Jeffrey LewisReporting on Iran

I have an article in the Nieman Watchdog—a publication of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University—about the relationship between the NPT and the showdown with Iran, the gist of which is basically …

The vast majority of states with the capability to build nuclear weapons have not done so. Largely this is because of a bargain struck in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT provides for non-nuclear states to refrain from building nuclear weapons. In exchange, the nuclear weapons states agreed to pursue negotiations in good faith leading to nuclear disarmament.

Though not without critics, this bargain has a basic legitimacy that has made nonproliferation a viable policy, creating space for export controls and pressure against states seeking nuclear weapons. This bargain is essential to understanding the drama unfolding in the Security Council regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions, including why the international community is concerned about Iran’s behavior, why Iran claims to have a “right” to enrich uranium, and much of the skepticism about the motives of the Bush Administration.