Inter Press Service » Peace News and Views from the Global South Tue, 01 Dec 2015 17:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sri Lanka: A Ray of Hope for those Looking for War Missing Thu, 29 Oct 2015 17:44:21 +0000 Amantha Perera 2 Opinion: The Nuclear Deal’s Impact on Iranian Domestic and Foreign Policy Mon, 19 Oct 2015 16:08:02 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford. This is the final of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Oct 19 2015 (IPS)

As in most countries, in Iran too there are hardliners and moderates. All polls show that a large majority of Iranians support the nuclear deal (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France and Germany), while a small but powerful group of hardliners opposes it. The Iranian parliament has finally approved the deal, but after a great deal of controversy and with some reservations.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

Despite the fact that in the 2013 presidential election, in which 72 per cent of eligible voters participated, more than half of the electorate voted for Hassan Rouhani, a centrist and moderate cleric, hardliners have a tight grip over practically all other branches of power in Iran.

Hardliners control the judiciary, and have a majority in the current Majles or Iranian Parliament. They control the Assembly of Experts that has the power to elect the Supreme Leader’s successor, the Guardian Council that acts as a second chamber, the National Broadcasting Organization that has a virtual monopoly of all radio and television broadcasting, and many other organizations.

However, with President Rouhani’s election, the dominance of hardliners over the executive branch came to an end, and elections for parliament and the Assembly of Experts are due on 26 February 2016, and they could alter the internal balance of power. The nuclear agreement has begun to swing public support back to the reformists.

After the initial revolutionary upheaval that isolated Iran from most of the world, and after 36 years of estrangement from the West, this landmark agreement has ushered in a new era of relations between Iran and the West. While most analysts in the West are primarily concerned about its effect on Iran’s foreign relations, for most Iranians its significance lies in what it can do to improve the economic and political situation at home.

The fact of the matter is that Iran has made many concessions, but its nuclear program has received the seal of approval from the Security Council and the West. Even above and beyond the nuclear issue, the JCPOA has opened the prospect of the reintegration of Iran into the global economy and of it playing a much more prominent role in world affairs.

This is precisely what the hardliners fear, because they are worried that Iran’s revolutionary values would be undermined and that Western values would weaken Islamic sentiments. Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards chief warned of “nuclear sedition,” aimed at derailing the Islamic Republic from its revolutionary path.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also warned against “infiltration” attempts by the West and has banned further negotiations with Washington.

The main question is whether Iran still wishes to remain in the past and retain its revolutionary zeal, or whether she feels confident enough to look forward and embrace change. It is quite clear that the majority of Iranians have shown that they are in favor of change and coexistence with the rest of the world, while also retaining their distinct religious and cultural values.

Most Iranians are strongly opposed to regime change in the way that has happened in a number of neighboring countries. They are in favor of evolution and reform, rather than revolution and violence. Nevertheless, they have a number of legitimate demands that cannot be suppressed by force.

President Rouhani pledged repeatedly during his campaign to expand political and social freedoms for all Iranians, including freedom of expression. Although some restrictions have been eased, the pace of change has been far too slow. Iran still has one of the largest numbers of executions per capita in the world, and one of the highest numbers of political prisoners. Iranian women still do not enjoy equality with men.

It is true that the government does not have much control over the judiciary or security organizations, but it cannot use this excuse to shirk its responsibilities towards the Iranian people. It must understand that the maintenance of the status quo is not an option. If change is not to be imposed through violence or from outside, the government with the support of the majority of the population must bring about meaningful change.

The JCPOA has opened new horizons for Iran. In the foreign policy field, it has lifted the shadow of war and has made Tehran the diplomatic and economic capital of the Middle East. Now, it is time for Iranian leaders to begin a new chapter of relations with the world. As Ambassador John Limbert, a former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and a former US hostage during the Iranian hostage crisis, has said: “Both sides, after 34 years, have made a very startling discovery, that diplomacy ­ long-neglected tools of listening, of seeking small areas of agreement, of careful choice of words ­ can actually accomplish more than shouting insults, making threats and the wonderful self-satisfaction of always being right.”

The same principle also applies to the domestic situation. Iranian leaders will be surprised to see how much small areas of agreement and small but steady steps towards greater freedoms and democracy can accomplish in putting an end to the alienation between the people and the government, and allow Iran to find its rightful place in the world, and avoid the chaos rampant in many neighboring countries. It is time to use this great opportunity to move forward both at home and abroad, confident in the common sense and patriotism of Iranian people.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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Only 1325 National Plans will trigger the Resolutions Implementation Wed, 14 Oct 2015 16:29:35 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

This week, the United Nations Security Council is holding an open debate to undertake its High Level Review of the 15 years of implementation of the landmark Resolution 1325 on “Women and Peace and Security.”

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

Resolution 1325 is very close to my intellectual existence and my very small contribution to a better world for each one of us. To trace back, 15 years ago, on the International Women’s Day in 2000, as the President of the Security Council, following extensive stonewalling, I was able to issue an agreed statement that formally brought to global attention the unrecognized, underutilized and undervalued contribution women have always been making towards the prevention of wars and building peace.

The Council recognized in that statement that peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men, and affirmed the value of full and equal participation of women in all decision-making levels. That is when the seed for Resolution 1325 was sown. Adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture. When women participate in peace negotiations and in the crafting of a peace agreement, they have the broader and long-term interest of society in mind.

In choosing the three women laureates for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee’s citation referred to 1325 saying that “It underlined the need for women to become participants on an equal footing with men in peace processes and in peace work in general.” The committee further asserted that “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.” Resolution 1325 is the only UN resolution so specifically noted in the citation of the Nobel Prize.

Thanks to 1325, the Security Council is gradually accepting that a lasting peace cannot be achieved without the participation of women and the inclusion of gender perspectives and participation in peace processes. The Council has also met with women’s groups and representatives of NGOs during its field missions on a fairly regular basis.

Much, nevertheless, remains to be done. We continue to find reports that women are still very often ignored or excluded from formal processes of negotiations and elections and in the drafting of the new constitution or legislature frameworks. The driving force behind 1325 is “participation.”I believe the Security Council has been neglecting this core focus of the resolution. There is no full and equal participation of women at any level. There is no consideration of women’s needs in the deliberations.

The main question is not to make war safe for women but to structure the peace in a way that there is no recurrence of war and conflict. That is why women need to be at the peace tables, women need to be involved in the decision-making and as peacekeepers to ensure real and faithful implementation of 1325.

Gender perspectives must be fully integrated into the terms of reference of peace operations related Security Council resolutions, reports and missions. A no-tolerance, no-impunity approach is a must in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers. As a matter of fact, I would recommend that all prospective peace-keepers must pass the “1325 test” before they leave their countries and there should be no relaxation with regard to this qualifier. Troop contributing countries should be aware that repeated violations by their contingents would put them on a global blacklist.

I recall Eleanor Roosevelt’s words saying “Too often the great decisions are originated and given shape in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression.” It is a reality that politics, more so security, is still a man’s world. Empowering women’s political leadership will have ripple effects on every level of society and the global condition. When politically empowered, women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table in comparison to their male counterparts. Here I would add emphatically that, to be true to its own pronouncements, I believe it is absolutely high time that in its seven decades of existence, the United Nations should appoint the first woman as the next Secretary-General.

After 15 years of the adoption the UNSCR 1325, our sole focus should be on its true and effective implementation. In real terms, the National Action Plan (NAP) is the engine that would speed up the implementation of Resolution 1325. It should be also underscored that all countries are obligated as per decisions of the Security Council to prepare the NAP whether they are in a so-called conflict situation or not. So far, only 50 out of 193 UN Member-States have prepared their plans after 15 years – a dismal record. There has to be an increased and pro-active engagement of the UN secretariat leadership to get a meaningfully bigger number of NAPs – for example, setting a target of 100 NAPs by 2017. UN Women needs to work more proactively with the Member States so that their 1325 NAPs are commenced and completed without any further delay.

Anniversaries are meaningful when they trigger renewed enthusiasm amongst all. Coming months will tell whether 1325’s 15th anniversary has been worthwhile and able to create that energy.


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Iran’s nuclear deal and the regional countries Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:50:55 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford. This is the ninth of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 29 2015 (IPS)

Although some regional countries initially opposed the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany), once the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed by the two sides in July 2015, practically all regional countries welcomed it. After the initial agreement in Lausanne, U.S. President Barack Obama invited all the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders to a Camp David summit in May and all of them expressed support for the deal.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

After the nuclear agreement was announced, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait both congratulated Iran and the Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi hailed the deal as a historic event which constituted the first step to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. He called on the international community to put pressure on Israel to get rid of her nuclear weapons. As the head of the Arab League he speaks officially for all the Arab countries.

After the meeting between Obama and the Saudi King Salman at the White House on September 4th, the two sides issued a joint statement. In the statement King Salman expressed his support for the JCPOA “which once fully implemented will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and thereby enhance security in the region.”

For his part, Obama has indicated that the region needs a new approach toward regional security. He said the Sunni Arab states shouldn’t blame Iran for all their problems, and he called on them to engage Iran in a “practical conversation” to reduce sectarian divisions and address shared threats from terrorism.

At the same time, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has talked about the possibilities for cooperation with Iran’s neighbors on common challenges in a spirit of “mutual respect, good neighborliness, and Islamic brotherhood.”

Turkey, which has worked closely with Iran over many years to resolve the nuclear issue (in May 2010, Turkey and Brazil tried to broker a deal between Iran and the West), is also fully supportive of this agreement. This leaves Israel as the only regional country that still opposes the deal.

With the very sensitive nuclear issue taken off the table, it is much easier now to deal with a number of critical regional issues. If the U.S. focuses exclusively on the agreement and does not test opportunities for collaboration with Iran on other issues, it may miss a historic opportunity to reshape relations with the Islamic Republic, as well as to usher in a new political and security order in the Middle East as a whole.

Iran of course poses a number of challenges to U.S. interests in the region, and in many arenas American and Iranian interests seem to be fundamentally at odds. Chief among these disagreements are Iran’s policies towards Israel, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Dubbed the “axis of resistance,” the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hamas-Hezbollah grouping was supposed to highlight Iran’s commitment to the Palestinian cause. Iran is accused of supporting the Shi’a militias in Iraq to the detriment of the Sunni minority. Iran supports and arms the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, and is also accused of supporting the Houthis in Yemen.

However, as the result of changed circumstances in the region none of these problems is insurmountable. As far as Hamas is concerned, after the civil war in Syria and the expulsion of Palestinians from that country, Hamas turned initially towards Turkey and towards the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Since the coup in Egypt, Hamas has turned more towards Qatar and has even mended relations with Saudi Arabia. Therefore, hardly any links exist at the moment between Hamas and Iran.

Hezbollah forces are fighting in Syria to support Assad’s government against ISIS, the al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups. This is a cause that the West shares. With the flood of refugees towards Europe, many European leaders have realized that no matter how much they loathe Assad, he is preferable to the terrorists that pose a deadly threat to the region and even to the West.

In a joint press conference in London, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that although Assad had to go, nevertheless, it might be necessary to talk to him as part of a deal over a transitional period. Neither Iran nor Russia has said that Assad should rule Syria forever, but they argue that first the terrorists should be defeated, and then Assad’s fate should be decided by the Syrian people in a supervised election.

As far as Yemen is concerned, U.S. officials have admitted that Iran does not play any direct role in that conflict. In an interview with The New York Times in July, Obama said that Tehran had even tried to dissuade the Houthis from capturing Sana’a back in 2014. According to a report released on September 19 by Yemen’s Civil Coalition, over 6,000 Yemenis have so far lost their lives, and a total of 14,000 people have been injured, most of them civilians. The latest deadly stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, killing at least 717 and injuring over 800 with a few hundred people still missing, has added to Saudi woes. The combination of these tragedies, as well as growing domestic discontent, might persuade the Saudi rulers to turn towards diplomacy and regional cooperation.

