Monthly Archives: September 2015

Further use of nuclear weapons would be ‘horrific,’ Ban says on International Day

UN News Centre | 26 September 2015

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Sculpture depicting St. George slaying the dragon. The dragon is created from fragments of Soviet SS-20 and United States Pershing nuclear missiles. UN Photo/Milton Grant

 

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today highlighted that 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the first and last use of a nuclear weapon in war, as he renewed his call for complete global nuclear disarmament.

“The norm against the use of nuclear weapons – the most destructive weapons ever created, with potentially unparalleled human costs – has stood strong for seven decades,” Mr. Ban said in a message for the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, observed annually on 26 September.

“But the only absolute guarantee that they are never used again is through their total elimination,” he added.

The UN chief recalled that the international community has proclaimed the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, but that unfortunately there are growing rifts between Member States about how and when to achieve it.

“This was on stark display during the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in May of this year,” Mr. Ban noted. “I call on all States to engage constructively to find a way forward.”

He further underlined that the elimination of nuclear weapons would also free up vast amounts of resources that could be used to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted yesterday by world leaders at the General Assembly.

The new framework includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to build on the work of the historic Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years.

“The consequences of any further use of nuclear weapons, whether intentional or by mistake, would be horrific,” Mr. Ban warned, adding that when it comes to the common objective of nuclear disarmament, the global community must act now.


Rouhani: There Are ‘Differing Viewpoints’ In Iran Over Nuclear Deal

NPR | Scott Neuman | September 27, 2015

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Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani prepares to speak with NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Saturday in New York City. Rouhani spoke about the recent nuclear deal between the United States and Iran.

Bryan Thomas for NPR

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani tells NPR that much like in the United States, there are in his country “two differing viewpoints” on the six-party nuclear deal – one that is cautiously optimistic of success and another which is highly skeptical of Washington’s desire to live up to its end of the bargain.

Rouhani, speaking to Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep in an interview to be aired on Monday, also says that Iran is prepared to discuss options for Syria after the Islamic State is defeated, but that those allied against ISIS must first come together to “drive out the terrorists.”

In the 40-minute interview, Rouhani touched on the agreement struck in July to limit Tehran’s nuclear program, saying that there are those in Iran who “question whether [there is] a real political will to adhere to the letter of this agreement.”

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that he takes a “wait and see” approach to the deal. Rouhani tells Steve that some in his country “have a very negative viewpoint, they say that our counterparts, including the United States will not live up to their commitment.

“You do know that some of the congressmen and women, some of the senators here in the United States have said very clearly — or written letters to that effect — that after the end of the Obama administration, [they] will not keep the government’s commitment to this agreement,” he says.

“So, all of these are things preoccupy and worry some folks back in Iran as well,” Rouhani continues.

On Syria, Rouhani emphasizes that predominately Shiite Tehran — supportive of the regime of President Bashar Assad — is most concerned with eliminating the threat from the Sunni-dominated Islamic State militia, which has captured large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and carried out atrocities against civilians in the areas they control.

He says that Iran is prepared to “to start holding discussions and dialogues” on a post-ISIS Syria, but that the powers allied fighting the extremist group, which includes Russia, “must all act in unison and have a formula that is required to drive out the terrorists, immediately.”

His remarks in the interview recorded Saturday come amid an announcement from Iraq that it has agreed to intelligence sharing with Tehran and Moscow as part of the fight against the Islamic State. Last week, Russia deployed warplanes to a forward base at Latakia, Syria, from where they are poised to conduct airstrikes against the extremist group.

“We can right now, absolutely we should speak about the upcoming options. And the Syrian government can also step in and give its opinion so that we have all of the interested parties expressing their opinions so that in aggregate we can reach a plan of action. But of course we do believe that at the end of the day, the last word and the most important word is spoken by the people” of Syria, Rouhani tells NPR.

On Friday, in a meeting with editors, reporters and program hosts from news organizations in a hotel near the United Nations headquarters in New York, Rouhani said Tehran had “a close relationship with Russia” and that “[many] weapons being used in Syria are Russian.

“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin told me recently that he wants to be more active in fighting ISIS,” Rouhani said, but added that there was “no coalition” between Tehran and Moscow against the Islamic State.

