Viatcheslav Kantor: We Are Considering All Options

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The Luxembourg Forum President discusses ways to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue.

The Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe was established in May, 2007 at the International Conference in Luxembourg. Viatcheslav Kantor chaired the Organizing Committee of the Conference, which brought together leading international experts on nuclear proliferation, and initiated the establishment of the Forum. Today the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe is a leading, authoritative independent international organisation. Kantor spoke to NG about how this was achieved.

– Mr. Kantor, what have you accomplished over the past year?

– I want to remind you that last May the Conference on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe brought together over 50 of the most famous and authoritative independent experts from 14 countries. The Conference’s honoured participants were IAEA Director General Mohamed Elbaradei, former US Defense Secretary William Perry, Rolf Ekeus, the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Nikolay Laverov, Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Hans Blix, WMDC Chairman, former IAEA Director General.

The Conference was also attended by Sergey Kirienko, the Russian President’s Plenipotentiary Representative. Kirienko read an address from Vladimir Putin to the participants emphasising the critical importance of preventing a nuclear catastrophe.

Conference participants signed the Luxembourg Conference declaration, a roadmap to decreasing the threat of proliferation that was circulated to the heads of major powers and the leaders of the UN, EU, NATO, SCTO and many other organisations.

The Forum’s Supervisory Council includes renowned scientists and politicians, among them Samuel Nunn, Igor Ivanov, Hans Blix, Rolf Ekeus, Nikolay Laverov, William Perry and Roald Sagdeev. We have also received a tentative acceptance from Henry Kissinger.

Two international meetings were held in 2008 as a part of the Luxembourg Forum, one in Moscow in April and another in Rome in June, to discuss and elaborate proposals to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis and to prepare for the upcoming NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Review Conference. Neither of the meetings was limited to simply contemplating the problems; the experts devised very specific, coordinated proposals.

– In recent years, efforts by the global community to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis have been unsuccessful. What does the Luxembourg Forum propose in this regard?

– That’s true. Despite four UN Security Council resolutions, three of them imposing economic, financial and other sanctions on Iran, Tehran carries on enriching uranium and increasing the number of new generation centrifuges. Under these circumstances, I see further developments as extremely dangerous and going beyond the Middle East.

The UN resolutions require Iran to stop uranium enrichment, as well as other activities related to the nuclear fuel cycle, until all issues raised by the IAEA are settled with reference to Iran’s past activities relating to nuclear materials and missile technologies in violation of its obligations under guarantees given to the IAEA under the NPT.

The working group of the Advisory Council unanimously believes that the limited sanctions that have been applied are not enough to convince Iran’s leadership to observe UN requirements. Most alarming is the fact that Iran is obviously even more determined to proceed with its uranium enrichment and plutonium separation programmes. Given the declared increase of centrifuges in Natanz from 3,000 to 9,000, Iran’s demonstrative and negative response to Security Council Resolution 1803 proves beyond all doubt that extra measures will be required to bring Iran into compliance with the imposed requirements, including tighter sanctions and more favourable incentives.

If we continue excluding tighter sanctions from the arsenal of methods used to influence Tehran and resolving the problem through diplomatic channels alone, Iranian leadership will only be encouraged to drag negotiations out. As a result, Iran will increase its uranium enrichment capacity and use the terms of cooperation with the IAEA to put pressure on the Security Council and the global community.

The meeting considered the position and role of major organisations and powers directly involved in this process, including the Security Council, the IAEA, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Iran, the U.S., Russia, the European Union and China. The experts also reviewed the option of indirect or potential influence on the situation from Israel, India, Pakistan, Japan, Turkey, Arab countries in North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

The experts analysed the legal, financial, economic and energy aspects of the crisis and discussed the influence of Iran’s domestic political and economic situation on the prospects for resolution. They also gave consideration to the possibility of conducting a military campaign and analysed the consequences of such a campaign in detail. Notably, they recognised the existence of an opinion that approves of using military force as a lesser evil compared to Iran creating nuclear weapons and further distributing them in the region and worldwide.

– Did the experts propose any specific ways to resolve the crisis?

– Yes. They elaborated three possible action plans for resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis. All of these approaches are lengthy, so I will just give you a brief summary of the key points.

The first action plan involves far tighter measures by both the Security Council and individual countries in terms of investment, trade and other areas. Simultaneously, Iran should be offered a thoroughly elaborated list of more attractive and innovative political and economic incentives if it complies with the provisions of the Security Council resolutions.