Turkey has recently softened her position towards Assad, and by placing its airports at the disposal of U.S. aircraft fighting ISIS, Turkey has shown that it takes the terrorist threat seriously. Recently, there have been some moves by the Russian President Vladimir Putin to form a security belt, including Russia, Iran, Egypt and Syria against ISIS. The response from the U.S. to Putin’s proposal has not been hostile. In the wake of their meetings in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the U.S. and Russian presidents might reach an agreement over how to jointly tackle the menace of terrorism.

During his recent visit to New York to take part in the U.N. General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that ties with the U.S. had improved, but there was still a “long road to travel” before they could normalize their relations. Nevertheless, what we are seeing on the ground looks quite different. If the new rapprochement between Iran and the West is not to fizzle out, there is a need to broaden the scope of cooperation over regional issues.

Recent developments have shown that there is an increasing possibility for new geopolitical alignments throughout the region. The growing menace of terrorism, Iran and the U.S.’s tacit cooperation in Iraq, Saudi Arabia’s growing problems in Yemen, Turkey’s shift to greater cooperation with the U.S, and now Russia’s greater involvement in the fight against ISIS show that all these countries have some shared interests in fighting terrorism, and establishing security and stability in the region through cooperation.

The status quo in the Middle East cannot survive much longer. The winds of change are blowing throughout the entire region, and there is a possibility of new beginnings. This opportunity should not be missed.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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Israel’s Opposition to the Nuclear Treaty with Iran Sat, 26 Sep 2015 21:12:45 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford. This is the eighth of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 26 2015 (IPS)

Relations between Iran and Israel go back almost to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948. Iran was the second Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel as a sovereign state, following Turkey, and the two countries had very close diplomatic and even military cooperation for many decades.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

After the 1953 coup, which restored the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to power, relations improved further, and Israel and the CIA played a significant role in establishing the dreaded SAVAK, Iran’s intelligence organization, and training its personnel. Also, after the Six-Day War in 1967, Iran supplied Israel with a significant portion of its oil needs.

However, after the 1979 revolution, Iran severed all diplomatic and commercial ties with Israel. The Islamic government does not recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a state, but despite hostile revolutionary rhetoric against Israel, relations between the two countries have not always been too acrimonious. Indeed, during the Iran-Iraq war, in order to prevent Saddam Hussein’s victory, Israel joined the mission to Iran under U.S. President Ronald Reagan and even provided Iran with some weapons in what later on came to be known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

Iranian funding of groups like Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which Israel regards as terrorist organizations, and Israeli support for terrorist groups such as the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization, the Jundullah, a militant terrorist organization based in Baluchestan that has carried out a number of deadly attacks against Iran, as well as Israeli covert operations in Iran, including assassinations and explosions, have intensified animosity between the two countries and have led to a number of tit-for-tat attacks on each other’s citizens.

The turning point from cold peace toward hostility occurred in the early 1990s, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the defeat of Iraq in Desert Storm. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Israel was regarded as a U.S. bulwark against pro-Soviet Arab governments.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Israel could no longer continue to play that role. The removal of Saddam Hussein also removed a formidable enemy. Therefore, Israel directed all its attacks against a new enemy, namely Iran.

So, it is not a mere coincidence that Israel’s intense opposition to Iran’s nuclear program coincided with the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the removal of the threat from Iraq. Although Iran’s nuclear program had developed under the late Shah with active Israeli, South African and U.S. participation, after the revolution, when Iran tried to revive her program, Israel became its most vociferous opponent. Under the Iranian reformist government of President Mohammad Khatami there were some moves for a rapprochement with the West, including the recognition of Israel, but the George W. Bush Administration rebuffed those offers.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been continuously warning that Iran is on the verge of manufacturing a nuclear weapon and posing an “existential threat” to Israel. As early as 1992, he predicted that Iran would be able to produce a nuclear weapon within three to five years. In 1993, he claimed that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999.This has been his constant refrain ever since the early 1990s and right up to the present time.

The interesting point is that the current and some former heads of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad have contradicted Netanyahu’s claims. They maintain that there has been no indication that Iran is moving towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons or poses an existential threat to Israel.

It is important to remember that Netanyahu has not only tried to incite war against Iran, he even made the same false claims prior to the Iraq war in 2003.

Therefore, the propaganda against the Iraqi and Iranian alleged nuclear weapons have had less to do with the existence of such weapons and more to do with the perception that those two countries were hostile to Israel and had to be attacked in order to bring about a regime change.

It should be stressed that Netanyahu’s views in no way represent the views of the majority of American Jews who are on the whole liberal and peace loving. Indeed, poll after poll has shown that the support for the nuclear deal with Iran is stronger among American Jews than among the population at large.

Netanyahu’s attempts to kill the deal with Iran have been futile and counterproductive. His intrusion into American domestic politics, and his cynical use of the U.S. Congress to undercut a major foreign policy achievement, have been acts of gross discourtesy to the president and to the American people, and a violation of diplomatic protocol.

The real reason for Israeli opposition to Iran’s nuclear program has been the fear of becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the U.S. administration as far as the Middle East is concerned. Iran’s alleged nuclear bomb also been used as an excuse to divert attention from Israel’s own nuclear arsenal and illegal expansion into occupied Palestinian territories.

Instead of continuing with this campaign of vilification and inciting a military attack on Iran, it would be wiser for Israel to try to reach a settlement with the Palestinians and pave the way for peaceful coexistence with regional countries, including Iran. The emergence of terrorist organizations that pose a serious threat to the entire world should bring Iran and Israel closer to fight that dangerous menace. The two countries should tone down their ugly rhetoric and violent activities against each other, and realize that dialogue and compromise always produce better results than war and bloodshed.

Meanwhile, it is time to focus on Israel’s nuclear weapons and establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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Iran’s commitments under the Nuclear Treaty are just short of total surrender Fri, 25 Sep 2015 14:12:24 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 25 2015 (IPS)

Speaking about the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached between Iran, the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States­ plus Germany) and the European Union, Joseph Cirincione, a leading nuclear expert and president of Ploughshares Fund, said:

“We have just achieved what may be the biggest diplomatic triumph in a generation. We have reached an agreement that not only stops Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, but it prevents a new war in the Middle East. It has profound implications for the security of America, for the security of Israel, for the security of the world. It sets a new gold standard for nuclear agreements. Every state that wants even a token enrichment capability now will have to agree to the same intrusive verification measures Iran has just agreed to…”

Contrary to the extensive propaganda about it being good for Iran and bad for the United States, the deal – also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – has achieved something that no one thought was possible. Speaking at the American University shortly after the agreement was signed, President Barack Obama said:

“After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb. It contains the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program.”

After 13 years of intensive talks and a fast-developing nuclear enrichment program, Iran has agreed to the most intrusive, restrictive and comprehensive set of demands to which any member state of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has ever been subjected. In reality, as some Iranian commentators have argued, Iran has relinquished most of her rights as an NPT member, short of total surrender.

In order to understand the magnitude of what Iran has given up and what she is required to do in return for the lifting of the sanctions, one has to look at some of the main provisions of the JCPOA. All the following actions must be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as complete before the implementation day, which comes 90 days after the unanimous approval on 20 July of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 endorsing the JCPOA, assuming that Iran provides the IAEA with the required information.

The Security Council requested that the IAEA undertake verification and monitoring of Iran’s compliance, and it reaffirmed that Iran should cooperate fully with the agency to resolve all outstanding issues. Upon receipt of a positive report from the IAEA, the Council would terminate the sanctions set out in resolutions adopted between 2006 and 2015.

Iran must disassemble, remove and store under IAEA seal more than 13,000 excess centrifuges, including excess advanced centrifuge machines.

Out of more than 15,651.4 kg of uranium enriched to 3.6[DSJ1] , and 337.2 kg to 20 percent, Iran must reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to no more than 300 kg.

Iran had built its Fordow uranium enrichment facility deep in the mountains in order to have a more secure site for enrichment in case Israel or America bombed its main facility at Natanz. However, according to the agreement, Iran must convert the Fordow site to a research & development facility with no fissile material.

Iran had built a heavy water plant in Arak to have a different route to nuclear fuel, but she must remove and disable the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor.

Although Iran had not officially signed the Additional Protocol, an expanded set of requirements for information and access adopted in 1997 to assist the IAEA in its verification work, she must allow and make the necessary arrangements for additional IAEA access and monitoring in keeping with its requirements.

Key restrictions that will last significantly more than a decade include:

Iran may retain no more than 5,060 of the 19,000 centrifuges that Iran had installed.

She is not allowed to install more advanced centrifuges than she has already developed, and is allowed to carry out only limited research & development on advanced centrifuges for the next 15 years.

She is allowed only limited development of advanced centrifuges so that enrichment capacity remains the same.

Testing of centrifuges with uranium may carried out only at Natanz.

IAEA access to the site must be provided within 24 hours.

No new heavy-water reactors, no reprocessing or R & D allowed.

Iran makes a commitment not to process spent fuel.

There will be continuous surveillance of centrifuge production areas.

There will even be continuous surveillance of uranium mines and mills. Thus, the IAEA will have access to all Iranian activities from the mining of uranium to the construction of mills and centrifuges.

Even after all those initial restrictions, the NPT will remain in force banning the pursuit of nuclear weapons. This restriction has no time limit and will remain in force for as long as Iran remains a member of the NPT. Leaving the NPT would of course constitute a grave violation of the rules, and strong action would be taken against Iran.

In order to sabotage the talks, some critics of the nuclear deal, supported by fabricated documents, had raised the issue of Iran’s alleged military experimentations (the so-called previous military dimension, or PMD). Nevertheless, Iran must provide the IAEA with all the information necessary to complete its PMD investigation by October 15.

Another excuse that the opponents of the deal have used to undermine it was the issue of “the breakout period.” There is no provision in the NPT for any such limitation. The member states will be able to have any amount of enrichment to any level of purity, so long as they do not manufacture a nuclear weapon. However, an exception is made in the case of Iran regarding how long it would take her to have enough enriched uranium sufficient for a single bomb.

This is despite the fact that Iran does not possess any reprocessing facilities and that even if she enriches uranium to the more than 90 percent purity needed for a bomb, she still has to weaponise[DSJ2] it, test it and find the necessary means of delivery, none of which Iran possesses at the moment and which would be easily detected by the IAEA. Nevertheless, the agreement has required that Iran should have a breakout period of at least one year.

In addition to all the nuclear-related restrictions, the Security Council still prohibits Iran from importing or exporting weapons for five years and missile parts for eight years. In other words, the fuss was not only about Iran’s nuclear program, but her military capabilities as well.

As the result of this agreement, the P5+1 have re-written the rules and have gone completely beyond the requirements of the NPT and even the Additional Protocol. Nevertheless, all Republican and some Democratic senators in the U.S. still oppose it and are trying to legislate amendments that would undermine its implementation, despite the fact that this international agreement has been endorsed by more than 100 U.S. former ambassadors, 60 former top national leaders, 75 nuclear non-proliferation experts and another 29 top U.S. nuclear scientists, as well as by all the other five leading countries of the world.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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U.N.’s 8.3 Billion Dollar Peacekeeping Operations Under Scrutiny Thu, 17 Sep 2015 23:30:29 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

As the United Nations commemorates its 70th anniversary, the world body is re-assessing and re-evaluating its 16 peacekeeping missions costing a staggering 8.3 billion dollars in 2015-2016 – even as military conflicts and domestic insurgencies continue to spread, mostly in Africa, including the Central African Republic, Mali, South Sudan, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

But with peacekeepers increasingly caught in crossfires, is the United Nations planning to gradually abandon its objective of keeping the peace and instead transform its peacekeepers into a fighting force?

