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Peace, security and denuclearisation challenges in the Middle East
Editor's note: This is the text of speech for the conference organised in London on Saturday 13th October by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) with the title: Building towards a nuclear weapons-free Middle East: civil society input for a new Helsinki process
We do not need to be in any way a supporter of the Iranian government or uncritical of the domestic politics in Iran to see the glaring travesty of justice and the blatant hypocrisy perpetrated by the West regarding Iran’s nuclear issue.
Iran has not invaded or even threatened any country for over 250 years; wishing the end of an Apartheid regime is not to threaten the destruction of a state.
During the 8 years of western supported war of aggression by Saddam against Iran, Iranian soldiers and civilians were systematically subjected to the use of chemical weapons that Iraq manufactured with support from western companies with complicity of their governments. While Iran could have embarked on a drive of its own to manufacture such weapons and retaliate in kind against Iraqi atrocities, a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini, the then leader of the Islamic Republic, banned the use of chemical and biological weapons on moral and Islamic grounds.
Ayatollah Khamenei, the present leader of the Islamic Republic, has similarly issued a fatwa, which has been reiterated several times in the past years, against the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons which have been declared as “haram” or sinful. The Iranian government to my knowledge is the only government in the world which has organised an annual international conference on “Nuclear Disarmament and Nuclear Non Proliferation” with the participation of international NGO’s and representatives of Non Aligned Governments based on the slogan “Nuclear weapons for no one, nuclear energy for everyone”. Together with Egypt, Iran has championed the cause of a Nuclear Weapons Free Middle East. The government of Iran provides material support to local NGO’s such as the Society for Chemical Weapons Victims Support which campaign internationally for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
Yet, Iran’s nuclear file has been politicised under the pressure of western countries led by the US and Israel, a non-signatory of the NPT, and reported to the UN Security Council which imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran.
The UN Security Council resolutions against Iran based on Chapter Seven have bypassed article 39 which according to the UN charter itself needs to be first invoked in order to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations.” Therefore the UN Security Council has itself violated the UN charter in the process of adopting its resolutions on Iran as the five permanent members could not agree that Iran is really a threat to peace and security.
For the West the unfounded allegations of some nuclear weapons research in Iran play the same pretext as the non-existing Weapons of Mass Destruction played in the case of sanctions and threats against Iraq which finally led to the illegal invasion of the country and regime change. Dr Mohammad El Baradei, the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, have been on record as stating that the West’s real aim in Iran seems to be regime change.
The August 2012 report by the IAEA, like all its previous reports, has confirmed the non-diversion of Iran’s declared nuclear material for weaponisation. This is really the only legal mandate of the IAEA according to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement signed between Iran and the IAEA. But under its new head, Yukiya Amano, who has been exposed by Wikileaks as a staunch ally of the US before he got his post, the IAEA has for the first time asserted that it cannot verify that there are no undeclared nuclear materials in Iran. Such a declaration by the IAEA can only be legally made regarding the nuclear programme of an NPT member state if and only if the country in question has already ratified the Additional Protocol, allowing for intrusive visits to any place at any time.
Like dozens of other countries including many EU member states, Iran has not ratified the Additional Protocol, although it voluntarily implemented the Protocol for some two years between 2003 and 2005, during which time the IAEA found nothing other than the declared material in Iran. The Iranian government has also asserted that it would implement the Additional Protocol if its nuclear file is not politicised and is returned as a technical file from the UN Security Council to the IAEA. While Iran remains under daily threat of military strike by the US and Israel, clearly it will not feel secure to implement the Additional Protocol. We have seen how the information obtained by the IAEA inspectors in Iraq was used later by the US to bomb conventional military sites in the country.
The bottom line is that neither the IAEA nor the UN Security Council can make a binding demand that Iran must implement the Additional Protocol. Any such binding demand would violate international law on treaties including the NPT. As Professor Daniel Joyner of Alabama School of Law has compellingly explained: “The IAEA applies incorrect standards, exceeding its legal mandate and acting ultra vires regarding Iran”.
The IAEA in its November 2011 report also speculated, for the first time, that Iran may have experimented with military nuclear studies before 2004 and that some of these may have continued.
