10 April 2006: for immediate release
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today strongly warned against US plans to attack Iran, as revealed by Seymour Hersh in the most recent edition of the New Yorker magazine. Mr Hersh writes that an attack on Iran would likely occur regardless of the diplomatic outcome of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme, as US President George Bush is intent on achieving regime change in Iran.
One option reportedly under strong consideration by the US administration involves the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon. Hersh reports that many military officials are considering resigning after their attempts to remove nuclear weapons from the war plan failed.
Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “It is unconscionable that the Bush administration is considering attacking Iran with nuclear weapons. Beyond the obvious hypocrisy of using nuclear weapons to allegedly prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, it is illegal for the US to even threaten the use of such weapons.1 After three years of intensive IAEA investigations, nothing has been found to suggest that Iran has now, or has ever had, a nuclear weapons programme. ”
She continued, “The US is pursuing a line with Iran that seems to exclude any possibility of a compromise, and fails to recognise the fact that Iran has gone well beyond the limits of what it is formally required to do in terms of inspections. It is difficult to avoid the parallel with the run up to the invasion of Iraq, where UN weapons inspectors were asking for more time for inspections, and the US denied this, preferring instead to hasten into an illegal war on baseless charges.”
“Past IAEA inspections of other NPT non-nuclear signatories, who have full control of their fuel cycles, have taken up to six years. It would seem appropriate to allow inspections and negotiations to continue, rather than the extraordinary pressure and haste which is being applied to Iran.”
CND today published a Statement on the Iranian nuclear programme which reveals the hypocrisy and vacuity of US allegations against Iran. (see below for full text)
Notes to Editor:
1. According to the International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons of 8 July 1996.
2. For further information and interviews please contact Rick Wayman, CND’s Press & Communications Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859
3. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 32,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.
CND Statement on the Iranian Nuclear Programme
Chair, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Three years ago Britain followed the United States into war on Iraq, on the basis of what turned out to be false allegations of Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction. We are now witnessing a set of similar accusations against Iran, with the US suggesting that Iran’s nuclear power programme hides a covert nuclear weapons programme. Is there any basis for these allegations, or is a false case being prepared to justify an illegal attack on Iran?
One of the main accusations made against Iran is that it is failing to comply with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a signatory. It is therefore important to understand exactly what the Treaty says. Article IV is the key section, which deals with rights to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It says the following:
‘1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.
2. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.’
Articles I and II forbid the transfer or receipt of nuclear weapons between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states.
Clearly, according to the NPT, Iran has the legal right to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Over forty countries have availed themselves of this right over the past few decades, and the overwhelming majority of them are not nuclear weapons states. The issue arises though, because civilian nuclear energy production has a dual-use function. That is to say, there are close links between the processes that produce nuclear power and nuclear weapons, notably the process of uranium enrichment. However, there is not an automatic or immediate relationship, because the level of uranium enrichment required for nuclear energy production is much lower – around 3% – than that required for nuclear weapons – over 90%.
But because there is a close relationship, and diversion from power to weapons is possible, the NPT specifies that countries that have nuclear power programmes are required to accept certain safeguards. These are outlined in Article III of the NPT as follows:
‘1. Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agency’s safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfilment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing the diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Procedures from the safeguards required by this article shall be followed with respect to source or special fissionable material whether it is being produced, processed or used in any principal nuclear facility or is outside any such facility. The safeguards required by this article shall be applied to all source or special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of such State, under its jurisdiction, or carried out under its control anywhere.’
So Article III specifies that countries accept IAEA safeguards that allow verification of nuclear facilities to ensure that nuclear power is not being diverted to a nuclear weapons programme. This is where Iran has failed to comply in the past and so opened itself up to genuine criticism and concern. Prior to 2003, Iran did not provide the IAEA with a full account of all its nuclear energy-related facilities as required under the safeguards agreements. Those unreported were the Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Laboratories in Tehran, the Esfahan Fuel Manufacturing Plant, the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant and Fuel Enrichment Plant, and the Arak Iran Nuclear Research Reactor.
