Barack W. Obama: Strengthening NPT

Well, you were probably happy to learn Susan Burk – now President Obama’s Special Representative for Nuclear NonProliferation and former head of President Clinton’s delegation to the 1995 Review Conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – told the folks at the Geneva Center for Security Policy last week, on the eve of the September meeting of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, that the world now has a real opportunity to "strengthen" the NPT-IAEA associated nuclear-weapons proliferation-prevention regime and that the Obama-Biden administration was determined to make an ambitious effort to do so.

According to Burk, there is a perception that, as result of certain actions in recent years, the NPT-IAEA regime is doomed to collapse and "that is a view that is wrong and must be refuted."

It is more than a "perception," Burk.

Most members of the IAEA General Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab League, even the UN General Conference, itself, reckon that the Bush-Cheney-Bolton administration deliberately set out to emasculate the NPT-IAEA nuke proliferation-prevention regime. And largely succeeded.

Never mind, that in "celebrating" the 40th anniversary of the NPT at last years Conference on Disarmament, Dubya’s Representative Garold Larson began by claiming that:

"President Bush has reaffirmed the strong support of the United States for the NPT and our commitment to work diligently to strengthen it further."

You see, arguably, the United States is the most flagrant violator of NPT commitments, frequently intervening to prevent other NPT-signatories from exercising their "inalienable rights," affirmed under the NPT, to access nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, "without discrimination."

And, at this point, it’s worth noting that the NPT – in and of itself – contains no enforcement mechanism, whatsoever.

(Bush-Cheney-Bolton wanted all the NPT-signatories to "elect" them NPT-enforcer. And failing that, sign-on to their NPT-alternative, the Proliferation Security Initiative.)

So, NPT-drafters had taken advantage of the existing Safeguards System of the International Atomic Energy Agency, requiring that each no-nuke NPT-signatory enter into a bilateral "safeguards" agreement with the IAEA "with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons."

The principal mission of the IAEA was – and still is – to facilitate "the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity, throughout the world."

But the IAEA – in carrying out its principal mission – "shall ensure, so far as it is able" that materials and activities under its "supervision" are not "diverted" so as "to further any military purpose."

Whenever the IAEA’s inspectors detect possible "diversion," the Director-General reports that to the Board of Governors. The Board can then decide – by a two-thirds majority – whether or not the "diversion" furthers "any military purpose" and should be reported to the UN Security Council for possible action.

In Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s opening statement to the 2000 NPT Review Conference held at UN Headquarters, she encouraged conferees to focus on three key issues: how the treaty is working to (a) prevent nuclear proliferation, (b) advance nuclear disarmament, and (c) enhance cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The final report of the 2000 NPT RevCon proceeded to "affirm":

"An unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament to which all states parties are committed under Article VI.

"The importance and urgency of signatures and ratifications, without delay and without conditions and in accordance with constitutional processes, to achieve the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty."


"The [2000] Conference reaffirms that IAEA is the competent authority responsible for verifying and assuring … compliance with its safeguards agreements … with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.… It is the conviction of the [2000] Conference that nothing should be done to undermine the authority of IAEA in this regard.

"The [2000] Conference notes the reaffirmation by the nuclear-weapon states of their commitment to the United Nations Security Council resolution 984 (1995) on security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon states parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons."

How’s that for strengthening the NPT?

Of course, at the 2005 NPT RevCon, Bush-Cheney-Bolton prevented the 2000 NPT RevCon Final Report – including all the affirmations made within – from even being discussed, much less re-affirmed.

So, is Burk referring to the actions taken by the Bush-Cheney-Bolton administration to repeatedly violate the NPT, subvert the NPT and to corrupt the IAEA Board of Governors ?

Well, no.

Burk first cited action was the sale of what she called "sensitive nuclear technology" (in reality, uranium-enrichment equipment, quite openly for sale, internationally, in 2000) by A. Q. Khan, Director of Pakistan’s Khan Research Lab (sales, perfectly legal under the NPT since Pakistan is not a signatory).

Next cited was North Korea’s withdrawal (perfectly legal, resulting from serious Bush-Cheney-Bolton threats and provocations) from the NPT and subsequent development and testing of nuclear weapons (all perfectly legal since North Korea is no longer a NPT-signatory or a signatory to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty).

After that Burk cited "violations" of the NPT by NPT-signatory Iran and by North Korea (while still a signatory).

Finally she cited NPT-signatory Syria’s construction of "a covert nuclear reactor."

Incredible! Unbelievable! Bizarre! NPT-strengthener Burk seems to be channeling NPT-emasculator Bonkers Bolton!

Not only have Iran, Syria and North Korea not violated the NPT, but none of the three has ever been determined by the IAEA Secretariat – despite exhaustive on-the-ground inspections – to have diverted NPT-proscribed materials to a military purpose.

Actually, if President Obama really wants to strengthen the NPT-IAEA regime, he ought to study the remarks made by Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi at the conclusion of that Bush-Cheney-Bolton sabotaged 2005 NPT RevCon.

Speaking, as it were, for most delegates to that disaster, including members of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League, he said;

"Following the major efforts by states parties to strengthen the treaty, the 2000 NPT Review Conference welcomed enthusiastically ‘the unequivocal undertakings by the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament, to which all States Parties are committed under Article VI.’

"Therefore, we propose that the Conference would establish an ad hoc committee to work on a draft legally binding instrument, on providing security assurances by the five nuclear-weapon states to non-nuclear-weapon states parties to the treaty, and to submit the draft of the legal instrument to the next review conference for its consideration and adoption."

Why is what the Iranian delegate to the 2005 NPT RevCon said worth studying by Obama?

Well, it is more than likely that the President of the 2010 NPT RevCon – to be selected by members of the NAM – will be the Iranian delegate.

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.