Iran's Faux "Right"
Jul 11, 2012 -
No surprise, but negotiations over Iran's nuclear program are going nowhere. Of late, Iran has been making much – even including a power-point presentation - of its alleged "right" to enrich uranium, which is the heart of the dispute. Its uranium enrichment program leaves Iran perilously close to developing nuclear weapons, a risk we can't take.
Iran points to the1970 Non Proliferation Treaty as granting it the right to enrich uranium. It's a bogus claim. The Treaty was designed to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Allowing Iran or anyone else to enrich uranium or plutonium and do everything short of weaponizing the fissile material (a relatively easy step) turns the NPT on its head.
Pundits have been weighing in. One expert this week urged, "It's time to unequivocally refute Iran's fallacious claim of a right to enrich uranium." I worked this field a while back.
In the mid-2000s, I chaired hearings on the NPT, specifically targeting this "right." One hearing was "Assessing 'Rights' Under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty." Pretty arcane stuff, but important. Back then, Iran had just a hundred or so centrifuges enriching uranium at its key Natanz facility.
A key witness was Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. He refuted the "right," testifying that "just because nuclear activity or material can be used for peaceful purposes does not mean that any member of the NPT has an unconditional right to pursue or acquire it, especially when the activity or material in question might bring it within days of having a bomb." An academic paper he pointed to looks at the debate surrounding the Treaty's drafting, "original intent," bolstering his case. Yet unfortunately the U.S. State Department backs the "right" case, Sokolski testified.
Why in the world? Washington hasn't wanted to butt heads with nuclear fuel making countries like Japan, Germany, Brazil and others. The State Department witness testified about opposition from developing countries that also asserted this right, even if they didn't exercise it by making nuclear material. A few years later, I joined other members of Congress urging Secretary Rice to reverse policy. No luck. The Obama Administration is no better. Oh, and today, Iran’s centrifuges number in the thousands.
Iran poses a grave threat. Yes, reject its "right" to enrich. But no treaty, rights or not, is going to stop Tehran from weaponizing enriched uranium, maybe within the days Sokolski warned of, once it's developed. We need much more potent arrows in our quiver than the NPT if we're going to stop Tehran's reckless nuclear pursuit.