The United Nations says it’s not true — but civil society organisations are sceptical.

Mel Duncan, founding Director of Advocacy & Outreach Nonviolent Peaceforce, told IPS the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) headed by Jose Ramos Horta, a former president of Timor Leste, strongly recommended in June the need for unarmed strategies to civilian protection in conflict zones.

But Duncan pointed out that when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon forwarded his report to the General Assembly and Security Council, the recommendations for unarmed approaches were deleted.

“Instead the emphasis is on armed approaches,” he noted.

He said a change in the overall culture of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is required for substantive reform.

This cultural shift, he noted, must be initiated from the top down. Increased accountability like naming and shaming and suspending payments are good steps but more fundamental changes are required.

“Our experience is that U.N. peacekeeping sites are often highly sexually charged. Military environments depend on the threat and use of violent force and domination. And U.N. peacekeepers are less than four percent women.”

He also pointed out that unarmed civilian protection (UCP) is based upon nonviolence and relationship building. UCP groups are over 40 percent women in the field.

Asked for an official response, U.N. Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS: “My colleagues who worked on the report don’t share the premise about ‘deleted paragraphs’.”

It is simply the case that the secretary-general’s (SG) report was 28 pages long, while the Panel’s report was 104 pages, he said.

In the case of protection of civilians, this meant that the Panel’s report had 24 paragraphs on that topic and the SG’s report had to boil this down to five paragraphs.

On substance, he said, the SG’s report, includes the following:

— The first paragraph of the section is entirely focused on unarmed protection; it picks up on the HIPPO recommendation to work more closely with communities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

— The next para on the protection of civilians section moves on to the additional unarmed protection actors within the missions (role of civilian components within missions), emphasising the importance of political advocacy and adding that this is a “mission-wide” task, he explained.

James Paul, a former longtime Executive Director of the Global Policy Forum told IPS each UN peace operation has its own Security Council mandate which specifies its purpose and something about what is called by the military “rules of engagement” – that is, when and how use of force comes into play.

Some people in these missions are non-military, including police and civilian experts, but the great majority are soldiers who these days are increasingly well-armed and prepared to use deadly force.

“The soldiers mostly do not speak the language of the country and they are not trained much in the task they have been given. They have difficult and dangerous work, for which they are ill-equipped,” he said.

The 8.3 billion dollar peacekeeping budget is in contrast to the U.N.’s 5.4 billion regular budget, both for the biennium 2015-2016.

Every one of the 193 member states is legally obliged to pay for peacekeeping operations based on a special scale of assessments on each country’s ability to pay.

The three largest contributors are the United States (which pays 28.4 percent of the peacekeeping budget), Japan (10.8 percent) and France 7.2 percent).

The United Nations points out that 8.3 billion is less than one half of one percent of the world’s military spending estimated at 1.7 trillion dollars in 2013.

The largest troop contributing countries are mostly from South Asia, including Bangladesh (9432 troops), Nepal (9346), India (7794) and Pakistan (7533).

According to U.N. figures, there are currently about 124,000 peacekeeping personnel serving in 16 U.N. missions, including 105,000 uniformed military and 13,000 police officers. The rest are civilian staff.

Paul said it would be interesting to know where the opposition to an unarmed peace force is coming from. Do the South Asians want to keep selling their soldiers to the UN? Does the P-5 (the five permanent members of the Security Council, namely the U.S.,UK, France, China and Russia) always prefer the violent “solution”?, he asked.

Does the DPKO prefer force because of the momentum of longstanding practice? And the military culture that is to be found throughout the department.

“The U.N. is marching down the road to war and it needs to turn back,” said Paul, who has monitored the United Nations for nearly 20 years as head of a New York based NGO.

“More effective use of force is not a solution that will work. Cholera, rape, destruction, failure to make peace, deployments lasting years. No reforms of this system will get us where we want to go,” he declared.

At his annual year-end press conference Wednesday, the secretary-general told reporters that today’s crises highlight the failures of long-established peace and security and development responses.

“My concern led me to establish a high-level panel, which reported to me earlier this year. Last Friday I issued my own assessment of the future of United Nations peace operations. My report sets out the actions I believe we must take to maximize our impact today while putting in place the foundations for more long-term transformation.”

Ban said he is calling for three key changes: (a) an urgent emphasis on conflict prevention and mediation; (b) steps to improve the speed and agility of U.N. peacekeeping and political missions; and (c) deeper partnerships with regional organisations, in particular the African Union.

“We do not have many opportunities to reform U.N. peace operations in such a comprehensive way. It is essential that we act urgently and collectively. I am moving ahead with what can be done under my own executive authority. Much depends on the General Assembly and the Security Council, and I urge Member States to give this effort their full support.”

He said the future of UN peace operations also depends on concerted action to rid U.N. peace operations of sexual exploitation and abuse.

“It is shameful when U.N. and other personnel sent to protect people compound the suffering and become part of the problem.”

Ban said he has set out a number of new measures, and doing everything within his authority to stamp out this “unacceptable behaviour.”

“I have stressed to all my special representatives the need for their vigilance and leadership. Member States must also do more to train their personnel and hold them accountable,” he added.

The writer can be contacted at

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Nuke Test Ban Treaty Still in Limbo, U.N. Complains Wed, 16 Sep 2015 22:53:12 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly back in 1996, has still not come into force for one primary reason: eight key countries have either refused to sign or have held back their ratifications.

The three who have not signed – India, North Korea and Pakistan – and the five who have not ratified — the United States, China, Egypt, Iran and Israel – remain non-committal 19 years following the adoption of the treaty.

When the United Nations last week commemorated International Day Against Nuclear Tests, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed once again to all remaining States – especially the eight holdovers — to sign and ratify the Treaty as “a critical step on the road to a nuclear-weapons-free world.”

Currently, there is a voluntary moratoria on testing imposed by many nuclear-armed States.

“But moratoria are no substitute for a CTBT in force. The three nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) are proof of this,” Ban said

The warning comes amidst reports Tuesday that North Korea has re-started its programme to produce nuclear weapons.

But chances of all eight countries coming on board in the not-too-distant future are remote, says John Hallam of the Human Survival Project (HSP) and People for Nuclear Disarmament (PND), a joint project between PND and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia.

“I think it is most unlikely that the recalcitrant 8 states will sign and ratify by 2016,” Hallam told IPS.

They include the United States itself, which though has signed, he said, but the Republicans have made it very clear they will not ratify..

Hallam said this also includes both India and Pakistan who have made it clear they have no intention of either signing or ratifying – “least of all, India under current Prime Minister Narendra Modi (although the nuclear disarmament movement in India has over the years advocated signature and ratification of the CTBT for India).”

Finally, he said, it includes China and one or two others who say they will ratify as soon as the United States has done so.

At a high-level panel discussion last week to commemorate International Day Against Nuclear Tests, Ban said: “The goal of ending nuclear tests has been a leading concern throughout my diplomatic career. “

As Secretary-General, and depository of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, “I have made achieving a legal ban on nuclear testing a personal priority.”

He said he has been to Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, the site of 456 tests, including some of the largest in history.

“I have met with victims of nuclear tests. I have witnessed the lasting societal, environmental and economic damage nuclear tests have caused.”

Since the first test in New Mexico 70 years ago, he pointed out, the world has endured over two thousand nuclear tests. Those tests devastated pristine environments and local populations around the world.

Many have never recovered from the legacies of nuclear testing – including poisoned groundwater, cancer, birth defects and radioactive fallout, he noted.

“The best way to honour the victims of past tests is to prevent any in the future,” he declared.

The CTBT is a legally-binding, verifiable means by which to constrain the quantitative and qualitative development of nuclear weapons.

Hallam told IPS over 1100 nuclear tests were carried out by the United States in Nevada, Alaska, the Marshall Islands, other parts of the Pacific, and in outer space.

Tests carried out in Nevada resulted in large-scale contamination of downwind inhabitants and large-scale morbidity.

He said the largest ever U.S. test was the 15Megaton Castle Bravo test, which contaminated the crew of the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon, bringing about an agonizing slow death from radiation sickness, and contaminating the Marshall Islands.

The largest nuclear test ever was carried out by the Soviets in the early ’60s in Novaya Zemlya, a large island above the arctic circle, and known as ‘Tsar Bomba’ (King of Bombs), he noted.

At 60 megatons, it vaporized the sacred hunting grounds of the Nenets people, sent fallout right around the world and caused the planet to ring like a bell with seismic shock for hours.

Hallam said the Soviets carried out around 800 nuclear tests, many of them at the Semipalatinsk test site, and causing widespread radioactive contamination with catastrophic effects on local populations.

In addition, nuclear tests have been carried out by the UK, (many of them in Maralinga and Emu Field, Australia), France (Algeria and the Pacific), China (Sinkiang), India (Pokhran, Rajasthan) Pakistan (Baluchistan), and the North Korean, French, Chinese, and British tests have all inflicted radiation-based disease and death on local populations and participants.

Nuclear testing is the backbone of nuclear arms-racing and proliferation. A resumption of nuclear testing, or the conducting of a new nuclear test by any country – including the DPRK – helps to inch the world toward an abyss into which we hope it will never go, Hallam said.

The best way to halt proliferation and nail down a ‘no nuclear testing’ norm is for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which outlaws nuclear testing, to come into force, he declared.

Meanwhile, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has launched an international Project, called ATOM (the acronym for Abolish Testing. Our Mission), a worldwide e-campaign, calling on world leaders to end nuclear tests, once and for all.

The writer can be contacted at

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Campaign to End Nuclear Tests: Kazakhstan Launches ATOM E Sat, 12 Sep 2015 19:14:20 +0000 Kairat Abdrakhmanov

Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov is Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations

By Kairat Abdrakhmanov

Despite United Nations General Assembly resolutions since 1946, calling for an end to lethal arsenal, the possession of nuclear weapons has continued to be a symbol of scientific sophistication or military power, until 29 August 1991, when Kazakhstan, upon gaining independence, closed its Nuclear Test Site in Semipalatinsk – the second largest in the world.


Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Permanent of Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

This action and the renunciation of our nuclear arsenal – the fourth largest in the world, were unprecedented acts to demonstrate to the world that Kazakhstan does not need these powerful nuclear weapons tests and weapons. The closure of Semipalatinsk led the way for the closure of other sites in Nevada, Novaya Zemlya, Lop Nur, Moruroa, Kiribati and others.

The detonation of over 600 warheads, one fourth of all 2000 nuclear tests globally, were conducted in a span of four decades on the territory of the Semipalatinsk test site covering a total area is 18.000 sq. km, affecting over 1.5 million people and a land mass of 300,000 sq. km.

In fact, the entire territory of Kazakhstan, was one big polygon, comprising of 11 units spread over the country. Besides nuclear, these included also air, space, missile defence and warning systems, as well as high-powered laser weapons test sites. Among these I would also like to mention the deadly biochemical and bacteriological weapons tested in the Aral Sea (which was the Barkhan Test Site on the former Renaissance Island).

Considering the actions taken by my country, Kazakhstan thus has the full right to call for the universal and prompt measures on the Path to Zero. This frightening data cited here and the 1996 Advisory of the International Court of Justice should spur the global community to act more decisively for the ultimate and irrevocable prohibition of nuclear tests and weapons.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has launched a worldwide e-campaign, an international project, called ATOM (Abolish Testing. Our Mission), calling on world leaders to end nuclear tests, once and for all. To draw attention to the campaign, Karpek Kuyukov, the Goodwill Ambassador of the ATOM project, himself a victim of nuclear radiation, has travelled from Kazakhstan and is here in New York to share his life experiences with us.

Despite being the largest producer and supplier of uranium in the world, Kazakshtan’s firm position demonstrates that harmony and cooperation can be stronger armaments for global peace and security than any weaponry.

