No “problem” with Iran’s nuclear activities


On 31 May 2006, US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, announced at a Washington press conference [1] that the US had reversed its policy on direct negotiations with Iran about its nuclear programme.  The US is now willing to join the EU3 (the UK, France and Germany) in face to face talks with Iran on this issue – providing Iran “fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities” (to quote Ms Rice).


This policy reversal was widely hailed as a great step forward towards a “solution” of the “problem” of Iran’s nuclear activities.  This begs a number of questions that few commentators have asked.


First, what business of the US, or any other state, is Iran’s nuclear activities?  Iran is a sovereign state and what it does within its own jurisdiction is its own business, providing it isn’t breaking any international treaty obligations.  And it isn’t, as we shall see.  Is the US going to reciprocate and allow Iran to negotiate with it about its nuclear activities?  And if not, why not?


No “problem”

Second, what “problem” is there with Iran’s nuclear activities that requires Iran to negotiate with the US in order to arrive at a “solution”?  At present, Iran is merely exercising its “inalienable right” as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) [2] to engage in nuclear activities for peaceful purposes.  Article IV(1) of the NPT says:


“Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.”


So, under the NPT, Iran has a right to engage in enrichment and related activities, providing they are for peaceful purposes   and the IAEA has found no evidence that they are for anything other than peaceful purposes.  As the Director-General of the IAEA, Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, told Reuters on 30 March 2006 [3]:


“Nobody has the right to punish Iran for enrichment.  We have not seen nuclear material diverted to a nuclear weapon …”


So, there is no “problem” with Iran’s nuclear activities that requires a “solution” to be negotiated between Iran and the US.  Iran should simply be allowed to continue with its nuclear activities under the supervision of the IAEA, as required by Article III(1) the NPT, to ensure that these activities are for peaceful purposes.


Under IAEA supervision

It should be emphasised that Iran’s nuclear activities are under IAEA supervision at the moment, although a contrary impression is often given in the British media and by British politicians.  Even Menzies Campbell, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, who must know better, has given a contrary impression, writing in The Guardian on 24 April 2006 that “there is no easy way to deal with a country that refuses to cooperate with IAEA inspectors” [4].


It is simply untrue to say that Iran “refuses to cooperate with IAEA inspectors”.  Iran has had a Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA since 1974, as required by Article III(1) of the NPT, and is operating in accordance with it today.  ElBaradei’s report to the IAEA Board of 8 June 2006 [5] makes it clear that the ongoing production of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) in the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) at Isfahan and the enrichment of the UF6 in the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) at Natanz is being carried out under IAEA supervision:


Iran has declared the production at the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) of approximately 118 tonnes of UF6, along with some intermediate products, between August 2005 and April 2006. … All UF6 produced at UCF remains under Agency containment and surveillance measures. …


Iran has continued its testing of centrifuges at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP). … The enrichment process and product at PFEP, including the feed and withdrawal stations, are covered by Agency containment and surveillance measures.” (paragraphs 11-12)


It is true that Iran is not allowing the IAEA the level of access to its nuclear sites that it did up until early February 2006, when it was reported to the Security Council.  In December 2003, Iran signed a so-called Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, which, inter alia, provides for unannounced access by the IAEA to Iran’s nuclear sites.  Although the Additional Protocol hasn’t formally come into force (since it hasn’t been ratified by the Majlis), up until 6 February 2006 Iran was operating it in practice.  However, Iran suspended its operation after the IAEA Board reported Iran to the Security Council.


Signing and implementing an Additional Protocol is not a requirement of the NPT.  It is a voluntary matter for each signatory state and therefore by ceasing to implement its provisions Iran is not breaking any commitment under the NPT.  It is continuing to operate its Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, which is mandatory under Article III(1) of the NPT.


Proposals by P5 plus Germany

On 1 June 2006 at a meeting in Vienna, the five permanent members of the Security Council (the P5) – the US, the UK, France, Russia and China – plus Germany agreed a set of proposals to put to Iran.  In a press statement [6], Margaret Beckett, the new Foreign Secretary, said of the proposals:


“We believe that they offer Iran the chance to reach a negotiated agreement based on co-operation. We are prepared to resume negotiations should Iran resume the suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities as required by the IAEA and we would also suspend action in the Security Council.”


