Inter Press Service » Nuclear Energy – Nuclear Weapons http://www.ipsnews.net Journalism and Communication for Global Change Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:32:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Yakama Nation Tells DOE to Clean Up Nuclear Waste http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/yakama-nation-tells-doe-clean-nuclear-waste/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yakama-nation-tells-doe-clean-nuclear-waste http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/yakama-nation-tells-doe-clean-nuclear-waste/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 18:21:39 +0000 Michelle Tolson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133655 The Department of Energy (DOE), politicians and CEOs were discussing how to warn generations 125,000 years in the future about the radioactive waste at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, considered the most polluted site in the U.S., when Native American anti-nuclear activist Russell Jim interrupted their musings: “We’ll tell them.” He tells IPS “they looked around and […]

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At the perimetre of Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State. Credit: Jason E. Kaplan/IPS

At the perimetre of Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State. Credit: Jason E. Kaplan/IPS

By Michelle Tolson
YAKAMA NATION, Washington State, U.S. , Apr 14 2014 (IPS)

The Department of Energy (DOE), politicians and CEOs were discussing how to warn generations 125,000 years in the future about the radioactive waste at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, considered the most polluted site in the U.S., when Native American anti-nuclear activist Russell Jim interrupted their musings: “We’ll tell them.”

He tells IPS “they looked around and saw me. I said, ‘We’ve been here since the beginning of time, so we will be here then.’ That was when they knew they’d have a fight on their hands.”“Helen Caldicott told us in 1997 that if we eat fish from the Columbia, we’ll die." -- Yakama Elder Russell Jim

With his long braids, the 78-year-old director of the Environmental Restoration & Waste Management Programme (ERWM) for the Yakama tribes cuts a striking figure, sitting calmly in his office located on the arid lands of his sovereign nation.

The Yakama Reservation in southeast Washington has 1.2 million acres with 10,000 federally recognised tribal members and an estimated 12,000 feral horses roaming the desert steppe. Down from the 12 million acres ceded by force to the U.S. government in 1855, it is just 20 miles west from the Hanford nuclear site.

Though the nuclear arms race ended in 1989, radioactive waste is the legacy of the various sites of the former Manhattan Project spread across the U.S.

While the Yakama have successfully protected their sacred fishing grounds from becoming a repository for nuclear waste from other project sites by invoking the treaty of 1855 which promises access to their “usual and accustomed places,” Hanford is far from clean, though the DOE promised to restore the land.

“The DOE is trying to reclassify the waste as ‘low activity.’ They are trying to leave it here and bury it in shallow pits. Scientists are saying that it needs to be buried deep under the ground,” Jim explains.

Tom Carpenter of Hanford Challenge watchdog group tells IPS “it is a battle for Washington State and the tribes to get the feds to keep their promise to remove the waste. There are 42 miles of trenches that are 15 feet wide and 20 feet deep full of boxes, crates and vials of waste in unlined trenches.”

There are a further 177 underground tanks of radioactive waste and six are leaking. Waste is supposed to be moved within 24 hours from leak detection or whenever is “practicable” but the contractors say there is not enough space.

Three whistleblowers working on the cleanup raised concerns and were fired. Closely followed by a local news station, it is an issue that is largely neglected by mainstream media and the Yakama’s fight seems all but ignored.

“We used to have a media person on staff but the DOE says there is no need as ‘everything is going fine,” says Russell Jim. His department lost 80 percent of its funding in 2012 after cutbacks. His tribe doesn’t fund ERWM, the DOE does. “The DOE crapped it up, so they should pay for it.”

Russell Jim, Yakama Elder and Director of Environmental Restoration & Waste Management Program (ERWM) for the Yakama Nation. Credit: Jason E. Kaplan/IPS

Russell Jim, Yakama Elder and Director of Environmental Restoration & Waste Management Program (ERWM) for the Yakama Nation. Credit: Jason E. Kaplan/IPS

But everything is not fine. With radioactive groundwater plumes making their way toward the river, the Yakama and watchdog groups says it is an emergency. Some plumes are just 400 yards from the river where the tribe accesses Hanford Reach monument, according to treaty rights.

Hanford Reach nature reserve, a buffer zone for the site, is the Columbia’s largest spawning grounds for wild fall Chinook salmon

Washington State reports highly toxic radioactive contamination from uranium, strontium 90 and chromium in the ground water has already entered the Columbia River.

“There are about 150 groundwater ‘upwellings’ in the gravel of the Columbia River coming from Hanford that young salmon swim around,” explains Russell Jim.

“Helen Caldicott [founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility] told us in 1997 that if we eat fish from the Columbia, we’ll die,” he adds.

Callie Ridolfi, environmental consultant to the Yakama, tells IPS their diet of 150 to 519 grammes of fish a day, nearly double regional tribal averages and far greater than the mainstream population, puts them at greater risk, with as much as a one in 50 chance of getting cancer from eating resident fish.

Migratory fish like salmon that live in the ocean most of their lives are less affected, unlike resident fish.

According to a 2002 EPA study on fish contaminants, resident sturgeon and white fish from Hanford Reach had some of the highest levels of PCBs.

Last year, Washington and Oregon states released an advisory for the 150-mile heavily dammed stretch of the Columbia from Bonneville to McNary Dam to limit eating resident fish to once a week due to PCB toxins.

Fisheries manager at Mike Matylewich at Columbia River Inter Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), says, “Lubricants containing PCBs were used for years, particularly in transformers, at hydroelectric dams because of the ability to withstand high temperatures.

“The ability to withstand high temperatures contributes to their persistence in the environment as a legacy contaminant,” he tells IPS.

While the advisory does not include the Hanford Reach, the longest undammed stretch of the Columbia, Russell Jim doubts it’s safe.

“The DOE tells congress the river corridor is clean. It’s not clean but they are afraid of damages being filed against them.” A cancer survivor, Jim’s tribe received no compensation for damages from radioactive releases from 1944 to 1971 into the Columbia as high as 6,300,000 curies of Neptunium-239.

Steven G. Gilbert, a toxicologist with Physicians for Social Responsbility, tells IPS there is a lack transparency and data on the Hanford cleanup. “It is a huge problem,” he says, adding that contaminated groundwater at Hanford still interacts with the Columbia River, based on water levels.

Though eight of the nine nuclear reactors next to the river were decommissioned, the 1,175-megawatt Energy Northwest Energy power plant is still functioning

“Many people don’t know there is a live nuclear reactor on the Columbia. It’s the same style as Fukushima,” Gilbert explains.

In the middle of the fight are the tribes, which are sovereign nations. Russell Jim says they are often erroneously described as “stakeholders” when they are separate governments.

“We were the only tribe to take on the nuclear issue and testify at the 1980 Senate subcommittee. In 1982 we immediately filed for affected tribe status. The Umatilla and the Nez Perce tribes later joined.”

Yucca Mountain was earmarked by congress as a nuclear storage repository for Hanford and other sites’ waste but the plan was struck down by the president. Southern Paiute and Western Shoshone in the region filed for affected status.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico was slated to take waste from Hanford but after a fire in February, the site is taking no more waste. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has expressed concern about the lack of storage options.

The U.S. has the largest stockpile of spent nuclear fuel globally – five times that of Russia.

“The best material to store waste in is granite and the northeast U.S. has a lot of granite. An ideal site was just 30 miles from the capital, but that is out,” says Russell Jim with a wry smile, considering its proximity to the White House.

He does not plan to give up. “We are the only people here who can’t pick up and move on.”

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The Iranian Nuclear Weapons Programme That Wasn’t http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/iranian-nuclear-weapons-programme-wasnt/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iranian-nuclear-weapons-programme-wasnt http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/iranian-nuclear-weapons-programme-wasnt/#comments Sat, 12 Apr 2014 01:07:26 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133622 When U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz unsealed the indictment of a Chinese citizen in the UK for violating the embargo against Iran, she made what appeared to be a new U.S. accusation of an Iran nuclear weapons programme. The press release on the indictment announced that between in November 2005 and 2012, Sihai […]

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By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, Apr 12 2014 (IPS)

When U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz unsealed the indictment of a Chinese citizen in the UK for violating the embargo against Iran, she made what appeared to be a new U.S. accusation of an Iran nuclear weapons programme.

The press release on the indictment announced that between in November 2005 and 2012, Sihai Cheng had supplied parts that have nuclear applications, including U.S.-made goods, to an Iranian company, Eyvaz Technic Manufacturing, which it described as “involved in the development and procurement of parts for Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”The text of the indictment ...was yet another iteration of a rhetorical device used often in the past to portray Iran’s gas centrifuge enrichment programme as equivalent to the development of nuclear weapons.

Reuters, Bloomberg, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune and The Independent all reported that claim as fact. But the U.S. intelligence community, since its well-known November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, has continued to be very clear on the pubic record about its conclusion that Iran has not had a nuclear weapons programme since 2003.

Something was clearly amiss with the Justice Department’s claim.

The text of the indictment reveals that the reference to a “nuclear weapons program” was yet another iteration of a rhetorical device used often in the past to portray Iran’s gas centrifuge enrichment programme as equivalent to the development of nuclear weapons.

The indictment doesn’t actually refer to an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, as the Ortiz press release suggested. But it does say that the Iranian company in question, Eyvaz Tehnic Manufacturing, “has supplied parts for Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.”

The indictment claims that Eyvaz provided “vacuum equipment” to Iran’s two uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow and “pressure transducers” to Kalaye Electric Company, which has worked on centrifuge research and development.

But even those claims are not supported by anything except a reference to a Dec. 2, 2011 decision by the Council of the European Union that did not offer any information supporting that claim.

The credibility of the EU claim was weakened, moreover, by the fact that the document describes Eyvaz as a “producer of vacuum equipment.” The company’s website shows that it produces equipment for the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, including level controls and switches, control valves and steam traps.

Further revealing its political nature of indictment’s nuclear weapons claim, it cites two documents “designating” entities for their ties to the nuclear programme: the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737 and a U.S. Treasury Department decision two months later.

Neither of those documents suggested any connection between Eyvaz and nuclear weapons. The UNSC Resolution, passed Dec. 23, 2006, referred to Iran’s enrichment as “proliferation sensitive nuclear activities” in 11 different places in the brief text and listed Eyvaz as one of the Iranian entities to be sanctioned for its involvement in those activities.

And in February 2007 the Treasury Department designated Kalaye Electric Company as a “proliferator of Weapons of Mass Destruction” merely because of its “research and development efforts in support of Iran’s nuclear centrifuge program.”

The designation by Treasury was carried out under an Executive Order 13382, issued by President George W. Bush, which is called “Blocking Property of Weapons of Mass destruction Proliferators and Their Supporters.” That title conveyed the impression to the casual observer that the people on the list had been caught in actual WMD proliferation activities.

But the order required allowed the U.S. government to sanction any foreign person merely because that person was determined to have engaged in activities that it argued “pose a risk of materially contributing” to “the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery”.

The Obama administration’s brazen suggestion that it was indicting an individual for exporting U.S. products to a company that has been involved in Iran’s “nuclear weapons program” is simply a new version of the same linguistic trick used by the Bush administration.

The linguistic acrobatics began with the political position that Iran’s centrifuge programme posed a “risk” of WMD proliferation; that “risk” of proliferation was then conflated with nuclear proliferation activities, when than was transmuted into “development of nuclear weapons”.

The final linguistic shift was to convert “development of nuclear weapons” into a “nuclear weapons program”.

That kind of the deceptive rhetoric about the Iranian nuclear programme began with the Bill Clinton administration, which argued, in effect, that nuclear weapons development could be inferred from Iran’s enrichment programme.

Although Cheng and Jamili clearly violated U.S. statutes in purchasing and importing the pressure transducers from the United States and sending them to Eyvaz in Iran, a close reading of the indictment indicates that the evidence that Eyvaz provided the transducers to the Iranian nuclear programme is weak at best.

The indictment says Cheng began doing business with Jamili and his company Nicaro in November 2005, and that he sold thousands of Chinese parts “with nuclear applications” which had been requested by Eyvaz. But all the parts listed in the indictment are dual use items that Eyvaz could have ordered for production equipment for oil and gas industry customers.

The indictment insinuates that Eyvaz was ordering the parts to pass them on to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz, but provides no real evidence of that intent. It quotes Jamili as informing Cheng in 2007 that his unnamed customer needed the parts for “a very big project and a secret one”. In 2008, he told Cheng that the customer was “making a very dangerous system and gas leakage acts as a bomb!”

The authors do not connect either of those statements to Eyvaz, but they suggest that it was a reference to gas centrifuges and thus imply that it must have been Eyvaz. “During the enrichment of uranium using gas centrifuges,” the indictment explains, “extremely corrosive chemicals are produced that could cause fire and explosions.”

That statement is highly misleading, however. There is no real risk of gas leaks from centrifuges causing fires or explosions, as MIT nuclear expert Scott R. Kemp told IPS in an interview. “The only risk of a gas leak [in centrifuge enrichment] is to the centrifuge itself,” said Kemp, “because the gas could leak into the centrifuge and cause it to crash.”

On the other hand, substantial risk of explosion and fire from gas leaks exists in the natural gas industry. So even if the customer referred to in the quotes had been Eyvaz, they would have been consistent with that company’s sales to gas industry customers.

Pressure transducers are used to control risk in that industry, as Todd McPadden of Ashcroft Instruments in Stratford, Connecticut told IPS. The pressure transducer measures the gas pressure and responds to any indication of either loss of pressure from leaks or build up of excessive pressure, McPadden explained.

The indictment shows in detail that in 2009 Eyvaz ordered hundreds of pressure transducers, which came from the U.S. company MKS. But again the indictment cites no real evidence that Eyvaz was ordering them to supply Iran’s enrichment facilities.

It refers only to photographs showing that MKS parts ended up in the centrifuge cascades at Natanz, which does constitute evidence that they came from Eyvaz.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His new book “Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare”, was published Feb. 14.

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U.S. Rejected Israeli Demand for Iran Nuclear Confession http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/u-s-rejected-israeli-demand-iran-nuclear-confession/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-rejected-israeli-demand-iran-nuclear-confession http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/u-s-rejected-israeli-demand-iran-nuclear-confession/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 18:12:06 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133320 The Barack Obama administration appears to have rejected a deal-breaking demand by Israel for an Iranian confession to having had a covert nuclear weapons programme as a condition for completing the comprehensive nuclear agreement. Pro-Israeli commentators have openly criticised the Obama administration for failing to explicitly demand that Iran confess to charges by the International […]

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By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, Mar 31 2014 (IPS)

The Barack Obama administration appears to have rejected a deal-breaking demand by Israel for an Iranian confession to having had a covert nuclear weapons programme as a condition for completing the comprehensive nuclear agreement.