Disarmament critics still insist that nuclear weapons cannot be dis-invented and that the nuclear genie is well out of the bottle. Kazakhstan and several other countries have proven that it is within our power to put this monstrous genie back into the bottle.

Kazakhstan was amongst the first countries to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). My country is committed to the Treaty, and along with Japan will co-chair the International Conference on Article XIV to CTBT on 29 September 2015, to work intensely to bring its entry into force.

This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations and the start of a transformative Post-2015 development agenda. We must thus have the political will to invest vast resources that would be available as a result of nuclear disarmament to meet compelling human needs and achieve a peaceful and secure world.

Today, a new impetus is needed to move the disarmament machinery forward, considering that the 2015 review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) did not fulfil its anticipated outcome. We commend the three meetings held in Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna, and the many unilateral, bilateral and collective efforts of several countries, together with the dynamic efforts of civil society.

These actions serve as a wake-up call to unite for a nuclear-weapon-free world. We, therefore, welcome the momentum gained by the Humanitarian Pledge put forward by Austria, which Kazakhstan endorsed on 10 July 2015. Likewise, we seek support at the forthcoming First Committee Meeting in October this year for the initiative of our President calling on the international community to adopt the Universal Declaration on the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World. We do not consider this document as the basis for a major debate or tying down the United Nations disarmament machinery. Its value lies in the fact that, despite ongoing disagreements on the means to achieve nuclear disarmament, there is full agreement on the fundamental goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

I would like to point to other examples of successful cooperation between the East and West with the participation of Kazakhstan:

1. When our country became the “epicentre of the world” after renouncing its nuclear arsenal, it was the collaboration with the Russian Federation and the U.S. that made possible the removal and disposal of our nuclear warheads and missiles, as well as the destruction and decommissioning the infrastructure of the former test site.

2. Kazakhstan, along with other countries of the region, established the Central Asian Nulear-Free-Zone with the signing of the Treaty of Semipalatinsk in 2006, which speedily came into force in 2009. In May 2014, representatives of the “nuclear five” (the P5) signed a Protocol on negative security assurances to the participant states of that Treaty, of which four have already ratified it.

This year, the Central Asian states adopted an Action Plan to strengthen nuclear security in the region. Now we are elaborating regional instruments for the prevention of illicit trafficking in nuclear materials and combating nuclear terrorism.

3. In 2014, we worked to ensure the safety and preservation of hundreds of kilograms of nuclear material, remaining in the galleries at the Massif Degelen, also known as Plutonium Mountain, located at the former Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site. This measure will prevent leakage and improper use of these materials. The constant and perennial trilateral cooperation between Kazakhstan, Russia and the U.S., was announced in Seoul in 2012 by the Presidents of the three countries. It is a striking proof that only a spirit of trust and mutual understanding will make our world secure. Today Kazakhstan is actively preparing for the Fourth Summit to be held in Washington D.C., in 2016 and will host a preparatory Sherpas Meeting in Almaty from 2-4 November 2015.

4. Another significant achievement has been the Agreement signed on 27 August 2015 by the Government of Kazakhstan and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for establishing the International Bank of Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) in 2017 in Eastern Kazakhstan. This initiative is yet another concrete contribution of Kazakhstan in strengthening the non-proliferation regime, and eliminating lacunae existing in the international legal framework. The Bank will allow Member States the right to reliable access to fuel for peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It was again the collaboration between the East and West, particularly, Kazakhstan, the P5, as well as the European Union, Norway, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates -as the main donors of the project – that the Bank became a reality.

5. A most recent example of cooperation is related to the unique Cosmodrome Baikonur located in Kazakhstan – the only site in the world from where space crafts are launched to the International Space Station. On 2 September 2015, the spacecraft “Soyuz” was launched with a new crew, comprising of Kazakh, Russian and Danish cosmonauts, the latter from the European Space Agency. This, once again should inspire us to work together with hope for the future.

I would like to quote President Nazarbayev, who at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague reminded the world that “general and complete nuclear disarmament” is the only guarantee of nuclear security. He said that we should all live up to our responsibilities to our citizens and the global community to deliver political rather than military solutions in the name of international peace. It is therefore the collective responsibility and commitment of everyone, to increase the momentum for anti-tests and anti-nuclear weapons and to find and implement such peaceful solutions so that we do not forget our common humanity.

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Opinion: The Early History of Iran’s Nuclear Programme Wed, 09 Sep 2015 19:08:04 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.This is the third of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 9 2015 (IPS)

Iran has had a nuclear programme since 1959 when the United States gave a small reactor to Tehran University as part of the “Atoms for Peace” programme during Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s reign.  When the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was introduced in 1968 and entered into force in 1970, Iran was one of the first signatories of that Treaty.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

The Shah had made extensive plans for using nuclear energy in order to free Iran’s oil deposits for export and also in order for use in petrochemical industries to receive more revenue. The Shah had planned to build 22 nuclear reactors to generate 23 million megawatts of electric power.  By 1977, the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) had more than 1,500 highly paid employees, with a budget of 1.3 billion dollars, making it the second biggest public economic institution in the country.

In 1975, the Gerald Ford administration in the United States expressed support for the Shah’s plan to develop a full-fledged nuclear power programme, including the construction of 23 nuclear power reactors.

President Gerald Ford has been reported as having “signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The deal was for a complete ‘nuclear fuel cycle’.”“Iran has had a nuclear programme since 1959 when the United States gave a small reactor to Tehran University as part of the “Atoms for Peace” programme during Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s reign”

The Shah donated 20 million dollars to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to train Iranian nuclear experts, many of whom are still working for Iran’s Nuclear Energy Organisation, including the current head of the organisation and one of the chief negotiators, Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi.  In 1975, Iran also paid 1.18 billion dollars to buy 10 percent of Eurodif, a French company that produces enriched uranium. In return, Iran was supposed to receive enriched uranium for its reactors, a pledge that the French government reneged on after the Iranian revolution.

In 1975, Germany’s Kraftwerk Union AG started the construction of two reactors in Bushehr at an estimated cost of 3-6 billion dollars. Kraftwerk Union stopped work on the Bushehr reactors after the start of the Iranian revolution, with one reactor 50 percent complete, and the other 85 percent complete. The United States also cut off the supply of highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel for the Tehran nuclear reactor.

After the revolution, the Islamic Republic initially stopped all work on the nuclear programme. However, in 1981, Iranian officials concluded that after having spent billions of dollars on their programme it would be foolish to dismantle it. So, they turned to the companies that had
signed agreements with Iran to complete their work. Nevertheless, as the result of political pressure by the U.S. government, all of them declined. Iran also turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for help to no avail.

In the late 1980s, a consortium of companies from Argentina, Germany and Spain submitted a proposal to Iran to complete the Bushehr-1 reactor, but pressure by the United States stopped the deal. In 1990, U.S. pressure also stopped Spain’s National Institute of Industry and Nuclear Equipment from completing the Bushehr project.  Later on, Iran set up a bilateral cooperation on fuel cycle-related issues with China but, under pressure from the West, China also discontinued its assistance.

Therefore, it was no secret to the West that Iran was trying to revive its nuclear programme.

Having failed to achieve results through formal and open channels, Iranian officials turned to clandestine sources, and using their own domestic capabilities.  A major mistake was to receive assistance from A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme.  In 1992, Iran invited IAEA inspectors to visit all the sites and facilities they asked. Director General Hans Blix reported that all activities observed were consistent with the peaceful use of atomic energy.

On Feb. 9, 2003, Iran’s programme and efforts to build sophisticated facilities at Natanz were revealed allegedly by Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political wing of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO), for years regarded as a terrorist organisation by the West. It has been strongly suggested that MKO had received its information from Israeli intelligence sources.

President Mohammad Khatami announced the existence of the Natanz (and other) facilities on Iranian television and invited the IAEA to visit them. Then, in late February 2003, Dr. Mohammad El-Baradei, the head of IAEA, accompanied by a team of inspectors, visited Iran.  In November 2003, the IAEA reported that Iran had systematically failed to meet its obligations under its NPT safeguards agreement to report its activities to the IAEA, although it also reported no evidence of links to a nuclear weapons programme.

It should be noted that at that time Iran was only bound by the provisions of the NPT, which required the country to inform the IAEA of its nuclear activities only 180 days before introducing any nuclear material into the facility.  So, according to Iranian officials, building the Natanz facility and not declaring it was not illegal, but the West regarded it as an act of concealment and violation of the NPT’s Additional Protocol, which Iran had not signed. In any event, the scale of Iran’s nuclear activities surprised the West, and it was taken for granted that Iran was developing nuclear weapons.

In May 2003, in a bold move, the Khatami government in Iran sent a proposal to the U.S. government through Swiss diplomatic channels for a “Grand Bargain”, offering full transparency, as well as withdrawal of support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and resumption of diplomatic relations, but the offer went unanswered.

In October 2003, the United Kingdom, France and Germany undertook a diplomatic initiative to resolve the problem. The foreign ministers of the three countries and Iran issued a statement known as the Tehran Declaration, according to which Iran agreed to cooperate with the IAEA and to implement the Additional Protocol as a voluntary confidence-building measure. Iran even suspended enrichment for two years during the course of the negotiations.  On Mar. 23, 2005, Iran submitted to the EU Troika” a plan of “objective guarantees” with the following elements:

(1) Spent reactor fuels would not be reprocessed by Iran.

(2) Iran would forego plutonium production through a heavy water reactor.

(3) Only low-enriched uranium would be produced.

(4) A limit would be imposed on the enrichment level.

(5) A limit would be imposed on the amount of enrichment, restricting it to what was needed for Iran’s reactors.

(6) All the low-enriched uranium would be converted immediately to fuel rods for use in reactors (fuel rods cannot be further enriched).

(7) The number of centrifuges in Natanz would be limited, at least at the beginning.

(8) The IAEA would have permanent on-site presence at all the facilities for uranium conversion and enrichment.

In early August 2005, the EU Troika” submitted the “Framework for a Long-Term Agreement” to Iran, recognising Iran’s right to develop infrastructure for peaceful use of nuclear energy, and promised collaboration with Iran. However, as the result of extreme U.S. pressure, the EU Troika was unable to respond to Iran’s call for nuclear collaboration, and subsequently Iran withdrew its offer and resumed enrichment.

The rebuff by the West to President Khatami’s outstretched hand resulted in the weakening of the Reformist Movement and the election of hardline candidate Mahmud Ahmadinezhad as the next president of Iran in June 2005. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Opinion: Women’s Major Role in Culture of Peace – Part Two Mon, 07 Sep 2015 21:31:47 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

Ambassador Chowdhury is Chair of the U.N. General Assembly Drafting Committee for the Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace (1998-1999).

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

Another reality that emerges very distinctly in culture of peace is that we should never forget when women – half of world’s seven billion plus people – are marginalised and their equality is not established in all spheres of human activity, there is no chance for our world to get sustainable peace in the real sense.

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

I would reiterate that women in particular have a major role to play in promoting the culture of peace in our violence-ridden societies, thereby bringing in lasting peace and reconciliation. While women are often the first victims of armed conflict, they must also and always be recognised as key to the resolution of the conflict.

I believe with all my conviction that without peace, development is not possible, without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development can be realised.

Integral connection between development and peace

In today’s world we continue to perceive an inherent paradox that needs our attention. The process of globalisation has created an irreversible trend toward a global integrated community, while at the same time, divisions and distrust keep on manifesting in different and complex ways.

Disparities and inequalities within and among nations have been causing insecurity and uncertainty that has become an unwanted reality in our lives. That is why I strongly believe that peace and development are two sides of the same coin. One is meaningless without the other; one cannot be achieved without the other.It is being increasingly realised that over-emphasis on cognitive learning in schools at the cost of developing children’s emotional, social, moral and humanistic aspects has been a costly mistake.

