NUKE ABOLITION: Impassioned Plea for Averting War with Iran

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Pax Christi protesting against TridentBy Richard Johnson

LONDON - Pax Christi, the International Catholic Movement for Peace, has made an impassioned plea for averting war with Iran. "Surely such a war would spell worldwide disaster, and it's up to movements like us to send a strong message against military aggression," Pax Christi said in an important document.

"A war with Iran, to which a military attack would inevitably lead, would be a disaster for the whole world and any talk of a pre-emptive attack must be challenged as illegal and immoral," it said indirectly referring to Israeli threats of an assault on Iran.

Pax Christi calls for facing "the unresolved issue of Iran's civilian nuclear programme, to which it is entitled, and the fears that this will develop into a nuclear weapons programme, which would violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty" (NPT).

Significantly, the Catholic Peace Movement emphasizes that Iran is entitled to develop its civilian nuclear programme und takes into account fears that the civilian might turn into military with untoward implications.

However, Pax Christi points out that unlike North Korea, Iran has not withdrawn from the NPT. "But this is not an issue to be judged on its own," says the document released on March 13, 2012. "Signatories to that Treaty, which include Britain, promised to eliminate their own nuclear weapons" – a pledge that remains unfulfilled.

This applies to other nuclear weapons states as well, be these signatories or non-signatories to the NPT: the United States, France, India, Russia, China, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

Pax Christi recalls that in 1996 the International Court of Justice had ruled that there is an obligation on nuclear weapon states to negotiate the abolition of nuclear weapons and to bring such negotiations to a successful conclusion.

The ruling has in practice gone unnoticed. Pax Christi suggests the following as a way forward "in solidarity with the people of Iran and all peoples potentially threatened by nuclear weapons through accident, misunderstandings or deliberate use".

It calls upon the British government to lead by the best example by:

- Ceasing its preparation of a new generation of nuclear weapons. "Far from negotiating elimination of these weapons Britain is planning to build yet another generation of nuclear weapons to follow Trident, at a cost of billions of pounds which would be far better spent on the real needs of our people," notes Pax Christi.

- Showing the transparency it seeks in Iran with regard to allowing international inspections of our own nuclear plants and facilities.

- Lifting sanctions on Iran when there are signs of progress.

- Employing every diplomatic means both nationally and through the European Union and the United Nations to make the possession of nuclear weapons by any state illegal.

- Calling on Israel to officially admit to having a nuclear arsenal, the existence of which is beyond any doubt.

Pax Christi also wants Britain to work to demilitarise the region through a sustained programme of conventional and nuclear disarmament and in particular to create a Nuclear Weapons Free Middle East. This is to be discussed at the forthcoming UN Middle East Nuclear Free Zone conference this year in Helsinki, which it urges all countries to support. Such a Zone will mean that nuclear-armed ships from other states do not patrol in the Middle East area.

- Supporting efforts to establish common regional structures that ensure the security needs of all states to build a common, sustainable security.

"The peace we seek cannot come from weaponry, but from a commitment to justice and nonviolent actions which recognise the dignity of every human person and all creation. We reject models of security that rely on fear, the demonisation of others or on the strength of arms – conventional and nuclear," Pax Christi said.

It affirmed the words of Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations speaking in 2011. "Proliferation is a real and serious challenge. However, non-proliferation efforts will only be effective if they are universal.  The nuclear-weapon states must abide by their obligations to negotiate the total elimination of their own arsenals if they are to have any authenticity in holding the non-nuclear states to their commitments not to pursue nuclear weapons....."

Disarmament Commission

The need for universal elimination of nuclear weapons was also stressed at the UN Disarmament Commission early April 2012. Wrapping up the Commission's general debate on April 5, Iran's Eshagh Al Habib urged this UN body to accord priority to the agenda item on nuclear disarmament as a "long-delayed part of its mandate".

"While there was no pretext to justify the position of nuclear weapons in the hands of any country, it was a source of grave concern that certain nuclear-weapon States still continued to allocate billions of dollars to develop new types of nuclear weapons, build nuclear weapons production facilities and replace such weapons," a summary of the debate says.

In that vein, Iran supported the proposal of the Non-Aligned Movement on the adoption of a legal framework for the total elimination of nuclear weapons by 2025, Al Habib said. It was important to start negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention and a universal and unconditionally binding instrument on negative security assurances to all non-nuclear-weapons States.

Meanwhile, noted the summary, despite the stated intentions by some nuclear-weapons States to reduce part of their nuclear-weapon stocks, limited bilateral and unilateral arms reductions were far below the expectations of the international community, and could never be a substitute for the obligations of those States to completely eliminate their nuclear weapons.

Turning to the horizontal and vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons, which constituted another serious challenge, he said the best way to guarantee the non-proliferation of weapons was the "full and non-selective" implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Its universality must be assured, in particular in the Middle East, where the nuclear-weapon programme of the only non-party to the treaty – which had also been assisted by France – seriously threatened regional and international peace and security.

China's Zhang Juan'An said that the international community should foster a peaceful, cooperative and stable security environment, so as to remove the root cause of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

All parties, Juan'An said, should work together to consolidate the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and ensure the impartiality and non-discrimination of international efforts, adhering to resolving "non-proliferation hotspot issues" through political and diplomatic means. China continued to call for the peaceful resolution of the Korean peninsula and Iranian nuclear issues; indeed, he said, the relevant diplomatic processes were "facing good opportunities nowadays," he added.

Furthermore, a phased, long-term plan was needed towards a convention on the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons. Countries with the largest nuclear arsenals bore "special and primary" responsibility for nuclear disarmament and should continue to make "drastic and substantive” reductions in their nuclear arsenals, he said. The nuclear-weapon States should reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their national security policy, and all parties should make concerted efforts to advance the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Photo: Pax Christi protesting against Trident

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