Platonic Lovers Chasing Nukes Around the World

Ozgur Tufekci

The 2010 Review Confer- ence of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non – Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) held in May 2010 at UN Headquarters in New York. The first day of the month long conference was dominated by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And, as an expected consequence, he was harshly criticised by the US, the British, and the French delegations. During the conference, in a nutshell, Mr Ahmadinejad said that “the US, not Iran, is the real threat to world peace… Regrettably, the government of the United States has not only used nuclear weapons, but also continues to threaten to use such weapons against other countries, including Iran(1).”

Let us stop here…

And go back almost 60 years; start from scratch.

  • The United States is the first producer of nuclear weapons.
  • The United States conducted a nuclear weapon test in 1945 for the first time in history.
  • The United States dropped two bombs onto the Japanese cities Hiroshima on August of 6th, 1945 and Nagasaki on August of 9th 1945; killed tens of thousands of people outright.
  • The United States and Russia were the two parts of nuclear arms race during the Cold War.
    Between 1945 and 1990, the US built more than 70.000 nuclear warheads and bombs.
  • However, Russia managed to beat the US in this race and in 1986; Russia had the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, almost 45.000 warheads[2]. Still, Russia maintains the largest stockpile in the world.

Now let us come back to present.

Currently, around the world there are 9 countries having nuclear arms; Russia, the U.S., France, China, Britain, Israel, Pakistan, India, North-Korea. Apart from that, 430 nuclear power reactors are being operated. Furthermore, many of the world’s oil rich states are in the queue to have nuclear power plants. What makes them to think that they need that technology is awareness of their oil reserves will not last much longer.

However, according to the US, once countries have the nuclear power technology, it will not last to manage to develop weapons of their own. That is why; the American strategy, begun during the Bush administration, is to pre-empt countries, in particular the Middle East countries, to develop nuclear weapons. From the perspective of Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, that is the right formula for the Middle East.[3]

In this context, one of the most significant issues in the agenda of the majority of the world leaders is to prevent Iran and then Middle East countries from developing nuclear power reactors and nuclear weapons, respectively. With bearing this mind, can we say that Mr Ahmadinejad’s speech in the conference was a predictable speech; although it is an argument which has been put forward by a controversial figure? To me, it was. However, the crucial point to take into account is what is the stake which makes people so furious about Iran’s nuclear issue?

Russia 13.000*
United States 9.400**
France 300
China 240
Britain 180
Israel 80-100
Pakistan 70-90
India 60-80
North-Korea ?
TOTAL ~23.360

*Approximately 4,850 of the Russian warheads are operational or active. The status of the other 8,150 warheads is unclear. Some portion may be in reserve with the balance retired and awaiting dismantlement.
** Approximately 5,200 of the U.S. warheads are in the military stockpile (about 2,700 deployed); 4,200 retired warheads are awaiting dismantlement.
*** This number was revealed by William Hague (Foreign Secretary) on 25 the May 2010.

There are several assertions, regarding the stakes. Let me talk about some of them. If so-called rogue state[4], Iran, have a nuke, she can use it against Israel. If Iran has a nuke, she can turn upside-down the balance of power. And, last but not least is that if Iran has a nuke, this situation could provoke ‘nuclear arms race in Middle East’. The last one has been brought about by Joe Biden, U. S. Vice-President, on May of 5th, 2010. If it is true, what are the measures should be taken? To impose more sanctions on Iran? To invade Iran in order to bring stability and democracy to the region? Or, to decrease considerable amount of nuclear weapons as a sign of good intention.

So far, the sanction option has been commonly used to prevent the Middle Eastern states to have nuclear weapons. On the other hand, a couple of times states have resorted to the use of force. When we look at the near history of Middle East, two incidents draw the attention. The first one was in 1981. Israeli jets bombed an Iraqi reactor at Osirak. And the second one was in September 2007; again Israeli jets destroyed a Syrian reactor, secretly. In these two incidents, the main rational behind was these reactors might have produced plutonium that could fuel bombs; and then, these countries could harm the status quo. Herein, should we ask whose status quo? From the perspective of Israel and the U.S., the status quo is on track. What about from the perspective of the rest of the Middle East countries; rest of the World. Is the status quo tolerable for the rest of the world or until when will be tolerable?

As for making it tolerable, there is a theory, called ‘Deterrence Theory’. That is one of the relevant phrases with regard to the use of nuclear weapons. According to this theory, having nuclear weapons prevents potential aggressor from aggression. Now, when we look at Middle East, only state who has nuclear power is Israel. The actual size and composition of Israel’s nuclear stockpile is around 300. Let us forget Iran’s claims that ‘we are not developing a nuclear weapon’. Think that Iran aspires to have the nuclear reactor technology and become one of the nuclear power in the world. What could be the reason for that? What about to protect herself from the regional or global risks, from other potential rogue states (as you know all rogue states are not friends of each other) or to become a ‘Nuclear Power’ in order to be a global actor.

Politics is a logical issue. That is why; leaders should behave logically. When you implement a plan, you should check it results, consistently. If it does not give you what you want, you should find out another plan. In this case, to some extent the sanctions (or fear of being given official sanctions[5]) have worked. However, it does not mean that it will last forever. Sooner or later, Iran or another potential rogue state will win out.

So, if the leaders want to be a logical, why do not they try to dismantle all nuclear powers instead of deciding who can or not become a nuclear power. Recently, the leaders have decided that a state is suitable to have a nuclear reactor. That state is the United Arab Emirates, which has awarded a $20.4 billion contract to a South Korean consortium to build four 1400 MWe reactors by 2020. Jordan, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia are on the queue. What makes these countries different from Iran? Their Pro-Western leaders? What about in the future? Who can ensure that one of these states will not be a threat for the World Peace? Let us face it; this is not a peaceful solution. This attitude only escalates the hatred. That is why; the parties should gather and reduce the stockpile of Nuclear Arms more than what they have done so far. Or, the best is to say their farewell to Nuclear Arms. PR

* Ozgur Tufekci is a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Birmingham. Email:

1) Independent, 04 May 2010, http:/ / news/ world/ politics/ ahmadinejad -refuses-to-curtail – nuclear-ambitions-as-weapons-talks-begin- 1961500.html
2) Stephen I. Schwartz, 50 Facts About U.S. N u c l e a r W e a p o n s , h t t p : / / projects/ archive/ nucweapons/ 50.aspx [Accessed on 08/ 05/ 2010].
3) New York Times, 2 May 2010, http:/ / w w w . n y t i m e s . c o m / 2 0 1 0 / 0 5 / 0 3 / world/ 03nuke.html
4) Michael Lind explains the term as “ Rogue state is a term of emotional propaganda, not sober analysis. The rogue-state rationale is employed when American leaders wish to rally support for a policy whose actual pur- pose — increasing or reinforcing American military hegemony in its European, Asian or Middle Eastern sphere of influence — cannot be explained to the public” in his article in The National Interest on May/ June 2007. http:/ / publications/a r t i c l e s / 2 0 0 7 / beyond_american_hegemony_5381
5) Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, Vol. 65, N o . 6 , 2 0 0 9 . h t t p : / / thebulletin.metapress. com/ content / x m 3 8 g 5 0 6 5 3 4 3 5 6 5 7 / ? p=ac84fde4a9f54939b7a2bac6688eb44 b&pi=9
6) A nuclear agreement has been signed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to this agreement, Iranian stockpile of enriched uranium will be transferred to Turkey. In return, Iran will be supplied with the more highly-enriched material used in medical isotopes.

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