19 May 2010

"the supremacy of law or the law of the supremes?"

Turkish prime minister, Recep Erdogan, recently asked a central, if politically incorrect, question. “This is the time to discuss whether we believe in the supremacy of law or the law of the supremes and superiors," he states, “While they still have nuclear weapons, where do they get the credibility to ask other countries not to have them?” The "they" he refers to are, of course, the five permanent members of the security council who have just announced agreement on another round of sanctions against Iran.

The announcement followed quickly on the heels of an agreement mediated by Brazilian president Lula da Silva, in which Iran agreed to ship 1,200 kg of low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for nuclear fuel rods for a medical research reactor. The deal is intended to defuse the crisis over Iran's nuclear aspirations. Prime Minister Erdogan said the deal obviated the need for new sanctions.

But the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, "the supremes" to borrow Mr. Erdogan's phrase, are not about to allow upstart secondary powers such as Brazil and Turkey steal their thunder. They, and they alone, will decide on what action to take with Iran, needed or not.

Nonetheless, the dilemma nicely pointed out by Prime Minister Erdogan, remains. The five are in violation of their obligation under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to rid themselves of their nuclear weaponry, yet they complain that Iran may be violating its obligation by attempting to develop a nuclear capacity. Why should they be taken seriously when they are steeped in such hypocrisy?

Iran, after all, has a credible justification for nuclear arms. It is bracketed east and west by wars fought by nuclear-armed and hostile powers. How, by comparison, do the U.K. and France justify nuclear weaponry? They are surrounded by friends. As, of course, is the United States. It's time to end the hypocrisy and demand every signatory to the Treaty respect their obligations. And time to include the nuclear non-signatories in the obligations as well.

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