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Hit and Run, Iran? The Military Dynamics of Nonproliferation

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Weapons of Mass Destruction or of mass delusion? To nail or derail

Ambiguity in Iran’s weapon acquisition dynamics exacerbates mistrust, which is the core reason for the present standoff at the negotiating table. In this paper, I elucidate the Iranian military’s capability and intention by delving into the main componential elements of weapon acquisition.

Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are not suitable for the Iranian Army, given its non-mechanized nature; its defensive military posture; its current status as a non-nuclear weapon state; and its sufficient conventional preparation to meet its protective security interests. This paper proposes three interlinked policy approaches to resolve the current impasse: (1) utilize Iran’s technological dependency by requiring maximum international supervision of its dual-use but peaceful technology; (2) encourage Iran’s problem-solving role and pacific behaviour by streamlining the current sanctions to avoid harming the Iranian economy as a whole; and (3) consider an alternative, noncoercive policy that respects Iran’s legitimate technological and conventional defensive needs. This non-coercive approach would open the door to collaboration rather than confrontation through a gradual, piecemeal, and reversible policy.

1. Introduction

There are five military reasons why weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are not an appropriate class of weapons for Iran. Careful examination of these reasons may help us to understand Iran’s position on the acquisition of WMDs. First, tactically speaking, Iran is a non-possessor of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; second, the Iranian Army, because of its low number of armored vehicles and its logistical, communication, and command features, is a non-mechanized army; third, the Iranian Army is organized according to a defensive military posture; fourth, WMDs are not strategically suitable for Iran given its protective security interests; and finally, Iran’s current conventional destructive capability meets the regime’s core protective security interests without WMDs.

These five characteristics support the claim that WMDs are not suitable for the Iranian Army in a regional conflict. A dilemma arises, however, between Iran’s secret pursuit of an enrichment program and the last three decades of discriminatory policies refusing Iran access to modern technology. Such a conflict demonstrates the inherent tension between the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty’s (NPT’s) prohibition on proliferation (see Articles 1 and 2) and its provision of the right to nuclear energy (see Article 4)[1]. Ultimately, the boomerang effect of incremental sanctions and prolonged negotiations with the P5+1 may set both sides on a path with unwanted and unwarranted consequences. To avoid this, the P5+1 should strive to better understand the Iranian military’s weapon acquisition dynamics and to approach negotiations with an impartial and sound judgment.

Two main concepts in understanding weapon acquisition are means and ends. These two notions were introduced into the literature of military studies by Carl von Clausewitz. His definition of war as a “real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce…by other means” highlights the importance of military means and their political ends[2].This definition has been widely adopted by other strategists as well. For example, Liddle Hart defined strategy as “the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill ends of policy[3],”and Hedley Bull considered strategy as “shaping means so as to promote ends in any field of conflict[4].” Barry Posen focuses on the interaction between means and ends instead of on one as the cause of the other. He defines strategy as a “chain of political ends and military means[5].”Hence weapon acquisition could be considered a political as well as a military instrument to achieve victory in war and to maintain security in peacetime. By this account, the acquisition of WMDs could be understood as the response of a state’s military policies

to these two aims. Accordingly, a state’s decision for weapon acquisition could be examined in terms of means and ends. Means encompass the tactical utility of a weapon in case of a probable war, and ends embody the strategic utility of a weapon during both war and peacetime. These two tactical and strategic concepts of the utility of WMDs are developed in this study to illuminate the appropriateness of WMDs for the Iranian Army.

2. Tactical Utility of WMDs for Iran

On the tactical level, three characteristics can help to determine Iran’s disposition toward the acquisition or rejection of WMDs. The first characteristic is whether the Iranian military currently possesses WMDs capability; the second is whether it has a mechanized army; and the third is whether the Iranian Army has developed an offensive or defensive military posture. This paper postulates that the closer the Iranian government is to possessing WMDs, the more mechanized its army, and the more offensive its military posture, the less likely it will be to reject WMDs.

2.1 IRANIAN WMDS CAPABILITY

To describe a country as a WMDs possessor means that the state has the capability of mass

producing, weaponizing, and applying lethal chemical or biological agents, or nuclear weapon grade material, in war. By this definition, Iran does not possess chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

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2.1.1 CHEMICAL WEAPONS CAPABILITY

Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran and Iraqi-Kurdish citizens in the 1980s, which was not met with serious international opprobrium, provided sufficient reason for Iran to research, produce, and develop lethal chemical agents for military application, at least for the period of the armed conflict. Despite such a volatile history, Iran did sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on January 13, 1993, the first day that it was open for signature, and it ratified the Convention on November 3, 1997. The CWC entered into force for Iran on December 3, 1997[6].Iran has publicly acknowledged the existence of a chemical weapons program that was developed during the latter stages of the 1980 to 1988 war with Iraq. On ratifying the CWC, Iran opened its facilities to international inspection and confirmed that all its chemical weapons activities had been terminated and the facilities destroyed prior to the treaty’s entry into force. The CWC utilizes three different verification systems: routine

inspection, challenge inspection, and clarification on State declarations. Since 1999 the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has conducted scores of routine inspections in Iran, and to date no state has chosen to activate the challenge inspection provisions against Iran. There is only one report that the United States and Britain called for a challenge inspection to question Iran’s initial declaration[7],but this was resolved by a clarification from Iran.

