By Javad Heirannia

Kimball lauds Iran’s role in adopting treaty to ban nuclear arms

August 15, 2017

TEHRAN - Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, praises Iran for playing a major role in approving the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in the United Nations. 


 “The Islamic Republic of Iran was an active participant in the negotiations and was among the 122 states that voted to adopt the agreement on July 7,” Kimball tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: There is a strong emphasis on nuclear disarmament, but why the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted so late? 

A: Unfortunately progress toward the deligitimization, prohibition, and elimination of the world’s most dangerous weapons is a decades-long process, but the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons  is an important step in the right direction. Until now, the international community has only concluded international treaties that seek to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and require nuclear-armed states to pursue negotiations to end the arms race and achieve disarmament” (the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty) and that prohibit nuclear test explosions (the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty).

“The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons means that they are not just immoral, but they are also illegal,” executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington says.

The indiscriminate and catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons, which if used would produce devastating effects far beyond the national borders  of warring nuclear nations, make it clear that the use or threat of use of these weapons is immoral. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons means that they are not just immoral, but they are also illegal.

For the first time since the invention of the Bomb, nuclear weapons development, production, possession, use, threat of use, and “stationing” of another country’s nuclear weapons on a state party's national territory are all expressly prohibited in a global treaty. The treaty also requires states to provide assistance to those affected by nuclear weapons use and testing.

The new treaty will be open for signature beginning September 20. When at least 50 states sign and ratify the agreement, it will formally enter into force. 
The negotiations on the new treaty were launched by a UN General Assembly resolution approved last year. The Islamic Republic of Iran was an active participant in the negotiations and was among the 122 states that voted to adopt the agreement on July 7. 

By becoming one of the first countries to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Iran would underscore its existing commitments never to acquire nuclear weapons, and would help strengthen the taboo against their use and highlight the need for the world’s nuclear-armed states to meet their disarmament commitments.

Q: Can it lead to a disarmament of nuclear-armed states?

A: Unfortunately, without nuclear-armed states on board, the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will not immediately eliminate any nuclear weapons. However, the treaty can, over time, further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use. With tensions between nuclear-armed states increasing, steps aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic nuclear weapons use are necessary and should be welcomed.

“Whether the new treaty prompts action on nuclear disarmament in the near term depends, in part, on whether states such as Iran and other states in the Non-Aligned Movement, along with other major non-nuclear powers in Europe, can work together on a focused and sustained diplomatic strategy to push the nuclear-armed states to renew talks on nuclear risk reduction and disarmament.”

The world’s nuclear-armed states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea — all boycotted the negotiations but the world’s nonnuclear weapon state majority are sending them a message that will be heard: that nuclear weapons use will not be tolerated and concrete action leading to nuclear disarmament is overdue.

Today, there are nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons  most of which are in the hands of the United States and Russia, which deploy approximately 1,500 each at this moment. This is far lower than during the height of the Cold War, but it only takes a handful of these weapons to produce catastrophic results.

Q: Supporters believe the treaty will put pressure on nuclear powers to eliminate their nuclear arms. What is your comment?

A: Whether the new treaty prompts action on nuclear disarmament in the near term depends, in part, on whether states such as Iran and other states in the Non-Aligned Movement, along with other major non-nuclear powers in Europe, can work together on a focused and sustained diplomatic strategy to push the nuclear-armed states to renew talks on nuclear risk reduction and disarmament. To avoid a new global nuclear arms race and move closer to a world without nuclear weapons:

* Washington and Moscow must be pressed to resume talks on verifiable nuclear disarmament and limits on conventional weapons systems and respect for borders in Europe to ease fears that Russia will repeat its invasion of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. The two countries must also resolve a serious dispute about Russian noncompliance with a 1987 treaty that ban intermediate-range nuclear missiles. President Trump and Putin must also decide whether to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty beyond its 2021 expiration date. If they do not, there will be no legally-binding limits on the size of the arsenals of the world’s two largest nuclear-armed states. Without such limits, there is a serious risk that we may see an expansion of their nuclear stockpiles and the pursuit of new types of nuclear weapons, and not a decrease.

* International sanctions against North Korea must be more strictly enforced and direct talks with North Korea to halt and reverse that country’s nuclear and missile programs, reduce tensions that could trigger a conflict, and to achieve a peace regime on the Korean peninsula must begin. 

“That nuclear weapons use will not be tolerated and concrete action leading to nuclear disarmament is overdue.”* The other nuclear-armed states, including Israel, India, Pakistan, and China, must provide leadership by halting their own nuclear arms buildups and agreeing to engage in productive, high-level diplomacy on nuclear weapons risk reduction. The threat of a border conflict involving India and Pakistan that leads to nuclear war remains a serious danger.

Nonnuclear weapon states can also help by pushing for ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which is one of the most important nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation treaties. Because of this treaty nuclear testing has almost come to a complete stop. Only one state —North Korea — has conducted nuclear test explosions since 1998. Today, 183 states including the United States and Iran have signed the nuclear test ban treaty, but eight countries, including the United States, China, Egypt, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, and India, must still ratify it to formally enter into force.

Q: One of the goals of the IAEA is nuclear disarmament, but nuclear armed states just seek nonproliferation. So, why has not the IAEA been after nuclear disarmament?

A: The International Atomic Energy Agency was created in the 1950s as nuclear technology became more widely available and it is tasked with promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy for safeguarding against the use of nuclear technology and material to produce nuclear weapons. Nuclear disarmament is not specifically one of its goals, although the IAEA was tasked with the job of verifying that South Africa had, in fact, eliminated its small nuclear arsenal when President Nelson Mandela decided that South Africa would eliminate the nuclear weapons program established by the Apartheid regime.

“With tensions between nuclear-armed states increasing, steps aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic nuclear weapons use are necessary and should be welcomed.”To date, there is no international organization that has the mandate or all of the technical expertise necessary to verify nuclear disarmament. In the previous U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reduction treaties, each side verified implementation through mutual declarations and inspections.

One of the important aspects of the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is that it outlines what basic steps must be accomplished in order to verify the irreversible nuclear disarmament of a nuclear weapon state. It says that a new international body will be created to complete this task. The IAEA may evolve into this role over time, but there may need to be a completely new organization may need to be established. This points to an important task for the future.

Nuclear weapons pose a global threat that demands global cooperation by governments from the nuclear and nonnuclear weapon states and from civil society in our countries. We all have a responsibility to our children, their children, and to future generations to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons use and to secure the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons — particularly those of us who live in countries that have the weapons or the technology that can be used to produce them.

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