Monday, March 6, 2006

The deal struck last week by President Bush and his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, effectively recognizes reality: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is dead.

The demise of that 1968 accord was, of course, not caused by the U.S.-India agreement to provide American nuclear power technology to a country that had become a nuclear weapons state despite the NPT’s effort to prevent such developments. India never signed the treaty and was, therefore, not bound by its nonproliferation restrictions.

Rather, the NPT was killed by the cynical actions of North Korea and Iran, two states that did sign it — and then proceeded systematically, if covertly, to violate their promises to remain non-nuclear states, in exchange for access to reactors and technology for peaceful research and energy generation.

Those who abetted these nuclear wannabe states — notably, the Soviet Union/Russia, Communist China and Pakistan’s Nukes-R-Us impresario, A.Q. Khan — also bear responsibility for arming two of the world’s most dangerous regimes.

Issuing a death certificate for the Non-proliferation Treaty may seem untimely at a moment when the organization charged with monitoring the treaty, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is expected finally to report Iran’s nuclear transgressions to the U.N. Security Council. Arms control advocates would have us believe this referral is, to the contrary, proof of the accord’s continuing viability.

In fact, even before the U.S.-India deal was inked, there was no likelihood Tehran’s veto-wielding patrons, Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the People’s Republic of China, would allow the Security Council to impose economic sanctions on Iran. Still less probable is a Security Council authorization of the use of force to prevent the Iranian regime from getting the Bomb.

Instead, the IAEA and the Security Council can be counted upon to do more of what they have been doing for several years now: Kick the proverbial can down the road.

The Iranians are making ever less effort to conceal the benefits they derive from such fecklessness. According to the London Daily Telegraph, Hassan Rowhani, Tehran’s chief negotiator in two years of talks with, among others, British, French and German diplomats, recently told a closed session of his country’s Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution how he used diplomacy to buy time to complete key nuclear weapons-related facilities at Isfahan, Iran.

Citing a report of the Rowhani speech published in a “regime journal that circulates among the ruling elite,” the Telegraph recounts a “quandary” the mullahs confronted in September 2003. At the time, the IAEA had begun to insist Iran provide a “complete picture” of its nuclear program. Mr. Rowhani recounted that, “The dilemma was if we offered a complete picture, the picture itself could lead us to the U.N. Security Council. And not providing a complete picture would also be a violation of the resolution and we could have been referred to the Security Council for not implementing the resolution.”

The solution lay in a diplomatic smokescreen. Mr. Rowhani reportedly declared, “When we were negotiating with the Europeans in Tehran, we were still installing some of the equipment at the Isfahan site. There was plenty of work to be done to complete the site and finish the work there. In reality, by creating a tame situation, we could finish Isfahan.”

Unfortunately, the further diplomacy entailed in pretending the NPT process is still capable of constraining rogue governments like Iran’s will simply translate into the further time Tehran needs fully to realize its nuclear weapons ambitions. Congressional efforts to kill the India deal in the misplaced hope of keeping the NPT on life-support and, thereby, restraining Iran will do neither. In fact, a veto by Capitol Hill will not keep India from having the nuclear weapons it deems necessary, sandwiched as it is between a Communist China becoming ever more powerful and strategically assertive and the proxy Beijing armed with nuclear weapons years ago, Islamist Pakistan.

It would, however, foreclose the U.S.-India pact’s promise of sales of American reactors that will resuscitate our nuclear power industrial base — something we need to do for our own reasons. It may also impede closer alignment between the planet’s two greatest democracies, a potentially vital factor in winning the War for the Free World.

Just as the Dubai Ports World bid for U.S. seaport facilities has triggered a long-overdue debate about port and homeland security, the Bush-Singh nuclear deal may precipitate a similarly excessively deferred national conversation about the need for a new approach to arms control.

Defective treaties, violated with impunity by one or more of the parties, do not protect freedom-loving nations that honor their obligations. There are real dangers associated with ignoring that reality and propping up accords that have lost their utility by continuing to negotiate with, and otherwise legitimate, governments that cynically exploit such behavior to increase the threat they pose.

It is now clear that threat emanates not from the weapons but from the regime that wields them. The needed alternative arms control approach is a strategy of regime change. The Iranian people yearn for it as much as we do. The U.S. government should be working with them to bring about the downfall of the mullahocracy in Tehran, and thereby minimize the threat its nuclear program is beginning to constitute.

The other option is not maintaining the fiction of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Rather, it is military action aimed at disrupting a simply intolerable future Iranian threat.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times. He blogs at

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