Inter Press Service » Nuclear Energy – Nuclear Weapons http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Wed, 17 Sep 2014 16:07:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 OPINION: Free Scotland, Nuclear-Free Scotlandhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/opinion-free-scotland-nuclear-free-scotland/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-free-scotland-nuclear-free-scotland http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/opinion-free-scotland-nuclear-free-scotland/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 18:26:21 +0000 Phil Harris http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136655 The blue and white Saltire flag of Scotland flutters next to the Union Jack during the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Credit: Vicky Brock/cc by 2.0

The blue and white Saltire flag of Scotland flutters next to the Union Jack during the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Credit: Vicky Brock/cc by 2.0

By Phil Harris
ROME, Sep 16 2014 (IPS)

After a two-year referendum campaign, Scots are finally voting Thursday on whether their country will regain its independence after more than 300 years of “marriage” with England.

It is still uncertain whether those in favour will win the day, but whichever way the wind blows, things are unlikely to be the same – and not just in terms of political relations between London and Edinburgh.If an independent Scotland were actually to abolish nuclear weapons from its territory, the government of what remains of today’s United Kingdom would be forced to look elsewhere for places in which to host its sea-based nuclear warheads – and this will be no easy task.

One bone of contention between Scots and their “cousins” to the south of Hadrian’s Wall – built by the Romans to protect their conquests in what is now England and, according to Emperor Hadrian’s biographer, “to separate the Romans from the barbarians” to the north – is the presence on Scottish territory of part of the United Kingdom’s nuclear arsenal.

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which supports an independent and non-nuclear Scotland, wants Scotland to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the European Union, but rejects nuclear weapons.

The United Kingdom currently has four Vanguard class submarines armed with nuclear-tipped Trident missiles based at Gare Loch on the west coast of Scotland, ostensibly there for the purpose of deterrence – but that was back in the days of the Cold War.

If an independent Scotland were actually to abolish nuclear weapons from its territory, the government of what remains of today’s United Kingdom would be forced to look elsewhere for places in which to host its sea-based nuclear warheads – and this will be no easy task.

The search would be on for another deep-water port or ports, and the UK government has already said that other potential locations in England are unacceptable because they are too close to populated areas – although that has not stopped it from placing some of its nuclear submarines and their deadly cargo  not far from Glasgow since 1969.

In any case, if those in favour of Scottish independence win, just the possibility that Scotland might even begin to consider the abolition of nuclear arms would oblige the UK government to give the nature of its commitment to nuclear weapons a major rethink.

The same would be true even if those in favour of remaining part of the United Kingdom win because there would still be a not insignificant number of Scots against nuclear weapons.

Either scenario indicates that Scotland could come to play a significant role in discussions on nuclear disarmament although, clearly, this role would be all the more important as an independent nation participating in NATO, following in the footsteps of NATO member countries like Canada, Lithuania and Norway which do not allow nuclear weapons on their territory.

And what could come of NATO initiatives such as that taken at its summit in Wales earlier this month to create a new 4,000 strong rapid reaction force for initial deployment in the Baltics?

As Nobel Peace Laureate Maired Maguire has said, that “is a dangerous path for us all to be forced down, and could well lead to a third world war if not stopped. What is needed now are cool heads and people of wisdom and not more guns, more weapons, more war.”

An independent Scotland could raise its voice in favour of prohibiting nuclear weapons at the global level and add to the lobby against the threats posed by the irresponsible arms brandishing of NATO.

Representatives of the SNP have said that they are ready to take an active part in humanitarian initiatives on nuclear weapons and support negotiations on an international treaty to prohibit – and not just limit the proliferation of – nuclear weapons, even without the participation of states in possession of such weapons.

What justification would then remain for these states?

Meanwhile, as Scots go to vote in their independence referendum, there is another aspect of the nuclear issue that the UK government still has to come to terms with – nuclear energy.

Scotland used to be home to six nuclear power stations. Four were closed between 1990 and 2004, but two still remain – the Hunterston B power station in North Ayrshire and the Torness power station in East Lothian – both of which are run by EDF Energy, a company with its headquarters in London.

A YouGov public opinion poll in 2013 showed that Scots are twice as likely to favour wind power over nuclear or shale gas. Over six in 10 (62 percent) people in Scotland said they would support large-scale wind projects in their local area, well more than double the number who said they would be in favour of shale gas (24 percent) and almost twice as many as for nuclear facilities (32 percent).

Hydropower was the most popular energy source for large-scale projects in Scotland, with an overwhelming majority (80 percent) in favour.

So, with a strong current among Scots in favour of ‘non-nuclear’, whatever the outcome of Thursday’s referendum, London would be well-advised that the “barbarians” to its north could teach a lesson or two in a civilised approach to 21st century coexistence.

Phil Harris is Chief, IPS World Desk (English service). He can be contacted at pharris@ips.org

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Mideast Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone Remains in Limbohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/mideast-nuclear-weapons-free-zone-remains-in-limbo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mideast-nuclear-weapons-free-zone-remains-in-limbo http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/mideast-nuclear-weapons-free-zone-remains-in-limbo/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 06:08:42 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136575 A proposal for a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the strife-torn Middle East remains in limbo. Credit: Bomoon Lee/IPS

A proposal for a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the strife-torn Middle East remains in limbo. Credit: Bomoon Lee/IPS

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

After four long years of protracted negotiations, a proposal for a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the strife-torn Middle East remains in limbo – and perhaps virtually dead.

But United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a relentless advocate of nuclear disarmament, is determined to resurrect the proposal.

“I remain fully committed to convening a conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone, free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction,” he said in his annual report to the upcoming 69th session of the General Assembly, which is scheduled to open Sep. 16.

Ban said such a zone is of “utmost importance” for the integrity of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

"Western governments which helped Israel to go nuclear compound the problem, participating in this conspiracy of silence by never mentioning Israel's nuclear weapons.” -- Bob Rigg, former chair of the New Zealand National Consultative Committee on Disarmament
“Nuclear weapons-free zones contribute greatly to strengthening nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regimes, and to enhancing regional and international security,” he noted.

The existing nuclear weapons-free zones include Central Asia, Africa, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, South Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Antarctica and Outer Space – all governed by international treaties.

Still, the widespread political crises in the Middle East – destabilising Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Palestine – may threaten to further undermine the longstanding proposal for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the militarily-troubled region.

The proposal, which was mandated by the 2010 NPT Review Conference may not take off – if at all – before the 2015 Review Conference scheduled for early next year.

If it does not, it could jeopardize the review conference itself, according to anti-nuclear activists.

Finland, which has taken an active role in trying to host the conference, has been stymied by implicit opposition to the conference by the United States, which has expressed fears the entire focus of the meeting may shift towards the de-nuclearisation of one of its strongest Middle East allies: Israel.

Hillel Schenker, co-editor of the Jerusalem-based Palestine-Israel Journal, told IPS while it would appear that the recent Gaza-Israel war might have created additional problems for the convening of the conference, it actually opens new opportunities for progress.

Egypt played a key role as the host and major facilitator of the negotiations to arrive at a cease-fire, and Cairo remains the hub for the follow-up negotiations for dealing with the issues not dealt with in the initial cease-fire agreement, he said.

In the course of the current tragic round of mutual violence, he pointed out, there was a perception that a common strategic interest has evolved between Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and the Palestinian Authority led by President Abbas, against Hamas, which spills over to the threat from the Islamic fundamentalist forces that are active in Iraq and Syria.

“This unofficial alliance creates possibilities for the development of new regional security understandings,” Schenker added.

Such a development would require initiatives beyond a cease-fire, and the resumption of serious negotiations to resolve the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he added.

Bob Rigg, a former chair of the New Zealand National Consultative Committee on Disarmament, told IPS there have already been many attempts at a conference on the weapons-free zone.

“All have come to nothing, principally because a regional nuclear weapons-free zone would pre-suppose the destruction, under international control, of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.”

The acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability was a key priority of Ben Gurion, Israel’s first leader, and has continued to be at the heart of its security policies ever since, said Rigg, an anti-nuclear activist and a former senior editor at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

He said while the government of Israel continues to be unwilling, in any context, to formally admit to the possession of nuclear weapons, there is no basis for any meaningful discussion of the issue, even if a conference actually takes place.

“Western governments which helped Israel to go nuclear compound the problem, participating in this conspiracy of silence by never mentioning Israel’s nuclear weapons.”

For example, he said, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was once ferociously attacked by U.S. politicians and the media for saying that Israel had nuclear weapons.

Alice Slater, New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation who also serves on the coordinating committee of Abolition 2000, told IPS that U.N. chief Ban quite correctly raised a serious warning last week about the future viability of the NPT in the absence of any commitment to make good on a pledge to hold a conference to address the formation of a Middle East Zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

The NPT took effect in 1970 providing that each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control, she pointed out.

All but three nations in the world signed the treaty, including the five nuclear weapons states (UK, Russia, the United States, France, China).

Only India, Pakistan, and Israel refused to join the treaty and went on to acquire nuclear arsenals.

North Korea, taking advantage of the treaty’s unholy bargain for an inalienable right to so-called peaceful nuclear power, acquired the civilian technology that enabled it to produce a bomb, and then walked out of the treaty, said Slater.

The NPT was set to expire in 25 years unless the parties subsequently agreed to its renewal.

Schenker told IPS that without active American involvement, the conference will not be convened.

Whatever the outcome of the mid-term elections in November, President Barack Obama will then have two more years to establish his presidential legacy, to justify his Nobel Peace Prize and to advance the vision he declared in his 2009 Prague speech of “a world without nuclear weapons”.

He said the U.N. secretary-general issued a timely warning that a failure to convene the Mideast weapons-free-zone conference before the 2015 NPT review conference “may frustrate the ability of states to conduct a successful review of the operation of the (NPT) treaty and could undermine the treaty process and related non-proliferation and disarmament objectives.”

He said one of the primary tools that could be used to advance this process is the Arab Peace Initiative (API), launched at the Arab League Summit Conference in Beirut in 2002, which has been reaffirmed many times since.

The API offers Israel recognition and normal relations with the entire Arab world, dependent upon the end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, alongside the State of Israel.

He said the API could also be a basis for establishing a new regional regime of peace and security.

The convening of the international conference mandated by the 2010 NPT Review Conference, if approached with diplomatic wisdom on all sides, could become one of the components of progress towards this new regional regime of peace and security, he noted.

The new strategic “alliance” in the region could be used as a basis for the convening of the conference, said Schenker.

A successful outcome of the negotiations over the Iranian nuclear programme could be another constructive building block towards the convening of the conference.

Slater told IPS the prospects for any success at this upcoming 2015 NPT Review, are very dim indeed and it is unclear what will happen to the badly tattered and oft-dishonored treaty.

“It is difficult to calculate whether the recent catastrophic events in Gaza and Israel will affect any change in Israel’s unwillingness to participate in the promised Middle East conference.”

All the more reason to support the efforts of the promising new initiative to negotiate a legal ban on nuclear weapons, just as the world has banned chemical and biological weapons, she declared.

(END)

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OPINION: Civil Society Calls For Impartial Inquiry on Air Crash and Catastrophe in Ukrainehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/opinion-civil-society-calls-for-impartial-inquiry-on-air-crash-and-catastrophe-in-ukraine/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-civil-society-calls-for-impartial-inquiry-on-air-crash-and-catastrophe-in-ukraine http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/opinion-civil-society-calls-for-impartial-inquiry-on-air-crash-and-catastrophe-in-ukraine/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:30:09 +0000 Alice Slater http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136453 Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO chief, addresses a crowd in Austin, Texas. Credit: DVIDSHUB/Texas Military Forces/Photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Wilson/CC-BY-2.0

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO chief, addresses a crowd in Austin, Texas. Credit: DVIDSHUB/Texas Military Forces/Photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Wilson/CC-BY-2.0

By Alice Slater
NEW YORK, Sep 2 2014 (IPS)

It is ironic that at this moment in history when so many people and nations around the world are acknowledging the 100th anniversary of our planet’s hapless stumble into World War I, great powers and their allies are once again provoking new dangers where governments appear to be sleepwalking towards a restoration of old Cold War battles.

A barrage of conflicting information is broadcast in the various national and nationalistic media with alternative versions of reality that provoke and stoke new enmities and rivalries across national borders.

Moreover, NATO’s new disturbing saber-rattling, with its chief, Anders Rasmussen, announcing that NATO will deploy its troops for the first time in Eastern Europe since the Cold War ended, building a “readiness action plan”, boosting Ukraine’s military capacity so that, “ In the future you will see a more visible NATO presence in the east”, while disinviting Russia from the upcoming NATO meeting in Wales, opens new possibilities for endless war and hostilities.

The world can little afford the trillions of dollars in military spending and trillions and trillions of brain cells wasted on war when our very Earth is under stress and needs the critical attention of our best minds [...].
With the U.S. and Russia in possession of over 15,000 of the world’s 16,400 nuclear weapons, humanity can ill-afford to stand by and permit these conflicting views of history and opposing assessments of the facts on the ground lead to a 21st Century military confrontation between the great powers and their allies.

While sadly acknowledging the trauma suffered by the countries of Eastern Europe from years of Soviet occupation, and understanding their desire for the protection of the NATO military alliance, we must remember that Russia lost 20 million people during WWII to the Nazi onslaught and are understandably wary of NATO expansion to their borders in a hostile environment.

This despite a promise to Gorbachev, when the wall came down peacefully and the Soviet Union ended its post-WWII occupation of Eastern Europe, that NATO would not be expanded eastward, beyond the incorporation of East Germany into that rusty Cold War alliance.

Russia has lost the protection of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the U.S. abandoned in 2001, and warily observes missile bases metastasizing ever closer to its borders, in new NATO member states, while the U.S. rejects repeated Russian efforts for negotiations on a treaty to ban weapons in space, or Russia’s prior application for membership in NATO.

Why do we still have NATO anyway? This Cold War relic is being used to fire up new hostilities and divisions between Russia and the rest of Europe.