Pro-Israeli commentators have openly criticised the Obama administration for failing to explicitly demand that Iran confess to charges by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of a covert nuclear weapons programme.All the intelligence in question can be traced back to Israel, and investigation of it has shown that the documents and reports that have been most widely publicised betray multiple indications of having been fabricated.

Demanding such a confession would be an obvious deal-breaker, because Iran has consistently denied those past charges and denounced the documents and intelligence reports on which they were based as fraudulent.  In fact, the failure of the talks appears to be precisely the Israeli intention in pressing Washington to make that demand.

All the intelligence in question can be traced back to Israel, and investigation of it has shown that the documents and reports that have been most widely publicised betray multiple indications of having been fabricated, as reported by IPS.

A “senior administration official” told reporters after the Nov. 24 Joint Plan of Action was announced that the United States had “made clear” in the negotiations that “the Security Council resolutions must still be addressed…and that Iran must come come into compliance with its obligations under the NPT and its obligations to the IAEA.”

The U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 of Jun. 9, 2010 says Iran “shall cooperate with the IAEA on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear programme….”

The term “possible military dimensions” had been used by the IAEA in referring to the claims publicised by the agency over the past six years of covert Iranian nuclear weapons development projects, including an alleged facility at Parchin for testing nuclear weapons designs.

The administration thus seemed to suggest that some kind of Iranian admission to past nuclear weapons work is a condition for a final agreement.

But the Obama administration’s rhetoric on resolving IAEA claims of a nuclear weapons programme appears to be less about forcing Iran to confess than responding to pressures from Israel and its supporters in the United States.

The first explicit indication of Israeli pressure on Obama to demand an Iranian confession as part of any diplomatic settlement came in a September 2012 article by Patrick Clawson and David Makovsky, then both senior staff members of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), whose analysis and recommendations reflect Israeli government policy.

“Given Iran’s past undeclared activities,” Clawson and Makovsky wrote, “a particular concern is that Iran will develop clandestine nuclear facilities.  Tehran’s coming clean about the past will therefore be an important determinant of whether it has any hidden capabilities.”

The demand that Iran “come clean” on its alleged nuclear weapons program entered into the Obama administration’s public posture for the first time after consultations with Israel in advance of the October 2013 round of negotiations with Iran.

The new Iran-IAEA agreement on the EBW issue raises the question of whether IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano is now ready to reach a deal with Iran, despite having staked his own reputation on the November 2011 report on intelligence claims of covert Iranian nuclear weapons research coming from Israel. Credit: International Students’ Committee/cc by 3.0

The new Iran-IAEA agreement on the EBW issue raises the question of whether IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano is now ready to reach a deal with Iran, despite having staked his own reputation on the November 2011 report on intelligence claims of covert Iranian nuclear weapons research coming from Israel. Credit: International Students’ Committee/cc by 3.0

Secretary of State John Kerry declared in Tokyo Oct. 3 that Iran would “have to prove it’s willing to come clean about the nuclear programme”.

That same day, Ambassador James Jeffrey, a senior fellow at WINEP, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Iran “must come clean on its nuclear-related military research”.

By the time the negotiations on the joint Plan of Action were completed in November, however, the State Department adopted language on the issue that harkened back to Kerry’s testimony at his Senate confirmation hearings in January 2013.  Kerry had said then that “questions surrounding Iran’s nuclear weapons programme” had to be “resolved”.

It quickly became apparent that Israel had wanted the United States to demand not only a pro forma confession by Iran but the details of its alleged work on nuclear weapons.  On the very day the agreement was announced, however, Robert Satloff, the executive director of WINEP, expressed his unhappiness that the deal did not include “getting Iran to come clean on all its past clandestine programmes….”

Also on Nov. 24, Mark Dubowitz and Orde Kittrie of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which is well known for expressing Israeli policy on Iran, criticised the Joint Plan of Action in the Wall Street Journal for failing to “make clear reference to Iran revealing its past nuclear weapons research.”

The following day WINEP managing director Michael Singh complained in the Wall Street Journal objected again to the same U.S. failure to demand all the details of Iranian work on nuclear weapons. “Without insight into the full extent of Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities,” Singh wrote, “no amount of monitoring and inspection can provide confidence that Iran lacks a parallel programme beyond the inspectors’ view.”

Along with Kerry’s initial adoption of the “come clean” rhetoric, these sharp criticisms of the U.S. refusal to call explicitly for a confession indicate that the Obama administration had initially went along with Israel’s  in calling for Iran to “come clean”, but concluded that such a demand risked a premature breakdown in the talks.

Since the interim agreement, moreover, the State Department has avoided language that would commit it to requiring anything resembling an Iranian confession.  In Israel Feb. 22, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who is the primary negotiator with Iran, said, “What we have said to Iran is that [the 'possible military dimensions' issue] will have to be addressed in some way.”

Sherman suggested for the first time the possibility of a less than complete and clear-cut outcome of the process. The IAEA was “very much focused on working through PMD with Iran,” said Sherman. “And the more Iran can do with the IAEA, which is where this belongs, the more likely we will have successful comprehensive agreement.”

A former U.S. official who had worked on Iran suggested in a recent off-the-record meeting that the “possible military dimensions” issue could not be resolved completely, but that one or more parts could be clarified satisfactorily.  The rest could be left for resolution by the IAEA after the comprehensive agreement is signed, the ex-official said.

That possibility arises because Iran and the IAEA agreed in February to work on the “Exploding Bridgewire” (EBW) issue – the claim published by the IAEA that Iran had carried out experiments on high explosives developed for the purpose of detonating a nuclear weapon.

That claim was based on a document that was part of the large collection originally said by anonymous intelligence sources to have come from the laptop computer of a participant in a purported Iranian nuclear weapons research project.

The documents were actually turned over to German intelligence by the Iranian terrorist organisation Mujahedin-E-Khalq, which had close links to Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad.

Iran provided the IAEA with an account of its actual EBW development programme in 2008. The Iranian account, cited by the agency in its May 2008 report, indicated the rate of explosions in its experiments, which was just one-eighth the rate mentioned by then IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen in a briefing for member states in 2008.

But instead of acknowledging that fact in its report, the IAEA suggested repeatedly that Iran had acknowledged carrying out the EBW experiments described in the purported document from the secret weapons programme while claiming it was for non-nuclear applications.

The new Iran-IAEA agreement on the EBW issue raises the question of whether IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano is now ready to reach a deal with Iran, despite having staked his own reputation on the November 2011 report on intelligence claims of covert Iranian nuclear weapons research coming from Israel.

Such an agreement might be based on the IAEA’s stating accurately the Iranian explanation for the EBW – and thus implicitly admitting that the agency had distorted the issue in the past. Other issues might be left to be resolved quietly after the negotiations on a comprehensive agreement are completed.  

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His new book “Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare”, was published Feb. 14.

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Exploring the Path Towards a Nuclear-free World http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/exploring-path-towards-nuclear-free-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=exploring-path-towards-nuclear-free-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/exploring-path-towards-nuclear-free-world/#comments Sat, 29 Mar 2014 23:16:11 +0000 Daisaku Ikeda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133300 Daisaku Ikeda is a Japanese Buddhist philosopher and peace-builder and president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) grassroots Buddhist movement (www.sgi.org). The full text of Ikeda’s 2014 Peace Proposal can be viewed at http://www.sgi.org/sgi-president/proposals/peace/peace-proposal-2014.html​.

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Daisaku Ikeda is a Japanese Buddhist philosopher and peace-builder and president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) grassroots Buddhist movement (www.sgi.org). The full text of Ikeda’s 2014 Peace Proposal can be viewed at http://www.sgi.org/sgi-president/proposals/peace/peace-proposal-2014.html​.

By Daisaku Ikeda
TOKYO, Mar 29 2014 (IPS)

This past February, the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons was held in Nayarit, Mexico, as a follow-up to the first such conference held last year in Oslo, Norway. The conclusion reached by this conference, on the basis of scientific research, was that “no State or international organisation has the capacity to address or provide the short and long term humanitarian assistance and protection needed in case of a nuclear weapon explosion.”

As this makes clear, almost 70 years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, humanity remains defenceless in the face of the catastrophic effects that any use of nuclear weapons would inevitably produce.

Since May 2012, a succession of four joint statements warning of the dire humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons have been issued. These statements have drawn support from a growing number of states; the Nayarit conference was attended by the representatives of 146 countries.

Dr. Daisaku Ikeda. Credit: Seikyo Shimbun.

Dr. Daisaku Ikeda. Credit: Seikyo Shimbun.

In summing up the outcome of the conference, the Chair stressed the need for a legal framework outlawing these weapons, whose very existence is contrary to human dignity, stating that the time has come to initiate a diplomatic process to realise this goal. It is highly significant that three-quarters of the member states of the United Nations have expressed their shared desire for a world without nuclear weapons in this way.

Regrettably, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the nuclear-weapon states recognised under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), did not attend this meeting. What is needed most at this juncture is to find a common language shared by the countries signing these joint statements and the nuclear-weapon states.

The movement to focus on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons has emerged against the backdrop of grassroots efforts by global civil society calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Crucially, this has included the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who have long raised their voices in the cry that no one must ever again experience the horror of nuclear war.

On the other hand, the experience of being in possession of the “nuclear button” that would launch a devastating strike has steadily impressed on several generations of political leaders in the nuclear-weapon states the reality that nuclear weapons are unlike other armaments and cannot be considered militarily useful weapons. This has served as a restraint against their use.

In this sense, the two sides share a sentiment that can bridge the gulf between them – the desire never to witness or experience the catastrophic humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons. This can serve as the basis for a common language with which to explore the path towards a world without nuclear weapons.

I have repeatedly called for a nuclear abolition summit to be held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki next year in 2015, the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of those cities. I hope that representatives of the nuclear-weapon states, the countries that have signed the Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, as well as representatives of global civil society and, above all, youthful citizens from throughout the world, will gather in a world youth summit for nuclear abolition to adopt a declaration affirming their commitment to end dependence on nuclear weapons and bring the era of nuclear weapons to a close.

In this connection, I would like to offer some concrete proposals.

The first is for a nuclear weapons non-use agreement. One means of achieving this would be to place the catastrophic humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons use at the centre of the deliberations for the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Such an agreement would advance the implementation of Article VI of the NPT, under which the nuclear-weapon states have committed to pursuing nuclear disarmament in good faith.

Regions such as Northeast Asia and the Middle East, which are not currently covered by nuclear-weapon-free zones, could take advantage of a non-use agreement to declare themselves “nuclear weapon non-use zones,” as a preliminary step to becoming nuclear-weapon-free. It is my strong hope that Japan – which signed the most recent iteration of the joint statement on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons even while remaining under the nuclear umbrella of the United States – will reawaken to its responsibility as a country that has experienced atomic weapons attack. Japan should play a leading role in the establishment of such a non-use agreement and non-use zones.

In parallel with such efforts within the existing NPT regime, I would also call upon the international community to fully utilise the process now developing around the successive joint statements to broadly enlist international public opinion and catalyse negotiations for the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons.

This could take the form of a treaty expressing the commitment, made in light of the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, to the future relinquishment of reliance on these weapons as a means of achieving security, coupled with separate protocols defining concrete prohibition and verification regimes. Such an approach would mean that even if the entry into force of the separate protocols took time, the treaty would express the clear will of the international community that nuclear weapons have no place in our world.

This coming April 11-12, the Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative will convene in Hiroshima, attended by the foreign ministers of 12 states. From April 28, the NPT Review Conference preparatory committee will meet in New York. These are opportunities for global civil society to arouse international public opinion and to accelerate progress towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The work of building a world without nuclear weapons signifies more than just the elimination of these horrific weapons. Rather, it is a process by which the people themselves, through their own efforts, take on the challenge of realising a new era of peace and creative coexistence. This is the necessary precondition for a sustainable global society, a world in which all people – above all, the members of future generations – can live in the full enjoyment of their inherent dignity as human beings.

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Non-Nuclear Ukraine Haunts Security Summit in The Hague http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/non-nuclear-ukraine-haunts-security-summit-hague/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=non-nuclear-ukraine-haunts-security-summit-hague http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/non-nuclear-ukraine-haunts-security-summit-hague/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 19:02:23 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133243 The two-day, much-ballyhooed Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in the Netherlands, which concluded Tuesday, was politically haunted by the upheaval in Ukraine – the former Soviet republic that renounced some 1,800 of its nuclear weapons in one of the world’s most successful disarmament exercises back in 1994. Still, it raised a question that has remained unanswered: […]

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Nuclear Security Summit 2014, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (far left). Credit: Dave de Vaal/cc by 2.0

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Nuclear Security Summit 2014, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (far left). Credit: Dave de Vaal/cc by 2.0

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 26 2014 (IPS)

The two-day, much-ballyhooed Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in the Netherlands, which concluded Tuesday, was politically haunted by the upheaval in Ukraine – the former Soviet republic that renounced some 1,800 of its nuclear weapons in one of the world’s most successful disarmament exercises back in 1994.

Still, it raised a question that has remained unanswered: Would Russian President Vladimir Putin have intervened militarily in Ukraine if it had continued to remain the world’s third largest nuclear power, after the United States and Russia?"The political utility of nuclear weapons boils down to a gamble that threatening to use them will cause an adversary to back down." -- John Loretz

The only way in which the conflict would be different now – had Ukraine kept possession of its nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union – “is that two nuclear-armed states would be testing each other’s willingness to do the unthinkable in the midst of a political crisis,” John Loretz, programme director of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), told IPS.

“The claim that deterrence works and that, therefore, Ukraine would be more secure with nuclear weapons, is facile and unsupportable,” he said.

In an editorial last week, the Wall Street Journal said it is impossible to know whether Putin would have been so quick to invade Crimea if Ukraine had nuclear weapons.

“But it’s likely it would have at least given him more pause,” the editorial said, arguing that Ukraine’s fate “is likely to make the world’s nuclear rogues, such as Iran and North Korea, even less likely to give up their nuclear facilities or weapons.”

And several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia and perhaps Egypt, are contemplating their nuclear options should Iran go nuclear.

“Ukraine’s fate will only reinforce those who believe these countries can’t trust American assurances,” the Journal said.

Refuting that argument, Jonathan Granoff, president of the Global Security Institute, told IPS: “Let us presume that the Wall Street Journal’s logic is correct.”

It would then follow that a core premise of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, is adverse to the security interests of over 180 nations, which, pursuant to the treaty, have eschewed these horrific devices, he pointed out.

Declaration of the NSS

The Nuclear Security Summit, attended by 58 world leaders, adopted a declaration and approved new agreements:

• reducing the amount of dangerous nuclear material in the world that terrorists could use to make a nuclear weapon (highly enriched uranium and plutonium);

• improving the security of radioactive material (including low-enriched uranium) that can be used to make a "dirty bomb";

• improving the international exchange of information and international cooperation.

