Day one of the NPT Review: Much ado about Iran
The first day of the 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was largely a theater piece about Iran, thanks in part to an hour-long speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which was equal parts denunciation of nuclear weapons and denunciation of the United States and its allies, with a dose of theology thrown in for good measure.
Even before Ahmadinejad took the floor, he heard his government’s nuclear activities and lack of cooperation with the IAEA criticized by both Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. He wasted no time in telling the Secretary-General that he had it wrong and that “the ball is in your court.” As the day went on, it became clear that no one else agreed.
Ahmadinejad’s entire speech (along with all the government statements from today and from each day of the Review Conference) is on the Reaching Critical Will website. He stated plainly that any country that develops and stockpiles nuclear weapons only exposes itself to their hazards; that the “sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to annihilate all human beings and destroy the environment,” and that possession of nuclear weapons is “disgusting and shameful.” He spoke harshly and at length about the US, charging that it “has never respected any of its commitments.”
President Ahmadinejad will have some explaining to do, somewhere down the line, if Iran eventually commits the “disgusting and shameful” act of acquiring its own nuclear arsenal. In the meantime, his critique of the double standard that has placed enormous strain on the non-proliferation regime did not sound very different from what NGOs and many other NPT member states have been saying for many years.
Whether or not he was sincere in his protestations that Iran wants nothing to do with nuclear weapons, nearly every foreign minister who spoke today categorized the Iranian president’s remarks as aggressive and divisive — some even called them deceitful — and reiterated the Secretary-General’s demand for full compliance with the NPT and with Security Council resolutions.
US Secretary of State Clinton, not surprisingly, went the furthest, calling Ahmadinejad’s speech a series of “tired, false, and sometimes wild accusations against the United States and other parties at this conference.” She added that “Iran will not succeed in its efforts to divert and divide,” and called on Iran “to join with all the other delegations represented at this meeting to go ahead and fulfill our international obligations and work toward the goal of a safer world.”
That remains to be seen. It’s too early to say whether this Review Conference will take the high road and deal effectively with the larger agenda of developing a concrete action plan for ridding the world of nuclear weapons, or get caught up again in the political gamesmanship that led to the failure of the 2005 Review. A parade of remarks about the need to promote and fund the so-called peaceful uses of nuclear energy was also troubling. Newcomers to this debate could be forgiven for thinking that the primary goal of the NPT is to help the nuclear energy industry achieve its “renaissance” after listening to today’s speeches.
But here are some quotes that stood out from the drone of diplomatic jargon by emphasizing that the fundamental goal of the NPT is the abolition of nuclear weapons. The more we hear like this over the coming four weeks the better, especially if the words are backed by concrete actions.
“Progress on disarmament cannot await a world free of war, nuclear proliferation or terrorism; progress on non-proliferation cannot await the elimination of the last nuclear weapon.”
— Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon
“It is unacceptable that Nuclear Weapon States and those remaining outside the NPT continue to retain and even modernize their nuclear arsenals….The world should realize that the doctrines of nuclear deterrence neither bring about peace nor international security, and constitute an impediment to progress towards total elimination of nuclear weapons.”
— Marty M. Natalegawa, Foreign Minister of Indonesia, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
“The horrors which nuclear weaponry can unleash on mankind and on the planet we inhabit defy description….Those who possess nuclear weapons must show…bold leadership…if we are to realize the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.”
— Micheál Martin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ireland
“Moving from the dream of a world free of nuclear weapons to actual global zero will require time and much effort. There are several promising ideas, like UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s Five-Point Plan. Austria supports this plan and believes that the most effective way to move towards “global zero” is through a universal legal instrument, a “Nuclear Weapons Convention,” equipped with a strict multilateral verification mechanism.”
— Michael Spindelegger, Foreign Minister of Austria
“I represent a President and a country committed to a vision of a world without nuclear weapons and to taking the concrete steps necessary that will help us get there.”
— Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State
“It is the belief that nuclear weapons will be eliminated in a foreseeable future that offers us the ultimate guarantee against nuclear proliferation….The world will only be a safe place when all countries feel they are being treated with fairness and respect. When their voices are heard and when the root causes of conflict, such as poverty and discrimination, are overcome. The presence of nuclear weapons only aggravates those problems. Nuclear weapons breed instability and insecurity. They deepen the sense of injustice.”
— Celso Amorim, Minister for External Relations of Brazil