The NPT PrepCom 2004

Presentation at the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2005 Review Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) at the United Nations, New York, 26 April-7 May 2004 by Elahe Mohtasham

Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation in the Middle East and South Asia: Issues and Policy Recommendations

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,


Politics has often been described as the art of bringing aspirations, hopes and ideals to meet reality. Such a task would be challenging in any context, but it would probably be more challenging in the context of the Middle East and South Asia, where it often appears that the achievement of peace and security belongs more to the realm of dreams than reality. Working towards the resolution of the problems reminds one of the words of Florizel in Shakespeare’s play ‘The Winter’s Tale’ which says

‘How Camillo
May this, almost a miracle be done?
That I may call thee something more than man,
And after that trust to thee.’

Since the last gathering of the NPT Preparatory Committee in Geneva in 2003, new developments have taken place, and new proposals have been put forward to manage and control nuclear power both in its military and civilian forms in a global format. Some of these developments and proposals could be viewed as attempts to bring together the aspirations and hopes of the international community for peace in the Middle East and South Asia closer to reality.

The public revelations about Iran’s enrichment and reprocessing programmes between June 2003 and February 2004, highlighted a number of issues which used to be controversial back in the 1970s, namely the proliferation implications of civil nuclear fuel cycles and the means of controlling civil usable nuclear material. Libya’s decision to disclose its nuclear weapon activities in December 2003 brought into public attention the existence of a complex network of black market in radiological and nuclear procurement activities, operating across the globe.

The 2004 NPT Preparatory Committee is mandated to deal with the substantive issues as well as procedural arrangements and prepare recommendations for submission to the 2005 NPT Review Conference. Within that context, it is important to be reminded that although the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference had mandated the Preparatory Committees to deal with both the substantive issues and procedural matters, and send their recommendations to the 2000 Review Conference, the 1999 Preparatory Committee failed to provide an agreed text on any substantive recommendations to the 2000 Review Conference. It is, therefore, imperative that the 2004 NPT Preparatory Committee to be successful and set a precedent by preparing an agreed text on substantive recommendations for submissions to the 2005 NPT Review Conference. In order to assist this process, in this presentation, three sets of recommendations are being discussed in the context of the Middle East and South Asia.

The first set of recommendations concerns the strategies needed for the incorporation and involvement of India, Israel and Pakistan in the NPT process. The second set of recommendations relates to the current status of the Additional Protocol in Iran and the impact of Iran’s internal political system on the ratification process which would have significant bearing on Iran’s compliance with its NPT and the IAEA’s safeguards, and it would also have longer term implications for regional and international security.

The third set of recommendations relates to the proposals concerning the NPT put forward by the Director General of the IAEA on 12 February 2004, especially in relation to providing the United Nations Security Council the power not to allow any withdrawal from the NPT under Article X of the NPT, and the need for multilateral control of the nuclear fuel cycle. President Bush in his speech of 11 February 2004 also expressed concern in the existing loopholes within the NPT and made proposals in relation to assisting nations to end the use of weapon grade uranium, research reactors, and urged increased efforts in preventing further proliferation of enrichment and reprocessing technologies. If all these proposals are pursued further in the 2004 NPT Preparatory Committee or the 2005 NPT Review Conference, a number of important discussions concerning the NPT and the related IAEA safeguards system should be anticipated. In addition, while universal criminalisation of the weapons of mass destruction activities is urgently required, the submission of proposals, such as the draft proposal to the Security Council for a mandate requiring states to adopt and enforce laws to deny weapons of mass destruction to any ‘non-state’ actors, there is a growing concern that the Security Council may be turned into a legislative body of its own, undermining and replacing traditional multilateral treaty forums such as the existing disarmament and non-proliferation regimes.

List of Recommendations:

India, Israel and Pakistan: The three de facto nuclear weapon states not party to the NPT (India, Israel and Pakistan) are situated in South Asia and the Middle East. However, any use of nuclear weapons, even a low yield atomic device in South Asia would cause immediate significant civilian casualties, and it would have refugee and environmental ramifications for the whole of the Middle East region.

