Geoff FordenTone Deaf in the Mid-East

The Arab Institute for Security Studies recently hosted an international conference on nuclear energy and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. This represents a sort of trip report on that very interesting conference

The Amman skyline

There is a great debate about nonproliferation roaring around the world today. Unfortunately, few in the West seem to even know this debate is going on, much less actually listening to the voices from other corners of the globe. Nothing was clearer than this at the recent conference in Amman on nuclear energy and nuclear proliferation hosted by the Arab Institute for Security Studies.

One pole of this “debate,” the one most familiar to Western audiences, says that nationally owned enrichment facilities are dangerous and should be limited to as few as possible. Of course, there are a number of views of how this should be accomplished. Former President Bush, for instance, believed that the numbers of such facilities should be rolled back and only allowed in a few “supplier” countries that are acceptable to the current nuclear establishment. Others, such as IAEA Director General ElBaradei have suggested that national enrichment facilities should be replaced by multinationally owned plants. While proposals for such multinational arrangements have been around since the beginning of the atomic age, they have come under renewed interest in recent days.

The opposite pole in this debate has best been expressed by a diplomat from an important non-aligned country who said “the presumption should not be that some nuclear technologies are safe in some hands but not in others.” This was echoed by several of the speakers at the conference from the region who complained that the developed countries were more interested in technology—and its suppression—than in helping countries develop. With the advent of the so-called nuclear renaissance, we are in danger of the NPT being regarded as a mechanism to stop the spread of nuclear profits more than to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

A Nuclear Renaissance and the Middle East

Much of this, of course, depends on how real the nuclear renaissance is. When we in the West think about nuclear power in the Middle East, we have a natural tendency to think about Iran, which has declared a very ambitious civilian program as well as being suspected of a secret military program. Or perhaps Saudi Arabia, which has bought Chinese missiles; an almost subconscious association of nuclear and missile development. Both of these countries are floating in oil. However, many of the countries in the Middle East are oil importers and were hurt as much, and arguably more, than the West was by last year’s the sharp increase in oil prices. This was a point a number of speakers from the region made.

Jordan, our host country for the conference, imports all of its oil from foreign sources. In 2008, it imported 110,000 barrels of oil per day; an amount that the United States consumes every eight minutes. When oil was $70 per barrel, Jordan was devoting 15% of its GDP to purchase oil. At the time, the US was spending 3.6% of its GDP on oil, including indigenously produced oil. Furthermore, Jordan is facing an increasing need to desalinate water. If it had to desalinate all of the water its population consumed, it would use a third of its current oil imports just for sustaining life. It’s hard to say no to nuclear power for these people when their very life’s blood depends on imported energy.

Whose Proliferation?

In light of this, what did Western analysts have to say to their colleagues from the Middle East? One suggested a Persian Gulf nuclear free zone. This probably seemed to the tone-deaf speaker to be a cleaver way of avoiding the issue posed by Israel’s nuclear arsenal while bringing onboard Iran’s neighbors to oppose any nuclear weapons program. Nobody from the region seemed to appreciate the proposal’s subtlety. Instead, the countries in the region, if the participants are any indication, do not view an Iranian bomb as the same magnitude of threat as an Israeli bomb. “Whose proliferation are we talking about?” was a common theme; hinting that disarmament beyond the United States and Russia might be an important road block at the upcoming NPT review conference.

If the West is too busy talking to listen, the mid-East is also ignoring half the conversation. Lethal suppression of peaceful protesters on the streets of Tehran set an unspoken context for the meeting. Tehran’s actions symbolize for many in the West the Iranian regime’s nuclear duplicity. Unfortunately, not once did I hear anyone from the region talk about the internal strife gripping Iran. Instead, Iran’s neighbors were quick to send their congratulations to President Ahmadinejad and recognize the election’s official outcome. Many who are justifiably concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions point, as Mark Fitzpatrick ably did during his presentation at the conference, to the years of Iranian lies and its efforts to hide its nuclear activity as clear indications of a coming danger.

Modernity vs. Non-Proliferation

The world needs to reach a consensus on how to move forward in the new proliferation environment: where basic industrial technology and know-how necessary for development is—and by right should be—much more wide-spread than when the Nuclear Suppliers Group was formed even if they do have the potential to contribute to proliferation. Doing so will be hard, perhaps especially for the West. Not only will the world need to reinvigorate the bargain inherent in the NPT—nuclear technology and know-how in exchange for verifiable renunciation of nuclear weapons—with fresh ideas and new, inventive types of safeguards, but it will also have to give up its belief that nuclear weapons are safe in some hands but not in others: all nuclear weapons are dangerous.


  1. Geoff Forden (History)

    This post was originally supposed to be an Op-Ed for a journal serving the nonproliferation community about the conference in Amman that I went to last month. But they had too many proposed edits. In particular, they wanted to chop out the paragraphs where I discuss two opposing views on the spread of nuclear technology, what I call the two poles of the debate. The confusing thing was they said they wanted to drop the paragraphs on “fuel banks” and I was pretty sure I hadn’t mentioned fuel banks. I’m afraid this is another example of the West not understanding the debate. Fuel banks, which I support as one alternative to offer, are a Western solution to what the West defines as the problem: assured fuel supply. I think the real issue is one of modernization of developing countries and transfer of technology and know-how. This is part of what I call the “new proliferation environment” where we have to devise new safeguard mechanisms capable of dealing with the spread of precision engineering and manufacture to developing countries. But, more importantly, it is part of the natural (and desirable since it improves their population’s standard of living) progress of nations that currently lack advanced industries in general.

  2. blowback (History)

    Tehran’s actions symbolize for many in the West the Iranian regime’s nuclear duplicity. Unfortunately, not once did I hear anyone from the region talk about the internal strife gripping Iran.

    How can the fact that the authorities in Iran cracked a few skulls and maybe killed a few people who were violently protesting against what can be described as a contested election give any indication of nuclear duplicity?

    Instead, Iran’s neighbors were quick to send their congratulations to President Ahmadinejad and recognize the election’s official outcome.

    Because they are not sanctimonious hypocrites. Most of the countries in the Middle East are authoritarian so are they going to protest about possibly rigged elections?

    Many who are justifiably concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions point, as Mark Fitzpatrick ably did during his presentation at the conference, to the years of Iranian lies and its efforts to hide its nuclear activity as clear indications of a coming danger.