However, Robert Kelly a former Director at the IAEA and chief UN weapons inspector for Iraq for eight years dismissed all of these allegations as “highly misleading” stating that “the way the data has been presented produces a sickly sense of déjà vu.”
There is not a shred of real evidence which shows a military dimension to Iran’s nuclear energy programme. The provenance of the so-called laptop of death which is the basis of most of these allegations was questioned even by the New York Times in 2004. Dr Elbaradei dismissed all these allegations as not credible.
The IAEA under the pressure of the west refuses to hand to Iran even copies of the documents based on which these allegations are made. Despite that Iran has responded with a 117 page document to rebut all these allegations.
Most important than all is the consensus amongst US and Israeli leaders that “Iran is not building a nuclear bomb and has not decided to do so” .
Yet despite this consensus, the West has adopted a multi-pronged approach towards Iran for regime change encompassing apropaganda war, draconian sanctions and oil embargo, covert operations including cyber war, assassination of Iranian scientists, cutting off Iran’s central bank and threats of military strike.
These acts are illegal under international law but the western media and governments have created a fictitious threat by Iran to peace and security as a justification for these illegal actions. The intended objective of these sanctions is to hurt the Iranian people in the hope that they would rise up against the Islamic Republic paving the road for a regime change in order to bring about a western client regime and preserve the West’s geo-political interests as well as Israel’s hegemony in the region.
It is enlightening to note, as explained in detail by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, former chief Iranian nuclear negotiator, that Iran has been pushed by the West at each stage to initiate and develop its own nuclear enrichment program.
Soon after the 1979 revolution, Iran cancelled 80-90% of the US backed nuclear programme under the Shah. But under US pressure, France refused, despite its contractual obligation, to hand over to Iran 10% of the low enriched uranium (LEU) produced at the Eurodif nuclear plant that was partially owned by Iran. In addition, under US pressure again and in violation of Article 4 of the NPT, Germany withdrew from its commitment to Iran to build the Bushehr nuclear plant.
As a direct result, Iran was forced into seeking to build enrichment facilities as it had already up to that time spent billions of dollars on nuclear energy.
In the case of the negotiations with the EU3 between 2003 and 2005, Iran offered full transparency and agreed to submit to the Additional Protocol and the subsidiary agreement (code 3.1) in return for producing low enriched (3.5 %) uranium. The EU3 under pressure from the US refused to accept Iran’s offer.
Thus, Iran was first pushed to restart its enrichment programme. Later, when its file under US coercion was reported to the UN Security Council, Iran stopped its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol.
Then in 2009 Iran asked the IAEA for 20% enriched uranium as fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which provides medical isotopes for 800,000 cancer patients in the country, but under US pressure, and in violation of Article 4 again, the IAEA refused this request. Later in 2010 the US rejected the Tehran declaration which Obama had personally urged Brazil and Turkey to broker with Iran. As a consequence, Iran started enrichment beyond 3.5% to 20% to supply nuclear fuel for the Tehran Research Rector.
Iran then went on to produce its own fuel rods when, once again due to US pressure, it was refused them on the open market. These facts all confirm that Iran has been pushed by the west’s violations of Article 4 of the NPT at every stage to first initiate and then further develop its enrichment programme.
In sharp contrast to the case of Iran is the case of Israel which has developed a massive nuclear arsenal by illegal support from the west. In June 1981 after the Israeli bombing of the Osirak nuclear site in Iraq, UN Security Council resolution 487 demanded that Israel open its nuclear sites to the inspectors of the IAEA and put them under IAEA safeguards. However, there have been no sanctions, threats or even political pressure on Israel in the past 30 years to comply with this and many other UN Security Council resolutions, which Israel has ignored with impunity. The west has turned a blind eye to this non-compliance despite Israel’s clear record in using WMD against Palestinian and Arab populations.
Instead Israel and the US are on a joint platform to threaten Iran for its nuclear programme which is under 24/7 inspections of the IAEA while the west acknowledges that Iran has not even decided to build nuclear weapons. One can hardly find a case of political hypocrisy in modern history more blatant than the attitude of the West to Iran compared to Israel.
A Nuclear Weapons Free Middle East can only come about by upholding international law, removing the illegal threats and sanctions against Iran, depoliticising Iran’s nuclear file and forcing Israel to dismantle its nuclear warheads and to join the NPT.