On the Iranian Nuclear Issue:
Facts and Recommendations(*)
LNCV General Secretariat, Como, Italy
1. Facts on some key nuclear issues
- There are no technological "objective guarantees" for a non-proliferating use of a closed nuclear fuel cycle or for countering the development of clandestine parallel related programs.
- Any state with the capability of mastering the front and back ends of the nuclear fuel cycle has a "virtual deterrence potential".
- The Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the result of a nuclear bargain between the 5 permanent UN Security Council (UNSC) States and the others: the majority of the States acceding to the NPT as Non-Nuclear Weapons States (NNWSs) would have benefited from nuclear technologies and cooperation (Art. IV of the NPT). As a consequence of this, the NPT is intrinsically exposed to "loopholes".
- An international group of experts, appointed in June 2004 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Dr. Mohammed El Baradei to consider possible "Multilateral Nuclear Approaches - MNAs" to the civilian nuclear fuel cycle, concluded in INFCIRC/640 Report (22 February 2005), among other results, that
<<two primary deciding factors dominate all assessments of multilateral nuclear approaches, namely "assurance of non-proliferation" and "assurance of supply and services". Both are recognised overall objectives for governments and for the NPY community. In practice, each of these two objectives can seldom be achieved fully on its own. History has shown that it is even more difficult to find an optimum arrangement that will satisfy both objectives at the same time.>>
1.5. An interesting country case: Japan's complete nuclear fuel cycle activities. (These comprise enrichment, conversion, fuel fabrication, zircaloy cladding, reprocessing and radioactive waste management [see the figure]). May Japan be a model for the Islamic Republic of Iran?
Conclusions and remarks correlated to the items (1.1)-(1-5)
- An objective guarantee for the non-misuse of a civilian nuclear capability based on a closed nuclear fuel cycle cannot be based only on technological factors, but must also include political aspects. Among the latter, confidence building measures, mutual trust, non-ideological postures, international arrangements (like the MNAs), etc., are essential.
- Dr. Mohammed El Baradei has often stressed the need to enforce non-proliferation efforts by closing the current loopholes in the NPT by, for instance, at least calling all states to sign the IAEA Additional Protocol (AP) of the Safeguards, enforcing MNAs for civilian nuclear fuel cycles, sanctioning the withdrawal from the NPT of NNWSs which are of serious proliferation concern.
- Countries which are politically and economically isolated, may perceive that MNAs' assurance of supply and service could be arbitrarily halted. This means that recognition by the international community of the right of these countries to exist and to be granted a minimal level of "existential security", is an essential ground for their acceptance of any MNAs.
- Japan enjoys existential security guarantees from the US (there exists a US-Japan Defence Cooperation Agreement), it has been a member of the NPT since 1976, it has endorsed the NPT related Safeguard Agreement which came into force in 1977, has endorsed the IAEA Additional Protocol that came into force in 1999 and is benefiting from the MNAs for low enriched uranium (LEU) provisions through two companies: the US USEC and the French EURODIF. However, a combination of all these conditions cannot be achieved for other countries such as the Islamic Republic of Iran.
- Facts and perceptions underpinning the Iranian nuclear question
2.1 LNCV has always stressed (since its LNCV's Policy Paper of October 2004) that, if the international community wishes to succeed in positively changing the direction of Iran's nuclear policy, it needs to address Iran's political, economic and security concerns in a comprehensive package, as well as to refrain from challenging the very existence of the Islamic Revolution institutional framework. The correct context within which to consider the nuclear issue is to try to start from the security challenges and risks perceived by the Iranian leadership, and then to formulate measures or solutions so as to convince Iran not to cross the nuclear threshold and to remain in full compliance with its NPT provisions. Furthermore, the sustainability of the nuclear negotiation process demands the coherent and strategic involvement of all the international key actors with security concerns (and gains) in relation to the Iranian nuclear program.
2.2 The present NPT's legal framework and the perceived growing imbalance in the regime between the NWS and the NNWS preclude any attempt at creating a universal consensus for reinterpreting the NPT's Art. IV, so as to inhibit a country's right to develop research, production, use of civilian nuclear energy and participation in the exchange of materials and equipment of the nuclear fuel cycle. Therefore, a country's participation in an MNA, and hence pursuit of all its fuel cycle activities outside a national basis, may rest only on a voluntary arrangement. In this framework the covering assurances of supply and service of the front and back end of the nuclear fuel cycle would be given by a supplier state, by an international consortium of governments or by IAEA-related arrangements. Furthermore, the recipient state would, at least for the duration of the supply and service contract, halt the construction and the operation of any sensitive fuel cycle facilities (such as uranium enrichment and spent-fuel reprocessing) and related activities, and would accept the Additional Protocol of the Safeguards.