Iran’s capability in chemical technology and material originated in old chemical industries, such as the Abadan refinery, the first of its kind in the Middle East. A more recent example is Pars Chlorine, a large factory in the north of Iran, which has the technological capability to produce dual-use chemicals. Pars Chlorine started operation in the city of Tabriz on November 22, 1998, with an export capability of two million U.S. dollars. The factory produces various chemicals, such as liquid chlorine, caustic soda, and chlorine acid, which are mainly used in water chlorination, detergents, paper mills, soap, and glass manufacturing[8]. There is sufficient domestic peaceful use for these products in Iran, and the Iranian general balance of trade does not show a significant change in export or import of chemical agents by which one could deduce that Iran is covering up chemical weapons production[9].

Iranian pursuit of chemical weapons defence has a long history. Between the years 1955 and 1960, eleven Iranian officers attended U.S. Army chemical and biological weapons (CBW) training courses to prepare for chemical weapons defence, given the probability of a Soviet chemical attack[10]. In April 1988, the Yasa Factory of the National Industries Organization began producing gas masks, initially in limited numbers, and a new area decontamination system known as Deraksh-6 was introduced at the same time[11].11 These preparations provided Iran with sufficient defensive power against chemical weapon attacks in any future war. Although Iran did develop the know-how for mass production of chemical weapons and is prepared for chemical weapons defence operations, it is not currently in possession of chemical weapons, and is therefore considered a non-possessor in this study.

2.1.2 BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS CAPABILITY

The Central Intelligence Agency believes that “Iran probably has the capability to produce at least small quantities of BW [biological warfare] agents[12].”The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s (ODNI’s) January 1 to December 31, 2006, report to Congress, addressing Iranian biological warfare programs, stated that “Iran probably has the capability to produce large-quantities of some Biological Warfare (BW) agents for offensive purposes, if it made the decision to do so[13].”The 2010 ODNI report changed its 2006 assertion, however, assessing that “Iran probably has the capability to produce some biological warfare (BW) agents for offensive purposes, if it made the decision to do so.” This qualified assessment could be interpreted as an indication that “U.S intelligence probably does not have evidence of any current Iranian BW program[14].”

Allegations made by Iranian opposition groups regarding Iranian biological warfare programs have never been substantiated, but the level of techniques utilized by Iranian institutes speaks for itself. Iran’s high level of technology and experience suggests that, although Iran has not yet realized an offensive biological weapons program, it has the capability should it decide to do so[15]. The fact is that Iran did accede to the Geneva Protocol in 1929 and ratify the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1973, and it has actively participated in all subsequent negotiations to develop the Convention. In 1998 Iran hosted a trial inspection visit of the Razi Institute, the biggest institute of its kind in the country, on behalf of the BTWC[16].

2.1.3 NUCLEAR WEAPONS CAPABILITY

The issue of Iran’s nuclear weapons capability is more complicated and more sensitive than its chemical and biological capabilities, thus it absorbs a great deal of international diplomatic and academic attention[17]. Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) entered into an agreement for the application of safeguards in connection with the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The agreement was entered into force on May 15, 1974, after being circulated by the IAEA on December 13, 1974[18].18 The IAEA’s most comprehensive report, however, in November 2011, expressed its “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme[19].”19 These concerns were not actually new but were rooted in earlier reports confirming Iran’s failure in a number of instances over an extended period of time to meet its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement, with respect to the reporting of nuclear material; its processing and its

use; and the declaration of facilities where such material has been processed and stored. The same controversial 2011 report, however, as well as a few reports in 2012, detracted from the above concerns by conveying that “the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs [locations outside of the facilities] declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement[20].”

Meanwhile, past estimates about when Iran might be able to produce a nuclear weapon have been proven unreliable[21]. In 2011 Director of the IISS Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme Mark Fitzpatrick concluded that, if Iran uses all its centrifuges at Natanz for weapons purposes, and if these centrifuges can continue to perform at their maximum output, then “a little over a year and seven months would be required for the first bomb’s worth of HEU [highly-enriched uranium][22].” Fitzpatrick concluded in an October 2011 report that “[w]e can have high confidence that Iran does not today have a nuclear weapon and that it won’t have one…a year from now,” but he confirmed in the same report that “I have no confidence that Iran won’t have a nuclear weapon two years from now. If they wanted to go for it and if everything went right[23].”This assessment does not take into account the time needed for the weaponization of the HEU or the gap between a nuclear explosive

device and a deliverable weapon. If we also consider the estimation of outgoing Mossad Director Meir Dagan, that “Iran will not have a nuclear bomb earlier than 2015[24],”the unreliability of current forecasts would be doubled.

Joseph Cirincione discusses five factors that are drivers or barriers for nuclear proliferation, namely (1) national security enhancement; (2) symbolic value of prestige; (3) domestic politics of three musketeers associating soldier, scientist, and political leadership ; (4) technology to maintain scientific achievements; and (5) economics that is commonly shared by the other four dynamics[25]. Cirincione believes that, of these five dynamics for proliferation, security is the most relevant factor for Iran, given Iran’s peripheral stance that it would have much to gain and little to lose, while the other elements play minor roles. Nuclear weapons are non-prestigious to Iran because Iran has identified itself as being against proliferation in many regional and international conferences, and it has gained much prestige for its anti-proliferation disposition.