UK Labour Party to vote on scrapping nuclear weapons

Global News | AP | Jill Lawless | September 27, 2015

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LONDON – Could Britain give up the Bomb?

For six decades, British governments have considered unilateral nuclear disarmament unthinkable — but the once-unthinkable is the Labour Party’s new normal. Britain’s main opposition party has just elected a leader from the radical left, and this week party members may commit a future Labour government to scrapping Britain’s Trident nuclear arms program.

It’s the latest signal that new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is prepared to consider policies that were off the agenda for decades, from nationalizing industry to diverging on foreign policy from the United States.

“I want us to fulfil our obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” Corbyn said Sunday, as Labour’s annual conference opened in the seaside resort of Brighton — with a debate on nuclear weapons scheduled for the first time in many years. “Hence non-renewal of Trident.

“This is a weapon of mass destruction.”

The conference debate is a victory for anti-nuclear activists like Kate Hudson, secretary-general of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, who says a vote to scrap nuclear arms would bring Labour policy “in line with the needs of the age — and of the British people.”

But it’s a source of despair for Labour centrists, who think the party faces electoral oblivion under Corbyn.

John McTernan, a former aide to Prime Minister Tony Blair, argues that nuclear weapons are “deeply and broadly supported” by British voters.

“So to make the centerpiece of your first conference a turn towards unilateralism is a resounding signal to the public that you don’t want to be a party of government,” he said.

The divide between pro- and anti-nuclear forces has long been a fault-line in the Labour Party. It was Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s Labour government that developed atomic weapons in the years following World War II, making Britain the world’s third nuclear-armed state after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Every British government since then — Labour, Conservative or coalition — has maintained nuclear weapons. Since the 1990s, Britain’s nuclear deterrent has consisted of four Royal Navy submarines armed with Trident missiles.

Labour briefly adopted a policy of unilateral disarmament under leader Michael Foot, whose election-losing 1983 party manifesto was described by one Labour lawmaker as “the longest suicide note in history.”

Labour’s 1980s defeats led Blair and other young leaders to create “New Labour,” repositioning the party as patriotic, pro-business and strong on defence. They also centralized control over communications and decision-making, turning Labour conferences from heated policy-making meetings to slick political pep rallies.

New Labour won three consecutive elections from 1997, but the party lost power in 2010 and was trounced by Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives in a May election that focused largely on perceptions of economic competence.

Party members reacted by turning away from Blairism, derided by those on the left as “Tory-lite” policies. This month Labour elected Corbyn, a 66-year-old backbench lawmaker who promises to combine old-school socialism with a new style of politics. He is a sharp critic of Blair-era pro-business economics and international military engagements — notably the 2003 invasion of Iraq — and advocates more grassroots democracy in the party. Corbyn has confirmed that if conference delegates vote to scrap Trident, it will become Labour policy.

That could commit Labour lawmakers to back disarmament when Parliament decides next year how to replace the aging Trident system — a stance many legislators would find hard to stomach.

The outcome of the conference vote is hard to predict. Corbyn is a lifelong opponent of nuclear weapons, but several in his top team disagree. Labour foreign affairs spokesman Hilary Benn told the BBC last week that he wanted to see a nuclear-free world, “but I don’t believe for one second that if Britain were to give up its deterrent any other of the nuclear states would give theirs up.”

Trade unions, whose votes carry half the weight at Labour conferences, are also divided, since the defence industry supports thousands of skilled jobs.

Richard Whitman, an associate fellow at international affairs think-tank Chatham House, said whichever way it goes, the nuclear debate is a “tectonic-plate moment” for Labour.

“I think the vote outcome is less important than the disagreements it will publicly expose,” he said. “Defence and security has been an issue that the Labour Party has been very, very keen to keep mainstream, certainly since the 1980s.”

Corbyn’s supporters say the nuclear debate is a chance for Labour to embrace a new kind of radical politics that will draw in disillusioned voters.

McTernan and other centrists think it will have the opposite result.

“Having lost an election by being economically incredible, the Labour Party now proposes to be incredible, unbelievable and unsafe on national security,” he said.

