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07/01/2011
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Global issues

Ten myths on Iran and nuclear issues

1. The UK rejects Iran’s right to exploit nuclear energy or benefit from modern technology

Wrong. We have never denied Iran’s right to pursue a peaceful civilian nuclear programme.  But with that right comes responsibility and Iran needs to restore trust with the international community.  Their continued silence on possible weaponisation activities combined with the revelation of secret enrichment sites and aggressive rhetoric does little to restore trust in their intentions, but merely adds to our concerns on their programme.

Britain’s efforts in 2006 secured a generous package of incentives including assistance in developing a civil nuclear programme and scientific and economic cooperation. These offers are still on the table and Iranian cooperation with the international community is the best way of opening the country up for access to technological advances, exploiting new skills and enjoying prosperity.

2. The UK turns a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear programme

Wrong. The UK fully supports the vision of a Middle East totally free of nuclear arsenals. The UK regularly lobbies Israel about the importance of signing up to the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), but such efforts are undermined by Israel’s concern that hostile regional powers are developing their own such programme.

This does not mean we should ignore other proliferation threats. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons technology, there is a strong possibility that other states in the region would follow – and a Middle East with several nuclear weapons states would lead to high instability, precarious energy security and would have a severely damaging effect on the MEPP.

3. The West is only really interested in regime change

This is not about regime change – we are looking for Iran to change their behaviour on the nuclear dossier.  A change in their behaviour holds the possibility to end Iranian isolation in the international community, and would have a massive beneficial impact on their people.

4. The international community will never let Iran off the hook, no matter what concessions it makes

Wrong. The conditions which Iran must fulfil are 100% clear (suspension of uranium enrichment, addressing unanswered questions, abidance by Additional Protocol of NPT), as are the rewards which Iran will receive for cooperation (wide-ranging package of incentives including full political and technological support for a peaceful nuclear programme). The Security Council has made clear that all measures against Iran are proportionate and reversible.

5. Iran has not breached the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

Iran has admitted that for 18 years it was pursuing a clandestine programme, thus breaching its undertakings to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). It has also secured dual-use material from illegal international networks, as the former IAEA Director General, Mohammed al-Baradei has reported.

The revelation of the secret enrichment facility at Qom last year compounded mistrust in their programme, and in November the IAEA Board voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution condemning Iran’s lack of transparency and continued enrichment in defiance of the UN.

Its failure to meet its obligations on transparency, and unwillingness to take confidence-building measures to assuage widespread concerns about a possible military programme, are clearly outside the spirit of the NPT.

6. Iran has a right and a need for enriched uranium

Iran has rights to benefit from nuclear power. But as the above point makes clear, Iran also has obligations as a voluntary signatory of the NPT (as a non-nuclear weapons state) not to pursue nuclear weapons.

Iran has failed to explain why it is rushing to enrich Uranium when it has no nuclear power stations which could use Iranian nuclear fuel, and it will take years for it to build any - particularly as they will have to do so without any assistance from international partners (the one Russian-built nuclear plant in Iran due to be opened this year will be supplied with fuel by Russia)

7. The UK is planning for, or is ready to go along with military action

Wrong. The UK Government has repeatedly made clear that it is fully pursuing a diplomatic solution, which it believes can achieve the necessary results.

8. This issue should be pursued through the IAEA, not the UN Security Council

Britain supports Amano’s continued efforts to resolve unanswered questions on this issue and the matter will continue to be discussed and pursued through the IAEA. However, one track does not negate the other. In the light of Iran’s consistent refusal to comply with IAEA resolutions, the matter was reported to the UNSC to reinforce the IAEA's authority and to apply further pressure on the Iranian regime.

9. This is another round of a long-running stand-off: the US & allies vs. Iran

If anything the concerns of many countries in the region are more acute than in the West regarding the security, environmental and political implications of such a programme, the risk of destabilisation of a sensitive region and a nuclear arms race.

Russia, China and many other countries have been clear in their support of addressing Iran’s nuclear programme through the dual track strategy of dialogue and pressure. The UK has always sought good relations with Iran, has an active embassy in Tehran and has never broken off diplomatic relations.

10. The West cannot bear to see an Islamic country gaining such capabilities. Meanwhile Western nations and their allies have huge nuclear arsenals.

Ludicrous to claim a link to religion. Nobody is trying to claim that the existence of sizeable nuclear arsenals is desirable. The NPT commits nuclear powers to progressively decreasing their nuclear armouries.

Britain is foremost among the nuclear weapons states in reducing the size of its nuclear arsenal. It has reduced by 75% the explosive power of its nuclear arsenal since the end of the Cold War. If a blind eye is turned to Iran’s NPT obligations, then we risk a future where the international framework to prevent nuclear proliferation is fatally undermined and such hugely destructive weapons become more readily available to rogue states and terrorist networks.

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