Details of the proposals have not been made public.  At the time of writing, Iran says it will not reply to the proposals until mid-August, despite demands that it do so right away.


What happens if Iran refuses to play ball?  According to Margaret Beckett:


“We [the P5 plus Germany] have also agreed that if Iran decides not to engage in negotiation further steps would have to be taken in the Security Council.”


This does not say that the “further steps” to be taken in the Security Council if Iran refuses to play ball were agreed at the Vienna meeting.  Most likely they were not, since Russia and China continue to voice their opposition to economic sanctions against Iran.


(It is unclear whether these proposals are officially backed by the EU.  The three EU states – the UK, France and Germany – which negotiated with Iran up until August 2005, apparently on behalf of the EU as a whole, were a party to the proposals and Javier Solana, the EU’s High Representative, took them to Tehran.  However, the Foreign Office press statement [7] on Solana’s visit to Tehran was careful to say that the proposals were from the P5 plus Germany.)


Iran would be entirely within its rights to tell the P5 plus Germany to mind their own business, since Iran’s present nuclear activities are supposed to be its “inalienable right” under the NPT.  This would still be true if these states offered to enter into negotiations unconditionally, without the pre-condition that Iran suspends enrichment and related activities.


Negotiating with the EU3

Iran’s previous experience of negotiating with the EU3 – UK, France and Germany – on these matters will not encourage it to repeat the exercise.  These negotiations began in the autumn of 2003.  A year later, in November 2004, Iran signed the Paris Agreement [8] with the EU3 and voluntarily suspended all enrichment and related activities while negotiations were taking place.


The Paris Agreement specifically stated that the purpose of the talks was to reach an agreement which “will provide objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes”, over and above the normal IAEA supervision.  The plain meaning of this was that Iran would be free to resume its nuclear programme, but that additional measures would be agreed between Iran and the EU3 to provide reassurance to the outside world about the peaceful nature of this programme.


However, when the EU eventually made proposals to Iran in August 2005, they did not contain any such “objective guarantees”.  Instead, the kernel of the proposals was that Iran’s voluntary suspension of enrichment and related activities be made permanent, albeit with a review in 10 years’ time.  This would have meant that nuclear power generation in Iran would be completely dependent on fuel from abroad, which could be cut off at any time, even though Iran has a domestic supply of uranium ore.  It was no surprise, therefore, that Iran rejected these proposals out of hand and terminated its voluntary suspension of enrichment and related activities over the next six months.


Iranian proposals to EU3

Iran set out its case about its nuclear programme in a 6,000 word advertisement in The New York Times on 18 November 2005, entitled An Unnecessary Crisis: Setting the Record Straight about Iran’s Nuclear Program [9].  In Section 4 of this, Iran tells its side of the story on the negotiations with the EU3 and gives a plausible explanation as to why the EU3 proposed the termination of most of Iran’s nuclear programme, rather than “objective guarantees” that the programme was for peaceful purposes.


Iran asserts that by March 2005 it became clear that “the EU3, faced with extraneous pressure, were simply trying to prolong fruitless negotiations”.  According to Iran, the “extraneous pressure” was coming from across the Atlantic:


“In short, it became evident that after massive pressure from the United States in the winter of 2005, the EU3 had conceded to unilaterally altering the Paris Agreement into solely an instrument of de-facto cessation of [the] Iranian peaceful enrichment program, in violation of the letter and spirit of that Agreement.”


Iran says that it proposed that the IAEA, the specialist in these matters, be asked to suggest appropriate “objective guarantees”:


In February 2005, Iran suggested to the EU3 to ask the IAEA to develop technical, legal and monitoring modalities for Iran’s enrichment program as objective guarantees to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program would remain exclusively for peaceful purposes. While one member of EU3 [Germany?] accepted the suggestion, unfortunately the lack of consensus among the EU3 prevented resort to the IAEA as an authoritative and impartial framework for solving the impasse.”