“A treaty that undermines the security interests of the vast majority of nations is not likely to survive for long,” said Granoff, a senior adviser of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Arms Control and National Security.

The better question, he argued, is whether the world is better off with more states with nuclear weapons or whether eliminating them universally, as the same treaty also demands, is the better course.

“If nuclear weapons were universally banned and the associated fear and hostility they engender diminished, would we be more able to soberly identify our shared interests in a more secure world?” he asked.

Dr. Ian Anthony, director of the European Security Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told IPS a secure nuclear future cannot be based on a total absence of risk, because that cannot be achieved.

He said it follows that global nuclear security is not a final state, something that can be achieved once, and for all time.

“The instruments needed to reduce nuclear security risk will have to be continuously adapted in line with changing political, economic and technological conditions,” he said.

Anthony also said the long-term sustainability of the nuclear security effort will ultimately depend on successful multi-lateralisation of the process.

Some states with complex nuclear fuel cycles did not participate in the Nuclear Security Summit. At some point, these states will have to be engaged with and included, he added.

The Hague summit was aimed at preventing non-state actors and terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear weapons or nuclear materials.

The summit was the third in a series, the first being held in Washington DC in 2010, and the second in Seoul, South Korea, in 2012.

On the comparison with Ukraine, Granoff told IPS, “The myopia of the Wall Street Journal’s perspective distorts empirically definable threats which can be ignored no longer, amongst them, surely is the ongoing threat of a use of a nuclear weapon by accident, design or madness.”

He asked: “Would we not be better able to cooperate on the existential threats challenging every citizen of Russia, US, UK, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, France, North Korea and the Ukraine, such as stabilising the climate, protecting the rain forests and the health of the oceans, as well as the critically important global threats such as pandemic diseases, cyber security, terrorism, and financial markets?”

Loretz told IPS there is no proof that deterrence works, only that it has not yet failed. Anyone who believes that deterrence cannot fail – that it will work 100 percent of the time – is living in a fantasy world.

“One need only recall the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, where plain dumb luck had far more to do with averting catastrophe than any rational decision making – of which there was precious little,” he said.

As more states acquire nuclear weapons, he pointed out, “we simply come closer to the day when deterrence fails and nuclear weapons are used. Most countries came to this unavoidable conclusion decades ago, which is why we have the NPT and are so anxious to maintain its integrity until we can rid the world of nuclear weapons entirely.”

Loretz said the recent humanitarian initiative emerging from the 2013 Oslo and 2014 Nayarit conferences (on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons) is based on an understanding that nuclear weapons themselves are the problem, regardless of who possesses them, and that the only sure way to prevent their use is to delegitimise and eliminate them.

“This humanitarian perspective trumps all claims for the political utility of nuclear weapons, which always boils down to a gamble that threatening to use them will cause an adversary to back down,” he declared.

In the current crisis, he argued, that really would be a game of Russian roulette that no one should be playing.

“Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Ukraine had kept its strategic nuclear weapons that remained behind when the Soviet Union broke apart,” Loretz said.

“Would that have made the longstanding differences in the region any less intractable? Would Russia be any less inclined to flex its muscles in a region where it has major political and economic ambitions? Would Ukraine’s relationship with Europe, particularly the NATO states, have been any less complicated or provocative to Russia?”

“No, no, and no,” he declared.

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Russians Stand Strong Against Sanctions http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/russians-stand-strong-sanctions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=russians-stand-strong-sanctions http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/russians-stand-strong-sanctions/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 07:17:15 +0000 Pavol Stracansky http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133095 As the West imposes what have been called the most comprehensive sanctions on Russia since the end of the Cold War, many ordinary Russians say they have no fear of any economic measures the United States or the European Union may take against their country. Since the Russian invasion of the Crimean peninsula at the […]

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Muscovites at the entrance to Red Square. Experts say the impact of any strong Western sanctions would be felt by ordinary Russians. Credit: Pavol Stracansky/IPS.

Muscovites at the entrance to Red Square. Experts say the impact of any strong Western sanctions would be felt by ordinary Russians. Credit: Pavol Stracansky/IPS.

By Pavol Stracansky
MOSCOW, Mar 20 2014 (IPS)

As the West imposes what have been called the most comprehensive sanctions on Russia since the end of the Cold War, many ordinary Russians say they have no fear of any economic measures the United States or the European Union may take against their country.

Since the Russian invasion of the Crimean peninsula at the end of last month, Western leaders have been threatening Moscow with economic sanctions.

The threat of sanctions sent stocks on Russian exchanges tumbling and added to what has been a massive capital flight – when investors pull money out of a country’s economy – since the start of the year.There is resolute confidence among many ordinary Russians that Russia is more than strong enough to withstand any economic assault.

Economists say that the already ailing Russian economy could be severely affected if harsh, targeted sanctions were implemented.

The referendum in Crimea at the weekend – condemned by much of the international community as illegitimate and illegal and which has resulted in the region being set to become part of Russia within possibly months – has now brought the first round of those sanctions.

So far, the EU sanctions will see EU-wide assets of 21 Russian and Crimean individuals identified as linked to unrest in Crimea frozen while those same people face a travel ban. The U.S. sanctions are similar but apply to 11 people.

And although widely seen as limited in scope, further measures have been pledged by the U.S. and the EU if Russia does not move to de-escalate the crisis.

While the Russian government and other politicians have responded by preparing a series of counter measures, there is resolute confidence among many ordinary Russians that Russia is more than strong enough, economically and politically, to withstand any economic assault the West launches at it. The street mood seems defiant, even if economists warn of consequences in the face of strong sanctions.

This confidence is being bolstered by reports in the Russian media, much of which is controlled by the Kremlin.

Since the invasion of Crimea, local media has portrayed the West as colluding with an illegal and reprobate Ukrainian government bent on oppressing the majority ethnic Russian population in Crimea.

It has also played on the widespread belief among Russians that Crimea is naturally a part of Russia – it was made part of Ukraine in 1954 by then Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev. Russian media has now posited Russia as a liberator securing the safety of its citizens in a land unfairly taken from it.

It has also emphasised the country’s military might. On Sunday the head of the state broadcasting network Russia Today, Dmitri Kiselev, spoke on his news show of how Russia remained the only country in the world capable of reducing the U.S. to “radioactive ash”.

Such talk has created a renewed sense of Russian power among many. In a survey by the independent Levada polling agency released this week, two thirds of Russians see Russia as a global superpower – up 16 percent since 2011.

Crucially, newspapers have carried reports saying that the sanctions will only push Russia closer to China and other Asian states and strengthen economic ties with them, replacing any lost trade with the West.

Maria Yemelianenko, 29, a supermarket worker in Moscow, seemed to sum up the general mood among Russians towards Western sanctions. She told IPS: “Russia is a huge country and sanctions could not affect us like they have with other countries in the past. We have a lot of our own resources.

“I am sure President Putin knows what he is doing, and the people of Russia will not go hungry.”

But while many Russian politicians have dismissed the potential effects of sanctions, not everyone is convinced there will not be some repercussions for the Russian economy.

Alexei Kudrin, a member of the Presidium of the Russian president’s Economic Council, was quoted by the Yandex.ru news website as saying that economic growth could be affected negatively and that both foreign and domestic investment could be hurt.

Dmitry Seleznev, 52, an economist at a large agricultural production company in St Petersburg, told IPS that the Russian economy would feel the effects of sanctions.

He said: “Investment growth will fall, the economy may lose its chance to come out of its current stagnation and exports could fall.”

Some economic fallout from the Crimean crisis has already been seen. Russian stocks have been losing heavily since the start of the year, but the falls deepened in the run-up to the referendum at the weekend.

Global investment houses issued warnings last week that foreign investors were pulling their money out of the country at a record rate because of Russia’s involvement in Crimea and that as of the end of last week, financial outflows from Russia had reached 45 billion dollars since the start of 2014 – a 60 percent rise from the first quarter of 2013.

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecasts have also been slashed and some stock market analysts have spoken of long-term damage being done to Russia’s ability to attract investment because of negative perceptions of Russia among foreign investors.

Other experts believe though that while the current sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the EU are limited, further sanctions would indeed have the potential to make life ‘difficult’ for ordinary Russians.

Ian Bond, Director of Foreign Policy at the Centre for European Reform think-tank in London, told IPS: “The EU may be forced into a position where it has to apply broader sanctions, for example, to shut Russian banks out of European financial markets. And the U.S. can make life really difficult by denying Russia access to the U.S. system for dollar transactions.

“That sanction has had a major impact on the Iranian economy, for example, and would be noticed by ordinary Russians.”

He added that at that point support for President Putin, which is currently high among the general Russian population, could begin to wane.

He said: “Whether Putin’s popularity would be affected depends on how effective his propaganda operation is. So far it seems to be working well – his popularity in Russia seems to have risen since the takeover of Crimea, and a lot of people seem to be swallowing the fairytale that the new Ukrainian government is full of fascists and anti-Semites.”

One asset manager running a Russian equity fund who spoke to IPS, but asked not to be named, said that Russia’s economy would be in trouble if people’s worst fears were realised and the current situation escalated into armed conflict.

“The country would then be facing huge economic problems,” he said.

This is one thing which Russians do not want though. Despite their support for Crimea’s return to Russia and positive view of Moscow’s role in effecting that change, recent polls have shown a majority are against any Russian involvement in a military conflict in Ukraine.

“The referendum in Crimea went peacefully and people will probably eventually understand it was the will of the people there,” said Sergei Mishkhin, a 20-year-old student in Moscow.” I want Russia to have friendly relations with all countries. We are just hoping for peace.”

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U.S.-Russia Bickering May Trigger Nuclear Fallout http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/u-s-russia-bickering-may-trigger-nuclear-fallout/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-russia-bickering-may-trigger-nuclear-fallout http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/u-s-russia-bickering-may-trigger-nuclear-fallout/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 20:22:20 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=132891 The U.S.-Russian confrontation over Ukraine, which is threatening to undermine current bilateral talks on North Korea, Iran, Syria and Palestine, is also in danger of triggering a nuclear fallout. Secretary of State John Kerry told U.S. legislators early this week that if the dispute results in punitive sanctions against Russia, things could “get ugly fast” […]

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Vitaly I. Churkin (left), Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine on Mar. 13, 2014. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Vitaly I. Churkin (left), Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine on Mar. 13, 2014. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 14 2014 (IPS)

The U.S.-Russian confrontation over Ukraine, which is threatening to undermine current bilateral talks on North Korea, Iran, Syria and Palestine, is also in danger of triggering a nuclear fallout.

Secretary of State John Kerry told U.S. legislators early this week that if the dispute results in punitive sanctions against Russia, things could “get ugly fast” and go “in multiple directions.”"Any confrontation between nuclear armed states runs the risk of escalating to the use of nuclear weapons, whether by inadvertence, accident, or bad decision-making." -- Dr Tilman Ruff

Perhaps one such direction could lead to a nuclear impasse between the two big powers.

According to a state agency news report from Moscow, Russia has threatened to stop honouring its arms treaty commitments, and more importantly, to block U.S. military inspections of nuclear weapons, if Washington decides to suspend military cooperation with Moscow.

These mostly bilateral treaties between the United States and Russia include the 1994 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the 2010 new START, the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and the 1970 international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A nuclear tug-of-war between the two big powers is tinged in irony because post-Soviet Ukraine undertook one of the world’s most successful nuclear disarmament programmes when it agreed to destroy all its weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

Dr. Rebecca E. Johnson, executive director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament and Diplomacy, told IPS, “Clearly the situation between Ukraine and Russia is deeply worrying.

“Without going into the politics of the situation on the ground, as I don’t have the kind of regional expertise for that, this is not a place for issuing nuclear threats or scoring nuclear points,” she said.

“I’ve been disgusted to see some British and French representatives try to use Ukraine’s crisis to justify retaining nuclear weapons in perpetuity.”

Russia is not directly threatening to attack Ukraine with nuclear weapons, and no one believes it would be useful for the United States and countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to threaten Russia with a nuclear attack, no matter what they do, said Johnson.

Ukraine, which was once armed with the third largest nuclear arsenal after the United States and Russia, and possessed more nukes than France, Britain and China, dismantled and shipped its weapons to Russia for destruction beginning in 1994.

Dr. Ira Helfand, co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), said Ukraine is commendable in being one of the few states to have given up its nuclear weapons peacefully, and the people of Ukraine should not have to fear nuclear weapons ravaging their country.

“Any war involves a terrible and lasting human toll, risks spreading and harming people’s health in the region and beyond,” he warned.

In a statement released last week, IPPNW said it underscores the absolute imperative to avoid the possibility of use of nuclear weapons.

“This danger exists with any armed conflict involving nuclear armed states or alliances, which could escalate in uncontrollable, unintended and unforeseeable ways,” it warned.

Dr Tilman A. Ruff, co-chair, International Steering Group and Australian Board member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, told IPS the current agreements (e.g. START, New START and INF) are probably most important in that they demonstrate that verified reductions and elimination of whole classes of nuclear weapons are feasible, and hopefully reduce the risk of nuclear war between Russia and the United States.

However, continuing massive nuclear arsenals on both sides; the retention of almost 1,800 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert missiles, ready to be launched within minutes; the aggressive eastward expansion of NATO, contrary to what Russian leaders were promised; and the rapid escalation of tension over recent events in Ukraine demonstrate the Cold War has not been firmly laid to rest.

“Any confrontation between nuclear-armed states runs the risk of escalating to the use of nuclear weapons, whether by inadvertence, accident, or bad decision-making,” said Dr Ruff, who is also an associate professor at the Nossal Institute for Global Health, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne.

He said currently all the nuclear-armed states are massively investing in keeping and modernising their nuclear arsenals, and show no serious commitment to disarm, as they are legally bound to do. As long as nuclear weapons exist and are deployed, and policies countenance their possible use, the danger they will be used is real and present.

“The dangerous and unstable situation in Ukraine highlights this starkly, and should dispel any notion that nuclear danger ended 20 years ago with apparent end of the Cold War,” he said.

Dr Johnson told IPS Russian and U.S. nuclear weapons in the region are demonstrably not contributing to deterrence.

“If anything, their presence complicates the current dangers, with the attendant risks of crisis instability and potential military or nuclear escalation or miscalculations, though I’d hope no one would be mad enough to actually use them,” she said.

Politicians that want to keep French or British nuclear weapons need to stop making arguments that undermine the NPT and encourage proliferators, she pointed out.

“It is extraordinarily irresponsible to jump on the bandwagon of this dangerous regional crisis and make Ukrainians feel that they were wrong to rid their newly independent country of nuclear weapons in 1992 and join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states,” Johnson said.