The LNCV, in its Policy Paper of October 2004, suggested that the current Iranian nuclear fuel cycle stalemate might be overcome if the Islamic Republic of Iran considers voluntarily endorsing an MNA for its nuclear fuel cycle, by accepting one of the following options:
- promoting the recently signed Russia-Iran agreement on nuclear fuel supply and spent-fuel tacking-back of the Bushehr reactors as a model and mechanism for future supply and service requirements;
- obtaining assurances from the IAEA assurances for the enrichment services provided by either (or both) of the companies, the Anglo-Dutch-Germany URENCO and the French EURODIF (in which the Islamic Republic of Iran has a stake). In other words, the Agency would act as a kind of guarantor for the enrichment services through the above facilities;
- transforming (in the case of uranium enrichment) the existing national Iranian facility at Natanz into a multinational facility under IAEA monitoring and the Additional Protocol Safeguards mechanisms (the Islamic Republic of Iran signed the Additional Protocol in December 2003 and, although it has still not ratified this, it is acting as though the protocol were already in force).
Conclusions and remarks related to item (2.1)
- The feasible solution for coping with (2.1) is the establishment of a regional Security Framework in the Middle East in the form of an ad-hoc "Multilateral Regional Security Arrangement (MRSA)" or the expansion in terms of security matters and membership of the current "Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)" to include (at least) Iran and Iraq as key members. Both such arrangements are needed for the achievement of security, stability, denuclearization (and economic improvement) in the region. The LNCV has suggested such an MRSA scenario for increasing international confidence and mutual trust and facilitating the nuclear negotiation through an International Conference co-organized with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in July 2004.
- In line with the above viewpoint, the LNCV, during a dedicated mission to Teheran in January 2005, organized under the auspices of the Italian MFA, suggested establishing a broader "parallel negotiation table" with the Islamic Republic of Iran to address all its regional, global security and political concerns not related to the nuclear issue, with the proactive role of the EU - not limited to the current EU-3 formula - the US and the Russian Federation. A formula such as the G8 might be appropriate. The structure of this parallel negotiating table should be open from the very beginning to all the significant regional actors, with a flexible mechanism and agenda.
- This track-2 G8 format non-nuclear negotiation with the Islamic Republic of Iran offers several advantages:
- the linking of nuclear technology, political security and economic counterparts to the solution of the nuclear issue within the current nuclear negotiations with the EU-3 is, in principle, a risky and restrictive tactic, especially as the three working groups that have been set up are closely inter-connected. The failure of one could have a negative domino effect on the others and produce the paradoxical result of leading to further isolation of the country.
- In particular, this parallel broader negotiation framework could render possible the involvement of mandatory actors such as the US and the Russian Federation.
- Last, but not least, it could facilitate the involvement of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the economic and political process of the neighbouring countries for rebuilding Iraq in the aftermath of its recent democratic elections, moulding a transitory Government and, at the same time, enhancing Iranian security interests, diplomatic recognition and political influence in the region.
Conclusions and remarks correlated to the item (2.2)
- It is not likely that the Islamic Republic of Iran would accept a negotiating nuclear deal package - which comprises: the MNA, international diplomatic and political recognition as an essential Middle East power and various economic inducements - due to the nationalist value attached to a fully indigenous nuclear energy and research program by the majority of reformists and conservatives in Tehran. The main obstacle to voluntary MNAs is that a multilateral arrangement today is not a universal, binding principle. In this view, the LNCV suggests creating a conductive environment for the adoption of MNAs in the Middle East by:
- setting up economic benefits that would be gained by all the countries in the region participating in the multilateral arrangements;
- linking a Middle East MNA (MEMNA) proposal to a new universal and regional political bargain in the nuclear field, by demanding:
b.1) a universal Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) for all nuclear weapons and non-NPT States (this first precondition is the universal part of the new political bargain);
b.2) a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East (this second precondition is the regional part of the bargain and must be understood as a pillar of a diplomatic process aimed at establishing establish a new security and stability order in the region in the post-Saddam Hussein era);
- The standing carrots and sticks nuclear diplomatic process with the US and the EU playing the so-called "bad cop, good cop" routine should respectively show some strategic coordination in the long term, at least with regard to the concept of a MNA in the Middle East, and rely on the effective historical US skill in managing bothersome security concerns (associated with some countries in the past) over long periods of time: therefore don't rush to reach a fast solution of the Iranian security-political nuclear conundrum!
Secretary General LNCV, Como, Italy
Director of LNCV Middle East Program, Como, Italy
Japan Nuclear Fuel Cycle Diagram
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