 

Making money off Nuclear Apocalypse while obsessing about Non-Nuclear Iran

Juan Cole | Richard Krushnic & Jonathan Alan King | (Tomdispatch.com) | Sep 23, 2015

Imagine for a moment a genuine absurdity: somewhere in the United States, the highly profitable operations of a set of corporations were based on the possibility that sooner or later your neighborhood would be destroyed and you and all your neighbors annihilated.  And not just you and your neighbors, but others and their neighbors across the planet. What would we think of such companies, of such a project, of the mega-profits made off it?

In fact, such companies do exist. They service the American nuclear weapons industry and the Pentagon’s vast arsenal of potentially world-destroying weaponry.  They make massive profits doing so, live comfortable lives in our neighborhoods, and play an active role in Washington politics.  Most Americans know little or nothing about their activities and the media seldom bother to report on them or their profits, even though the work they do is in the service of an apocalyptic future almost beyond imagining.

Add to the strangeness of all that another improbability.  Nuclear weapons have been in the headlines for years now and yet all attention in this period has been focused like a spotlight on a country that does not possess a single nuclear weapon and, as far as the American intelligence community can tell, has shown no signs of actually trying to build one.  We’re speaking, of course, of Iran.  Almost never in the news, on the other hand, are the perfectly real arsenals that could actually wreak havoc on the planet, especially our own vast arsenal and that of our former superpower enemy, Russia.

In the recent debate over whether President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran will prevent that country from ever developing such weaponry, you could search high and low for any real discussion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, even though the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists estimates that it contains about 4,700 active warheads.  That includes a range of bombs and land-based and submarine-based missiles. If, for instance, a single Ohio Class nuclear submarine — and the Navy has 14 of them equipped with nuclear missiles — were to launch its 24 Trident missiles, each with 12 independently targetable megaton warheads, the major cities of any targeted country in the world could be obliterated and millions of people would die.

Indeed, the detonations and ensuing fires would send up so much smoke and particulates into the atmosphere that the result would be a nuclear winter, leading to worldwide famine and the possible deaths of hundreds of millions, including Americans (no matter where the missiles went off).  Yet, as if in a classic Dr. Seuss book, one would have to add: that is not all, oh, no, that is not all.  At the moment, the Obama administration is planning for the spending of up to a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to modernize and upgrade America’s nuclear forces.

Given that the current U.S. arsenal represents extraordinary overkill capacity — it could destroy many Earth-sized planets — none of those extra taxpayer dollars will gain Americans the slightest additional “deterrence” or safety. For the nation’s security, it hardly matters whether, in the decades to come, the targeting accuracy of missiles whose warheads would completely destroy every living creature within a multi-mile radius was reduced from 500 meters to 300 meters.  If such “modernization” has no obvious military significance, why the push for further spending on nuclear weapons?

One significant factor in the American nuclear sweepstakes goes regularly unmentioned in this country: the corporations that make up the nuclear weapons industry.  Yet the pressures they are capable of exerting in favor of ever more nuclear spending are radically underestimated in what passes for “debate” on the subject.

Privatizing Nuclear Weapons Development

Start with this simple fact: the production, maintenance, and modernization of nuclear weapons are sources of super profits for what is, in essence, a cartel.  They, of course, encounter no competition for contracts from offshore competitors, given that it’s the U.S. nuclear arsenal we’re talking about, and the government contracts offered are screened from critical auditing under the guise of national security.  Furthermore, the business model employed is “cost-plus,” which means that no matter how high cost overruns may be compared to original bids, contractors receive a guaranteed profit percentage above their costs. High profits are effectively guaranteed, no matter how inefficient or over-budget the project may become.  In other words, there is no possibility of contractors losing money on their work, no matter how inefficient they may be (a far cry from a corporate free-market model of production).

Those well-protected profits and the firms raking them in have become a major factor in the promotion of nuclear weapons development, undermining any efforts at nuclear disarmament of almost any sort.  Part of this process should be familiar indeed, since it’s an extension of a classic Pentagon formula that Columbia University industrial economist Seymour Melman once described so strikingly in his books and articles, a formula that infamously produced $436 hammers and $6,322 coffee makers.

Given the process and the profits, the weapons contractors have a vested interest in ensuring that the American public has a heightened sense of danger and insecurity (even as they themselves have become a leading source of such danger and insecurity).  Recently, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) produced a striking report, “Don’t Bank on the Bomb,” documenting the major corporate contractors and their investors who will reap those mega-profits from the coming nuclear weapons upgrades.

