Friday, June 29, 2012

Nuclear Iran Does Not Increase Stability: 8 Reasons

In the July issue of Foreign Affairs, international relations scholar and founder of neorealism, Kenneth Waltz, published a column not only defending nuclear deterrence theory, but also supporting the Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon (part of the column can be found on the website of USA Today). Waltz identifies three possible futures that could be had depending on the actions of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. I find his analysis selective and the publishing of such opinions as legitimate in both the academic and mainstream press, without acknowledging the disastrous consequences that are possible in the case that his presumptions are false, to be reprehensible. I thus write this response.

One of the biggest issues with Waltz’s analysis is his complete dismissal of the incomprehensible dangers of nuclear weapons. He writes, “A palpable sense of crisis still looms,” and then dismisses it by saying, “It should not.”1 In the words of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation president David Krieger, “fear is a healthy mechanism when one is confronted by something fearful.”2 The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs killed 200,000 initially and many more in the months and years after. The current warheads are much larger than those two, plus new reports discuss how the nuclear famine that would follow a limited nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India could kill over 1 billion human beings.3 Luckily for us, Mr. Waltz is not worried. He thinks, “A nuclear-armed Iran would probably be the best possible result of the standoff and the one most likely to restore stability to the Middle East.” I beg to differ.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Symbol of the Sunflower

 One of the first things I noticed when I started working at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation was the prevailing theme of the sunflower. Pictures of these beautiful, radiant flowers adorned the walls throughout the office, and although I primarily thought that these sunflowers were just a reflection of the sunny and cheerful city the office is located in, Santa Barbara, a little research revealed to me that the flowers hold a much deeper, symbolic value.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ratifying CTBT Enhances US Security

The US President Obama, in a 2009 speech in Prague, said, “To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned.” Three years have passed since his speech; however, the CTBT have not yet been ratified by the US.

The CTBT, adopted by the UN General Assembly, became open for signature in 1996, and the United States was the first nation to sign the treaty. According to the CTBTO, 183 nations have signed the CTBT, including all US allies in NATO. Among forty-four Annex 2 States, whose signature and ratification are required for the CTBT to enter into force, three states (North Korea, India, and Pakistan) have not signed, and five states (China, Egypt, Iran, Israel, the US) have signed but not ratified the treaty.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Distorted Prestige in the Nuclear World

Its stamina in global politics is uncanny.  It has sustained decades of assassination attempts through treaties and agreements- phasing in and out of the spotlight- discontentedly subdued for short periods, but relentlessly surfacing back as a domineering danger to stability even amid repeated policies of averting an international order based on its threats and counter threats. Nuclear weapons are an invulnerable emblem of prestige.  Consequently, they attract various states.  However, not all states have built their regimes on nuclear power.  Latin America, for instance, has consolidated to almost completion its non-proliferation agenda through the 1967 (and its amended parts) Tlatelolco Treaty- a quintessential legal example of the spirit and integrity of global denuclearization efforts, and although other regions should follow Latin America in directing more efforts toward the end of nuclear proliferation, this has yet to be taken seriously.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Economic Partnerships as a Tool for Peace Between Iran and the U.S.

Economic sanctions in Iran and around the world have not only been ineffective, but have lead to increased hostility, militarism, and distrust. What if there was another economic means to pacifying the interactions between the United States and Iran? What if this solution has already proven to be successful in the modern era?

The development of economic partnerships, rather than sanctions, is an alternative to the predominant strategies of the current global order; a strategy that would, “Make it plain that any war…becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible,”1 as stated by former French Prime Minister and first ever President of the European Assembly (the parliamentary institution of the European Union) Robert Schuman. Identifying the disastrous consequences of repeated conflict in Europe, Schuman paved the way for the creation of the European Union through his declaration and development of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). To this day there has not been an armed conflict between members of the European Union and ECSC partnership, a partnership formed only five years after World War II ravaged across Europe.*

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Case Against Iranian Economic Sanctions

"Please do not touch, very expensive," the signs reads.

