The Globe and Mail: When it comes to global theatrics, Iran’s leaders certainly know how to grab the spotlight. They chose the first week of a month-long United Nations review of the 35-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to drop the
bombshell that they intend to resume most of their nuclear activities. The Globe and Mail
When it comes to global theatrics, Iran’s leaders certainly know how to grab the spotlight. They chose the first week of a month-long United Nations review of the 35-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to drop the bombshell that they intend to resume most of their nuclear activities. Although it was accompanied by the usual disclaimer that Iran has only peaceful intentions for its nuclear program, the defiant declaration will do nothing to assuage Western concerns.
It also underscores the weakness of the non-proliferation pact, to which Iran is a signatory. North Korea withdrew from the treaty rather than give up its illegal weapons program. Non-members India and Pakistan joined the nuclear arms club without being subjected to the treaty’s provisions. Israel, another country that never signed on, is also believed to have a nuclear capability.
Iran has chosen a different path, insisting that it is in conformity with the rules because it intends to use nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes. But thetechnology and materials needed for those endeavours can easily be extended to the making of weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’snuclear watchdog, has not found evidence that materials have been diverted to illegal activities. But Iran went to the black market to acquire sensitive equipment used in the enrichment of uranium, and earlier attempted to conceal the extent and nature of its activities. The religious leaders have retained direct control over the nuclear program, and they are not known for their respect of international conventions. So any claim that Iran has no desire to build bombs must be greeted with skepticism.
The theocrats say they will continue talks with Britain, France and Germany, which have offered economic incentives and security assurances in exchange for proof from Iran that it has abandoned plans to produce nuclear fuel. That means no enriching of uranium, regardless of the purpose. The Iranians suspended their enrichment program during the negotiations, but have signalled that this is only temporary. Washington, which has grudgingly supported the European efforts, is losing patience.
One problem in persuading Tehran to give up its nuclear strategy is that it has become an issue of national pride. Many Iranians see such outside pressure asunwarranted interference in their country’s affairs and an exercise in hypocrisy on the part of the West. Why prevent Iran from developing a supposedly peaceful nuclear capacity, which is allowed under the non-proliferation treaty, while doing nothing to thwart the weapons pro-grams of India and other nuclear late-comers?
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wants the atomic energy watchdog to have more teeth to enforce the rules, and has called on the United States and other nuclear powers to do their part by committing themselves to faster, deeper cuts of their nuclear arsenals. Breaches of the rules have been around for the life of the non-proliferation treaty. But back in 1970 there was no such thing as a global black market in nuclear materials, and rogue states lacked the know-how and capacity to build illegal arsenals.
Iran should not be allowed to further undermine the treaty by pursuing anuclear program that cannot be justified on economic grounds (the startup costs for nuclear plants are huge, and Iranhas all the oil it needs for energy) and whose purpose remains clouded inmystery. As Mr. Annan observed, the treaty cannot be sustained if nations develop “the most sensitive phases of the fuel cycle and are equipped with the technology to produce nuclear weapons on short notice.”