Domestically, harmony between military and scientific bureaucrats in exaggerating unsubstantiated security threats and/ or overstating the utilities of nuclear weapons may not be sufficient to convince Iran’s theological leadership, who declared WMDs a religiously forbidden (haraam) class of weapons[26]. Technologically, the case of Iraq proved that developing countries are vulnerable to a “technology-denial strategy.” In fact, the combination of sanctions and UN inspections crippled Iraq’s nuclear project[27]. Nuclear weapons are neither economically reasonable nor could they be substitutes for conventional weapons[28]. Each class of weapons is designed for a particular mission and function, thus a WMD cannot replace conventional weapons, nor can it compensate for any weaknesses in conventional arms.

Finally, could nuclear weapons be an ultimate security guarantor against an existential threat to the Islamic Republic of Iran? Does any existential enmity exist around Iran to threaten its core and principal security interests? The second part of this study examines the background of the enmity and the regional conflicts surrounding Iran. It deduces that, after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, there has been no core security threat near Iran that is likely to necessitate the use of WMDs. Thus, a security model could not be applied to gain support for Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Two classic cases that appear similar to Iran, South Africa during apartheid and Israel, are rejected because the Cold War has ended and the threats surrounding Iran are non-existential.

It is questionable, however, why the Islamic Republic decided to secretly pursue its enrichment program in the mid-1980s, in the middle of the war with Iraq. The Iranian concealment policy and its safeguard failures could be explained on two accounts: (1) technological discriminatory restrains; and (2) Saddam’s WMD preparation. Iran’s decision was in part a response to the explicit technological discrimination envisaged in the Western countries’ policy of refusing Iran technological access, and to the Western countries’ self-assigned role of denying Iran its legal rights under the NPT to access the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. In addition, Iraq’s application of WMD against not only military targets but also civilians during the Iran-Iraq War left Iran with no choice but to engage in preliminary phases of enrichment, far short of a nuclear deterrence, to discourage such

a belligerent enemy from entering into a mutually expensive nuclear arms race. The multifaceted capability of Iraqi preparation for nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons was revealed after Iraq’s first defeat in 1991, but secret reports of its activities were circulated to Iranian services much earlier through Iraqi oppositionists living in Iran during the war. Those reports of Iraqi WMD activities and actual use of chemical weapons substantiated a real threat to Iranian security until the collapse of Saddam’s regime. Hence, mutual understanding between Iran and the IAEA regarding past Iraqi threats, as well as a discussion of technological discriminatory restraints, formed the cornerstone of their agreement in 2003 to initiate corrective measurements to resolve past issues.

The IAEA report on Iran, published August 30, 2012, confirmed that Iran has increased its production of twenty-percent-enriched uranium, and it has doubled the number of centrifuges it has installed (without feeding uranium hexafluoride [UF6] to start working) at the Fordow underground site. It was also revealed, however, that Iran had converted about half of its twentypercent- enriched uranium into fuel plates for a small research reactor in Tehran[29]. Iran’s decision to convert so much of its twenty-percent-enriched uranium into fuel plates makes it very difficult to reconvert the uranium back again to be used in weapons application, and thus moves Iran further away from a weapon capability.

Despite many speculations that Iran is looking for nuclear weapons, the country is a member of the NPT and has repeatedly denied any intention of acquiring nuclear weapons. It has, however, long been involved in developing nuclear technology. Thus, if Iran decides to produce a nuclear explosive device, there is an embryonic capability to do so in a certain period of time, albeit under harsh and risky international, as well as regional, circumstances.

2.2 A MECHANIZED OR NON-MECHANIZED ARMY

The second major characteristic to consider in determining Iran’s disposition toward the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction is whether it has a mechanized or a non-mechanized (infantry-based) army. The infantry-based force differs from the mechanized-based army primarily in terms of size, technological level, and the ability to integrate arms into operations[30].

Infantry-based forces have some armor, but they rely on dismounted or motorized infantry for the bulk of their combat power. At the most, they conduct set-piece operations, integrating arms at the tactical level. There is a significant change in the outcome of a mass destructive war depending on whether an army is mechanized. Mechanized armies have two advantages over non-mechanized armies in such wars. First, a mechanized army has a greater maneuvering capability and greater speed, which will help to minimize the effects of WMDs in combat. Second, armored vehicles are sealed to be resistant to a WMDs attack’s side-effects, such as nuclear heat and radiation orbiological and chemical contamination.

To define an army as mechanized, the percentage of armored vehicles could be considered a crucial element. According to U.S. military authorities, “Mechanized-based armies normally mount at least 40 percent of their ground forces in armored vehicles[31]”.

Thus, one way to assess whether an army is mechanized or non-mechanized is to divide the total active military personnel of the army by the number of its armored vehicles to determine the quantitative ratio of the personnel to the mechanized power of the army. The bigger this number, the less mechanized an army.

With 523,000 active military personnel, Iran has the most populous army of the Persian Gulf region. But this large manpower is not matched by a proportionate number of armored vehicles. The total number of military armored vehicles in the Iranian Army, according to the Military Balance for 2011, is approximately 2,978[32].Thus, there are only 5.7 armored vehicles for every 1,000 active military personnel (including the army, navy and air force). This ratio is 27.6 per 1,000 for Saudi Arabia and 81.5 per 1,000 for Israel. Table 2 shows the ratios across the Persian Gulf[33].