Civil Society demands that an independent international inquiry be commissioned to review events in Ukraine leading up to the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 and of the procedures being used to review the catastrophic aftermath, including this latest outbreak of hostile actions from NATO.

Indeed, Russia has already called for an investigation of the facts surrounding the Malaysian airplane crash. The international investigation should factually determine the cause of the accident and hold responsible parties accountable to the families of the victims and the citizens of the world who fervently desire peace and peaceful settlements of any existing conflicts.

More importantly, it should include a fair and balanced presentation of what led to the deterioration of U.S.–Russian relations since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the new hostile and polarized posture that the U.S. and Russia with their allies find themselves in today with NATO now threatening greater militarisation and provocations against Russia in Eastern Europe.

The United Nations Security Council, with U.S. and Russian agreement, has already passed Resolution 2166 addressing the Malaysian jet crash, demanding accountability, full access to the site and a halt to military activity, which has been painfully disregarded at various times since the incident.

One of the provisions of Resolution 2166 notes that the Council “[s]upports efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines.”

Further, the 1909 revised Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes adopted at the 1899 Hague International Peace Conference has been used successfully to resolve issues between states so that war was avoided in the past.

Regardless of the forum where the evidence is gathered and fairly evaluated, all the facts and circumstances should be made known to the world as to how we got to this unfortunate state of affairs on our planet today and what might be the solutions.

All the members of NATO together with Russia and Ukraine are urged to end the endless arms race, which only feeds the military-industrial complex that U.S. President Eisenhower warned against.

They must engage in diplomacy and negotiations, not war and hostile alienating actions.

The world can little afford the trillions of dollars in military spending and trillions and trillions of brain cells wasted on war when our very Earth is under stress and needs the critical attention of our best minds and thinking, and the abundance of resources mindlessly diverted to war to be made available for the challenges confronting us to create a livable future for life on earth.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Ban on Nuke Tests OK, But Where’s the Ban on Nuke Weapons?http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/ban-on-nuke-tests-ok-but-wheres-the-ban-on-nuke-weapons/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ban-on-nuke-tests-ok-but-wheres-the-ban-on-nuke-weapons http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/ban-on-nuke-tests-ok-but-wheres-the-ban-on-nuke-weapons/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 11:50:25 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136423 A nuclear test tower belonging to the United States in Bikini Atoll. Credit: public domain

A nuclear test tower belonging to the United States in Bikini Atoll. Credit: public domain

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 30 2014 (IPS)

As the United Nations commemorated the International Day Against Nuclear Tests this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lamented the fact that in a world threatened by some 17,000 nuclear weapons, not a single one has been destroyed so far.

Instead, he said, countries possessing such weapons have well-funded, long-range plans to modernise their nuclear arsenals."While nations still see a strong role for military options, including deterrence by force, then those with nuclear weapons will not be willing to relinquish them." -- Alyn Ware

Ban noted that more than half of the world’s total population – over 3.5 billion out of more than seven billion people – still lives in countries that either have such weapons or are members of nuclear alliances.

“As of 2014, not one nuclear weapon has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty, bilateral or multilateral, and no nuclear disarmament negotiations are underway,” he said.

There are still eight countries – China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States – yet to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), whose ratification is required for the treaty’s entry into force.

Alyn Ware, founder and international coordinator of the network, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), told IPS, “Although I support the Aug. 29 commemoration of the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, I would place greater priority on the issue of nuclear abolition than on full ratification of the CTBT.”

He said there is now a customary norm against nuclear tests (the nuclear detonation type) and only one country (North Korea) that occasionally violates that norm.

“The other holdouts are unlikely to resume nuclear tests, unless the political situation deteriorates markedly, elevating the role of nuclear weapons considerably more than at the moment,” Ware said.

The CTBTO (Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organisation) is working very effectively on implementation, verification and other aspects even though the CTBT has not entered into force, he added.

Ware also pointed out the issue of nuclear abolition is more closely related to current tensions and conflicts.

“While nations still see a strong role for military options, including deterrence by force, then those with nuclear weapons will not be willing to relinquish them, and we face the risk of nuclear conflict by accident, miscalculation or even design,” warned Ware, a New Zealand-based anti-nuclear activist who co-founded the international network, Abolition 2000.

Kazakhstan was one of the few countries to close down its nuclear test site, Semipalatinsk, back in 1991, and voluntarily give up the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal, with more than 110 ballistic missiles and 1,200 nuclear warheads.

Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov, permanent representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations, told IPS his country’s decision to withdraw from membership of the “nuclear club” was more a question of political will because “Kazakhstan genuinely believed in the futility of nuclear tests and weapons which can inflict unimagined catastrophic consequences on human beings and the environment.”

In 1949, Ban pointed out, the then Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test, followed by another 455 nuclear tests over succeeding decades, with a terrible effect on the local population and environment.

“These tests and the hundreds more that followed in other countries became hallmarks of a nuclear arms race, in which human survival depended on the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, known by its fitting acronym, MAD,” he noted.

“As secretary-general, I have had many opportunities to meet with some of the courageous survivors of nuclear weapons and nuclear tests in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Semipalatinsk.”

Their resolve and dedication “should continue to guide our work for a world without nuclear weapons,” he added.

He stressed that achieving global nuclear disarmament has been one of the oldest goals of the United Nations and was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution as far back as 1946.

“The doctrine of nuclear deterrence persists as an element in the security policies of all possessor states and their nuclear allies,” Ban said.

This is so despite growing concerns worldwide over the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of even a single nuclear weapon, let alone a regional or global nuclear war, he added.

Currently, there are five nuclear weapon states, namely the United States, Britain, Russia, France and China, whose status is recognised by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

All five are veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (P5), the only body empowered to declare war or peace.

The three other nuclear weapon states are India, Pakistan (which have formally declared that they possess nuclear weapons) and Israel, the undeclared nuclear weapon state.

North Korea has conducted nuclear tests but the possession of weapons is still in lingering doubt.

Ware told IPS the health and environmental consequences of nuclear tests gives an indication of the even greater catastrophic consequences of any use of nuclear weapons in a conflict.

This is what has spurred countries like Kazakhstan to establish the International Day Against Nuclear Tests as a platform to promote a nuclear-weapon-free world, he said.

“And it has spurred Marshall Islands to take this incredibly David-versus-Goliath case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ),” he added.

This has also given rise to the humanitarian consequences dimension, which has gained some traction and will be discussed at the third conference coming up in December.

But without increased confidence in the capacity to resolve conflicts without the threat or use of massive force, countries will continue to rely on nuclear deterrence, even if they do not intend to use the weapons, Ware said.

Thus, UNFOLD ZERO, which is promoting the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, is also advancing cooperative security approaches through the United Nations to resolve conflicts and security threats, he added.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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OPINION: Why Kazakhstan Dismantled its Nuclear Arsenalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/opinion-why-kazakhstan-dismantled-its-nuclear-arsenal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-why-kazakhstan-dismantled-its-nuclear-arsenal http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/opinion-why-kazakhstan-dismantled-its-nuclear-arsenal/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:20:39 +0000 Kairat Abdrakhmanov http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136406 By Kairat Abdrakhmanov
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 29 2014 (IPS)

Today is the fifth observance of the International Day against Nuclear Tests.

One of the first decrees of President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, upon the country gaining independence in 1991, was the historic decision to close, on Aug. 29 the same year, the Semipalatinsk Nuclear test site, the second largest in the world.

Kazakhstan also voluntarily gave up the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal, with more than 110 ballistic missiles and 1,200 nuclear warheads with the capacity to reach any point on this earth.

Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Many believed at that time that we took this decision because we did not possess the ability or competence to support such an massive atomic arsenal. Not true. We had then, and have even today, the best experts.

For us, it was more a question of political will to withdraw from the membership of the Nuclear Club because Kazakhstan genuinely believed in the futility of nuclear tests and weapons which can inflict unimagined catastrophic consequences on human beings and the environment.

The closing of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site was followed by other major test sites, such as in Nevada, Novaya Zemlya, Lop Nur and Moruroa.

Therefore, at the initiative of Kazakhstan, the General Assembly adopted resolution 64/35, on Dec. 2, 2009, declaring Aug. 29 as the International Day against Nuclear Tests.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the Ground Zero of Semipalatinsk in April 2010 and described the action of the president as a bold and unprecedented act and urged present world leaders to follow suit.

In the words of President Nazarbayev, this historical step made by our people, 23 years ago, has great significance for civilisation, and its significance will only grow in the coming years and decades.

It is acknowledged today that the end of testing would also result in the ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons and hence the importance of the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.

Kazakhstan was one of the first to sign the treaty, and has been a model of transforming the benefits of renouncing nuclear weapons into human development especially in the post-2015 phase with its emphasis on sustainable development.

It has been internationally recognised that nuclear-weapon-free zones on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the states of the region concerned enhance global and regional peace and security, strengthens the nuclear non-proliferation regime and contributes towards realizing the objectives of nuclear disarmament.

Yes, there are political upheavals, and there will be roadblocks, but we have to keep pursuing durable peace and security. For these are the founding objectives of the United Nations.

Each year in the U.N.’s First Committee and the General Assembly, a number of resolutions are adopted, supported by a vast majority of member states calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons, and accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments.

There are resolute and continuing efforts by member states, various stakeholders and civil society who advocate for an international convention against nuclear weapons.

We also see the dynamic action taken, especially by civil society, which brings attention to the devastating humanitarian dimensions of the use of nuclear weapons.

The meeting hosted by Norway in Oslo, and earlier this year in Nayarit by Mexico, have given new impetus to this new direction of thinking. We hope to carry further this zeal at the deliberations in Vienna, scheduled later this year.

The international community will continue its efforts on all fronts and levels to achieve the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

There was also a reaffirmation by the nuclear-weapon states of their unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament, to which all states parties are committed under article VI of the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The international community, I am sure, with the impassioned engagement of civil society will continue to redouble its efforts to reach Global Zero.

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

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Militarism Should be Suppressed Like Hanging and Flogginghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/militarism-should-be-suppressed-like-hanging-and-flogging/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=militarism-should-be-suppressed-like-hanging-and-flogging http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/militarism-should-be-suppressed-like-hanging-and-flogging/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 07:42:34 +0000 mairead-maguire http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136173

In this column, Mairead Maguire, peace activist from Northern Ireland and Nobel Peace Laureate 1976, argues that, in the face of growing militarism, civil society should take a stand for human rights and real democracy, and against violence and war.

By Mairead Maguire
BELFAST, Aug 18 2014 (IPS)

I once asked Dan Berrigan, the great American anti-war activist, for some advice to me in my life as a peace activist. He replied “Pray and Resist”.But I would like to ask how serious we are about resistance? What is our vision? And how does resistance fit into this? What do we need to resist? How can we resist effectively? And what methods are allowed? In resisting, what are our aims and objectives?

Mairead Maguire

Mairead Maguire

I would like to propose that the world’s peace movement adopt a vision of the total abolition of militarism. Such a vision would empower us to know where we are going. It would inspire and energise each of us to pursue our different projects, be it the fight against the arms trade, nuclear abolition, non-killing/non-violence, the culture of peace, the abolition of arms and drone warfare, human rights and environmental rights.

We will know, as we work towards this vision of a demilitarised, disarmed world, that we are part of an ever-growing new ‘consciousness’ of men and women, choosing to uphold human life, the right to individual conscience, loving our enemies, human rights and international law, and solving our problems without killing each other.

Why resist militarism? We are witnessing the growing militarism of Europe, and its role as a driving force for armaments, and its dangerous path, under the leadership of the United States/NATO towards a new ‘cold war’ and military aggression.

The European Union and many of its countries, which used to take initiatives in the United Nations for peaceful settlements of conflicts, particularly allegedly peaceful countries like Norway and Sweden, are now among the most important U.S./NATO war assets.“The greatest danger to our freedoms being eroded by governments and endangered by ‘armed’ groups is a fearful, apathetic, civil community, refusing to take a stand for human rights and real democracy, and against violence and war”

The European Union is a threat to the survival of neutrality, as countries are being asked to join NATO, and forced to end their neutrality and choose (unnecessarily) between West and East.

Many nations have been drawn into complicity in breaking international law through U.S./U.K./NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and so on, Germany, the third largest exporter of military hardware in the world, continues to increase its military budget and is complicit with NATO, facilitating U.S. bases, from which drones leave to carry out illegal extrajudicial killings on the order of the U.S. president, in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Germany has also provided Israel with its nuclear submarine and continues to be complicit under the Geneva Convention in Israeli war crimes against Gaza and in the illegal occupation of Palestine.

We need to abolish NATO and increase our task of dismantling the military-industrial complex, through non-violent and civil resistance.

The means of resistance are very important. As a pacifist deeply committed to non-killing/non-violence as a way to bring about social/cultural/political change, I believe that we need to use means consistent with the end, and it is wrong to use violence.

Our message that militarism and war do not solve our problem of violence challenges us to use new ways and that is why we need to teach the science of peace at every level of society.

We are all aware there are forces at work which are determined to continue their agenda of the militarisation of our societies and there are governments/corporate/media attempts to make violence and war acceptable.

The greatest danger to our freedoms being eroded by governments and endangered by ‘armed’ groups is a fearful, apathetic, civil community, refusing to take a stand for human rights and real democracy, and against violence and war.

We can take hope from the fact that most people want peace not war. However, we are facing a civilisation problem. We are facing a political/ideological challenge with the growth of what president Ike Eisenhower warned the U.S. people against ­– the military/industrial complex. He warned that it would destroy the United States.

We know now that a small group made up of the world’s military/industrial/media/corporate/academic elite – whose agenda is profit, arms, war and
valuable resources – now holds power and has a stronghold on our elected governments. We see this in the gun and Israeli lobbies, among others, which hold great power over U.S. politics.

We have witnessed this in ongoing wars, invasions, occupations and proxy war, all allegedly in the name of ‘humanitarian intervention and democracy’. However, in reality, they are causing great suffering, especially to the poor, through their policies of arms, war, domination and control of other countries and their resources.

