goals the use of nuclear weapons would be justified.
Politicians, schools and media must focus on the end of nuclearism before it ends us all
While public debate and education on nuclear issues were on the world’s agenda in the 1960s and 1980s, this existential issue has virtually disappeared from the radar over the last 20 years.
TFF believes that everything must be done to bring it back to the forefront, but without contributing to the afore-mentioned “fearology”.
The focus must be on the advantages for humankind’s common good if, in the name of civilization, we could abolish these weapons like we have abolished cannibalism, slavery and other inhuman practices.
An Iranian official says Israel’s policies are the key reason behind the failure of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to fulfill its objectives.
“Non-Aligned Movement countries backed by many other states firmly believe that the Zionist regime [of Israel]’s policies and its opposition to the establishment of a region free from nuclear weapons in the Middle East is the most important contributor to the NPT’s failure to achieve its goals in [the field of] non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Director General for Political Affairs Hamid Ba’eedinejad said on Saturday.
Signatories to the NPT are sharply divided over putting Israel under pressure in order to force the regime to sign the treaty and agree to the establishment of a Middle East region free from nuclear arms as well as weapons of mass destruction, he said.
The official underlined that certain Israeli allies oppose the NPT signatories’ unanimous stance on the necessity of Tel Aviv signing the treaty.
The Iranian official noted that the third session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in New York failed to yield any tangible results over the implementation of the treaty. Ba’eedinejad had headed the Iranian delegation to the event.
Israel is widely believed to be the only possessor of nuclear arms in the Middle East, with an estimated stockpile of 200-400 nuclear warheads. In its Yearbook 2012, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said that Israel possesses at least 80 “highly operational” nuclear warheads.
Israel, which rejects all regulatory international nuclear agreements, maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity over its nuclear activities and refuses to allow its nuclear facilities to come under international regulatory inspections.
It’s heartening to see that an agreement has been reached to ensure that Iran honors its commitment, made when it signed the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to forgo developing nuclear weapons.
But what about the other key part of the NPT, Article VI, which commits nuclear-armed nations to “cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament,” as well as to “a treaty on general and complete disarmament”? Here we find that, 44 years after the NPT went into force, the United States and other nuclear powers continue to pursue their nuclear weapons buildups, with no end in sight.
On January 8, 2014, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced what Reuters termed “ambitious plans to upgrade [U.S.] nuclear weapons systems by modernizing weapons and building new submarines, missiles and bombers to deliver them.” The Pentagon intends to build a dozen new ballistic missile submarines, a new fleet of long-range nuclear bombers, and new intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in late December that implementing the plans would cost $355 billion over the next decade, while an analysis by the independent Center for Nonproliferation Studies reported that this upgrade of U.S. nuclear forces would cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years. If the higher estimate proves correct, the submarines alone would cost over $29 billion each.
Of course, the United States already has a massive nuclear weapons capability — approximately 7,700 nuclear weapons, with more than enough explosive power to destroy the world. Together with Russia, it possesses about 95 percent of the more than 17,000 nuclear weapons that comprise the global nuclear arsenal.
Nor is the United States the only nation with grand nuclear ambitions. Although China currently has only about 250 nuclear weapons, including 75 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), it recently flight-tested a hypersonic nuclear missile delivery vehicle capable of penetrating any existing defense system. The weapon, dubbed the Wu-14 by U.S. officials, was detected flying at ten times the speed of sound during a test flight over China during early January 2014. According to Chinese scientists, their government had put an “enormous investment” into the project, with more than a hundred teams from leading research institutes and universities working on it. Professor Wang Yuhui, a researcher on hypersonic flight control at Nanjing University, stated that “many more tests will be carried out” to solve the remaining technical problems. “It’s just the beginning.” Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based naval expert, commented approvingly that “missiles will play a dominant role in warfare, and China has a very clear idea of what is important.”
Other nations are engaged in this arms race, as well. Russia, the other dominant nuclear power, seems determined to keep pace with the United States through modernization of its nuclear forces. The development of new, updated Russian ICBMs is proceeding rapidly, while new nuclear submarines are already being produced. Also, the Russian government has started work on a new strategic bomber, known as the PAK DA, which reportedly will become operational in 2025. Both Russia and India are known to be working on their own versions of a hypersonic nuclear missile carrier. But, thus far, these two nuclear nations lag behind the United States and China in its development. Israel is also proceeding with modernization of its nuclear weapons, and apparently played the key role in scuttling the proposed U.N. conference on a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East in 2012.
This nuclear weapons buildup certainly contradicts the official rhetoric. On April 5, 2009, in his first major foreign policy address, President Barack Obama proclaimed “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” That fall, the UN Security Council — including Russia, China, Britain, France, and the United States, all of them nuclear powers — unanimously passed Resolution 1887, which reiterated the point that the NPT required the “disarmament of countries currently possessing nuclear weapons.” But rhetoric, it seems, is one thing and action quite another.