It is clearly unacceptable for states armed with nuclear weapons to threaten non-nuclear nations, but this cannot be turned into a rationale either for risking nuclear war between Russia and NATO or for the non-nuclear countries to pull out of the NPT and start arming themselves with nuclear arsenals of their own, she noted.

As brought to the forefront through the recent Oslo and Nayarit conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons need to be stigmatised, banned and eliminated, she added.

“Only by removing these weapons of mass destruction from all countries’ arsenals will we be able to fairly address the security needs and aspirations of all peoples – whether in non-nuclear or nuclear-armed countries,” she added.

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OP-ED: Toward a Final-Phase Deal with Iran http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/op-ed-toward-final-phase-deal-iran/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=op-ed-toward-final-phase-deal-iran http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/op-ed-toward-final-phase-deal-iran/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 11:32:01 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=132384 Last month, negotiators from the United States, its P5+1 partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), and Iran agreed to a framework for talks on a “comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.” The road ahead will be difficult. Many differences must be bridged, and hard-liners in Washington, […]

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By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON, Mar 4 2014 (IPS)

Last month, negotiators from the United States, its P5+1 partners (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), and Iran agreed to a framework for talks on a “comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.”

The road ahead will be difficult. Many differences must be bridged, and hard-liners in Washington, Tehran, and Jerusalem will throw up obstacles along the way. An effective, multiyear deal can only be achieved if each side is ready to compromise and pursue realistic solutions that meet the other sides’ core requirements.A deal that would require Iran to dismantle major facilities would be politically unsustainable in Iran.

A successful agreement will verifiably roll back Iran’s overall enrichment capacity, block the plutonium path to the bomb, put in place even tougher international inspections, resolve outstanding questions about the purpose of Iran’s programme, and lead to the removal of nuclear-related sanctions. But first, negotiators must resolve several tough issues in the next few months.

Uranium enrichment. The two sides have agreed to negotiate “practical” limits on the scope of Iran’s enrichment activities in order to reduce Tehran’s ability to build nuclear weapons.

Today, Iran has a very limited need for enriched uranium fuel for energy production. Iran has one research reactor, for which it has an ample supply of fuel, and a power reactor that uses fuel to be supplied by Russia for the next 10 years or more.

Tehran says it has plans for up to 16 more reactors, which would require a sizable enrichment capacity, but these plans are many years away from reality.

Consequently, the P5+1 can and should seek a significant reduction in Iran’s current enrichment capacity – from 10,000 operating, first-generation centrifuges at two sites to approximately half that number or less for a period of at least 10 years.

Even with 4,000 or fewer first-generation centrifuges at one site, Iran would have more than sufficient capacity for its foreseeable needs. Along with a cap on the enrichment of uranium to no more than five percent, a reduction in the number of centrifuges would increase the time necessary to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb to six months or more.

Enhanced inspection rights would ensure that any such activity would be readily detected within days.

If Iran tried to build a nuclear arsenal, it would take considerably more than a year to amass enough material for additional weapons, assemble a nuclear device, and develop an effective means of delivery.

So far, Iran has insisted that it wants to be able to develop new, more efficient centrifuges. Consequently, the two sides will likely set limits on the overall capacity of Iran’s enrichment programme rather than the total number of centrifuges.

The P5+1 wants Iran to close its underground enrichment facility at Fordow, which is less vulnerable to air attacks, while Iran opposes dismantling its facilities. The two sides might compromise by agreeing that Iran will effectively halt any significant enrichment at Fordow and convert it to a “research-only” facility.

The Arak reactor. The P5+1 has argued that Iran should abandon its unfinished 40-megawatt heavy-water reactor near Arak, which is well suited for the production of plutonium. One compromise would be to convert Arak into a more proliferation-resistant light-water reactor or, as Iranian officials have suggested, make design and operational changes to reduce its plutonium potential.

These changes could include reducing the power level at least to five megawatts and using uranium fuel enriched to 3.5 percent. Iran is not known to have a reprocessing plant, which would be needed to extract plutonium from spent fuel, but Iran could be required to send Arak’s spent fuel to a third country to further reduce the proliferation risk.

Tougher international inspections. If Iran were to pursue nuclear weapons development, it most likely would try to do so in secret at undisclosed facilities. Consequently, Iran must allow international inspectors access to all sites, including undeclared sites, under the terms of the additional protocol to its existing safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Once approved by the Iranian parliament, the protocol would be permanent. Further monitoring measures of Iran’s nuclear industry could help detect and deter any secret weapons programme.

Concerns about potential weapons experiments. Iran also will need to accelerate its cooperation with the IAEA to allow the agency to determine with confidence that Tehran is no longer engaged in research with potentially military dimensions. Given that the investigation will continue for some time, the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 should specify that Iran shall not conduct any experiments with nuclear weapons applications.

These step-for-step actions will require a new U.N. Security Council resolution to replace earlier resolutions on Iran’s nuclear programme; positive, prompt follow-up actions by the EU states; and approval by Congress of revised legislation that unwinds nuclear-related sanctions.

It is important that Congress, which has an important role in implementing any final phase deal, supports the P5+1 effort on the basis of a clear understanding and realistic expectation for what the negotiations can deliver.

Unfortunately, some members of Congress say they hope “negotiations succeed in preventing Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapons capability.” Others say they are “hopeful a permanent diplomatic agreement will require the dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related infrastructure ….”

According to the U.S. intelligence community Iran has had, at least since 2007, the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it were to choose to do so. That capacity can be reduced but not entirely eliminated, even Iran were required to dismantle its uranium enrichment machines and facilities — and a deal that would require Iran to dismantle major facilities would be politically unsustainable in Iran.

Negotiating a realistic final phase agreement with Iran will be difficult, but a sustainable arrangement is achievable. It is the best and perhaps only alternative to an unconstrained Iranian nuclear programme, the risk of war over the issue, and potentially a nuclear-armed Iran.

Daryl Kimball is executive director of the independent, non-partisan Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C. He has been engaged in research and policy work on nuclear nonproliferation and arms control matters since 1989. This essay is based on an earlier version published in Arms Control Today.

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Resolving Nuclear Arms Claims Hinges on Iran’s Demand for Documents http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/resolving-nuclear-arms-claims-hinges-irans-demand-documents/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=resolving-nuclear-arms-claims-hinges-irans-demand-documents http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/resolving-nuclear-arms-claims-hinges-irans-demand-documents/#comments Sat, 01 Mar 2014 20:29:01 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=132333 The Barack Obama administration has demanded that Iran resolve “past and present concerns” about the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear programme as a condition for signing a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Tehran. Administration officials have suggested that Iran must satisfy the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the allegations in the agency’s report that […]

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By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, Mar 1 2014 (IPS)

The Barack Obama administration has demanded that Iran resolve “past and present concerns” about the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear programme as a condition for signing a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei referred to a series of documents provided by Israel in his 2012 memoirs. Credit: WEF/cc by 2.0

Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei referred to a series of documents provided by Israel in his 2012 memoirs. Credit: WEF/cc by 2.0

Administration officials have suggested that Iran must satisfy the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the allegations in the agency’s report that it has had a covert nuclear weapons programme in the past.

But the record of negotiations between Iran and the IAEA shows Tehran has been ready for the past two years to provide detailed responses to all the charges of an Iranian nuclear weapons work, and that the problem has been the refusal of the IAEA to share with Iran the documentary evidence on which those allegations have been based.

The real obstacle to providing those documents, however, has long been a U.S. policy of refusing to share the documents on the assumption that Iran must confess to having had a weaponisation programme.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, declared Feb. 12, “The authenticity of each allegation should be proven first, then the person who submitted it to the agency should give us the genuine document. When we are assured of the authenticity, then we can talk to the agency.”

Neither the IAEA nor the Obama administration has responded publicly to Salehi’s statement. In response to a query from IPS, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, Bernadette Meehan, said the NSC officials would have no comment on the Iranian demand for access to the documents.

The spokesperson for IAEA Director Yukiya Amano did not answer a request from IPS Thursday for the agency’s comment.

But a draft text of an agreement being negotiated between the IAEA and Iran dated Feb. 20, 2012, shows that the only difference between the two sides on resolving issues about allegations of Iranian nuclear weapons work was Iran’s demand to have the documents on which the allegations are based.

The draft text, which was later published on the website of the Arms Control Association, reflects Iran’s deletions and additions to the original IAEA proposal. It calls for Iran to provide a “conclusive technical assessment” of a set of six “topics”, which included 12 distinct charges in the report in a particular order that the IAEA desired.

Iran and the IAEA agreed that Iran would provide a “conclusive technical assessment” on a list of 10 issues in a particular order. The only topics that Iran proposed to delete from the list were “management structure” and “Procurement activities”, which did not involve charges of specifically nuclear weapons work.

The two sides had agreed in the draft that the IAEA would provide a “detailed explanation of its concerns”. But they had failed to agree on provision of documents to Iran by the IAEA. The IAEA had proposed language that the agency would provide Iran with the relevant documents only “where appropriate”. Iran was insisting on deletion of that qualifying phrase from the draft.

The first priority on the list of topics to which both sides had agreed in the draft was “Parchin” – referring to the claim of intelligence from an unnamed state that Iran had installed a large cylinder at the Parchin military reservation.

A November 2011 IAEA report suggested the cylinder was intended for testing nuclear weapons designs and had been built with the assistance of a “foreign expert”. Iran also agreed to respond in detail on the issue of the “foreign expert”, who has been identified as Vyacheslav Danilenko, a Ukrainian specialist on nanodiamonds.

The evidence associated with that claim and others published in the 2011 report shows that they were based on intelligence reports and documents given to the IAEA by Israel in 2008-09. Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei referred to a series of documents provided by Israel in his 2012 memoirs.

Iran also agreed to respond in detail to allegations that Iran had sought to integrate a nuclear weapon into the reentry vehicle of the Shahab-3 missile, and that it had developed high explosives as a “detonator” for a nuclear weapon.

Both alleged activities had been depicted or described in documents reported in the U.S. news media in 2005-06 as having come from a covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

Those documents, about whose authenticity ElBaradei and other senior IAEA officials have publicly expressed serious doubts, have now been revealed as having given to Western intelligence by an anti-regime Iranian terrorist organisation.

Former senior German foreign office official Karsten Voigt revealed in an interview last year for a newly-published book by this writer that senior officials of the German intelligence agency BND had told him in November 2004 that the BND had gotten the entire collection of documents from a member of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) who had been one of their sources, and that they did not consider the source to be reliable.

The MEK, considered by the United States and European states as a terrorist organisation, had been used by Saddam Hussein’s regime to support the war against Iran and by Israel to issue intelligence and propaganda that Mossad did not want attributed to it.

ElBaradei, who retired from the IAEA in November 2009, had declared repeatedly that sharing the documents was necessary to ensure “due process” in resolving the issue, but the United States had prevented him from doing so.

In his final statement to the Board of Governors on Sep. 7, 2009 he appealed to “those who provided the information related to the alleged weaponization studies to share with Iran as much information as possible.”

A former IAEA official, who asked not to be identified, told IPS that the United States had allowed only a very limited number of documents to be shown to Iran in the form of Power Point slides projected on a screen.

A May 2008 IAEA report described a number of documents purported to be from the Iranian weapons programme but said that the IAEA “was not in possession of the documents and was therefore unfortunately unable to make them available to Iran.”

Around 100 pages of documents were given by the United States to the agency to share with Iran, the former official said, but none of the documents described in the report were among them.

The U.S. policy of denying Iranian access to the documents continued during the Obama administration, as shown by a U.S. diplomatic cable from Vienna dated Apr. 29, 2009 and released by WikiLeaks. At a P5+1 technical meeting, both U.S. and IAEA officials were quoted as implying that the objective of the policy was to press Iran to confess to the activities portrayed in the papers.

U.S. officials said that a failure by Iran to “disclose any past weaponization-related work” would “suggest Iran wishes to hide and pursue its past work, perhaps to keep a future weapons option”.

IAEA Safeguards Chief Olli Heinonen made it clear that no copies of the relevant documents charging Iran with weaponisation would be provided to Iran and complained that Iran had continued to claim that the documents were fabricated.

In its report of Nov. 14, 2013, the IAEA said it had received more information – presumably from Israel – that “corroborates the analysis” in its 2011 report.

The past unwillingness of the Obama administration to entertain the possibility that the documents provided by the MEK were fabricated or to allow Iran the opportunity to prove that through close analysis of the documents, and the IAEA’s continued commitment to the weaponisation information it has published suggest that the issue of past claims will be just as contentious as the technical issues to be negotiated, if not more so.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His new book “Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare”, was published Feb. 14.

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CORRECTION/OP-ED: Nuclear Disarmament, the State of Play http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/op-ed-nuclear-disarmament-state-play/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=op-ed-nuclear-disarmament-state-play http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/op-ed-nuclear-disarmament-state-play/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 19:41:23 +0000 Peter Weiss http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=132001 If psychosis is a loss of contact with reality, the current status of nuclear disarmament can best be described as psychotic. On the one hand, the nuclear issue is beginning to creep out from under the rug where it has lain dormant for several decades. On the other hand, the commitment of the nuclear weapon […]

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By Peter Weiss
NEW YORK, Feb 25 2014 (IPS)

If psychosis is a loss of contact with reality, the current status of nuclear disarmament can best be described as psychotic.

On the one hand, the nuclear issue is beginning to creep out from under the rug where it has lain dormant for several decades. On the other hand, the commitment of the nuclear weapon states to a nuclear weapons-free world is honoured more in the breach than in the observance.U.S. policy on nuclear disarmament is at best a mixed bag; that of the other eight nuclear armed powers is not much better.

Let us begin by adding up the pluses and the minuses of nuclear disarmament.

On the plus side, we have a president of the United States, which is central to the problem, who has spoken out repeatedly on the subject, albeit in a decelerating mode. In a speech at Purdue University on Jun. 16, 2008, he said, “It’s time to send a clear message to the world: America seeks a world without nuclear weapons … we’ll make the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons a central element in our nuclear policy.”

There was no reference to how long it might take. A year later, in the famous Prague speech of May 6, 2009, Obama said, “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”, but he added,“This goal will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime.”

He was 48 at the time. Four years later, on Jun. 19, 2013, in Berlin, Obama said, “Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons – no matter how distant that dream may be.”

In all fairness, the trajectory to abolition announced in Prague has either been implemented or blocked through no fault of the president: A substantial reduction in nuclear arms has been negotiated with Russia and the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security strategy has been lessened.

The ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the negotiation of a Fissile Materials Treaty, both of which the Obama administration favours, have been held up, one by the U.S. Senate, the other by another country.

But reduction is not elimination and the Defence Department (DOD) and Department of Energy continue to pursue policies that are clearly incompatible with nuclear disarmament, to wit:

The Nuclear Employment Strategy of the United States, issued by the DOD on Jun. 19, 2013, states that nuclear weapons will be used only in extreme circumstances, but that it is too early to limit their employment strictly to deterrence.