Unmasking this agenda of war and demanding the implementation of human rights and international law is the work of the peace movement. We can turn away from this path of destruction by spelling out a clear vision of what kind of a world we want to live in, demanding an end to the military-industrial complex, and insisting that our governments adopt policies of peace.

We, the Peace Movement, are the alternative to militarism and war, and because we want a different world, we must be part of building it. We must not be satisfied with improvements to and reform of militarism but rather offer an alternative.

Militarism is an aberration and a system of dysfunction. Militarism should be outdated and disappear – like hanging and flogging! (END/IPS COLUMNIST SERVICE)

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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OPINION: Happy Birthday “UNO-City” – UN’s Vienna Headquarters Marks 35th Anniversaryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/opinion-happy-birthday-uno-city-uns-vienna-headquarters-marks-35th-anniversary/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-happy-birthday-uno-city-uns-vienna-headquarters-marks-35th-anniversary http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/opinion-happy-birthday-uno-city-uns-vienna-headquarters-marks-35th-anniversary/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 15:18:47 +0000 Martin Nesirky and Linda Petrick http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136007 Credit: United Nations Information Service Vienna

Credit: United Nations Information Service Vienna

By Martin Nesirky and Linda Petrick
VIENNA, Aug 8 2014 (IPS)

Austrians call it “UNO-City”. The United Nations calls it the Vienna International Centre (VIC). Both names give a hint of the scale and scope of the U.N’s headquarters in the Austrian capital, but not the full story.

As the VIC marks its 35th anniversary, it is worth reflecting on the U.N. family’s work here and its crucial role as one of the U.N.’s four global headquarters.Increasingly, sustainable development is a thread running through the work of all U.N. bodies, including those in Vienna.

The VIC’s three Y-shaped, interlinked buildings are certainly a product of their time. There is a retro 1970s feel to the orange-coloured lifts and to some of the corridors.

Yet the VIC has of course been modernised over the years to host a broad range of major events and more than 4,000 staff working at 14 bodies on topics ranging from nuclear safety to outer space affairs and from combatting drugs and crime to promoting sustainable industrial development and energy.

Six years ago Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean ambassador to Vienna, opened an additional state-of-the-art conference building that he said further underscored Austria’s commitment to multilateralism, a commitment that highlights the country’s neutrality and geopolitical location.

When it comes to news, many people link Vienna with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Yet while it has often made headlines because of Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) or Fukushima, the Agency’s work covers much more – including supporting the peaceful uses of nuclear technology in health and agriculture.

Other parts of the U.N. family in Vienna make headlines in their own way.

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation promotes the treaty that bans all nuclear explosions and is establishing global verification to ensure no such blast goes undetected. Indeed, its monitoring picks up not just nuclear explosions such as those most recently conducted by the DPRK but also earthquakes like the one that caused a tsunami to hit Japan in 2011.

Atoms apart, the United Nations in Vienna is well known for its work tackling drugs and crime, including through a network of field offices and through its flagship World Drug Report. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) also plays a vital role in promoting security and justice for all.

Increasingly, sustainable development – a top priority for the Secretary-General and Member States – is a thread running through the work of all U.N. bodies, including those in Vienna. The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, whose presence in Austria predates the VIC by more than a decade, is a good example, along with UNODC.

Far newer but weaving that same vital thread is the Sustainable Energy for All initiative. Its headquarters are just outside the VIC in an adjacent emerging office and residential district but it is a dynamically growing organisation that is very much a part of the U.N. constellation.

The U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs is also heavily geared to playing its part in sustainable development as it promotes international cooperation in the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space.

Smaller offices include the U.N. Postal Administration, the Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention (United Nations Environment Programme), the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, the Office for Disarmament Affairs Vienna Office, the U.N. Register of Damage Caused by the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the U.N. Commission on International Trade Law, the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation and the International Narcotics Control Board.

They may not always grab media attention but their targeted technical work has a concrete impact in their respective fields.

The United Nations Information Service Vienna helps to coordinate public information work by those U.N. bodies based in Austria, and is a good starting point for those wanting to know more. It also serves as an information centre for the public, media, civil society and academia in Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia, and provides guided tours at the VIC.

In case anyone wonders, the international bodies based at the VIC split the running costs and pay Austria an annual rent of seven euro cents – it used to be one Austrian Schilling. Needless to say, Vienna is enriched by hosting the United Nations – and other international bodies such as the Organisation of Petroleum-Exporting Countries, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency.

Certainly for the United Nations family, Vienna offers a tremendous venue for technical work, mediation and decision-making that contribute to the global goals of peace and security, sustainable development and human rights. And it is all done in what the Director-General for the U.N. Office at Vienna, Yury Fedotov, likes to call the Vienna Spirit – a spirit of pulling together to decide and then take action.

Next Friday, Aug. 15, a joint-U.N.-Austrian celebration will take place to commemorate the 35th anniversary, which falls on Aug. 23.

Martin Nesirky is Acting Director, United Nations Information Service Vienna.

Edited by : Kitty Stapp

 

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Atom Bomb Anniversary Spotlights Persistent Nuclear Threathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/atom-bomb-anniversary-spotlights-persistent-nuclear-threat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=atom-bomb-anniversary-spotlights-persistent-nuclear-threat http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/atom-bomb-anniversary-spotlights-persistent-nuclear-threat/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 04:00:23 +0000 Suvendrini Kakuchi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135976 The atomic bomb dome at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Credit: Freedom II Andres_Imahinasyon/CC-BY-2.0

The atomic bomb dome at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Credit: Freedom II Andres_Imahinasyon/CC-BY-2.0

By Suvendrini Kakuchi
TOKYO, Aug 7 2014 (IPS)

It has been 69 years, but the memory is fresh in the minds of 190,000 survivors and their descendants. It has been 69 years but a formal apology has yet to be issued. It has been 69 years – and the likelihood of it happening all over again is still a frightening reality.

As foreign dignitaries descended on Japan to mark the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing Wednesday, the message from officials in the city of Hiroshima was one of urgent appeal to governments to seriously consider the enormous threat to humanity and the planet of another nuclear attack.

Survivors, known here as hibakusha, who have worked tirelessly since August 1945 to ban nuclear weapons worldwide, urged diplomats – including ambassadors from four of the nine nuclear weapons states (United States, Israel, Pakistan and India) – to heed the words of the 2014 Peace Declaration.

Representing the anguished wishes of aging survivors and peace activists, the declaration calls on policy makers to visit the bomb-scarred cities to witness first-hand the lasting devastation caused when the U.S. dropped its uranium bomb (Little Boy) on Hiroshima and its plutonium bomb (Fat Man) on Nagasaki three days later.

The Center for Arms Control and Non Proliferation reported earlier this year that the nine nuclear weapons states possessed a combined total of 17,105 nuclear weapons as of April 2014.
Some 45,000 people observed a minute of silence Wednesday in a peace park close to the epicenter of the bomb, which killed an estimated 140,000 people in Hiroshima before the second bomb claimed a further 70,000 lives in Nagasaki.

The tragic events came as Japan was negotiating its surrender in World War II (1939-45).

The presence of so many survivors, whose average age is estimated to be 79 years, provided stark evidence of the debilitating physical and psychological wounds inflicted on those fateful days, with many hibakusha and their next of kin struggling to live with the results of intense and prolonged radiation exposure.

In a tribute to their suffering, the Hiroshima Peace Declaration states, “We will steadfastly promote the new movement stressing the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and seeking to outlaw them.

“We will help strengthen international public demand for the start of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention with the goal of total abolition by 2020,” the declaration added.

But the likelihood of this dream becoming a reality is dim, with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington reporting earlier this year that the nine nuclear weapons states possessed a combined total of 17,105 nuclear weapons as of April 2014.

The United States, the only state to deploy these weapons against another country, has steadfastly held out on issuing an official apology, claiming instead that its decision to carry out the bombing was a “necessary evil” to end World War II.

This argument is now deeply entrenched in global geopolitics, with states like Israel – not yet a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – vehemently protecting its arsenal as essential for national security in the face of protracted political tensions in the region.

Following Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, which resulted in 1,800 civilian casualties in the Palestinian enclave before a ceasefire brokered by Egypt came into effect Tuesday, some in the Arab community insist that Israel represents the biggest security threat to the region, and not vice versa.

China, a nuclear state with an inventory of 250 warheads and currently embroiled in a territorial dispute with Japan, was conspicuously absent from the proceedings.

With run-ins between East Asian nations in the disputed South China Sea becoming increasingly confrontational, peace activists here feel an urgent need to address tensions between nuclear weapons powers, including North Korea.

Professor Jacob Roberts at the Hiroshima Peace Research Institute told IPS, “The call is to ban nuclear weapons that kill and cause immense suffering of humans. By possessing these weapons, nuclear states represent criminal actions.”

He said the anti-nuclear movement is intensely focused on holding states with nuclear weapons accountable for not abiding by the 1968 NPT.

He cited the example of the Mar. 1 annual Remembrance Day held in the Pacific Ocean nation of the Marshall Islands, which suffered devastating radiation contamination from Operation Castle, a series of high-yield nuclear tests carried out by the U.S. Joint Task Force on the Bikini Atoll beginning in March 1954.

Thousands fell victim to radiation sickness as a result of the test, which is estimated to have been 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima blast.

In total, the U.S. tested 67 bombs on the territory between 1946 and 1962 against the backdrop of the Cold War-era nuclear weapons race with Russia.

In a bid to challenge the narrative of national security, the Marshall Islands filed lawsuits this April at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and separately in U.S. Federal District Court, against the nine nuclear weapon states for failing to dismantle their arsenals.

The lawsuits invoke Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which contains a binding obligation for five nuclear-armed nations (the U.S., UK, France, China and Russia) “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

As in Hiroshima, the United States has not apologized to the Marshall Islands but only expressed “sadness” for causing damage. A former senator from the Marshall Islands, Abacca Anjain Maddison, told IPS, “The U.S. continues to view the disaster as ‘sacrificing a few for the security of many’.”

The U.S. is not the only government to come under fire. Hiromichi Umebayashi, director of the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (RECNA) at Nagasaki University, is a leading advocate for a nuclear-free zone in East Asia and a bitter critic of the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which is alleged to be currently pushing the argument that nukes are necessary for national security.

Umebayashi is spearheading a campaign to stop Japan’s latest decision to work closely with the United States, under a nuclear umbrella, on strengthening the country’s national defence capacities.

“North Korea’s nuclear threat in East Asia is used by the Japanese government to push for more military activities. As the only nation to be atom bombed, Japan is making a huge mistake,” the activist told IPS.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Iran, One Year Under Rouhanihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/iran-one-year-under-rouhani/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iran-one-year-under-rouhani http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/iran-one-year-under-rouhani/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 13:36:18 +0000 Jasmin Ramsey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135916 Rouhani greets a crowd in Lorestan Province on Jun. 18, 2014. Credit: Iranian President's Office

Rouhani greets a crowd in Lorestan Province on Jun. 18, 2014. Credit: Iranian President's Office

By Jasmin Ramsey
WASHINGTON, Aug 4 2014 (IPS)

When Hassan Rouhani was declared Iran’s president last year, large crowds gathered in the streets of Tehran to celebrate his surprise victory. But while hope for a better life persists, Iranians continue to face harsh realities.

“I think Rouhani has done a very good job,” Hassan Niroomand, the 62-year-old director of a steel company in Tehran, told IPS.“There are certain factions within the regime that are not comfortable with the way things are moving forward and are trying to make it as hard possible for Rouhani to achieve his goals.” -- Ali Reza Eshraghi

“He does not have all the power, but he has taken advantage of what he can control and I am hopeful,” said Niroomand, citing Rouhani’s handling of the nuclear negotiations, his universal health insurance initiative, and his leadership style.

“He knows how to deal with extremists who are trying to make Iran another Afghanistan,” he added.

Not all Iranians share Niroomand’s positive assessment.

“Everyone says he is better than [former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad], but I don’t see a difference,” said Fariba Hosseini, a 39-year-old part-time student who is currently unemployed.

“Prices are still high and girls are being bothered again about their veils,” she said, referring to Iran’s morality police who have taken to the streets in the sweltering summer heat to ensure women comply with clothing regulations.

“I don’t think life will get better,” she said.

Rouhani, a centrist cleric and former advisor to the Supreme Leader who was inaugurated one year ago today, promised to improve the economy, solve the conflict over Iran’s nuclear programme, and de-securitise the political environment.

Had his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif failed to achieve the historic interim nuclear accord with world powers in November 2013, and had negotiations toward a final deal broken down, many more Iranians might share Hosseini’s pessimistic view.

But while Iran’s economy continues to limp due to previous governmental policies and sanctions, slight improvements have kept people looking forward to the future.

“Rouhani and his team’s efforts to reduce sanctions on Iran through the nuclear talks has so far prevented the further cutting of Iranian crude oil production and exports,” said Sara Vakhshouri, an energy expert and former advisor to the National Iranian Oil Company.

“The [sanctions relief] has not had an immediate significant effect on the economy, but it has certainly had a positive psychological impact on the people,” she said.

Iran’s oil exports, which fund nearly half of government expenditures, were slashed by more than half in 2012 following the imposition of stringent U.S. and EU sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and banking sector.

Iran’s currency, the rial, went into freefall, dropping by more than 50 percent in October 2012.

But since November’s interim deal, which halts Iran’s nuclear programme from further expansion in exchange for moderate sanctions relief, the rial has strengthened and inflation is down by more than half from over 40 percent a year ago, due in part to improved governmental policies.

The temporary sanctions relief on Iran’s petrochemical exports and the unfreezing of some of Iran’s assets abroad have also positively impacted the economy, according to Vakshouri, who noted that Rouhani has changed investment regulations to attract more international investors.

But potential investors will maintain their distance until the energy-rich country’s release from the strangulating sanctions becomes certain.

