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.
I’ll try to stay calm as I write this. I’ll try.
I just read Robert Einhorn’s new article over at Foreign Policy entitled “Getting to ‘Yes’ with Iran.” Most of you will know that for the past four years, until May, Einhorn was a key member of the Obama administration’s diplomatic team working on the Iran nuclear issue, and was involved in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran. Because of this, I think its fair to take his opinions as fairly representative of the US perspective on the ongoing diplomatic process with Iran.
It’s honestly hard to know where to begin to criticize this piece. There’s so very much to criticize. I think the most maddening aspect to it is simply the tone throughout – the paternalistic, arrogant tone that drives most of the world crazy about US “diplomacy,” and makes them want to collectively scream at us “who the f#&*! do you think you are!?!” Here are a few jewels:
The two sides could try to work out a road map containing the general elements or principles of a phased, comprehensive deal, including an outline of the key elements of an Iranian civil nuclear program that would be permitted in an end-state. . .
More specifically, any acceptable approach to permitting enrichment would have to provide confidence that Iran could not quickly or secretly “break out” of agreed arrangements and use its enrichment capabilities to produce highly-enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. This would require limits on Iran’s enrichment capacity (both in terms of numbers and types of centrifuges), restrictions on its stocks of enriched uranium (in terms of quantities and locations), and special monitoring measures capable of detecting a breakout at the earliest possible moment. . .
The question of whether the negotiations’ end-state should include a domestic enrichment program cannot be answered until we have explored such practical arrangements with the Iranians. Such engagement will not be easy for either side. It will require the United States and its partners to do what they have so far avoided: talk about what would make an Iranian enrichment program acceptable. And it will require the Iranians to recognize that the United States and the international community will not accept an unrestricted enrichment program, but only a regulated capability that denies them the opportunity to convert their program rapidly or clandestinely to the production of nuclear weapons.
Do you hear it? How many times he uses words like “permit,” “accept,” and “acceptable”? This drives the rest of the world crazy – how the U.S. and the West generally put themselves in the position of parents telling other states – as if they were little children and not fully equal sovereigns – what they will accept and not accept, permit and not permit those states to do in their own countries! And if you don’t go along with these parental orders, the U.S. and E.U. will slap sanctions on you, like a parent punishing a child. Nevermind if there is no international legal basis either for the substantive “non-acceptance” of the activity, or for applying punitive sanctions, as is the case with Iran’s nuclear program. Dad’s going to do it anyway, because he knows what’s best, and because he can.
Do you not see how this drives other states crazy, and makes them want to defy these edicts from the West, just on principle? It’s basic schoolyard psychology. And we would feel and respond the same way, if the tables were turned.
But wait, there’s more. He also tries his hand at legally justifying the U.S. refusal to recognize Iran’s right to peaceful uranium enrichment:
The United States has been justified in rejecting an unfettered “right to enrich.” The Nonproliferation Treaty protects the right of compliant parties to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but it is silent on whether that right includes enrichment, which is a dual-use technology that can also produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Lawyers can debate whether a right to enrich is included in the treaty, but what is not debatable is that Iran has forfeited — at least temporarily — any right to enrichment (and reprocessing) until it can demonstrate convincingly that it is in compliance with its NPT obligations. For the time being, whatever rights it has to these technologies have been suspended by a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions, which are legally binding on all U.N. members, including Iran.
Well, I wrote a whole book on why he is wrong in his assessment of the NPT and Article IV. I’d be happy to explain it to him sometime, or he can just buy the book and read it (it’s out in paperback!), now that he’s out of office and has time to actually think about policies, instead of running around implementing them based on erroneous understandings. And as far as the Security Council resolutions are concerned, I’ve written about them as well, including in an article in the George Washington International Law Review. And I’m currently writing another piece in which I will discuss more thoroughly the issue of states’ rights in international law. In that piece I plan to demonstrate that the rights of states, including the one codified in NPT Article IV, have jurisprudential meaning and implications, and impose obligations on other actors to respect them – including the Security Council. And when the Council acts to prejudice these rights, its decisions are null and void.