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Iranian efforts to build up a mechanized army have made slow progress since the end of the war with Iraq given financial problems, foreign restrictions, and above all, the state’s lack of an urgent objective to enlarge the mechanized echelon of the army.

Still, it is not sufficient to count main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers to judge whether an army is mechanized. At least two qualitative elements should be added to the quantitative analysis: (1) the power of mobilization or maneuverability; and (2) organizational coordination[34].In determining the mobilization power of a mechanized army, logistics can produce qualitative improvements in military effectiveness. The organizational effectiveness of an army can be explained as the coordination between the different arms of a force, not only between ground forces, but also between the army, the air force, and other participants in an operation.

The qualitative shortfall of the Iranian Army to provide a professional mechanized force could be traced to its logistical and coordination problems, which have historic and social roots. Iran’s modern army is almost eighty-five years old, and its official formation dates back to the first conscript army in 1926, which came after a controversial approval by the parliament under the direct influence and insistence of Reza Shah Pahlavi[35]. The logistical problems of the Iranian Army did not begin with the revolution. Two determinant factors were in place before 1979, and they have not yet been resolved. The first is the diversification of military purchases, and the second is the lack of a united military command, even at the regional level. By 1979 Iran had military procurement contracts with thirty-three nations[36]. It is almost impossible to prepare the logistics necessary for such a diversified army in a war for an extended period of time.

Even before 1979, the Iranian Army’s lack of unified command was represented in its regional divisions’ separate operational and logistics commands. Although regionally organized, military units were not concentrated, and their operational and logistics commands reported separately to Tehran[37]. The political reasoning behind these military decisions was to avoid a power base that might attempt a coup. This prevented military divisions from achieving rapid action and organizational mobilization, and thus loosened the basic infrastructure necessary for the operation of a mechanized army.

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, another military division has grown: the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), or Sepah Pasdaran Enghelab Islami. The IRGC competes with the national army in terms of allocation of resources and loyalty to the regime. In 2005 a new doctrine was introduced to the Iranian Army, namely the mosaic defense, which was designed to overhaul the command-and-control structure of the IRGC’s land forces, increasing their independence and flexibility in responding to local events. This new doctrine, while helpful in defensive operations, may not succeed in offensive operations, because of both insufficient power projection capability and institutional and bureaucratic differentiations between the IRGC and the regular national army[38]. The duality in the armies of one state decreases the effectiveness of the whole army and divides material units, command, and communication into two groups of independent, parallel players. Therefore, because of its low number of armored vehicles; its thin logistical preparation; and its lack of effective communication, control, command, and military coordination to sustain a massive offensive operation, the Iranian Army is non-mechanized.

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2.3 MILITARY POSTURE

Finally, the importance of WMDs for an army can be determined by its military posture. WMDs are primarily used as offensive weapons because of their surprise effect. They are, therefore, well suited to an army with an offensive military posture. Each military posture necessitates specific, measurable preparations and capabilities. A country with a defensive military posture does not want to start a WMDs war because it would not be prepared for such a war. In broad terms, a state’s military posture includes force structure and operational strategy, and it can be determined by examining four factors: geography, military technology, economy, and politics. The Iranian military posture is defensive in each of these regards.

Geographical conditions compose the strategic depth of a state. Iran, with over 75 million inhabitants populated across 1.64 million square kilometers of uneven land, has enough natural and human resources that its national security could be better served by resorting to a defensive military posture.

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Technological improvements and their military usage can result in the destruction of enemies at much greater distances and with much greater accuracy. Information technology, particularly in satellite command and control, could diminish the strategic value of land. Any such decreases could increase the probability of preemptive, and thus offensive, considerations in the military posture of a state. Yet modern military equipment and its related technology are imported commodities in Iran. The Western boycott of military technology and equipment to Iran has diminished its technological improvements, particularly in the high-tech military industry and modern warfare. These restrains have pushed Iran’s military thinkers to rely on their own capabilities, which were modest at best during wartime and highly protracted afterward. This is particularly true with regard to more complicated technologies. Achievements have primarily been in less complicated weapon systems, such as small arms and light weapons, mortars, ammunitions, and light army personnel carriers. According to The Military Balance, “neither the IRGC nor Artesh (national army) is sufficiently well organized, equipped or trained to conduct sustained battle beyond Iran’s borders[39].”

Economic conditions can also act as a barrier to an offensive military posture, given the cost of keeping a military force in an alert position. Offensive forces, in comparison with defensive ones, should be greater in number and have better training and equipment to perform successful operations, which makes the whole process an expensive one. Thus, financial problems may motivate a state to take a defensive military posture. Comprehensive sanctions by the UN Security Council and even more severe unilateral sanctions by the United States and the European Union, which most recently extended to the financial transactions of the Central Bank of Iran, have highly affected Iran’s economy, to the extent that the country cannot even realize the benefits from its high rate of oil exports and the surplus made in relation to its imports. The high percentage of the annual inflation rate, in addition to economic stagnation and diminishing economic growth from 7.5 percent in 2002 to 5.1 percent in 2004 and 1.8 percent in 2009, in the face of ever rising oil prices, has held the whole economy of Iran in a futile situation[40]. Therefore, economic problems motivate Iran to take a defensive military posture.