The Iranian advertisement (Section 4.2) also describes proposals that Iran made to the EU3 on 23 March 2005 (see, also, General Framework for Objective Guarantees [10]).  In this, Iran proposed, inter alia, “continuous on-site presence of IAEA inspectors at the conversion and enrichment facilities” at Isfahan and Natanz.  It also offered to adopt the principle of “immediate conversion of all enriched uranium to fuel rods to preclude even the technical possibility of further enrichment” towards weapons-grade uranium.  These proposals were not taken up by the EU3.


Iran says that it made it clear to the EU3 at a ministerial meeting in Geneva in May 2005 that “any proposal by the EU3 must incorporate EU3’s perception of objective guarantees for the gradual resumption of the Iranian enrichment program, and that any attempt to turn objective guarantees into cessation or long-term suspension were incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Paris Agreement and therefore unacceptable to Iran”.


Despite this, in early August the EU3 made proposals for the long-term suspension of Iran’s enrichment programme.  There is no doubt the EU3 acted contrary to the letter and spirit of the Paris Agreement by proposing the termination of most of Iran’s nuclear programme, rather than “objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes”.  Iran’s rejection of these proposals was entirely justified, as was its subsequent resumption of enrichment and related activities, which had been voluntarily suspended.


(Later, in a speech to the UN General Assembly on 17 September 2005 [11], Iranian President Amadinejad proposed another measure to promote confidence that the enrichment process would not be used for weapons purposes, saying that Iran would be prepared to invite foreign, public or private, partners to help in the implementation of the enrichment programme.  Needless to say, his proposal barely got reported, let alone taken seriously by the US/EU.)


It is against this background of double-dealing by the EU3 that Iran has to decide whether or not to enter into negotiations again, this time with the US, Russia and China at the table along with the EU3.  The same question is at issue now:  are the negotiations about the termination of Iran’s nuclear programme or about devising “objective guarantees” that the programme is for peaceful purposes?


Russian proposal

Things have moved on since the EU3 proposals of August 2005.  Within a few months, the EU3 had accepted a Russian proposal that uranium hexafluoride produced at Isfahan from indigenous uranium ore be enriched in Russia to provide fuel for Iranian power reactors.


This was a dramatic shift in the EU3 stance – Iran was now to be permitted to engage uranium fuel cycle activity all the way from mining uranium ore to producing uranium hexafluoride, activity that was banned in the EU3 proposal a few months earlier.


This shift was not unrelated to the fact that the US also shifted ground dramatically and accepted the Russian proposal, having a few years previously been opposed to Iran having any civil nuclear power programme at all.


Enrichment OK on Iranian soil?

It may be that the proposals submitted by Javier Solana to Iran represent another shift in US policy and the US is now prepared to accept the existence of uranium enrichment on Iranian soil, under certain circumstances.  An article, entitled Proposal Would Let Iran Enrich Uranium, by Karl Vick and Dafna Linzer in The Washington Post on 7 June 2006 [12] claimed that this was so.  It begins:


“The confidential diplomatic package backed by Washington and formally presented to Iran on Tuesday leaves open the possibility that Tehran will be able to enrich uranium on its own soil, U.S. and European officials said.”


However, the next paragraph identifies the morass in which Iran might get stuck if it accepts the proposals as a basis for negotiations:


“That concession, along with a promise of U.S. assistance for an Iranian civilian nuclear energy program, is conditioned on Tehran suspending its current nuclear work until the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] determines with confidence that the program is peaceful. U.S. officials said Iran would also need to satisfy the U.N. Security Council that it is not seeking a nuclear weapon, a benchmark that White House officials believe could take years, if not decades, to achieve.”


Leaving aside the difficulty of the IAEA proving the negative that Iran hasn’t got a nuclear weapons programme (even if the IAEA has a mind to do so, which cannot be guaranteed), this leaves the final decision about when Iran is allowed to enrich in the hands of the Security Council, in which the US (and the other permanent members) have a veto.  It conjures up memories of Iraq’s futile attempts from 1991 to 2003 to prove that it hadn’t got any “weapons of mass destruction”.