    Who else has been lying for decades about its nuclear weapons program? Who has been hiding its nuclear weapons activity for decades often with the complicity of western governments? Who received help in establishing its nuclear weapons program from the same western governments that are now demanding that Iran terminate its currently legitimate nuclear program?

  3. Greg R. Lawson (History)

    I would agree that many nations have a “right” to nuclear power. Additionally, this could be a very good thing for the environment vis a vis Global Warming. However, what safeguards could ever be imposed on those seeking (and dedicated) to procuring a “breakout” weapons capability? Barring the use of coercion, how can we realistically prevent nations from acquiring weapons as proliferation expands?

    I see no solution to the conundrum other than to extend deterrence to a wider range of actors than that employed during the Cold War. By raising the consequences of irresponsibility, we would hope to keep nations from desiring to cross the weapon threshold.

    I am open to alternatives, I just am hard pressed to see what they may be.

  4. yousaf

    Although it can be convincingly argued that nations in the region should have freer access to civil nuclear technology, I wonder if nuclear power really is a viable long-term solution to their energy needs — or even to ours, given concerns of safety, security, waste-storage and long-term supply of U.

    e.g. I am not an expert on the latter — and would welcome input from readers — but people have often stated that there are inherent fuel-supply limitations to nuclear power.

    For instance, the following OpEd appeared in the Int’l Herald Tribune last year:

    Energy independence,
    The limits of nuclear power
    By Daniel B. Botkin

    [Editorial comment: Yousaf: I have put in a link to the Op-Ed you mention. In general, it is better to do that than insert a complete article if you want people to actually read what you have written. It is also more considerate for readers who want to read the other comments. GEF]

  5. Geoff Forden (History)

    Greg, I’m glad you asked! (Well, perhaps you didn’t but close enough for me to take the opportunity.) I think part of the answer is for the developed countries to take a more active role in developing countries nuclear power programs. Our proposal for a multinational nuclear arrangement goes considerable way in that direction. There are inherently higher barriers to proliferation in multinational ventures than there are in nationally owned ones. Furthermore, it seems the only way to give developing countries a share of the potential nuclear profits while recognizing their past investment in developing advanced technology.

  6. FSB

    “breakout” weapons capability is a “feature” of the NPT.

    If you don’t like it, we can try for a new treaty.

    Or we can impose a Middle East Nuclear Free Zone.

    I agree that nuclear weapons nations in the region, eg. Israel, are highly destabilizing.

    I don’t recall the Western nations having any problem with other actors in the region vying for nuclear power eg. in the 1970s (eg. Iran under the Shah seems to have been a perfectly acceptable aspiring nuclear power state).

  7. Ernie Regehr (History)

    The report from the ME event and the subsequent discussion of non-proliferation conundrums are all very useful. I’d like to add only that the “new proliferation environment,” as well as any “new safeguard mechanisms,” will necessarily require radically enhanced transparency in nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states alike. In 1995 the indefinite extension of the NPT was of course linked to greater accountability on the part of the nuclear weapon states re Article VI, and in 2000 that was given substance through an agreed reporting mechanism. Reporting has not been taken seriously by most countries and NWS have of course actively resisted the notion that they have a duty in that regard. But while transparency is only one part of the means to non-proliferation ends, without a global culture of genuine openness and accountability surrounding all (military and non-military) nuclear materials and technology, non-proliferation faces a dreary future. For example, the fissile materials treaty is still largely understood as a cut-off treaty, but if it fails to impose a requirement for disclosure of stocks of all fissile materials it will do little to overcome the legitimate charges and suspicion of the non-proliferation regime as unacceptably discriminatory.

  8. J House (History)

    No one knows whether Saudi Arabia has a secret deal with Pakistan to obtain nuclear weapons for their Chinese-made missiles.
    Certainly, the IAEA and USIC cannot be relied upon to know the truth, since their track record vis a vis Iraq, Syria, NK, Iran has been so poor.
    Once Iran moves into the ‘non-declared’ status as a nuclear power, there will be a scramble by several ME players to deter Iran.
    Saudi Arabia will be well ahead of the game.

  9. FSB

    RE: Iran

    Having the capacity to build a nuclear weapon is not the same thing as having one, and having a large stock of low-enriched uranium is not the same as having the highly enriched uranium necessary for a bomb.

    News reports and some commentators have recently claimed that Iran has enough material for a nuclear weapon. These reports referred to Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium. This is a misleading claim. To begin with, one cannot make a nuclear weapon with low-enriched uranium. A nuclear weapon requires highly enriched uranium or plutonium, and Iran possesses neither. In theory, Iran could take its stock of low-enriched uranium and enrich it to a grade required for making bombs, but its low-enriched uranium is currently under the surveillance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Diverting this material for military purposes would be discovered by the IAEA. (Detection of diversion is the IAEA’s technological strong suit.) Iran’s choices, therefore, are to cheat and get caught or to kick out the inspectors. Either action would represent an extreme departure from Iranian strategy to date and in any case would likely precipitate military action by Israel.

    Even, in the worst case, if Iran were to obtain nukes, it would use them for deterrence, and could be contained.

    There is no use talking of extended deterrence in the region — I suppose Greg is referring to the oft stated case that US should offer Israel extended deterrence. Aside from the question of why we should bother getting involved, Israel has its own darn nukes.

    If there is any usefulness to extended deterrence what could be entertained is offering Iran extended deterrence (if not from the US, then from China or Russia) in case of a pre-emptive Israeli strike. Knowing that they already have protection, the Iranians would then be dissuaded from pursuing a nuclear weapons program to protect themselves.

  10. Nick (History)

    Couple of points:

    1) When we put pressure on countries that want to work with Iran under Article 4, we are not abiding by the spirit of NPT. Isn’t that a clear violation on our part? Let’s forget about Natanz for a moment, if Iran wants to complete the Bushehr reactor in the 90’s and Gore puts pressure on the Soviets to delay completion, then we are ignoring NPT all together.

    2) Now as for on Natanz, many observers and former officials and some on this web site, claim that if Iran continues with its enrichment facility, others may want to do the same. Well, if Saudi’s want to exercise their rights for peaceful enrichment, they should, what is wrong with that. Are we as a nation ever going to accept NPT, or was it a high water mark that Lenny Weiss set in the 70’s and now some countries are catching up technologically and we are panicking. Coming up with band aid solutions that only serve the interests of our friends and allies simply will not work. The audacity of proposing nuclear free Persian Gulf is beyond me.

  11. anon

    It is these types of steps that will help bring peace to the middle east and remove the reasons that other states may desire nuclear deterrence.

    No that’s arms control we can believe in.