Meanwhile, international human rights organisations have decried the rise in executions since Rouhani took office, while the sentencing of journalists and activists who were apprehended during the Ahmadinejad era for political reasons continue under Rouhani’s watch.

Domestic news media has become more openly critical of the government, but a number of reformist-minded journalists have been detained in recent months.

Iran’s Culture Minister Ali Jannati made headlines last year when he said Iran’s ban on social networks including Facebook and Twitter should be lifted, but while he and Rouhani have publicly criticised the Islamic Republic’s control over people’s personal lives, leading conservative factions retain their hold on Iranian society.

The shocking Jul. 21 arrest of a Washington Post reporter, Jason Rezaian, with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, also a reporter, has led many to speculate that domestic political infighting has resulted in the 38-year-old Iranian-American being used as a pawn.

The location of Rezaian, an Iranian resident, remains unknown despite outcry in the U.S. from the State Department and multiple rights-focused organisations.

Iran does not recognise dual citizenship and no charges have been announced.

Analysts have argued that Rezaian could have been detained to embarrass Rouhani ahead of the resumption of talks in September.

“There are certain factions within the regime that are not comfortable with the way things are moving forward and are trying to make it as hard possible for Rouhani to achieve his goals,” said Ali Reza Eshraghi, a former editor of several Iranian reformist dailies.

“Jannati summed the situation up well when he said that the only thing that has changed in Iran is the executive branch,” Eshraghi, the Iran project manager at the U.S.-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting, told IPS.

Yet Eshraghi points out that while Rouhani may have no control over the judicial and legislative branches, he has proven adept at closed-door negotiations.

“Rouhani and his team have a modernising agenda, but they are not pursing it through radical statements or intense pressure on their political opponents. He is quietly negotiating and making pacts,” he said.

While Eshraghi sees the election as having energised activists to pressure Rouhani to force change despite his inability to do so, he also believes average Iranians remain patient.

“People have modest expectations, they are realistic about Rouhani’s ability to achieve his goals,” he said.

It remains to be seen how long Iranian patience will last, especially if the Rouhani government fails to secure a nuclear deal resulting in substantial sanctions relief.

Thus far Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has maintained his distaste and lack of trust of the U.S., has voiced support for Iran’s negotiating team. But while Iran seeks a final deal on the international stage, the domestic negotiating front appears to be getting tougher.

“Jason was trying to colorise the very black and white frame that Western mainstream news media has used for Iran,” said Eshraghi.

“His arrest ironically indicates that there are certain factions inside the country who are very happy with that framing.”

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

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Zarif and Kerry Signal Momentum on Nuclear Pacthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/zarif-and-kerry-signal-momentum-on-nuclear-pact/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zarif-and-kerry-signal-momentum-on-nuclear-pact http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/zarif-and-kerry-signal-momentum-on-nuclear-pact/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 17:18:48 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135606 By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, Jul 17 2014 (IPS)

As the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme approach the Jul. 20 deadline, both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have signaled through their carefully worded statements that they are now moving toward toward agreement on the two most crucial issues in the talks: the level of Iranian enrichment capability to be allowed and the duration of the agreement.

Their statements after two days of meetings Sunday and Monday suggest that both Kerry and Zarif now see a basis for an agreement that would freeze Iran’s enrichment capacity at somewhere around its present level of 10,000 operational centrifuges for a period of years.Once the difference between the proposed duration of the two sides has been reduced to a very few years, both sides may well conclude that the difference is not important enough to sacrifice the advantages of reaching agreement.

They also indicated that the two sides have not yet agreed on how many years the agreement would last, but that the bargaining on that question has already begun.

The tone and content of Kerry’s statements in particular contrasts sharply with remarks by a senior U.S. official shortly before Kerry’s arrival in Vienna on Jul. 12, which accused Iran of failing to move from “unworkable and inadequate positions that would not in fact assure us that their programme is exclusively peaceful.”

Zarif’s comments to New York Times correspondent David E. Sanger suggested movement toward an accord on the two key issues of the level of enrichment capacity and the duration of the agreement.

“I can try to work out an agreement where we would maintain our current levels,” Zarif was quoted as saying.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that a diplomat involved in the talks had said Iran had proposed freezing the number of centrifuges at 9, 400 – roughly the same number that have actually been operating.

Iran has another 9,000 centrifuges that were installed but never hooked up or operated, suggesting that Iran intended to trade them off for concessions from the P5+1 in eventual negotiations even before Hassan Rouhani became president last year.

The Times story reported that Zarif also “signaled that he had some room to negotiate on how long the freeze would last because Iran has an agreement with Russia to provide fuel for its Bushehr nuclear plant for the next seven years.”

“We want to produce only what we need,” Zarif said. “Since our reactor doesn’t need fuel for another seven years we don’t have to kill ourselves for it. We have time.”

John Kerry addresses reporters in Vienna on July 15. Credit: U.S. State Department

John Kerry addresses reporters in Vienna on July 15. Credit: U.S. State Department

Zarif’s latitude for negotiating on the expiration date may be wider than has been assumed because Iran is pursuing a possible deal with Russia on cooperation in fuel fabrication, according to a document on Iran’s nuclear energy needs recently released by the government.

Such an agreement could eliminate the need to begin replacing Russian fuel immediately after the expiration of the present contract.

In his press conference Tuesday, Kerry refused to address the question of specific numbers of centrifuges discussed with Zariff. Nevertheless, he said, “We have made it crystal clear that the 19,000 that are currently part of their programme is too many.”

By referring to the 19,000 figure rather than to the 10,000 operative centrifuges, Kerry was leaving the door open to a deal that would cut half of Iran’s total centrifuge capacity.

As recently as June, Obama administration officials were leaking to the press a demand that Iran would have to accept a cut in the number of centrifuges to between 2,000 and 4,000.

The rationale for that demand was that Iran’s existing level of centrifuges would allow it the capability to achieve a “breakout” to sufficient weapons-grade uranium to build a single nuclear weapon in only two to three months, and that Washington was insisting on lengthening that “breakout timeline” to six to 12 months.

But the administration is well aware that another way to achieve that objective is to reduce Iran’s low enriched uranium stockpile to close to zero.

Zarif explained to the Times correspondent the Iranian proposal, which was part of the negotiating draft, to guarantee that no breakout capability would exist even with the current level of Iranian enrichment.

Sanger reported that Zarif had “combined his proposal of a freeze with an offer to take the nuclear fuel produced by its 9,000 or so working centrifuges and convert it to an oxide form, a way station to being made into nuclear fuel rods.”

Zarif reportedly said Iran would “guarantee, during the agreement, not to build the facility needed to convert the oxide back into a gas, the step that would have to precede any effort to enrich it to 90 percent purity, which is what is generally considered bomb-grade.”

The foreign minister claimed that his proposal would lengthen the “breakout timeline” to more than a year, according to Sanger. As described by Zarif to IPS in early June, the plan is designed to assure that no low enriched uranium would be available for weapons-grade enrichment for the duration of the agreement.

Sanger reported that American officials are “doubtful” that it would accomplish that objective but offered no explanation and did not quote any official. That suggests that Sanger was relying on what U.S. officials had said about the “breakout” issue before the Kerry-Zarif negotiations.

Kerry did not address the issue of duration of the agreement in his press conference remarks. But a U.S. official was quoted in a Jul. 12 Reuters story as declining to give a specific number but as saying that the United States wanted it to be “in the double digits”.

In earlier briefings for the news media, U.S. officials had indicated that the United States wanted the agreement to last 20 years.

Before the Kerry-Zarif meetings, the senior U.S official briefing journalists Jul. 12 had criticised Ali Khamenei’s Jul. 7 speech referring to Iran’s need for the equivalent of 190,000 first generation centrifuges. The official had said that the number would be “far beyond their current programme” and that the U.S. had said the existing capacity needed to be cut instead.

That suggested that Iran was insisting on getting approval for that increased capacity in the agreement.

In his news conference, however, Kerry clearly suggested that Khamenei’s citation of the 190,000 figure is not a deal-breaker. “[I]t reflects a long-term perception of what they currently have in their minds with respect to nuclear plants to provide power,” Kerry said. “[I]t was framed what way, I believe, in the speech,” he added.

Kerry was implying that Khamenei’s vision of industrial scale enrichment would not fall within the time frame of the agreement, presumably on the basis of his talks with Zarif.

That answer suggests that Kerry is now considering an Iranian proposal on the duration of the agreement that would put off the beginning of Iran’s buildup to industrial level enrichment to a point close to or within the “double digit” period of years demanded by the United States.

Once the difference between the proposed duration of the two sides has been reduced to a very few years, both sides may well conclude that the difference is not important enough to sacrifice the advantages of reaching agreement.

The Obama administration is still assessing whether to request an extension of the talks beyond Sunday’s deadline, but it may not take long to wrap up an agreement once the decision reach compromise on the two key issues is made.

When Sanger of the Times asked Zarif whether agreement could be reached by the Jul. 20 deadline, the foreign minister replied, “We can do that by this evening.”

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

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Khamenei Remarks Show Both Sides Maneuvre on Enrichmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/khamenei-remarks-show-both-sides-maneuvre-on-enrichment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=khamenei-remarks-show-both-sides-maneuvre-on-enrichment http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/khamenei-remarks-show-both-sides-maneuvre-on-enrichment/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 15:44:15 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135516 Supreme leader Ali Khamenei. Credit: GFDL creative commons

Supreme leader Ali Khamenei. Credit: GFDL creative commons

By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, Jul 12 2014 (IPS)

Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s comments on the nuclear talks Monday provided an unusual glimpse of diplomatic maneuvering by the U.S.-led coalition of five nuclear powers and Germany on the issue of enrichment capability to be allowed in a comprehensive agreement.

But his remarks also suggested that Iran was responding with its own diplomatic maneuvre on the issue. Both sides appear to have put forward demands that they knew were non-starters with the intention of moderating their demands substantially in return for major concessions from the other side.Khamenei was suggesting that that the U.S. is now ready to accept a 10,000 SWU limit in return for Iran’s agreeing to forsake the further increases that Iran has been insisting will be necessary.

Khamenei described the United States and the P5+1 as demanding initially that Iran’s annual enrichment capability be cut to the equivalent of as few as 500 to 1,000 centrifuges – as little as 2.6 percent percent of its present level of 19,000 centrifuges.

But he also suggested they were now aiming at getting Iran to accept a capability equivalent to the annual production of 10,000 centrifuges on the condition that it would be the final level for the duration of the agreement.

“They seek to make Iran accept 10,000 SWUs, which means the products of 10,000 centrifuges of older type that we already have,” said Khamenei in a speech to an audience that included President Hassan Rouhani. The P5+1 had “started with 500 SWU and 1,000 SWU”, he said, referring to demands advanced by the P5+1 in the negotiations last month.

The Iranian leader’s assertion about the coalition’s position last month is consistent with a statement by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Jun. 14 that “the West wants to slash the number of centrifuges” that Iran would be allowed to maintain to “several hundred”.

Secretary of State John Kerry had said in April that the U.S. intention was to demand very deep cuts in Iran’s enrichment capability, arguing it was necessary to lengthen the time it would take Iran to turn its uranium enriched to 3.5 percent into enough weapons grade uranium for a single bomb to six to 12 months.

What he did not acknowledge publicly, however, is that such cuts were not necessary to achieve such a lengthening of the “breakout” timeline, because it could be also be accomplished by the reduction of Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium and measures to avoid the accumulation of a new stockpile.

Iran pledged as part of the interim agreement to begin the process of converting its UF6, the gaseous form of low enriched uranium, into oxide powder, which would not be available for further enrichment without reversing the process. It is now ready to begun operating a new facility specifically devoted to that conversion, according to Reuters.

Khamenei was suggesting that that the U.S. is now ready to accept a 10,000 SWU limit in return for Iran’s agreeing to forsake the further increases that Iran has been insisting will be necessary.

10,000 SWU would coincide with Iran’s current production capability, based on the 10,000 primitive first generation centrifuges that have been operational. Another 9,000 centrifuges have been installed but have never operated, apparently with the intention of using them as bargaining chips.

In what appears to have been a response to the diplomatic maneuvre by the P5+1, Khamenei announced a new Iranian demand for an increase after 2021 to a level that is nearly twice as high as what independent experts have estimated is necessary to support the Bushehr reactor.

Khamenei identified the level of enrichment capability that Iran’s atomic energy organisation would eventually require as “190,000 SWU”.

A group of Princeton University specialists estimated in a recent article on Iran’s enrichment needs that it would require about 100,000 SWU to produce enough low enriched uranium to provide fuel for the Bushehr reactor – the basis for Iran’s demand for an increase.

Khamenei also made a point of saying that the need was more than five years out, seeming to leave open the possibility that Iran would agree to hold off on adding the additional enrichment capacity he said was needed. “Maybe this need will not be for this year, or two years, or five years, but this is the final need of the country,” Khamenei said.

The head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi, who commented on the issue to various news outlets in Iran Wednesday, also employed a formula that avoided closing the door to negotiations on the question of when Iran would have to begin building more centrifuges. He told the Young Journalists’ Club that 190,000 SWU “is our real need, the most basic need, in an eight-year outlook.”

Salehi’s reference to eight years is related to the fact that the contract with Russia to supply nuclear fuel for the Bushehr reactor expires in 2021. Iranian officials have said Iran intends to take over the fabrication of fuel for Bushehr at that time, which would require much higher levels of enrichment capability.

Khamenei’s remarks suggest that Iran has adopted its own maneuvre aimed at positioning Iran to negotiate for a much smaller increase after a period of years in which Iran would hold at roughly the present level of operational enrichment capability.

An unnamed U.S. official who briefed reporters Jul. 3 said that the capability for “industrial scale enrichment” – i.e., the capability to provide fuel for Bushehr — “isn’t anything that’s under consideration.”

But the same official also said, “What choices they make after they get to normalcy — that is after a long duration of an agreement, when they will be treated as any other non-nuclear weapons state under the NPT – will of course be their choice.”

