The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Preserving Western Domination

IAEA

Cross-posted from the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

The latest negotiations between Iran and the U.S. (the so-called 5+2) for a long-term comprehensive nuclear agreement have ground to a halt. This is due to Washington’s last-minute insistence on adding new conditions to the talks to resolve “past and present concerns” about the “possible military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program. The U.S. and International Atomic Energy Association (I.A.E.A.) charge is based on what the Iranians claim to be fabricated documents that neither Washington nor the I.A.E.A. are willing to share with Teheran for investigation. In his 2012 memoir, Mohamed ElBaradei disclosed such documents to be a part of a whole series provided to Washington by Israel.1  A cursory glance at the I.A.E.A., its tenets and philosophy will help clarity the essentially “colonial disputes” in the current situation.

In Part One of this series we pointed out that the history of Iranian Nuclear development has been known to the I.A.E.A. and the West from the beginning. Although it is often repeated as something approaching a mantra, the assertions that Iran has been secretive about its nuclear project or that it has moved towards military objectives are nothing more than a myth. As of yet there is no credible evidence to support such contention. In this part we intend to focus on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (N.P.T.) and its history.

Despite the western claim that all the arguments and disputes with Iran are about its nuclear research resting on the N.P.T. and the legal framework that this treaty creates, the N.P.T. is nothing more than a treaty to shelter the Western nuclear advantage and safeguard its supremacy in the nuclear weapons’ field. The N.P.T. is a very unfair treaty, which places opposite obligations on states. In its core it is intended to divide the world and its signatories into two categories, those who possessed nuclear weapons prior to 1 January 1967 and those who didn’t. The treaty places different obligations on the members of each category.

The text of the N.P.T. consists of a preamble and eleven articles which are interpreted collectively as a system with three major pillars. These pillars are:

1. Non-proliferation

2. Disarmament

3. The right to peaceful development and use of nuclear technology

The treaty is reviewed every five years in meetings called Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Even though the treaty was originally conceived with a limited duration of 25 years, the signing parties decided, under heavy US pressure and arm twisting, to extend it indefinitely and without conditions during the Review Conference in New York City on 11 May 1995.

Since its inception, several additional measures have been adopted to strengthen the N.P.T., particularly in the nuclear non-proliferation part of the treaty, with the aim of making it difficult for states to acquire the capability to produce nuclear weapons. These measures include the export controls of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the enhanced verification measures of the I.A.E.A. Additional Protocol.

The N.P.T. treaty was opened for signature on 1 July 1968, and was signed on that date by 62 states including Iran. But only three nuclear-weapon states – the US, the UK and the USSR – signed at that time. China and France did not sign until 1992. Today, more than 190 states are parties to the treaty, five as “nuclear-weapon states and over 185 as non-nuclear-weapon” states. The latter includes North Korea, which signed as a non-nuclear-weapon state in 1985 but withdrew in 2003, having developed nuclear weapons contrary to Article II of the Treaty, though its withdrawal has not been formally accepted.

India, Israel and Pakistan are not parties to the Treaty. All of them have nuclear weapons but, having acquired them since 1 January 1967, they don’t qualify as nuclear-weapon states within the meaning of the Treaty. So, to join now, they would have to give up their nuclear weapons and join as non-nuclear-weapon states, which is very unlikely. As a matter of fact it was the whole unfair nature of the N.P.T. treaty in creating a club of “nuclear haves” and a larger group of “nuclear have-nots” by restricting the legal possession of nuclear weapons to those states that tested them before 1967 that India objected to in 1968. The “nuclear haves” have not been able to justify a valid ethical grounds on which such a distinction should be predicated beyond the preservation of their nuclear supremacy.

Under this treaty the “nuclear haves” were permitted to sign the Treaty and keep their nuclear weapons. Five states – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – qualified for this extraordinary privilege. Under Article VI, they undertook to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament, but no deadline was set for this to take place. In the 46 years since the N.P.T. has come into operation, none of these states has given up their nuclear weapons or taken any step to limit them.

