A paper by: Ali Asghar Soltanieh
At the outset one has to answer the simple question; How the NPT itself looks like? Since the issue of MEFZ in interrelated to this simple question.
With almost 35 years of experience of working on and participating at the NPT conferences, I seek your indulgence to bear with making a critical review and an impartial diagnosis of the 46 years old NPT:
The NPT abbreviated for Non- Proliferation Treaty is a discriminatory by definition, since it recognizes the status quo, some countries have nuclear weapons and it aims at not letting others have. Article I and II clearly admit this unjust assumption, where they respectively stipulate; those having nuclear weapons should not give others and those not having nuclear weapons should not get or transfer. The Treaty has divided parties into “Haves” and “Haves not”. According to Article III, the Non- Nuclear Weapon State Parties are obliged to sign a Full Scope Safeguards Agreement (INFCIRC/153) with the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) to be fully inspected where the Nuclear Weapons State Parties to the NPT are exempted from any inspection. Thus this is the most discriminatory international treaty. Another shortcoming is the existence of nuclear weapon possessors outside the treaty but they are member the IAEA and are fully benefiting from all technical cooperation’s, where some of the Non- Nuclear Weapons State Parties have been deprived from and even Iran has paid heavy price for being party to the NPT.
1- Why Non-nuclear weapon states joined or why not yet have withdrawn?
- The Non-weapons State Parties coped themselves with such bitter reality with the hope that by compromising their national security for the sake of intentional security, these inherited discriminations will be soon removed by full implementation of article VI, by Nuclear Weapon State Parties, leading towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Nothing has happened since almost half a century ago.
- They also hoped the universality of the Treaty is realized. Not only it legitimate expectation has not been materialized but number of nuclear weapon possessors, number of nuclear warheads, the destructive quality of nuclear arsenals have increased, further nuclear tests conducted since the NPT entered into force.
- The NPT has envisaged “Review Conferences” every five years in order to review its implementation. So far in a number of crucial junctures due to disputes on most relevant issues the review conferences have failed. In 1980, 1990, 2005, 2015 just to name it.
- The Review Conference in 1990 failed since US blocked the consensus on the text on prevention of nuclear tests in the final document.
- In the course of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, a group on Non- Nuclear weapons States, called New Agenda Coalition (NAC), proposed Thirteen unequivocal undertakings towards elimination of nuclear weapons which was approved by consensus. Surprisingly in 2005, a certain state prevented any reference in the agenda of the review conference, to the 2000 conference, thus the conference collapsed.
- The 2010 Review conference approved by consensus that an international conference be held on the Middle East Free Zone in 2012. The Secretary General of the UN and the three conveyers, depositories of the NPT (US, UK, and Russia) were entrusted to organize it. One of the three, the United States, unilaterally postponed, indefinitely, the conference at the eve of the conference planned to be held in Helsinki, of Finland.
- A proposal was made by Islamic Republic of Iran at the NPT Review Conference in 2010, proposing 2025 as a deadline for total elimination of nuclear weapons, noting that the article VI lacks any Timeline. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) supported. The nuclear weapon states blocked the consensus. They even refrained from giving a longer timeline which might suit them all, in order to have a breakthrough.
- After years of intensive talks, the legitimate demand of Non-nuclear Weapons States, for Negative Security Assurance (NSA) was put done by Nuclear Weapon States in the Conference of Disarmament(CD) in Geneva.
- Once again the Non- nuclear weapon states made historical concession, accepting the “Indefinite extension of the NPT”, at the NPT Review Conference in 1995, with the condition of speedy implementation of the article VI by Nuclear Weapon States as well as the practical prompt measures on the establishment of “Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East”, in return. Neither one has been implemented. The promise not kept. This kind of conducts are the sources of confidence deficit among States Parties which lead the failure of the NPT Review Conferences. It is recalled that the “Middle East Nuclear Weapon Free Zone”, was first proposed by Iran then Egypt in 1974s. Since then both countries along with many like- minded ones, specifically in the NAM, have spared no effort to realize the goal, to remove the threat from the region and world at large. The NAM Summit in Tehran in 2012 reiterated the importance it attaches to in its final declaration. The supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the opening statement declared:
- The main obstacle for realization of the WMDFZ in the ME is the only Non-party to the NPT, Non-party to the CWC and BCW, possessing WMD specifically nuclear weapons though is simultaneously under nuclear umbrella of certain nuclear weapon states. In nutshell, it is the source of nuclear threat and security threat of the region.
2- What next on nuclear disarmament?
- As an innovative initiative, a group of countries highlighted the humanitarian dimensions and consequences of nuclear weapons in conferences held in Mexico, Norway, and Austria in a more organized manner. The nuclear weapon states did not welcome, no surprise. This issue was brought to the NPT Review conference in 2015. The conference failed when the US, UK, and Canada blocked the consensus on texts related to this issue and the Middle East Free Zone.
- In pursuing the initiative, a proposal on establishing an open-ended working group for negotiation on banning nuclear weapons was brought to the first committee of the United Nations, where the resolution was adopted by large majority. It is anticipated that with the absence of nuclear weapon states and their political obstacles this trend might also fail, as the attempt at the CD in Geneva for starting the negotiation on Nuclear Weapons Convention failed after decades of talks.
3- Proposal for an Immediate Feasible Security Action in the ME?
Taking into account several proposals, based on my experience in this area and bearing in mind the radiological consequences in the region and beyond due to transboundary release of radioactive material as the result of any armed attack against nuclear installations, I proposed in my personal capacity in Athens Dialogue on the Middle East in 2o12, an initiative which I propose again during the EU International Conference on Non-proliferation and Disarmament in Brussel this month.
Permit me to proposed, in my personal capacity, as a feasible Negative Security Assurance to this distinguished forum for your consideration:
A “Middle East Fee Zone from Armed Attack Against Nuclear Installation”.
All members of the IAEA in the Middle East simultaneously shall declare the full commitment not to attack or to threat of attack against any nuclear installation in this region, in compliance with the resolution 533 of 1990 of the IAEA as well as the Presidential Statement of the IAEA General Conference of 2009 (adopted by consensus).
Considering all the aforementioned disappointing facts, there is no promising prospect for the next NPT Review Conference in 2020, thus for the NPT itself. This the high time to think loud, perhaps an amendment conference for at least on article VI, to insert a definite date for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. This is feasible not hypothetical. It is recalled that during negotiation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the same member states agreed to put 15- year maximum deadline for the possessors to destroy their chemical weapons.
The Issue of the Middle East Free Zone should also be dealt with by bringing back the condition on the deal made in 1995 NPT Extension Conference. The present stalemate situation and failures of the NPT Review Conferences has and will put the future of the NPT and the non-proliferation regime at large in jeopardy.