  12. Distiller (History)

    There is no philosophical justification for reserving the “right” to nuclear toys only for Westerners (plus vassals), grudgingly accept it with those too big to be bullied around (Russia, China), but deny it to all others. The whole NPT is a very colonial construct – inked Anglo-Saxon self-righteousness. In case of Persia (one of the oldest high cultures on earth) one rather has to wonder why they put up with it so long.

    As there are no principal technological barriers (and once mastered, laser enrichment will make it even easier), in the end everyone with the will and the resources will have at least a tactial capability. Not too many candidates left anyway. Time is simply not on the side of non-proliferation.

    And since in contrast to Western liberals and coffee-house marxists those countries “east of Suez” know only too well that they are neither sovereign, nor reasonably secure without nuclear capability, and will try all to get their hands on “da bomb”. Not least thanks to the good example of Anglo-Saxon foreign policy, btw!

    With Persia it’s clear not only since yesterday that denial failed. If the West were serious about the NPT they should have stopped their revenge campaign over the fact that their puppet regime was thrown out 30 years ago, move on, and enter a constructive civil nuclear energy cooperation (together with Russia) long ago.

  13. kerbihan

    Sorry, folks, but there is a lot of nonsense in the previous comments.

    1. Nobody is denying Iran its rights under Article 4. Iran itself is. If Iran violates the Treaty, it cannot legally claim benefits of Article 4.

    2. Article 4 acknowledges a right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It does not give you the right to buy anything, anywhere, from anyone, at any price. States are free to sell nuclear power plants to Iran, or to refuse selling them. It’s a commercial issue, not a legal one. The 5+1 never denied Iran’s right to have Bushehr or other future power plants, but absolutely no legal provision forbids them to put pressure on Russia to slow down its construction.

    3. Large-scale civilian nuclear energy cooperation between the P5+1 and Iran has been proposed twice in the offers made to Tehran. Please read official texts before making nonsensical claims about “Western colonialism” (by the way, when was China a Western colonialist?).

    4. Iran is not being sanctioned and pressured for enriching uranium. It is sanctioned and pressured because its enrichment program is part of a military-oriented program, period (along with weaponization studies, etc). Any lingering doubts? Ask IAEA DDG Olli Heinonen (who is not exactly a Cheney puppet).

    5. Owning a uranium enrichment should not be a problem as long as countries implement the Additional Protocol, the only way to ensure (well, not quite ensure, but that’s the best we have) that they’re doing it for civilian purposes.

  14. FSB

    Being anally-retentive and meticulous in pursuing Iran (NPT member, not a NWS) while giving a blind eye to Israel (non-NPT member, a NWS) is an invitation to never ever join Arms Control/Reduction schemes again ever by any developing nation. EVER.

    What litigatious people like kerbihan are saying is that Iran would have been better off (i.e. from its perspective) by never singing the NPT.

    I hope that is a lesson to developing nations everyone — there are no benefits to agreeing to enter into the NPT, or any other future Arms Control agreements with the West or G8 etc. ever again. They will press you on Articles they like (Art 4) and flout they don’t like (Art 6).

    Great positive reinforcement guys.

    You rock.

  15. kerbihan

    FSB – you’re mixing two different debates here (and I suspect you know it).

    One is about a basic principle of international law: if you do something that violates a treaty you’re a party to, then you should withdraw. If Iran had done so at least its intentions would have been clear (Israel’s are), but Iran wants to have its cake and eat it. Feel free to think that respect for international law is a matter of “litigation”.

    The other is a value judgement regarding whether an Iranian bomb will be more or less dangerous than the Israeli one. Many analysts (including myself) believe that an Iranian bomb would probably have catastrophic consequences for the Middle East, for the nonproliferation regime and also – yes – for Western interests. Feel free to think otherwise.

    And I just love your typo (“singing” the NPT).

  16. FSB

    I am not mixing anything.

    Indeed, Iran should be called on it’s obligations to the treaty.

    But if you ever want any other developing nation to take the West seriously in regards to future treaties, it is in the interest of the West to be more even-handed regionally.

    I am not talking about Iran withdrawing from the treaty — I am saying that it would have been better for Iran, had it never entered into such a treaty as then it could have gotten off as Scott-free as Israel getting off for never signing (nor singing) the NPT.

    Iran has royally screwed itself for ever agreeing to sign the NPT. This will be a lesson learnt in dealing with the West, generally.

    For the future, you are reinforcing a negative course of action for non-NWSs.

    There is no hard evidence of any Iranian bomb: Having the capacity to build a nuclear weapon is not the same thing as having one, and having a large stock of low-enriched uranium is not the same as having the highly enriched uranium necessary for a bomb. Going from the former to the latter would easily detected.

    BTW, the National Defense University analysts don’t particularly fear the possible Iranian bomb — It could be contained/deterred. It is too bad that Israel has started the arms race in the middle east.

  17. Distiller (History)


    such legalistic hot air doesn’t lead anywhere. The Anglo-Saxon club always utters suspicion about the motives of a state trying to develop some form of nuclear capability if that state is not part of their club. Thus will block even that civil part. And for the U.S. and Britain Persia just can’t do no right in any case. The diplomatic moves to keep e.g. Russia from assisting Persia getting their civil reactor online are a prime example.

    Agree with your last para about “Western interests”. But that reduces everything to pure power politics. No treaties needed then, eh? And Persia is right then if they pursue “the bomb”.

    But you know what? I bet if Iran would again allow BP to drill and pump at will, like back when APOC still existed, that whole bomb business suddenly wouldn’t be so bad any more.

  18. raghar (History)

    The nonproliferation is rather outdated concept. It looks like breeder reactors would become increasingly common,… to make it short, NPT is an outdated treaty supported by people who live in the past. It worked for slowing down nuke propagation, however it’s not a panacea.

    I doubt Iran would like to throw away its independence for higher western profits. (I still wonder why India paid so much for so little.)

    Re kerbihan

    In RPGs there is a term: rule lawyer. It describes a person who is using rules too literally even when the usage is absurd. An example would be a “bag of rats fighter”. It’s a fighter who comes into combat with bag of rats, he throws the bag into the air, and slices trough the bag when striking the opponent. Because there is bonus for everyone who is killed in a single strike and rats are easily killed, his strike is incredibly powerful.

    You can’t prove your point 4 above any doubt, which means you can’t prove your accusation against Iran.

    As for point 5, I would suggest to all countries to avoid the additional protocol, because even a home search of a suspected criminal requires permission from a judge and has consequences when the reason given couldn’t be proven by said search.

