Shall we say NO to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?

The situation developing in Iran is troubling. The IAEA, the nuclear watchdog, of the UN is debating whether to refer the case of Iran to the Security Council for further actions. This has been the demand of the US government for the last one-year. George Bush is increasing under pressure from its Israeli lobby to take action against any Muslim country. This action is effectively winning the day. The IAEA is set to refer the Iranian case to the Security Council so that the world body can take some action against its defying members.

Like many I am a little puzzled at the whole scenario. Maybe Phil will be able to shed more lights than me. First, Iran, like many other nations in the world is trying to solve its energy crisis. The growing demand for power (as standard of living is increasing) is a major problem for all nations in the world. This is particularly so for nations who do not have access to nuclear power. India, for example, is now ready to use its nuclear technology for production of power and Mr. Bush has signed a deal with regards to that. Interestingly, India has not yet signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty yet. For me, if you travel around the world and particularly Europe, you see a nuclear powered electricity plant almost every 200 km. In fact, this power is cheap and it can keep the west competitive in terms of its energy costs. Iran, like many other nations, has been trying to acquire it. To me denying such a right to any nation is not fair.

Having said so I am not ignorant about the fact that such power could be used to defend or to attack a country and this is a major security problem for nations around the world. I cannot but agree with this notion. My question is, who is threatening whom? Assume that Iran has the nuclear power and is also capable of producing a nuclear bomb. Who might be affected? Let me give you a list of countries around Iran. Iraq – who has fought with Iran (at the instigation of US for 10 years), ME nations, Pakistan, Afghanistan, ex-Soviet republics, Turkey is living within the striking distance of Iran. Oops… of course Israel – who already has the N-bomb? None of these nations are shouting as much as the US and some of its EU allies. This has been the same case with North Korea. None of its neighbors are as much irked by the fact North Korea is having nuclear capability as the US.

What should be the criteria to accept a country into the nuclear club! Except the big five, India and Pakistan are already in the club. Mr. Bush, during is recent visit to India and Pakistan has made it clear that India is OK but Pakistan is not. China has already voiced its concern against this move. Not because of the fact that the US has agreed to trade nuclear technology with India but because of the fact that the US has agreed to violate the principle of accepting the Non-Proliferation Treaty before trading such dangerous technology.

It seems to me that the so-called principles are simply eyewash used to stop others who the Americans don’t like. China has said rightly that this move represents a defacto opening of the door for acceleration of nuclear trade in the world and it could set wrong precedence for others. Now it would be difficult for the US to say no if, for example, China decides to help Pakistan with its nuclear technology for civilian use. After all, it is worth billions of dollars in terms of trade. Russia could do the same with Iran if Iran now decides to withdraw from the NPT, as a result of recent IAEA move. India and Pakistan, because they have not signed the NPT, are not subjected to the same scrutiny as Iran who signed NPT. Until recently, the rule was that NPT is a requirement for countries to get help on nuclear technology if it is used for civilian uses. Mr. Bush has violated it and he has put his hands under fire. I hope Senators understand the long-term consequences of such illegal move by the US government.

So far only a few countries are out of the IAEA. Monitoring it includes the 5 N-power countries and others who did not ratify the NPT. Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea are the few countries. In the past Mr. Bush’s policy of “striking first” did not work. The US is now in trouble in Iraq and this second move is equally deplorable. It violates the principles already established in the world and promotes uncertainty regarding proliferation of nuclear technology. It may also provoke Iran to withdraw itself from the NPT and remain outside the umbrella of the IAEA. If it happens, it will be US to blame.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation: Has History Passed It By
By Philip Shaw M.Sc.

This column got its name in a traffic jam in Dhaka, Bangladesh. As all of you know by now, Dr. Haque and I debate the issues whenever we are together. Typically we split down the line. Enamul takes a more eastern developing economy perspective. I usually end up in the western developed economy camp. This month you can really see the difference.

Enamul talked about Iran like it is “just another country.” From a western perspective, he talks about Iran like it were Brazil. However, here in the west 12 miles from the American border thoughts about “Iran” or “Eye-ran” render thoughts of a crazed rogue state which actively supports terrorism around the world. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran doesn’t help. In the west his public pronouncements denying the holocaust and his views of Israel are more than a dead end. They represent something that is abhorrent in this society.

So when it comes to the west playing coy over Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambitions it’s a non-starter in some western circles. It will not happen in others. The American view supported by some of the Europeans as well as Israel is seen as the only answer. How can you trust Iran with this leader at the helm?

For some of you in the east or developing world, you must find this thinking repulsive. Why should good people in the developing world be denied clean electricity from nuclear power? Why should the west that meddled relentlessly throughout Iran’s history try to deny Iranians a better life? And yes, some of you look at George W. Bush the same way the west looks at Iran’s Ahmadinejad. Yes, the world in unfair.

Of course nobody wants another North Korea, whose leader steadfastly defends his nukes while his people starve. Some might argue we don’t want another India, or we don’t want another Pakistan, two countries relatively new to the nuclear weapons club. Doesn’t anybody believe in nuclear non-proliferation anymore?

The road to nuclear nirvana is a long and winding road. After World War II there were only a few countries, which had nuclear weapons. Canada could have been one of them, but chose not to even at a time when the cold war was at its peak. Other countries were not so sure. India was one of them. Pakistan was another. So while Canada and others had no problem signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, others did. Last week when President Bush visited India, we found out it didn’t matter anymore.

President Bush agreed to share nuclear technology with the Indian government and with that the NPT or nuclear non-proliferation treaty became much less important in American eyes. The Americans could see India wasn’t going to go away. Mix in their huge and growing economy and the Americans saw major dollar signs. With India not taking part in the nuclear black market, they found themselves on the good side of the original nuclear club. With that agreement the nuclear landscape in this world was changed forever.

Dr. Haque may be right that the American should shoulder the blame for Iran’s nuclear ambitions, especially in the light of last week’s American agreement with India. However, did the cat get out of the bag a long time ago? Is this something the world couldn’t realistically stop once those bombs started hurtling toward Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Is the west still kidding themselves by musing that that can deny nuclear technology to the rest of the world?

In 1992 I visited New Zealand where I bought former New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange’s book about a Nuclear Free New Zealand. In the book Lange told how as a young man he and other New Zealanders used to see flashes in the eastern New Zealand sky. It was the French blowing up nuclear weapons in French Polynesia, several thousand miles east of New Zealand in the South Pacific. Nuclear explosions in paradise? If you’ve ever been there you’d know how crazy that was.

So now in 2006 we have the leader of the free world picking and choosing who’s in and who’s out of the nuclear club. The rules of “non-proliferation” grow more tired with every passing year. Should we say no to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. At the end of the day, with the reality we have now in the world, what difference does it really make?