A response to the Guardian leader Stopping nuclear ambitions, Saturday 3rd November 2007

Dear Sir,

Your editorial contains crucial contradiction. Firstly the IAEA determines whether there is evidence of Iran weaponising its civilian programme and the IAEA director Dr ElBaradei has stated on the 28th that “I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now”, and you say yourself that they tried to enter a strategic bargain which would guarantee them fuel for their civilian programme, from which we can conclude that the Iranians have a strategic need for nuclear energy. Their religious leaders have issued fatwas that state that nuclear weapons are un-Islamic and they repeatedly declare that their nuclear programme is civilian. Yet you simply assume that they have a covert weapons programme. If you have such evidence would you please publish it so that the director of the IAEA can be made aware of it and revise his assessment.

The situation with regards concealment is complex but it is by no means the case that Iran has ‘violated the NPT’ as you say. The situation is complicated; here is the CASMII fact sheet on the matter:

Iran has met its obligations under the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran has fully cooperated in the last three years with the IAEA and had voluntarily accepted and enforced safeguards well above the Additional Protocol until Iran’s nuclear file was reported under the pressure of the US to the Security Council in February 2006. (The U.S., by contrast, has neither signed nor implemented the Additional Protocol, and Israel has refused to sign the NPT.)

Iran’s earlier concealment of its nuclear programme took place in the context of the US-backed invasion of Iran by Saddam; Iraqi chemical weapons provided to Saddam by the US, German and UK companies with the approval of their governments which were used against Iranian soldiers and civilians and Israel’s destruction of Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 with impunity. Iranian leaders concluded from these gross injustices that international laws are only “ink on paper” as Rafsanjani put it.

But the most direct reasons for Iran’s concealment were the American trade embargo on Iran and Washington’s organized and persistent campaign to stop civilian nuclear technology from reaching Iran from any source. For example, in 1995 Germany offered to let Kraftwerk Union (a subsidiary of Siemens) finish Iran’s Bushehr reactor, but withdrew its proposal under US pressure [3]. The following year, China cancelled its contract to build a nuclear enrichment facility in Isfahan for the same reason [4]. Thus Washington systematically violated, with impunity, Article IV of the NPT, which allows signatories to “facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy”.

Nevertheless, Iran’s decision not to declare all of its nuclear installations did not violate any rules. According to David Albright and Corey Hinderstein, who first provided satellite imagery and analysis of the facilities at Natanz and at Arak in December 2002 [5], under the safeguards agreement in force at the time, “Iran is not required to allow IAEA inspections of a new nuclear facility until six months before nuclear material is introduced into it.”

The basis of nuclear non-proliferation is the NPT and the agency for oversight is the IAEA and the director of the IAEA is saying that the process is working. By publishing such misleading information you are undermining the IAEA and the NPT, contributing to a climate of fear and ignorance and not making the prospect of war one jot less likely.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Dornan