But coming back to a macro view of this piece by Einhorn, it really makes for a depressing read. It convinces me that there really is no hope for a practical, negotiated solution, as long as the U.S. approaches the negotiating table with this attitude and with these erroneous ideas about both the principle and practicality of what they’re hoping to accomplish through them.
Listening, on 15 April, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on US policy towards Iran put me in mind of the inscription Dante imagined over the entrance to Hell: “Abandon hope all you who enter here”.
There seemed no notion among members of the committee that territories beyond the borders of the United States of America are not subject to US jurisdiction – still less that reasoned persuasion and reciprocity can be more effective tools for achieving US foreign policy goals than sanctions (how the good Congressmen love sanctions!) and the infliction of pain.
Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs who heads the U.S. delegation in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran, must have come away from that hearing with the feeling that she has an impossible task. Congress will howl if the administration makes the slightest concession to secure Iranian agreement to non-proliferation assurances and restrictions on nuclear activities. Yet if Iran is offered nothing in return for measures it deems to be voluntary, because they lie beyond the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it will continue to defy the US and its allies.
Still, it is hard to avoid the thought that the administration could have made more of this opportunity.
Ambassador Sherman’s opening statement contained no reference to the US intelligence community’s confidence that Iran’s leaders have not taken a decision to acquire nuclear weapons. Instead, it referred to “Iran’s nuclear weapon ambitions” and to the need for Iran to “change course”, which the congressmen could be forgiven for taking as confirmation of their chairman’s opening assertion that Iran is trying to build a nuclear arsenal.
On top of that, Ambassador Sherman fed the Congressmen’s appetite for a penal approach by stressing that the goal of US policy is to have Iran live up to its “international obligations”. The Congressmen were left undisturbed in their conviction that Iran is entirely in the wrong and most certainly should not be rewarded for mending its ways. The opportunity to start helping their Honours to understand that the reality is more complicated went begging.
I hope LobeLog readers who know what lies behind that last sentence will forgive me for explicating it.
Iran’s “international obligations” come in two forms. One lot of obligations stem from the provisions of the NPT. Iran accepts that these are genuine obligations under international law and is ready to comply fully with them without reciprocity. Indeed some observers believe Iran is already fully compliant.
The other lot stem from the provisions of four Security Council resolutions adopted under article 41 of the UN Charter. Iran refuses to accept the legally-binding nature of these, not unreasonably, given that, when they were adopted, the Council had not determined that Iran’s nuclear activities represented a threat to international peace and security. Instead, Iran offers to proceed on the basis of reciprocity, volunteering the steps specified in these resolutions in return for recognition that Iran has NPT rights as well as obligations, and also for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions.
The third missed opportunity was ethical in nature. The administration had no need to indulge in misrepresentation and distortion but succumbed to temptation.
The Congressmen were told that Iran is “isolated”. In reality, Iran maintains full diplomatic relations with some 100 states. Iran’s Foreign Minister is received courteously almost everywhere in Asia and Europe apart from the UK and Israel. Just this week Iran assumed the chair of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Currently Iran presides over the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement
Ambassador Sherman implied that responsibility for the appalling civil conflict in Syria must be ascribed to Iran, “a destabilising influence across the entire Middle East”. The initial supply of weapons to the Syrian opposition by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia was not mentioned. Some Middle Eastern states are allowed to have interests beyond their borders, it seems, and others are not.
Oh, and in Syria all the violence against “the Syrian people” is being inflicted by the Assad regime, supported by its Iranian ally. Perish the thought that the opposition has shed a single drop of Syrian blood!
Most Europeans yearn for the objectivity and ethical agnosticism that underlay the US opening to China, détente with the Soviet Union, and the final flurry of US/USSR agreements heralding the end of the Cold War. That sort of objectivity should come naturally, one might think, when the adversary is Iran, a state so very much weaker than the US. Alas, the opposite seems to be the case!
- Israel says no ‘compromise’ should be made with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US obstructing global disarmament: Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Nuclear Iran: What’s at Stake for the BRICS (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Saeed Kamali Dehghan, writing for the Guardian, attempts to explain Iran’s presidential elections by promoting some standard nonsense propaganda, for example by claiming that the so called Green Movement was a “pro-democracy” movement when in fact they were attempting to violently undo an election whose results have since been vindicated as truly representative of Iranian public opinion by multiple independent polls.
