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Iran vs. the United States at the PrepCom

Posted by Jill Marie Parillo on May 8, 2009

Wednesday and Thursday the NPT parties began, and concluded, speaking on "Cluster One" issues (nuclear disarmament and security assurances). U.S.-Iranian disagreement surfaced as a major hurdle to success at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. The US delegation said in summary that, today's nuclear weapon states will not eliminate their nuclear weapons without the assurance that additional states will not obtain such weapons tomorrow.  Not only is the United States saying that states like Iran are blocking NPT progress, but that these nations are also blocking the abolition movement.

The United States is emphasizing that fissile material, which can be produced at Natanz, poses the greatest threat to U.S. security, not nuclear weapons.  Although President Obama said in Prague that a world free of nuclear weapons “will not be reached quickly–perhaps not in my lifetime,” he promised to secure fissile material around the globe in four years.  It is “the dangers posed by nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism” that “animate President Obama’s call for a new direction and new momentum in pursuit of nuclear disarmament,” said U.S. Ambassador Marguerita Ragsdale at the NPT Preparatory Meeting May 6 in New York.

Prioritization of managing the spread of fuel cycle technology over nuclear disarmament weakens Iran’s commitment to the NPT regime, so does saying that Iran’s nuclear program is blocking nuclear states from fulfilling their NPT commitment to nuclear disarmament. Assistant Secretary of State and Verification, Compliance, and Implementation, Rose Gottemoeller May 5 delivered a statement to the NPT in New York, she said, “our delegation would like to note how important stopping the spread of nuclear weapons is, to give the nuclear weapons states confidence that further reductions in these weapons can be made without undermining international peace and security.”  Two days later U.S. Ambassador Ragsdale said “it is also essential that the vast majority of states who are parties fully comply with its [NPT] provisions…unfortunately we know that some Parties- Iran and North Korea- have broken the Treaty’s rules.”  

The U.S. argument, that Iran is blocking nuclear disarmament efforts, was called by Iran May 5 a “continued unbalanced and discriminatory approach,” and stated that the real threat to international peace and security was that the United States and other nuclear weapon states were “uncommitted to Article VI, and still threatening peace and security.”

Iran also claimed that the way in which the United States cracked down on peaceful-use technology in the past forced them to go to Pakistan’s black market for nuclear fuel supplies. “Access of developing countries to peaceful nuclear materials has been continuously denied to the extent that they have had no choice than to acquire their requirements for peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including medical and industrial applications, from open markets, [and] intermediaries,” said Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh May 8, 2009 at the NPT conference.

Russia stayed silent on the issue, not mentioning Iran in its NPT statements, except to say that Egypt, Israel and Iran “could immediately ratify” the CTBT. Iran called out the United States, the United Kingdom and France in its NPT statements, declaring that they were not fulfilling their NPT commitments towards nuclear disarmament.  Iran returned the favor, leaving Russia out of its criticism of nuclear weapon states this week.  “A critical review shows a series of non-compliances of the U.S., U.K. and France with their obligation under the Treaty,” said Iranian Ambassador Soltanieh May 8 at the NPT conference.  

Although Russia is at times blocking the U.S. strategy on Iran, it may be assisting in keeping Iran in the NPT regime.  It is absolutely essential that Iran continues to keep some faith in the international legal system, or it will leave that system entirely, as North Korea did.  A new U.S. policy which reprioritized nuclear disarmament to bring Israel and other NPT outsiders into a nuclear weapon convention, or the like, would erase the need for Iran to build a nuclear deterrent. Since total nuclear abolition is not going to happen tomorrow, fulfilling steps towards a world free of nuclear weapons are important to prove to Iran, and others, that the NPT bargain is still worth being a part of.

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