Iran has an interest in arriving at an agreement with the US/EU, providing the price isn’t too high.  It would like access to advanced technology, including nuclear technology from the West.  At the moment, it has limited access from Russia and, to a lesser extent, from China.  The General Framework for Objective Guarantees [10] (mentioned above) envisaged the construction of nuclear power stations in Iran by EU companies and contracts for military equipment from EU states.  There is more at stake than merely maintaining its “inalienable right” to uranium enrichment on its own soil.


Iran may therefore be prepared to enter into negotiations on these proposals, and even to suspend once again its enrichment and related activities in order to do so.  If like the EU3 last year, the US doesn’t behave reasonably during the negotiations, Iran is in a position to withdraw from the negotiations and resume its enrichment activities.  At this point, the “further steps” at the Security Council, promised by Margaret Beckett, would come into play, but it is by no means certain that even then Russia and China would join with the US/EU to impose Security Council sanctions on Iran.


International isolation of Iran?

Both Condoleezza Rice and Margaret Beckett were at pains to point out that if Iran refused to suspend its enrichment and related activities and negotiate then international isolation beckoned for Iran.  In fact, there is considerable evidence that Iran’s isolation is diminishing, rather than increasing.


On 30 May 2006, the Co-ordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (which has around 120 member states) fully backed Iran’s nuclear stance in a carefully worded statement [13] after a meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia.


According to Simon Tisdall in The Guardian on 20 June 2006 [14], the Arab League has done likewise.  What is more, according to Tisdall, this includes Egypt, the most important ally of the US in the Arab world.  He wrote:


“… in a ground-breaking move earlier this month, Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and second most influential government figure after Mr Ahmadinejad, met Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo.  It was the highest level contact between the two countries since the 1979 Iranian revolution.”


On 17-18 June 2006, President Amadinejad attended a meeting of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) [15] in Shanghai along with President Hu Jintao and President Putin.  Apart from China and Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are members of SCO.  Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan have observer status (and President Karzai of Afghanistan and President Musharraf of Pakistan were also present in Shanghai).  There was talk of joint oil/gas extraction projects in Iran with both Russia and China.


This doesn’t feel much like the international isolation of Iran. 


Iran’s nuclear negotiator speaks

Hassan Rohani served as Secretary to the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) of Iran for 16 years until August 2005, when, after the election of President Ahmadinejad, he was succeeded by Ali Larijani.  He is one of the two nominees of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameini, on the SNSC, the other being Larijani.  He is also a member of the Assembly of Experts, which has the power to elect and remove the Supreme Leader.  From 2003, Rohani served as Iran’s chief negotiator on nuclear matters (a role that was taken over by Larijani in August 2005).


A speech by Rohani to the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council (SCRC) of Iran, while he was still chief nuclear negotiator, was published by the magazine Rahbord on 30 September 2005 (and is available in English here [16]).  The speech was about Iran’s nuclear programme and its negotiations with the IAEA and the EU3.  The date of the meeting is not given, but, judging by what was said, the meeting took place in the autumn of 2004.  Amadinejad’s predecessor, President Khatami was present at the meeting and congratulated Rohani on his work.


It is strange that a speech on such delicate matters was published.  It is stranger still that the Rahbord is the quarterly journal of the Center for Strategic Research in Tehran [17], with which Rohani himself is associated (as is the defeated presidential candidate, Hashemi Rafsanjani).


Rohani gave an account of Iran’s nuclear strategy over the past 20 years or so to the meeting and then answered questions at length and in great detail.  It is fascinating reading.  What struck me on reading it was how objective the Iranian leadership is about the world – how objectively it assesses the interests of each of the states, and the individuals, with which it has to deal.  States, and individuals, are neither good nor bad, when viewed from Tehran (unlike Downing Street).  They just have interests, and success in negotiations requires an intimate knowledge of the interplay of those interests.


Listen to Rohani on the chances of China and Russia coming to Iran’s aid on the Security Council:


China and Russia can use their veto power. … But when they decide to do so in the face of the United States, there is a price to be paid. They calculate to see if it is in their best interest to do so. One of our political efforts is to try to elevate our relations with these countries to an appropriate level. Of course, this is a very difficult and complex problem. China, for instance, has hundreds of billions of dollars worth of trade with the West, with Europe, and is not ready to jeopardize all that for our sake. If the United States and Europe stand together, then the situation would become particularly difficult. When the United States wants to take us to the UN Security Council, but Europe is against it, these countries can stand with Europe. However, if the United States and Europe join hands, then it would be unlikely for China or Russia to confront them.”


