According to news reports, Iran today announced that it has developed 4000 centrifuges, and this is supposed to be a cause for "concern" because "Western nations" supposedly "fear that Iran's nuclear program is intended to make bombs."
But that's not really the issue and it never was. Framing the issue as "Iran can make nukes" is a convenient pretext. What's driving this process is not fear of nuclear weapons proliferation, but plain old greed: a conflict between developing and developed countries over control of nuclear fuel production technology that started right after the NPT was signed, long before Iran started enriching uranium. Iran is being forced to give up nuclear fuel production technology to set a precedent against other developing nations.
Article IV of the NPT
When the NonProliferation Treat was signed, it created two classes of countries with respect to nuclear weapons: 5 nuclear-armed countries (Russia, China, US, Britain, France) and everyone else that were the non-nuclear armed countries. Article IV of the treaty explicitly reminded everyone that by signing the NPT, the non-nuclear armed countries had ONLY agreed to not make nuclear weapons -- they had not given up any other rights regarding their nuclear program, and in exchange they were promised that the nuclear-armed countries would (eventually) get rid of their own nukes, and in the meantime would share access civilian nuclear technology. Article IV of the NPT affirms that all states party to the Treaty in good standing have a right to benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear power. It further commits the parties to cooperate with one another in the "fullest possible exchange" of nuclear equipment, materials, and information for peaceful purposes - without discrimination.
The language of Article IV was drafted specifically to addresses the concerns of developing nations that the NPT would not be used to create two classes of countries when it came to civilian nuclear technology. The initial drafts of the article were vague but the developing nations specifically pressed to the firm-up the wording -- by adding the world "facilitate" for example -- inorder to emphasize the the NPT required an active commitment by the nuclear-armed countries to share nuclear technology.
The language of Article IV was drafted specifically to addresses the concerns of developing nations that the NPT would not be used to create two classes of countries when it came to civilian nuclear technology. The initial drafts of the article were vague but the developing nations specifically pressed to the firm-up the wording -- by adding the world "facilitate" for example -- inorder to emphasize the the NPT required an active commitment by the nuclear-armed countries to share nuclear technology.The NSG and Monopolization of Nuclear Fuel Production
Of course, the nuclear armed countries have since then blatantly violated all of their obligations under the NPT. They have plainly refused to disarm, and are instead making more nukes. With respect to sharin nuclear technology, they simply claimed that Article IV language did not "obligate" them to do so. Specifically, in 1975, the "Nuclear Suppliers Group" was formed, which is essentially an informal club of countries that have nuclear technology. They agreed not to share certain "sensitive" civilian nuclear technologies with other countries, especially not nuclear enrichment technology. This was supposedly motivated by India's test of a nuclear device in 1974 -- but note the irony: India was not a signatory to the NPT anyway.
So, in other words, the Nuclear Suppliers Group used the conduct of a non-NPT member, to undermine their legal committments to other members of the NPT.
The developing countries have long been quite upset about this arbitrary decision to form an extra-legal limitation on Article IV commitments. And ever since then, they've been fighting against the use of the non-proliferation pretext to justify creating a nuclear fuel monopoly.
In reaction to the formation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (and the Carter administration's efforts to limit sharing nuclear technology) the Final Document of the United Nations General Assembly resolution S-10/2 which was adopted at the 27th plenary meeting of the tenth special session on 30 June 1978 stated in paragraph 69:
"Each country's choices and decisions in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy should be respected without jeopardizing its policies or international cooperation agreements and arrangements for peaceful uses of nuclear energy and its fuel-cycle policies".
This language was reiterated in the final document of the 1980 NPT Review Conference and has been consistently reiterated in every Review Conference since then, including the 1995 Review Conference , the 2000 NPT Review Conference and in the Final Document of the 10th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2002.
So, when some claim that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium in opposition to the "will of the international community" you should wonder what the will of the international community really consists of.
I don' have time to blog about this issue in further detail suffice it to say that several countries have made various proposals to limit and restrict the distribution of nuclear enrichment technology -- all of them, incidentally, would be "fuel providers" under their own proposals -- and have tried to allay the fears of developing countries that such restrictions would amount to a monopolization of nuclear fuel production. But the devil is in the details of their proposals. For example, they have offered to create a multinational fuel bank to guarantee against interruptions of nuclear fuel supplies so developing nations would not have to worry about fuel cutoffs. However, the developing counties are not worried about 'cut off' of nuclear fuel - they're worried about the developing states charging too much for their nuclear fuel by forming a monopoly. Under the fuel bank proposals, developing countries would ONLY have the right to access these nuclear fuel supplies in cases of CUTOFFS of delivery - not because the states selling nuclear fuel are charging too much. Similarly, the supposedly 'multinational enrichment' facilities proposed are not really 'multinational' and would discriminate against the developing states.
In 2004 the Bush administration revived the efforts to place arbitrary restrictions on the distribution of nuclear enirhment technology too. According to a 2004 analysis by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies:
"Many NPT state parties, particularly those from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), have already stated their opposition to President Bush’s proposals to restrict enrichment. In their view, precluding states from developing enrichment and reprocessing capabilities contradicts an important tenet of the NPT-that is, the deal made by the nuclear weapon states (NWS) to the non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS). Article IV of the NPT states that NNWS have the inalienable right to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, a right intended to provide an incentive for NNWS to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Bush proposals, however, introduce another element into the nonproliferation regime by segmenting countries into those that can engage in enrichment and reprocessing and those that cannot. Since most states with fuel cycle capabilities are from the developed world, it is clear that the target group of the proposal is the developing world."
In short, whenever the media tries to frame the debate about Iran's nuclear program as "Western states fear Iran is making nukes" you should read that as really saying "Western states want to monopolize nuclear fuel production and are using the trumped up 'fear' of Iran as a pretext".
Israel has a role in this conflict. Israel sees Iran as a competitor and blockage to its desire to dominate the mideast. An economically secure Iran with a reliable source of nuclear fuel to power its industries in the future which is also viewed as being technologically advanced etc. would - in Israeli eyes -- be a threat to Israel's ambitions for regional domination. It would also pose a risk that the US would start to get along with Iran -- in which case, who needs Israel. So the Israelis have been raising a hue and cry about how "threatened" they are by Iran's non-existent nukes, playing the victim as usual while pushing for a war between the US and Iran.
Anyway, gotta run.