The official’s reference to Iran’s freedom to undertake enrichment once the agreement expires raises the question whether the negotiation of the termination date for the agreement could be the vehicle for reaching a compromise on the issue.

U.S. officials have not said anything publicly about the issue of the duration of the agreement. However, Robert Einhorn, whose long paper for the Brookings Institution published Mar. 31 was widely regarded as reflecting Obama administration thinking, said the United States wanted the comprehensive agreement to last “about twenty years”.

Iranian statements appear to rule out agreeing to any duration of more than five to eight years.

Another way to bridge the large gap between the two sides in the final days of the negotiation, however, may be to agree on a provision for review and adjustment of the level of enrichment capacity allowable under the agreement that would come shortly before the expiration of the Russian contract in 2021. Einhorn suggested such a review process for different provisions of the agreement.

Reviewing the longer-term level of Iranian enrichment after several years would allow Iran to demonstrate that it has not pursued a “breakout” capability by drawing down its existing stockpile of low-enriched uranium and not allowing a new stockpile to accumulate. That is what Iran’s proposal is aimed at doing, as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told IPS in an interview last month.

Especially if the trend toward U.S. and Iran interests in relation to jihadist forces in the Middle East continues to develop during that period, a future administration might be far more willing to ease the present political restrictions on the Iranian nuclear programme in the final years of the agreement.

Whether the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will continue to hold sway over Congress would remain a crucial question governing the politics of the issue, however.

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. Demand for Deep Centrifuge Cut Is a Diplomatic Ployhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/u-s-demand-for-deep-centrifuge-cut-is-a-diplomatic-ploy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-demand-for-deep-centrifuge-cut-is-a-diplomatic-ploy http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/u-s-demand-for-deep-centrifuge-cut-is-a-diplomatic-ploy/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 01:24:23 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135302 P5+1 foreign ministers after negotiations about Iran's nuclear capabilities concluded on Nov. 24, 2013 in Geneva. Credit: U.S. Dept of State/CC by 2.0

P5+1 foreign ministers after negotiations about Iran's nuclear capabilities concluded on Nov. 24, 2013 in Geneva. Credit: U.S. Dept of State/CC by 2.0

By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, Jul 1 2014 (IPS)

With only a few weeks remaining before the Jul. 20 deadline, the Barack Obama administration issued a warning to Iran that it must accept deep cuts in the number of its centrifuges in order to demonstrate that its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes.

U.S. officials have argued that such cuts are necessary to increase the “breakout” time – the time it would take Iran to enrich enough uranium to weapons grade level to build a single bomb – from what is said to be two to three months at present to as long as a year or even more.Given the past record of political interference in fuel agreements, Washington knows it faces a tough sell trying to get Iran to accept the U.S. insistence on reliance on foreign suppliers.

Tehran has made it clear that it will not accept such a demand. Dismantling the vast majority of the centrifuges that Iran had installed is a highly symbolic issue, and the political cost of acceptance would be extremely high.

But a closer examination of the issues under negotiation suggests that the ostensible pressure on Iran is part of a strategy aimed at extracting concessions from Iran on the issue of its longer-term enrichment capability.

The Obama administration has been aware from the beginning of the talks that the “breakout” period could be lengthened to nearly a year without requiring the removal of most of the 10,000 centrifuges that have been used over the past two and a half years.

U.S. officials were well aware that reducing the amount of low enriched uranium and oxide powder now stockpiled by Iran to close to zero and avoiding any future accumulation would have the same effect – and that Iran was willing to accept such restrictions.

David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security and Olli Heinonen, the former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy director general for Safeguards, warned in a Jun. 3 article against a deal that would allow Iran to have more than 4,000 centrifuges in return for reducing its stocks of UF6 and oxide powder (UO2).

But they acknowledged that, if the Iranian LEU stockpile were reduced from the present level of 8,475 kg to 1,000 kilogrammes, the breakout time for 10,000 IR-1 centrifuges would be six months. And if the stockpile were reduced to zero, the breakout time would increase to close to a year, according to one of the graphs accompanying the article.

Experts from the Department of Energy as well as from the intelligence community certainly briefed policymakers on the fact that lengthening the breakout timeline to between six and 12 months could be achieved through reducing either centrifuges or the stockpile of low enriched uranium (LEU), according to Steve Fetter, who was assistant director at large for the White House Office of Science and Technology from 2009-12.

Eliminating the existing LEU stockpile and avoiding any further accumulation is the intent of an Iranian proposal formally handed over to EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Istanbul last month. Under that proposal, which Zarif revealed in an interview with IPS in Tehran Jun. 3, Iran would convert all UF6 to Uranium oxide powder (U02) and then convert the U02 to fuel plates for Bushehr.

Iran has expressed the desire to fabricate fuel plates for Bushehr itself, but has not yet mastered the technology. The proposal would therefore involve shipping either UF6 enriched to 3.5 percent or the U02 to Russia for conversion into fuel plates until the expiration of the contract with Russia for fuel fabrication for Bushehr expires in 2021.

In the interim agreement, Iran committed to begin converting UF6 enriched to 3.5 percent to oxide powder as soon as its line for such conversion became operational. The Enriched U02 Powder Plant began operating in May, but the time required to reduce the existing stockpile to zero will depend on the capacity of the plant, which has not been announced.

Zarif told IPS he had unveiled the basic idea underlying the Iranian proposal in his PowerPoint presentation to European officials in Geneva in mid-October.

When Secretary of State John Kerry declared in April that he would demand a major increase in the existing “breakout” period to somewhere between to six and 12 months, therefore, he had good reason to believe that Washington could achieve that objective without cutting Iran’s centrifuges to a few thousand.

An agreement to freeze the existing level of 10,000 operating centrifuges while reducing the LEU stockpile to zero could place the 9,000 centrifuges that have never been operated in storage under IAEA seal. Those used centrifuges include 1,000 advanced IR-2 centrifuges that are estimated to be three to five times more efficient than the IR-1 model.

Iran’s policy of introducing thousands of centrifuges into the Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities that were never used was aimed at accumulating negotiating chips for eventual negotiations on its nuclear programme.

In late August 2012, a senior U.S. official told the New York Times that Iran was being “very strategic” by “creating tremendous [enrichment] capacity,” but “not using it.” In doing so, the official said, Iran was acquiring “leverage” – obviously referring to future negotiations.

During the round of negotiations in Vienna in June, however, the draft tabled by the P5+1 apparently called for cuts going well beyond what U.S. officials knew would be acceptable to Iran. U.S. officials told the New York Times that the objective was now to lengthen the “breakout period” to more than a year – thus going beyond what Kerry had suggested in April.

The draft may have included an even more extreme demand from the French government. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared in mid-June that the West wants to cut the number of centrifuges to “several hundred”.

After the June round of negotiations, Zarif denounced the draft as containing “excessive demands” which Iran would not accept.

But those demands appear to be a negotiating ploy in which the U.S. would give up the demand for deep short-term reductions centrifuges in the coming years in return for Iranian concessions on the level of enrichment capability to be allowed in the later stage of the agreement.

The November 2013 Joint Plan of Action provided that the future enrichment programme would depend on Iran’s “practical needs”. Iran interprets that term to include the need to be self-reliant in providing reactor fuel for Bushehr, whereas the Obama administration argues that Iran can and should rely on Russia or other foreign suppliers.

Given the past record of political interference in fuel agreements Iran had negotiated with French and German firms in the 1980s and with Russia in 2005, however, Washington knows it faces a tough sell trying to get Iran to accept the U.S. insistence on reliance on foreign suppliers.

The “practical need” criterion suggests that Iran would have to provide concrete evidence of its need and ability to provide the fuel rods for the Bushehr reactor when the current contract with Russia expires in 2021.

Postponing the negotiations over that issue until a date much closer to 2021 would offer a period of a few years to negotiate an agreement on a regional fuel consortium for the Middle East that would be acceptable to both sides, as has been proposed by a group of Princeton University scientists and scholars.

Perhaps even more important, such a postponement would allow for increasing trust through the successful implementation of the agreement covering the next few years.

Explaining the Princeton group’s plan at a briefing in Washington, D.C. last week, nuclear scientist Frank N. von Hippel, who was assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology in the Bill Clinton administration, said, “We would have five years to cool down this impasse.”

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

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Q&A: “Fukushima Accident Still Ongoing After Three Years”http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/qa-fukushima-accident-still-ongoing-after-three-years/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-fukushima-accident-still-ongoing-after-three-years http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/qa-fukushima-accident-still-ongoing-after-three-years/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 14:29:51 +0000 Fabiola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135100

Fabíola Ortiz interviews MYCLE SCHNEIDER, nuclear energy consultant

By Fabiola Ortiz
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 20 2014 (IPS)

It has been three years since the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan. But the consequences are still ongoing due to continuous leaks of radioactivity into the environment, says independent nuclear energy consultant Mycle Schneider.

In 1997 Schneider won the Right Livelihood Award, considered the Alternative Nobel Prize, for alerting the world about the risks posed by the use of plutonium. He was appointed a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), based at Princeton University, in 2007.

According to the scientist, the trend nowadays is towards fewer and fewer nuclear power plants operating worldwide. Instead of a renaissance, he says, the world is facing a decline in the use of this source of energy.

In this interview with IPS, Schneider also commented on the initiative Brazil and Argentina are developing as part of their mutual cooperation in the field of nuclear energy. In his opinion, it has the potential to be adapted in critical regions like the Middle East.

Q: What is the global situation of nuclear power as a source of energy?

A: The situation of the commercial use of nuclear energy is quite different from public perception. If one looks at the number of nuclear reactors operating in the world, the peak with the highest number of machines operating was back in 2002, twelve years ago. There were 444 nuclear reactors at that time.

Independent nuclear  energy consultant Mycle Schneider says nuclear power is actually in decline. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

Independent nuclear energy consultant Mycle Schneider says nuclear power is actually in decline. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

Now we’re standing at around 400. Officially there are 48 reactors operating in Japan but none of these is generating electricity. However, the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to list all of these reactors as in operation.

So in reality, there is a significant decline. In Europe the peak was already in 1988, 25 years ago, where 177 reactors were operating at that time and now there are only 131 left – 46 units less.

We are not in the context of a so-called renaissance; we are facing a decline. The share of nuclear power in electricity generation worldwide peaked in 1993, 20 years ago. It was 17 percent then and is around 10 percent today. The trend is clearly towards a decrease in operating nuclear power plants.

Q: What are the lessons three years after the Fukushima accident?

A: Public opinion throughout the world was very much influenced by Fukushima. The use of this source of energy lost acceptance, in Asia much more than in other regions. In Europe as well with very large differences between countries, for example, in Switzerland enormously, in the UK a lot less, and in Germany the opposition was very much established. It changed a lot of things in countries like China and South Korea because those countries are much closer to Japan.

Society has operated nuclear power plants on a very simple equation: a very large danger potential multiplied with a very low probability of events equals acceptable risk. That equation blew up in Fukushima;people realised that low probability does not necessarily mean no event, zero risk.

The lesson, the most fundamental to be learned for society, is to reduce the danger potential in the first place. The energy contained in liquid natural gas tankers, for example, is just unbelievable: in terms of pure energy, it can be equivalent to over two times the Nagasaki bomb in one tanker. It is very unlikely that it will explode, but even if the risk was only 10 percent, the kind of damage that it could do is beyond imagination. And these bombs are all over the place.

Q: What did Fukushima represent regarding the safety of nuclear plants?

A: People think Fukushima was the worst case, but it was not. It can become much worse, it is not over. This accident is ongoing, it has been for three years. There are continuous leaks of radioactivity in the environment because the radioactive inventory is not stabilised.

It’s an unprecedented event in complexity, in size and in consequences. The biggest problem is that the methodology chosen by Tepco [the utility that operated the plant that melted down during the Mar. 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami] and the Japanese government appears inappropriate. We see that after three years the situation is very far from being stabilised.

The amount of radioactivity that has gone into water that was leaked into the basements is estimated to be roughly three times the amount of radioactivity released during the [1986] Chernobyl accident. This issue is vastly underestimated.

Q: Brazil and Argentina are developing a partnership of mutual cooperation in the nuclear field. How do you see this initiative?

A: Nuclear power in South America is insignificant for electricity generation and contributes only five percent in Argentina and three percent in Brazil.

The Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC), that is focusing on non-proliferation issues, is technically difficult to assess from the outside, but it seems ABACC is staffed with 100 inspectors. That is a lot compared to the number of facilities to be inspected.

It is a very interesting initiative. We have discussed the possibilities of adapting this kind of approach to other regions, for example in the Middle East, which is one of the problematic regions.

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Deploying Morals Against Weapons of Mass Destructionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/deploying-morals-against-weapons-of-mass-destruction/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=deploying-morals-against-weapons-of-mass-destruction http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/deploying-morals-against-weapons-of-mass-destruction/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 05:01:05 +0000 Jassmyn Goh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=135092 Panelists at the United Nations discuss the role of interfaith leaders in nuclear disarmament talks. Credit: Jassmyn Goh/IPS

Panelists at the United Nations discuss the role of interfaith leaders in nuclear disarmament talks. Credit: Jassmyn Goh/IPS

By Jassmyn Goh
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2014 (IPS)

With legislation, legality and policy at the forefront of governmental decisions on nuclear weapons, what seemingly gets neglected are our morals.

The controversial nature of the topic, combined with states’ inability to reach binding agreements on non-proliferation and disarmament, has prompted religious leaders to step in to fill the gap in civil society by educating their followers about the issue.

At a recent panel discussion at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, interfaith leaders sat down with members of the Global Security Institute (GSI) and the Philippines mission to the U.N. to discuss the moral compass that could guide progress on disarmament and deterrents.

In a jovial yet poignant statement, Libran Cabactulan, the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the U.N., called the gathering a “last ditch” attempt to advance the issue, which appears to have reached a global stalemate.