Education as the most critical element in the culture of peace

A key ingredient in building the culture of peace is education. Peace education needs to be accepted in all parts of the world, in all societies and countries as an essential element in creating the culture of peace.

The young of today deserves a radically different education –“one that does not glorify war but educates for peace, non-violence and international cooperation.” They need the skills and knowledge to create and nurture peace for their individual selves as well as for the world they belong to.

As Maria Montessori had articulated so appropriately, “Those who want a violent way of living, prepare young people for that; but those who want peace have neglected their young children and adolescents and that way are unable to organize them for peace.”

It is being increasingly realised that over-emphasis on cognitive learning in schools at the cost of developing children’s emotional, social, moral and humanistic aspects has been a costly mistake.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asserted at the very first High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace in 2012 that “…. We are here to talk about how to create this culture of peace. I have a simple, one-word answer: education. Through education, we teach children not to hate. Through education, we raise leaders who act with wisdom and compassion. Through education, we establish a true, lasting culture of peace.”

In this context, I commend the initiative of the Soka University of America located near Los Angeles in initiating in 2014 its annual “Dialogue on The Culture of Peace and Non-Violence” as an independent, unbiased, non-partisan, intellectual forum to outline avenues and direction for incorporating the culture of peace and non-violence into all spheres of the educational experience.

Never has it been more important for us to learn about the world and understand its diversity. The task of educating children and young people to find non-aggressive means to relate with one another is of primary importance.

As I had underscored at the conference hosted by the Hague Appeal for Peace on “Educating toward a World without Violence” in Albania in 2004, “the participation of young people in this process is very essential. Their inputs in terms of their own ideas on how to cooperate with each other in order to eliminate violence in our societies must be fully taken into account.”

Peace education is more effective and meaningful when it is adopted according to the social and cultural context and the country’s needs and aspirations. It should be enriched by its cultural and spiritual values together with the universal human values.

It should also be globally relevant. The Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice rightly emphasises that “…culture of peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems; have the skills to resolve conflicts constructively; know and live by international standards of human rights, gender and racial equality; appreciate cultural diversity; and respect the integrity of the Earth.”

Indeed, this should be more appropriately called “education for global citizenship”. Such learning cannot be achieved without well-intentioned, sustained, and systematic peace education that leads the way to the culture of peace.

The U.N. Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative’s essential objective is to promote global citizenship as the main objective of education. Connecting the role of individuals to broader global objectives, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior affirmed that “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

Let me conclude by asserting that to turn the culture of peace into a global, universal movement, basically all that is needed is for every one of us to be a true believer in peace and non-violence, and to practice what we profess.

Whether it is at events like the annual High Level Forums, in places of worship, in schools or in our homes, a lot can be achieved in promoting the culture of peace through individual resolve and action. Peace and non-violence should become a part of our daily existence. This is the only way we shall achieve a just and sustainable peace in the world.

Part One can be read here.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: Promoting Culture of Peace Through Dialogue – Part One Mon, 07 Sep 2015 21:04:27 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

Ambassador Chowdhury is Chair of the U.N. General Assembly Drafting Committee for the Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace (1998-1999).

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
Sep 7 2015 (IPS)

This week, for the fourth time in a row, the annual gathering of the apex intergovernmental body of the United Nation deliberating on peace and non-violence will take place at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

Photo Courtesy of Ambassador Chowdhury

President of the ongoing 69th session of the General Assembly Mr. Sam Kahamba Kutesa has convened the fourth U.N. High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace on Sep. 9.

This daylong event is an opportunity for U.N. Member States, U.N. system entities, media and civil society interested in discussing the ways and means to promote the Culture of Peace and to join the discourse on strengthening the global movement for the implementation of the U.N. Declaration and Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace as adopted by consensus by the General Assembly on Sep. 13, 1999.

It also creates a platform for various stakeholders to have an exchange on the emerging trends and policies that can significantly impact on advancing the culture of peace.

Historical context

The adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace was a watershed event as a possible response to the evolving dynamics of global war and security strategies in a post-Cold War world. It has been an honour for me to Chair the nine-month long negotiations that led to the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action.The United Nations needs to be more than a fire brigade rushing in to put out the conflagrations and then withdraw from the scene without doing anything to ensure that fires do not break out again.

This historic norm-setting document is considered as one of the most significant legacies of the United Nations that would endure generations. I would always treasure and cherish that. For me this has been a realisation of my personal commitment to peace and my humble contribution to humanity.

In the responsibility that the United Nations – as the only universal body – must shoulder in fulfilling its Charter obligation of maintaining international peace and security worldwide, stronger focus on prevention and peace building is essential.

The United Nations needs to be more than a fire brigade rushing in to put out the conflagrations and then withdraw from the scene without doing anything to ensure that fires do not break out again.

In a historical perspective it is worthwhile to note that asserting and re-affirming the commitment of the totality of the United Nations membership to build the Culture of Peace, the General Assembly has been adopting resolutions on the subject every year since 1997.

The Assembly, through its annual substantive resolutions, has highlighted the priority it attaches to the full and effective implementation of these visionary decisions which are universally applicable and sought after by the vast majority of all peoples in every nation. It recognises the need for continuous support to the strengthening of the global movement to promote the Culture of Peace, as envisaged by the United Nations, particularly in the current global context.

The Forum in 2013 included Ministerial level participation and at its 68th session, the General Assembly adopted, by consensus, Resolution 68/125 on “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace”, which was co-sponsored by 105 Member States.

This year the keynote speaker at the Forum is the fifth grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Mr. Arun Gandhi, who prides calling himself “The Peace Farmer” as he sows the seeds of peace and non-violence following the footsteps of his grandfather whose birthday on Oct. 2 is observed by the United Nations and the international community as the International Day of Non-Violence.

He builds on the message of last year’s keynote speaker Ms. Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is a global legend leading civil society activism for peace and equality. Of course, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will join the Forum at the opening with his ardent advocacy for the culture of peace.

The 2015 Forum will comprise of two multi-stakeholders interactive panels which will focus on: (1) “Promotion of the Culture of Peace in the context of the Post-2015 sustainable development agenda; and (2) “Role of the media in the promotion of the culture of peace”.

This High Level Forum is taking place at a time of some of the worst violence against civilians we have seen in recent years. Clearly, the hope that the new millennium would be a harbinger of peace has turned out to be rather misplaced.

The lesson in this, I believe, is that however much the world around us changes, we cannot achieve peace without a change in our own minds, and thereby in the global consciousness.

The wealth and the technology can only open up the opportunity to better the world. We must have the mind to seize that opportunity; we must have the culture of peace developed in each one of us both as an individual as well as a member of the global society.

Also, we must remember that technology and wealth can be put to destructive use too. The difference between war and peace, between poverty and prosperity, between death and life, is essentially prompted in our minds.

Why the culture of peace?

Peace is integral to human existence — in everything we do, in everything we say and in every thought we have, there is a place for peace. Absence of peace makes our challenges, our struggles, much more difficult. I believe that is why it is very important that we need to keep our focus on creating the culture of peace in our lives.

One lesson I have learned in my life over the years is that to prevent our history of war and conflict from repeating itself – the values of non-violence, tolerance, human rights and democratic participation will have to be germinated in every man and woman – children and adults alike.

When we see what is happening around us, we realise the urgent need for promoting the culture of peace – peace through dialogue – peace through non-violence. In a world where tragedy and despair seem to be everywhere, there is an urgent need – if not an imperative – for a global culture of peace.

Each of us can make an active choice each day through seemingly small acts of love, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, cooperation or understanding, thereby contributing to the culture of peace. Eminent proponents of peace have continued to highlight that the culture of peace should be the foundation of the new global society.

In today’s world, more so, it should be seen as the essence of a new humanity, a new global civilisation based on inner oneness and outer diversity.

Part Two can be read here.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: Nuclear States Do Not Comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty Sat, 05 Sep 2015 09:43:07 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.This is the second of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 5 2015 (IPS)

Article Six of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) makes it obligatory for nuclear states to get rid of their nuclear weapons as part of a bargain that requires the non-nuclear states not to acquire nuclear weapons. Apart from the NPT provisions, there have been a number of other rulings that have reinforced those requirements.

However, while nuclear states have vigorously pursued a campaign of non-proliferation, they have violated many NPT and other international regulations.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

An advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in 1996 stated: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” Nuclear powers have ignored that opinion.

The nuclear states, especially the United States and Russia, have further violated the Treaty by their efforts to upgrade and diversity their nuclear weapons. The United States has developed the “Reliable Replacement Warhead”, a new type of nuclear warhead to extend the viability of its nuclear arsenal.

The United States and possibly Russia are also developing tactical nuclear warheads with lower yields, which can be used on the battlefield without producing a great deal of radiation. Despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s pledge to reduce and ultimately abolish nuclear weapons, it has emerged that the United States is in the process of developing new categories of nuclear weapons, including B61-12 at a projected cost of 348 billion dollars over the next decade

India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea cannot be regarded as nuclear states. Since Article 9 of the NPT defines Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) as those that had manufactured and tested a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967, it is not possible for India, Pakistan, Israel or North Korea to be regarded as nuclear weapon states.“All nuclear powers have continued to strengthen and modernise their nuclear arsenals. While they have been vigorous in punishing, on a selective basis, the countries that were suspected of developing nuclear weapons, they have not lived up to their side of the bargain to get rid of their nuclear weapons”

All those countries are in violation of the NPT, and providing them with nuclear assistance, such as the U.S. agreement with India to supply it with nuclear reactors and advanced nuclear technology, constitutes violations of the Treaty. The same applies to U.S. military cooperation with Israel and Pakistan.

Nuclear states are guilty of proliferation 

Paragraph 14 of the binding U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 that called for the disarmament of Iraq also specified the establishment of a zone free of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in the Middle East.

It was clearly understood by all the countries that joined the U.S.-led coalition to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait that after the elimination of Iraqi WMDs, Israel would be required to get rid of its nuclear arsenal. Israel – and by extension the countries that have not implemented that paragraph – have violated that binding resolution. Indeed, both the United States and Israel are believed to maintain nuclear weapons in the region.

During the apartheid era, Israel and South Africa collaborated in manufacturing nuclear weapons, with Israel leading the way. In 2010 it was reported that “the ‘top secret’ minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa’s Defence Minister P.W. Botha asked for nuclear warheads and the then Israeli Defence Minister Shimon Peres responded by offering them ‘in three sizes’.”

The documents were uncovered by an American academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, in research for a book on the close relationship between the two countries. Israeli officials tried hard to prevent the publication of those documents. In 1977, South Africa signed a pact with Israel that included the manufacturing of at least six nuclear bombs.

The 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference also called for “the early establishment by regional parties of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all other WMDs and their delivery systems”. The international community has ignored these resolutions by not pressing Israel to give up its nuclear weapons. Indeed, any call for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East has been opposed by Israel and the United States.

The 2000 NPT Review Conference called on “India, Israel and Pakistan to accede to the Treaty as Non-Nuclear Weapons States (NNWS) promptly and without condition”. States Parties also agreed to “make determined efforts” to achieve universality. Since 2000, little effort has been made to encourage India, Pakistan or Israel to accede as NNWS.

The declaration agreed by the Iranian government and visiting European Union foreign ministers (from Britain, France and Germany) that reached an agreement on Iran’s accession to the Additional Protocol and suspension of its enrichment for more than two years also called for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction throughout the Middle East.

The three foreign ministers made the following commitment: “They will cooperate with Iran to promote security and stability in the region including the establishment of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East in accordance with the objectives of the United Nations.” Twelve years after signing that declaration, the three European countries and the international community have failed to bring about a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.

While, during the Cold War, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) refused to rule out first use of nuclear weapons due to the proximity of Soviet forces to European capitals, this policy has not been revised since the end of the Cold War. There have been repeated credible reports that the Pentagon has been considering the use of nuclear bunker-buster weapons to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites.