The Assessment of Nuclear Monitoring and Verification Technologies, released by the Defence Science Board in January 2014, concedes that for the first time since the beginning of the nuclear age the United States needs to be concerned not only with horizontal proliferation, i.e. to countries not possessing nuclear weapons, but also with vertical proliferation, i.e. in nuclear weapons countries.

But the 100-page report makes no reference to monitoring and verification requirements in a nuclear weapons free world.

On Feb. 6, in an apparent violation of at least the spirit if not the letter of the Nonproliferation Treaty, the U.S. announced that it had conducted a successful impact test (not involving an explosion) of the B-61 nuclear bomb. Donald Cook, deputy administrator for defence at DOE , said that engineering on the new bomb had commenced and that this would make it possible to replace older models “by the mid or late 2020s.”

Thus, U.S. policy on nuclear disarmament is at best a mixed bag; that of the other eight nuclear armed powers is not much better.

Now for the good news. Last year saw more encouraging action by non-nuclear powers than most previous years:

• In February the Foreign Ministry of Germany, a member of NATO, hosted a Forum on Creating the Conditions and Building a Framework for a Nuclear Weapons Free World.convened by the Middle Powers Initiative. It was attended by 26 governments and a number of civil society organisations.

• In March, the Foreign Ministry of Norway, another NATO country, convened in Oslo a Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, attended by 128 governments, and numerous civil society organisations.

• On Oct. 21, Ambassador Dell Higgie of New Zealand delivered to the First Committee of the U.N. the statement adopted by 125 countries, many of whom had attended the Oslo conference. It declared that the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used again is hrough their total elimination.

• A Governmental Open Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament met for the first time in May in Geneva and produced in August a report to the General Assembly which outlined a variety of approaches to reaching nuclear disarmament, including a section on the role of international law.

• Also for the first time, on Sep. 26, the General Assembly held a high level meeting on nuclear disarmament in which country after country, represented by Presidents, Foreign Ministers and other high officials, called for prompt and effective progress toward a nuclear weapons free world.

• Finally, and most importantly, during the follow up conference to Oslo held in Nayarit, Mexico, Feb. 13 and 14, Sebastian Kurz, the foreign minister of Austria, announced that he would convene a conference in Vienna later this year because “the international nuclear disarmament efforts require an urgent paradigm shift.”

The Vienna conference will not be simply a third rehearsal of the unspeakable horrors of nuclear weapons. It will get down to serious business, perhaps even the commencement of drafting a convention banning the use and possession of these weapons, as suggested by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

But there is a problem: The countries which have nuclear weapons have boycotted both Oslo and Nayarit. What if they boycott Vienna as well? That is the question. It is also the challenge facing the growing anti-nuclear weapons community, both official and unofficial. Embarrassment can be a tool of diplomacy.

The Nonproliferation Treaty, to which the nuclear powers pay lip service, requires good faith efforts by all states to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. This is a good time to remind the nuclear states, and particularly the big five, of that all important obligation.

Peter Weiss is President Emeritus of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy.

*The story that moved on Feb. 25 incorrectly identified Ambassador Dell Higgie as being from Norway rather than New Zealand.

 

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U.S. Adopts Israeli Demand to Bring Iran’s Missiles into Nuclear Talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/u-s-adopts-israeli-demand-bring-irans-missiles-nuclear-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-adopts-israeli-demand-bring-irans-missiles-nuclear-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/u-s-adopts-israeli-demand-bring-irans-missiles-nuclear-talks/#comments Sat, 22 Feb 2014 00:56:38 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131921 The Barack Obama administration’s insistence that Iran discuss its ballistic missile programme in the negotiations for a comprehensive nuclear agreement brings its position into line with that of Israel and senators who introduced legislation drafted by the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC aimed at torpedoing the negotiations. But the history of the issue suggests that the […]

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By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, Feb 22 2014 (IPS)

The Barack Obama administration’s insistence that Iran discuss its ballistic missile programme in the negotiations for a comprehensive nuclear agreement brings its position into line with that of Israel and senators who introduced legislation drafted by the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC aimed at torpedoing the negotiations.

But the history of the issue suggests that the Obama administration knows that Iran will not accept the demand and that it is not necessary to a final agreement guaranteeing that Iran’s nuclear programme is not used for a weapon.The demand for negotiations on Iran’s missile programme originated with Israel, both directly and through Senate Foreign Relations Committee members committed to AIPAC’s agenda.

White House spokesman Jay Carney highlighted the new U.S. demand in a statement Wednesday that the Iranians “have to deal with matters related to their ballistic missile program.”

Carney cited United Nations Security Council resolution 1929, approved in 2010, which prohibited any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including missile launches. “So that’s completely agreed by Iran in the Joint Plan of Action,” he added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif not only explicitly contradicted Carney’s claim that Iran had agreed to discuss ballistic missiles but warned that a U.S. demand for discussion of its missile programme would violate a red line for Iran.

“Nothing except Iran’s nuclear activities will be discussed in the talks with the [six powers known as the P5+1], and we have agreed on it,” he said, according to Iran’s IRNA.

The pushback by Zarif implies that the U.S. position would seriously risk the breakdown of the negotiations if the Obama administration were to persist in making the demand.

Contrary to Carney’s statement, the topic of ballistic missiles is not part of the interim accord reached last November. The Joint Plan of Action refers only to “addressing the UN Security Council resolutions, with a view toward bringing to a satisfactory conclusion the UN Security Council’s consideration of this matter” and the formation of a “Joint Commission” which would “work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern”.

It is not even clear that the U.S. side took the position in the talks last fall that Iran’s missile programme had to be on the table in order to complete a final agreement. But in any event it was not part of the Joint Plan of Action agreed on Nov. 24.

Past U.S. statements on the problem of the Security Council resolutions indicate that the administration had previously acknowledged that no agreement had been reached to negotiate on ballistic missiles and that it had not originally intended to press for discussions on the issue.

The “senior administration officials” who briefed journalists on the Joint Plan of Action last November made no reference to ballistic missiles at all. They referred only to “possible military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear programme and to “Iranian activities at Parchin”.

The demand for negotiations on Iran’s missile programme originated with Israel, both directly and through Senate Foreign Relations Committee members committed to AIPAC’s agenda.

Citing an unnamed senior Israeli official, Ha’aretz reported Thursday that Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz had met with Sherman and senior French and British foreign ministry officials before the start of the February talks and had emphasised that Iran’s missile programme “must be part of the agenda” for negotiation of a final agreement.

By early December, however, Israel was engaged in an even more direct effort to pressure the administration to make that demand, drafting a bill that explicitly included among its provisions one that would have required new sanctions unless the president certified that “Iran has not conducted any tests for ballistic missiles with a range exceeding 500 kilometers.”

Since Iran had obviously tested missiles beyond that limit long ago, it would have made it impossible for Obama to make such a certification.

Although the bill was stopped, at least temporarily, in the Senate when enough Democratic members refused to support it, Republicans continued to attack the administration’s negotiating position, and began singling out the administration’s tolerance of Iranian missiles in particular.

At a Feb. 4 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, the ranking Republican on the Committee, Sen. Robert Corker, ranking Republican on the Committee, ripped into Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, the chief U.S. negotiator in the nuclear talks with Iran.

After a highly distorted picture of Iran’s readiness to build a nuclear weapon, Corker asked, “Why did you all not in this agreement in any way address the delivery mechanisms, the militarizing of nuclear arms? Why was that left off since they breached a threshold everyone acknowledges?”

But instead of correcting Corker’s highly distorted characterisation of the situation, Sherman immediately reassured him that the administration would do just what he wanted them to do.

Sherman admitted that the November agreement covering the next months had not “shut down all the production of any ballistic missile that could have anything to do with delivery of a nuclear weapon.” Then she added, “But that is indeed something that has to be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement.”

Sherman also suggested at one point that there would be no real need to prohibit any Iranian missile if the negotiations on the nuclear programme were successful. “Not having a nuclear weapon,” she said, “makes delivery systems almost — not wholly, but almost — irrelevant.”

That admission underlined the wholly political purpose of the administration’s apparent embrace of the Israeli demand that Iran negotiate limits on its ballistic missiles.

The Obama administration may be seeking to take political credit for a hard line on Iranian missiles in the knowledge that it will not be able to get a consensus for that negotiating position among the group of six powers negotiating with Iran.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov clearly implied that Moscow would not support such a demand in a statement Thursday that Russia “considers that a comprehensive agreement must concern only and exclusively the restoration of trust in a purely peaceful intention of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Although U.S., European and Israeli officials have asserted consistently over the years that Iran’s medium-range ballistic missiles are designed to carry nuclear weapons, Israel’s foremost expert on the Iranian nuclear programme, Uzi Rubin, who managed Israel’s missile defence programme throughout the 1990s, has argued that the conventional analysis was wrong.

In an interview with the hardline anti-Iran Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control in September 2009, Rubin said, “The Iranians believe in conventional missiles. Not just for saturation but also to take out specific targets…. Remember, they have practically no air force to do it. Their main striking power is based on missiles.”

Since 2008, the International Atomic Energy Agency has accused Iran of working on integrating a nuclear weapon into the Shahab-3 missile reentry vehicle in 2002-2003, based on a set of drawings in a set of purported Iranian documents. The documents were said by the George W. Bush administration to have come from the purloined laptop of a participant in an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research programme.

But that account turned to be a falsehood, as were other variants on the origins of the document. The documents actually came from the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the anti-regime organisation then listed as a terrorist organisation by the U.S. State Department, according to two German sources.

Karsten Voigt, who was the German foreign office coordinator, publicly warned about the MEK provenance of the papers in a November 2004 interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Voigt, who retired from the foreign office in 2010, recounted the story of how an MEK member delivered the papers to German intelligence in 2004 in an interview last year for a newly-published book by this writer.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His new book “Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare”, was published Feb. 14.

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U.S. Backing First Nuclear Reactors in 30 Years http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/u-s-backing-first-nuclear-reactors-30-years/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-backing-first-nuclear-reactors-30-years http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/u-s-backing-first-nuclear-reactors-30-years/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 22:06:38 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131858 The U.S. government has announced that it will be offering substantial loan guarantees for two new nuclear reactors, giving a major boost to what would be the first such projects to go forward in the United States in more than three decades. The move was immediately hailed by the nuclear industry, which has faced mounting […]

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Nuclear energy accounts for about a fifth of U.S. electricity, although the last construction cycle for U.S. nuclear power plants ended abruptly in 1979. Credit: Bigstock

Nuclear energy accounts for about a fifth of U.S. electricity, although the last construction cycle for U.S. nuclear power plants ended abruptly in 1979. Credit: Bigstock

By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Feb 20 2014 (IPS)

The U.S. government has announced that it will be offering substantial loan guarantees for two new nuclear reactors, giving a major boost to what would be the first such projects to go forward in the United States in more than three decades.

The move was immediately hailed by the nuclear industry, which has faced mounting concerns in recent years over the economic feasibility of nuclear power in today’s energy landscape. Yet public interest groups and environmentalists offered quick criticism, warning that U.S. regulators have failed to learn lessons from recent nuclear disasters and that the projects are too risky for taxpayer funding."This is a technology that continues to be beset with safety issues and produces toxic wastes that we still don’t have a solution for." -- Allison Fisher

Ahead of a Thursday trip to the southeastern state of Georgia, where the two plants are to be built, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz noted that the loan guarantees, worth 6.5 billion dollars, are specifically meant to rejuvenate the U.S. nuclear industry.

“The construction of new nuclear power facilities like this one … is not only a major milestone in the [Obama] administration’s commitment to jumpstart the U.S. nuclear power industry,” Moniz told reporters here, “it is also an important part of our all-of-the-above approach to American energy as we move toward a low-carbon energy future.”

The administration provisionally approved the loans four years ago, and these were expected to be finalised in 2012 (a loan for a third project remains under negotiation). Around that time, however, the high-profile and politically contentious failure of a solar energy start-up company, another recipient of federal government backing, failed, causing officials to pull back temporarily.

Private capital, meanwhile, remained largely uninterested in funding the projects, in part due to the ongoing recovery from the 2008 recession and in part due to continued reverberations from the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. Indeed, the Energy Department is now touting a new reactor design to be used for the two projects, which in part is distinguished by having an automatic shutoff system in case of emergency.

Yet green groups say significant safety concerns remain.

“We have particular concerns about this current design – we were part of a challenge to that design after the Fukushima disaster, and the United States hasn’t yet incorporated lessons learned from that experience,” Katherine Fuchs, a nuclear subsidies campaigner at Friends of the Earth US (FOE), an advocacy group here, told IPS.

“Just last week we had an earthquake in Georgia and [nearby] South Carolina, underlining continued risks that we need to make sure are taken into account. It’s significant that these are the first two plants being built in decades – there are lots of good reasons for this, particularly economics and safety concerns.”

chart-of-nuclear-power-generation640Prohibitive expense

Although nuclear energy continues to produce about a fifth of U.S. electricity, the last construction cycle for U.S. nuclear power plants ended abruptly in 1979.

In March of that year, a nuclear reactor in Pennsylvania partially melted down, the result of a confluence of poor design, technical malfunction and user error. Although the resulting release of radioactive material was never officially held responsible for any public health problems, the incident led to broad changes in regulation and oversight of nuclear power plants.

While U.S. nuclear plants have come online since then – the most recent was in the mid-1990s, for a project that began during the 1970s – the focus of both federal authorities and the private sector has largely moved on. Particularly in the context of new “fracking” technologies that allow engineers to access previously hard-to-reach natural gas deposits, the heavy capital investment required to build a new nuclear reactor – estimated by some at around nine billion dollars – has increasingly come to be seen as prohibitive.

Over the past year alone, four nuclear power plants have closed down in the United States over financial feasibility concerns, and FOE’s Fuchs points to several plans for new plants that have been shelved. Meanwhile, Wall Street investors have reportedly refused to get involved in the Georgia projects, making the federal government’s backing all the more critical if these proposals were to go forward.

Such a situation leads many critics to suggest that any nuclear project today would be too risky for the use of federal funds.

“The construction of the two new reactors … are 21 months behind schedule and 1.6 billion dollars over budget,” Allison Fisher, outreach director for the energy programme at Public Citizen, a watchdog group here, said Wednesday.

“This not only calls into question the decision to underwrite this risky project with taxpayer dollars, but … this is a technology that continues to be beset with safety issues and produces toxic wastes that we still don’t have a solution for – hardly a technology the government should be promoting and propping up with taxpayer funds.”

Clean and green?

Reaction from the nuclear industry, meanwhile, has underlined the importance of the Energy Department’s backing. On Thursday, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), a trade association, dubbed the new agreement “historic”.