“Religious voices can help set the moral compass for the community but they have thus far not exercised their moral persuasion in a sufficiently influential fashion." -- Jonathan Granoff, president of the Global Security Institute (GSI)
Cabactulan told IPS that governments have a tendency to use multilateral forums as platforms for discussing practicalities, principles and politics, rather than questions of right and wrong.

This is why, he said, religious and interfaith leaders have an important role to play.

During the panel discussion H.E. Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, from the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, urged religious leaders to join the dialogue for the sake of “future generations” because the issue of nuclear weapons concerns the very “future of humanity.”

“If we don’t prevail on this issue we have no future (because) by accident, design or madness the weapons are going to be used,” GSI President Jonathan Granoff told IPS.

There are some 17,265 nuclear weapons in the world today, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

If these weapons were to be used each explosion would be around eight to 100 times larger than the bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At least 2,000 of the roughly 4,400 deployed warheads are in a state of high operational alert.

The U.S. is responsible for 2,150 of the world’s deployed weapons, while Russia follows close behind with 1,800. France and the UK have 290 and 160 deployed weapons respectively.

Data for China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea are harder to find, according to SIPRI.

According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, both Russia and the United States have recorded massive declines in their respective stockpiles over the years.

As of 2012, Russia had 4,650 active warheads compared to 45,000 in 1986, while the U.S. had trimmed its stocks from 31,000 in 1967 to 2,250 in 2012.

Still, the two superpowers remained far ahead of their counterparts in the P5 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council) including France, which has 300 active warheads, China (240) and Britain, which possess 225.

‘Limited’ role for civil society

GSI approached the Philippines mission as a partner largely due to Cabactulan’s leadership in the field as the 2010 Non-Proliferation Review Conference President. They collaborated with seven faith leaders along with the U.N High Representative for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), Angela Kane.

“We (UNODA) don’t [necessarily] target religious groups, but we have very strong partners in civil society and we really rely on them to be a multiplying factor,” Kane told IPS.

However, Kane noted that progress on the issue with the help of interfaith leaders was very limited.

“Progress is not dependent on you or I or religious leaders [but] on the member states making progress in these areas,” she said.

Granoff also said that although there had been many statements made by religious leaders about non-proliferation and disarmament their words have failed to gain much traction.

“Religious voices can help set the moral compass for the community but they have thus far not exercised their moral persuasion in a sufficiently influential fashion,” he said.

With 85 percent of the world’s people identifying with some form of organised religion, the potential for faith-based organisations to change public opinion is huge.

Granoff said he “would like to create a coalition of religious and interfaith leadership that would exercise their moral persuasion to their full capacity.”

“The United Religious Initiative and the Religions for Peace have a large footprint and engagement with many religious leaders and are seriously committed to the issue and I look forward to working with them,” he asserted.

With the next non-proliferation treaty (NPT) review conference to be held next year the ambassador expressed serious concern over the lack of movement from member states.

“Nobody seems to be interested, nothing is happening. In the latest PrepCom [the third Preparatory Committee meeting this year] they were not able to agree on practically anything,” he said.

“This worries me and everyone is saying that the NPT is done, done for disarmament and non-proliferation. I hope the NPT will not be thrown overboard because nothing happens, I say keep it and expand it.”

The treaty currently represents the only legal commitment made by nuclear weapon states to work towards disarmament, but progress has been painfully slow.

Kane also noted that funding for the process of disarmament is low. Within the U.N. system, UNODA is one of the smallest departments and was only allocated 0.45 percent of the world body’s 2014-2015 budget, despite the department’s crucial role in determining the future of humanity.

In contrast, member states shell out huge sums of money to maintain their nuclear arsenals. According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), nuclear states spend nearly 300 million dollars a day on their nuclear forces.

The global advocacy coalition estimates that annual expenditure on nuclear weapons is close to 105 billion dollars, which works out to roughly 12 million dollars an hour.

Experts say the time is ripe for members of civil society, particularly faith leaders, to help turn the tide.

“I long to see a day when every pope, every sermon, [and every] synagogue around the world is trumpeting that these weapons of mass destruction are an instrument of the devil and an instrument of sin,” Cabactulan said.

“The clock is ticking and we do not know what is going to happen and maybe by a flick of a finger or a click of a mouse we [will] all [be] gone,” Cabactulan said.

(END)

 

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Zarif Reveals Iran’s Proposal for Ensuring Against “Breakout”*http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/corrected-repeat-zarif-reveals-irans-proposal-for-ensuring-against-breakout/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=corrected-repeat-zarif-reveals-irans-proposal-for-ensuring-against-breakout http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/corrected-repeat-zarif-reveals-irans-proposal-for-ensuring-against-breakout/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 18:48:08 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=134988 Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Credit: CC by 2.0/BEHROUZ MEHRI/European External Action Service - EEAS

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Credit: CC by 2.0/BEHROUZ MEHRI/European External Action Service - EEAS

By Gareth Porter
TEHRAN, Jun 13 2014 (IPS)

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has revealed for the first time that Iran has made a detailed proposal to the P5+1 group of states aimed at ensuring that no stockpile of low-enriched uranium would be available for “breakout” through enrichment to weapons grade levels.

In an exclusive interview with IPS, Zarif described an Iranian plan, presented at the meetings with the P5+1 last month in Vienna, that would exclude weapons grade enrichment. “The parameters of the proposal would be set to continue Iran’s enrichment but to provide the necessary guarantees that it would not enrich to anything over five percent,” said Zarif.The proposal, which was later published by the Iranian government, included a series of “technical guarantees” against nuclear weapons proliferation.

The plan would involve the immediate conversion of each batch of low-enriched uranium to an oxide powder that would then be used to make fuel assemblies for Iran’s Bushehr reactor, according to Zarif.

Russia is currently converting oxide powder to fuel assemblies for Bushehr, but Zarif told IPS that by the time the contract with Russia expires in 2021, “we will certainly have the capability to convert the oxide to fuel rods domestically.”

The previously undisclosed Iranian plan is part of a broader negotiating stance that insists on the need for a large increase in the number of centrifuges it would have in the future – a demand that the United States and its negotiating partners have rejected.

Obama administration officials have made it clear that they are insisting on very steep reductions in the number of centrifuges, based on the argument that Iran cannot be allowed to have the capability to enrich enough uranium to weapons grade for a single nuclear bomb in less than six to 12 months.

Zarif said he could not discuss the details of the Iranian proposal, because it is “still being negotiated”.

But he described it as involving a complete cycle “from conversion to yellowcake, to UF6, to enriched uranium, back to oxide powder, and back to fuel rods,” all of which would be “designed specifically to meet the requirements of the Bushehr reactor.”

Zarif revealed that the Iranian plan for guaranteeing that Iran could not have a nuclear weapons capability is very similar to the proposal that Iran made to a meeting with the European three (U.K., France and Germany) in Paris in March 2005.

The proposal, which was later published by the Iranian government, included a series of “technical guarantees” against nuclear weapons proliferation. It describes one of those guarantees as “immediate conversion of all enriched uranium to fuel rods to preclude even the technical possibility of further enrichment.”

The U.S.-educated Zarif said he had developed that 2005 proposal himself when he was Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, after he had consulted with a number of American nuclear scientists on ways to reassure the Europeans and the U.S. that Iran could not enrich enough uranium to weapons grade for a nuclear bomb.

“I asked them what would provide the necessary confidence,” said Zarif.  “They gave me a number of elements, which I put in a package and sent it to Tehran, and then took it to Paris.”

Zarif personally presented the proposal to the European foreign ministers and continued the negotiations with them, as he recalled in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post Sunday.

Frank N. Von Hippel, former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology and now a professor at Princeton University, confirmed in an e-mail that he had been part of a small group of American scientists and others who had met with Zarif to discuss the problem of how to provide assurances that Iran’s civil nuclear programme would not be used to support a nuclear weapons programme.

Von Hippel said his recollection was that the group had suggested “not building up a stockpile but rather shipping [the low-enriched uranium] to Russia to make fuel for the Bushehr reactor.”

Peter Jenkins, then the U.K. permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, participated in the Mar. 23, 2005 meeting at which the Iranian plan was presented.

“All of us were impressed by the proposal,” he recalled in a 2012 interview. The Europeans did not accept it as the basis for negotiation, however, because the George W. Bush administration had insisted that Iran not be allowed to have any enrichment whatsoever, according to European diplomats involved in that earlier phase of negotiations.

Zarif rejected the Obama administration’s position that Iran should obtain whatever reactor fuel it needs for Bushehr or any future reactors from Russia or other foreign sources rather than relying on its own enrichment capabilities. “People should not tell us you have to rely on us,” he said. “It is 30 years too late.”

He was referring to Iran’s experience with its reliance during the early 1980s on a French-based uranium enrichment consortium called Eurodif in which it had a financial stake acquired during the Shah’s regime that entitled Iran to 10 percent of the enriched uranium produced by the consortium.

After the Islamic Republic resumed the nuclear programme begun by the Shah, however, the French government prevented Eurodif from supplying any enriched uranium for nuclear fuel for the nuclear reactor at Bushehr in the early 1980s.

The U.S. State Department acknowledged in 1984 that it had not only ended its own nuclear cooperation with Iran but had “asked other nuclear suppliers not to engage in nuclear cooperation with Iran, especially while the Iran-Iraq war continues.”

The foreign minister ruled out the acceptance of the P5+1 proposal in the last round of negotiations, which reportedly would limit the number of Iranian centrifuges to a fraction of its present total of 19,000.

“We’re not going to redefine our practical needs,” he said, referring to the language in the Joint Plan of Action agreed to last November calling for agreement on an Iranian enrichment programme whose “parameters” would reflect Iran’s “practical needs”.

But the foreign minister indicated that Iran was “prepared within the scope of those practical needs to work on timing, to work on various technical details….”

Zarif criticised statements by former and present U.S. officials to the news media as well in the negotiations referring to demands that the number of Iranian centrifuges must be geared to the need to extend the time required for “breakout” to 6 to 12 months.

Some of the statements made to the press, including those by former State Department proliferation official Robert Einhorn, as well as some of those made in the negotiations “amount to posturing”, Zarif said, adding that they “amount to creating expectations that can never be met.”

“It will be much more productive if everyone involved refrains from shaping the debate in a way that [it] will be out of control,” said Zarif.

Zarif said the U.S. insistence on Iran’s ending of all enrichment at its Fordow facility, which is located in a tunnel under a mountain, is based on “the argument that you can’t have this facility, because otherwise we can’t bomb it.”

The implied assertion of the right to bomb Iranian facilities “strikes the wrong chord in the Iranian psyche and produces exactly the opposite reaction,” he said.

Zarif challenged the view reflected in Western news coverage that the Rouhani government is under strong political pressure to produce results in the talks that would remove the worst sanctions.

The last round of talks in Vienna, which were unsuccessful “has been the easiest time at home,” he said, and “the toughest time” for him as he had to explain “each positive result to a population that is extremely skeptical of the West’s intentions.” If he rejected a deal, Zarif said, he would receive a “hero’s welcome.”

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

* The fourth paragraph in the story moved on Jun. 13, 2014 has been corrected to reflect a further clarification by Zarif in an e-mail to IPS of Iran’s intention regarding the conversion of oxide powder to fuel assemblies. The ninth paragraph corrects one word in the quote from Zarif and adds updated information on Zarif’s role in personally presenting the 2005 proposal in Paris.

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Russian Manipulation of Reactor Fuel Belies U.S. Iran Argumenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/russian-manipulation-reactor-fuel-belies-u-s-iran-argument/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=russian-manipulation-reactor-fuel-belies-u-s-iran-argument http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/russian-manipulation-reactor-fuel-belies-u-s-iran-argument/#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 23:20:22 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=134409 By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, May 19 2014 (IPS)

In the stalemated talks between the six powers and Iran over the future of the latter’s nuclear programme, the central issue is not so much the technical aspects of the problem but the history of the Middle Eastern country’s relations with foreign suppliers – and especially with the Russians.

The Barack Obama administration has dismissed Iran’s claim that it can’t rely on the Russians or other past suppliers of enriched uranium for its future needs. But the U.S. position ignores a great deal of historical evidence that bolsters the Iranian case that it would be naïve to rely on promises by Russia and others on which it has depended in the past for nuclear fuel.

Both Iran and the P5+1 are citing the phrase “practical needs”, which was used in the Joint Plan of Action agreed to last November, in support of their conflicting positions on the issue of how much enrichment capability Iran should have. Limits on the Iranian programme are supposed to be consistent with such “practical needs”, according to the agreement.

Iran has argued that its “practical needs” include the capability to enrich uranium to make reactor fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant as well as future nuclear reactors. Iranian officials have indicated that Iran must be self-sufficient in the future with regard to nuclear fuel for Bushehr, which Russia now provides. It announced in 2008 that another reactor at Darkhovin, which is to be indigenously constructed, had entered the design stage.

Former senior State Department official on proliferation issues Robert Einhorn has transmitted the thinking of the Obama administration about the negotiations in recent months. In a long paper published in late March, he wrote that Iran had “sometimes made the argument that they need to produce enriched uranium indigenously because foreign suppliers could cut off supplies for political or other reasons.”

The Iranians had “even suggested,” Einhorn wrote, “that they could not depend on Russia to be a reliable supplier of enriched fuel.” This Iranian assertion ignores Russia’s defiance of the U.S. and is allies in having built Bushehr and insisting on exempting its completion and fuelling from U.N. Security Council sanctions, according to Einhorn.

Einhorn omits, however, the well-documented history of blatant Russian violations of its contract with Iran on Bushehr – including the provision of nuclear fuel – and its effort to use Iranian dependence on Russian reactor fuel to squeeze Iran on its nuclear policy as well as to obtain political-military concessions from the United States.

Rose Gottemoeller, now Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, described the dynamics of that Russian policy when she was director of the Carnegie Moscow Center from early 2006 through late 2008. She recounted in a 2008 paper how the Russians began working intensively in 2002 to get Iran to end its uranium enrichment programme.