Given the penumbra of national security that envelops the country’s nuclear weapons programs, authentic audits of the contracts of these companies are not available to the public. However, at least the major corporations profiting from nuclear weapons contracts can now be identified. In the area of nuclear delivery systems — bombers, missiles, and submarines — these include a series of familiar corporate names: Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, GenCorp Aerojet, Huntington Ingalls, and Lockheed Martin. In other areas like nuclear design and production, the names at the top of the list will be less well known: Babcock & Wilcox, Bechtel, Honeywell International, and URS Corporation. When it comes to nuclear weapons testing and maintenance, contractors include Aecom, Flour, Jacobs Engineering, and SAIC; missile targeting and guidance firms include Alliant Techsystems and Rockwell Collins.

To give a small sampling of the contracts: In 2014, Babcock & Wilcox was awarded $76.8 million for work on upgrading the Ohio class submarines. In January 2013, General Dynamics Electric Boat Division was awarded a $4.6 billion contract to design and develop a next-generation strategic deterrent submarine. More of what is known of such corporate weapons contracts can be found in the ICAN Report, which also identified banks and other financial institutions investing in the nuclear weapons corporations.

Many Americans are unaware that much of the responsibility for nuclear weapons development, production, and maintenance lies not with the Pentagon but the Department of Energy (DOE), which spends more on nuclear weapons than it does on developing sustainable energy sources.  Key to the DOE’s nuclear project are the federal laboratories where nuclear weapons are designed, built, and tested. They include Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in Livermore, California.  These, in turn, reflect a continuing trend in national security affairs, so-called GOCO sites (“government owned, contractor operated”). At the labs, this system represents a corporatization of the policies of nuclear deterrence and other nuclear weapons strategies. Through contracts with URS, Babcock & Wilcox, the University of California, and Bechtel, the nuclear weapons labs are to a significant extent privatized. The LANL contract alone is on the order of $14 billion. Similarly, the Savannah River Nuclear Facility, in Aiken, South Carolina, where nuclear warheads are manufactured, is jointly run by Flour, Honeywell International, and Huntington Ingalls Industries. Their DOE contract for operating it through 2016 totals about $8 billion dollars. In other words, in these years that have seen the rise of the warrior corporation and a significant privatization of the U.S. military and the intelligence community, a similar process has been underway in the world of nuclear weaponry.

In addition to the prime nuclear weapons contractors, there are hundreds of subcontractors, some of which depend upon those subcontracts for the bulk of their business. Any one of them may have from 100 to several hundred employees working on its particular component or system and, with clout in local communities, they help push the nuclear modernization program via their congressional representatives.

One of the reasons nuclear weapons profitability is extremely high is that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the Department of Energy, responsible for the development and operations of the DOE’s nuclear weapons facilities, does not monitor subcontractors, which makes it difficult to monitor prime contractors as well. For example, when the Project on Government Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information on Babock & Wilcox, the subcontractor for security at the Y-12 nuclear complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the NNSA responded that it had no information on the subcontractor.  Babcock & Wilcox was then in charge of building a uranium processing facility at Y-12.  It, in turn, subcontracted design work to four other companies and then failed to consolidate or supervise them.  This led to an unusable design, which was only scrapped after the subcontractors had received $600 million for work that was useless.  This Oak Ridge case, in turn, triggered a Government Accountability Office report to Congress last May indicating that such problems were endemic to the DOE’s nuclear weapons facilities.

The Nuclear Lobbyists

Federal tax dollars expended on nuclear weapons maintenance and development are a significant component of the federal budget. Although difficult to pin down precisely, the sums run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. In 2005, the Government Accountability Office reported that even the Pentagon had no firm numbers when it came to how much the nuclear mission costs, nor is there a standalone nuclear weapons budget of any sort, so overall costs must be estimated. Analyzing the budgets of the Pentagon and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, as well as information gleaned from Congressional testimony, the Center for Nonproliferation Studies suggests that, from 2010-2018, the United States will spend at least $179 billion to maintain the current nuclear triad of missiles, bombers, and submarines, with their associated nuclear weaponry, while beginning the process of developing their next-generation replacements.  The Congressional Budget Office projects the cost of nuclear forces for 2015-2024 at $348 billion, or $35 billion annually, of which the Pentagon will spend $227 billion and the Department of Energy $121 billion.