For the past 2,000 years and more, mankind has tried to define the requirements of a just war. During the past few decades, some of these principles have been enshrined in legally-binding international agreements and conventions. They include the Covenant of the League of Nations after the First World War, the 1928 Pact of Paris, and the Charter of the United Nations.

A few ideas are common to all these definitions, namely that any military action should be based on self-defence, be in compliance with international law, be proportionate, be a matter of last resort, and not target civilians and non-combatants.

Other ideas flow from these: the emphasis on arbitration and the renunciation of first resort to force in the settlement of disputes, and the principle of collective self- defence. It is difficult to see how the use of nuclear weapons could be compatible with any of these requirements. Yet, despite many international calls for nuclear disarmament, nuclear states have refused to abide by the NPT regulations and get rid of their nuclear weapons.

In his first major foreign policy speech in Prague on 5 April 2009, President Barack Obama spoke about his vision of getting rid of nuclear weapons. He said: “The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War… Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up.”

He went on to say: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons…”

Sadly, those noble sentiments have not been put into action. On the contrary, all nuclear powers have continued to strengthen and modernise their nuclear arsenals. While they have been vigorous in punishing, on a selective basis, the countries that were suspected of developing nuclear weapons, they have not lived up to their side of the bargain to get rid of their nuclear weapons. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Opinion: Iran and the Non-Proliferation Treaty Fri, 04 Sep 2015 16:48:29 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.This is the first of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 4 2015 (IPS)

Iran’s nuclear programme has been the target of a great deal of misinformation, downright lies and above all myths. As a result, it is often difficult to unpick truth from falsehood. 

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

As President John F. Kennedy said in his Yale University Commencement Address on 11 June 1962: “For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliché of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of the opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

In order to understand the pros and cons of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed by Iran and the P5+1 (United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, France and Germany) on 14 July 2015, and the subsequent U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 passed unanimously on 20 July 2015 setting the agreement in U.N. law and rescinding the sanctions that had been imposed on Iran, it is important to study the background to the whole deal.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regulates the activities of the countries that wish to make use of peaceful nuclear energy. The NPT was enacted in 1968 and it entered into force in 1970. Its objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, while promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology. Iran was one of the first signatories to that Treaty, and so far 191 states have joined the Treaty.“Iran’s nuclear programme has been the target of a great deal of misinformation, downright lies and above all myths. As a result, it is often difficult to unpick truth from falsehood”

It has been one of the most successful disarmament treaties in history. Only three U.N. member states – Israel, India and Pakistan – did not join the NPT and all of them proceeded to manufacture nuclear weapons. North Korea, which acceded to the NPT in 1985, withdrew in 2003 and has allegedly manufactured nuclear weapons.

This treaty was a part of the move known as “atoms for peace”, which allowed different nations to have access to nuclear power for peaceful purposes, but prevented them from manufacturing nuclear weapons.

The treaty was a kind of bargain between the five original countries that possessed nuclear weapons (all the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council) and the non-nuclear countries that agreed never to acquire nuclear weapons in return for sharing the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology.

The Treaty is based on four pillars:

Pillar One – Non-Proliferation:  Article 1 of the NPT states that nuclear weapon state countries (N5) should not transfer any weapon-related technology to others.

Pillar Two – Ban on possession of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear states: Article 2 states the other side of the coin, namely that non-nuclear states should not acquire any form of nuclear weapons technology from the countries that possess it or acquire it independently.

Pillar Three – Peaceful use of nuclear energy: Article 4 not only allows the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, but even stresses that it is “the inalienable right” of every country to do research, development and production, and to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, without discrimination, as long as Articles 1 and 2 are satisfied.

It further states that all parties can exchange equipment, material, and science and technology for peaceful purposes. It calls on the nuclear states to assist the non-nuclear states in the use of peaceful nuclear technology.

Pillar Four – Nuclear disarmament: Article 6 makes it obligatory for nuclear states to get rid of their nuclear weapons. The Treaty states that all countries should pursue negotiations on measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and “achieving nuclear disarmament”.

While nuclear powers have worked hard to prevent other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons, they have not abided by their side of the bargain and have been reluctant to give up their nuclear weapons. On the contrary, they have further developed and upgraded those weapons, and have made them more capable of use on battlefields.

Sadly, 37 years after its final ratification, the number of nuclear-armed countries has increased, and at least four other countries have joined the club.

After it was realised that unfettered access to enrichment could lead some countries, such as Iraq and North Korea, to gain knowledge of nuclear technology and subsequently develop nuclear weapons, the NPT was amended in 1977 with the Additional Protocol, which tightened the regulations in order to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

According to the Additional Protocol, which Iran has agreed to implement as part of the JCPOA, “Special inspections may be carried out in circumstances according to defined procedures. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) may carry out such inspections if it considers that information made available by the State concerned, including explanations from the State and information obtained from routine inspections, is not adequate for the Agency to fulfil its responsibilities under the safeguards agreement.” 

However, as the above paragraph makes clear, these inspections will be carried out only in exceptional circumstances when there is valid cause for suspicion that a country has been violating the terms of the agreement, and only if the IAEA decides that the explanations provided by the State concerned are not adequate. Also, such inspections will be carried out on the basis of “defined procedures”

The countries that have ratified the Additional Protocol have agreed to “managed inspections”, and the Iranian authorities have also said that such managed and supervised inspections can be carried out. This of course does not mean “anytime, anywhere” inspections, but inspections that are in keeping with the provisions of the Additional Protocol as set out above.

Meanwhile, in addition to the nuclear states, there are 19 other non-weapons states which are signatories to the NPT and which actively enrich uranium. They have vastly more centrifuges than Iran ever had. Iran’s array of 19,000 centrifuges (only 10,000 of them were operational) prior to the agreement was paltry compared with the capabilities of other countries that enrich uranium.

During the talks between Iran and the P5+1, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali  Khamenei said that Iran wanted to have at least 190,000 centrifuges in order to get engaged in industrial scale enrichment.

It should be remembered that the sale of nuclear fuel is a lucrative business and the countries that do not have enrichment facilities but which have nuclear reactors, are forced to purchase fuel from the few countries that have a monopoly of enriched uranium. Iran had openly stated that it wished to join that club, or at least to be self-sufficient in nuclear fuel.

However, under the JCPOA, Iran has given up the quest for industrial scale enrichment and is even reducing the number of its operational centrifuges from 19,000 to just over 5,000. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Opinion: Can Nuclear War be Avoided? Thu, 03 Sep 2015 15:58:53 +0000 Gunnar Westberg

Gunnar Westberg, Professor of Medicine in Göteborg, Sweden, and Co-President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) from 2004 to 2008, describes himself as “generally concerned about with what little wisdom our world is governed”

By Gunnar Westberg
GÖTEBORG, Sweden, Sep 3 2015 (IPS)

The Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons had as members former leading politicians or military officers, among others a British Field Marshal, an American General, an American Secretary of Defence and a French Prime Minister.

The commission unanimously agreed in its report in 1996 that “the proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never be used – accidentally or by decision – defies credibility. The only complete defence is the elimination of nuclear weapons and assurance that they will never be produced again.”

Gunnar Westberg

Gunnar Westberg

So that’s it: Nuclear weapons will be used if they are allowed to remain with us. And even a “small” nuclear war, using one percent or less of the world’s nuclear weapons, might cause a worldwide famine leading to the death of a billion humans or more.

Lt Colonel Bruce Blair was for several years in the 1970s commander of U.S. crews with the duty to launch intercontinental nuclear missiles. “I knew how to fire the missiles, I needed no permission,” he states. In the 1990s he was charged with making a review for the U.S. Senate on the question: “Is unauthorised firing of U.S. nuclear weapons a real possibility?”

Blair’s answer was “Yes”, and the risk is not insignificant.

On Hiroshima Day, Aug. 6, this year, a major newspaper in Sweden, Aftonbladet, carried an interview with Colonel Blair, now head of the Global Zero movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons. The reporter asked: “Mr Blair, do you think that nuclear weapons will be used again?” Mr Blair was silent for a while and then responded: “I am afraid it cannot be avoided. A data code shorter than a Twitter message could be enough.”

Blair reminds us of the story of the ‘Permissive Action Link’, a security device for nuclear weapons, the purpose of which is to prevent their unauthorised arming or detonation.

When Robert McNamara was U.S. Secretary of Defence in the mid-1960s, he issued an order that to be able to fire missiles from submarines, the commanding officer must have received a code which permitted the launch.

However, the navy did not want to be prevented from firing on its own initiative, such as in the case that contact with headquarters was interrupted. The initial code of 00000000 was for this reason retained for many years and was generally known. McNamara, however, did not know this until many years after he left the government.

A Soviet admiral once told me that as late as around 1980 he could fire the missiles from a submarine without a code.

When systems of control of the launch systems are discussed, we often learn – as a kind of post scriptum – that there is a Plan B: If all communication with HQ is dead and the commanders believe the war is on, missiles can be fired. We are never told how this works. But there is a plan B.

What is the situation today? Can an unauthorised launch of nuclear weapons occur? Colonel Blair says “Yes”. Mistakes, misunderstandings, hacker encroachments, human mistakes – there are always risks.

After the end of the Cold War, we have learnt about several “close calls”. There was the Cuban missile crisis and especially the “Soviet submarine left behind”. There was the Petrov Incident in September 1983. There was the possibly worst crisis – worst but little known – of the NATO exercise ‘Able Archer’ in November 1983 when the Soviet leaders expected a NATO attack any moment – and NATO had no insight into the Soviet paranoia.

There are numerous other dangerous incidents about which we have less information.

Martin Hellman, a mathematician and expert in risk analysis, guesses that the risk of a major nuclear war may have been as high as one percent per year during the 40 Cold War years. That sums up to 40 percent. Mankind thus had a slightly better than even chance of not being exterminated. We were lucky.

Maybe the risk is smaller today. But with the risk of proliferation, with new funds allocated to nuclear weapons research and with the increasing tension in international relations, the risk may be increasing again.

As long as nuclear weapons exist the risk exists. The risk of global omnicide, of Assured Destruction.

It is nuclear weapons or us. We cannot co-exist. One of us will have to go.

A prohibition against nuclear weapons is necessary. And it is possible.

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

* This article was originally published by the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF)

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Impeachment Motion Stirs Political Waters in Somalia Tue, 01 Sep 2015 21:16:05 +0000 Nora Happel Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is seen in his presidential office inside Villa Somalia. Credit: UN Photo/Stuart Price

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is seen in his presidential office inside Villa Somalia. Credit: UN Photo/Stuart Price

By Nora Happel

The impeachment motion Somali parliamentarians filed against President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Aug. 12 has created a political standoff that might further threaten the country’s stability shortly ahead of planned elections in 2016.

Last week, the envoys of the United Nations, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement, calling for a rapid resolution of the crisis and expressing their concern that the motion “will impede progress on Somalia’s peace and state building goals”.

"The chronic bane of Somali elite politics, particularly in the past two decades, has been a toxic cocktail of tribalism, malfeasance, and incompetence. President Hassan Sheikh is the embodiment of this syndrome." -- Ahmed Ismail Samatar, former member of the Somali Federal Parliament
“While we fully respect the right of the Federal Parliament to hold institutions to account and to fulfill its constitutional duties, the submission of any such motion requires a high standard of transparency and integrity in the process and will consume extremely valuable time, not least in the absence of essential legal bodies.”

“Emerging institutions are still fragile. They require a period of stability and continuity to allow Somalia to benefit from the New Deal Somali Compact and to prepare for a peaceful and legitimate transfer of public office in 2016,” the text added.

As a matter of fact, there are important procedural irregularities as well as legal obstacles arising from insufficiently developed institutions that stand in the way of a smooth running of the impeachment process and might indeed cause further political turmoil.