The second plan provides for imposing the abovementioned sanctions if Iran fails to comply with Security Council Resolution 1803 without offering any political or economic incentives. Incentives are to be considered only after restoration of IAEA guarantees and activity under the Additional protocol and with extended inspection authorities.

The third action plan for resolving the dead end involves, among other things, acceptance of the Security Council framework resolution providing for collective actions under Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter in the event that Iran violates its obligations (i.e. cancellation of the NPT and development of nuclear weapons). I would remind you that Article 42 of the UN Charter specifies various forms of enforcement.

I also have to emphasise that there is a lot of controversial information being traded on the Iranian nuclear issue, with statements being exchanged between Iran on the one side and the U.S., Israel and their supporters on the other. The atmosphere is constantly being poisoned. I am referring to possible military actions against Iran in the short run.

Under the present circumstances, it seems unlikely that the Security Council will pass a resolution to that effect in the near future unless something extraordinary happens. However, we cannot exclude the possibility of unauthorised military action against Iran. Just like the Iraq war, such military action against Iran will have an aftermath. Many countries in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere will have to face that aftermath, and this is something that needs to be addressed in advance.

For all those reasons, the Luxembourg Forum’s experts are analysing possible unauthorised actions against Iran, including, among other things, isolated strikes against nuclear infrastructure, air strikes of various levels on all nuclear and key military facilities, and other options. Our experts are considering Iran’s possible military response, based on its actual rather than announced military potential, as well as its ability to block oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and many other negative consequences of military actions, including a wave of refugees, changes in interfaith relations and other effects. It is clear that new military actions in the region will bring extremely negative results.

However, if the Iranian nuclear crisis fails to be resolved by political, diplomatic, economic and financial means, the major powers will be forced to choose between the severe consequences of another war in the Middle East and a nuclear non-proliferation crisis with a rapidly growing number of nuclear countries.

– What do you think about the chances of preserving the NPT in this context?

– In June, the meeting of Luxembourg Forum experts in Rome reviewed the issue of strengthening and preserving the inviolability of this most important permanent Treaty encompassing 188 states. It is significant that the meeting was attended by the secretary general and the president of the Pugwash Conferences.

NPT Review Conferences are convened every five years and attended by all parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty to review its prospects and effectiveness. The two previous conferences in 2000 and 2005 were not recognised as a success for a number of reasons, the majority of them related to nuclear powers’ non-satisfactory fulfilment of their nuclear disarmament obligations.

Review Conferences are arranged by preparatory committees, called PrepComs, that work out the conditions for successfully holding the Conferences. The recent PrepCom met this year.

The Forum experts and the leaders of the Pugwash Conferences pointed out a number of positive issues in the joint statement issued by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council at the 2008 PrepCom meeting. However, they found the absence of any reference to disarmament in the statement to be unacceptable. The five nuclear powers party to NPT bear prime responsibility for nuclear disarmament, which is a key pillar of strengthening the non-proliferation regime and its implementation mechanisms in the world.

Because of this, the Luxembourg Forum experts proposed specific measures to ensure a successful Review Conference and strengthen the non-proliferation regime.

The said measures include immediate ratification by the U.S. and China of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and an agreement to enter into a new treaty in the near future on nuclear weapons reduction, which will supersede START I after it expires on December 5, 2009. It is proposed that the new level begin with negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and others.

I have just given a brief description of the proposals. The memorandum issued after the meeting in Rome contains relevant details for all these proposals.

The meeting in Rome once again emphasised the necessity of resolving the Iranian nuclear problem on the basis of proposals made by the Luxembourg Forum experts during their meeting in Moscow. I already mentioned this in my reply to the second question.

I ought to emphasize that the most serious threat in the foreseeable future is that of terrorist organisations gaining access to nuclear explosive devices or materials. The Forum’s experts believe that far more intensive and large-scale preventive measures must be undertaken to enhance physical protection, recording and control of fissile materials throughout the world. They also call for expediting the elimination of highly enriched uranium via HEU/LEU conversion using the positive experience of the agreement between the U.S. and Russia to enhance nuclear power stations, research and development reactors and nuclear weapons storage protection. The proposals also include a complex of measures for non-proliferation of nuclear fuel cycle technologies in new countries.

I would like to repeat that the report covers specific mechanisms of implementation for each proposal.

In summary, the sustainability of the NPT continues to face an ever larger number of challenges, and a key reason for that is the ongoing Iranian nuclear crisis.

The Luxembourg Forum’s experts continue to research ways to strengthen the non-proliferation regime and intend to make their proposals available to leaders of major powers, the Security Council and other authoritative international organisations on a regular basis.