  19. hass (History)

    Not only was Iran the first country to propose a nuclear-weapons free zone in the Mideast, but Iran has made several offers to place additional restrictions on its nuclear program beyond its legal obligations, to address any real concerns about “break out capacity” — and these has been ignored by the US which insists that Iran should give up enrichment entirely. This suggests that nonproliferation is really a pretext for nuclear fuel monopolization. As ElBaradei himself said recently:

    I have seen the Iranians ready to accept putting a cap on their enrichment [program] in terms of tens of centrifuges, and then in terms of hundreds of centrifuges. But nobody even tried to engage them on these offers. Now Iran has 5,000 centrifuges. The line was, “Iran will buckle under pressure.” But this issue has become so ingrained in the Iranian soul as a matter of national pride.

    And developing nations have long opposed efforts by the West to limit nuclear enrichment to themselves. According to a 2004 analysis by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies

    “Many NPT state parties, particularly those from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), have already stated their opposition to President Bush’s proposals to restrict enrichment. In their view, precluding states from developing enrichment and reprocessing capabilities contradicts an important tenet of the NPT-that is, the deal made by the nuclear weapon states (NWS) to the non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS). Article IV of the NPT states that NNWS have the inalienable right to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, a right intended to provide an incentive for NNWS to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Bush proposals, however, introduce another element into the nonproliferation regime by segmenting countries into those that can engage in enrichment and reprocessing and those that cannot. Since most states with fuel cycle capabilities are from the developed world, it is clear that the target group of the proposal is the developing world.”

    In reaction to the formation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (and the Carter administration’s efforts to limit sharing nuclear technology) the Final Document of the United Nations General Assembly resolution S-10/2 which was adopted at the 27th plenary meeting of the tenth special session on 30 June 1978 stated in paragraph 69

    “Each country’s choices and decisions in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy should be respected without jeopardizing its policies or international cooperation agreements and arrangements for peaceful uses of nuclear energy and its fuel-cycle policies”.

    This language was reiterated in the final document of the 1980 NPT Review Conference and has been consistently reiterated in every Review Conference since then, including the 1995 Review Conference , the 2000 NPT Review Conference and in the Final Document of the 10th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2002.

    The conflict with Iran is therefore not really about nuclear weapons proliferation. That’s simply a pretext for a policy of attempting to monopolize nuclear fuel production in the hands of the few.

  20. hass (History)

    kerbihan, you’re wrong on all the points you raised.

    1- Iran has never been in violation of Article 4 of the treaty, as the IAEA reports have consistently stated that there was no diversion of nuclear material for non-peaceful purposes Iran. That’s the legal standard for violation, and Iran has not met it. Failure to report otherwise legal activity such as importing uranium does not constitute a violation of the NPT.

    2- The NPT requires the sharing of civilian nuclear technology “without discrimination” and to the fullest extent possible. Pressuring other countries to drop nuclear contracts with IRan (as the US did with CHina, Argentina, Russia and other countries) is a direct violation of the NPT, not just the spirit but the letter.

    3- The “Large-scale civilian nuclear energy cooperation between the P5+1 and Iran” consisted of Iran giving up its rights and becoming an importer of its nuclear fuel, contrary to its sovereign rights as recognized by the NPT. That’s not cooperation, that’s colonialism.

    4- the IAEA has consistently and repeatedly stated that it has no evidence whatsoever of a military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, the Bush administration only accused Iran of seeking the “capability” to make nukes in the indefinite future, not of actually making them currently.

    5- Iran — unlike, say, Egypt — has signed the Additional Protocol and agreed to ratify it once its nuclear rights have been recognized. This was one of the many proposals that Iran made to address any real concern about weapons proliferations — and was ignored.

  21. kerbihan

    Hass – nonsense. I’m ready to give you the benefit of good faith, so:

    1. Nobody’s claiming that Iran has violated Article 4. But the benefits of Article 4 are subject to compliance with other articles.

    2. I don’t know any legal nuclear expert (certainly not anyone from the IAEA) who would share your farfetched interpretation of Article 4.

    3. Nobody is asking Iran to give up any “right”. If Iran fully complied with the NPT and its safeguards agreements, there would be no ground for sanctioning an enrichment program.

    4. No, that’s not true. IAEA reports say that the Agency can check that no material it monitors has been diverted, but also that the Agency is not in a position conclude that Iran’s activities are purely peaceful. Even El-Baradei now says publicly that Iran wants a military nuclear option, for heaven’s sake. Finally, again, check DDG Heinonen’s briefings of 2007.

    5. Iran’s nuclear rights are fully recognized, including by the United States. (Enrichment is not a “right” under Article 4. See the NPT negotiating record.) The so-called “proposal” was far from ignored – though it is true that the United States, even under Obama so far, opposes enrichment on Iranian soil (the Europeans have not been so extreme – they agree that enrichment on Iranian soil can be OK as long as Tehran gives guarantees of peaceful use). If Iran had nothing to hide and wanted this whole thing to end, it would have ratified and implemented the AP.

    What part of “Iran wants the Bomb” do you not understand? Do you think that ISIS, Carnegie, and other respected, liberal-oriented think-tanks are part of a vast right-wing colonialist warmongering conspiracy? If so, there is no much point in further dialogue.


  22. AWR (History)

    Dear hass,

    Please. The IAEA Board has declared Iran in violation of its safeguards commitments, as lately as last month, outside of the Security Council resolution related to the AP” “22. Contrary to the request of the Board of Governors and the requirements of the Security Council,
    Iran has neither implemented the Additional Protocol nor cooperated with the Agency in connection
    with the remaining issues which give rise to concerns and which need to be clarified to exclude the
    possibility of military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme[GOV/2009/35 Date: 5 June 2009].” Nothing can refute this fact, and to undo this action that you fail to acknowledge would require a further act by either the BoG or the Security Council.

    Nor does any reasonable reading of Article IV “require[s] the sharing of civilian nuclear technology ‘without discrimination’ and to the fullest extent possible” without compliance with safeguards obligations strictly drawn, as they have been by the able legal folks at the Agency.

    The subject of this post is best redirected, IMHO, where it began: namely to the question of tech transfer to those NPT parties that have complied with their obligations. They had legitimate complaints on this subject well before the disclosure of Iran’s failure/refusal to comply with its basic obligations under the NPT.

  23. George William Herbert (History)

    I am frankly appalled by the Iran apologists here.