As an Iranian-American, I’ve visited Iran numerous times in my life-time. Some of my fondest memories take place in the hubs of the country: the bazaars. It’s in these busy and lively marketplaces where gossip and news are exchanged and where one could buy everything from fruits and meat to gold and not-so-authentic Rolex watches. During my last visit, in December of 2011, the bazaars were bustling with crowds and activities as much as ever. However, what differed from my previous visits were the numbers on the price signs that at first glance I thought had 3 or so extra digits by mistake and the sense of panic and frustration that resonated with shoppers and shop keepers alike. This is just a small glimpse as to how the Iranian economic sanctions have negatively affected the average people of Iran.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fewer Nuclear Weapons, but Closer to Abolition?: SIPRI Yearbook 2012

The SIPRI Yearbook 2012, released on June 4, shows that at the beginning of 2012, the total number of deployed nuclear weapons possessed by eight states (US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel) is nearly 4,400. If all nuclear warheads are included, these states together possess a total of nearly 19,000 nuclear weapons, as compared with 20,530 at the start of 2011 (see table).1
The decrease, according to SIPRI, mainly results from the US and Russia reducing their inventories of strategic nuclear weapons under the terms of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) as well as retiring ageing and obsolescent weapons.1

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Legal Issues of Nuclear Weapons

          Rule one of Customary International Humanitarian Law (March 2005) quotes: “The parties to conflict must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants. Attacks may only be directed against combatants.”  A few rules down, rule twelve, declares that indiscriminate attacks are intolerable: prohibited.  Because most international law is the product of treaties, naturally cavities remain.  These cavities create dangerous ambiguity in how entities engage one another during armed conflict.  To curb this, customary international humanitarian law is in place as a set of 161 rules, implied and accepted as law by all recognized nations-states.  The rules as demonstrated above, predominantly focus on the protection of civilians and combatants during international and non-international armed conflict.

As we all should recognize, nuclear weapons cannot distinguish between personnel; they cannot be controlled after firing. This was/is the primary reason for conventions against the use of chemical weapons and cluster munitions.  The importance of customary international law is its potential to deter and mitigate the catastrophic implications that nuclear weapons present. If they cannot be effective in nuclear disarmament, then customary international law has failed its purpose.  However, when we open up the newspaper and flip to a page that discusses nuclear contentions, there is hardly if any serious discourse on the legal ramifications that nuclear weapons present.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The American Spirit - A Culture of War or a Habitat of Peace?

In a new report published on Tuesday by the Institute of Economics and Peace, the United States is profiled at a paltry 88th in the annual global peace index rankings. The rankings are made through the combination of 23 indicators ranging from military expenditures, respect for human rights, and political stability. The most peaceful nations according to the report are Iceland, Denmark, and New Zealand.1

While the poor scores received in the United States for its large jailed populations, use of political terror, high levels of weapons exports, and world leading rankings in military capability and external death from conflict should be something you take note of, the fact that the United States is actively involved in either funding or participating in the fighting in at least seven of the ten least peaceful places on earth (Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Central African Republic, Israel, and Pakistan) is to me much more troublesome. Couple this with bipartisan support for American Exceptionalism and a budget in which 60% of discretionary spending is given to military measures and you have a recipe for something that is far from the intentions of the founding fathers.2

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Simulated Nuclear Weapon Tests

Computer technology has been so developed that it is indispensable to our lives. One of the features that often benefits humanity is the simulations. By means of simulations with existing data, we can estimate a possible outcome, for instance damage from an earthquake, and prepare for the outcome when it actually occurs. Today, however, the US government is spending money to improve computer simulation technology in order to conduct a most controversial experiment, a nuclear-weapon test.
By using a supercomputer, a nuclear weapon test can be done without exploding a bomb. Thus, it can be said that it is better than previous tests which required nuclear explosions, in terms of safety, security, and the environment. Moreover, because the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) forbids all detonations of nuclear test weapons in all environments, the simulations are one of the ways to operate a nuclear test in accordance with the treaty.1

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

After the Winter: Nuclear Famine

Ninety-nine percent of all species that have ever existed on Earth are now extinct. Extinction is the norm. What falls outside normalcy is a self-inflicted extinction, that is, the species being solely responsible for their wipe-out. How certain species met their demise might have several contending theories, but every paleontologist can agree that the dinosaurs, as an example, weren’t annihilated because a tyrannosaurs rex detonated a Jurassic bomb on the triceratops. Our species, humans, has scientific and technological achievements rivaled by no other life-form in the history of Earth. However, these great feats are also what make us so vulnerable; some of our inventions, though ingenious, also hold the grave capability of destroying our population.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stuxnet...An Act of War Against Iran?

In 1935 102 cane toads were introduced in Eastern Australia as a tool to control the cane beetle, a local pest to sugar cane. Today there are over 200 million cane toads in Australia, which besides poisoning pets and humans as well as depleting native fauna has directly cost local governments hundreds of thousands of dollars to control, on top of the other economic losses caused by the introduced species. 1

This is not a story about toads though. This is a story about a virus the United States introduced to the internet which could have much greater consequences than some toads down under. This is a story about the United States authorizing acts of war against Iran over the enrichment of nuclear fuel.
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