That brought Russia’s policy aim in regard to Iran’s nuclear programme into line with that of the George W. Bush administration (2001-2009).

Russia negotiated an agreement with Iran in February 2005 to supply enriched uranium fuel for the reactor and to take back all spent fuel. Later in 2005, Moscow offered Iran a joint uranium enrichment venture in Russia under which Iran would send uranium to Russia for enrichment and conversion into fuel elements for future reactors.

But Iran would not gain access to the fuel fabrication technology, which made it unacceptable to Tehran but was strongly supported by the Bush administration.

Bush administration officials then began to dangle the prospect of a bilateral agreement on nuclear cooperation – a “123 Agreement” – before Russia as a means of leveraging a shift in Russian policy toward cutting off nuclear fuel for Bushehr. The Russians agreed to negotiate such a deal, which was understood to be conditional on Russia’s cooperation on the Iran nuclear issue, with particular emphasis on fuel supplies for Bushehr.

The Russians were already using their leverage over Iran’s nuclear programme by slowing down the work as the project approached completion.

A U.S. diplomatic cable dated Jul. 6, 2006 and released by WikiLeaks reported that Russ Clark, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear safety official who had spent time studying the Bushehr project, said in a conversation with a U.S. diplomat, “[H]e almost feels sorry for the Iranians because of the way the Russians are ‘jerking them around’.”

Clark said the Russians were “dragging their feet” about completing work on Bushehr and suggested it was for political reasons.

The IAEA official said it was obvious that the Russians were delaying the fuel shipments to Bushehr because of “political considerations,” calculating that, once they delivered the fuel, Russia would lose much of its leverage over Iran.

In late September 2006, the Russians changed the date on which they pledged to provide the reactor fuel to March 2007, in anticipation of completion of the reactor in September, in an agreement between the head of Russia’s state-run company Atomstroyexport, and the vice-president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation.

But in March 2007, the Russians announced that the fuel delivery would be delayed again, claiming Iran had fallen behind on its payments. Iran, however, heatedly denied that claim and accused Moscow of “politicising” the issue.

In fact, Russia, with U.S. encouragement, was “slow rolling out the supply of enriched uranium fuel,” according to Gottemoeller. Moscow was making clear privately, she wrote, that it was holding back on the fuel to pressure Iran on its enrichment policy.

Moscow finally began delivering reactor fuel to Bushehr in December 2007, apparently in response to the Bush administration’s plan to put anti-missile systems into the Czech Republic and Poland. That decision crossed what Moscow had established as a “red line”.

Obama’s election in November 2008, however, opened a new dynamic in U.S.-Russia cooperation on squeezing Iran’s nuclear programme. Within days of Obama’s cancellation of the Bush administration decision to establish anti-missile sites in Central Europe in September 2009, Russian officials leaked to the Moscow newspaper Kommersant that it was withholding its delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems for which it had already contracted with Iran.

Iran needed the missiles to deter U.S. and Israeli air attacks, so the threat to renege on the deal was again aimed at enhancing Russian leverage on Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment programme, while giving Moscow additional influence on U.S. Russian policy as well.

The Russian attempt to exploit Iran’s dependence on Moscow for its reactor fuel for political purposes was not the first time that Iran had learned the lesson that it could not rely on foreign sources of enriched uranium – even when they had legal commitments to provide the fuel for Iran’s nuclear reactor.

After the Islamic revolution against the Shah in 1979, all of the foreign suppliers on which Iran had expected to rely for nuclear fuel for Bushehr and its Tehran Research Reactor reneged on their commitments.

Iran’s permanent representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, sent an official communication to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano on Mar. 1, 2010, stating that specific contracts with U.S., German, French and multinational companies for supply of nuclear fuel had been abruptly terminated under pressure from the U.S. government and its allies.

Soltanieh said they were “examples [of] the root cause of confidence deficit vis-à-vis some Western countries regarding the assurance of nuclear supply.”
The earlier experiences led Iran to decide around 1985 to seek its own indigenous enrichment capability, according to Iranian officials.

The experience with Russia, especially after 2002, hardened Iran’s determination to be self-reliant in nuclear fuel fabrication. The IAEA’s Clark told the U.S. diplomat in mid-2006 that, if the Russians did cut off their supply of fuel for Bushehr, the Iranians were prepared to make the fuel themselves.

It is not clear whether the Obama administration actually believes the official line that Iran should and must rely on Russia for nuclear fuel. But the history surrounding the issue suggests that Iran will not accept the solution on which the U.S. and its allies are now insisting.

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. “Political” Breakout Demand Could Derail Nuclear Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/u-s-political-breakout-demand-derail-nuclear-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-political-breakout-demand-derail-nuclear-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/u-s-political-breakout-demand-derail-nuclear-talks/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 17:12:50 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=134329 By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, May 15 2014 (IPS)

As diplomats began drafting a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme and Western sanctions in Vienna Tuesday, U.S. officials were poised to demand a drastic cut in Iran’s enrichment capabilities that is widely expected to deadlock the negotiations.

Iran is almost certain to reject the basic concept that it should reduce the number of its centrifuges to a fraction of its present total, and the resulting collapse of the talks could lead to a much higher level of tensions between the United States and Iran.The Obama administration’s highly risky diplomatic gambit rests on the concept of “breakout time”, defined as the number of months it would take Iran to accumulate enough weapons grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon.

The Barack Obama administration’s highly risky diplomatic gambit rests on the concept of “breakout time”, defined as the number of months it would take Iran to accumulate enough weapons grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon.

Both Secretary of State John Kerry and former U.S. proliferation official Robert Einhorn have explained the demand that Iran give up the vast majority of its centrifuges as necessary to increase Iran’s “breakout time” to at least six months, and perhaps even much longer.

Einhorn, the State Department’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control until June 2013, wrote in a report for the Brookings Institution that the number and type of centrifuges “will be limited to ensure that breakout times are…a minimum of 6 to 12 months at all times.”

In a separate article in The National Interest, Einhorn wrote that such a “breakout time” would entail a reduction from Iran’s present total of 19,000 centrifuges to “a few thousand first-generation centrifuges”.

Kerry suggested in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Apr. 8 that the administration would try to get a breakout time of more than one year but might settle for six to 12 months. He compared that with the two months he said was the current estimate of Iran’s breakout capabilities.

“Breakout” has been touted by hardline think tanks as a non-political technical measure of the threat to obtain the high-enriched uranium necessary for a bomb, but it is actually arbitrary and highly political.

Even proliferation specialists who support the demand to limit Iranian enrichment capabilities severely, however, including both Einhorn and Gary Samore, Obama’s former special assistant on weapons of mass destruction, believe that “breakout” is more about the politics surrounding the issue than the reality of the Iranian nuclear programme.

In an interview with IPS, Samore said the breakout concept can only measure the capability to obtain the necessary amount of high-enriched uranium from acknowledged facilities – those that are under inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

It does not deal with a scenario involving secret facilities, he said, because it is only possible to estimate rates of enrichment in facilities with known quantities and types of centrifuges.

The use of the breakout concept is based on the premise that Iran would make a political decision to begin enriching uranium to weapons grade levels in its Natanz and Fordow plants as rapidly as possible. That would mean that Iran would have to expel the IAEA inspectors and announce to the world, in effect, its intention to obtain a nuclear weapon.

Samore, who left the Obama administration in January 2013 and is now the executive director for research at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Security, told IPS, “It’s extremely unlikely that Iran would actually take the risk for single bomb,” calling it “an implausible scenario.”

Samore is no dove on Iran’s nuclear issue. He is also president of United Against Nuclear Iran, an organisation that puts out hardline propaganda aimed at convincing the world that Iran is a threat trying to get nuclear weapons.

Another problem with the spectre of “breakout” is that, even if it took the risk of enriching the necessary weapons-grade uranium, Iran would still have to go through a series of steps to actually have a bomb that it could threaten to use.

A report released last week by the International Crisis Group (ICG) noted that calculations of breakout capability “are rough and purely theoretical estimates” and that they “omit inevitable technical hitches” and “an unpredictable and time-consuming weaponisation process.”

According to the testimony by director of the Defence Intelligence Agency. Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2010, that process, including integrating the weapon into a ballistic missile, would take three or four years.

The ICG report quoted a senior Iranian official as saying, “Serious people know that, even if Iran sought nuclear weapons, it will take years to manufacture one. What’s more, no state has ever invited opprobrium or a military strike just to produce a few kilograms of highly enriched uranium.”

In an interview, Jim Walsh of MIT’s Security Studies Programme was scathing about the “breakout” scenario the administration is using to justify its diplomatic stance. “The idea of Iran kicking out inspectors to rush to get one bomb is silly,” he told IPS.

Samore believed that Iran would be far more likely to try what he calls a “sneakout” – the use of secret facilities to enrich uranium to weapons grade — than a “breakout”.

But as is generally acknowledged by proliferation specialists, such a covert route to a nuclear weapons capability would take much longer than trying to do so openly. Furthermore, it is almost certain to be detected, as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified in April 2013.

Despite his conviction that the breakout concept makes no sense as the basis for negotiations with Iran, Samore believes it will be “the test for any deal”, because it is the only way to measure it. “It’s a political fact of life,” Samore said. “It all gets boiled down to breakout time.”

The dominance that the breakout advocates have achieved in the lopsided Iran political discourse has given opponents of an agreement a new form of pressure on the Obama administration to make unrealistic demands in the negotiations.

Einhorn admitted at a panel at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington D.C. Tuesday that the decision on the length of breakout time and the level of centrifuges to be demanded “will come down to a political judgment”.

He clearly suggested, however, that the decision is primarily a response to political pressures from various unnamed parties and not a matter of finding a political compromise with Iran.

“Some say six months or less,” he said. “Others say you need a year. Some say a year and a half or two years.”

The former senior State Department official on proliferation issues insisted, moreover, that there was no possibility of accepting Iran’s explicit demand to be permitted to increase its enrichment capacity to as many as 30,000 centrifuges in order to support a nuclear power programme.

“That amount would bring breakout time down to weeks or days,” he said. “That’s breakout.”

He did not discuss the possibility of agreement on gradually phasing in additional centrifuges as the practical need for them is demonstrated by progress on a new nuclear reactor.

The tough talk by Einhorn, who has clearly been given the green light to describe administration thinking publicly, makes it much less likely that the administration will back away from a breakout demand in the face of firm Iranian resistance.

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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Breaking the Ruleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/breaking-rules/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-rules http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/breaking-rules/#comments Wed, 14 May 2014 17:17:29 +0000 John Feffer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=134294 South Korea is now a rule-abiding participant in the global economy. If North Korea traded its nuclear weapons programme for a peace treaty, security guarantees, and economic development assistance, it might be able to accomplish the same trick. Credit: yeowatzup/cc by 2.0

South Korea is now a rule-abiding participant in the global economy. If North Korea traded its nuclear weapons programme for a peace treaty, security guarantees, and economic development assistance, it might be able to accomplish the same trick. Credit: yeowatzup/cc by 2.0

By John Feffer
WASHINGTON, May 14 2014 (IPS)

Small underdeveloped countries, unless they suddenly discover oil or gold, are at a distinct disadvantage in the global arena. If they play by the rules, they will remain underdeveloped. Over the last half-century, very few countries have managed to jump from the Third World to the club of richest nations.

South Korea is one of the exceptions. It managed to jump over the development gap with luck, determination, and a willingness to break the rules. The luck was South Korea’s strategic location during the Vietnam War, which provided myriad business opportunities for companies that supported the U.S. military.For better or worse, both Koreas have recognised at some deep level that the rules of the game are rigged in favour of the already powerful.

The determination was the grit of an entire generation of people who sacrificed so much to send their children to university and thereby transformed a country of farmers into a nation of engineers, doctors, and lawyers.

The third factor, a willingness to break the rules, is the most controversial. The modernising authoritarian governments of the 1960s and 1970s were not content with the country’s comparative advantage at that time, which was to exporting raw materials.

Instead, the state directed strategic investments into sectors that produced goods that South Korea, if it were following the rules, would simply have imported from other countries. In this way, South Korea built up its iron, automobile, and shipbuilding sectors, and became a global leader. This commitment to the latest technologies laid the groundwork for future innovations in computers, software, and communications.

North Korea, in its own way, was following a similar path. It refused to take a subordinate position in the Soviet-dominated economic partnership known as Comecon. Instead, Pyongyang broke the rules of the Communist system by building up its own manufacturing capabilities.

Shut out of the capitalist global economy, however, North Korea hit a brick wall with its go-it-alone effort, and its economy began to decline after the 1970s.

But Pyongyang eventually discovered another way to break the rules and achieve something like parity with the most powerful countries in the world. Since its economy was declining relative to its southern neighbour, North Korea could no longer allocate enough money to maintain a conventional military that could serve as a deterrent.

So, it opted for the cheaper alternative: nuclear weapons. To do that, however, North Korea had to violate international rules and challenge the United States.

While other regimes that attempted something similar have failed—Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi in Libya—the Kim dynasty appears to have succeeded with its strategy at least at one level. Although its economy remains marginal and the country labors under considerable sanctions, the political system has remained more or less intact into the third generation.

The rule-breaking spirit that unites North and South Korea has left them in very different circumstances. North Korea is a pariah state, and even its closest ally China treats the country with a measure of suspicion. South Korea, meanwhile, is profoundly integrated into the global economy and a web of security relationships.

The negative consequences of breaking the rules are apparent with North Korea. The regime has survived but at the expense of the people. The negative consequences of breaking the rules for South Korea require a bit more scrutiny.

For instance, South Korea’s ambition to catch up to the wealthier countries within a single generation required some cutting of corners, and those shortcuts sometimes proved fatal.

For many years, construction disasters were common in the country—such as the Wawoo apartment building in 1970s, the Seongsu bridge disaster in 1994, and the collapse of the Sampoong department store that killed more than 500 people and was the world’s deadliest building collapse at that point since the Roman era. All three disasters were caused by construction companies cutting corners.

