I received a very good question a couple of days ago from Michal Onderco (see his website here). With his permission, I will reprint here his question and my answer for interested readers:
This is such B.S. Do you really think that if this initative was something the U.S., U.K. and France were actually interested in pursuing, that they would let the lack of complete consensus in the international community stand in their way? Anybody remember the PSI? The 2003 Iraq war? Coalitions of the wiling are their proven M.O when they want something done but can’t convince everyone/anyone else it’s a good idea. This is just straight stonewalling, and not wanting to progress the disarmament agenda, and so objecting to any process that might actually put pressure on them to produce real disarmament results. For those interested, in my 2011 book I go through an analysis of Article VI of the NPT in detail and conclude that all five NPT nuclear weapon states are in breach of their Article VI obligations. And things like this are a big part of it.
Some great quotes reported from former IAEA DG and UNMOVIC Director, Dr. Hans Blix, from a speech he recently gave in Dubai. I think his remarks are exemplary in their objective, reasoned and prudent character, and in their respect for international law. Dr. Blix was of course the Director of the IAEA’s Office of Legal Affairs before he was DG. He is by training an international lawyer. So the above mentioned exemplary attributes of his analysis should perhaps come as no surprise 🙂 But they are refreshing after having become better acquainted with Olli Henonen’s quite different world view and mode of analysis, and his unfortunate criticisms of the IAEA under both DG Blix and DG ElBaradei.
Here is an excerpt from the news article:
The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is overhyped, and there is no evidence suggesting that the country has or intends to produce weapons of mass destruction, a UN expert on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) said at a forum in Dubai on Tuesday.
Dr Hans Blix, Head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), said during a talk at Capital Club that with North Korea making a nuclear bomb test detonation, the world should focus more on tackling the state that has violated the NPT.
“So far Iran has not violated NPT and there is no evidence right now that suggests that Iran is producing nuclear weapons. The fact that Tehran has enriched uranium up to 20 per cent leads to suspicion of a secret weapons programme, however, no action can be justified on mere suspicions or intentions that may not exist,” said Dr Blix, who is the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
With a stockpile of more than 20,000 nuclear warheads still sitting with five UN Security Council members, and with Israel, Pakistan and India also possessing declared nuclear weapons, many suggest that the NPT has failed in its objective of nuclear disarmament. Dr Blix agrees partially.
“The primary objective of NPT was to contain profileration, which it has succeeded in doing to a certain extent as most signatory states don’t posses nukes and don’t have a programme. But those who already have nuclear weapons have not disarmed yet which is a concern,” said Dr Blix, who was also Sweden’s former minister of foreign affairs.
However, he added that since the time the treaty was signed most of the nuclear armed states have reduced their stockpile from a combined 50,000 warheads to the current number of 20,000, which is enough to obliterate the world 10 times over.
Suggesting the best way to counter the nuclear threat in the region, he said: “Countries from the Middle East should propose a nuclear-free zone in the region, which is a way to make sure the region is safe from any nuclear-armed state.”
He said that a recent attempt by Middle Eastern countries to initiate talks on forming a nuclear-free zone in the region was sabotaged by Israel and the US.
A friend sent me this unofficial translation of the LAS Council’s January 13th statement regarding the cacellation/postponement of the 2012 Helsinki conference, which was to be a major step in the effort to conclude a Middle East WMD Free Zone. Readers will recall that I have posted on this development and its significance previously here, here and here. This statement is extremely important and shows, among other things, how the Arab League states quite reasonably link this issue to the very core of their commitment to the NPT regime.
Positions of the Arab States on the postponement of the 2012 Conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction
The Council of the League of Arab States met in an extraordinary session at the ministerial level at headquarters on 13 January 2013.
– Having considered,
- A note by the Secretariat; and
- The recommendations of the “Fifteenth meeting of the Committee of Senior Officials of the Foreign Ministries on the preparations of the Secretariat for the participation of all Arab States in the 2012 Conference, as called for in the final document of the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”, which was held on 12 January 2013;
- The Council considers the postponement of the 2012 Helsinki Conference a breach of the obligations of the conveners of the Conference vis-a-vis the international community regarding the implementation of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East and the implementation of the final document of the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
- The Council rejected the justification provided by some of the conveners and holds them responsible for the delay and its consequences for the international community.
- The Council instructed the Committee of Senior Officials to continue to communicate with the conveners and the facilitator to set a new date for the Conference, as early as possible and before the start of the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference.
- The Council also instructed the Committee to continue its engagement with geographical and political groups to rally support for the Conference and to take other steps deemed appropriate in this connection.
- The Council has also instructed the Committee to request the facilitator to continue of bilateral consultations with the parties concerned on the basis of the current formula. The Committee should consider the proposal to participate in extended consultations with regional parties, in accordance with the terms of reference agreed upon in the Action Plan for the Middle East in the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, including the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, which is the basis of the 2012 Conference, and based on the following criteria, which would guarantee the interests of the Arab States:
- The establishment of a set date for the Conference;
- The consultations must be held under the auspices of the United Nations and with a set agenda; and
- Those countries that formally announce their participation in the Conference can attend in the consultations.