Finally, political circumstances, which compel a country to take an offensive or a defensive military posture, have both internal and external origins. Internally, they could involve the revolutionary, ideological, and hegemonic expectations that a state promotes. External political conditions are based on the level of uncertainty a state is suffering from with regard to its surrounding neighbors or the international system. Internally, more than three decades of revolutionary life, hard economic conditions afterward, and internal factional rivalry, particularly after the 2009 presidential election, have led to restraint in the idea of exporting the Islamic Revolution. Iran’s revolutionary and ideological self-expectations are now practically limited to its national boundaries[41].

It is arguable that Iranian support for the Shiite Hezbollah and Sunni Hamas groups against Israeli occupational forces represents an offensive military posture beyond Iranian borders. This support, however, demonstrates a religious commitment, and it is more support for a global Islamic idea than for an Iranian ideological policymaking that could instigate Israeli antagonism. The fact that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the second largest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations, with membership from fifty-sevenstates spread over four continents, was established in 1969, only after the arson of al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem, speaks for itself[42].42 The majority of resolutions approved by this organization are about Palestine. Each year, the OIC special committee of Palestine confirms all the resolutions in three areas: (1) the “question of Palestine”; (2) “AlQuds” (the Arabic term for Jerusalem); and (3) the “Arab-Israeli conflict” adopted by the Islamic conferences and AlQuds Committee. It also reaffirms the centrality of Palestine’s cause for the whole Islamic community (literally named as Ummah)[43]. Beyond any ideological difficulty, the fact that Iran does not share a border with Israel changes the nature of their hostility into a proxy war at most, far from their core security interests.

After the occupation of Iraq and the formation of a new, friendly government with a Shiite majority in power, the major threat of Iraq to Iran has been sharply diminished. The U.S. presence at both the eastern and western borders of Iran could be considered a new threat, of course, but this is a temporary situation that will change over time. In addition, both Iran and the United States share the interest of keeping current administrations in Iraq and Afghanistan stable, under their influence, and working properly—at least until they have better alternatives. Iran, therefore, has no pressing reasons to feel that its national security is threatened by its current neighbors.

Iran is unwilling to use WMDs as a strategic deterrent because this would entail costs similar to an offensive doctrine, including heavy costs for preliminary requirements, extensive material preparations, and participation in arms races,. It would also go beyond Iran’s natural position, which is based on denying any war objectives against its core security interests. While offensive doctrine aims to disarm an adversary by destroying its armed forces, defensive doctrine sets its sights on denying an adversary’s probable war objectives. Deterrent doctrine aims to punish an aggressor and to raise their costs without reducing one’s own, thus encompassing the main characteristics of “denial” and “retaliation” of both defensive and offensive doctrines[44].As a result, a deterrent doctrine is considered to have the same effect and to need the same preparations as an offensive doctrine. Offensive and deterrent doctrines increase the probability and intensity of arm races because they create the logic of a preemptive attack[45].Defensive doctrine, by contrast, produces fewer such destabilizing effects. Iran would therefore be better off with a defensive military posture.

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3. The Strategic Utility of WMDs for Iran

The strategic utility of WMDs is not in the military field, but against urban-industrial centers to trigger a collapse on the enemy’s “home front[46].”Thus, the strategic utility of WMDs could be analyzed in two specific ways: the preparation for a mass destructive capability, and the core aggressive or protective security interests that could lead to such massive destruction. It is postulated that, to the extent that Iran’s mass destructive power is based more on WMDs than on conventional weapons, and to the extent that its core security interests are more aggressive than protective, it is less likely to abandon its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Thus, Iran’s mass destructive capability could be analyzed based on its preparation for applying WMDs or on its conventional substitutions. These conventional substitutions could utilize high-explosive ammunition, and their delivery systems could consist of ballistic missiles and air strategic bombers. The next step is to study the background of enmity in the region to determine whether Iran is likely to require weapons of mass destruction to advance a core security interest. The background of enmity involves the history of regional conflicts, which affect the national security of a state. Core security interests can be classified as protective or aggressive. Protective security interests are those national security issues that must be protected to avoid a core security threat to the state (e.g., the territorial integrity of a state). Aggressive security interests are those that can push a state to threaten a core security interest of another state.

3.1 IRAN’S CONVENTIONAL MASS DESTRUCTIVE CAPABILITY

Conventional high-explosive ammunitions could be considered to have massive destructive capabilities when delivered to crowded urban areas. Thus, the analysis of Iranian conventional mass destructive capability includes ballistic missiles and combat aircraft. Iran has a number of mediumand short-range ballistic missiles. The short-range ballistic missiles are mostly developed internally. More important to this study is Iran’s improving medium-range missile capability, which includes Scud B and C; Shahab 1, 2, and 3; Ghadr 1; and Sejjil 2 missiles. The Military Balance reported in 2005, and again in 2011, that Iran has about 18 Scud B/C launchers, with 200 to 300 surface-tosurface Scud B/C missiles; and 30 CSS-8 launchers, with 175 tactical missiles[47].Scud B missiles, particularly the North Korean made, have a 320 to 340 kilometer (km) range and a 1,000 kilogram (kg) payload. Scud C with a half payload has a 500 to 600 km range[48].