In accordance with article 92 of the Federal Government of Somalia’s (FGS) provisional constitution, the impeachment motion has been submitted by one-third of the members of parliament.

However, as reported by the Somali Current, at least 25 members of parliament out of a total of 93 deputies endorsing the motion claimed their names were used without their consent.

After the submission of the impeachment motion, the following step provided for under articles 92 and 135 of the provisional constitution will be a decision by the Constitutional Court, within 60 days, on the legal grounds of the motion, followed by a two-thirds majority vote in the Parliament.

However, at the time of writing, no Constitutional Court exists in the country – a major obvious hindrance, even though some analysts invoke the possibility of a decision by the Supreme Court acting on the matter instead, following the legal precedent of former article 99 of the 1960 Somali Constitution.

Another major question of debate concerns the charges against President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. As outlined in a press statement by the Somali Federal Parliament, the impeachment motion lists a total of 16 charges against President Hassan, including abuse of power, corruption, looting of public resources, failure to address insecurity, human rights abuses, detentions of political dissidents, interference with the independence of the judiciary and intentional failure to meet the requirements for elections in 2016.

Article 92 (1) states that a deposition of the Somali president can only occur if there are allegations of “treason or gross violations of the constitution”. There is ongoing discussion whether the charges put forth by the parliamentarians present enough legal grounds for the motion to pass.

In a press conference last week, President Mohamud dismissed the charges against him, adding it was not the right moment for an impeachment procedure and accusing individuals of having “special interests” – a possible allusion to deputies seeking term extensions.

This suspicion has also been brought up, in an indirect way, in the above-mentioned joint press statement by the international community:

“We also recall that Somalia and all member states are bound by United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2232, which sets out the expectations of the international community on the security and political progress needed in Somalia, and the need for an electoral process in 2016 without extension of either the legislative or executive branch,” the statement said.

In an interview with Voice of America, U.N. Envoy to Somalia Nicholas Kay repeated the international criticism of the impeachment motion.

He said, in the context of the upcoming election and ongoing attacks by al-Shabaab militants, Somalia shouldn’t “lose time [on] the political bickering that has brought down governments in the past.”

While some voices are more concerned about the impeachment motion itself as it will likely create further chaos and instability, others emphasise the validity of the charges and the need to hold the President and national institutions accountable.

Ahmed Ismail Samatar is former member of the Somali Federal Parliament. A candidate for the 2012 elections in Somalia, he is now working as professor and chair of International Studies at Macalester College.

Speaking to IPS, he said, “The chronic bane of Somali elite politics, particularly in the past two decades, has been a toxic cocktail of tribalism, malfeasance, and incompetence. President Hassan Sheikh is the embodiment of this syndrome.”

Unlike most international observers, Samatar does not necessarily see the elections in 2016 threatened by the motion: “If carried expeditiously and firmly, the proceedings need not thwart the mounting of the elections in September 2016.”

Last month, President Mohamud declared that he does not expect “one person, one vote” elections to be possible in 2016 due to persisting security challenges. However, he said in an interview with Voice of America, he is “aiming for the next best option” regarding transition of power in 2016.

Opposition parties have reacted angrily to the president’s statement, claiming that he uses the insecurity argument as a pretence to extend his mandate.

President Mohamud was elected in 2012 by a parliament made up of 135 clan elders in what the BBC described as a “U.N.-backed bid to restore normality to the country”.

However, instability, severe economic problems and continuing al-Shabaab attacks as well as the current political crisis seem to suggest that the country still has a long way to go to achieve normality.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Will New Sri Lankan Government Prioritize Resettlement of War-Displaced? Sun, 30 Aug 2015 16:43:03 +0000 Amantha Perera Despite six years of peace, life is still hard in areas where Sri Lanka's war was at its worst, especially for internally displaced people (IDPs). Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Despite six years of peace, life is still hard in areas where Sri Lanka's war was at its worst, especially for internally displaced people (IDPs). Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
JAFFNA, Sri Lanka, Aug 30 2015 (IPS)

The new Sri Lankan government that was voted in on Aug. 17 certainly didn’t inherit as much baggage as its predecessors did during the nearly 30 years of conflict that gripped this South Asian island nation.

"Do you know how it feels to live in other people's houses for so long? You are always an outsider. I am getting old [...]. I want to die in my own house, not somewhere else." -- Siva Ariyarathnam, an IDP in northern Sri Lanka
But six years into ‘peacetime’, the second parliament of President Maithripala Sirisena will need to prioritize some of the most painful, unhealed wounds of war – among them, the fate of over 50,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), some of whom have not been home in over two decades.

Though the fighting between government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended in 2009, closing a 28-year-long chapter of violence, Siva Ariyarathnam is still waiting for a government official to tell him when he can go home.

Like tens of thousands of others, Ariyarathnam fled with his family when the military took over his land in the country’s Northern Province in the 1990s as part of a strategy to defeat the LTTE, who launched an armed campaign for an independent homeland for the country’s minority Tamil population in 1983.

The outgoing government says it plans to give the land back to 50,000 people, but has not indicated when that will happen, and Ariyarathnam says he is running out of time.

“Do you know how it feels to live in other people’s houses for so long? You are always an outsider,” Ariyarathnam told IPS. “I am getting old and I want to live under my own roof with my family. I want to die in my own house, not somewhere else.”

A decades-old problem

Ariyarathnam’s tale is heard too frequently in the former war-zone, a large swath of land in the country’s north comprising the Vanni region, the Jaffna Peninsula and parts of the Eastern Province, which the LTTE ran as a de facto state after riots in 1983 drove thousands of Tamils out of the Sinhala-majority south.

During the war years, displacement was the order of the day, with both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government forcing massive population shifts that would shape ethnic- and communal-based electoral politics.

For ordinary people it meant that the notion of ‘home’ was a luxury that few could maintain.

The cost of the conflict that finally ended in May 2009 with the defeat of the Tigers by government armed forces was enormous.

By conservative accounts over 100,000 perished in the fighting, while a report by the United Nations estimates that as many as 40,000 civilians died during the last bouts of fighting between 2008 and 2009.

According to the Ministry of Resettlement, Sri Lanka’s post-war IDP returnees stood at an impressive 796,081 by the end of June.

But the same data also reveal that an additional 50,000 were still living with host families and in the Thellippali IDP Centre, unable to return to villages still under military occupation.

These militarized zones date back to the 1990s, when the army began appropriating civilian land as a means of thwarting the steadily advancing LTTE.

By 2009, the military had confiscated 11,629 acres of land in the Tamil heartland of Jaffna – located on the northern tip of the island, over 300 km from the capital, Colombo – in order to create the Palaly High Security Zone (HSZ).

This was the area Ariyarathnam and his family, like thousands of others, had once called home.

New government, new policies?

Many hoped that the war’s end would see a return to their ancestral lands, but the war-victorious government, helmed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was slow to release civilian areas, prioritizing national security and continued deployment of troops in the North over resettlement of the displaced.

A new government led by President Maithripala Sirisena, Rajapaksa’s former health minister who took power in a surprise January election, promised to accelerate land release, and turned over a 1,000-acre area from the Palaly HSZ in April.

But top officials tell IPS that genuine government efforts are stymied by the lack of public land onto which to move military camps in order to make way for returning civilians.

“The return of the IDPs is our number one priority,” Ranjini Nadarajapillai, the outgoing secretary to the Ministry of Resettlement, explained to IPS. “There is no timetable right now, everything depends on how the remaining high security zones are removed.”

The slow pace of land reform has kept IDPs mired in poverty, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), an arm of the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council.

“The main reasons why there are higher poverty levels among IDPs include the lack of access to land during displacement to carry out livelihood activities, [and] the lack of compensation for lost or destroyed land and property during the war, which was acquired by the military or government as security or economic zones,” Marita Swain, an analyst with IDMC, told IPS.

An IDMC report released in July put the number of IDPs at 73,700, far higher than the government statistic. Most of them are living with host families, while 4,700 are housed in a long-term welfare center in Jaffna, the capital of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province.

The lingering effects of the policies of the previous administration led by Rajapaksa, which prioritized infrastructure development over genuine economic growth for the war-weary population, has compounded the IDPs’ plight, according to the IDMC.

Despite the Sirisena government taking office in January, it has been hamstrung over issues like resettlement for the past eight months as it prepared to face parliamentary elections that pitted Rajapaksa-era policies against those of the new president.

Nadarajapillai of the Ministry of Resettlement said the new government is taking a different approach and reaching out to international agencies and donors to resolve the issue.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is helping the government devise a plan to resolve the IDP crisis, added Dushanthi Fernando, a UNHCR official in Colombo.

Still, these promises mean little to people like Ariyarathnam, whose displacement is now entering its third decade with no firm signs of ending anytime soon.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Disarmament Conference Ends with Ambitious Goal – But How to Get There? Fri, 28 Aug 2015 13:00:18 +0000 Ramesh Jaura Cloud from an atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, in November 1952. Photo credit: US Government

Cloud from an atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, in November 1952. Photo credit: US Government

By Ramesh Jaura
HIROSHIMA, Aug 28 2015 (IPS)

A three-day landmark U.N. Conference on Disarmament Issues has ended here – one day ahead of the International Day Against Nuclear Tests – stressing the need for ushering in a world free of nuclear weapons, but without a consensus on how to move towards that goal.

The Aug. 26-28 conference, organised by the Bangkok-based United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD) in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan and the city and Prefecture of Hiroshima, was attended by more than 80 government officials and experts, also from beyond the region.

It was the twenty-fifth annual meeting of its kind held in Japan, which acquired a particular importance against the backdrop of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the founding of the United Nations.“In order to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, it is extremely important for political leaders, young people and others worldwide to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki and see for themselves the reality of atomic bombings. Through this, I am convinced that we will be able to share our aspirations for a world free of nuclear weapons” – Fumio Kishida, Japanese Foreign Minister

Summing up the deliberations, UNRCPD Director Yuriy Kryvonos said the discussions on “the opportunities and challenges in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation” had been “candid and dynamic”.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference from Apr. 27 to May 22 at the U.N. headquarters drew the focus in presentations and panel discussions.

Ambassador Taous Feroukhi of Algeria, who presided over the NPT Review Conference, explained at length why the gathering had failed to agree on a universally acceptable draft final text, despite a far-reaching consensus on a wide range of crucial issues: refusal of the United States, Britain and Canada to accept the proposal for convening a conference by Mar. 1, 2016, for a Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

Addressing the issue, Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida joined several government officials and experts in expressing his regrets that the draft final document was not adopted due to the issue of WMDs.

Kishida noted that the failure to establish a new Action Plan at the Review Conference had led to a debate over the viability of the NPT. “However,” he added, “I would like to make one thing crystal clear. The NPT regime has played an extremely important role for peace and stability in the international community; a role that remains unchanged even today.”

The Hiroshima conference not only discussed divergent views on measures to preserve the effective implementation of the NPT, but also the role of the yet-to-be finalised Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in achieving the goal of elimination of nuclear weapons, humanitarian consequences of the use of atomic weapons, and the significance of nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZs) for strengthening the non-proliferation regime and nuclear disarmament.

Speakers attached particular attention to the increasing role of local municipalities, civil society and nuclear disarmament education, including testimonies from ‘hibakusha’ (survivors of atomic bombings mostly in their 80s and above) in consolidating common understanding of the threat posed by nuclear weapons for people from all countries around the world regardless whether or not their governments possess nuclear weapons.

UNRCPD Director Kryvonos said the Hiroshima conference had given “a good start for searching new fresh ideas on how we should move towards our goal – protecting our planet from a risk of using nuclear weapons.”

