Nuclear Double Standard; Russia's interests in the matter of the Iran reactor may not conflict with ours


The Washington Post
Friday, March 3, 1995

Nuclear Double Standard; Russia's interests in the matter of the Iran reactor may not conflict with ours
Susan Eisenhower

On the way to pressuring Russia into withdrawing from its agreement to provide Iran with nuclear reactor technology, the United States may well have ensured itself a rougher ride in securing the permanent extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Although the administration has designated the passage of a permanent, unconditional NPT as a priority, it will have to overcome mounting criticism among those undecided countries which say that the nuclear regime has benefited only the Western industrialized nations and their allies -- creating an unfair and counterproductive double standard.

Such complaints will be difficult to refute when 172 nations meet next month in New York to decide on the future of the treaty. Since its adoption 25 years ago, the NPT has drawn criticism from signatories and non-signatories alike for what they say have been halfhearted efforts on the part of the major nuclear powers to meet the disarmament objectives outlined in the 1970 pact. More recently, criticism has been focused on the other provision outlined in the treaty that ensures those who agreed to abstain from developing nuclear weapons access to peaceful nuclear power technology.

The United States, they say, has been at the forefront of creating this double standard, which is evident in the way it views the activities of, say, Japan and Israel -- its allies -- as opposed to countries such as Pakistan, China, North Korea and now Iran.

With respect to Russia's contract to provide "peaceful" nuclear power technology to Iran, the Clinton administration deserves credit for decoupling the volatile issue from U.S. aid to Russia -- especially Nunn-Lugar funds for disarmament. But Warren Christopher's reiterated stance that the United States opposes "any nuclear cooperation with Iran by Russia or other countries" underscores the double-standard reality, further threatening the prospects for a permanent unconditional pact.

Iran, as a sovereign nation and an NPT signatory, has a legal right to acquire a nuclear reactor if it agrees to the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and other safeguards, which it has apparently done. Our inflexible opposition to this action not only compromises our ability to influence the terms of the Russian-Iranian deal, it could reduce Iran or any other country's incentive to work within international structures for nuclear cooperation -- though it is decidedly in our interests that they should do so.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich has also thrown gasoline on the smoldering fire, linking this deal with aid to Russia and demonizing all of Islam. Despite assurances that Russia will be providing the technology for a civilian program within the agreed framework of both NPT and the IAEA, Gingrich has been unmoved, citing the dangers of Iran. Last week he even linked this matter to the threat of "Islamic totalitarianism on a worldwide basis." Furthermore, he said, Russia's interests in the deal clearly diverge from our own.

I am not so sure Russia's interests in this matter conflict at all with those of the United States. Apart, perhaps, from the economic rivalry of such a sale, Russia has no interest in helping establish a nuclear weapons-capable Muslim state on its southern periphery. Indeed, it has strong reasons to be fearful of such an eventuality.

First, there is a sizable Muslim population within Russia's borders and in the outlying former Soviet states. Second, it is currently fighting a war with one of its own Muslim outposts, Chechnya -- a conflict, by the way, in which the sympathy of the Muslim world has been drawn to Chechnya. Apart from the attractive financial aspects of the deal, Russia may see great strategic benefit in engaging in a cooperative agreement with Iran at precisely this time, especially since the Chechen conflict can only drag on indefinitely with the help of the Muslim world.

But in the final analysis, the United States' handling of this issue has done more than increase tensions between this country and Iran and Russia. It has underscored the vulnerabilities of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty itself and revealed the inconsistency of our own policies. For instance, earlier this week, a Russian nuclear ministry spokesman accused the United States of duplicity in its position on the Iranian deal, citing Washington's intention to send the same kind of reactors to North Korea as part of the Carter-brokered settlement last June. The U.S. action may subvert the extension of the NPT when it comes up next month, he said.

While the future nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea -- or any other country led by an authoritarian regime -- are of vital national concern, we are more likely to meet our long- term objectives if worrisome countries such as Iran remain within the NPT framework. And certainly inflammatory rhetoric, bossiness and double standards won't help to get it passed.

The writer is chairman of the Center for Post-Soviet Studies.



Nucleonics Week
Thursday, February 2, 1995
Vol. 36, No. 5

Mark Hibbs, New York and Washington; Neal Sandler, Jersusalem

Adding to backtracking statements of U.S. government officials in recent weeks, Washington's leading negotiator for the extension of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) said January 26 that the Islamic Republic of Iran has ''no current program" for the production of weapons-grade fissile materials.

''They are not that far along," Thomas Graham, Special U.S. Representative for Nonproliferation, a senior official at the Arms Control & Disarmament Agency (ACDA), and chief U.S. NPT extension negotiator told Nucleonics Week.