Thus, although the Iranian government’s willingness to forgo the development of nuclear weapons is cause for encouragement, the failure of the nuclear nations to fulfill their own NPT obligations is appalling. Given these nations’ enhanced preparations for nuclear war — a war that would be nothing short of catastrophic — their evasion of responsibility should be condemned by everyone seeking a safer, saner world.
Yesterday, while taping a discussion of the latest round of P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran on Russia Today’s CrossTalk that was broadcast today (see here or, on You Tube, here), Flynt said, “I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not particularly optimistic about a deal being reached this week. I don’t think that there’s been a lot of progress on the issues that kept agreement from being reached the last time the parties convened in Geneva:
–There’s the issue of Iran’s nuclear rights, and how they get acknowledged or not acknowledged in an interim agreement.
–There is disagreement about how to handle, during an interim deal, this heavy water reactor facility at Arak which the Iranians are building.
–There are still disagreements about the disposition of Iran’s stockpile of near-20 percent enriched uranium.
I don’t really see much sign that either the United States or the French are backing down from some of the positions they took on those issues ten days ago—and if there’s not some give on that, I don’t know how the Iranians will be in a position to accept the P5+1 proposal.”
On the positions that the United States and France took on these issues in the November 7-9 Geneva talks, Flynt recounts,
“Going into the last round at Geneva, I think the Iranians anticipated getting a draft from the P5+1 where they had clearly worked out understandings about how some of these contentious issues—about Arak, about the 20 percent stockpile, about some acknowledgement of Iran’s nuclear rights; the Iranians had expectations from their previous discussions about the kind of proposal they were going to see. And, basically, the United States and France reneged on those understandings. And so the draft proposal that went in front of Iran was different from what Foreign Minister Zarif and his team were expecting to see, and they weren’t in a position to accept that.
Unless the P5+1—in particular, the United States and France—are willing to stick to understandings that the Iranians thought they had reached, at least verbally, on some of these issues, I don’t think that the Iranians are going to feel, either in terms of substance or in terms of the atmosphere of trust, they’re not going to feel comfortable with going ahead with an agreement.”
Currently, the most fundamental sticking point in Geneva is—as we have long anticipated—the Obama administration’s refusal to recognize Iran’s clear legal right to enrich uranium under safeguards and to acknowledge that the Islamic Republic will have to be treated like any other NPT party. As we’ve written before, see here, Iran and all other states have a sovereign right to pursue indigenous fuel cycle capabilities—a right recognized in Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as an “inalienable right,” which non-nuclear-weapon states pledge to exercise in line with Article II (where non-weapons states commit not to build or obtain nuclear weapons) and Article III (where states commit to conducting their nuclear activities under safeguards to be negotiated with the International Atomic Energy Agency).
As Flynt explains, the Obama administration—like the George W. Bush administration before it—resists recognizing this legal reality:
“There are basically four countries in the world that try to deny that the NPT recognizes the right of a non-nuclear weapon state like Iran to enrich uranium under safeguards. Those four countries are the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Israel, which isn’t even a signatory to the NPT. Those are the only four countries that take this position. The rest of the world—the BRICS, the Non-Aligned Movement, key U.S. allies like Germany and Japan—have held consistently that the Treaty recognizes a right to enrich. And what is so perverse is that…when the U.S. and the Soviet Union first opened the NPT for signature in 1968, senior U.S. officials testified to Congress that the NPT recognized a right to safeguarded enrichment. That was the position of the United States until the end of the Cold War—and then we decided to try to unilaterally rewrite the Treaty because we didn’t want non-Western countries getting fuel cycle capabilities.”
We’ll see if the Obama administration can do any better this weekend.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has no use in the Middle East.
Problematic countries are not the ones which have refused to sign the NPT, Netanyahu said in an interview with French-language daily Le Figaro on Friday.
The Israeli premier accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons despite being a signatory to the NPT.
He said Iran should not possess heavy water reactors or centrifuges, stressing Israel and Arab countries in the Persian Gulf are united in their stance against the Iranian nuclear issue.
Netanyahu labeled Tehran as an aggressive and violent state which poses a threat to the US and European countries such as France and Britain.
He called on France to stand firm on its stance against Iran in the upcoming nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -Russia, China, US, UK, and France- plus Germany.
Israel is widely believed to be the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East with an estimated 200 to 400 nuclear warheads.
The Israeli regime, which rejects all regulatory international nuclear agreements, particularly the NPT, maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity over its nuclear activities and refuses to allow its nuclear facilities to come under international regulatory inspections.