In fact, the price for maintaining and developing the nuclear arsenal is actually far greater than either of those estimates.  While those numbers include most of the direct costs of nuclear weapons and strategic launching systems like missiles and submarines, as well as the majority of the costs for the military personnel responsible for maintaining, operating, and executing the missions, they don’t include many other expenses, including the decommissioning process and nuclear-waste disposal issues involved in “retiring” weapons.  Nor do they include the pensions and health-care costs that will go with retiring their human operators.

In 2012, a report from a high-level committee chaired by former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright concluded that “no sensible argument has been put forward for using nuclear weapons to solve any of the major 21st century problems we face [including] threats posed by rogue states, failed states, proliferation, regional conflicts, terrorism, cyber warfare, organized crime, drug trafficking, conflict-driven mass migration of refugees, epidemics, or climate change. In fact, nuclear weapons have on balance arguably become more a part of the problem than any solution.”

Not surprisingly, for the roster of corporations involved in the U.S. nuclear programs, this matters little.  They, in fact, maintain elaborate lobbying operations in support of their continuing nuclear weapons contracts. In a 2012 study for the Center for International Policy, “Bombs vs. Budgets: Inside the Nuclear Weapons Lobby,” William Hartung and Christine Anderson reported that, for the elections of that year, the top 14 contractors gave nearly $3 million directly to Congressional legislators.  Not surprisingly, half that sum went to members of the four key committees or subcommittees that oversee spending for nuclear arms.

In 2015, the defense industry mobilized a small army of at least 718 lobbyists and doled out more than $67 million dollars pressuring Congress for increased weapons spending generally.  Among the largest contributors were corporations with significant nuclear weapons contracts, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics. Such pro-nuclear lobbying is augmented by contributions and pressure from missile and aircraft companies that are primarily non-nuclear. Some of the systems they produce, however, are potentially dual-use (conventional and nuclear), which means that a robust nuclear weapons program increases their potential market.

The continuing pressure of Congressional Republicans for cuts in domestic social programs are a crucial mechanism that ensures federal tax dollars will be available for lucrative military contracts. In terms of quality of life (and death), this means that underestimating the influence of the nuclear weapons industry is singularly dangerous.  For the $35 billion or more the U.S. taxpayer will put into such weaponry annually to support the narrow interests of a modest number of companies, the payback is fear of an apocalyptic future. After all, unlike almost all other corporate lobbies, the nuclear weapons lobby (and so your tax dollars) put life on Earth at risk of rapid extinction, either following the direct destruction of a nuclear holocaust or a radical reduction in sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface that would come from the sort of nuclear winter that would follow almost any nuclear exchange. At the moment, the corporate-nuclear complex is hidden in our midst, its budgets and funds shielded from public scrutiny, its project hardly noticed. It’s a formula for disaster.

Jonathan Alan King is professor of molecular biology at MIT and chair of the Nuclear Abolition Committee of Massachusetts Peace Action. He can be reached at Jonking1@verizon.net. Richard Krushnic is a former real estate loan asset manager and housing and business contract analyst at Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development. He is currently involved in community development in Latin America and can be reached at rkrushnic@gmail.com

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Copyright 2015 Richard Krushnic and Jonathan Alan King

Via Tomdispatch.com

Researchers: More than 70% of No. 2 reactor’s fuel may have melted

The Asahi Shimbun | Hiromi Kumai | September 27, 2015

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The No. 2 reactor building of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in September 2013 (Pool)

More than 70 percent of the fuel may have melted in one of the three reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that suffered meltdowns in the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster, researchers reported on Sept. 26.

The group, which includes researchers from Nagoya University, concluded that it is highly likely that 70 to 100 percent of the fuel has melted in the No. 2 reactor through inspecting the interior using a fluoroscopic device, which utilizes elementary particles called muons.

It was the second time that researchers successfully scanned the interior of the damaged reactors using a fluoroscopic device since a group led by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled plant, announced the results of its survey inside the No. 1 reactor in March.

