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September 13, 2006

Comments

Nema

I think there's something missing from this article, mostly that Iran has always asserted that it wishes to design a peaceful nuclear cycle. In fact, under the NPT Iran has every right to develop a nuclear cycle. Moreover, one should be cautious when evaluating the Security Council's response.

First, the Security Council is not sanctioning Iran for enriching uranium or under the presumption that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. It is precisely because Iran has the right to enrich uranium that the Security Council is incapable of sanctioning it to that extent. Rather, the Security Council (to put more specifically Western Countries) argue that Iran breached its obligations under the NPT following the Iranian Revolution in 1979 by not disclosing all nuclear activities as required. As a result of this failure to disclose the Security Council resolution states that as a "diplomatic solution" Iran should stop enriching uranium. In other words, the Security Council resolution does not in any form state that Iran is currently in breach of its international obligations. In that way, Iran is in no way "using the NPT" as the author suggests.

Rather the text of the NPT verifiably supports the Iranian position and in fact condemns the conduct of the Western countries in the Security Council. In fact Article VI (2) of the NPT specifically states that "All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy."

Second, if the process of enriching uranium is itself sufficient to constitute a violation of the NPT then over 40 parties to the treaty are currently in breach of the agreement.

Third, the solution in the Iran problem doesn't lie in the NPT itself. It lies in the consistent enforcement of the NPT's provisions and active international efforts to make rogue nations ratify and abide by the treaty's protocols. As long as double-standards are applied to Israel, India and Pakistan, more countries will opt to drop out of the NPT or covertly access nuclear weapons because of security concerns.

Kendra McGee

Nema,

I read your comments with great interest. A few clarifications. I never meant to assert that the imposition of sanctions against Iran was for the mere act of enriching uranium. It is true that Iran has a right to this technology under the NPT and that the Security Council is incapable of sanctioning Iran to that extent. However, I do believe that the Security Council (specifically the Western states) is operating under the presumption that Iran may develop nuclear weapons in the future, similar to the path North Korea took. The Western powers have used this fear to find some provision of the NPT that is being violated (a somewhat easy task in general for any nuclear country) by Iran, despite the fact that multiple nations are currently violating the NPT in some form, including the US.

It is my understanding that Iran was subject to sanctions not only for its nondisclosure of certain nuclear activities following the Iranian Revolution in ’79 but for also for the continuing gaps in Iran’s reporting on its nuclear power, as well as failure to allow more extensive IAEA investigations of its nuclear program. In April 2006, Iran agreed “to continue granting the IAEA’s inspection in accordance with the Comprehensive Safeguards” but failed to provide a timetable for continuing inspections. In sum, the IAEA has not been allowed adequate access regarding Iran’s nuclear program in order to conclude that Iran is not attempting to enrich uranium for militaristic purposes, which would be a dangerous violation.

I concede that Iran has never asserted its right to nuclear power for anything other than peaceful purposes. My concern is that if Iran continues to resist IAEA investigators into all of their facilities we must simply go on Iran’s word, which raises an eyebrow or two given some, albeit anomalistic, historical patterns in nuclear proliferation and Iran’s history of concealment. I do not mean to suggest that Iran does not have the right to be free from international invasion of its national secrets in any respect. However, when the international community pushes one way, Iran will not quietly concede without getting something for itself, perhaps a trade deal. After all, if Iran is only pursuing nuclear power for peaceful means, like the 40 other nuclear capable nations, why the noncompliance with inspections and reporting? It is not inconceivable that they are either 1) building the bomb or 2) are using the threat of the bomb as leverage for something more.

Thank you for your insight.

Kendra

Nema

Kendra,

I think Iran has a clear, and justifiable, presumption that concealment is its only option even if it is only seeking a peaceful nuclear capability. Following the Iraq, the US set a precedent. It said that no matter what your capabilities are, only our presumptions matter. The fact that the US has a presumption along with Western countries that Iran is developing nuclear weapons gives Iran all the more reason not to allow inspectors in for a number of reason:

1) the Iranians truly believe that the US wants to invade anyway, especially given the rhetoric of "regime change" which is spewed carelessly by a number of top policy-makers. With this understanding, the Iranians believe that even if everyone in the world was convinced that Iran's program was peaceful, that the US would continue to persist that a nuclear capability exists in order to justify preemptive attacks or an outright war.

2) Iran doesn't need to possess an actual bomb to have a deterrent capability. Studies show that Japan could rival the US in the number of nuclear weapons it possesses in a matter of month given its enrichment capabilities. That is to say, that the NPT is designed in such a way that if you have all the pieces of a nuclear bomb but don't put them together then you are compliant. However, if you put them together you are in violation. Realistically though there's no difference and the costs to international and domestic affairs of putting the pieces together far outweighs its benefits. I think, and a number of journalists and scholars seem to agree, that Iran believes it can have a dormant nuclear program. That is, it can possess all the pieces needed to build a nuclear weapon without actually building one, thus being in compliance with the NPT while deterring attacks by its enemies. I think the Western powers similarly understand this point, but are clearly seeking to play power politics and favoritism by preventing Iran access to internationally realized rights it has under the treaty.

3) Putting this all together, it is fundamentally more advantageous for Iran to conceal the extents of its programs until it receives both security and economic guarantees, especially from the US. The fact is that almost 1/4th of Iranians are currently unemployed. The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act prevents the majority of corporatiosn from trading with Iran and providing it technology it direly needs. Iran has continously attempted to join the WTO but received objections from the US. Its airline system is old, the most reliable planes were sold to Iran prior to the Revolution in 1979 by Boeing. However, without access to new parts those planes are now breaking down. These are all examples of how US isolation of Iran has affected its domestic situation. With growing economic discontent, the current government believes that it is only time before internal change occurs. To prevent that, the Iranians believe they have to adopt a model similar to China, which they believe is a combination of economic growth and political solidication. However, in order to accomplish that task, the Iranians need access to foreign direct investment. In order to do that, the Iranians need to ease or lift the ILSA sanctions. To accomplish all that, I have no doubt that they are using this current nuclear crisis to achieve those needs.

Nema

My first point is supported by a recent article in BBC news found here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5346524.stm

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