- Netanyahu ‘biggest hypocrite’ in world (rinf.com)
Obama’s Refusal to Respect Iran’s Sovereign and Treaty Rights Continues to Thwart Diplomacy, Leaving America on the Self-Defeating Path to War
Notwithstanding France’s simultaneously arrogant and craven grandstanding over Iran’s Arak heavy water reactor, the main reason for the failure of last week’s nuclear talks between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 was the Obama administration’s imperious refusal to acknowledge Tehran’s right to enrich uranium under international safeguards. On this point, we want to highlight a recent post by Dan Joyner on Arms Control Law, titled, “Scope, Meaning and Juridical Implication of the NPT Article IV(1) Inalienable Right.”
Dan opens with a favorable reference to our recent post on the issue, see here; he then focuses on how to interpret the NPT Article IV(1) right to peaceful nuclear energy—a subject he has already written about at some length. He usefully inserts an excerpt from his excellent 2011 book, Interpreting the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Interpreting the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Pages 79-84. This excerpt lays out Dan’s argument that the right to peaceful use of nuclear technology should be interpreted as “a full, free-standing right of all NNWS [non-nuclear-weapon states] party to the treaty, and not as a contingent right, contrary to the interpretation of some NWS [nuclear-weapon states].” After elaborating this basic point, Dan continues:
“The question of the scope of this right is one that continues to be debated. I have looked to the Lotus principle in international law (see the excerpt from my book) to show that the lawfulness of NNWS’, and in fact all states’, indigenous nuclear fuel cycle activities can be shown to derive from the absence of any prohibition of these activities in international law. This observation will, I have argued, serve to legally justify the full nuclear fuel cycle of activities within a NNWS, subject only to the positive requirements of Articles II and III of the NPT—i.e. no manufacture of nuclear explosive devices, and the conclusion of a safeguards agreement with the IAEA.
The question of just what exactly is the nature and scope of the right recognized in Article IV(1) of the NPT, and what are its juridical implications (e.g. in tension with the UN Security Council’s order in Resolution 1696 for Iran to cease uranium enrichment), is a subject that I have been thinking/researching about recently… These questions actually raise some very deep issues of international law, and analyzing them properly requires serious work… But let me say this here.
Article IV(1) of the NPT states that “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.” In my view, the recognition by over 190 states parties to the NPT that all states have such an inalienable right, which I interpret to include all elements of the full nuclear fuel cycle including uranium enrichment, strongly suggests that the right to peaceful nuclear energy research, production and use is one of the fundamental rights of states in international law. In my view, both fundamental and acquired rights of states should be understood to create in third parties, both states and international organizations, a legal obligation to respect those rights.
This means that other states and international organizations are under an international legal obligation not to act in serious prejudice of states’ rights. In the case of fundamental rights, this reciprocal obligation is of a jus cogens order, meaning that all states and international organizations are under a jus cogens order legal obligation not to act to seriously prejudice the fundamental rights of other states. When states or international organization do act in serious prejudice of a state’s fundamental rights, that action is an internationally wrongful act, and implicates the international responsibility of the acting state or international organization.
According to this analysis, UN Security Council Resolution 1696, which commands Iran to cease uranium enrichment, constitutes a violation of international law, at least as to this particular command, and is void of legal effect (See Article 25 of the UN Charter).
Note that the often heard rebuttal to this argument, which references Article 103 of the UN Charter, is in fact erroneous and inapplicable. Article 103 of the UN Charter provides that “In the event of a conflict between the obligations of the Members of the United Nations under the present Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligations under the present Charter shall prevail.” My analysis, which is based on the recognition of a fundamental right of states in international law, and the juridical implication of an obligation in other states and international organizations to respect that right, is unaffected and unanswered by this provision, which merely recognizes that in the case of a conflict between UN member states’ international legal obligations under the Charter, and their obligations deriving from other sources, the Charter obligations trump. It does not speak to the legal obligations of the Security Council as an organ of an international organization. Nor does it speak at all to conflicts between the obligations of the UN Charter, and the rights of states in international law. So again, Article 103 of the UN Charter is inapposite and inapplicable to this question.”
Dan’s work on these issues is both breathtakingly clear and, as far as we are concerned, definitive. (For more of his analysis on the illegality of Security Council resolutions calling on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, we refer everyone to his brilliant article, “The Security Council as Legal Hegemon,” published last year in the Georgetown Journal of International Law, see here.)
More immediately, Dan’s work underscores an important reality: the Obama administration’s hegemonically abusive refusal to recognize Iran’s right to safeguarded enrichment is not just diplomatically and strategically counter-productive—it is illegal.
Last month, while testifying to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Wendy Sherman—Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and the senior U.S. representative in the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran—said, with reference to Iranians, “We know that deception is part of the DNA.” This statement goes beyond orientalist stereotyping; it is, in the most literal sense, racist. And it evidently was not a mere “slip of the tongue”: a former Obama administration senior official told us that Sherman has used such language before about Iranians.