    No country has ever initiated secret uranium enrichment programs without having weapons as an end goal. Iran only declared their program and put it under monitoring because it was discovered and outed by either internal dissidents or someone else’s intelligence using that as a cover.

    Additionally, the wide variety of additional programs that Iran has underway now read like a textbook case of developing every angle for weaponization. A country seeking its own electrical power program does not need a multiple large heavy water reactor program. A country seeking its own electrical power program does not need to build its enrichment program under eight meters of hard-pack soil and 2.5 meters of reinforced concrete.

    Hiding behind “But they’re technically in compliance, right now” is evading the underlying inherent technical nature of the program. It does not matter what color you paint it – it’s an elephant.

  24. Andy (History)

    Several people here, and many pundits on the left, are, IMO, unjustifiably confident in “deterrence,” and particularly nuclear deterrence. The basic argument seems to be this: Iran is not attempting to develop nuclear weapons, but even if it were we have “deterrence,” (and “containment!”) so there’s nothing to worry about. The argument gives the perception (unjustified, IMO) that deterrence brings stability and lessens the chance of war since clearly no one is “crazy” enough to actually use nuclear weapons. This is, frankly, a simplistic and dangerous notion – and not because some believe Iran and other countries are irrational.

    The reality is that rational people and rational nations often do irrational things and, moreover, they easily miscalculate. Much of the apparent faith in nuclear deterrence stems from the “success” of deterrence during the Cold War. The truth is that simple possession of nuclear weapons, no matter the number, isn’t anything remotely close to a guarantee that a war and the resulting catastrophe cannot occur, nor is war less likely to occur that it might otherwise be. There is, after all, still some controversy about the effectiveness of Cold War deterrence and I tend to side with those who argue that a significant amount of good fortune was involved. There were, for example, several instances where war was barely avoided because of miscalculation, the Cuban missile crisis being the most famous.

    Similar miscalculations are probable in the future not only because miscalculation has always been with us, but also because we are now living in a multipolar world with more actors and therefore more opportunities for something to go horribly wrong.

    Other, quite important factors that were instrumental during the Cold War are absent today. For example, the US and USSR had diplomatic relations along with many formal and informal channels to communicate and negotiate – an advantage that proved crucial in preventing war on several occasions. Unfortunately few of those formal and informal relationships exist in and between nations relevant to this discussion.

    So, IMO, we should not delude ourselves into believing that multipolar nuclear deterrence will bring safety, security and stability to anyone – it could easily bring catastrophe instead.

    The second point I want to address is another argument read often here and elsewhere, which is, actually, a self-licking ice cream cone disguised as an argument. The argument says Iran needs nuclear deterrence (either from a third party or a domestic capability) to deter Israel and/or the US from attacking and/or invading. The fact that these threats of attack are clearly a direct response to Iran’s program seems lost on those who make this argument.

    Finally, I think the US made a major policy mistake by focusing almost exclusively on a capabilities-based nonproliferation approach. It hasn’t worked and, as a bonus, it’s created a credibility gap that makes a transparency and safeguards-based approach that much more difficult.

  25. hass (History)

    AWR – please note that violations of safeguard agreements are not the same as a violation of the NPT. Please don’t confuse the two. Egypt, S Korea and other countries violated safeguards and are not said to be in breach of the NPT.

    As Michael Spies of the Lawyer’s Committee on Nuclear Policy has written:

    “The conclusion that no diversion has occurred certifies that the state in question is in compliance with its undertaking, under its safeguards agreement and Article III of the NPT, to not divert material to non-peaceful purposes. In the case of Iran, the IAEA was able to conclude in its November 2004 report that that all declared nuclear materials had been accounted for and therefore none had been diverted to military purposes. The IAEA reached this same conclusion in September 2005.”

    Testimony presented to the Foreign Select Committee of the British Parliament by Elahe Mohtasham:

    “The enforcement of Article III of the NPT obligations is carried out through the IAEA’s monitoring and verification that is designed to ensure that declared nuclear facilities are operated according to safeguard agreement with Iran, which Iran signed with the IAEA in 1974. In the past four years that Iran’s nuclear programme has been under close investigation by the IAEA, the Director General of the IAEA, as early as November 2003 reported to the IAEA Board of Governors that “to date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities … were related to a nuclear weapons programme.” … Although Iran has been found in non-compliance with some aspects of its IAEA safeguards obligations, Iran has not been in breach of its obligations under the terms of the NPT.”

    Furthermore, the Security Council cannot legally demand that a country sign a treaty or protocol, nor can it legally require a country to give up a sovereign right to use its own natural resources in violation of jus cogens. Such UNSC resolutions are ultravires. Nevertheless Iran has already signed the AP and implemented it for 2 years, with no evidence of a nuclear weapons program found, and only to face increased demands to give up enrichment entirely, in breach of the NPT. Iran has also offered to implement security measure in excess of the AP — as long as its nuclear rights are recognized. These offers have been ignored.

    George William Herbert — Iran’s enrichment program was never a secret. IAEA inspectors visited Iran’s uranium mines in the early 1990s, and the discovery of uranium and the plans to use it were announced on national radio in the 1980s. THe IAEA even proposed a technical assistance program to teach Iran how to enrich uranium — only to have the US kill the program in 1984. THus, Iran was forced to resort to secrecy to obtain the technology that it was ENTITLED to obtain — but which the IAEA has said had no relation to a weapons program. And inci
    Iran isn’t seeking “multiple large heavy water reactors” — it is building ONE at Arak, which is known to the IAEA and was even inspected. Furthermore, Iran has offered to renounce plutonium-extraction, thus making it impossible to use that reactor to build bombs.

    You people seem to be woefully unaware of the facts. I’m amazed.

  26. hass (History)

    kerbihan – you’re again wrong on all your points.

    1. Once more, Iran has not breached the NPT. Safeguards violations do NOT amount to a breach of the NPT unless there has been a diversion of nuclear material to non-peaceful uses — something that the IAEA has emphatically and repeatedly said has NOT happened in Iran. That’s also why S Korea and Egypt were not said to be in breach of the NPT even though they too violated safeguards egregiously. Incidentally, lets look at the US’s own obligations under the NPT and wonder whether the US has violated the same treaty by, for example, recently unilaterally carving out an exception to be applied to nuclear cooperation with India.

    2. My “far fetched” interpretation happens to be the applicable legal standard, see previous post.

    3. Iran has complied with the NPT. Had the US not interfered with Iran’s legal and overt acquisition of enrichment technology in the early 1980s in cooperation with the IAEA then there would have been no need for Iran to resort to safeguards violations — violations which, according to the IAEA, had no relations to a weapons program and have since been remedied to the IAEA’s satisfaction.

