Would Iran deal set new nuclear proliferation standard?

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, arrived in Geneva Feb. 21 to hold bilateral meetings with US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Hossein Fereydoun, President Hassan Rouhani’s senior adviser, is also accompanying the Iranian negotiation team to facilitate consultations and coordination. This is the highest level of talks between Iran and the United States since the 1979 revolution. The nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers are at a most critical moment — and in their final phase — and the chance for a final deal is likely more than 50%.

Recently, Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state and national security adviser whose knowledge of national security matters is often viewed as paramount in certain Washington circles, has attempted to cast unwarranted criticism on efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear dispute. “The impact of this approach will be to move from preventing proliferation to managing it,” Kissinger said of the ongoing diplomatic efforts. “And if the other countries in the region conclude that America has approved the development of an enrichment capability within one year of a nuclear weapon, and if they then insist on building the same capability, we will live in a proliferated world in which everybody — even if that agreement is maintained — will be very close to the trigger point.”

Kissinger’s assessment reflects a beleaguered understanding of the current status of the nuclear negotiations and the history of Iran’s nuclear program, as well as the realities of the current international system in regard to nuclear proliferation.

The key to understanding the nuclear proliferation issue is to have a firm grasp of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) that has as its goal reducing the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, as well as nuclear weapons disarmament on behalf of the nuclear weapons powers.

Over the years, many nations signatory to the treaty, on both sides of the nuclear weapons divide, have been in technical violation of their obligations under the NPT. There have been at least five states — Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, South Korea and Taiwan — that have engaged in clandestine nuclear programs without notifying the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The nuclear weapons states, too, have oftentimes been negligent in their obligation to dismantle their nuclear weapons and in many cases have actually upgraded their warheads and increased their number. In the case of Iran, there has also arguably been a significant double standard.

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“Would Iran deal set new nuclear proliferation standard?” Hossein Mousavian, Al Monitor, February 22, 2015.