The current case against Iran has been built around its past failures to report, and despite its subsequent compliance, the issue has been massively escalated. But are the extreme reactions we are seeing today proportionate to, and justified by, the actual situation?
In fact, all the above-mentioned facilities have been brought under IAEA safeguards, as has been reported subsequently by the IAEA. Iran has also accepted the Additional Protocols, which many other countries with nuclear activities have not accepted. These allow for more extensive levels of inspection than provided for by the safeguards agreements. In total, there have been three years of intensive investigations of Iranian nuclear facilities, as well as voluntarily-given access to military sites, and nothing has been found to suggest that Iran has now, or has ever had, a nuclear weapons programme.
Of course the failure of Iran to declare all its activities prior to 2003 weakened Iran’s position, and opened it up to criticism, and this has not been helped by the vile rhetoric in recent times, of President Ahmadinejad, about the state of Israel. Whilst the possession by Israel of nuclear weapons, in defiance of numerous UN resolutions calling for a nuclear weapons free Middle East undoubtedly contributes to regional tensions, the President’s inflammatory statements have also escalated the problems. But there is no doubt that the fact that the US ignores Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons but singles Iran out for sanctions or worse, over a suspicion, is out and out nuclear hypocrisy. This selective approach to nuclear compliance only serves to fuel fears that the US is constructing a false case because it wishes to bring about regime change in Iran with the goal of control of Iran’s rich energy resources.
In an attempt to help rebuild confidence in its programme, Iran – in discussion with Britain, France and Germany, the EU-3 – agreed in November 2004 to a temporary, voluntary suspension of its uranium enrichment programme. During the suspension, the EU-3 were supposed to come up with a programme of economic incentives and security assurances which would compensate Iran for not enriching its own uranium. Basically, the US is insistent that Iran should not have full control of the nuclear fuel cycle, because of the potential to diversify to nuclear weapons, and that its uranium enrichment should be done elsewhere. However, the ensuing offer amounted to virtually nothing and was dismissed by Iran. Subsequently, Iran has ended the temporary voluntary suspension of its activities and has reasserted, as is legally the case, that it has the right to full control over its nuclear fuel cycle, and that this will come under the IAEA safeguards. Russia has been in negotiations with Iran to discuss the possibility of Russia providing most of Iran’s enriched uranium, with Iran maintaining a small-scale enrichment capacity. It seems likely that agreement on this proposal was close between the two countries, but that even small-scale enrichment is unacceptable to the US, and so the agreement cannot be advanced. The US position seems to be that Iran should not be ‘rewarded’ for its past non-compliance by being allowed any level of enrichment.
Yet at the same time that the US is pursuing a line with Iran that seems to exclude any possibility of a compromise, and fails to recognise the fact that Iran has gone well beyond the limits of what it is formally required to do in terms of inspections, the US President has struck a highly controversial nuclear deal with India. India, which produced its own nuclear weapons in the late 1990s has never signed up to the NPT, and is therefore outside all safeguards agreements. The deal ensures US cooperation on India’s civil nuclear power programme, but India retains the right to deny UN inspectors the right to access to its nuclear reactors, which can produce weapons grade uranium. This is yet another example of US nuclear double standards that has caused considerable concern across the world, but is no doubt designed to strengthen the US’s strategic alliances in Asia.
The fact remains that all declared nuclear materials in Iran have been accounted for, and have not been diverted for a weapons programme. There is currently no evidence that Iran has any undeclared materials or activities. Past IAEA inspections of other NPT non-nuclear signatories, who have full control of their fuel cycles, have taken up to six years, so it would seem appropriate to allow inspections and negotiations to continue, rather than the extraordinary pressure and haste which is being applied to Iran, particularly when it is generally estimated that Iran is many years away from the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon, even supposing it intended to. It is difficult to avoid the parallel with the run up to the war on Iraq, where UN weapons inspectors were asking for more time for inspections, and the US denied this, preferring instead to hasten into an illegal war on baseless charges. The world has seen, over the last three years, the appalling consequences of that war. The international community must now work strenuously to prevent an attack on Iran, and the British government must use its special relationship with the US administration to that end. The consequences of failure will be disastrous for the Middle East and for the world as a whole.