The second category – non-nuclear-weapon states – were forbidden under Article II of the Treaty to acquire nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states were allowed to keep their nuclear weapons and did not have to accept I.A.E.A. monitoring of their nuclear activities. By contrast, the non-nuclear-weapon states were forbidden to acquire nuclear weapons and were obliged to accept I.A.E.A. monitoring. Under Article III they were required to conclude a safeguards’ agreement with the I.A.E.A. and to subject their nuclear facilities to I.A.E.A. inspection to ensure that nuclear material is not diverted for the production of weapons.

The non-nuclear weapon states were granted the right to develop nuclear technology exclusively for peaceful purposes in return for surrendering their right to manufacture nuclear weapons. Article IV(1) of the Treaty makes this completely clear:

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.

So, as long as the non-nuclear weapon states do not enrich uranium for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, which is what Article II asserts, they have an “inalienable” right to uranium enrichment on their own soil. Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands are all in the same position as Iran. They are all non-nuclear-weapon state parties to the N.P.T. and all of them have uranium-enrichment facilities without being accused of breaching the N.P.T. As far as we can ascertain, neither the United States nor the European Union up to recently were prepared to acknowledge that Iran has a clear right to uranium enrichment on its own soil for peaceful purposes which Article IV safeguards. Robert B. Joseph reportedly told Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the IAEA, “We cannot have a single centrifuge spinning in Iran.”2

As a matter of fact; as late as 1 March 2011, Secretary of State Clinton said that Iran would have a right to uranium enrichment under the N.P.T. “sometime in the future, having responded to the international community’s concerns.”3 The main point of contention in the 5+2 negotiation so far was not Iranian intransigence but US determinations to have the last say on whether Iran is allowed to exercise its right on its soil. This refusal is completely understandable because, if the US and its partners (5+2) were to acknowledge Iran’s right under the above article, the case for applying sanctions against Iran would disappear.

In February 2004, President Bush went even further by declaring that states that do not already possess uranium-enrichment plants should not be allowed to acquire them.4 Had it been implemented, it would have amounted to amending the N.P.T. for those states that haven’t already acquired uranium-enrichment facilities, and without their consent. Nor is this the only example of United States contempt for the N.P.T. The United States and its allies are also in breach of their obligation to help their N.P.T. fellow signatories develop nuclear energy. Article IV(1) of the N.P.T. gives non-nuclear-weapon states an “inalienable right” to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. What is more, Article IV(2) guarantees them assistance in exercising that right. In it, all parties to the N.P.T. undertake to facilitate “the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy”. In other words, by signing the N.P.T., states in a position to do so promised to help others in acquiring nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Offers of help have been made to Iran in recent years, but they have generally been conditional on Iran giving up its right to uranium enrichment on its own soil.

Further evidence supporting US’s contempt for N.P.T. Charters is the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act that was approved by US congress in December 2006 and was cemented during Bush’s visit India. The legislation allows for the transfer of civilian nuclear material to India. This is despite India’s status outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and in clear violation of Article I of the N.P.T. that obligates the “nuclear-haves” club not to transfer and give any assistance to non N.P.T. signatories.

Critics of the N.P.T. have argued that the N.P.T. cannot stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons or the motivation to acquire them so long as the state in question has the support of one of the five nuclear club members. These critics have expressed disappointment with the limited progress on nuclear disarmament, where the five authorized nuclear weapons states still have more than 22,000 warheads in their combined stockpile and have shown a reluctance to disarm further.

The change of mindset that would lead the nuclear weapons powers to an understanding of both the dangers and futility of using nuclear weapons – this despite global calls for their elimination – does not appear in the offing.

Notes

[1] http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/resolving-nuclear-arms-claims-hinges-irans-demand-documents/

[2] Seymour Hersh, “The Iran Plan,” New Yorker, April 17, 2006.

[3] Evidence to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, 1 March 2011, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-112hhrg64869/pdf/ CHRG-112hhrg64869.pdf

[4] http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2004/02/20040211-4.html

Ibrahim Kazerooni, originally from Iraq, just received a joint PhD in Religion and International Studies from the Iliff School of Theology and the Korbel School of International Studies of the University of Denver. More of his work can be found at the Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni Blog. Rob Prince is a Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies and publisher of the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.