Hypocritical Non-Aligned Movement communiqué supports Iran’s continued nuclear stonewalling

by David Albright, Andrea Stricker, and Andrew Ortendahl

September 7, 2012

The 16th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit ended on August 31 in Tehran with the adoption of a communiqué that is hypocritical and troubling in its expression of support for Iran’s nuclear program. The final NAM document (in addition to the “Tehran Declaration,” a separate paper written by Iran) also criticized unilateral sanctions against Iran such as those imposed by the United States and European Union. The NAM statement reflects both a misinterpretation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which does not guarantee access to the nuclear fuel cycle if a state is under investigation for non-compliance, and an unfortunate unwillingness of NAM states to take a stand against Iran’s continued intransigence over its obligation to abide by successive United Nations Security Council resolutions. The communiqué is also a hypocritical stance for many of the NAM attendees that are close U.S. or European allies and claim to not support Iran’s nuclear policies. The NAM statement serves only to embolden Iran in its efforts and undermines the causes of nonproliferation, peace, and international security which NAM member states claim to uphold.

The final NAM communiqué included language in support of Iran’s “nuclear energy rights,” specifically the right to develop every aspect of the full nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment. This is a gross misinterpretation of the NPT. Iran cannot claim under Article IV the right to nuclear energy production, or a specific right to enrichment at all, while under investigation for non-peaceful uses of these capabilities. Iran’s right to nuclear energy is a qualified right that is extended so long as there are no major lapses in its Article II obligations, namely its pledge “not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” It is these commitments that are being challenged by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In addition, as successive Security Council resolutions have stated, Iran is required to suspend uranium enrichment until it has cleared its nuclear case with the IAEA. NAM members are well aware of the requirements of the UN resolutions on Iran and of their legal obligations to enforce and fully comply with them. Most are in fact doing so, something not pointed out by Iran.

Aside from the abdication of NAM states’ responsibilities as members of the international community, their support for Iran’s distorted positions is hypocritical. Many NAM states have good relations with the United States and European Union. To criticize unilateral sanctions against Iran goes against both public and private support expressed by many NAM member states for these stronger sanctions. Many NAM states have close ties to the United States and much to lose strategically from a nuclear Iran. They should have publicly challenged Iran’s nuclear language in the final document, instead of leaving it to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to call Iran out for its actions.

The final NAM Summit document reflects an under appreciation of the need to bring Iran into full compliance with its NPT obligations. If NAM states are seeking to criticize restrictions on access to nuclear energy they are severely misplacing their criticism on the Iran case. If they are upset with unilateral sanctions instead of multilateral ones to deal with nuclear disputes, they are at best naïve. Rather than some type of diplomatic victory for Iran, as the Iranian regime and its allies would like the world to believe, the outcome of the Summit constitutes a blow to the NAM movement’s credibility and demonstrates that it cannot be counted on to deal seriously with nuclear nonproliferation issues. It is time for responsible NAM members to finally stand up publicly against the propaganda of the Iranian regime.

Read a shorter version of this brief at The Iran Primer.

email us twitter share on facebook