In cooperation with the electronics firm Toshiba Corp., the group, led by Nagoya University researchers, has conducted a probe into the No. 2 reactor since last year.

The survey detected few signs of nuclear fuel remaining in the reactor core, in contrast to the No. 5 reactor, which was not affected by the nuclear disaster, triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The researchers released their report at a meeting of the Physical Society of Japan in Osaka on Sept. 26.

TEPCO had reported earlier that it is likely that a portion of the nuclear fuel remains in the core of the No. 2 reactor based on the results of its computer analysis.

‘We can speed up nuclear disarmament process’

CommonSpace | Michael Gray | 24th September 2015

Austrian ambassador in Scotland: ‘We can speed up nuclear disarmament process’

Alexander Kmentt speaks of growing international action in opposition to weapons of mass destruction

PRESSURE is building on nuclear weapons states to speed up their legal commitments to disarm their weapons of mass destruction, according to the Austrian ambassador for disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.

Alexander Kmentt, speaking at the Scottish Parliament of a growing international movement to ban the weapons, explained to CommonSpace that non-nuclear nations are becoming impatient for change.

“There is a new awareness of a change in the humanitarian impact of the use of nuclear weapons. There is a need to consider security in a broader sense. Consider the threats and risks associated with nuclear weapons. For countries in Africa there is now a growing awareness of how the use of nuclear weapons would impact on issues such as harvests and food security.

“The same is true for issues surrounding health impacts and the environment. Even the countries that do have nuclear weapons concede that the use of nuclear weapons would have a disastrous impact. It’s necessary to talk about nuclear weapons in these broader terms.”

Kmentt was a lead organiser of the third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, which took place in December 2014 with a record 158 states in attendance.

Over three quarters of the world’s states are now part of a process to eliminate nuclear weapons, and over 100 states have signed a statement led by the Austrian government in favour of abolition.

Increasingly, the UK Government and the other six nuclear powers are isolated within the field of international states and policy makers.

“There was an expectation that this would change after the end of the Cold War,” explains Kmentt. “But there hasn’t been as great a change as was expected, with the nuclear powers maintaining and updating their nuclear weapons systems.”

With Russia, the USA and the UK all looking to update delivery systems for weapons on mass destruction, the majority of countries in the world still face a substantial barrier to persuade nuclear states to disarm.

“It might be a generation long project. Certainly at the current rate of disarmament it will be a multi-generation project. But it doesn’t need to be. When nuclear weapons states make the decision to update their weapons it is a political decision. They don’t have to do it.

“Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty calls on states to take steps to reduce their weapons systems over time. At recent conferences it has been argued by non-nuclear weapons states that updating weapons systems goes against the spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Janet Fenton from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom was hopeful that international action will have an impact on domestic politics in the UK.

Fenton compared renewing nuclear weapons in a world increasingly trying to ban them to buying a car in a town that is about to ban vehicles.

“The global community is saying that it is opposed to nuclear weapons. Although the dinosaurs in the UK establishment may try to hold out against that, it’s a pressure that will build and build,” she said.

Kmentt and Fenton were involved in a public event at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday discussing progress for the peace movement both in Scotland and across the world.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recommitted herself to nuclear disarmament following the event, which focused especially on the relationship between gender and military policy.

The event coincided with UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stating that the party will change its policy to oppose nuclear weapons if the Labour membership backs a motion to that effect during its October conference.

Picture courtesy of Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention

Dealen met Iran

Commentaar VredesMagazine | september 2015

Henk van der Keur | 25 september 2015

De vijf permanente leden van de VN-Veiligheidsraad plus Duitsland sloten in juli een nucleaire overeenkomst met Iran. Het is verheugend dat de Verenigde Staten en Iran na bijna twee jaar onderhandelen en 35 jaar vijandschap een akkoord hebben bereikt in Wenen. Als het onder de huidige politieke omstandigheden op een mislukking was uitgelopen, zou het al jaren etterende conflict kunnen escaleren en leiden tot onvoorspelbare gevolgen voor de regio. Beide partijen hebben tijdens de succesvolle onderhandelingen aanzienlijke concessies gedaan, die de extreme vijandigheid die door de jaren heen in de VS is opgebouwd zal helpen matigen.

