Russia and the US: Has a season of nuclear disarmament finally arrived?
The US-Russia nuclear arms deal that Obama is slated to sign April 8 signals a modest, but significant, step forward.
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There is also frustration at the lack of progress on many important items relevant to the treaty. For instance, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has not entered into force because the US, China, and a number of other states have not ratified it. The negotiation of a convention prohibiting the production of enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons remains blocked at the Geneva Disarmament Conference. The additional protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency for strengthened safeguards inspections remains unratified by a large number of states, including Iran.Skip to next paragraph
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Some items are bound to attract much attention in May. One is that, 20 years after the end of the cold war, the obligation of five nuclear weapon states that are parties under Article VI of the NPT to negotiate toward nuclear disarmament has not led us anywhere near zero. Another grievance – especially among Arab states – is that Israel has refrained from adhering to the treaty and acquired nuclear weapons. A third is that the treaty was violated by several states. Although Iraq and Libya have been brought into compliance, North Korea has not and Iran (and perhaps others) might aim at ignoring the treaty.
Views on Iran’s program for the enrichment of uranium have long been divided and they are likely to remain divided at the NPT conference.
There are many reasons for suspecting that the aim of Iran’s enrichment program is the development of a nuclear weapon in breach of NPT obligations or, at least, to move close to the ability to make a weapon. This has already resulted in a dangerous increase of tension in the region.
Why has it not been possible so far to persuade Iran to abandon or suspend the enrichment program? While there is a right under the NPT for parties to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes there is certainly no obligation to use this right.
It is hard to avoid the impression that the approach to Iran has often been highhanded and clumsy. Iran has been told that negotiations about a variety of benefits would be open but only on the condition that the enrichment program first be suspended. Who gives up a trump card before the game?
Obama has had the good sense to authorize direct talks without preconditions. These talks are now stuck, but should be resumed.
States developing nuclear weapons have mostly done so for perceived security reasons and for status. When Iran allegedly began its enrichment program in the 1980s it might have rightly perceived Iraq as a future nuclear threat. With that threat gone, how wise has it been for the US and Israel to float the idea of bombing Iran’s enrichment facilities?
Would it not be wiser to offer diplomatic relations and guarantees against armed attacks/subversion as a part of a nuclear deal? This was done in the case of North Korea. Why not in the case of Iran?