Nuclear double standard
Like Iran, Israel, India and Pakistan also have dismal records of little or no cooperation with international inspectors
By John Grula 10/14/2009
America’s perennial need for bogeymen (remember North Viet Nam? Manuel Noriega? Saddam Hussein?) is now focused on Iran. A recent example was the Sept. 25 announcement by President Obama that Iran is building a nuclear facility near the holy city of Qom. This revelation was orchestrated by a few Western leaders for maximum propaganda value. However, this Iranian project is not nearly as menacing or beyond the pale as Obama and company would have us believe.
First, let us remember that Iran has actually signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and therefore is subject to its terms, such as submitting to inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In compliance with its treaty obligations, Iran allowed IAEA inspectors to visit its nuclear reactor near the city of Arak in August and it also agreed to changes that will ease monitoring of its uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz. In addition, Iran has already agreed to allow the IAEA to examine the recently disclosed site at Qom, of which it had informed the IAEA four days before Obama’s announcement.
All of this is in stark contrast to the three nations which have never signed the NPT — Israel, India and Pakistan — which also have dismal records of little or no cooperation with IAEA inspections. Operating in secrecy over decades, Israel, India and Pakistan have now amassed nuclear arsenals estimated to range in size from 60 to 120 in the cases of India and Pakistan to about 200 in the case of Israel.
So when Obama declares, as he did Sept. 25, that “Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow,” he is conveniently ignoring the fact that Israel, India and Pakistan have been operating outside the rules for a long time. When it comes to nuclear weapons, somehow these countries have always been exempt from the rules that “all nations must follow.” Iran obviously chafes under this gross and hypocritical double standard; hence it is understandable that it has not always been inclined to bend to the West’s will.
Second, let’s also be clear that the NPT expressly permits all signatory nations to develop nuclear energy. According to Article IV of the treaty, “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” This is what Iran says it is doing. All 16 US intelligence agencies effectively agreed with Iran when they reached a consensus in December 2007 that the Iranians had halted their nuclear weapons program in 2003. The West’s obsession with and questionable interpretation of Iran’s nuclear power aspirations — while other nations such as India and China aggressively pursue theirs — again represents an unjust and untenable double standard.
Thirdly, while Obama is to be congratulated for his recent success in obtaining a UN Security Council resolution that supports the goal of eventually eliminating all nuclear weapons, until this actually happens, the US, Russia, China, Britain and France are all in violation of the NPT. This treaty, which entered into force in 1970, obligates these nations and other signatories with nuclear arsenals to “pursue negotiations in good faith on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” At this point we are nearly 40 years late in fulfilling our NPT obligations.
Our failure to achieve general and complete nuclear disarmament is another example of the double standards which impede the goals of the NPT and the quest for a world free of nuclear weapons. India has long maintained, with some justification, that it cannot abide a discriminatory system which has never resolved the harsh dilemma most recently expressed by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev: “…if it is acceptable for five or 10 countries to have nuclear weapons as their ‘ultimate security guarantee,’ why should it not be the case for 20 or 30 others?”
As long as the US and other nuclear powers hypocritically uphold a double standard in which we claim nuclear weapons are essential for our national security, but other nations such as Iran are not allowed to make this claim, we are probably in a losing struggle for the cause of disarmament. Instead of obsessing about the speck of dust in another’s eye, let us take the beam from our own eye so that we may more clearly see the way towards a future free from the threat of nuclear weapons.
John Grula, Ph.D., is affiliated with the Southern California Federation of Scientists. For the last 25 years he has been active in a number of LA-area nuclear arms control organizations.