Shahab is a liquid propellant missile system that was indigenously developed. Shahab 1 and 2 are reverse-engineered copies of Scud B and Scud C. They are therefore included in the above estimate of Iran’s Scud missiles inventory. Shahab 3 is a modified No-dong North Korean system with a 1,300–1,500 km range and 760–1,100 kg warhead, and Iran is likely capable of deploying a single battalion consisting of 6 launchers and 24 missiles in the field. Therefore, as Gary Samore confirmed, it seems that Iran has established a technologically advanced ballistic missile program, which suggests that Iran intends to rely on missiles as long-range strike capabilities[49]. Two other long-range missiles under development by Iran are Ghadr 1 and Sejjil 2, which are supposed to be launched by the same 6 launchers as the Shahab 3[50]. The Sejjile 2, with a 2,200 to 2,400 km range, is the longest range solid-fuel missile under development. Despite success in its flight test, the Sejjile 2 is still a couple of years and several tests away from becoming operational[51]. From a military perspective, the utility of Iran’s missile strike would be severely limited by its poor accuracy; hence, without a high casualty rate, it could not be applied against critical military activities in the field, or even against the enemy’s cities and economic industrial complexes[52]. It is thus questionable why Iran has developed its ballistic missile program to such an extent, given that it is too inaccurate to use effectively with any conventional explosives.

The Iranian missile program has a history that makes it a legitimate conventional program, despite its shortcomings and unreliability as a system. Historically, the Iranian missile program is a remnant of two events during the 1980–88 war: the Iraqi use of Scud missiles against Iranian cities; and the U.S. military arms embargo. First, the Iranian air defense establishment had the ability to intercept planes and siren their imminent attack to the cities; long range-missiles, however, could escape short range interception. Hence, during the war, missiles had an effect like a surprise, large-scale terrorist attack against the Iranian home front. Second, the existing U.S. arms embargo on complicated arms, including U.S. fighter jets and long-range missiles, left Iran empty handed and unable to respond in kind to the Iraqi missile attack. The Iranian indigenous missile industry was therefore established in response to a real threat in kind from Iraq. Although the program was formed only later in the war, and in much more limited scope and numbers than Iraq’s program, the continuation of the U.S. ban on Iranian military imports provided enough reasons to continue its development.

Another point to consider is the crosswise gap between Iran’s furthest points in the northwest and the southeast, which is longer than the range of any Iranian missiles. Iran’s diagonal distance from the Azerbaijan Province in the northwest to the Sisstan Province in the southeast is approximately 2,333 km[53]. Such a long distance could provide a militarily convincing reason, based on defensive rationality, for the high range of Iran’s missile capability.

Combat aircraft, which are normally equipped to deliver ordnance in air-to-air or air-to-surface operations, include Fighter Aircraft (FTR) and Fighter Ground Attack (FGA). FTR is specified for aerial, while FGA is a dual-capable aircraft fighter, reconnaissance, and even bomber. Thus, FGA is more suitable for mass destruction. Iran has 108 FGA, including 65 F-4D/ E Phantom II; 30 Su-24MK; 7 Su-25K; and 10 Mirage F-1E (including former Iraqi fighters); and up to 3 Saegheh indigenously developed FGA[54]. A long-range bomber must have an unrefueled radius of action of greater than 5,000 km; medium range, 1,000-5,000 km; and short-range, less than 1,000 km. Light bombers are those with a payload of under 10,000 kg[55]. By this definition, all Iranian bombers can be classified as short-range light bombers. Iran therefore has a limited number of missiles with a range of up to 600 km, and a few more missiles with a range of up to 1,300 km; it also has short range aircraft bombers with less than a 1,000 km combat radius, which gives it a limited capacity for conventional mass destruction. Thus, the Iranian Army could be considered regionally to have a limited massive destructive capability, given its conventional capability.

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3.2 IRAN’S CORE SECURITY INTERESTS AND THE HISTORY OF REGIONAL ENMITY

Does a major enough threat or background of enmity exist between Iran and its rival neighbors to accelerate the probability of the use of weapons of mass destruction? The background of enmity in the region should be assessed to explain the regional conflicts that could have an effect on the national security of Iran. As many experts have observed, Iran’s security environment has improved dramatically over the past decade, with the neutralization of its two greatest external threats: Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime in Iraq; and the Taliban in Afghanistan[56].The elimination of Tehran’s traditional security threats does not mean that Iran has stable relationships with its neighbors across the board, but they have not yet threatened its homeland and core national security interests. In the meantime, there are other possible reasons why Iran would be in need of a strategic deterrent as a basic insurance policy, including variables such as the presence of U.S. forces on both Iran’s western and eastern borders, representing a hostile and nuclear-armed superpower; a history of enmity with neighboring Iraq, which has harbored ambitions of nuclear WMD attacks in the region; and the surrounding presence of other nuclear-armed states, including Russia and Pakistan.

Although the presence of U.S. military forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf presents new challenges, it has a temporary nature and is not threatening to the territorial integrity of Iran. The professional behavior of the Iranian and U.S. Navies in the Persian Gulf over the last two decades exemplifies the possibility of harmony and even cooperation in harsh situations such as fighting piracy and responding to natural sea disasters.

