The Global Citizen: nuclear disarmament
It’s not an intuitive argument that a stronger defense can lead to greater insecurity. In fact, if you were to tell an individual that their government had the ability to create a system that could shoot down an incoming nuclear-armed ballistic missile, they would almost certainly support its development.
This is precisely the mentality of the Indian government as it works to deploy its own national missile shield; it wants assured protection from Pakistan and China. Yet as you may have probably guessed, I believe that this “conventional wisdom” will lead to unintended consequences.
No state ever wants to be placed into a world order that puts it at a significant security disadvantage to its rivals. It’s important to remember that it would be a rare situation in which a competing state would accept this shift in the balance of power. When one state develops defense against a nuclear strike, it effectively nullifies the unspoken contract of mutually assured destruction, causing a paranoia that it can use nuclear weapons offensively or at least can use its uneven power to leverage its exposed adversaries. For this reason, the development of an Indian ballistic missile defense (BMD) system has a high likelihood of catalyzing one of two scenarios, both of which will neither provide any benefit to India nor will it lead to greater regional stability.
That is the outcome of Sunday's negotiations between Iran and six global powers this past week. During this hiatus, Iran will not enrich uranium past 20% which is the threshold that makes the process of accumulating fuel for a weapon much faster. It also will not produce any more centrifuges, its stockpiles of uranium shall not exceed 7,154 kg (its current stockpile), and any uranium enriched to 20% or more must be diluted or converted below 5%. These stipulations are intended to freeze any progress and provide oversight on their nuclear program, ensuring that any attempt to pursue a nuclear weapon would be promptly detected.
The talks about Iran's nuclear program started up again today in Geneva. Britain and Russia seem optimistic that a deal that will work for all parties will be reached, but the United State and France remain skeptical about whether Iran truly wants nuclear energy or actually desires nuclear weapons. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been insisting that Iran is not to be trusted, the negotiating table should be abandoned, and sanction should be increased.
Ayatollah Khamenei told hardliners in Tehran that Iran will not give up its right to peaceful applications of nuclear energy. He claimed that Iran wants peaceful relations with all countries but heavily criticized Netanyahu, France and the U.S. for being overly cautious and unwilling to believe the Iranian government. President Obama said it was not clear whether the negotiation will bear any results at this point in time. U.S. lawmakers have been urging the administration to take a tougher line with Iran, agreeing with Netanyahu that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and presents a threat to the region.
A UN report states that, since President Rouhani took office this year, Iran has stopped uranium enrichment and has not added any more components to the Arak reactor. This may indicate that Iran genuinely wants to come to an agreement to end sanctions, but keep a nuclear energy program in place.
In April 2009 in Prague, President Obama told an adoring throng that he intended "to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." His administration has undertaken some baby steps in that direction. Most notably there has been the New START Treaty with Russia and ongoing multilateral summits on securing all things nuclear from terrorists.
But the president has not convened any consultations with other states to explore how state parties might go about negotiating a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC). A very elaborate and carefully constructed model NWC-the product of dozens of scientists, lawyers, nuclear experts, and former government officials, and based in large measure upon the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)-has been floating around the nuclear policy arena since 1997. Every year since, the UN General Assembly has passed a quite explicit resolution on the matter, calling for "commencing multilateral negotiations leading to an early conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention, prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons, and providing for their elimination."
New negotiations concerning Iran's nuclear program occurred this week in Geneva. Iran met with the P5+1 countries, the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. During the meeting, Iran officials said they proposed a plan to ease back Iran's nuclear program. The plan focused on specific aspects of the program which EU officials found encouraging. The participants hope to meet again in Geneva in the near future to continue the discussion that. These are the first nuclear talks that have occurred since Rouhani was elected President of Iran.
The results of this meeting will hopefully lead to better relations between Iran and the United States. If Iran opens up about its nuclear program more can be done to ensure that it is in fact a nuclear energy project and will lead to more trust. Eventually both sides can open up formal diplomatic relations with one another, leaving the past in the past and moving on.
Good news and bad news came out the UN this week: the rumored meeting between Presidents Obama and Rouhani did not come to fruition but the Security Council did come to a consensus on Syrian Chemical Weapons but the resolution did not mention consequences. Earlier this week Obama and Rouhani had exchanged letters and the language used suggested that they believed a meeting would be beneficial. Compared to the rhetoric of his predecessor, Rouhani appears to be much more moderate and reasonable. He does not deny the Holocaust nor is openly belligerent and obstinate. Obama is also more moderate that his predecessors who refused to deal with Iran in any way and seemed to want war with the country. The meeting, unfortunately, did not take place; Iranian officials explained that they were worried about the political climate in Tehran and how such a meeting would be received. Secretary Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif did meet and had a constructive discussion. They agreed to a Security Council hearing on the Iranian Nuclear program in Geneva in October. Progress was made in improving US-Iranian relations but a meeting between Obama and Rouhani would have been more meaningful and significant and would have indicated a commitment to rapprochement.
With news media saturated with war coverage and updates on a possible intervention in Syria in recent weeks, Saturday's International Day of Peace was a welcome opportunity to reflect during this tumultuous international climate. It seems that violent conflict is all too common and some states are all too willing to wage war but the International Day of Peace reminds us of the core principle of the United Nations - to promote peace. Specifically, the day is meant, "...to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as the whole of mankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways."
With the intense media attention that Syrian chemical weapons have generated for the last month, now is the time to consider other weapons of mass destruction and the pressing need to eliminate them for good. Chief among such weapons are of course nuclear weapons. While we hope that the Assad regime will sign on to the Chemical Weapons Convention and turn over its stockpiles, Syria is not the only country in the region that has weapons of mass destruction. Syria's neighbor to the southwest, Israel, has an arsenal of 80 nuclear warheads.
While the US was dealing with the grips of a terrorist attack in Boston, the most powerful earthquake in over forty years hit Iran. A 7.8 magnitude quake occurred 56 miles beneath the ground but luckily the casualties were minute for such a large seismic event. It was the second earthquake in a week for the gulf country that rests on a tectonic plate, making it prone to numerous earthquakes. They actually on average experience at least one slight earthquake a day.
Besides the obvious destruction caused by the earth moving underneath people's lives, Iran is faced with another problem; their nuclear facilities. The first earthquake struck just miles from Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant, prompting the Gulf Co-operation Council to call for international inspectors to be sent to the plant for fear of radiation leaks.
During the summer of 2012, when I was a research associate at GlobalSolutions.org, I began a research project that dealt with the issue of nuclear terrorism. It was a labor of strangelove. About eight months later, this project has resulted in "Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Nuclear Security, the Nonproliferation Regime, and the Threat of Terrorist Nukes." This research paper seeks to analyze this nightmarish threat. Among the questions that this paper will seek to answer are:
- From which states would a terrorist-controlled nuclear weapon be most likely to originate? Why are these states such unique threats?
- What has the US done to counter the proliferation threat posed by these countries?
- What international institutions are currently in place to prevent this kind of unauthorized nuclear proliferation?
- What additional steps can the US and the international community take to prevent nuclear materials from falling into terrorist hands?
It is sometimes tempting to dismiss the nuclear threat as a relic of the Cold War. That, after all, was the era of the A-Bomb and the H-Bomb, of "duck and cover" and MAD (mutually assured destruction). And yet, to adopt such a viewpoint is to ignore the reality that, in the post-Cold War world, the nuclear threat has, indeed, changed, but is far from disappearing entirely.
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