The recent Sewol ferry tragedy reveals a similar inattention to rules, this time safety regulations. Accidents happen. But often what separates inconvenience from catastrophe is the amount of time and money invested in disaster preparedness. In the case of the Sewol sinking, the crew was clearly ill prepared for dealing with what was in fact a slow-motion disaster.

It’s important not to indict an entire society for the misdeeds of a few. In many respects, both North and South Korea are far more rule-bound societies than, for instance, the more freewheeling United States. But, for better or worse, both Koreas have recognised at some deep level that the rules of the game are rigged in favour of the already powerful.

The challenge is to figure out how to translate rule breaking into legitimate status rather than an outlaw reputation. In this sense, breaking the rules should be a ladder used to scale the heights before being kicked away. South Korea is now a rule-abiding participant in the global economy.

If North Korea traded its nuclear weapons programme for a peace treaty, security guarantees, and economic development assistance, it might be able to accomplish the same trick.

But the greatest challenge still looms. At a time when global inequalities are increasing, North and South Korea have to figure out how they can together break the rules and overcome the enormous economic, political, and social gap between the two countries. The rule, as established by West and East Germany, is that the more powerful absorbs the weaker, effectively canceling out the latter.

If the two Koreas manage to reunify the country in a more equitable fashion, one that honours the contributions and perspectives of ordinary North Koreans rather than simply forces them to behave exactly like South Koreans, then the countries will have transformed their mutual rule-breaking traditions into a new source of legitimacy for the peninsula as a whole.

John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus.

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Tough Road in Vienna to Iran Nuclear Dealhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/tough-road-in-vienna-to-iran-nuclear-deal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tough-road-in-vienna-to-iran-nuclear-deal http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/tough-road-in-vienna-to-iran-nuclear-deal/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 22:27:30 +0000 Jasmin Ramsey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=134258 The Iranian team under President Hassan Rouhani, which is headed by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (right), has also heard domestic criticism of their negotiating strategy ratcheted up in recent weeks. Credit: cc by 2.0

The Iranian team under President Hassan Rouhani, which is headed by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (right), has also heard domestic criticism of their negotiating strategy ratcheted up in recent weeks. Credit: cc by 2.0

By Jasmin Ramsey
WASHINGTON, May 12 2014 (IPS)

Iran and world powers will resume negotiating a final deal on Tehran’s nuclear programme Tuesday in Vienna while experts warn the hardest work is about to begin.

Representatives from Iran and the U.S. indicated last month that the drafting of a final deal would begin during this round of talks scheduled for five days – the longest session since the extended talks that led to the interim “Joint Plan of Action” (JPOA) reached Nov. 24, 2013 in Geneva.“The U.S. and its partners in the P5+1 need to understand that Iran, too, needs to come out of these negotiations with its principles intact and something positive to show for the concessions it is being asked to make." -- Shaul Bakhash

“So far Iran has adhered to its undertaking, and it does seem that both sides are determined to see the negotiations through to success,” Shaul Bakhash, a leading scholar on Iran, told IPS.

“However, very tough negotiations lie ahead; and the fact remains that Iran will have to limit its nuclear programme in substantial and painful ways to satisfy the P5+1 [the U.S., U.K, France, China and Russia plus Germany] and to get sanctions lifted,” said the George Mason University professor.

While media reports have emphasised the Jul. 20 deadline for reaching a final deal under the terms of the JPOA, the agreement also allows for the negotiations to be extended by “mutual consent.”

“This is not a development that is landing in the laps of the negotiators,” said Mark Hibbs, a nuclear policy expert at the Washington DC-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“These negotiations began in a confidence-building mode by addressing low-hanging fruit and [the negotiators] did that because they know their biggest challenge is a lack of confidence and lack of trust,” he said.

“That means that as time moves along and the negotiations make more progress, the issues they address will become incrementally more difficult, and they’ve been prepared for that,” said Hibbs.

Since the JPOA went into effect on Jan.20, Iran has been scaling back and limiting parts of its nuclear programme in exchange for limited sanctions relief. 

An Apr. 17 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran was complying with the JPOA, but Iran has complained that the lingering effects of the sanctions regime have prevented it from accessing the funds allotted to it under the accord.

Increasing domestic pressure

Attempts by members of the U.S. Congress to impose conditions that some experts likened to “sabotage” and “illusions” for a final deal following the Nov. 24 accord ultimately failed to produce binding legislation.

Those conditions included demands that Iran cease all uranium enrichment and dismantle its entire nuclear programme, two things Iran is allowed to have for purely peaceful purposes according to readings of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which Iran is a signatory.

But a successful attempt by the House to attach a “sense of congress” amendment onto the U.S. Annual Defence Bill on May 8 suggests that calls for more conditions for a final deal from Congress could increase as the talks intensify.

“You’ve seen Obama administration officials working very hard behind the scenes to disabuse Congress of any plans to impose additional sanctions that would get in the way of moving forward with Iran,” Hibbs told IPS.

“The real question is whether hardliners in the U.S. who are absolutely determined to prevent President Obama from having a success in this area would throw the baby out with the bathwater and jeopardise a substantial negotiated compromise because they oppose the president for political reasons,” he said.

“So there is pressure, but it’s pressure from the outside, not the inside,” added Hibbs, referring to determination on the part of Iran and the P5+1 to reach a final deal.

The Iranian team under President Hassan Rouhani, which is headed by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, has also heard domestic criticism of their negotiating strategy ratcheted up in recent weeks.

“There has been criticism of the negotiating team from some members of parliament, commanders of the Revolutionary Guard, prominent members of the clergy and some right-wing newspapers,” noted Bakhash.

“These hard-liners suggest the negotiating team is giving too much away, and is not being tough enough,” he said.

On May 3, several hard-line Iranian politicians, clerics and commentators gathered at the former U.S. embassy in Tehran for a conference focusing on the talks entitled, “We’re concerned”.

The keynote speakers issued a joint statement arguing that a final deal should guarantee Iran’s rights as a NPT member to a peaceful nuclear programme, sanctions should be lifted according to a clear-cut timeline, and a final deal should be shown to the Iranian public and ratified by the Parliament before it’s finalised.

“The hardliners also seek to undermine Rouhani because they oppose much of his broader policy agenda: integration with the international community abroad; political liberalisation at home; greater freedom for the press; a decrease in the role of the state and an increase in the role of the private sector in the economy; and some curbs on the role of the security agencies and the Revolutionary Guards,” said Bakhash.

“However, it is also noteworthy that these criticisms have been kept relatively muted; or, at least, they have not been allowed to derail the negotiations. This is probably due to guarded support the Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has given Iran’s negotiating team,” he added.

“Despite his own publicly expressed reservations and misgivings, he has allowed the negotiations to continue and to make progress,” he said.

“This suggests that he too wants a deal although his final terms may turn out to be unrealistic,” said Bakhash.

The make or break issues

According to Hibbs, the key issues that must be resolved for a final deal include:

  • how many centrifuges, which Iran uses to enrich uranium, can be operational;
  • the extent to which Iran will be able to do advanced research and development in sensitive technologies including centrifuges and lasers;
  • whether or not the powers and the IAEA can be satisfied that Iran’s programme is completely peaceful;
  • the terms of sanctions relief to Iran;
  • how long Iran must comply with the final agreement.

Hibbs said the length of an final agreement could be a major issue: “Some people in Iran have suggested a couple of years and those close to the administration have said 20 years.”

Another major sticking issue will be sanctions relief.

“The U.S and its partners in the P5+1 need to understand that Iran, too, needs to come out of these negotiations with its principles intact and something positive to show for the concessions it is being asked to make,” said Bakhash.

“Otherwise, the hardliners in Iran will jump on Rouhani and his negotiators for selling out Iran’s interests and gravely undermine the president,” he said.

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Eyewitness to Nuke Explosion Challenges World Powershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/eyewitness-to-nuke-explosion-challenges-world-powers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eyewitness-to-nuke-explosion-challenges-world-powers http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/eyewitness-to-nuke-explosion-challenges-world-powers/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 21:54:08 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=134254 Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands, triggering health and environmental problems which still plague the nation. Credit: Christopher Michel/cc by 2.0

Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands, triggering health and environmental problems which still plague the nation. Credit: Christopher Michel/cc by 2.0

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 12 2014 (IPS)

When the Foreign Minister of Marshall Islands Tony de Brum addressed a nuclear review Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting at the United Nations last month, he asked whether anyone in the room had witnessed a nuclear explosion.

The question was met, not surprisingly, with resounding silence.

As a nine-year-old boy, the minister vividly remembered seeing the white flash of the Bravo detonation on Bikini atoll, six decades ago. It was 1,000 times more powerful than Hiroshima, he told PrepCom delegates, mostly proponents of nuclear disarmament.

A two-week-long meeting of the PrepCom for the upcoming 2015 review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended in predictable disappointment.

John Burroughs, executive director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy and the U.N. Office of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), told IPS the PrepCom succeeded in adopting an agenda for the 2015 conference.

But “to no one’s surprise, it did not accomplish anything else,” he added.

Washington's "Dismal Record"

In an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, a coalition of more than 100 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and anti-nuclear activists has blasted the United States for its "dismal record" on nuclear disarmament.

"The United States has been notably missing in action at best, and dismissive or obstructive at worst," says the letter, whose signatories include the Western States Legal Foundation, the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, Peace Action, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, American Friends Service Committee and Peace Action New York.

The letter urges the Obama administration to "shed its negative attitude and participate constructively in deliberations and negotiations regarding a creation of a multilateral process to achieve a nuclear weapons-free world. This will require reversal of the dismal U.S. record."

Unless Washington takes a more positive role in nuclear disarmament, the coalition predicts "this conflict may come to a head at the 2015 Review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)."

The criticisms in the letter include:

* Despite a unanimous 2010 agreement to hold a conference on a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction in 2012, the U.S. State Department suddenly announced in November 2012 the conference be postponed indefinitely.

* In March 2013 and February 2014, Norway and Mexico respectively hosted two conferences on humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. But Washington boycotted both meetings.

* In November 2012, the General Assembly established an open-ended working group to develop proposal for disarmament negotiations and scheduled the first ever high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament. The United States voted against both resolutions, refused to participate in the working group and declared in advance it would disregard any outcomes.

Burroughs, a member of the international legal team for Marshall Islands, said the most dramatic development of the PrepCom was the announcement of the Marshall Islands filing on Apr. 24 of lawsuits against the nine nuclear-armed states: the five permanent members (P5) of the Security Council, namely the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, along with Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

The cases, before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, claim those states have failed to meet obligations of nuclear disarmament and cessation of the nuclear arms race under the NPT and general international law, said Burroughs.

Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands triggering health and environmental problems which still plague the nation with a little over 68,000 people.

The NPT, which came into force in 1970, requires a review conference to be held every five years. The last review conference took place in 2010.

The only nuclear powers which have refused to join the treaty are India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea (which joined and later withdrew from the NPT).

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se, who chaired a meeting of the Security Council on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), pointed out last week that North Korea “is the only country in the world that has conducted nuclear tests in the 21st century.

“Notwithstanding the efforts of the international community, North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear weapons over the last two decades, and is now threatening its fourth nuclear test,” he added.

If North Korea succeeds in acquiring nuclear weapons, he said, it will seriously undermine the NPT regime and exacerbate tension and instability in Northeast Asia.

Ambassador Enrique Roman-Morey of Peru, who chaired the PrepCom, admitted the meeting was unable to agree on an action plan for NPT.

“But this was due to lack of time, not lack of political will,” he said, pointing out the PrepCom does not negotiate.

Asked about the difficulties facing negotiators, he said when nuclear issues are discussed there are problems “from the first letter to the last letter” in the negotiated document.

A “working paper” resulting from the PrepCom will be the basis for future negotiations at the Review Conference.

Under the treaty, all parties to the NPT pledge not to transfer nuclear weapons or assist or encourage any non-nuclear weapon state to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons.

Similarly, each non-nuclear-weapon state undertakes not to receive the transfer of nuclear weapons or manufacture or otherwise acquire them.

Burroughs told IPS the PrepCom, like previous such meetings in the years prior to review conferences, could not reach consensus on recommendations to the 2015 conference.

Many states rejected the effort of the PrepCom chair to craft a compromise document.

The NPT nuclear-weapon states effectively maintained that commitments made by the 2010 Review Conference relating to nuclear arms control and disarmament should be carried forward into the next five-year period, he added.

He said the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and other groupings of non-nuclear weapon states held that the 2015 conference should adopt a more far-reaching plan of action that leads to verified, timebound elimination of nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.

Many non-nuclear weapon states also said the proposed recommendations should have taken much fuller account of the conferences on humanitarian consequences of nuclear explosions, the last two held in Norway and Mexico, as well as the first-ever High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament held in the General Assembly in September 2013.

Burroughs said the debate at the PrepCom set the stage for consideration of a crucial question going into next year’s Review Conference: “Should non-nuclear weapon states insist, even if doing so results in no agreed outcome, that the conference set in motion multilateral negotiations on achieving a world free of nuclear weapons?”

A serious effort to that end was made in the 2010 conference but was rejected by the nuclear weapon states.

“Or, should they once again, as in the 1995, 2000, and 2010 conferences, agree to lesser commitments that have gone largely unfulfilled?” he said.

Still, most of those commitments remain valid and relevant whatever the 2015 conference does.

Thomas M. Countryman, U.S. assistant secretary at the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, told PrepCom delegates that in 2015, Washington will “look to build upon the success of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, where the conference approved a comprehensive, 64-item Action Plan, the first of its kind in the NPTs 44-year history.”

He said the United States will issue a national report on the steps taken so far to implement key elements of the 2010 Action Plan that uses a common framework agreed by all five nuclear weapon states.

“We will also highlight our contributions to International Atomic Energy Agency programmes harnessing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy for efforts like fighting disease, improving food security, and managing water resources,” he added.

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