20 November 1959, on the initiative of
the next decade,
NPT a bizarre treaty
The NPT is a bizarre treaty which places diametrically opposite obligations on states that became parties to it. Thus, the five states that possessed nuclear weapons at the time were allowed to join as ‘nuclear-weapon’ states and keep their nuclear weapons, whereas other states that didn’t possess nuclear weapons had to join as ‘non-nuclear-weapon’ states and were forbidden to acquire them.
IX (3) of the Treaty defines a ‘nuclear-weapon’ state as “one which has
manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device
prior to 1 January, 1967”. By this
What is more, this extraordinary privilege cannot be taken away from them without their consent because, under Article VIII (2) of the Treaty, no amendment of any kind can be made to the Treaty without the consent of each of the ‘nuclear-weapon’ parties. This means that each of them is also in a position to veto any proposal to amend the Treaty to grant the same privilege to any other state.
other than these privileged five have to join the NPT as ‘non-nuclear-weapon’
states and, under the treaty, are forbidden to acquire nuclear weapons and all
the nuclear facilities must be open to inspection by the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA). This means that to
join the NPT today
NPT was opened for signature on 1 July 1968, and was signed on that day by 62
states. But only three ‘nuclear-weapon’ states – the
(The ‘non-nuclear-weapon’ state signatories include North Korea, which signed as a ‘non-nuclear-weapon’ state in 1985 but withdrew in 2003, having developed nuclear weapons contrary to Article II of the treaty, though its withdrawal has not been formally accepted and the UN still lists it as a party to the treaty.)
4 UN member states are not NPT signatories:
Flanagan on NPT
VIII (3) of the NPT requires that a Review Conference on the treaty’s operation
be held every 5 years, if a majority of the parties to the NPT request it. The Ninth Review Conference was held in
it, he claimed that the NPT “has been effective in stopping countries that
don’t have nuclear arms from developing them”.
It is difficult to justify that statement given that when the NPT came
into force in March 1970 only five states possessed nuclear weapons but now
with the addition of
He went on to say that the NPT “has not achieved its other major goal, which is the achievement of a world without nuclear weapons”, as if the NPT requires its ‘nuclear-weapon’ state parties to give up their nuclear weapons. But it doesn’t really: Article VI merely requires them to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”, in other words, to talk about nuclear disarmament. There is no commitment to nuclear disarmament per se, let alone a commitment to do it by a prescribed date. And it’s inconceivable that any of them would have signed up to a treaty that laid down a date by which nuclear disarmament had to be completed.
The NPT was initially scheduled to last for 25 years, at the end of which a conference of the signatories was to be held to decide whether to extend its operation. One might have thought that given the failure of the ‘nuclear-weapon’ parties to disarm in the previous 25 years there would have been a concerted effort by the other parties to refuse to extend the NPT’s life unless a disarmament completion date was specified. But the Review and Extension Conference took place in 1995 and made the treaty permanent without a date being specified.
In 2007, the Labour Government at the time
published a White Paper, The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear
which made a case for the
More recently, on 18 June 2012,
“The possession of a strategic nuclear deterrent has ensured this country’s safety. It ensured that we saw off the threat in the cold war and it will ensure our security in the future.” 
In the light of this uncompromising justification
for retaining its nuclear weapons it is inconceivable that the
US-India nuclear deal
it likely that those states outside the NPT with nuclear weapons –
One source of pressure on them to disarm and join the NPT has been that since the 1970s international rules have been in place to prevent them from importing nuclear material and equipment. This has made it very difficult for them to develop extensive nuclear power programmes.
The introduction of these
restrictions was triggered by
The Nuclear Suppliers Group
introduced rules banning the export of nuclear material and equipment to
state of affairs continued until 2005 when, in order to curry favour with
a result, the ban on
was the most significant breach in the international non-proliferation regime
for a generation – and the Fianna Fail Government gave
Defending Ireland’s support for the exception on 5 November 2008 , Foreign Minister Micheál Martin declared that “India is the largest, most populous, and economically most significant country in south Asia” with “a distinguished tradition of parliamentary democracy, responsible government, respect for pluralism and human rights and a vibrant independent media” – and an arsenal of nuclear weapons to which Ireland is opposed, he might have added but didn’t for obvious reasons.
