Actions without reactions

Iran and Syria will take their place at the Non-Proliferation Treaty meeting as if they are members in good standing.

nuclear summit april 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
nuclear summit april 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The five-year Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference begins its four-week deliberations in New York today. The five-year cycle is usually held captive by Egypt in the attempt to force Israel to divulge its nuclear secrets and force it to become a party to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state. However, the non-proliferation scene has changed profoundly since the previous review conference in 2005.
Two major events shook the non-proliferation regime: the confirmation of Iran’s military nuclear ambitions and the destruction of Syria’s reactor at Al-Kibar two years ago. Taking up the Syrian situation first, we observe, with wonder, the fact that Syria prevents the International Atomic Energy Agency from inspecting the Al-Kibar site, especially after indications were found that it was the site of a nuclear reactor under construction. Syria’s refusal to allow the IAEA to inspect additional sites suspected of being connected to a nuclear project only aggravates the suspicions that Syria was developing nuclear weapons.
The situation is even more serious with Iran. When the IAEA found the courage to refer the Iran nuclear case to the UN Security Council, this body started taking strong actions against Iran. Iran steadfastly refused to suspend its uranium enrichment program for a limited period. It did not heed to the offer (made in the second sanctions resolution) to discuss all outstanding issues and grievances, if only it would suspend it enrichment activities.
Meanwhile, much evidence was accumulating on the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program.
Moreover, the uncovering of the concealed Fordow hillside small enrichment plant provided, in the view of many, the “smoking gun” needed to prove Iran’s true intentions – to achieve a military nuclear capability. This, together with its otherwise inexplicable considerable missile-development program made the specter of a nuclear Iran only more realistic.
AND YET, Iran, and Syria, will take their place at the NPT meeting as if nothing happened, as they consider themselves to be members of the NPT in good standing. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will receive a visa to enter the US for the purpose of attending the review conference. Standing at the rostrum, he will be able to utter his usual invective against the US and Israel, hypocritically calling for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East, and at the same time receiving reports on his growing stocks of enriched uranium, getting Iran closer, day by day, to the goal of potentially having a considerable military nuclear capability.
There can be no doubt that Iran misused the NPT to obtain know-how, technologies and materials, in addition to those obtained clandestinely from Pakistan and other countries. It was found, both by the IAEA and the Security Council, to have been in breach of its NPT obligations. It took all actions needed to show the world that it was determined to go on, unhindered, with its nuclear development program. It was given a chance to prove that it had some good intentions when it received the offer to receive nuclear fuel for a research reactor (contrary to the Security Council sanctions resolution) in return for moving some of its enriched uranium stocks out of the country, thereby postponing the inevitable date of attaining a potential military capability, but refused to do so.
Why then should it be permitted to go on with the sham of proper NPT membership? Why should it not be relegated to a suspended, or at least observer status at the review conference? Why should the same thing not be demanded for Syria?
Logically, this is the way to proceed. Is it a realistic demand? Probably not.
The world today is amenable to conciliatory moves, even when theycontradict reason. On the one hand, Iran and Syria would probablythreaten to withdraw from the NPT. They will suffer much if they do.Their safeguards agreements with the IAEA are independent of NPTmembership.
On the other hand, the cost of not taking even minor diplomatic actionagainst Iran and Syria is high, and will get even higher, as time goesby.
The writer is a senior research associate at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.