Statement by Daryl Kimball, Executive Director
For Immediate Release: June 15, 2004
(Washington, D.C.): The report by the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency makes it clear that leaders in Tehran must go further to explain the details and ultimate purpose of Iran's nuclear program and should do so without further delay. Russia, Pakistan, and other states involved in nuclear trade with Tehran should fully cooperate with the IAEA's ongoing efforts to get a complete picture of the Iranian nuclear program.
Over the last two years, the IAEA has uncovered evidence that Iran is now closer to a nuclear weapons-making capability than previously believed. An IAEA investigation and inspections in early 2003 led the agency to report Nov. 10, 2003 that Iran had for many years pursued nuclear activities in violation of its nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations. The latest report from the IAEA makes it clear that while Iran has sometimes grudgingly granted the IAEA access to the sites and facilities in question, a number of key issues regarding Iran's nuclear activities need to be clarified. The report finds that Iran has stopped uranium enrichment as it pledged last fall, but that it has continued to seek parts for such activities.
Leaders in Tehran should maintain their suspension of uranium enrichment activities and refrain from other projects that have military applications until international concerns about its nuclear program are resolved. Iran is legally permitted under the NPT to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes but this process can also be used to develop nuclear weapons.
Even with greater transparency under the Additional Protocol, which Iran signed last year and which allows more intrusive IAEA inspections, it is still possible that Iran might someday decide to withdraw from the NPT and pursue nuclear weapons.
In the long run, turning Iran away from nuclear weapons will require a new and more sophisticated joint U.S.-European-Russian strategy to reduce Iran's incentives to acquire nuclear weapons and increase the benefits of openness and compliance. An important element of such a strategy would be for the United States and Israel to reassure Tehran that it does not have to fear an attack by either country if Iran drops its pursuit of nuclear weapons, ends its support of terrorism, and stops threatening the existence of Israel.
The United States should also make clear that it does not support the possession of nuclear weapons by other countries, including Israel, India, and Pakistan, which are not party to the NPT. To avoid the perils of nuclear weapons, all states must comply with global rules against the development and possession of nuclear weapons. Leaders in Tehran cannot be allowed to justify their nuclear weapons ambitions by pointing to the nuclear bomb arsenals and activities of other countries.
Nevertheless, it is ultimately up to Iran to abide by its commitments not to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran should not use the behavior of others as a pretext for activities that go against its own security interests and threaten its neighbors. As Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's former envoy to the IAEA, wisely noted in an interview June 9, acquiring nuclear weapons will not improve Iran's prestige and cannot buy more security, but only invite more dangers to Iran and the region.
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