(1) they are not subject to sanctions, economic or otherwise, because of their possession of nuclear weapons systems, which they can modernise and enhance at will, and
(2) they are free to import nuclear-related material and equipment without having all their nuclear facilities subject to IAEA inspection.
(For my earlier writing on the US-India deal, see http://www.david-morrison.org.uk/india/)
also wrote in his Irish Times article that “it is vital that we prevent the
further proliferation of nuclear weapons, as in
In fact, despite more than two decades of trying, no western intelligence agency managed to produce hard evidence that Iran was trying to develop nuclear weapons – and the IAEA never found any evidence in Iran’s nuclear facilities of the diversion of nuclear material for military purposes, and all of its nuclear facilities are under IAEA supervision and have been for many years.
suggest that anybody who still believes
began his article by welcoming “the progress made towards resolving the
long-running issue of
“This would represent a significant achievement and a major step forward towards the peaceful resolution of a long-running dispute which has had the potential to destabilise further an already volatile region.”
it is worth noting that this “long-running dispute” was made in Washington: it
arose because, with the support of its allies, including Ireland, the US
attempted to prevent Iran having uranium enrichment facilities on its own soil,
which is its “inalienable right” under Article IV(1) of the NPT. The present
As Peter Oborne and I
pointed out in our book A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran 
published in 2013, a settlement on the nuclear issue could have been
reached with Iran in 2005, when negotiations were going on with the EU3 (UK,
France and Germany). Then, in exchange
for the EU3 agreeing to its right to enrichment,
a decade later, a deal became possible because the US did a U-turn and accepted
Iran having enrichment on its own soil – and this U-turn was dutifully followed
by its allies, including Ireland. The
NPT Review Conference is counted as a success if a consensus declaration emerges
at the end of it, normally a very long and largely vacuous declaration. By that measure, this year’s Ninth Review Conference,
which ended on 22 May, was not a success – a final declaration was not agreed. The sticking point centred once more on holding
a conference to discuss the creation of a WMD free zone in the
proposition started life at the Fifth Review Conference in 1995. Then, a resolution was passed calling for the
creation of “an effectively verifiable
This Conference was also the NPT Extension Conference, which made the NPT permanent. Agreeing to this resolution was the very small price that the ‘nuclear-weapon’ states had to pay for making the NPT – and therefore their internationally endorsed possession of nuclear weapons – permanent.
1995 NPT resolution calling for a WMD free zone in the
Obama administration was anxious to avoid a similar outcome at the Eighth Review
Conference in 2010. This time, a
coalition of the 118 states in the Non-Aligned Movement, led by
Specifically, in a
resolution on the
“The Secretary-General of the United Nations and the co-sponsors of the 1995 Resolution [the US, UK and Russia], in consultation with the States of the region, will convene a conference in 2012, to be attended by all States of the Middle East, on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the States of the region, and with the full support and engagement of the nuclear-weapon States. The 2012 Conference shall take as its terms of reference the 1995 Resolution;”
The resolution also
specifically called for
However, the Conference
never took place, despite
Fast forward to this year’s
Ninth Review Conference, where the sticking point was again arrangements for
holding the conference.
Where do we go from here?
There is very little likelihood that any of the nine nuclear-armed states in the world today will give up their weapons in the foreseeable future.
will other states acquire them? States
that possess nuclear weapons are not subject to “humanitarian intervention” by
“All this fervor around the nuclear programs of
“It seems that the more frequent cases of crude and even armed outside interference in the domestic affairs of countries may prompt authoritarian (and other) regimes to possess nuclear weapons. If I have the A-bomb in my pocket, nobody will touch me because it's more trouble than it is worth. And those who don't have the bomb might have to sit and wait for ‘humanitarian intervention’.
“Whether we like it or not, foreign interference suggests this train of thought.” 
acquisition of a functional nuclear weapons system requires a considerable
effort and a state will only embark on this task if it feels seriously
threatened. The lesson for the
17 June 2015