“The agreement demonstrates the Obama administration’s recognition of the key role nuclear energy must play in a successful clean energy policy,” Marvin Fertel, the NEI’s president, said in a statement sent to IPS. “The loan guarantee program … will act as a catalyst in hastening the construction of low- and non-emitting sources of electricity, such as nuclear power plants.”

As Fertel notes, the new loan guarantees are coming from a pot of money created by the U.S. Congress in 2005 to support new and “innovative” energy technologies. In announcing the new deal, the Energy Department, too, has been keen to conflate nuclear power and clean energy.

The new reactors “will produce enough clean electricity to power more than 1.5 million homes,” Peter W. Davidson, a senior Energy Department official, wrote in a blog post Thursday. “At the same time, this project will help fight climate change by keeping about 10 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution out of our atmosphere. That’s like taking 2 million cars off the road.”

The debate over nuclear energy’s impact on global warming has heated up somewhat in the environmental community in recent years. Yet for many green groups, such conflation is misleading.

“Nuclear power is not clean energy,” FOE’s Fuchs says. “There is no way to deal with the waste, and we don’t yet have safe designs or adequate regulation. It’s entirely wrong to lump nuclear energy in with green energy, and it’s unbelievable that the administration would tout such a thing.”

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Abolitionists Want to Set a Deadline for Nuclear Ban http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/abolitionists-want-set-deadline-nuclear-ban/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=abolitionists-want-set-deadline-nuclear-ban http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/abolitionists-want-set-deadline-nuclear-ban/#comments Sat, 15 Feb 2014 08:19:22 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131656 Countries in favour of nuclear disarmament have reached the point where they are ready to set a date for the start of formal negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons, a decision that could be taken in Austria at the end of this year. This was the general sense at the close on Friday Feb. 14 of […]

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Hirotsugu Terasaki, vice-president of Soka Gakkai and executive director of Peace Affairs of Soka Gakkai International, speaking in Nuevo Vallarta on progress towards a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Credit: Courtesy of Kimiaki Kawai

Hirotsugu Terasaki, vice-president of Soka Gakkai and executive director of Peace Affairs of Soka Gakkai International, speaking in Nuevo Vallarta on progress towards a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Credit: Courtesy of Kimiaki Kawai

By Emilio Godoy
NUEVO VALLARTA, Feb 15 2014 (IPS)

Countries in favour of nuclear disarmament have reached the point where they are ready to set a date for the start of formal negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons, a decision that could be taken in Austria at the end of this year.

This was the general sense at the close on Friday Feb. 14 of the two-day Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, held in the tourist centre of Nuevo Vallarta in western Mexico. Delegates from 146 nations and over 100 non-governmental organisations from all over the world were in attendance."We are more advanced than the nuclear powers in acknowledging that there should be no weapons.” -- Hirotsugu Terasaki, vice-president of Soka Gakkai International

Participants denounced the humanitarian effects of possession and use of nuclear arsenals and sent a powerful message in favour of the destruction of all nuclear warheads, 19,000 of which are still in the possession of China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“It’s a step towards a road map for the objective of prohibition, and I assume that the third conference will provide the road map for that aim. We are more advanced than the nuclear powers in acknowledging that there should be no weapons,” Japanese Hirotsugu Terasaki, vice-president of Soka Gakkai and executive director of Peace Affairs of Soka Gakkai International, a pacifist Buddhist organisation, told IPS.

“It’s about the creation of an environment for abolition [because] the nuclear powers defend non-proliferation, but they maintain their arsenals,” he said at the conference.

The Austrian government announced on Thursday Feb. 13 that they would host the third conference at the end of the year. It will precede the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the main binding international instrument for limiting atomic armaments, which has made no progress for the past 15 years.

Héctor Guerra, the coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which has a membership of 350 organisations from 81 countries, told IPS that the process “is ready for the next steps and for the transition” to a “binding international instrument for the elimination” of nuclear weapons.

Ideally, “the entire international community” would participate, but if the nuclear powers abstain, “there is no problem,” said Guerra. In his view, the new treaty “would establish international regulations that would facilitate the delegitimisation of the weapons in international negotiations.”

As with the Oslo conference in 2013, the five nuclear powers authorised by the NPT (U.S., China, France, U.K. and Russia) were not present at Nuevo Vallarta.

Pakistan, however, was present, although like Israel and India it has not signed the NPT, which currently has 190 states parties.

Since the Oslo conference, the abolitionist movement has made headway in the denunciation of humanitarian impacts. In May 2013 the preparatory committee for the NPT Review Conference highlighted this angle, as did the General Assembly of the United Nations a few months later in New York.

At Nuevo Vallarta the factors of human error and technological failure in the maintenance and management of nuclear arsenals came under scrutiny, illustrated in detail by journalist Eric Schlosser in his book “Command and Control”.

“Many times the arms were almost used due to miscalculation and mistakes,” Patricia Lewis, the head of international security research for the London-based NGO Chatham House, told IPS.

“The probability is greater than what we know and we have to consider what we don’t know. Today’s situation is even riskier,” she said.

Lewis presented the findings of a study in which she and her team reviewed nuclear incidents in tests, military exercises and potential risk alerts between 1962 and 2013, involving the U.S., the former Soviet Union, the U.K., France, Israel, India and Pakistan.

Among its results, the study found lax physical and operational security practised at all levels by the U.S. air force.

Until all warheads are eliminated, Lewis recommended avoidance of large-scale military exercises at times of high political tension, and slowing the triggering of attack threat alerts.

Terasaki concluded that “nuclear weapons have made humanity their hostage.”

In Guerra’s view, a ban on nuclear weapons should be in place by 2020. “The political conditions are becoming ripe for negotiations,” which should be carried out in the U.N. framework, he said.

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Nuclear Weapons Leave Unspeakable Legacy http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/nuclear-weapons-leave-unspeakable-legacy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nuclear-weapons-leave-unspeakable-legacy http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/nuclear-weapons-leave-unspeakable-legacy/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 13:37:31 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131640 For decades, Yasuaki Yamashita kept secret his experiences as a survivor of the nuclear attack launched by the United States on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. Yamashita, a 74-year-old artist who settled in Mexico in 1968, broke his silence in 1995 and told the story of what happened that morning to […]

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Yasuaki Yamashita at the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Yasuaki Yamashita at the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
NUEVO VALLARTA, Mexico, Feb 14 2014 (IPS)

For decades, Yasuaki Yamashita kept secret his experiences as a survivor of the nuclear attack launched by the United States on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.

Yamashita, a 74-year-old artist who settled in Mexico in 1968, broke his silence in 1995 and told the story of what happened that morning to change the fate of Nagasaki and of the whole world.“I don’t know how many generations it will take for this to end." -- Yasuaki Yamashita

“I was six years old, and we lived 2.5 kilometres away from ground zero (where the bomb detonated). Usually I went to the nearby mountains to catch insects with my friends, but that day I was alone in front of my house, near my mother, who was cooking the day’s meal,” Yamashita, a white-haired, soft-spoken man with fine features, told IPS.

In 1968, he came to Mexico as a correspondent covering the Olympic Games, and he stayed in this Latin American country. Today he digs deep into his past to recall how his mother called him to go into the shelter they had in their home.

“As we ran into it for cover there was a tremendous blinding light. My mother pulled me to the ground and covered me with her body. There was a tremendous noise, we heard lots of things flying over us,” he said.

They were surrounded by desolation. Everything was burning, there were no doctors, nurses or food. It was just the beginning of an endless tragedy that still endures.

At the age of 20, Yamashita started work at the Nagasaki hospital that treated atomic bomb survivors. He resigned years later.

His story greatly moved the participants of the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, being held Feb. 13-14 in Nuevo Vallarta, a tourist centre in the northwestern state of Nayarit, and attended by delegates from 140 countries and more than 100 non-governmental organisations from around the world.

The goal of the two-day conference, which follows the previous conference in Oslo in March 2013, is to make progress towards the abolition of nuclear weapons, which are an economic, humanitarian, health and ecological threat to humanity and to the planet.

There are at least 19,000 atomic warheads in existence, most of them in the hands of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – states authorised to possess them under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – as well as India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan.

The Mexican foreign ministry estimates that there are over 2,000 nuclear weapons on “high operational alert,” ready for launching within minutes.

“These weapons are unacceptable. They must be banned, like biological and chemical weapons. There is no response capability, nationally or internationally, that can deal with the potential damages,” Richard Moyes, of Article 36, a UK-based not-for-profit organisation working to prevent unnecessary harm caused by certain weapons, told IPS.

In February 2013, Article 36 published a study of the likely impact of a 100 kilotonne bomb detonated over Manchester, UK. The broad urban area of Greater Manchester is home to 2.7 million people.

The blast and thermal effects would kill at least 81,000 people directly and injure 212,000 more. Bridges and roads would be destroyed and the health services would be seriously incapacitated, hampering efforts at remedial action. The long term impact on the fabric of UK society “would be massive,” the Article 36 study says.

The Mexico City Metropolitan Area, with a population of over 20 million, carried out a similar theoretical exercise. It found that a 50 kilotonne bomb would affect up to 66 kilometres away from ground zero and some 22 million people, as the damage would extend to areas in the centre of the country beyond the metropolitan area itself.

“The consequences would be severe: loss of operational capacity of the emergency services, loss of rescue workers and health workers, hospitals, clinics,” Rogelio Conde, the coordinator of civil defence at the interior ministry, told IPS.

“We would need help from other Mexican states, and from other countries, such as equipment, and operational and expert personnel,” he said.

Ecological devastation and damage to infrastructure would cause losses equivalent to 20 percent of the country’s economy.

Places on the planet that have become atomic laboratories, like the Marshall Islands in the Pacific ocean, have suffered damage of various kinds.

The Marshall Islands, made up of chains of islands and coral atolls, were the site of 67 nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958.

“There have been environmental and health problems, although they have not been quantified. Many of our survivors have become human guineapigs in the research laboratories, and 60 years on we are still suffering the consequences,” complained Jeban Riklon, a senator in the Islands’ government.

Riklon was two years old and living with his grandmother on Rongelap Atoll when the United States carried out its Castle Bravo test on Bikini Atoll on Mar. 1, 1954, detonating a bomb 1,000 times as powerful as that dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

The United States immediately performed a secret medical study to investigate the effects of radiation on humans.

A Human Rights’ Council Special Rapporteur’s report after a field trip to the Marshall Islands found violations to the right to health, to effective remedies and to environmental rehabilitation, in addition to forced displacement and other serious omissions by the United States.

The promoters of the Mexico conference want the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons n Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Tlatelolco Treaty, which was signed in 1967, to be the model for a future global convention against the bomb, even though they must overcome decades of diplomatic deadlock.

The treaty led to the region becoming the first of the Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zones (NWFZ) which now include 114 nations.

The other four NWFZ are the South Pacific, Africa, Southeast Asia and Central Asia.

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation seeks to establish a clear road map to an atomic-weapons-free world by 2020.

There are already 161 states party to this treaty, but its entry into force depends on its signature and ratification by China, North Korea, Egypt, the United States, India, Iran, Israel and Pakistan.

At the Nuevo Vallarta conference there are no representatives from the big five nuclear powers: the United States, China, France, the United Kingdom and Russia.

“I don’t know how many generations it will take for this to end. Why should so many innocent people be made to suffer, when there is no need? This is why we have to make the utmost efforts to abolish nuclear weapons,” Yamashita concluded.

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Nuke Summit Agenda Circumvents Armed Powers http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/nuke-summit-agenda-circumvents-armed-powers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nuke-summit-agenda-circumvents-armed-powers http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/nuke-summit-agenda-circumvents-armed-powers/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 23:15:33 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131471 When over 50 world leaders meet in the Netherlands next month for a Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), the primary focus will be on a politically-loaded question: how do we prevent non-state actors and terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear weapons or nuclear materials? But sceptical anti-nuclear activists and academics pose an equally serious, but […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 11 2014 (IPS)

When over 50 world leaders meet in the Netherlands next month for a Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), the primary focus will be on a politically-loaded question: how do we prevent non-state actors and terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear weapons or nuclear materials?

But sceptical anti-nuclear activists and academics pose an equally serious, but long ignored, question: how do you prevent the use of nukes by the eight countries that already possess the devastating weapon of mass destruction (WMD)?"Where are the same resources being dedicated to eliminating the current arsenals of nuclear weapons?" -- Alyn Ware

Alyn Ware, a consultant for the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), told IPS the problem with the Nuclear Security Summit is that it only focuses on one-third of the picture: non-state actors who don’t even have nuclear weapons.

“It does not address the bigger picture: the current and real threats of the stockpiles of weapons and materials of nuclear-armed states, and the risks of proliferation to additional states,” he said.

All of the nuclear-armed countries – the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel – will participate in the summit, scheduled to take place in The Hague Mar. 24-25.

North Korea, which is not a publicly-declared nuclear power, is not among the 58 countries which will be present at the international conference, which is also expected to attract some 5,000 delegates and over 3,000 journalists.

The Dutch government is touting the NSS as “the largest gathering of its kind ever in the country.”

In response to fears that such weapons will “fall into the wrong hands,” Ware said, “With regard to nuclear weapons, there are no right hands.”

A Trident missile launched from a Royal Navy Vanguard class ballistic missile submarine. Credit: public domain

A Trident missile launched from a Royal Navy Vanguard class ballistic missile submarine. Credit: public domain

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has long confirmed that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is generally illegal, regardless of who would possess or use such weapons, and that there is an obligation to achieve complete nuclear disarmament.

“It’s ironic that this summit is happening in The Hague, but appears to ignore the conclusion of, and legal imperative from, the highest court in the world situated in the same city,” said Ware, who is also a member of the World Future Council.

The Hague summit will be the third in a series, the first having been held in Washington DC in 2010, and the second in Seoul, South Korea, in 2012.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called the amount of nuclear material in the world “enormous.”

“If it falls into the hands of terrorists, the consequences could be disastrous. The international community must do everything in its power to prevent this,” he said.

By hosting the summit, he says, the Netherlands will contribute to a safer world.

Asked if there has been any progress since Seoul, Dr M. V. Ramana, of the Nuclear Futures Laboratory & Programme on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, told IPS, “Yes, there has been some progress since the last Nuclear Security Summit.”

According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which in turn cited the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, seven countries – Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Sweden, Ukraine and Vietnam – have removed all or most of their stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials from their territories.

“That is, of course, good,” says Ramana. “But these are not the countries the international community is really worried about, nor did they have large stockpiles of fissile materials to start with.”

The major concern, Dr. Ramana pointed out, should be the countries that have such stockpiles – the nuclear weapon states – and in these countries the larger context continues to be business-as-usual, with plans to hold on to the nuclear weapons, the associated fissile materials, and in some cases, plans to produce more.