In de westerse media is Iran steevast neergezet als een land dat bezig zou zijn met de ontwikkeling van kernwapens. Maar volgens onafhankelijke deskundigen, waaronder Dan Joyner, en de historicus en onderzoeksjournalist Gareth Porter zijn er geen bewijzen voor deze beschuldigingen. Het zou gaan om ‘bewijsmateriaal’ dat geconstrueerd is op basis een situatie van voor 2002, waarbij Iran zijn kernenergieprogramma mogelijk zou hebben willen aanwenden voor militaire bedoelingen. Porter toont met een overvloed aan bewijsmateriaal aan dat Iran – in elk geval sinds 2002 – de verplichtingen die het is aangegaan onder het non-proliferatieverdrag (NPV) keurig naleeft.

Eigenlijk gaat het niet over kernwapens, maar heeft het vooral een politieke betekenis. Het laat zien dat geschillen tussen staten niet met wapens hoeven worden beslecht, maar dat er ook over kan worden onderhandeld. Dat betekent een belangrijke omwenteling in de politieke verhoudingen tussen de VS en Iran. De vijandschap vond zijn oorsprong in de Amerikaanse staatsgreep in Iran in 1953, waarbij de democratisch gekozen premier Mohammad Mosaddegh vanwege oliebelangen werd afgezet. De tiran sjah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi verving de democratie met zijn autoritaire monarchistische regime. In 1979 kwam via een revolutie de geestelijk leider Khomeiny aan de macht. Studenten bezetten de Amerikaanse ambassade en gijzelden vijftien maanden lang 52 personeelsleden. Dat leidde weer tot vergelding van de Amerikanen. De VS steunden de Iraakse dictator Saddam Hoessein in de oorlog met Iran (1980-88). In 1988 schoten de VS een civiel toestel van Iran Air neer, waarbij alle 290 inzittenden werden gedood. (Washington beweert dat het een ongeluk was.) Ondanks een handreiking van Iran aan Washington in 2003, deelde president Bush het land in bij de “As van het Kwaad”. Toen het kernenergieprogramma van Iran zich uitbreidde, viel de VS hun computers aan met malware (Stuxnet), waarmee het de eerste cyberwar in de geschiedenis lanceerde. Tegelijkertijd legde Washington economische sancties op en trof daarbij vooral de olie- en gasproductie, de belangrijkste inkomstenbron van Iran. Kortom, in de afgelopen 36 jaar was de relatie tussen beide landen vijandig, antagonistisch, niet productief, en vaak gewoon gemeen. Het nucleaire akkoord bindt de VS en Iran tot een jarenlang engagement en laat de deur open voor een hechtere relatie. Daarmee is een enorme vooruitgang geboekt in de relaties tussen de beide landen.

Helaas wordt het enthousiasme getemperd door de Amerikaanse politieke beschouwingen over de overeenkomst in het Amerikaanse Congres. Naast republikeinen hebben invloedrijke democratische senatoren als Chuck Schumer zich tegen het akkoord uitgesproken. President Obama heeft aangekondigd zijn veto te zullen uitspreken. Maar het zou best kunnen zijn dat Schumer c.s. voldoende stemmen weet te winnen om de overeenkomst alsnog te verwerpen. Een groot deel van het probleem is dat de regering Obama weinig onderneemt tegen de hardnekkige beeldvorming dat Iran er op uit zou zijn om kernwapens te verwerven.

Westerse multinationale ondernemingen staan te trappelen om na opheffing van de sancties weer zaken te gaan doen met Iran, een opkomende grootmacht in het Midden-Oosten. Vooralsnog kijkt Iran voor uitbreiding van handel vooral naar het Oosten. Zowel Iran als Turkije hebben concrete stappen gezet om lid te worden van de Shanghai Samenwerkingsorganisatie, een unie van economische samenwerking in Eurazië, waarvan naast – vanzelfsprekend – China, en Rusland inmiddels ook India en Pakistan deel uitmaken. Als het zover zou komen dat Amerikaanse Congres de nucleaire overeenkomst afwijst, zal dat op een enorm gezichtverlies betekenen voor de regering Obama en de tanende invloed van de VS in de regio verder doen versnellen.