India, Israel and Pakistan have already been a beneficiary of the NPT, which aims to prevent a state of anarchy in nuclear weapons acquisition and development. Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, these three states would also have a better appreciation of the efforts to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation involving non-states actors. However, as these three states continue to enhance their nuclear weapons capability, quantatively and qualitatively, and integrate them into their missile weapons systems, and finally develop and articulate nuclear doctrines for deterrence or possible use of these weapons, the pressures on Iran’s decision-makers would increase to respond to the demands of those in the Iranian political system who have been arguing for Iran’s indigenous nuclear weapons, at least as early as May 1998 when India and Pakistan tested their atomic devices.

Therefore, as part of the efforts to achieve the universality of the NPT as well as to promote the goal of Middle East nuclear weapon free zone, the NPT member states could send formal invitations to India, Israel and Pakistan for the presence of official observers from these three countries in the NPT Preparatory Committees and Review Conferences, providing them access to both the open and closed sessions. The presence of official observers could, in the short term, resolve the controversy over the question of how to include these three nuclear weapon states within the NPT in view of the current Article IX.3 of the NPT which defines a nuclear weapon state as “one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to January 1, 1967.” In the past, a number of non-NPT states have intermittently attended the NPT Preparatory and Review Conferences. For example, in the 1997 and 1998 NPT Preparatory Committees, the following then non-NPT states, Brazil, Cuba, Israel and Pakistan were present as observers (with access only to the open sessions of the Committees) with the exception of Pakistan, which did not attend the NPT Preparatory committee in 1998. Cuba also attended the 2002 NPT Preparatory Committee as an observer. Since that time, Brazil (on 18 September 1998) and Cuba (on 4 November 2002) have joined the NPT as non-nuclear weapon states.

In the long term, and bearing in mind the differences between the legal position of Israel (as a non-declared nuclear weapon state) and India and Pakistan (as self declared nuclear weapon states) in relation to the NPT, different strategies may be needed to include these three states within the NPT framework. It may be possible to persuade India and Pakistan to adopt responsible policies as far as export controls are concerned, and act in the manner as though being a party to the NPT, at least in this respect.

In the case of Israel, it might be more appropriate to pursue negotiations for the establishment of a regional nuclear safeguards inspection system or an international one under the existing IAEA arrangements. Israel has no civil nuclear power reactors. However, one of the two known research reactors, IRR-1 located in Soreq, has been under the IAEA’s safeguards, but neither Israel’s other research reactor, Dimona, nor the reprocessing facilities at Soreq and Dimona have been under any kind of regional or international safeguards.

In the case of India, two units of the power reactors, RAPs (became operational in 1972) located in Rajastan, and two units of power reactors, TAPS (became operational in 1981) located in Tarapur, have been under the IAEA’s safeguards. Two of India’s fuel fabrication plants, Ceramic fuel fabrication and EFFP-NFC located in Hyderabad, and a chemical reprocessing plant, PREFRE located in Tarapur, have also been under the IAEA’s safeguards. In addition, a separate storage facility, AFR located in Tarapur, has been under the IAEA’s safeguards.

In the case of Pakistan, one of the two power reactors, KANUPP (became operational in 1972) located in Karachi, as well as two research reactors PARR-1 and 2 located in Rawalpindi, have been under the IAEA’s safeguards. However, the other power reactor CHASNUPP1 (became operational in 2000) has not been under the IAEA’s safeguards. A storage facility, Hawks Bay depot in Karachi, has also been under the IAEA’s safeguards.

Although the IAEA’s safeguards, in these three countries, have mostly been related to the imported fuel and material, as part of the efforts to integrate India, Israel and Pakistan into the nuclear non-proliferation system, the other nuclear related facilities within these countries (such as India’s 14 power reactors and eight additional ones under construction) could be negotiated to come under the IAEA’s safeguards system.

ii. Iran: A better understanding and appreciation of the internal political system of Iran would be crucial in preventing a potential regional and international crisis at this critical stage when the Additional Protocol is in the process of being presented and ratified by the Iranian Parliament (Majles) and the Council of Guardians. At the present time, the moderate elements within the Iranian political system (especially in the Foreign Ministry) have been instrumental, in a communication with the Director General of the IAEA, to commit Iran to act in accordance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol as early as 10 November 2003. On that basis, the IAEA has been able to question Iran about its past and current nuclear activities and to conduct investigations, have access to sites, nuclear sources and materials within Iran. The IAEA has been able to conduct all these activities despite the reluctance of some conservative elements in the Iranian political system who may wish to postpone any full compliance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol until the completion of the full ratification process by the Council of Guardians and Majles.