Hiroshima Prefecture Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki, the city’s Mayor Karzumi Matsui – son of a ‘hibakusha’ father and president of the Mayors for Peace organisation comprising 6,779 cities in 161 countries and regions – as well as his counterpart from Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, pleaded for strengthening a concerted campaign for a nuclear free world. Taue is also the president of the National Council of Japan’s Nuclear-Free Local Authorities.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki city leaders welcomed suggestions for a nuclear disarmament summit next year in Hiroshima, which they said would lend added thrust to awareness raising for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Though foreign ministry officials refused to identify themselves publicly with the proposal, Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who hails from Hiroshima, emphasised the need for nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear weapon states to “work together in steadily advancing practical and concrete measures in order to make real progress in nuclear disarmament.”

Kishida said that Japan will submit a “new draft resolution on the total elimination of nuclear weapons” to the forthcoming meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. Such a resolution, he said, was “appropriate to the 70th year since the atomic bombings and could serve as guidelines for the international community for the next five years, on the basis of the Review Conference”.

The next NPT Review Conference is expected to be held in 2020.

Mayors for Peace has launched a 2020 Vision Campaign as the main vehicle for advancing their agenda – a nuclear-weapon-free world by the year 2020.

The campaign was initiated on a provisional basis by the Executive Cities of Mayors for Peace at their meeting in Manchester, Britain, in October 2003. It was launched under the name ‘Emergency Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons’ in November of that year at the 2nd Citizens Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons held in Nagasaki, Japan.

In August 2005, the World Conference endorsed continuation of the campaign under the title of the ‘2020 Vision Campaign’.

Foreign Minister Kishida expressed the views of the inhabitants of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when he pointed out in a message to the UNRCPD conference: “… the reality of atomic bombings is far from being sufficiently understood worldwide.”

He added: “In order to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, it is extremely important for political leaders, young people and others worldwide to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki and see for themselves the reality of atomic bombings. Through this, I am convinced that we will be able to share our aspirations for a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Opinion: A Farewell to Arms that Fuel Atrocities is Within Our Grasp Thu, 27 Aug 2015 19:09:41 +0000 Marek Marczynski The recent destruction of this 2,000-year-old temple – the temple of Baal-Shamin in Palmyra, Syria – is yet another grim example of how the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) uses conventional weapons to further its agenda – but what has fuelled the growing IS firepower? Photo credit: Bernard Gagnon/CC BY-SA 3.0

The recent destruction of this 2,000-year-old temple – the temple of Baal-Shamin in Palmyra, Syria – is yet another grim example of how the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) uses conventional weapons to further its agenda – but what has fuelled the growing IS firepower? Photo credit: Bernard Gagnon/CC BY-SA 3.0

By Marek Marczynski
CANCUN, Mexico, Aug 27 2015 (IPS)

The recent explosions that apparently destroyed a 2,000-year-old temple in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria were yet another grim example of how the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) uses conventional weapons to further its agenda.

But what has fuelled the growing IS firepower? The answer lies in recent history – arms flows to the Middle East dating back as far as the 1970s have played a role.

Marek Marczynski

Marek Marczynski

After taking control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June 2014, IS fighters paraded a windfall of mainly U.S.-manufactured weapons and military vehicles which had been sold or given to the Iraqi armed forces.

At the end of last year, Conflict Armament Research published an analysis of ammunition used by IS in northern Iraq and Syria. The 1,730 cartridges surveyed had been manufactured in 21 different countries, with more than 80 percent from China, the former Soviet Union, the United States, Russia and Serbia.

More recent research commissioned by Amnesty International also found that while IS has some ammunition produced as recently as 2014, a large percentage of the arms they are using are Soviet/Warsaw Pact-era small arms and light weapons, armoured vehicles and artillery dating back to the 1970s and 80s.

Scenarios like these give military strategists and foreign policy buffs sleepless nights. But for many civilians in war-ravaged Iraq and Syria, they are part of a real-life nightmare. These arms, now captured by or illicitly traded to IS and other armed groups, have facilitated summary killings, enforced disappearances, rape and torture, and other serious human rights abuses amid a conflict that has forced millions to become internally displaced or to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.“It is a damning indictment of the poorly regulated global arms trade that weapons and munitions licensed by governments for export can so easily fall into the hands of human rights abusers … But world leaders have yet to learn their lesson”

It is a damning indictment of the poorly regulated global arms trade that weapons and munitions licensed by governments for export can so easily fall into the hands of human rights abusers.

What is even worse is that this is a case of history repeating itself. But world leaders have yet to learn their lesson.

For many, the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq drove home the dangers of an international arms trade lacking in adequate checks and balances.

When the dust settled after the conflict that ensued when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s powerful armed forces invaded neighbouring Kuwait, it was revealed that his country was awash with arms supplied by all five Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council.

Perversely, several of them had also armed Iran in the previous decade, fuelling an eight-year war with Iraq that resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths.

Now, the same states are once more pouring weapons into the region, often with wholly inadequate protections against diversion and illicit traffic.

This week, those states are among more than 100 countries represented in Cancún, Mexico, for the first Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which entered into force last December. This Aug. 24-27 meeting is crucial because it is due to lay down firm rules and procedures for the treaty’s implementation.

The participation of civil society in this and future ATT conferences is important to prevent potentially life-threatening decisions to take place out of the public sight. Transparency of the ATT reporting process, among other measures, will need to be front and centre, as it will certainly mean the difference between having meaningful checks and balances that can end up saving lives or a weakened treaty that gathers dust as states carry on business as usual in the massive conventional arms trade.

A trade shrouded in secrecy and worth tens of billions of dollars, it claims upwards of half a million lives and countless injuries every year, while putting millions more at risk of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations.

The ATT includes a number of robust rules to stop the flow of arms to countries when it is known they would be used for further atrocities. 

The treaty has swiftly won widespread support from the international community, including five of the top 10 arms exporters – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The United States, by far the largest arms producer and exporter, is among 58 additional countries that have signed but not yet ratified the treaty. However, other major arms producers like China, Canada and Russia have so far resisted signing or ratifying.

One of the ATT’s objectives is “to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion”, so governments have a responsibility to take measures to prevent situations where their arms deals lead to human rights abuses.

Having rigorous controls in place will help ensure that states can no longer simply open the floodgates of arms into a country in conflict or whose government routinely uses arms to repress peoples’ human rights.

The more states get on board the treaty, and the more robust and transparent the checks and balances are, the more it will bring about change in the murky waters of the international arms trade. It will force governments to be more discerning about who they do business with.

The international community has so far failed the people of Syria and Iraq, but the ATT provides governments with a historic opportunity to take a critical step towards protecting civilians from such horrors in the future. They should grab this opportunity with both hands.

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Call for Global Ban on Nuclear Weapons Testing Thu, 27 Aug 2015 09:58:00 +0000 Katsuhiro Asagiri and Ramesh Jaura A group of eminent persons (GEM) launched a concerted campaign on Aug. 25, 2015, for entry into force of a global ban on nuclear weapon tests such as this one at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: United States Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons

A group of eminent persons (GEM) launched a concerted campaign on Aug. 25, 2015, for entry into force of a global ban on nuclear weapon tests such as this one at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: United States Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons

By Katsuhiro Asagiri and Ramesh Jaura
HIROSHIMA, Aug 27 2015 (IPS)

As the international community gears up to commemorate the 20th anniversary next year of the opening up of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) for signature, a group of eminent persons (GEM) has launched a concerted campaign for entry into force of a global ban on nuclear weapon testing.

GEM, which was set up by Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the September 2013 Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) at the United Nations headquarters in New York, met on Aug. 24-25 in Hiroshima, a modern city on Japan’s Honshu Island, which was largely destroyed by an atomic bomb during the Second World War in 1945.

“Multilateralism in arms control and international security is not only possible, but the most effective way of addressing the complex and multi-layered challenges of the 21st century” – CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo
Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the only two cities in the world which have suffered the devastating and brutal atomic bombs that brought profound suffering to innocent children, women and men, the tales of which continue to be told by the ‘hibakusha’ (survivors of atomic bombings).

“There is nowhere other than this region where the urgency of achieving the Treaty’s entry into force is more evident, and there is no group better equipped with the experience and expertise to help further this cause than the Group of Eminent Persons,” CTBTO Executive Secretary Zerbo told participants.

The GEM is a high-level group comprising eminent personalities and internationally recognised experts whose aim is to promote the global ban on nuclear weapons testing, support and complement efforts to promote the entry into force of the Treaty, as well as reinvigorate international endeavours to achieve this goal.

The two-day meeting was hosted by the government of Japan and the city of Hiroshima, where CTBTO Executive Secretary Zerbo participated in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing early August.

On the eve of the meeting, Zerbo joined former United States Secretary of Defence and GEM Member William Perry and Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki as a panellist in a public lecture on nuclear disarmament which was attended by around 100 persons, including many students.

In an opening statement, Zerbo urged global leaders to use the momentum created by the recently reached agreement between the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States) and Iran to inject a much needed dose of hope and positivity in the current discussions on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

“What the Iran deal teaches us is that multilateralism in arms control and international security is not only possible, but the most effective way of addressing the complex and multi-layered challenges of the 21st century. [It] also teaches us that the measure of worth in any security agreement or arms control treaty is in the credibility of its verification provisions. As with the Iran deal, the utility of the CTBT must be judged on the effectiveness of its verification and enforcement mechanisms. In this area, there can be no question,” Zerbo said.

Also speaking at the opening session, Perry expressed his firm belief that ratification of the CTBT served U.S. national interests, not only at the international level but also at the strictly domestic level for national security measures. He considered that the current geopolitical climate constituted a risk for the prospects of entry into force and reiterated the importance of maintaining the moratoria on nuclear testing.

Participating GEM members included Nobuyasu Abe, former U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Japan; Des Browne, former Secretary of State for Defence, United Kingdom; Jayantha Dhanapala, former U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs; Sérgio Duarte, former U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Brazil; Michel Duclos, Senior Counsellor to the Policy Planning Department at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Wolfgang Hoffmann, former Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, Germany; Ho-Jin Lee, Ambassador, Republic of Korea; and William Perry, former Secretary of Defence, United States.

István Mikola, Minister of State, Hungary; Yusron Ihza Mahendra, Ambassador of Indonesia to Japan; Mitsuru Kitano, Permanent Representative, Ambassador of Japan to the International Organisations in Vienna; and Yerzhan N. Ashikbayev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Kazakhstan, participated as ex-officio members.

The GEM took stock of the Plan of Action agreed in its meetings in New York (Sep. 2013), Stockholm (Apr. 2014) and Seoul (Jun. 2015). The Group considered the current international climate and determined that, with the upcoming 20th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, there was an urgency to unite the international community in support of preventing the proliferation and further development of nuclear weapons with the aim of their total elimination.

Participants in the meeting discussed a wide range of relevant issues and debated practical measures that could be undertaken to further advance the entry into force of the Treaty, especially in the run-up to the Article XIV Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of the CTBT, which will take place at the end of September in New York, with Japan and Kazakhstan as co-chairs.

One hundred and eighty-three countries have signed the Treaty, of which 163 have also ratified it, including three of the nuclear weapon states: France, Russia and the United Kingdom. But 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries must sign and ratify before the CTBT can enter into force. Of these, eight are still missing: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States. India, North Korea and Pakistan have yet to sign the CTBT.

The GEM adopted the Hiroshima Declaration, which reaffirmed the group’s commitment to achieving the global elimination of nuclear weapons and, in particular, to the entry into force of the CTBT as “one of the most essential practical measures for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation”, and, among others, called for “a multilateral approach to engage the leadership of the remaining . . . eight States with the aim of facilitating their respective ratification processes.”

The GEM called on “political leaders, governments, civil society and the international scientific community to raise awareness of the essential role of the CTBT in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and in the prevention of the catastrophic consequences of the use of nuclear weapons for humankind.”

Edited by Phil Harris   

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