Furthermore, on the topic of Iran’s nuclear program, he simply and matter-of-factly asserts that the sanctions are “over suspicions that the programme has military ambitions” and that Iran has “failed to abide by its international obligations” when in fact by now anyone who has followed the nuclear dispute is unquestionably aware that the sanctions have nothing to do with the nuclear program and instead, that the dispute over the nuclear program is merely a pretext pushed by the US as a cover for a policy of imposing regime-change in Iran. Furthermore, Iran has not violated any such non-existent “international obligation” (as Dehghan claims matter-of-factly) to give up her sovereign right to enrich uranium — if anything it is the US and EU who violated their international obligations under the NPT, with respect to not just Iran, by forcibly attempting to deprive countries of their rights as recognized by the NPT (and also not disarming their own nuclear weapons as the NPT requires them to do, never mind murdering civilian scientists and making illegal threats of attacking Iran on a daily basis etc etc.)
So here we go again with the Western media and complicit journalists promoting bullshit under the guise of analysis. just watch how this Dehghan character has repeated some of the standard talking points of the US about iran’s nuclear program without even a hint of objectivity. You can of course expect more of this. Note that there is no option to post comments regarding this piece by Dehghan on the Guardian site; you’re just supposed to accept it.
The controversy over Iran’s nuclear activities has at least as much to do with the future of international order as it does with nonproliferation. For this reason, all of the BRICS have much at stake in how the Iranian nuclear issue is handled.
Conflict over Iran’s nuclear programme is driven by two different approaches to interpreting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); these approaches, in turn, are rooted in different conceptions of international order. Which interpretation of the NPT ultimately prevails on the Iranian nuclear issue will go a long way to determine whether a rules-based view of international order gains ascendancy over a policy-oriented approach in which the goals of international policy are defined mainly by America and its partners. And that will go a long way to determine whether rising non-Western states emerge as true power centers in a multipolar world, or whether they continue, in important ways, to be subordinated to hegemonic preferences of the West—and especially the United States.
The NPT is appropriately understood as a set of three bargains among signatories: non-weapons states commit not to obtain nuclear weapons; countries recognised as weapons states (America, Russia, Britain, France, and China) commit to nuclear disarmament; and all parties agree that signatories have an “inalienable right” to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. One approach to interpreting the NPT gives these bargains equal standing; the other holds that the goal of nonproliferation trumps the other two.
There have long been strains between weapons states and non-weapons states over nuclear powers’ poor compliance with their commitment to disarm. Today, though, disputes about NPT interpretation are particularly acute over perceived tensions between blocking nuclear proliferation and enabling peaceful use of nuclear technology. This is especially so for fuel cycle technology, the ultimate “dual use” capability—for the same material that fuels power, medical, and research reactors can, at higher levels of fissile isotope concentration, be used in nuclear bombs. The dispute is engaged most immediately over whether Iran, as a non-weapons party to the NPT, has a right to enrich uranium under international safeguards.
For those holding that the NPT’s three bargains have equal standing, Tehran’s right to enrich is clear—from the NPT itself, its negotiating history, and decades of state practice, with at least a dozen states having developed safeguarded fuel cycle infrastructures potentially able to support a weapons program. On this basis, the diplomatic solution is also clear: Western recognition of Iran’s nuclear rights in return for greater transparency through more intrusive verification and monitoring.
Those recognising Iran’s nuclear rights take what international lawyers call a “positivist” view of global order, whereby the rules of international relations are created through the consent of independent sovereign states and are to be interpreted narrowly. Such a rules-based approach is strongly favoured by non-Western states, including BRICS—for it is the only way international rules might constrain established powers as well as rising powers and the less powerful.
Those who believe nonproliferation trumps the NPT’s other goals claim that there is no treaty-based “right” to enrich, and that weapons states and others with nuclear industries should decide which non-weapons states can possess fuel cycle technologies. From these premises, the George W Bush administration sought a worldwide ban on transferring fuel cycle technologies to countries not already possessing them. Since this effort failed, Washington has pushed the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group to make such transfers conditional on recipients’ acceptance of the Additional Protocol to the NPT—an instrument devised at US instigation in the 1990s to enable more intrusive and proactive inspections in non-weapons states.