“I do not expect any of them to make any dramatic announcements at the upcoming security summit,” he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama is quoted as saying that 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. And any use of nuclear weapons in an urban area in the 21st century would create a humanitarian, environmental and financial catastrophe of which we have had no precedent.

Ware said it is important for governments, scientists, lawmakers and civil society to cooperate to ensure that nuclear materials and technology are under safe and secure control to prevent the possibility of them being used to make a nuclear device, no matter how crude, and then using this device.

The Dutch government makes clear the limited focus of the summit when it points out the NSS “is not about non-proliferation.”

“It’s about rogue nuclear material. It’s about ensuring that such material does not fall into the wrong hands.”

And according to the Dutch government, the NSS will not discuss nuclear disarmament, the pros and cons of nuclear power, or protection from natural disasters.

But Ware argues governments are understandably dedicating considerable resources to prevent the spread of nuclear materials to non-state actors.

“But where are the same resources being dedicated to eliminating the current arsenals of nuclear weapons, including those deployed in the Netherlands – and securing the stockpiles of fissile materials possessed by the nuclear-armed states?” he asked.

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An Iran in Flux Marks 35th Anniversary of Revolution http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/iran-flux-marks-35th-anniversary-revolution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iran-flux-marks-35th-anniversary-revolution http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/iran-flux-marks-35th-anniversary-revolution/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 19:47:17 +0000 Jasmin Ramsey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131453 Thirty-five years ago today, millions of Iranians embraced a religious leader promising freedom from a corrupt monarchy and national independence. Now many want a better standard of living and improved civil rights. “Living standards are 50 percent higher today than they were before the revolution, but so are expectations, which is why the average person […]

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A mass demonstration in Tehran around the time of the 1979 Revolution. Credit: GNU license

A mass demonstration in Tehran around the time of the 1979 Revolution. Credit: GNU license

By Jasmin Ramsey
WASHINGTON, Feb 11 2014 (IPS)

Thirty-five years ago today, millions of Iranians embraced a religious leader promising freedom from a corrupt monarchy and national independence. Now many want a better standard of living and improved civil rights.

“Living standards are 50 percent higher today than they were before the revolution, but so are expectations, which is why the average person believes they had a better time before the revolution,” said Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, an economist who regularly visits Iran."Living standards are 50 percent higher today than they were before the revolution, but so are expectations." -- Djavad Salehi-Isfahani

After years of sanctions targeting Iran’s Central Bank and integral oil revenue, and government mismanagement of funds, the country is financially devastated, with a depleted budget and unemployment above 14 percent (25 percent for youth).

“Early on, revolutionaries focused their attention on the provision of health, education, and infrastructure [electricity, clean water, and roads] for underprivileged areas,”  the Virginia Tech professor told IPS.

“These developments have helped move large sections of the poor into the middle class and a modern life style,” he said.

Today, citizens from that expanding middle class and across Iranian society — now more educated than ever — desire better social and civil freedoms in addition to improved work opportunities.

“The Iranian president [Hassan Rouhani] has released a citizen bill of rights and one positive thing he did is put this out there and ask for comments, but it really falls short on women’s rights and the rights of minorities,” said Sussan Tahmasebi, an Iranian women’s rights activist and the co-founder of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), an NGO dedicated to women’s rights.

Anatomy of a Revolution

Demonstrations against the U.S.-backed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi erupted in October 1977. By the end of the following year, strikes and protests had paralysed the country for months. The shah fled into exile on Jan. 16, 1979 and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was invited back to Iran, where he was greeted by several million supporters.

On Feb. 11, guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting, and Khomeini ascended to official power.

Iranians voted by national referendum to become an Islamic Republic on Apr. 1, 1979, and to approve a new theocratic-republican constitution, whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country, in December 1979.

Tahmasebi, who lived and worked in Iran from 1999-2010, also decried the continued imprisonment of student activists and reformist leaders, as well as Iran’s high rate of executions, which have increased in recent months.

“Iranians want to live in an environment that’s safe, where the law is there to protect them rather than punish them,” she told IPS.

Still, Tahmasebi acknowledges that the Rouhani government’s top agenda items are resolving the nuclear issue and improving Iran’s economy.

“Once he has made serious progress at the international level, he will have more clout to push for more controversial issues at home,” she said.

Iran’s ruling elite has meanwhile experienced a major overhaul since the June 2013 presidential election of Rouhani, a centrist cleric promising “hope,” “prudence” and “moderation.”

While Rouhani’s election would have been unlikely without the backing of reformist and centrist leaders, he must now maintain their support while also dealing with hardliners eager to regain their upper hand in politics.

Iran is currently implementing the first-phase “Joint Plan of Action”, a deal achieved with world powers known as the P5+1 in Geneva on Nov. 24, 2013. Talks for a comprehensive solution to the nuclear issue are set to begin in Vienna on Feb. 18.

Meanwhile, some of Iran’s most stalwart revolutionaries have raised the volume on their criticism of the Rouhani government’s handling of the nuclear issue.

Members of the Revolutionary Guard, a powerful paramilitary unit, and several parliamentarians claim that Rouhani has given much more than Iran has received in negotiations.

On Tuesday, anniversary commemoration rallies attended by millions in Tehran, according to state media, featured banners and posters responding to a Barack Obama administration mantra on Iran: “all options are on the table,” a reference to military force.

“We are eager for all options on the table,” read some of the placards.

Marchers also reportedly shouted an Iranian revolutionary mantra, “Death to America,” while others added, “Death to [Wendy] Sherman,” the U.S.’s lead negotiator and under secretary of state for political affairs.

But despite domestic criticism, the Rouhani administration enjoys the support of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, who has repeatedly urged unity and faith in the government.

“Considering the fact that it is only a few months [since] the administration has taken charge of the country, we should give executive officials time so that, by Allah’s favour, they can move things forward in a firm and powerful way,” said the Grand Ayatollah in a Feb. 9 speech to air force commanders posted on his website.

“We should not allow the enemies’ agents inside the country to take advantage of weak points and to create disorder,” he added.

Since last week, Iranian news outlets have been featuring stories on Iran’s military, showcasing comments by commanders stressing Iran’s preparedness to respond to military threats, and military weapons tests, such as the test-firing of domestically made missiles on Monday.

In a speech celebrating the revolution on Tuesday morning to a rally at Tehran’s Freedom Square, Rouhani declared, “Today, if any side plans to launch aggression against Iran, it should know that the Iranian nation will stand against aggressors with its full might and make them sorry,” according to the Iranian Student News Agency.

The president also emphasised Iran’s willingness to engage in “fair” and “constructive” talks on the nuclear issue.

“Our negotiations with the P5+1 have all been based on Iranians’ peace-seeking nature,” he said.

“We wanted to convey the Leader’s Fatwa [a religious decree against the creation of nuclear weapons] to the whole world during the negotiations and help them understand the Iranophobia project is a big lie,” stated Rouhani.

“While negotiating with the world powers, we want to say sanctions against Iranians are cruel and inhuman,” he added.

In Washington on Monday, a former hostage from Iran’s seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, John Limbert, noted at the Wilson Center that some Iranian participants in that divisive event, “now older and wiser”, joined reformist administrations in Iran.

Limbert, a historian who speaks fluent Persian, added that the recent opening of the embassy to the public “may be symbolic of larger changes in the Islamic Republic’s relations with the rest of the world, especially with the U.S.”

“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,” he said.

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Energies Clash in Tokyo Election http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/energies-clash-tokyo-election/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=energies-clash-tokyo-election http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/energies-clash-tokyo-election/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 09:48:53 +0000 Suvendrini Kakuchi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131277 Tokyo, one of the largest and most energy-guzzling cities in the world, is set to hold elections for a new governor Feb. 9. Analysts say it could prove crucial in stopping the Japanese government from restarting some nuclear reactors this year. It could also mean a big push for renewable energy. Professor Yurika Ayukawa, a […]

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A protest against nuclear energy in Tokyo. Credit: Suvendrini Kakuchi/IPS.

A protest against nuclear energy in Tokyo. Credit: Suvendrini Kakuchi/IPS.

By Suvendrini Kakuchi
TOKYO, Feb 7 2014 (IPS)

Tokyo, one of the largest and most energy-guzzling cities in the world, is set to hold elections for a new governor Feb. 9. Analysts say it could prove crucial in stopping the Japanese government from restarting some nuclear reactors this year.

It could also mean a big push for renewable energy.

Professor Yurika Ayukawa, a climate change expert at the Chiba University of Commerce, told IPS, “Only political leadership will bring an end to dangerous nuclear power in Japan. That is why a strong showing by the more popular anti-nuclear candidate in the race is vital this month.”“The painful irony is that Japan is already a world leader in innovative carbon-free technology that can replace nuclear energy.” -- climate change expert Professor Yurika Ayukawa

“The painful irony is that Japan is already a world leader in innovative carbon-free technology that can replace nuclear energy,” she said.

The latest face of Japan’s anti-nuclear movement is 76-year-old gubernatorial election candidate Morihiro Hosokawa, a former prime minister who in 1993 broke the long political hold of the powerful Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Hosokawa entered the race only in January but his pledge to ban nuclear power and push renewable energy as a replacement taps into public anguish over the Fukushima nuclear accident Mar. 11, 2011 following a massive earthquake and tsunami.

“If I am elected I will adopt a zero nuclear policy. The message to the world is Japan will replace dangerous nuclear power with renewable energy,” Hosokawa told the press.

Up against him is Yoichi Masuzoe, who has the support of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the LDP. The latter is now pushing nuclear power as a viable energy option for the Japanese economy, which is the third-largest in the world.

The industrial sector accounts for 43 percent of the nearly 860 billion kilowatt national energy consumption recorded in 2011. The transport sector, at 24 percent, is the second-biggest consumer.

Despite continuing radiation contamination in the Fukushima area and the surrounding sea, Abe argues that nuclear power is a must and cites better safety rules for reactors as the way to go.

LDP has long backed this lucrative power source and enacted policy to extend large subsidies to utility companies to construct expensive nuclear plants that supplied almost 30 percent of national energy until the Fukushima accident.

The Fukushima accident has nevertheless prodded breakthrough measures by the government to support renewable energy as it grapples with the bitter reality of public distrust and a hefty rise in expenditure on the import of fossil fuel to cope with the loss of nuclear energy.

A key departure from the traditional energy policy that has been pro-nuclear is the allocation of state funds coupled with much needed deregulation measures to support the expansion of low-carbon technology – mostly solar, wind and biomass – enacted during the past two years.

The 2012 national energy policy, for example, has set new targets for renewables from the current 11 percent to 35 percent by 2030. Over 700 billion dollars has been pledged to achieve the new target.

A notable step in April last year was the newly established feed-in-tariff system that is aimed at prying open the protected and lucrative utility market by accelerating private investment in renewable energy industries.

Under this system, a state-supported tariff system extends premium prices to renewable power sold by private companies to mainstream utility companies.

Taking prompt advantage of the new system is Solar Sharing Association, a private company that provides technology to farmers to install solar panels on their land and to sell the excess power generated through this investment.

“The concept of our company is to increase solar power output in the country and decrease dependence on nuclear energy. We target farmers who want to increase their income,” explained its spokesperson Mayumi Yamada.

The company has over a hundred members. Kenta Hiaasa, a farmer who installed solar panels on his land last July after investing 8,000 dollars, told IPS that his monthly income from the venture is hitting 1,500 dollars.

Other important developments recorded in this sector are an increase in wind power. This move is targeting the now barren tsunami-hit northeastern coasts of the main island and Hokkaido.

Hokkaido Power Company has pledged to buy 390 million kilowatts of wind energy, or the equivalent of energy produced in three nuclear reactors, from private companies during the next 10 years.

The project will cost the utility company 30 million dollars, mostly supported by the new tariff system.

Despite the important gains in Japan, Ayukawa points out that the biggest hurdle for the renewable sector is the lack of a clear government stance on nuclear policy.

“Much of the official estimates and targets to purchase alternative energy are made by companies against a backdrop that nuclear power is still an option. This policy is not a stable foundation for renewables to be expanded,” she said.

This is the crucial reason why election for a new Tokyo governor could signal long awaited change.

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Misread Telexes Led Analysts to See Iran Nuclear Arms Programme http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/misread-telexes-led-analysts-see-iran-nuclear-arms-programme/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=misread-telexes-led-analysts-see-iran-nuclear-arms-programme http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/misread-telexes-led-analysts-see-iran-nuclear-arms-programme/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 20:36:38 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131241 When Western intelligence agencies began in the early 1990s to intercept telexes from an Iranian university to foreign high technology firms, intelligence analysts believed they saw the first signs of military involvement in Iran’s nuclear programme. That suspicion led to U.S. intelligence assessments over the next decade that Iran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. The […]

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By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, Feb 5 2014 (IPS)

When Western intelligence agencies began in the early 1990s to intercept telexes from an Iranian university to foreign high technology firms, intelligence analysts believed they saw the first signs of military involvement in Iran’s nuclear programme. That suspicion led to U.S. intelligence assessments over the next decade that Iran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.

The supposed evidence of military efforts to procure uranium enrichment equipment shown in the telexes was also the main premise of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation of Iran’s nuclear programme from 2003 through 2007.

But the interpretation of the intercepted telexes on which later assessments were based turned out to have been a fundamental error. The analysts, eager to find evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, had wrongly assumed that the combination of interest in technologies that could be used in a nuclear programme and the apparent role of a military-related institution meant that the military was behind the procurement requests.

The intercepted telexes that set in train the series of U.S. intelligence assessments that Iran was working on nuclear weapons were sent from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. Credit: public domain

The intercepted telexes that set in train the series of U.S. intelligence assessments that Iran was working on nuclear weapons were sent from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. Credit: public domain

In 2007-08, Iran provided hard evidence that the technologies had actually been sought by university teachers and researchers.

The intercepted telexes that set in train the series of U.S. intelligence assessments that Iran was working on nuclear weapons were sent from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran beginning in late 1990 and continued through 1992. The dates of the telexes, their specific procurement requests and the telex number of PHRC were all revealed in a February 2012 paper by David Albright, the executive director of the Institute for Science and International Security, and two co-authors.

The telexes that interested intelligence agencies following them all pertained to dual-use technologies, meaning that they were consistent with work on uranium conversion and enrichment but could also be used for non-nuclear applications.

But what raised acute suspicions on the part of intelligence analysts was the fact that those procurement requests bore the telex number of the Physics Research Center (PHRC), which was known to have contracts with the Iranian military.

U.S., British, German and Israeli foreign intelligence agencies were sharing raw intelligence on Iranian efforts to procure technology for its nuclear programme, according to published sources.
The telexes included requests for “high-vacuum” equipment, “ring” magnets, a balancing machine and cylinders of fluorine gas, all of which were viewed as useful for a programme of uranium conversion and enrichment.