Other than the two World Wars, Iran has faced a military threat to its national security only twice during the twentieth century, namely the Soviet occupation of the north-western part of the Iranian Azerbaijan Province; and the war with Iraq. In the first incident, Soviet troops supported the call for the separation and independence of Iranian Azerbaijan and its unification with the Republic of the Soviet Azerbaijan in the aftermath of World War II . Although this was solved diplomatically, the incident left a legacy of ambition for the unification of a greater Azerbaijan that would include several Iranian provinces and one of the Soviet republics in the region. Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Iran has developed good relationships with the three new republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan in bilateral as well as regional agreements, such as the Economic Cooperation Organization. In addition, the political and military weaknesses of these republics, along with the cooperative bilateral relationship between Iran and Russia, prevent these newly emerged states—Azerbaijan in particular—from making any boundary claims against Iran. Moreover, Iran plays a balancer role in relation to these republics, maintaining peace and preventing one from gaining superiority over the others.

The second threat was the Iraq-Iran border disputes and clashes. Iraqi claims over the boundary river of Arvand, or Shatt al-Arab, have led to fighting between the two countries on three occasions. There were two minor conflicts before the Islamic Revolution and one major war from 1980 to 1988. The two minor conflicts concluded with the Algeria Agreement in 1975, and the major one ended after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2003, which led to the removal of Iraq’s anti-Iran Ba’athist regime and the instatement of a friendly regime with a majority Shiite sector in power, further reduced Iraq’s threat to Iran.

Two other threats to the national security of Iran are: (1) Iran’s rivalry with Pakistan over Afghanistan; and (2) its dispute with Sharjah, one of the seven Sheikhdoms of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), regarding the sovereignty of Iran over three islands in the Persian Gulf. The difficult situation in Afghanistan involves not only the remnants of Taliban and al-Qaida, but also narcotics and well-organized gangs. Illegal operations have already corrupted part of the Afghan administration, particularly in the provinces farthest from Kabul. It is estimated that about 2,000 illegal armed groups operate throughout the country[57].They are heavily engaged in the narcotics trade, which threatens the security and the stability of Afghan society and of its neighbors—Iran in particular—to the extent that “criminality is probably a more serious threat than terrorism[58].”

The rivalry between Iran and Pakistan in Afghanistan has not been a core security threat for either country, more closely resembling a proxy war far removed from the heartlands of the two countries. Traditionally, Iran has sympathized with the Shiite minority, Tajikistan has supported the Tajik minority, and Pakistan has supported the Sunni Pashtoon minority. In the meantime, the gradual reduction of U.S. and European NATO troops, and their replacement with the Afghan National Army, diminishes the U.S. threat to Iran, while increasing Iran’s responsibility as a major player in the security of the region. Since the defeat of the Taliban, Iran has actively participated in the reconstruction process of Afghanistan, and it is among the biggest donors. By contrast, Pakistan has lost the majority of its influence. The nature of threat coming from Afghanistan has therefore witnessed a major shift from military-political to a softer social threat.

The acquisition of nuclear weapons is not, in fact, a matter of national security for Iran. “Nuclear weapons for Iran are not critically vital as they are for Pakistan in relation to its more populous and stronger rival, India, or for India in relation to China and their rival global context[59].” With the destruction of the Iraqi mass destructive capability, Iran is left with no rivals among its neighbours that possess a similar capability, with the exception of Pakistan. Pakistan is not considered a critical threat, however, because of Iran’s support for Pakistan in its dispute with India over Kashmir, as well as the old and profound friendly relationship between the two countries: Iran was the first country to recognize the independence of Pakistan and to militarily support it during its war with India; and Pakistan in turn supported Iran in its war with Iraq. In addition, there remains a large Shiite minority in Pakistan and, finally, one should not forget that the initial Iranian centrifuge technology and material was imported from Pakistan with the full knowledge of Pakistani military and intelligence.

One more minor dispute between Iran and its neighbors is with Sharjah, but this dispute has already shifted to a regional debate over Iranian sovereignty in the Persian Gulf. Iran followed a bilateral solution for Abu Musa and the two Tonbs, and signed a modus vivendi memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the ruler of Sharjah in 1971 for economic and security cooperation over Abu Musa[60]. The MoU ruled out the possibility of violent actions over Abu Musa by either side in the future. Support by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states for the UAE’s sovereignty over all three islands, however, changed an ordinary bilateral debate into a regional discussion. Iran challenged the GCC support for the UAE by declaring a twelve-mile limit for its territorial water, which placed all three islands within the sovereignty of Iran[61]. These three islands represent a strategic concern for Iran because all of its crude oil is exported through the Persian Gulf and the straits of Hormuz—thus, these islands guarantee the safe passage of Iranian oil to the whole world. No other country on the Persian Gulf is in a similar position. By delivering the responsibility for the security of Abu Musa to Iran in the aftermath of the British evacuation, the MoU of 1971 indirectly recognized sovereignty of Iran over this island. The military presence of Iran in these islands is not a threat to the other Persian Gulf states, given the improbability of war. For all these reasons, Iran’s security interests are protective, not aggressive.

