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Ambassador Duarte on Iran Agreement

Sergio Duarte held the post of United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs from 2007-2012. He has shared with us his document Reflections on the Iran Agreement, which we blog here.


Reflections on the Iran Agreement
Sergio Duarte 
Ambassador, former United Nations High Representative for Disarment Affairs

Despite the alarmist claims from some quarters that the agreement achieved between Iran and the P5+1 is fatally flawed, the majority of the international community and public opinion worldwide received it favorably and with renewed hope. The JCPOA was hailed as a positive step as it underscores the resolve of the parties concerned to allay suspicions about the nature of the Iranian nuclear program and enhances the existing instruments of international law regarding the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Strict adherence to its provisions by all Parties concerned will help prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and contribute to greater confidence and stability in inter-State relationships in that part of the world and beyond. It must be stressed, however, that this agreement is not an offspring of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT); its provisions should not be construed as precedents to be imposed upon others under the NPT or other existing agreements.

States that did not possess atomic arsenals agreed in the NPT not to seek the acquisition of such weapons in exchange for a pledge by the nuclear-armed ones to take concrete steps toward their elimination. The NPT also recognized the right of every State to develop and use atomic energy for peaceful purposes. As a significant number of them stepped up their civil nuclear programs, the effort to contain the number of those having such means of destruction at their disposal has been quite successful. All non-nuclear States in the world are now parties to that Treaty. Over the past forty-five years, very few doubts have arisen about compliance with their obligations and none acquired nuclear weapons. Only one State ever left the NPT to develop its own nuclear arsenal.

Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about the universal aspiration of peoples everywhere to see nuclear weapons eliminated from national arsenals. The States that possess such armament have not only refused to accept concrete, irreversible and legally binding commitments to nuclear disarmament but also consistently resist every attempt negotiate meaningful disarmament agreements in the multilateral organs. For several decades, they have insisted on the adoption of mandatory measures turned exclusively toward the reinforcement of the non-proliferation regime and all but neglected the disarmament side of the bargain contained in the NPT. Some of them, together with their allies, dismiss as a “distraction” the proposals to examine in depth the catastrophic consequences of atomic detonations and vehemently oppose current efforts to ban nuclear arms – the only remaining category of weapons of mass destruction whose use is not yet prohibited.

Some analysts have speculated that once the national parliaments of the countries concerned endorse the Iran agreement the world’s attention should turn to other questions of proliferation, particularly the case of the People’s Republic of Korea. That would be a welcome development indeed. Unlike Iran, the DPRK already developed atomic weapons and seems intent on acquiring intercontinental means of delivery. However, the search of a solution for the situation in the Korean peninsula should not prevent nuclear-armed States – particularly those that are Parties to the NPT – from taking seriously their responsibilities vis-à-vis their own regions and the rest of the world. Their credibility and that of the existing regime is at stake. The time has come for nuclear weapon States to pay due attention to the concerns of the overwhelming majority of the international community over their indefinite possession of the most dangerous, cruel and indiscriminate means of destruction ever devised and seeming willingness to use it as they see fit. It is not possible to maintain for much longer a state of affairs in which a handful of nations claim an exclusive right to protect their own security by wielding awesome means of destruction that jeopardize everyone else’s security together with the future of the human race as well.



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