Bye-Bye, NPT; Hello, Mushroom Cloud

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous," President Bush said as he emerged from talks with European Union leaders.


Let’s hope so.

For, according to Sirus Naseri, a senior member of Iran’s delegation to the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose Board of Governors meets next week in Vienna:

"To even imply that a nuclear-weapon state would attack [IAEA] Safeguarded facilities of a non-nuclear-weapon state pokes a hole right in the heart of the Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT], and it deserves to be rejected severely."

And, of course, Naseri is right. It was bad enough back in 1981 when the Israelis – not a party to the NPT – attacked and destroyed Osiraq, a French-supplied safeguarded research reactor in Iraq.

The United Nations Security Council strongly condemned the military attack by Israel, which it considered to be "in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct." Furthermore, the attack was "a serious threat to the entire safeguards regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the foundation of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons."

You see, the IAEA was made the international safeguardsinspectorate by Article III of the NPT.

The key to preventing nuke proliferation is the international control of the production, processing, transformation, and disposition of certain nuclear materials. In return for a promise not to acquire or seek to acquire nukes, the NPT recognizes the "inalienable right" of all signatories to enjoy the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy. But all NPT-proscribed nuclear materials – as well as the facilities in which they are stored, processed, transformed, or consumed – have to be made subject to an IAEA Safeguards Agreement.

In the event the IAEA discovers nuclear materials and/or activities that should have been declared but were not, it reports that failure to the IAEA Board of Governors. In the event the IAEA discovers the "diversion" of nuclear materials – a violation of the NPT – the IAEA Board may refer the matter to the UN Security Council for possible action.

More than a year ago, Iran voluntarily signed an Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement, vastly expanding the authority of IAEA inspectors to go anywhere and see anything. Director General Mohamed ElBaradei reported to the IAEA Board of Governors at their last meeting that after a year-long exhaustive and intrusive inspection, he had found no evidence that Iran has ever attempted to acquire nukes or the makings thereof.

Hence, there are no violations of the NPT to report to the Security Council.

Well, the neo-crazies have gone ballistic. That’s twice – first Iraq and now Iran – ElBaradei has given the lie to their charges that Islamic states had clandestine nuclear weapons programs in violation of the NPT.

But Bush is determined to get the "nuclear crisis" in Iran before the Security Council, somehow, so that he can get another ambiguous resolution that he could then use to justify an attack – by the U.S. or Israel – on Iran’s safeguarded facilities.

So what conceivable rationale could Bush manufacture?

Well, later in the U.S.-EU news conference Bush made this claim:

"The reason we’re having these discussions is because [the Iranians] were caught enriching uranium after they had signed a treaty saying they wouldn’t enrich uranium. These discussions are occurring because they have breached a contract with the international community. They’re the party that needs to be held to account, not any of us."

Bush manufactured all that. The EU-Iran agreement – which is being monitored by the IAEA – is not a treaty. In any case, the Iranians were not "caught" enriching uranium. As best the IAEA can determine, the Iranians have yet to enrich any uranium. The Iranians merely agreed to suspend for six months or so any attempt to do so. They did not – initially – agree to suspend the manufacture of gas centrifuges for enriching uranium. However, as a "confidence-building measure," they voluntarily agreed a few months ago to suspend those activities, too.

But if the Europeans don’t live up to their end of the agreement – and Bush is determined to see that they won’t or can’t – the Iranians have announced that they intend to resume – probably in June – all the IAEA-safeguarded activities they have currently suspended.

Maybe that’s why the worst-kept secret in Washington is that we – in cahoots with our "ally" Israel – are planning to "take out" those safeguarded facilities in June.

So bye-bye, NPT. Hello, mushroom-shaped clouds.

Read more by Gordon Prather

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. — ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.