- In the event that a date is not set for the convening of the Conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction at the earliest opportunity, the Arab states will determine what steps could be taken, in all disarmament forums, including at the second and third sessions of the Preparatory Committee as well as at the 2015 NPT Review Conference and request the Committee of Senior Officials to develop a comprehensive action plan for the coming period, including additional steps to be taken, and to report to the Council at its next regular ministerial session.
- The Arab League Council at the ministerial level also requested the Secretary General of the Arab League to communicate with the Secretary-General of the United Nations to inform him the position of the Arab States, and to urge him to carry out the international organization’s responsibilities and to play an active role.
- The Council decided that this issue will be on the agenda of its next regular ministerial session.
As if the other similarities between the Western ramp up to its unjustified and disasterous war with Iraq on the one hand, and the West’s current program of action vis a vis Iran (this time facilitated and not checked by the IAEA) on the other, weren’t earily similar enough, we now have yet another similarity. Reuters reports with alarm the transfer of aluminum – one of the most ubiquitously used materials in the world – from a swiss company to an Iranian company. This transfer, Reuters breathlessly reports, could of course have no other end use than in Iran’s centrifuge-based uranium enrichment program. Not that there is any evidence that it ended up there. It just may have (did David Albright co-author this piece? I may have missed it in the byline).
You do remember the furore over Iraq’s reported aquisition of aluminum tubes in the runup to the 2003 war, right? Well if you don’t, see Dave Chappelle’s explanation here at about 1:21 (viewer discretion advised – I think Chappelle is hilarious, but his comedy isnt for everyone).
This story is particularly groan-inducing because it comes almost ten years TO THE DAY after IAEA DG Mohamed ElBaradei gave a speech to the UN reporting, among other findings, the IAEA’s determination that the aluminum tubes acquired by Iraq had not in fact been used in a nuclear program.
An old phrase about those who do not learn from history comes to mind . . .
The summer 2012 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations ended without adopting a Treaty. Majority of states, the UN and dozens of arms control proponent civil societies were highly disappointed. Of course, some arms control opponents were happy of the outcome. Yet, on January 4, 2013, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 67/234 titled the Arms Trade Treaty. The Assembly referring to the UN Charter, its relevant resolutions on arms transfer, and the failed July 2012 ATT Conference, expressed its disappointment on the failure to conclude a Treaty in that Conference. Noting the Draft Treaty of 2012 (see my previous blogs for details) and the request made by some states to take more time to consider that document, the Assembly has decided to convene a ‘Final Conference’ on the ATT in March 2013. Interestingly, it also decided that ‘the draft text of the Arms Trade Treaty submitted by the President of the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty on 26 July 2012 …shall be the basis for future work on the Arms Trade Treaty, without prejudice to the right of delegations to put forward additional proposals on that text’. The Conference will be held from 18 to 28 March 2013 in New York and the Assembly has called ‘upon the President of the Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty to report on the outcome of the Conference to the General Assembly at a meeting to be held as soon as possible after 28 March 2013’. What is clear from Resolution 67/234 is that the Draft Treaty will serve as a basis for deliberations but it is still open for negotiations, consultations and even other opposing proposals from participant states. What is not clear is that while the Conference is final on this matter the anticipated outcome is not entirely known, a Treaty, a GA Resolution or nothing?
I just saw this article in the WSJ, including excerpts from a lengthy interview with Olli Henonen. I find it shocking how he goes after his former IAEA colleagues, criticizing them for their “missteps” on both Iran and Syria. He even says that they developed the equivalent of “Stockholm Syndrome” with regard to these nations, and that this somehow explains why they were so kid-gloved in their treatment of Iran and Syria. Wow. That’s a pretty bold and offensive allegation to make about both DG ElBaradei and DG Blix.
What comes across to me in this article is a picture of Heinonen as the one with biases of mysterious origin. He comes across as hawkish, with the kind of inexplicable, discriminatory focus of attention on Arab/Persian countries in the ME (to be fair, he’s also worried about Pakistan), and a set of unfounded but deeply held suspicions, and similarly unfounded speculations of an exclusively negative quality, that one usually hears from US government officials and the DC nonproliferation community. Not the ideological company I would have expected the veteran Finnish diplomat to keep. But one’s true colors are one’s true colors. And I think that Heinonen is clearly showing them here, and that he wants to tell the world loud and clear what he thinks about his former bosses at the IAEA – like Nobel Peace Prize winner DG Elbaradei – whose fault it is that Iran has reached a point of industrial and scientific capacity that Japan, Germany, South Africa, Brazil, India, Israel, and South Korea also have, to name a few. But of course, we don’t need to worry about any of them.
Like many, I have been quite pleasantly surprised and heartened by the relatively positive reports coming out of the meeting between Iran and the P5+1 in Almaty, Kazakhstan this week. It does appear that there has been some sense and prudence displayed among the P5+1 in actually making some meaningful concessions in the kinds of sanctions relief they are now putting on the table. This could well be the first step toward a diplomatic resolution of the current crisis, if – and this is a big if – both sides can continue displaying good sense, pragmatism and positivity. We know from sad experience in this and other diplomatic contexts that auspicious beginnings often produce disappointing results. On this subject, see this insightful analysis by Paul Pillar.