A Few Recent Things . . . .Posted: September 17, 2012
I haven’t been blogging much lately because of a couple of factors – I had some minor surgery on my neck, and then I was writing the post on the IAEA standards of investigation and assessment, which took a lot more time and effort than I intended.
But here are a number of developments relevant to arms control law that I’ve noticed lately and would like to bring to readers’ attention:
1. Here’s a new article on the USIP site co-authored by David Albright of ISIS. Wow. Just 100% incorrect in its legal interpretations of the NPT. Why is it that in the nonproliferation area everyone, including engineers, physicists, chemists and general policy wonks, think they can do legal interpretation? You won’t find me writing articles about the technical aspects of missile capabilities, or the internal physics of a warhead core. I know these things are outside of my training and qualification to do. But apparently everyone thinks they can do legal analysis. With respect, I think David should stick to obsessing over satellite pictures of tarps at random military bases in Iran.
2. Some important new statements from high ranking Russian officials, both on the lack of evidence of military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, and on the wrongfulness, ineffectiveness and imprudence of economic sanctions imposed unilaterally by the West. Important new markers of disunity among the P5+1 on approach to the Iran situation, and some welcome levelheadedness of Russian officials.
3. The NAM Summit final document, adopted by consensus of the 120 states attending. This is the international community, folks, and they are saying some pretty specific things here in paragraphs 6 & 7 about the scope and meaning of the NPT Article IV right, and about the illegality of attacks or threats of attack against peaceful nuclear facilities. This is a statement that has potential relevance for legal interpretation of the NPT, and possibly also for the formation of customary international law on these points.
4. Trita Parsi’s latest article on Iran Sanctions. Such important points to understand about sanctions – and, I would add, points backed up by academic literature. In a situation like the Iran crisis, sanctions do not change target government behavior. They only hurt the ordinary people of the target state, and this in turn will only backfire against those maintaining the sanctions. I wrote about this issue in my article in the Harvard Law and Policy Review Online, discussing some of this literature.
I just got back from teaching my PIL class today, and we were talking about sanctions imposed by international organizations. I told my class that economic sanctions unfortunately appear in many ways analogous to heroin to Western governments. They (sanctions) don’t do any good, and in fact almost always make things worse. They produce terrible effects on ordinary people in target countries, destroying economies and causing unnecessary and undeserved suffering. Nevertheless, the UNSC keeps coming back to this tool of policy time after time like an addict, because it makes them feel good to be doing, and to be seen by their domestic political constituencies to be doing, something in such situations. It gives them a feeling of catharsis, but even they know that in the end all the sanctions will really produce is terrible and undeserved and pointless harm. I thought that was a pretty good analogy.
5. Yousaf Butt’s latest article in the Christian Science Monitor. He makes such an important point here that is so frequently not understood in the maelstrom of the U.S. political race to see who can be the most hawkish on Iran – i.e. that the very best way to make sure Iran DOES have a nuclear weapons program, and ACTUALLY WITHDRAWS from the NPT and KICKS OUT IAEA INSPECTORS, is for Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Now, this may be what some in Israel, and even in the U.S. want – to start a war with Iran. But for those of us who don’t relish that idea, this is an important point to bear in mind.