The Schenck balancing machine ordered in late 1990 or early 1991 provoked interest among proliferation analysts, because it could be used to balance the rotor assembly parts on the P1 centrifuge for uranium enrichment. The “ring” magnets sought by the university were believed to be appropriate for centrifuge production.

The request for 45 cylinders of fluorine gas was considered suspicious, because fluorine is combined with uranium to produce uranium hexafluoride, the form of uranium that used for enrichment.

The first indirect allusion to evidence from the telexes in the news came in late 1992, when an official of the George H. W. Bush administration told The Washington Post that the administration had pushed for a complete cutoff of all nuclear-related technology to Iran, because of what was called “a suspicious procurement pattern”.

Then the Iranian efforts to obtain those specific technologies from major foreign suppliers were reported, without mentioning the intercepted telexes, in a Public Broadcasting System “Frontline” documentary called “Iran and the Bomb” broadcast in April 1993, which portrayed them as clear indications of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

The producer of the documentary, Herbert Krosney, described the Iranian procurement efforts in similar terms in his book “Deadly Business” published the same year.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton’s CIA Director John Deutch declared, “A wide variety of data indicate that Tehran has assigned civilian and military organisations to support the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.”

For the next decade, the CIA’s non-proliferation specialists continued to rely on their analysis of the telexes to buttress their assessment that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. The top-secret 2001 National Intelligence Estimate bore the title “Iran Nuclear Weapons Program: Multifaceted and Poised to Succeed, but When?”

Former IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards Olli Heinonen recalled in a May 2012 article that the IAEA had obtained a “set of procurement information about the PHRC” – an obvious reference to the collection of telexes – which led him to launch an investigation in 2004 of what the IAEA later called the “Procurement activities by the former Head of PHRC”.

But after an August 2007 agreement between Iran and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei on a timetable for the resolution of “all remaining issues”, Iran provided full information on all the procurement issues the IAEA had raised.

That information revealed that the former PHRC head, Sayyed Abbas Shahmoradi-Zavareh, who had been a professor at Sharif University at the time, had been asked by several faculty departments to help procure equipment or material for teaching and research.

Iran produced voluminous evidence to support its explanation for each of the procurement efforts the IAEA had questioned. It showed that the high vacuum equipment had been requested by the Physics Department for student experiments in evaporation and vacuum techniques for producing thin coatings by providing instruction manuals on the experiments, internal communications and even the shipping documents on the procurement.

The Physics Department had also requested the magnets for students to carry out “Lenz-Faraday experiments”, according to the evidence provided, including the instruction manuals, the original requests for funding and the invoice for cash sales from the supplier. The balancing machine was for the Mechanical Engineering Department, as was supported by similar documentation turned over to the IAEA. IAEA inspectors had also found that the machine was indeed located at the department.

The 45 cylinders of fluorine that Shahmoradi-Zavareh had tried to procure had been requested by the Office of Industrial Relations for research on the chemical stability of polymeric vessels, as shown by the original request letter and communications between the former PHRC head and the president of the university.

The IAEA report on February 2008 recorded the detailed documentation provided by Iran on each of the issues, none of which was challenged by the IAEA. The report declared the issue “no longer outstanding at this stage”, despite U.S. pressure on ElBaradei to avoid closing that or any other issue in the work programme, as reported in diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

The IAEA report showed that the primary intelligence basis for the U.S. charge of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme for more than a decade had been erroneous.

That dramatic development in the Iran nuclear story went unnoticed in news media reporting on the IAEA report, however. By then the U.S. government, the IAEA and the news media had raised other evidence that was more dramatic – a set of documents supposedly purloined from an Iran laptop computer associated with an alleged covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme from 2001 to 2003. And the November 2007 NIE had concluded that Iran had been running such a programme but had halted it in 2003.

Despite the clear acceptance of the Iranian explanation by the IAEA, David Albright of ISIS has continued to argue that the telexes support suspicions that Iran’s Defence Ministry was involved in the nuclear programme.

In his February 2012 paper, Albright discusses the procurement requests documented in the telexes as though the IAEA investigation had been left without any resolution. Albright makes no reference to the detailed documentation provided by Iran in each case or to the IAEA’s determination that the issue was “no longer outstanding”.

Ten days later, the Washington Post published a news article reflecting Albright’s claim that the telexes proved that the PHRC had been guiding Iran’s secret uranium enrichment programme during the 1990s. The writer was evidently unaware that the February 2008 IAEA report had provided convincing evidence that the intelligence analyst’s interpretations had been fundamentally wrong.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His new book “Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare”, will be published in February 2014.

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Protesters Resist an ‘Indian Fukushima’ http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/protesters-resist-indian-fukushima/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protesters-resist-indian-fukushima http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/protesters-resist-indian-fukushima/#comments Sat, 01 Feb 2014 03:19:39 +0000 Ranjit Devraj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131076 Activists opposed to India’s plans to massively increase civilian nuclear power production are aghast that a plan for an Indo-Japanese nuclear cooperation deal is gaining pace even while Japan is struggling to cope with the fallout of the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was guest of honour at India’s […]

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Street protest against the planned Indo-Japan nuclear cooperation deal. Credit: Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace.

Street protest against the planned Indo-Japan nuclear cooperation deal. Credit: Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace.

By Ranjit Devraj
NEW DELHI, Feb 1 2014 (IPS)

Activists opposed to India’s plans to massively increase civilian nuclear power production are aghast that a plan for an Indo-Japanese nuclear cooperation deal is gaining pace even while Japan is struggling to cope with the fallout of the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was guest of honour at India’s 64th Republic Day celebrations on Jan. 26, announced in a press statement before leaving that talks for a nuclear cooperation agreement were continuing “with the view for an early conclusion.”“It would appear that the two countries were only waiting for the anger over the Fukushima disaster to cool down."

At a press conference given jointly with Abe, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said “negotiations towards an agreement for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy have gained momentum in the last few months.”

“It would appear that the two countries were only waiting for the anger over the Fukushima disaster to cool down,” Anil Choudhury, leader of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), which ran a poster campaign and a demonstration protesting against the deal during Abe’s three-day visit, tells IPS.

“CNDP will continue to oppose any Indo-Japan nuclear deal as also will our counterparts in Japan,” Choudhury said. “A simultaneous poster campaign was mounted in Tokyo and letters of protest were sent to both prime ministers by Yukiko Kameya, an elderly evacuee from Fukushima.”

In an open letter to Abe, Laxminarayan Ramdas, a prominent leader of the CNDP wrote: “A country like yours, which was the victim of the first two atomic bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the more recent and tragic accident of your nuclear power plant at Fukushima would, one would have thought, helped you to give up this horrible and dangerous source of energy.

“Please do not do us this favour and sell us a potential Fukushima,” Ramdas, former admiral of the Indian navy, told Abe in the letter.

Abe’s visit was marked by marches at sites where mega nuclear parks are functional or in various stages of completion. At the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu, which became operational in October 2013, protests led by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) have been continuing since September 2011.

According to PMANE leader S.P. Udayakumar, the Kudankulam project built with Russian technology is unsafe and threatens the delicate marine ecology of the Palk straits. “A Fukushima-type accident at this mega plant, which is due to generate 9,200 MW when complete, would be truly catastrophic,” he tells IPS.

The 2004 December Asian tsunami flooded nuclear installations at Kudankulam and tremors were recorded in the area in March 2006 and August 2011, but the government continues to insist that the plant is safe, Udayakumar says.

Safety is a major concern expressed by organisations of farmers and fishermen who live close to other major nuclear parks sites like Jaitapur in Maharashtra state, Mithi Virdi in Gujarat and Fatehabad in Haryana.

“There is very little to inspire confidence as India does not even have a nuclear radiation safety policy in place,” Choudhury said. “The lack of transparency and accountability that exacerbated the Fukushima disaster is far worse in India.”

A Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, pending in Parliament since 2011, has been criticised by opposition legislators and activists as failing to give the regulator real autonomy and credibility, although India has gone ahead with plans to boost nuclear power capacity to 20,000 MW by 2020 and 63,000 MW by 2032.

“The scale of peoples’ protests at Kudankulam, Jaitapur and at other nuclear sites has been such that the least the government could do is to ensure that there is an independent regulator to take care of the public interest,” says Anup Kumar Saha, a member of parliament representing the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Much of the criticism revolves around the fact the regulator is funded by the very organisations it is supposed to be regulating, compromising its ability to act independently. Matters relating to atomic energy are also controlled directly by the prime minister and not parliament, protecting the nuclear establishment from public scrutiny.

M.V. Ramana, physicist and lecturer at Princeton University, tells IPS that the Indo-Japan deal is a corollary to the historic Indo-U.S. nuclear cooperation deal signed in October 2006. Ramana was awarded this year’s Leo Szilard Lectureship Award, given for ‘outstanding accomplishments in promoting the use of physics for the benefit of society in such areas as the environment, arms control, and science policy.’

“The primary motivation for a nuclear agreement between Japan and India is the fact that it is part of the bargain during the U.S.-India deal when the Manmohan Singh government promised to import very expensive reactors from companies like Westinghouse, General Electric and Areva which source key components from Japan,” Ramana says.

“The sad irony is that the deal between India and Japan is being negotiated by democratically elected leaders when their populations are opposed in one way or the other to this agreement,” Ramana adds.

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Rouhani Reaches Out at Davos http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/rouhani-reaches-davos/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rouhani-reaches-davos http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/rouhani-reaches-davos/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 19:27:59 +0000 Djavad Salehi-Isfahani http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=130990 Last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Hassan Rouhani tried to persuade world business leaders to invest in Iran, especially in its hydrocarbon and automobile sectors.  His appeal is not likely to set off a gold rush; investors will wait to see if the nuclear agreement with the P5+1 is successfully […]

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By Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
WASHINGTON, Jan 30 2014 (IPS)

Last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Hassan Rouhani tried to persuade world business leaders to invest in Iran, especially in its hydrocarbon and automobile sectors. 

Hassan Rouhani. Credit: Mojtaba Salimi/CC-BY-SA-3.0

Hassan Rouhani. Credit: Mojtaba Salimi/CC-BY-SA-3.0

His appeal is not likely to set off a gold rush; investors will wait to see if the nuclear agreement with the P5+1 is successfully concluded sometime this summer.

But broadening his call for engagement with the rest of the world beyond the nuclear deal indicates that his initiative is more than a charm offensive; it represents deeper social and economic change in Iran.

The implicit assumption behind the “charm offensive” discourse is that the Iranian leadership is only engaging in talks because it needs to gain some respite from sanctions to buy time to reach nuclear weapon capability.

But luring foreign investors into Iran does not fit well with that strategy because any gains would only become apparent after the nuclear deal is concluded and would be reversed as soon as the deal falls apart and sanctions are once again implemented.

From Rouhani’s perspective, an open invitation to foreign investors risks expanding the ranks of his domestic foes beyond the growing opposition to the nuclear deal. Why add Islamists and leftists opposed to the penetration of Western culture and capital unless he really believes he can turn Iran into a hospitable place for outside investment?

Mark Landler of the New York Times played down Rouhani’s appeal by noting its “eerie echo” to a similar pitch by former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami in 2004, which was followed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ascendance a year later and a decade of hostility.

Suggesting that Rouhani’s Davos promises might end similarly ignores several important differences between the two presidents and between the Iran of 2014 and that of 2004. Ignoring the obvious — in 2004 Khatami was on his way out while Rouhani is just starting his first term — there are at least two other distinctions.

Philosophically, Khatami and Rouhani share a moderate view of coexistence with the West, but when it comes to economic integration, they read from very different scripts.

Iran’s economy in 2014 bears little resemblance to that of a decade earlier. In 2004, thanks to a massive oil boom, Iran was bursting with economic optimism and feeling prosperous without foreign investment. Since the 1970s, except during the reconstruction period after the war with Iraq, Iran has not sought or depended on foreign investment for its economic growth. 

Higher oil prices nearly tripled the oil revenues in Khatami’s last budget in 2004 compared to his first in 1998. Unemployment had been declining steadily, from 14.3 percent in 2000 to 10.3 percent in 2004, and inflation seemed low by today’s standards — averaging 14 percent per year instead of 35 percent in the last two years.

Today, after several years of harsh sanctions, Iran’s economy is in deep trouble and the government is broke. While inflation is coming down, unemployment is still above 14 percent (above 25 percent for youth). The 4.2 billion dollars that the U.S. is releasing as part of the interim Geneva agreement adds only five percent to this year’s budget. It will not go very far in bringing public investment even close to its historical record of more than 15 percent of the GDP.

Public investment for the Iranian year starting this March is only 15 billion dollars, which is four percent of the GDP. It is not even enough to pay for the repair of — much less build new — public infrastructure or assist the private sector. The government actually owes private contractors about 20 billion dollars for work they have already performed on various public projects.

The private sector is also in a serious bind. In addition to unpaid government bills, the depressed economy has cut demand for its products, leaving many employers short of cash to even pay their workers. The auto industry, which was a focus of Rouhani’s appeal at Davos, is producing at less than half its capacity. The interim agreement restores the auto industry’s access to critical imports, but additional capital is what they need to create new jobs.

While financial necessity may be Rouhani’s reason for inviting foreign businesses to Iran, he also has reasons to be optimistic about the outcome of their engagement. First, he knows that more than three decades of revolutionary rhetoric and eight years of failed populist economic policies under President Ahmadinejad have tired out the general population and caused a major shift in the attitudes of Iran’s intellectual and technocratic classes.

There is now a wider consensus in favour of private enterprise and engagement with the global economy than during the time of the Shah. This is why Rouhani has the most pro-business economic team in Iran’s history.

Second, in the last 10 years, Iran’s workforce has become younger, better educated, and less expensive — all attractive features for foreign capital. The loss of value in Iran’s currency last year has brought labour costs in Iran below that of China. Were it not for their lower productivity, Iranian industrial workers would be able to outcompete East Asian workers. Foreign investment along with its superior technology and management is what Iran needs to raise its workers’ productivity.

The fate of global engagement for the Islamic Republic is not solely determined by these economic calculations. Many in the highest position of political power in Iran view rapprochement with the United States, which Rouhani considers a condition for meaningful global engagement, with deep suspicion.

They fear that hostility toward the Islamic Republic runs deeper than the nuclear issue. They point to new sanctions legislation before the U.S. Senate that requires Iran to make concessions unrelated to the nuclear dispute. A New York Times editorial did much to justify their fears by recommending that “Iran’s full reintegration into the international system” should depend on its “ending the hostility toward Israel.”

For Rouhani, after Davos, the path to global engagement remains uphill.

*Djavad Salehi-Isfahani conducts research on the economics of the Middle East and is currently a professor of economics at Virginia Tech. He is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and is also serving as the Dubai Initiative fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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