And in answer to a question about ElBaradei:


As for ElBaradei and what kind of person he is, he is like all other political individuals. He is the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and intends to keep that position. This is a primary objective for him. To remain director general, he must have at least the support of the United States and Europe. He certainly must have the support of at least one of them. Therefore, since the United States and Europe both are against our program, he cannot or does not want to cooperate with us all that much and tries to avoid working with us. In certain cases, where Europe works with us while the United States does not, ElBaradei, too, cooperates with us. This is in part because the Europeans support ElBaradei and want him to remain director general of the IAEA and the Americans are against it. In any case, he is like all the other politicians in the world. I do not think that he has any particular animosity toward us because he is an Arab. At the same time, when he helps us or does certain things, he does so to protect his own interests and the interests of his organization.” (page 37)


(This was said before ElBaradei was reappointed IAEA Director General for a third term in September 2005.)


I had often wondered why Iran chose to enter into negotiations with the EU3 in the autumn 2003.  I couldn’t see any advantage for Iran, and I had always assumed that the apparent independence from the US shown by Jack Straw at the time was merely an outward show.  However, judging by what Rohani had to say, the EU3 did act independently of the US – a key factor in Iran is agreeing to negotiate with them was that they promised to resist US attempts to take the matter to the Security Council at that time, and they did – Britain actually opposed the US in the IAEA Board.  Here’s Rohani’s account of it:


“The most important promise that they made to us was that they would stand firm against attempts to take this case to the UN Security Council and work to solve the problem within the framework of the IAEA. The Europeans upheld that commitment at the November [2003] meeting [of the IAEA Board of Governors]. Even though the Americans, backed by Australia, South Korea, and Japan, insisted on sending the case to the UN Security Council, the three European countries stood firm and did not allow the American proposal to go forward. This was a noteworthy development. The Russians even told us that this was an interesting scene in political history that we were witnessing, the United Kingdom going against the United States. We had not seen anything like that before, and it was beautiful to see.” (page 9)


This gave Iran more time to bring their enrichment programme to fruition, and hopefully be in a position to present the world with a nuclear fait accompli, as other states had done.  As Rohani said in answer to a question:


“… if one day we are able to complete the fuel cycle and the world sees that it has no choice, that we do possess the technology, then the situation will be different. The world did not want Pakistan to have an atomic bomb or Brazil to have the fuel cycle, but Pakistan built its bomb and Brazil has its fuel cycle, and the world started to work with them. Our problem is that we have not achieved either one, but we are standing at the threshold. As for building the atomic bomb, we never wanted to move in that direction and we have not yet completely developed our fuel cycle capability. This also happens to be our main problem.” (page 31)


At one point (page 32), Rohani agrees with a questioner that it would have been better if Iran had openly declared from the outset its intention to master the nuclear fuel cycle.


Rohani in Time

A very interesting article by Rohani was published in Time magazine on 9 May 2006 [18].  It is entitled Iran’s Nuclear Program: The Way Out and is addressed to the American people.  It begins by arguing that Iran’s security interest is not served by having nuclear weapons:


“A nuclear weaponized Iran destabilizes the region, prompts a regional arms race, and wastes the scarce resources in the region. And taking account of U.S. nuclear arsenal and its policy of ensuring a strategic edge for Israel, an Iranian bomb will accord Iran no security dividends. There are also some Islamic and developmental reasons why Iran as an Islamic and developing state must not develop and use weapons of mass destruction.”


It ends with a series of suggestions – over and above normal IAEA safeguards – aimed at providing assurances that Iran’s nuclear activities are not for weapons purposes.