The Council of Guardians has often been associated with the conservative, hard line Islamic elements in the political system. It tends to block any 'unIslamic' laws, which may be passed by the Majles. In the context of the current uncertain security situation in the region, an international crisis (such as a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, or undue political pressure on Iran) may delay such ratification or provide excuses for the more conservative elements in the political system to justify full withdrawal from the NPT.

iii. Proposals Concerning the NPT: Long before the recent proposals on how to improve the NPT and IAEA’s safeguards system, there have been ideas and questions in both diplomatic and academic circles as to whether there was a need for any fundamental amendments to the existing NPT, or whether there was a need to interpret the existing articles of the NPT in such a way to suite the changing international security environment. However, what makes the current proposals significant is the manner in which these proposals have been put forward and being promoted. Discussions to reform the NPT and IAEA’s articles, rules and regulations should not be pursued or promoted in such a manner that a particular country or a group of countries feel alienated or threatened.

At this stage, it is not clear if the current criticisms concerning the loopholes in the NPT, as it was expressed by President Bush in his speech of 11 February 2004, or the statements of 12 February 2004 by the Director General of the IAEA about preventing any future withdrawal from the NPT under a resolution by the United Nations Security Council, would lead to any specific proposals for the amendment of the NPT under Article VIII at the 2004 NPT Preparatory Committee or the 2005 NPT Review Conference. However, if no specific proposals for the amendment of the NPT are put forward by any of the NPT member states, it is not clear how it would be possible to legitimise any changes in the interpretations of the Articles of the NPT. How could the permanent members of the Security Council initiate any prevention of withdrawal from the NPT (which has been allowed under Article X of the NPT) without any agreed and negotiated amendment to the NPT by all the state parties to the NPT?

Issues involved in nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East are invariably linked to much wider issues of management of nuclear energy/power at global level and to the changing role, rules and regulations of the NPT, IAEA and Security Council of the United Nations. Although under Article VIII of the NPT any amendment to the NPT would come into force only in relation to a particular state which would agree to ratify it (probably with a similar compliance process which has been taking place in the context of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol), one could envisage circumstances where undue political pressure on a particular country to ratify and comply with the proposed changes may force a state or many states to withdraw from the NPT. Therefore, any prospective proposals concerning the NPT should address the wider issues of disarmament, negative and positive security assurances, and confidence building measures at the international level. In the absence of this wider perspective, measures and proposals, which are aimed at enhancing the international security may, in the long term, undermine the whole structure of the nuclear non-proliferation system.

The Status of the Additional Protocol in the Middle East (April 2004):

The Additional Protocol is in force in the following countries of the Middle East region: Azerbaijan (signed on 5 July 2000, and ratified on 29 November 2000); Iran (signed on 18 December 2003; although Iran has not yet ratified the Protocol, in a communication to the Director General of 10 November 2003 Iran committed itself to act in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol with effect from that date); Jordan (signed on 28 July 1998, and ratified on 28 July 1998); Kuwait (signed on 19 June 2002, and ratified on 2 June 2003); Libya (signed on 10 March 2004; although Libya has not yet ratified the Protocol, Libya has committed itself to act in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol in effect from 19 December 2003); Turkey (signed on 6 July 2000, and ratified on 17 July 2001); Uzbekistan (signed on 22 September 1998, and ratified on 21 December 1998).

The following additional countries have also signed the Protocol, but not yet ratified it. Armenia (signed on 29 September 1997); Kazakhstan (signed on 6 February 2004); Tajikistan (signed on 7 July 2000).

Therefore, in the context of the Middle East, the following member states of the NPT have not yet signed the Additional Protocol: Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The following four states in the Middle East (Bahrain: acceded to the NPT on 3 November 1988; Qatar: acceded to the NPT on 3 April 1989; Saudi Arabia: acceded to the NPT on 3 October 1988; and Turkmenistan: acceded to the NPT on 29 September 1994) have not yet concluded the comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA, as part of their NPT Article III obligation to do so. Therefore, their signature of the Additional Protocol would become relevant only after the comprehensive safeguards agreements are concluded between these states and the IAEA.

Elahe Mohtasham, April 2004

© 2004 Elahe Mohtasham

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