    The IAEA was aware of Iran’s plans to develop uranium enrichment as early as 1983, when the IAEA was planning to assist Iran, only to be thwarted by US pressure:

    Four years after the Islamic revolution, and two years after Iran’s new leaders dusted off the nuclear program of the deposed Reza Shah Pahlevi, IAEA officials were keen to assist Iran in reactivating a research program to learn how to process U3O8 into UO2 pellets and then set up a pilot plant to produce UF6, according to IAEA documents obtained by NuclearFuel. Sources said that when in 1983 the recommendations of an IAEA mission to Iran were passed on to the IAEA’s technical cooperation program, the U.S. government then ‘‘directly intervened’‘ to discourage the IAEA from assisting Iran in production of UO2 and UF6. ‘‘We stopped that in its tracks,’‘ said a former U.S. official.
    (SOURCE: U.S. in 1983 stopped IAEA from helping Iran make UF6
    by Mark Hibbs, Bonn
    Nuclear Fuel August 4, 2003 Vol. 28, No. 16; Pg. 12 )

    4. The IAEA has said that it has no evidence of nuclear diversion in Iran. That is very much true, and all Iran is required to prove under its safeguards agreement. The IAEA only certifies that a country’s activities are purely peaceful IF the country has ratified the Additional Protocol. Currently, there are around 40-50 other states that have NOT ratified the AP — so that is not peculiar to Iran nor is it a basis to raise suspicion on Iran. Among these non AP-signatories is Egypt, where traces of highly enriched uranium have been found and which has violated safeguards by failing to declare nuclear activities.

    5- And El_baradei said that he has a “gut feeling” that Iran wants a nuclear military “option” — neither one of which amounts to evidence of any sort (in fact it is very telling that after 6 years of intensive scrutiny, all the IAEA has is “gut feelings”.) Note that any country with a nuclear program can be said to have a military “option” including Argentina, Brazil, Netherlands, Japan…

    Finally, DDG Heinonen’s briefings of 2007 consisted of re-presenting the “Laptop of Doom” allegations presented to the IAEA by the US, which the IAEA itself refers to as “alleged studies…supposedly conducted” and which the IAEA itself has said it has no evidence to support.

    Incidentally, Enrichment is very much a right — if it wasn’t then by what right do other countries enrich uranium, even before the NPT came into force? Do you think there’s some sort of law of nature that says the US and allies are entitled to enrichment and no one else?

  27. hass (History)

    Andy I am sure you’d be happy to learn that the whole issue of whether the Iranians are “rational” enuf to be deterred is moot, that the IRanians themselves repeatedly state that nuclear weapons would NOT help them gain deterrence, and would harm their strategic interests — in agreement with Western analysts.

    Rather than keeping an option to develop nukes, they have made offers to implement restrictions on their nuclear program beyond the requirements of even the Additional Protocol, to make “break out” even less likely, short of giving up their enrichment program. These offers are found here and include:

    * Refrain from reprocessing or producing plutonium;

    * Limit the enrichment of nuclear materials so that they are suitable for energy production but not for weaponry;

    * Immediately convert all enriched uranium to fuel rods, thereby precluding the possibility of further enrichment;

    * Limit the enrichment program to meet the contingency fuel requirements of Iran’s power reactors and future light-water reactors;

    * Accept foreign partners, both public and private, in our uranium enrichment program.

  28. Andy (History)


    I hope you are paying Michael Spies for all the times you quote this piece on this site and other sites. I see you were finally successful in your attempts to get him into the Wikipedia entry on Iran’s program. Good job!

    The problem is that Mr. Spies’ opinion does not reflect the Agency’s longstanding view on state obligations, particularly in cases where this is a long history of deception and CSA violations, nor is it the mainstream consensus of most lawyers and experts. In short, the Agency does not agree that simply updating the two decade’s worth of false declarations is sufficient for the Agency to declare Iran is in compliance with all of its obligations, particularly since the Agency’s responsibility also includes material that should have been declare, but wasn’t. The IAEA’s head lawyer, Laura Rockwood, puts it this way (emphasis added):

    The information that safeguards inspector is likely to uncover, however, is such that, rather than demonstrating a clear violation of the agreement it would raise doubts as to whether the State is fulfilling its obligations under the agreement. Regardless of the type of agreement, the IAEA has the right and the duty to try to resolve these doubts through the examination of the information assembled and the obtaining from the State of additional information and/or access to additional locations.
    If such doubts cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of the Director General, the Director General would report, under an INFCIRC/153 agreement, to the Board of Governors that action by the State concerned is essential and urgent to ensure the verification of non-diversion or report to the Board the Agency’s inability to verify that nuclear material required to be safeguarded has not been diverted, or, under an INFCIRC/66/Rev.2 agreement, that the State is in non-compliance with the agreement.
    Any actions considered by the Board to be “essential and urgent” are required to be implemented by the State without delay. If the State does not take the required action, the Board may conclude, on the basis of the information reported to it by the Director General, that the IAEA cannot fulfill its obligation under the agreement to verify non-diversion; the Board may also find that the State is in further non-compliance with its safeguards agreement.

    So the standard is not limited to simple verification of a declaration when doubts exist about a state fulfilling its obligations. You frequently bring up Egypt and Korea, yet there are two important differences between those cases and Iran. First, the scope and length of Iran’s violations were much more extensive. Secondly, Korea and Egypt provided sufficient transparency and access to not only verify declared material and activities, but also to erase doubts about whether the state is fulfilling its obligations.

    Speaking of obligations, what I find ironic about Hass’ positions is that he (and Iran) take a maximalist view of the obligations of some parts of the NPT (and related treaties and agreements) and a minimalist view of other portions. The effect is that Iran’s obligations only extend to that required by the most limited interpretation of the various statues while the obligations of others, the NWS in particular, are interpreted in the widest fashion possible. So we are to believe that the NWS and other nations with advanced programs are absolutely required to give away their technology “without discrimination” (I guess notions of national sovereignty and “ultra vires” in policy and nuclear matters does not apply to them), while states like Iran are only required to provide the barest minimum based on a limited interpretation of their obligations under those same statutes and agreements. State sovereignty for Iran suddenly becomes paramount and trumps any challenge from the BoG or UNSC, including long-standing and mainstream legal standards and interpretations, all of which is declared “ultra vires”. This selective min-max approach certainly benefits Iran and Hass’ argumnents, but represents, to put it charitably, a self-serving minority viewpoint.

