With the United States scuttling the Iran nuclear deal and casting doubts on a possible détente with North Korea, the time is ripe once again to turn the world’s attention on nuclear disarmament and give the necessary build-up for the next Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty conference scheduled to be held in 2020.
Though the NPT is regarded as the cornerstone of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, its ultimate aim is total nuclear disarmament and the promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones,” said Albert Einstein, the scientist who was instrumental in the development of atomic bombs, two of which the US dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the last stages of World War II.
The presumption in the oft quoted Einstein quote is that World War III would make society collapse into the Stone Age. But this Einstein quote seems out of touch with the gigantic destructive power of modern nuclear weapons. For instance, the Hydrogen bomb which North Korea tested in January 2016 was one thousand times more powerful than the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima.
According to a LiveScience website report, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki exploded with the yield of 15 kilotons and 20 kilotons of TNT, respectively. In contrast, the first test of a thermonuclear weapon, or hydrogen bomb, in the United States in November 1952 yielded an explosion on the order of 10,000 kilotons of TNT. It is simply madness and criminal to keep such weapons, every one of which can destroy one thousand Hiroshimas.
But for world nuclear powers, such concerns hardly matter, for they are more concerned about enhancing their sheer military power that enables them to dominate and plunder the world. When they speak about nuclear disarmament, they will wax eloquent about a nuclear free world and hit out at Iran and North Korea, but when it comes to their own nuclear arsenals, they continue their research to modernize their weapons in a game of one-upmanship with other nuclear powers.
We need total disarmament. Agreements on partial disarmament – the likes of which the US and Russia have entered into in the past – are largely a farce.
"When they speak about nuclear disarmament, they will wax eloquent about a nuclear free world and hit out at Iran and North Korea, but when it comes to their own nuclear arsenals, they continue their research to modernize their weapons in a game of one-upmanship with other nuclear powers"
The five permanent United Nations Security Council members – the US, Russia, Britain, France and China – together with India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea possess more than 15,000 nuclear weapons. The five permanent members should set an example by denouncing and dismantling their nuclear weapons before they preach disarmament. Strangely or deliberately, Israel’s nuclear arsenal is left out of the disarmament debate. Israel is believed to possess more than 300 nuclear weapons and has drawn hardly any flak from the US. If Israel, a country that has little respect for international law and human rights, can possess nuclear weapons, what is the big fuss about Iran or North Korea going nuclear? The stock answer most Western analysts give is that North Korea and Iran are maverick states which have little respect for international laws and human rights and therefore they cannot be trusted with weapons that can wipe out humanity. This is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy apart, some may argue that partial nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation are certainly better than non-disarmament and proliferation. Therefore, they say enough is enough; no country should hereafter develop nuclear weapons.
But Trump’s action only encourages proliferation. By withdrawing from the Iran deal, and placing 12 more new conditions, Trump is now forcing Iran to resume its nuclear programme. Iran’s spiritual leader Al Khamenei urged European powers to give Iran a guarantee that they would buy Iran’s oil and continue their trade links with Iran despite US sanctions. He warned, otherwise, Iran would resume its nuclear programme. But many believe that in a bid to protect their companies, the European powers could yield to US pressure, for the European Union’s trade volume with the US is 140 times its trade volume with Iran.
Unless the Europeans work out a bypass law similar to ‘the blocking statue’ the EU nations have adopted to circumvent US sanctions on Cuba, Iran’s only option is to follow the North Korean example and develop nuclear weapons, a move that will, unfortunately, have a domino effect to prompt Saudi Arabia to start its nuclear weapons programme.
Trump should read what eminent Sri Lankan jurist Chris Weeramanty has said about nuclear weapons. In his dissenting opinion in the famous 1996 ruling on the legality of nuclear weapons, the International Court of Justice judge Weeramantry said:
“My considered opinion is that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is illegal in any circumstances whatsoever. It violates the fundamental principles of international law, and represents the very negation of the humanitarian concerns which underlie the structure of humanitarian law.”