Nukes, Iran, the UN: a grave mistake

Feature story - February 4, 2006
Somewhere out there, the only winners in the current conflict over Iran's nuclear programme are rubbing their hands with glee. They love hearing about the "inalienable right" to build nuclear power plants. They love watching nuclear superpowers try to bully non-nuclear states into agreeing not to develop nukes, yet fail to explain why they themselves haven't gotten rid of theirs. They love seeing nuclear weapons being presented as the measure of a country's greatness. That's because the only winners in this conflict sell the stuff that makes all this war drumming possible. They sell nuclear power plants. They build nuclear weapons.

For the same investment, wind generates 5 times the jobs and 2.3 times the power as a nuclear reactor.

TheInternational Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Board of Governers voted onSaturday, 27 to 3, with 5 abstentions,  to report Iran to the UNSecurityCouncil over allegations that it is pursuing a programme to acquirenuclear weapons.  

This decision is a grave mistake which threatens to further escalate tensions in the region.

Greenpeace is opposed to any nation acquiring nuclear technology andnuclear weapons, including Iran. But we believe the best way to ensurethat doesn't happen is for the IAEA to have continued access to Iranian facilities.  Iran hasalready made clear that if the matter goes to the Security Council itwill restrict inspections and no longer comply with requests to revealinformation above and beyond what is legally required under existingtreaty obligations.

As past situations have shown, in particular in Iraq, any action thatrestricts inspections and that closes opportunities to rebuildconfidence can only lead to a confidence vacuum.  And where hardevidence is not available, warmongers on all sides exploit the currencyof fear and speculation.

The UN Security Council is simply not the right body to resolve aconflict over whether a country has a right to a nuclear programme ornot. The Security Council has failed to live up to itsCharter obligations to minimize human and economic resources spent onarmaments, or to advance the goal of a Middle East nuclear freezone.  Instead the permanent members (who are permanent membersprecisely because they have nuclear weapons) have participated in armsraces and weapons profiteering, stubbornly refusing to comply withtreaty commitments to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Given thisrecord, how can the Security Council resolve the Iran crisis?  

Given the failure to treat the nuclear weapons programmes of othercountries with the same vigilance as Iran's, how can the accusation ofhypocrisy not have a ring of truth?

The only solution to this crisis is a Nuclear Free Zone in the MiddleEast.  It's a vital first step towards removing all nuclearproliferation risks in the region, as well as providing the essentialsecurity guarantees from nuclear weapons states outside the region. 

That means an end not only to existing and nascent nuclear weapons programmes, but an end to nuclear power as well.

Iran insists that it is simply exercising its rights under the terms ofthe Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty  to develop "peaceful nucleartechnology."  There is no such thing as peaceful nucleartechnology.  Once a country has a nuclear power programme it ispossible for it to develop a weapons programme. That's as true forGermany, Japan and Brazil as it is for Iran.

Our position on Iran is the same as that for all countries with nuclearpower or nuclear weapons - the ONLY basis for peace, security andsustainable development is to abandon nuclear programmes; and to phaseout nuclear power in favour of sustainable renewable technologies - inother words, a nuclear-free world.

Iran has an opportunity to stop this slide toward war by calling for aregional nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. The international community hasan opportunity to stop this slide toward war by pursuing exactly thesame thing.

The current path is lose-lose for everyone except the makers of nuclear weapons and the peddlers of nuclear power.

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