    One wonders, for example, now that Iran is in the “club” of states with advanced nuclear programs, why it is violating the NPT by not sharing its technology with other states? Iran should copy all if its data and technical information and send it off to its Arab neighbors, who suddenly demonstrated renewed interest in nuclear technology a couple of years ago.

    Rhetorical sarcasm aside, Hass, I actually agree with you on one point – Iran does not need deterrence at this point since it enjoys not only a position of regional strength, but an absence of competitors with the capability to become an existential threat. The exception might be the United States, but an Iraqi-style regime-change invasion is simply not possible for the foreseeable future, which everyone knows. So Iran’s position is the most secure it has been since the revolution – at least as far as external threats go….

    However, that security is obviously relatively recent. When Saddam was still in power things were quite different and Iraq represented a continuing existential threat to Iran. Iran knew Iraq was working on a bomb and Iran was not at all thrilled to discover how close Iraq came to achieving its goal in 1991. Iran also understood Saddam enough to know that Iraq’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon would continue once sanctions were gone.

    So there are, I think, three stages to Iran’s program since the revolution, which are the result of Iran’s changing strategic position. The first, brief stage, was the eschewing of all things related to the previous regime (pretty common for new revolutionary governments) which included the nuclear program. The second stage began when Iran restarted this program in the midst of an existential conflict – Iraq’s aggressive war against Iran – and lasted until 2003. In this stage Iran pursued nuclear capabilities primarily to meet the strategic threat posed by Iraq. For similar reasons, Iran embarked on a chemical weapons program in the 1980’s. In 2003 the basis for Iran’s program essentially ended because of two events (listed in order of importance):

    1. Saddam was overthrown and Iraq ceased to be Iran’s major strategic threat.

    2. Some or all of the clandestine portions of Iran’s program were revealed.

    So I agree with Hass to the extent that Iran no longer needs deterrence, but prior to 2003, it certainly did need it. Though the evidence is mostly circumstantial, I there is a pretty solid case that Iran had a weapons program from the early-mid 1980’s through 2003.

    What concerns me is that so few seem able or willing to factor in Iran’s strategic position in assessments of Iran’s nuclear intentions. On one side are the neo-cons and others who believe Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons regardless of circumstances, and on the other are Iran’s apologists who maintain the fiction that Iran’s intentions were always completely peaceful in nature. The reality, IMO, is not so simplistic or static. The biggest failure in US policy, IMO, was the failure to realize and account for Iran’s changed circumstances after 2003, which led to a series of major policy errors.

    So I seriously question the allegation that Iran NOW intends to develop nuclear weapons, but they may be compelled into that option through a combination of short-sighted policies by the US and west. It doesn’t help that some, particularly those obsessed with Israel, want to make Israel into a strategic and existential threat to Iran.

    Let’s assume for a minute that I am right and that Iran was intent on developing a weapon in the past but they no longer think there is a strategic need. That puts them in a bit of a box because they want to simultaneously show that their current nuclear intentions peaceful, but they can’t, for obvious reasons, come clean about past activities. Playing hardball on transparency, suspension and AP implementation is not helping its case IMO.

    For US policy I think the important thing at this point is to get Iran to fully implement the AP at a minimum. They will have to be bribed to do it, but the cost is probably worth it. Iran is probably worried about discovery of past military-related efforts, so I think it’s reasonable for the west to recognize Iran’s strategic position prior to 2003 and offer amnesty for any past military efforts provided Iran adopts the access, verification and transparency measures to fully document past efforts as well as ensure any future military effort would be detected. In short, I think what Iran did in the past is becoming increasingly irrelevant and what is important at this point is ensuring any future clandestine military effort is not possible. There may still be a window of opportunity to reach agreement but, given the current state of affairs, such a deal will take much more serious efforts by all parties. One can always hope.

  29. kme

    Andy: Interesting points all – I’d just point out that the criticism about Hass’s “min-max” interpretations can equally be applied in the opposite direction to his rhetorical opponents. Indeed under the absolutely minimal interpretation of Article IV it has no meaning whatsoever!

  30. Andy (History)


    You’re absolutely right and, of course, it’s also possible for reasonable people to disagree on such matters.

  31. hass (History)

    Andy, you quote Laura Rockwood on what happens if the agency has “doubts” about diversion of nuclear material. In the case of Iran, the IAEA has specifically and clearly stated that there has been no such diversion. The IAEA further specifically stated that past breaches were remedied and will be followed up on as a routine safeguards matter. In fact the IAEA has specifically drawn up a “work plan” and Iran had cleared up all the items on it — except for the “alleged studies” from the Laptop of Death (which Iran is somehow supposed to refute without seeing the documents.) Your comparison with Egypt and S. Korea is further nonsensical when you consider the fact that Egypt has flatly refused to sign the AP, and more traces of HEU have recently been found there, while Iran had signed and implemented the AP for 2 years (and offered to do so permanently) with still no evidence of diversion found. The distinction made between IRan and S.Korea/Egypt is purely political, not legal.

    Furthermore, Iran has indeed offered to share nuclear technology with other states, such as Nigeria

    You conclude, based on mere speculation, that Iran must have wanted nukes deter Saddam. You imply that because the supposed revival of Iran’s nuclear program coincided with the war, then it must have been intended as a deterrent to Iraq. However, this is false for many reasons. First of all, Iran did not “eschew” the nuclear program as widely reported, and Iran’s “revival” of their nuclear program predated the war – infact they never really gave up the program to enrich uranium. Note this BBC Monitoring article from 1979 (before the war started):

    Fereydun Sahabi, the Deputy Minister of Energy and Supervisor of the Atomic Energy Organization, in an interview with our correspondent said today [announcer read]: The activities of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, which converged irregularly in the past in order to create a consumer market in Iran for the industrial products of other countries, is to be cut back on a wide scale. He said that out of all the Organization’s projects for setting-up nuclear plants for electricity generation in Iran, only the Bushehr atomic power plant, about 50 per cent of whose works have been completed, would be continued. The Supervisor emphasized that in future no foreign manpower will be utilized in this organization; he said that the Atomic Energy Organization’s activities regarding prospecting and extraction of uranium would continue.

    (makes you wonder what kind of supposedly “hidden” enrichment program Iran was operating when it was openly announced on national radio — repeatedly.)

    Second, if we’re just speculating as you are: considering that Iran is even now judged to be 4 years away from hypothetically building a bomb, it would have been remarkably optimistic for them to invest in bomb-building back in the 1980s in the hopes of countering Saddam.