–If a senior U.S. government official made public statements about “deception” or some other negative character trait being “part of the DNA” of Jews, people of African origin, or most other ethnic groups, that official would—rightly—be fired or forced to resign, and would probably not be allowed back into “polite society” until after multiple groveling apologies and a long period of penance.
–But a senior U.S. official can make such a statement about Iranians—or almost certainly about any other ethnic group a majority of whose members are Muslim—and that’s just fine.
Of course, it’s not fine. But that’s the America we live in.
Putting aside Sherman’s glaring display of anti-Iranian racism, there was another egregious manifestation of prejudice-cum-lie in her testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that we want to explore more fully. It came in a response to a question from Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) about whether states have a right to enrich under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Here is the relevant passage in Sherman’s reply:
“It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all [and] doesn’t speak to enrichment, period. It simply says that you have the right to research and development.”
Sherman goes on to acknowledge that “many countries such as Japan and Germany have taken that [uranium enrichment] to be a right.” But, she says, “the United States does not take that position. We take the position that we look at each one of these [cases].” Or, as she put it at the beginning of her response to Sen. Rubio, “It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all” (emphasis added).
Two points should be made here. First, the claim that the NPT’s Article IV does not affirm the right of non-nuclear-weapons states to pursue indigenous development of fuel-cycle capabilities, including uranium enrichment, under international safeguards is flat-out false.
Article IV makes a blanket statement that “nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.” And it’s not just “countries such as Japan and Germany”—both close U.S. allies—which affirm that this includes the right of non-weapons states to enrich uranium under safeguards. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries and the Non-Aligned Movement (whose 120 countries represent a large majority of UN members) have all clearly affirmed the right of non-nuclear-weapons states, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, to pursue indigenous safeguarded enrichment.
In fact, just four countries in the world hold that there is no right to safeguarded enrichment under the NPT: the United States, Britain, France, and Israel (which isn’t even a NPT signatory). That’s it.
Moreover, the right to indigenous technological development—including nuclear fuel-cycle capabilities, should a state choose to pursue them—is a sovereign right. It is not conferred by the NPT; the NPT’s Article IV recognizes states’ “inalienable right” in this regard, while other provisions bind non-weapons states that join the Treaty to exercise this right under international safeguards.
There have been many first-rate analyses demonstrating that the right to safeguarded enrichment under the NPT is crystal clear—from the Treaty itself, from its negotiating history, and from subsequent practice, with at least a dozen non-weapons states building fuel-cycle infrastructures potentially capable of supporting weapons programs. Bill Beeman published a nice Op Ed in the Huffington Post on this question in response to Sherman’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony, see here and, for a text including references, here. For truly definitive legal analyses, see the work of Daniel Joyner, for example here and here. The issue will also be dealt with in articles by Flynt Leverett and Dan Joyner in a forthcoming special issue of the Penn State Journal of Law and International Affairs, which should appear within the next few days.
From any objectively informed legal perspective, denying non-weapons states’ right of safeguarded enrichment amounts to nothing more than a shameless effort to rewrite the NPT unilaterally. And this brings us to our second point about Sherman’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony.
Sherman claims that “It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all [and] doesn’t speak to enrichment, period.” But, in fact, the United States originally held that the right to peaceful use recognized in the NPT’s Article IV includes the indigenous development of safeguarded fuel-cycle capabilities.
In 1968, as America and the Soviet Union, the NPT’s sponsors, prepared to open it for signature, the founding Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, William Foster, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—the same committee to which Sherman untruthfully testified last month—that the Treaty permitted non-weapons states to pursue the fuel cycle. We quote Foster on this point: “Neither uranium enrichment nor the stockpiling of fissionable material in connection with a peaceful program would violate Article II so long as these activities were safeguarded under Article III.” [Note: In Article II of the NPT, non-weapons states commit not to build or acquire nuclear weapons; in Article III, they agree to accept safeguards on the nuclear activities, “as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”]
Thus, it is a bald-faced lie to say that the United States has “always” held that the NPT does not recognize a right to safeguarded enrichment. As a matter of policy, the United States held that that the NPT recognized such a right even before it was opened for signature; this continued to be the U.S. position for more than a quarter century thereafter.
It was only after the Cold War ended that the United States—along with Britain, France, and Israel—decided that the NPT should be, in effect, unilaterally rewritten (by them) to constrain the diffusion of fuel-cycle capabilities to non-Western states. And their main motive for trying to do so has been to maximize America’s freedom of unilateral military initiative and, in the Middle East, that of Israel.
This is the agenda for which Wendy Sherman tells falsehoods to a Congress that is all too happy to accept them.