Is the Iran Agreement a Precedent for Nuclear Export Controls Generally?

That’s what this piece by Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski asks over at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.  They argue:

The plan states that after the agreement is finalized “the Iranian nuclear program will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty).” Turn the language around, and it says that the rules that apply to Iran’s nuclear program will be the ones that apply to all other NPT parties.

And they conclude:
We, the authors, cannot emphasize too strongly that in view of the joint plan’s promise of equivalency between the rules for Iran’s nuclear program and “that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT,” the negotiation is not just about Iran. It is about the rules for nuclear power programs throughout the world.

I think this entire thesis by the authors is just frankly erroneous, and seems rather transparently bent on scaremongering in order to undermine further agreement between the P5+1 and Iran.   There’s no interpretive reason, in my view, to turn the text they refer to on its head as they have done, in order to give it more expansive meaning.  I think it’s clear that this provision simply means that in the commonly envisioned end state, and pursuant to a future comprehensive agreement, Iran’s nuclear program will be treated for purposes of nuclear exports, and generally by the P5+1, just as the nuclear programs of other NNWS have been treated.

I do not think, as the authors seem to, that this is some grand new declaration by the P5+1 about general standards for nuclear exports.  The fight over general nuclear export standards by supplier states wouldn’t happen in this forum. It would happen, as it always has, in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which back in 2011 did decide on new guidelines relevant to export of enrichment and reprocessing technologies.  I wrote about this here at the time.

So in my opinion, this piece by Gilinsky and Sokolski should be filed away in your “Disregard” folder.


12 Comments on “Is the Iran Agreement a Precedent for Nuclear Export Controls Generally?”

  1. yousaf says:

    1. The P5+1 cannot unilaterally declare how the NPT will be interpreted for all states without consulting the other signatories.

    2. I’d like to see, e.g., Brazil being subjected to the same rules and regulations as Iran.

    3. I’m not holding my breath for (2) to happen

  2. Don Bacon says:

    Why treat NNWS parties to the NPT worse than NWS NOT a party to the NPT?
    It makes no sense with Iran, nor with any other country.
    Other countries like Brazil and Germany, as yousef notes above, certainly wouldn’t be as sanguine as Iran.
    This process would suggest avoidance of the NPT.

  3. yousaf says:

    Also, the IAEA cannot afford to harass all NNWSs as it does Iran: Iran takes up 12% of the IAEA budget.

  4. […] Is the Iran Agreement a Precedent for Nuclear Export Controls Generally? […]

  5. Jan Boyer says:

    Me thinks you protest too much. They make fair points. As for export control norms being established in the NSG, that’s historically true but currently rebuttable. With the NPT, you seem to be in denial that what key states say it is, it becomes. This is true of the nonaligned states as well as the p-5 and supplier states.

    • Dan Joyner says:

      That’s not exactly a legal argument about the NPT is it? At least, not a correct legal argument.

    • Johnboy says:

      Jan appears to be championing the many and varied advantages of a cartel.

      And it is true: cartels can be damn effective, and sometimes it is quite impossible to get around them.

      But as Dan points out, that’s not a LEGAL argument.

      Which means that regardless of the effectiveness (or otherwise) of a cartel that is established outside the auspices of the Non Proliferation Treaty, the actions of that cartel can’t actually changes the meaning of the NPT.

      The NPT says what it says and, therefore, it means what it says.

      And if the “Nuclear Suppliers” form a cartel that neuters the meaning of the NPT then…. the meaning of the NPT isn’t “changed”.

      The NPT is, instead, merely rendered… “moot”.

  6. Cyrus says:

    This really goes to show how international nonproliferation and disarmament laws have been twisted around — India, a non-NPT signatory, is being legitimated while NPT signatories are told that they don’t have the rights they thought they had, and now the US and friends take it upon themselves to determine which country can have what advances on an ad hoc basis, while the IAEA has been totally discredited and has resorted to flat out lying in its reports on Iran, nevermind the that the IAEA head is ethically compromised according to Wikileaks and should be impeached.

  7. Johnboy says:

    This claim has already been disproved by the Mark Hibbs post, where Hibbs points out that Article III(A)(5) of the IAEA Statute gives the IAEA the authority to administer any safeguards that have been agreed in any “multinational arrangement”.

    And if the interim agreement between the P5+1 isn’t a “multinational arrangement” then, honestly, I don’t know what is.

    So the wider implications of that interim agreement on the “rules for nuclear power programs throughout the world” is…. zero, precisely because exactly this sort of special, one-of-a-kind, ad-hoc “arrangement” was envisioned from the very beginning.

    The implications of this deal start at Iran, and end at Iran, and whatever it’s-a-done-deal comprehensive agreement is reached in 6 months (yeah, right, 12 months) will relate entirely to Iran and will not be applicable to anyone else.

  8. robgoldston says:

    Evidently the G & S “reverse” interpretation of the Joint Plan of Action has no legal standing. The interpretation of the NPT is – more or less – up to the Board of Governors. So the idea would be to use this occasion to work, for example, to tighten the BoG’s interpretation of the necessary time-to-detection for enrichment plants. This would need to trickle through the CSAs, etc. It would be a very heavy lift, but a worthwhile one. It does not have to happen in one year, because the final step of the comprehensive solution with Iran – after which Iran is treated like everyone else – can be of any length that is negotiated.

  9. Cyrus says:

    I suppose there is an interesting angle to this proposition by Gilinsky and Sokolski: it sort of shows that they’re resigned to the nuclear negotiations with Iran actually working out, and so they’re trying to put a positive spin on it.

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