Sophie’s Choice

Enforcing non-proliferation is the way to peace

“The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.” Thus said John F. Kennedy on September 25, 1961. Yet today, we still live in a world made ever more dangerous by the increased proliferation, rather than planned reduction, of nuclear technology and weapons. Iran, the provocateur in the most recent nuclear controversy, has been “banned” by an international treaty from enriching uranium. Many international bodies have stressed the importance of preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) scheduled to consider referral of Iran to the United Nations (UN) Security Council today.

With all of this in mind, one must wonder what IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, was thinking when, as a recent Reuters article states, he “suggested in diplomatic circles that a compromise may lie in accepting small-scale enrichment in Iran in exchange for guarantees of no full nuclear fuel production.” How could someone who just finished authoring a three year report on the fact that Iran may have nuclear ambitions say such an absurd thing? ElBaradei has not publicly changed his stance on Iran’s nuclear arms, but unofficially he is leaning towards resignation and impotence.

By doing this, ElBaradei seems willing to stake the lives of millions of people, both in the Middle East and elsewhere, on “guarantees” from a regime that has advocated extremism time and time again. Acceptance of Iranian nuclear weapons is not a compromise; it is a defeat.

Article IV of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) does grant nations the right to produce nuclear energy; however, it requires that they be under the careful observation of the IAEA. Iran recently removed the IAEA inspectors, and thus Iran is in gross violation of the treaty.

Some might argue that other nations are hypocritical in requiring Iran to abstain from nuclear activities while they maintain arsenals. While the US and others should be disarming, the NPT is mainly in place to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons. The key issue is not the injustice of nations that already have nuclear weapons; this is a moot point. Allowing nations to create new weapons, however, is an enormous issue that must be recognized.

Iran claims that it will use the technology only for ‘peaceful’ purposes. This is hard to believe, especially considering the fact that Iran recently crafted a deal with Russia to buy arms worth nearly $7 billion. In addition, Iran has called for the death of all Israelis. Any nation which buys arms, denies the right of another nation to exist, and then wants “peaceful” nuclear technology must be checked.

Even if ElBaradei favored firm action against Iran, it is doubtful that the UN will do anything. The same diplomat stated, “Nothing of consequence will happen in the Security Council because the Russians and Chinese will block sanctions.” If this is the case, ElBaradei must have the foresight to push even harder for action against Iran. Iran gaining nuclear technology poses a credible threat to millions of people; it must be stopped.

ElBaradei’s sentiment that compromises must be made with Iran to allow uranium enrichment at any level is at once infuriating and terrifying. Now, when we see Iran intensifying its rhetoric against the West and Israel, we cannot sit back and rely on Iran’s “guarantee” that it will play by the rules. Millions of lives cannot be staked on a hollow promise. Nor can the integrity and legitimacy of the UN bend to the “sovereignty” issues of one extremist state. Firm action must be taken, and ElBaradei must realize that if he truly supports peace— as his prize suggests— he must cease his faltering and stand up for peace’s sake.

Shai D. Bronshtein ’09, a Crimson editorial editor, lives in Matthews Hall.