The European Union and the Iranian nuclear programme

The XXI UEF Congress, held in Vienna from 30 June to July 2, 2006, agrees that the question of the Iranian nuclear programme is evolving towards an extremely severe crisis. In order to find out a proper answer to this challenge, we must move from the following three key-points.

1.    The danger that the Iranian government may develop nuclear weapons represents a great challenge as far as security is concerned.

In general terms, further steps towards the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) would increase the likelihood of their use. Many elements are always more putting in crisis the deterrence system, which was somehow useful to limit the possibility of their exploitation: the growth of the chances of war by mistake, the lack of a second-strike capability by new nuclear powers, the increasing risks of the spread of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorist groups.

With regard to the Iranian situation, if this country (that is featured by a regime with strong theocratic and authoritarian traits) will develop a nuclear capability, a domino-effect will likely involve Israel and the whole of the Middle Eastern region,. This would bring about negative consequences at the global level as well.

2.    The idea of blocking the Iranian drive towards nuclear weapons with economic sanctions or military interventions is clearly senseless. Consequences would be frightening, as far as economy (let’s think about energy), regional stability, terrorist threats, and the risks of a clash among civilisations are concerned. On the other hand, the support to the current Iranian regime would probably be strengthened.

3.    The Iranian nuclear program (which is supported by a great majority of the people) doesn’t exclusively depend on the choices of the current government, but also on objective security concerns. Among the latter, we could mention: the fact that current nuclear powers do not seem to be willing to give up their nuclear weapons; the historical experience of two invasions (in 1941 by Great Britain and Soviet Union, and in 1980 by Iraq), and of the 1953 coup (prepared by Great Britain and the CIA, which wanted to put an end to the democratic Mossadeq government and re-enthroned Mohammad Reza Pahlavi); the chronical lack of stability of the Middle Eastern region, which is focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the military might – both conventional and nuclear – of Israel; the American policy, which is aimed at controlling energy resources even by overthrowing “unfriendly” regimes by force.

In the light of such considerations, a valid answer to the Iranian challenge can be found out in a strategy aimed at changing the overall situation and introducing alternatives to the quest for security through nuclear weapons. Let’s consider both regional and global consequences.

On the regional scale, a crucial role could be played by a Conference for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East, whose agenda might include two main issues.

•    The building of a security framework centred on a regional system of confidence building,
•    The development of a system of increasing economic and technological cooperation, within which to realize the end of US sanctions against Iran, a broad economic agreement between the region and the EU, and forms of deeper economic integration in the area. In such context there will also be conditions for:
•    The solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which requires the existence of two states (according to the UN resolutions of 1947 and 1948), which must guarantee security and welfare; indemnity for Palestinian refugees; the launch of regional cooperation;
•    The control and successive reduction of armaments, on the set up of a Middle Eastern Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.
•    The stabilization of Iraq, that must move from the hegemonic US control to a multilateral administration founded on a strong UN role;
•    The spread in the area of human rights and democracy, which can be achieved in the framework of a regional pacification through economic and social progress.

    A Conference for regional stabilization must be integrated on the global scale with an initiative to properly enforce the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which entails the commitment of the nuclear ones to “run in good faith negotiations on the right measures to put an end as soon as possible to the race to nuclear armaments and to enact disarmament and a treaty for a general and complete disarmament under international control”. Such commitment must be respected by the existing nuclear powers and integrate the request to all other states abandon any plans to develop, produce and acquire nuclear weapons, and should lead to overcome the unfair split between nuclear and non-nuclear powers.
A strengthened and democratized UN must therefore be endowed with real powers of controlling nuclear technologies,.
The above-sketched guidelines demand the overcoming of huge obstacles: on the one hand, authoritarian and nationalistic forces in the Middle East; on the other one, the hegemonic role of the United States.
Humanity has to face crucial challenges – the proliferation of WMD, poverty, transnational terrorism, instability in several regional areas, ecological concerns, let alone the whole issue of governing globalization – which objectively require the building of a more just and peaceful world, based on the enforcement of a global international organization and on regional institutions.
In such context the EU, which enjoys a deep interest in peace and progress in the Middle East, can play a very important role. Let’s consider the Solana document “A safe Europe in a better world”. It suggests the vocation of Europe – which has emerged out of a peace-building process – to a global policy towards peace, while in the Middle East the Barcelona process and the EU-3 (France, Great Britain, and Germany) initiative are already at work.
EU policy towards Teheran must therefore be part of a more general framework, that must represent a concrete alternative to American choices such as an initiative for an integral application of the NTP stating its willingness to renounce its nuclear weapons and submit them to the IAAE control, provided that the nuclear powers do the same. Proposals are however not enough. The EU must be endowed with a real strength in order to convince both Middle Eastern states and the USA; that means it must enjoy a true international capacity, getting rid of EU unanimity principle which hinders the chance of a proper European role as a global player.

In the current institutional framework, something can however be already achieved. The CFSP, for instance, must be interpreted in a more communitarian way and structured cooperations (which are foreseen in the Constitution) should be immediately applicable, especially as far a European role in the Middle East is concerned.

Resolution carried overwhelmingly