    Furthermore, Iran had no CW capability prior to the war. A few years into the war, some Iranian officials hinted at their potential ability to build a CW program, but Iran explicitly and specifically RULED OUT using chemical weapons against Iraq, even though it would have been legally entitled to do so at the time, and did NOT use chemical weapons. Thus, your theory that Iran views WMDs as deterrent is empirically proven wrong. (On the matter of Iran’s CW allegations, I suggest reading Jean Pascal Zander’s article from SIPRI )

    In short, your speculation that Iran must have wanted nukes because it must have wanted to deter Iraq, is a fallacy of subverted support because you’re trying to explain the reasons behind a phenomenon, when there’s no evidence of the existence of the phenomenon in the first place.

    Also on your theory of how Iran views nukes as a deterrent: Allow me to quote Amb. Salehi in his 2004 interview with FT

    But we have come to the conclusion that nuclear weapons would not bring us security. We think nuclear weapons for Iran would invite more threats, and trigger competition for nuclear weapons… If we have weapons of mass destruction we are not going to use them – we cannot. We did not use chemical weapons against Iraq…Secondly, we do not feel any real threat from our neighbours. Pakistan and the Persian Gulf, we have no particular problems with them, nor with Afghanistan. The only powerful country is Russia in the north, and no matter how many nuclear weapons we had we could not match Russia. Israel, our next neighbour, we do not consider an entity by itself but as part of the US. Facing Israel means facing the US. We cannot match the US. We do not have strategic differences with our neighbours, including Turkey.

    Western analysts think the same thing — and the Iranians agree: nukes would not help Iran achieve deterrence.

  32. Mark (History)

    Andy –
    If I remember right, Iran did allow more intrusive inspections than even what the Additional Protocol requires, in places such as Parchin, with no evidence of nuclear weapons found. In fact the IAEA publicly complained that the secret intelligence provided by the US had failed to pan out. The IAEA has also said that it has no evidence to back up the allegations of a weaponization program existing in Iran until 2003, promoted by the US. To say that Iran is afraid of exposure of past activities therefore does not ring true.

  33. Andy (History)


    Andy, you quote Laura Rockwood on what happens if the agency has “doubts” about diversion of nuclear material. In the case of Iran, the IAEA has specifically and clearly stated that there has been no such diversion.

    Absolutely not true. The Agency has been quite clear and consistent in stating time and again that Iran needs to fully implement the AP as well as other transparency measures before it can make a final determination. Now, I’m sure you’ll probably mention again the fact that Iran cannot be forced to implement the AP and that is certainly true. On the other hand, the Agency cannot be forced to adhere to Iran’s interpretations of its obligations, nor can it be forced to allow Iran to unilaterally declare that it has met its obligations. You’re correct that Iran did implement the AP for two years. However, the Agency has also consistently said that was not nearly enough time for it to perform the work it needed to do.

    he said that the Atomic Energy Organization’s activities regarding prospecting and extraction of uranium would continue.

    First of all, prospecting and extraction is not the same thing as enrichment. Second of all, I can quote plenty of public statements by Iranian officials before 2003 that emphatically state Iran is not interested in enrichment and is not pursuing and enrichment capability. You should at least acknowledge that Iranian statements on the issue during the 1980’s and 1990’s were inconsistent.

    Furthermore, Iran has indeed offered to share nuclear technology with other states, such as Nigeria

    That’s great that Iran is offering nuclear technology to Nigeria. But that doesn’t exactly meet the standard that your interpretation of the NPT requires: “The NPT requires the sharing of civilian nuclear technology “without discrimination” and to the fullest extent possible.” Tell me, when will Iran begin supplying all its neighbors with its nuclear technology?

    You conclude, based on mere speculation, that Iran must have wanted nukes deter Saddam.

    It’s not mere speculation, though you may wish it was. There’s much more than simple timing and much of the evidence has been presented here and elsewhere. Is it incontrovertable? No, but I think what I wrote in my previous comment represents the best fit for what is known, while acknowledging that reasonable people can disagree or interpret ambiguity differently.

    Speaking of which, your interpretation is quite striking in its inconsistency and apparent blatant disregard for the facts. You seem to argue (correct me if I’m wrong) that strategic and regional balance-of-power calculations were non-factors in Iran’s program. The implication is that the war in which Iran was the victim of a brutal and aggressive invasion, a war that took an entire generation of Iranian youth, was completely incidental to Iran’s nuclear program. We are to believe that the program played no part in Iranian strategic decisionmaking during an existential conflict. Iran is truly an exceptional country if it could simply ignore Iraq’s real and nascent strategic capabilities when considering its own.

    Thus, your theory that Iran views WMDs as deterrent is empirically proven wrong.

    Strange that you would declare my “theory” empirically proven wrong when the SIPRI article you cite directly contradicts you. You also mention that Iranian officials “hinted” at a CW capability. Tell me, why would Iranian leaders hint at their “potential ability” to produce and use CW if not for deterrence? Furthermore, Iran subsequently admitted it did have a CW program and even a few munitions, which were a direct response to Iraq’s weapons. How does your claim that Iran does not view WMD’s as a deterrent explain that?

    Just to be clear here, I’m not criticizing Iran for developing a CW or even a nuclear weapons program – quite the opposite. I think it was necessary for the security of Iran and the continuing threat posed by Saddam’s Iraq. What’s clear in all of this is that Iran understood the importance of deterrence, and implemented various policies specifically designed to deter and, if need be, counter the existential threat posed by Iraq during and after that bloody war.

    Finally, your Salehi quote is irrelevant for two reasons – first, it came after the demise of Iraq as a strategic threat to Iran and therefore I essentially agree with it in the context it was given. As noted in my original comment, since Iran no longer has a regional strategic adversary with WMD, Iran does not need WMD for deterrence anymore. Secondly, one can hardly expect a politician from a NNWS to publicly say anything other than “we don’t need WMDs.” Even the NWS’ are mum or exceedingly vague about what, exactly, their weapons are for.

  34. Andy (History)

    I see now I need to amend the first sentence in my latest reply to Hass and provide some clarification. The IAEA has verified that there was no diversion of declared material. What the agency has not been able to do is “provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities.” This goes back to what Laura Rockwood said back in 1999, a portion of which I quoted in a previous comment. My apologies for the confusion. This is something Hass and I (and Iran and the Agency) fundamentally disagree on and we’ve gone round about it before.

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