Why Is the Possibility of Revising Iran’s Nuclear Doctrine Raised

2024/05/15 | Note, political, top news

Strategic Council Online – Note: Iran has done more than its share for the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Reza Nasri – International law expert and foreign policy analyst

As far back as 1974, as one of the first signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran and Egypt proposed the “Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone” (MENWFZ) initiative, which resulted in the adoption of a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on that same year. This resolution was annually passed by the UNGA without a vote from 1980 to 2018, impacting for decades both NPT Review Conferences and the overall discourse on weapons of mass destruction in the region. Inspired by this initiative – which only the Israeli regime has opposed – the 1995 NPT Review Conference called for “the establishment of an effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems.”

 

Throughout the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war, even as Saddam Hussein’s army recurrently employed chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians, Iran neither retaliated in kind nor engaged in the pursuit of nuclear armament. Even amid war, the then Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, had strictly banned the use of weapons of mass destruction on religious grounds, contributing once again – albeit from a “soft power” perspective – to the objectives of the non-proliferation regime.

 

As the Israeli regime was conveniently hiding its nuclear arsenal behind the veil of its incredible “doctrine of deliberate ambiguity,” Iran signed all significant treaties and agreements about the possession and use of weapons of mass destruction and rigorously subjected itself to their respective inspection protocols. These include, among other things, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

 

In this context, it is noteworthy to mention that in 1995, in a written statement submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to assist the Court in rendering an Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Iran – relying both on the provisions of the UN Charter and International Humanitarian Law – categorically rejected the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons under any conceivable circumstances, while the United States submitted that “that there is no general prohibition in conventional or customary international law on the use of nuclear weapons, and there is no basis for speculation by the Court as to how the law of armed conflict might apply to the use of nuclear weapons in hypothetical future situations.”!

 

In 2003, amidst unsubstantiated accusations and speculations from Western countries about the military character of Iran’s nuclear program, Iran’s official stance on weapons of mass destruction in international arenas was once again endorsed by a Fatwa issued by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who prohibited the “production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons” based on Islamic principles. In 2012, Iran’s Supreme Leader personally attended and reiterated this position at the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran while firmly rejecting Western allegations regarding the hidden objectives of Iran’s peaceful nuclear program. At that Summit, Ayatollah Khamenei pointed to the double standard that characterizes the United States’ approach to the notion of non-proliferation, stressing that “[a] bitter irony of our era is that the U.S. government, which possesses the largest and deadliest stockpiles of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction and the only country guilty of its use, is today eager to carry the banner of opposition to nuclear proliferation.”

 

Fast forward to 2015, Iran and the P5+1 (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, Germany, and the European Union) concluded the JCPOA after twelve years of strenuous negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. The JCPOA aimed to address Western “concerns” about Iran’s nuclear program by imposing strict limitations on its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. Under the agreement, Iran agreed to significantly reduce its uranium enrichment capacity and stockpile, modify certain atomic facilities, and submit to rigorous international inspections to verify compliance. In return, the P5+1 countries and the EU agreed to lift economic sanctions imposed on Iran and “normalize Iran’s trade and economic relations with the world.” Iran strictly and fully complied with its commitments, as attested by numerous reports issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), while its counterparts did not! In fact, in 2018, the United States, under the Trump administration, responded to Iran’s three years of unilateral compliance by withdrawing from the agreement on fictitious grounds, instituting a policy of “Maximum pressure” on the Iranian economy that caused – under modest estimations – over $1 trillion in damage to the nation. A cruel policy that the United States steadfastly refused to “moderate” even on humanitarian grounds during the COVID-19 pandemic, considerably impacting Iran’s ability to procure vaccines and significantly increasing the number of casualties among Iranian patients affected by the disease.

 

The subsequent US administration, led by President Biden, effectively pursued the same “Maximum pressure” policy towards Iran in all but name, reneging on a campaign promise to revive the JCPOA while occasionally tightening sanctions and engaging in covert and kinetic actions that directly threaten Iran’s political stability and national security.

 

The US government’s hostile measures against Iran include, inter alia, its unequivocal political, diplomatic, intelligence and military support for Israeli acts of aggression against Iran, namely this regime’s attack on the Iranian Embassy in Damascus on 1 April 2024; Its complicity in Israeli regime’s acts of sabotage, terrorism and targeted killings outside and inside the Iranian territory; Its exponentially increasing financial and military aid to Israeli regime; Its complicity in concealing Israeli regime’s nuclear weapon arsenal, which Israeli regime tacitly threaten to use against Iran; Its blatant support for the Israeli genocide in Gaza which has significant repercussions on the regional security landscape; Its constant threats of use of force against Iran’s nuclear facilities; Its increased military and naval presence in the Persian Gulf;  And its imposition of the so-called “normalization process” between Israeli regime and Arab countries that mainly aims at reshaping the regional order at the expense of Iran’s crucial interests and security.

 

In this context, it is only natural for Iran – as a nation facing threats and unilaterally bearing all the costs of alleviating Western countries’ “nuclear concerns” without reaping any economic or security benefit – to pose fundamental questions about the pertinence and sagacity of its current nuclear and defense doctrine.

 

If Iran, or at least segments of the Iranian society and political establishment, was brought to raise such fundamental questions, the US and its allies have only themselves to blame! The truth is that Iran is determined to no longer allow the United States and its allies to ensure their interests at the expense of questioning and harming Iran’s security and economic well-being. So, these countries are now at a point where they have to choose between doubling down on the same hostile policies that have driven Iran to this juncture or engaging in some weighty introspection and soul-searching given finding natural and sustainable diplomatic solutions. Iran seems ready for both scenarios.

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