In so far as the US/EU has an argument that there is a “problem” with Iran’s nuclear activities it is that for 20 years it “concealed” them from the world – from which the world is invited to conclude that the activities were geared towards weapons development.  Rohani’s article puts the notion of Iranian “concealment” in perspective:


What is often cited by American officials as 20 years of Iranian secret nuclear military program turned out to be, as declared by the IAEA, nothing more than the failure to declare, in a timely manner, some experiments and receiving some material and equipment. Such failures to declare are not uncommon among the NPT members. Remedial steps are envisioned in the Safeguards Agreement to address them, and Iran has done so. Moreover, it was no secret that we were in the European, Russian and Asian markets to purchase enrichment technology in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Therefore, an Iranian secret weapon program is only hype, and the sense of urgency about Iran’s nuclear program is rather tendentious. The world should not allow itself to be dragged into another conflict on false pretenses in this region again.”


It is true, as Rohani says, that Iran failed to report to the IAEA certain activities that it should have done under its Safeguards Agreement – see, for example, ElBaradei’s report to the IAEA Board on 10 November 2003 [19], paragraph 48 – but there is no suggestion that these failures were an attempt to conceal weapons-related activity: thus in paragraph 52 of this report, ElBaradei writes:


“To date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme.”


None of these failures to report concerned the uranium conversion and enrichment plants at Isfahan and Natanz.  The IAEA has been satisfied that Iran has acted, and is acting, in accordance with its Safeguards Agreement in respect of these plants.  It is true that Iran did not report the construction of enrichment facilities at Natanz to the IAEA before August 2002, when their existence became public knowledge, but under the Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA then in operation Iran was not obliged to report them until 180 days before introducing nuclear material into them.  The Additional Protocol that Iran signed in December 2003 requires advance reporting to the IAEA of the construction of nuclear facilities.


(On 6 May 2006, Brazil formally opened a uranium enrichment facility at Resende on 6 May 2006 [20].  This event went almost unreported in Britain.  Lest it be thought that Iran’s failure to sign an Additional Protocol until December 2003 is out of the ordinary, and an indication that it is hiding something sinister, it should be noted that Brazil has yet to sign an Additional Protocol.  See Appendix 1 of the IAEA’s country profile of Brazil [21].)


US opposes Middle East nuclear free zone

Last autumn, Iran took the initiative at the UN General Assembly in sponsoring a resolution (60/92) on “the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East”, which was passed overwhelmingly on 8 December 2006 [22].  There was nothing new in the resolution: it simply called for the implementation of the decisions of the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conferences.


The 1995 conference passed a resolution [23], proposed by the US, UK and Russia, calling for all states in the region to adhere to the NPT and put their nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards and for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East.  This was obviously directed at Israel though it didn’t specifically mention Israel.  The 2000 conference reaffirmed the importance of this resolution (see [24], page 17).  All this was done with the backing of the great powers, including the US.  Needless to say, there has been no obvious progress on these objectives in the interim.


Resolution 60/92 repeats these demands, but directs them specifically at Israel.  The key part of the resolution is in paragraphs 1-3 [25]:


“1. [The General Assembly] Welcomes the conclusions on the Middle East of the 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons;


“2. [The General Assembly] Reaffirms the importance of Israel’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, in realizing the goal of universal adherence to the Treaty in the Middle East;


“3. [The General Assembly] Calls upon that State to accede to the Treaty without further delay and not to develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, and to renounce possession of nuclear weapons, and to place all its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities under full-scope Agency safeguards as an important confidence-building measure among all States of the region and as a step towards enhancing peace and security;”


Resolution 60/92 was passed by 164 votes to 5, with 5 abstentions [22].  The US was one of the 5 that voted against.  Needless to say, Israel was another.  They were joined by Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of) and Palau, possibly because of these little states’ intimate relationship with the US.


There could hardly be a better illustration of the double standard applied by the US to the possession of nuclear weapons.


But why did the US oppose in 2005 a stance it supported in 1995?  It may be because resolution 60/92 takes it for granted the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons, while the 1995 resolution didn’t.  Since September 1969, when US President Nixon made a secret agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, it has been US policy not to acknowledge publicly that Israel has nuclear weapons, while knowing full well that it has.  (For the fascinating story of how this came to be US policy, see Israel crosses the threshold bthe

David Morrison

5 July 2006

Labour & Trade Union Review









[6] (Press statement, 1 June 2006)

[7] (Press statement, 6 June 2006)