America has pressed the UN Security Council to adopt resolutions telling Tehran to suspend enrichment, even though it is part of Iran’s “inalienable right” to peaceful use of nuclear technology; such resolutions violate UN Charter provisions that the Council act “in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations” and “with the present charter.” The Obama administration has also defined its preferred diplomatic outcome and, with Britain and France, imposed it on the P5+1: Iran must promptly stop enriching at the near-20 per cent level to fuel its sole (and safeguarded) research reactor; it must then comply with Security Council calls to cease all enrichment. US officials say Iran might be “allowed” a circumscribed enrichment programme, after suspending for a decade or more, but London and Paris insist that “zero enrichment” is the only acceptable long-term outcome.
Those asserting that Iran has no right to enrich—America, Britain, France, and Israel—take a policy-or results-oriented view of international order. In this view, what matters in responding to international challenges are the goals motivating states to create particular rules in the first place—not the rules themselves, but the goals underlying them. This approach also ascribes a special role in interpreting rules to the most powerful states—those with the resources and willingness to act in order to enforce the rules. Unsurprisingly, this approach is favoured by established Western powers—above all, by the United States.
BRICS need to call Washington’s bluff
All of the BRICS have, in various ways, pushed back against a de facto unilateral rewriting of the NPT by America and its European partners. Since abandoning nuclear weapons programmes during democratisation and joining the NPT, Brazil and South Africa have staunchly defended non-weapons states’ right to peaceful use of nuclear technology, including enrichment. With Argentina, they resisted US efforts to make transfers of fuel cycle technology contingent on accepting the Additional Protocol (which Brazil has refused to sign), ultimately forcing Washington to compromise. With Turkey, Brazil brokered the Tehran Declaration in May 2010, whereby Iran accepted US terms that it swap most of its then stockpile of enriched uranium for new fuel for its research reactor. But the Declaration openly recognised Iran’s right to enrich; for this reason, the Obama administration rejected it.
The recently concluded 5th BRICS Summit in Durban saw a joint declaration Declaration that referred to the official BRICS position on Iran:
“We believe there is no alternative to a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. We recognize Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations, and support resolution of the issues involved through political and diplomatic means and dialogue.”
At the same time, the BRICS have all, to varying degrees, accommodated Washington on the Iranian issue. Russian and Chinese officials acknowledge there will be no diplomatic solution absent Western recognition of Tehran’s nuclear rights. Yet China and Russia endorsed all six Security Council resolutions requiring Iran to suspend enrichment. Beijing and Moscow did so partly to keep America in the Council with the issue, where they can exert ongoing influence—and restraint—over Washington; at their insistence, the resolutions state explicitly that none of them can be construed as authorising the use of force against Iran.
Russia, China, and the other BRICS have also accommodated Washington’s increasing reliance on the threatened imposition of “secondary” sanctions against third-country entities doing business with the Islamic Republic. Such measures violate US commitments under the World Trade Organisation, which allows members to cut trade with states they deem national security threats but not to sanction other members over lawful business with third countries. If challenged on this in the WTO’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism, America would surely lose; for this reason, US administrations have been reluctant actually to impose secondary sanctions on non-US entities transacting with Iran. Nevertheless, companies, banks, and even governments in all of the BRICS have cut back on their Iranian transactions—feeding American elites’ sense that, notwithstanding their illegality, secondary sanctions help leverage non-Western states’ compliance with Washington’s policy preferences and vision of (US-dominated) world order.
If the BRICS want to move decisively from a still relatively unipolar world to a genuinely multipolar world, they will, at some point, have to call Washington’s bluff on Iran-related secondary sanctions. They will also have to accelerate the development of alternatives to US-dominated mechanisms for conducting and settling international transactions—a project to which the proposed new BRICS bank could contribute significantly.
- Nuclear warheads in US, Europe threaten all of humanity, Soltanieh says (alethonews.wordpress.com)