In the past, officials at the U.S. Department of State and other agencies had asserted that Iran did have such a program. U.S. agency officials, requesting anonymity, claimed then that, in addition to experimental efforts related to uranium enrichment, Iran had embarked on a development program for plutonium separation (NW, 24 Sept. '92, 2). In support of that statement, European officials said that Iran had obtained key chemicals used to separate plutonium from irradiated uranium fuel (NW, 16 Dec. '93, 10).

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) has hotly contested such assertions. ''The rumors of such activities are completely baseless," said Mohammed Sadegh Ayatollahi, Iran's representative to the IAEA in Vienna.

Graham said for the record that the U.S. government ''had reached the conclusion" that Iran ''had made a decision to develop a nuclear weapons capability."

Another U.S. official attending the Fourth Preparatory Committee (Prepcom) for the Review & Extension Conference of the NPT in New York last week backed Graham. But he refused to provide any details, saying, ''What (Graham) said is all you are allowed to know."

According to other U.S. and western European officials, however, unsubstantiated and blanket assertions that Iran has nuclear weapons ambitions ''don't mean very much." According to one, ''Claiming that Costa Rica or Honduras can get the bomb is just about as credible--five to 10 to 15 years is a lot of time for any NPT party with little infrastructure."

These sources said that, at the AEOI, officials are intent on developing a peaceful nuclear program, including constructing power reactors in cooperation with Russia and China. Other Iranian officials outside of AEOI ''have stated in Iran that Iran should have nuclear weapons capabilities," the official said, ''But these personalities represent organizations which have no known role in Iran's nuclear program and--unlike the case in Iraq--have no nuclear expertise. The AEOI, not the Revolutionary Guard or other groups, is in sole control of Iran's nuclear capabilities."

In particular, assertions by unnamed Israeli officials in recent weeks that Iran may be able to develop a nuclear bomb in as little as five years have since been seen as ''an embarrassment" by the Israeli government, according to well-placed Israeli sources. ''There is a consensus now in the expert community that (the Israelis) shouldn't have said that, that their credibility has suffered as a result."

The number arose in a briefing given the New York Times Cairo correspondent. ''The Israelis told him Iran was getting close to a bomb, but have had to walk their claims back since," one Israeli source said. "In fact," the Israeli expert advised, ''the decision by the U.S. and the West to deny Iran nuclear supply rests on very shaky grounds," since no evidence has been forthcoming to demonstrate claims that Iran has a nuclear weapons program.

Earlier in January, Iran's intentions were a focus of talks when U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry visited Israel. Prime Minister and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin estimated then that Iran was seven to 10 years away from producing a nuclear weapons, but Perry said Iran was trying to take short cuts by obtaining technology and know-how from ex-Soviet republics, North Korea, and China.

Israeli officials have claimed that the Iranians are trying to buy various weapons technologies, and object to an agreement just signed between Russia and Iran that, the Israelis claim, will let Iranian technicians and scientists to train in Russia in fields useful in nuclear weapons development. The officials assert the Iranians have spread out development of nuclear weapons to several distant sites, and Israel Defense Forces chief of planning Major General Uzi Dayan said Iran's decision to speed up the pace of its nuclear program, along with the potential for short cuts, meant Israel might have to take decisions in 1995 on a response.

Concern about Iran's intentions continued to play a role at the Fourth Prepcom in New York last week, following Iran's leading role in raising technical objections to the agenda and the rules of procedure at the Third Prepcom in Geneva last fall. But, in contrast to the Geneva meeting, Iran adopted a low-key stance in New York. Iran succeeded in getting most of its objections to the agenda of the NPT extension conference addressed, but its delegates also compromised (see related story, this issue).

Skeptics argued after the end of the Fourth Prepcom that, since the crucial decision making on how to extend the NPT was remitted until early April, and since no agreement had been reached on how to write the final document for the review conference, ''there are still paths for Iran to have a major impact" when the diplomatic negotiation gets underway in mid-April.

According to a member of one leading western European delegation at the Fourth Prepcom last week, ''If I were Iran, I would be holding out against any extension of the NPT for as long as possible, in order to get as many concessions as possible" from the advanced nuclear states.

''If Iran is successful in obtaining a 'rolling' series of five-year extensions, they win,'' one senior western official said, ''since at each extension deadline, they can pressure the nuclear weapons states and the advanced suppliers to make concessions in their interest." However, contrary to those who assert that Iran wants to limit any extension to five years or less, this official said, ''If Iran doesn't help us extend the NPT for a longer horizon than a couple of years, no advanced country will be willing to provide it with the nuclear cooperation it seeks. If there is a 'rolling' extension, advanced country suppliers will overcome their hesitations and will help Iran build up its nuclear energy infrastructure."


