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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

"Uses and Abuses of Article 4 Rights under the NPT "


Bilkent University & Harvard University

International Conference on Nuclear Technology & Sustainable Development

Iranian Center for Strategic Research

Tehran, Iran

5-6 March 2005

In my presentation I will try to underline the need for a convention or an agreed-upon framework to be concluded among the States Parties to the NPT that could provide assurances to the international community that the legitimate right of acquiring and/or developing nuclear technology will, on the one hand, not be tampered with due to certain allegations or doubts about possible misuses or abuses, and , on the other hand, not enable the member states to develop "break-out" capabilities by staying in the Treaty for some time and then walking out with a unilateral declaration, possibly with the bombs in the basement, or to be developed soon. An example for such an abuse would be North Korea.

It may be worthwhile first to look at the philosophical and theoretical foundations of the nuclear non-proliferation regime at the center of which we have the NPT. Theoretically speaking, an international regime is a set of principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures that converge around a specific goal. In the specific case of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, the fundamental principle revolves around the basic understanding that nuclear energy is good and it can be further exploited, but nuclear weapons constitute a threat to international security and stability, thus their further spread should be limited.

In connection with this principle, certain norms are established in the NPT and a distinction is made between the member states. Due to conjunctural reasons at the time of negotiating the NPT, states that have managed to detonate a nuclear device prior to January 1, 1967 are counted as Nuclear Weapons States, while others, if became a member by signing and ratifying the Treaty, are listed as Non-Nuclear Weapons States. It may not make sense at first look as why a large number of states were expected, and they themselves agreed to renounce nuclear weapons. Due to increasing needs for energy of growing populations world- wide, it seemed highly promising for many developing states to embark upon nuclear energy generation projects, which were, however, beyond their technological, scientific as well as financial capabilities to achieve by themselves alone. Hence, in return for a promise to forego the option of developing nuclear weapons -something that would necessitate farther more sophisticated technological capabilities, scientific knowledge and resources anyway- they would have the chance to exploit peaceful applications of nuclear energy. That was the "basic bargain" among the States (to be) Parties to the NPT.

In connection with these principles and norms, the rule of the nuclear non-proliferation regime was to engage the IAEA in the process of providing assurances to the world society that those who were in the receiving end of nuclear technology transfer were indeed in good standing in terms of living up to their commitment to stay away from converting their capabilities from peaceful to military applications.

However, it is difficult to say that this goal was fully accomplished in reality. There have been states who have abused their Article 4 rights, such as Iraq and North Korea, while some others have not been able to benefit from being in good standing at all. I would like to stress the fact that the nuclear policies of the United States have been particularly decisive in some countries' inability to use their Article 4 rights. The United States, since the first Atomic Energy Act of 1947, has always been extremely skeptical about the possible intentions of the countries which sought nuclear technology. After long and painstaking deliberations that the US finally has agreed to share the merits of nuclear technology even with its closest allies such as the UK, France and Germany in the 1950 an d1960. It took another while for the US to smoothen its attitude toward a number of other states, while some others including its allies as well, remained in the black list who were denied nuclear technology transfer.

I can give a specific example for this category of states, one that I myself studied extensively and in-depth, as well as published. I'm talking about my country Turkey, which has had several serious attempts over the last forty years to establish large-scale nuclear power reactors, but has always failed to accomplish its goal. This was because of doubts and the worries of successive US administrations that have decided, in the final analysis, to put pressure on American as well as European firms, since the 1970s, which were about to sign a contract with the governments of Turkey.

Even though Turkey signed the NPT in 1969, ratified in 1980, and completed a Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA in 1982 for its two small research reactors, and has always been in good standing not only as an NPT member state, but also as a "staunch ally" of the US and Western European countries, it could not benefit from its NPT membership. It was the rumors about an illicit cooperation between Turkey and Pakistan, mostly propagated by their arch-rivals, namely Greece and India, respectively, has been particularly influential in having such an outcome. There were also signs that Israel, too was not comfortable with the idea of a nuclear capable Turkey whose population was, after all, predominantly Muslim. It is clear that mere doubts and allegations can be effective in preventing a state from exercising its legal right as stipulated in Article 4 of the NPT to have access to nuclear technology. Hence, something must be done to correct this situation.

In order to overcome such a difficulty, I believe the proposition of Dr. Kaveh Afrasiabi is worthy of considering in detail. As we all know, Iran is facing accusations of abusing its legitimate rights under Article 4 of the NPT. Many analysts believe that once Iran develops a "break-out" capability, enough for developing a nuclear device that can be detonated, it will terminate its membership in the NPT with a unilateral declaration, as did North Korea a couple of years ago. Notwithstanding these views, Iranian authorities have declared repeatedly that Iran's intentions are fully peaceful. However, they are far from convincing the skeptics about Iran's intentions. At this juncture, Dr. Afrasiabi's proposal, which I've read in a recent issue of the Asia Times, to provide "objective guarantees" makes a lot of sense.

Dr. Afrasiabi suggests in his article "permanent placement of IAEA inspections in Iran, whose job would be to monitor tightly the going-on at various nuclear facilities such as Bushehr power plan" and "extensive use of tamper-proof seals put on Iran's centrifuges, as well as surveillance cameras".

I believe the proposition of Dr. Kaveh Afrasiabi can be further elaborated and framed within a context that all peace-loving countries -whose declared aim would be to use the merits of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes only- would feel comfortable. As such, neither Article 4 rights could be abused by the States Parties to the Treaty, nor could they be prevented from being used by those who are and remain in good standing.





* Assoc. Prof. Mustafa Kibaroglu teaches courses on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, arms control and disarmament in the Department of International Relations at Bilkent University in Ankara. This paper is written during his sabbatical fellowship at Harvard University in 2004-2005 academic year.

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