United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

NAM Countries Hypocritical on Iran

David Albright and Andrea Stricker

            The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit ended on August 31 in Tehran with the adoption of a communiqué that is troubling and even hypocritical in its 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, including penalties by the United States and European Union. 
 
            The core issue is that the NAM statement misinterprets the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Contrary to widespread perception, the international treaty signed by 190 nations does not guarantee a signatory country access to the nuclear fuel cycle if that state is under investigation for not complying. The 120 NAM states appear unwilling to join the world’s six major powers in pressing Iran to abide by successive U.N. resolutions.  They basically do not want to acknowledge Iran’s intransigence—even though many members are U.S. or European allies and claim to oppose Tehran’s nuclear policies. 
 
            The final statement could embolden Iran’s efforts and, in turn, undermine nonproliferation and international security—which the NAM states claim to uphold.
 
            The NAM communiqué supports Iran’s “nuclear energy rights,” specifically the right to develop all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment. This position misconstrues the NPT. Under Article IV, Iran cannot claim the right to nuclear energy production—or a right to enrich at all—while under investigation for possible non-peaceful uses of these capabilities. 
 
            Iran’s right to nuclear energy is qualified—as long as there are no major lapses in its Article II obligations. The NPT specifically requires a 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.”
 
            These commitments are now being challenged by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
 
            U.N. resolutions also require Iran to suspend uranium enrichment until it has cleared up questions about its activities with the IAEA.  Most of the NAM members are signatories to the NPT. They are also U.N. members, and therefore aware of U.N. resolutions on Iran and of their legal obligations to enforce and fully comply with them.
 
            So the NAM communiqué failed to acknowledge the need for Iran to fully comply with the international treaty on nuclear weapons. Iran tried to portray that the final communiqué represented a diplomatic victory for Tehran and its controversial nuclear program. But the summit’s resolution instead undermined the Non-Aligned Movement’s credibility, since it demonstrated that developing nations cannot be counted on to deal seriously with nuclear nonproliferation issues.
 
*ISIS Interning Research Associate Andrew Ortendahl contributed to this report.
 

 

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