IAEA Has No Evidence Of Nuke Weapons

APS Diplomat Recorder
Saturday, January 14, 1995
Vol. 42, No. 2

IRAN - Jan. 10 - IAEA Has No Evidence Of Nuke Weapons

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says in a statement at its HQ in Vienna that "nothing indicates that Iran is engaged in a secret nuclear programme". The UN nuclear watchdog's spokesman Hans-Friedrich Meyer adds that IAEA inspections of Iranian nuclear sites had uncovered no installations in contravention of its commitments to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (Tehran signed the treaty in 1970 and IAEA teams have regularly inspected its nuclear installations since 1974). Meyer says that "Iran is a country that is very open to IAEA monitoring and, on request, also allows access to nuclear installations that are not on the list of sites subject to IAEA inspections".



Inter Press Service
Tuesday, January 10, 1995

By Senthil Ratnasabapathy

VIENNA, Jan. 10 (IPS) -- The United Nations body entrusted with nuclear safeguards says no country has to date informed it of any facilities in Iran that may be used for making a nuclear bomb.

A spokesman for the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today said neither Israel nor the United States have provided the agency with evidence of Iranian facilities where clandestine nuclear bomb making program may be in progress.

"If they know about (NPT-illegal) Iranian facilities, they could give it to us," the spokesman told IPS.

Top United States and Israeli officials have over the past week claimed Iran is closer to making a nuclear bomb than previously thought.

The New York Times has quoted senior officials as saying Iran could make a nuclear bomb, perhaps within five years. U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry told reporters in Israel yesterday that he had agreed with the Israeli government that seven to 15 years was a "reasonable estimate."

In early December U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director James Woolsey claimed Iran was eight to 10 years away from building nuclear weapons. He has also accused Iran of trying to buy ready-made atomic arms and Russian nuclear material.

Iran is a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which forbids non-nuclear weapons states -- also known as "Have Nots" -- to make nuclear bombs or acquire the technology to do so.

The treaty, which expires in April, allows the Have Nots only civilian nuclear facilities, which they have to declare and allow IAEA inspections of.

The NPT allows the IAEA to ask for extra inspections if it has doubts based on concrete information that the treaty is being covertly broken. The IAEA spokesman said the agency had run between two and four inspections at Iran's declared sites every year since Teheran signed, without problems.

"Up to now we have had no reason to report to the (IAEA) Board of Governors (of any possible violation of the NPT)," the spokesman told IPS. Iran, he added, is one of the few countries that has allowed the IAEA to conduct inspections at sites not formally included under the NPT "safeguards agreement".

IAEA teams have visited the country twice in the past three years and inspected sites which were not under the safeguards agreement, he said. An IAEA team that visited Iran in November 1993 saw all the locations and laboratories it wished to visit and had "open and fruitful discussions" on points of mutual interest.

"Usually inspections are allowed only at buildings which are declared as having nuclear material but during the last visit our inspectors were allowed to visit even buildings which were not declared as having nuclear material," the spokesman added.

The United States and Israeli allegations follow Iran's signing of an agreement with Russia to complete work on a 1,200 megawatt (MW) reactor on Iran's Gulf coast, mothballed for several years.

Work on two reactors, each capable of generating 1,300 MW, began in 1974 in Bushehr, about 750 kilometers south of Teheran, with the help of two German firms. Work was halted by the fall of the Shah of Iran and U.S. pressure on Germany to halt their work. The sites were also bomb damaged during the 1980 -1988 Iran-Iraq war.

Mohammed Sadegh Ayatollahi, Iran's chief representative to the IAEA, said about 85 percent of the construction and more than half of the equipment installation at the first unit of the plant was complete. The second unit remains half constructed.

The Russian contract now would finish the first unit at a cost of $800 million, he said.

During a U.S.-Russian summit in Washington last September, Russian President Boris Yeltsin acknowledged a private commitment to end arms sales to Iran. Russia has sold aircraft, tanks and two diesel-powered submarines to Iran in recent years.

But Ayatollahi rejected all claims of any clandestine Iranian nuclear weapons program. He also indicated that continued U.S. objections to Teheran receiving nuclear technology for peaceful purposes may actually violate the NPT.

Some reports have suggested that the United States has put pressure on Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic to forego deals with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) on the delivery of components to its civilian nuclear program.

In exchange for renouncing weapons programs, the NPT backs international cooperation between treaty signatories, particularly the developing countries, and the benefits of peaceful applications of nuclear technology.

Teheran's official news agency IRNA, has described the Times report as "a dramatic, though not unusual, distortion of facts".

"Those American and Israeli officials who used the Times to sublimate their mischievous political agenda know very well that Iran does not, and will not, in light of its own national interest, engage in a nuclear weapon program," it said.

"By spreading such baseless news," IRNA quoted AEOI spokesman Ali Shirzadian as saying, "The U.S. media is desperately trying to divert international opinion from the illicit nuclear ventures of the Zionist (Israeli) regime."

"The U.S. motive in raising the imaginary claim of Iran's pursuit for nuclear weapons is to create grounds for mega arms sales to countries of the region."

IRNA also quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi as reiterating Teheran's opposition to any proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons and said Iran supported a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.