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If Iran shouldn’t have nukes, neither should U.S.

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Recently, at the United Nations, Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazaei addressed a conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, which represents 120 countries, refreshing Iran’s call for stronger global action to promote nuclear disarmament. That call has gone largely unnoticed.

“We have always announced nuclear disarmament as one of our most important priorities while emphasizing the right of all signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to use peaceful nuclear energy,” Khazaei said on Thursday.

An article on the Iranian Press TV website went on to note that Non-Aligned Movement member states call for the disarmament of all countries possessing nuclear weapons. The Iranian envoy stated that the next changes in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should be made “with the purpose of strengthening its signatories’ commitment to nuclear disarmament free from dual and discriminatory standards.”

His position underscores the concerns of most international disarmament advocates. The five nuclear weapons states that are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have time and time again forestalled concrete steps toward disarmament while making non-proliferation their highest priority, ignoring the obvious complimentary influence that measured, verifiable multi-lateral disarmament would have on non-proliferation efforts.

International norms should not be contorted to maintain a sort of nuclear apartheid.

“He reaffirmed (the Non-Aligned Movement’s) support for the establishment of a Middle East region free of nuclear weapons,” the article continued.

Israel has a significant nuclear arsenal. The existence of these nuclear weapons in the Middle East, even though Israel declines to confirm its status as a nuclear weapons state, is hardly conducive to non-proliferation efforts in the region. Any actual use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East would have global repercussions, the nature and extent of which cannot be foreseen. Unlike Iran, Israel has refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“Iran has repeatedly expressed its strong opposition to any production, possession or use of nuclear weapons, saying such arms have no place in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear doctrine. On Feb. 22, 2012, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Iran considers the pursuit and possession of nuclear weapons ‘a grave sin’ from every logical, religious and theoretical standpoint.”

There is no evidence that Iran has made any effort to enrich uranium to weapons grade. Yes, their existing technology could be used for this, but member states are permitted under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to pursue civilian nuclear power and related technologies.

Given Iran’s legal right to develop civilian nuclear power, perhaps the international community should take a page from Ronald Reagan’s playbook, “Trust, but verify.” With a higher percentage of Iranians having a positive view of the U.S. than do those of our allies India and Turkey (and with 70 percent of Iranians under 30), it might be a sensible revision to a U.S. policy that otherwise seems destined to lead to an unproductive confrontation, not to say war.

The U.S. has committed to invest over $200 billion in nuclear weapons infrastructure and delivery systems over the next decade as we continue to ignore our commitment to nuclear disarmament. Prior to embarking on this unprecedented reinvestment in our nuclear weapons infrastructure President Obama said in Prague; “I state clearly… America’s commitment to seek… a world without nuclear weapons. This goal will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime.”

Why not?

Iran is a useful foil for the nations in the nuclear club that wish to avoid accountability for their intransigence in the face of their clear obligation to disarm under international law. We, as Americans, are responsible for the continued threat nuclear weapons pose to more rational international relations. American leadership would lend wings to the global effort to move forward on this critical issue.

But concrete steps, not mere rhetorical aspirations, will be required to forge the path to disarmament. If now is not the time to begin pursuing this universally accepted goal in earnest, when?

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