4. Conclusion and Policy Recommendations

Iran is a non-possessor of nuclear weapons and, despite its preparation for defense against chemical weapons and its procurement of the know-how for their mass production, it is also a non-possessor of chemical weapons. Iran has not exploited any offensive biological weapons program, although it has the capability to develop such a program if it so decides. The Iranian Army, because of its low number of armored vehicles, and also its logistical, communication, and command features, in comparison with its rival neighbors, is quantitatively and qualitatively a non-mechanized army organized according to a defensive military posture. In sum, Iran is unlikely to pursue the acquisition of nuclear weapons for the following reasons:

  • Iran would not be in a position to integrate WMD systems into its war-fighting doctrine, because Iran has not been preparing for the different aspects of a massive operation utilizing WMDs. Thus, they would not be tactically appropriate in a regional conflict.
  • The Iranian Army, because of its low number of armored vehicles and its logistical, communication, and command features, is both quantitatively and qualitatively a non-mechanized army organized according to a defensive military posture.
  • Iran’s security interests are protective, not aggressive, and its conventional destructive capability meets its core protective security interests without mass destructive weapons. Iran would not need strategic weapons to coerce adversaries or to pursue aggressive interests, because there are no such compelling interests within the core security interests of Iran.

Why, then, is Iran’s position regarding WMDs frequently distorted? Western countries’ discriminatory export control regimes over the last thirty years could be considered a main tactical explanation for Iran’s ostensible pursuit of mass destructive weapons. Long time regimes of export control and military embargoes, even on conventional weapons, which commenced long before the opening of the Iranian nuclear file, have had a boomerang effect. When added to the current mixture of unilateral, multinational, and international sanctions, it may explain the current stalemate in negotiations, Iran’s lack of trust of the P5+1 negotiation objectives, and the failure of the UN machinery to resolve this issue.

This paper offers three main policy recommendations to help resolve the current impasse in negotiations. First, the non-indigenous nature of the Iranian nuclear industry and its technological dependency on foreign suppliers suggest that possession of dual-use technology and materials is necessary but not sufficient for proliferation. This is because of Iran’s vulnerability to foreign supply for sensitive materials and technology. Thus, this technological dependency, in addition to the strict international supervision that Iran is under (such as the IAEA Safeguards and OPCW inspections), could be utilized interdependently in a balancing approach to manage Iran’s possession of dual use, but reasonably proliferation-free, technology. An intrusive system of tense and thorough observation by the international professional community could help to support this approach. The link between the promotional and regulatory aspects of a multilateral agreement on employing dual use technology may work as a means of crisis management through strict regulation and continuous supervision. It could be much more successful than current incremental sanctions that have entailed crisis augmentation.

Second, the P5+1 and the United States, in particular, should support Iran’s role as a balancer in the region. The non-adversarial and non-ideological nature of Iranian foreign policymaking in relation to its neighboring countries could make Iran a vital player in better stabilizing the region. Iranian behavior in the region shows a history of pacifism and problem solving. Take, for example, Iran’s tacit and indirect cooperation with the United States during the Afghanistan campaign against the Taliban; its calming and controlling of Shiite extremists in Iraq; its role as a middleman between Azerbaijan and Armenia; and its avoidance of radicalization on a range of regional issues, from Chechnya to the Bahrain uprisings. The professional behavior of the Iranian Navy and the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf over the last two decades is another example of the possibility for harmony and cooperation in the region.

Finally, the current U.S. policies of isolation, threats, sabotage, and sanctions have been applied and have proven to be unsuccessful in curbing the question of the Iranian nuclear file, or even in slowing down Iran’s mastery of nuclear enrichment. As Kenneth Katzman most recently reported to the U.S. Congress, “The principal objective of international sanctions—tocompel Iran to verifiably confine its nuclear program to purely peaceful uses—has not produced that outcome to date[62]”.It is therefore time to rethink the efficiency of the policy of coercion by testing an alternative, non-coercive policy. This includes respecting Iran’s legitimate technological and conventional defensive needs, and streamlining the current sanctions to avoid harming the Iranian economy as a whole, which only weakens and thins the middle class—the key sponsors of temperate policies in Iranian society and body politic—rather than curtailing suspicious nuclear activity in Iran. The non-coercive approach would be an opening to collaboration rather than to confrontation as a gradual, piecemeal, and reversible policy. Not only can it open breathing space for a constructive approach to break

the current stalemate, but by addressing legitimate concerns on both sides, it could initiate a move toward a more stable Persian Gulf through mutual understanding, cooperation, and trust.

 


[1] United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), “Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear

Weapons” (New York: UNODA), http://www.un.org/disarmament/WMD/Nuclear/NPTtext.shtml.

[2] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Vol. 1, trans. J.J. Graham (London: Kegan Paul, 1911), p. 23.

[3] Barry Buzan, An Introduction to Strategic Studies: Military Technology and International Relations, (London:Macmillan, 1987), p. 3.

[4] Ibid., p. 3.

[5] Barry R. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany between the World Wars (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984), p. 25.

[6] See the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, http://www.opcw.org/about-opcw/memberstates

[7] Gary Samore, Iran’s Strategic Weapons Programs: A Net Assessment (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies [IISS], 2005), p. 73.

[8] British Broadcasting Corporation, Summary of World Broadcasts, weekly report, MEW/0566 WME/[13], p. 4.

[9] International Trade Statistic Year Book 2002, Vol. 1(New York: UN Reproduction Section, 2004), pp. 489–493

[10] Gordon M. Burck and Charles C. Flowerree, International Handbook on Chemical Weapons Proliferation (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1991), p. 252.

[11] Ibid., p. 252.

[12] See: http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/iranprofile

[13] “Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions for the Period 1 January to 31 December 2006” (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2008), p. 4, http://www.counterwmd.gov/files/Acquisition_Technology_Report_030308.pdf.

[14] »Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction« and Advanced Conventional Munitions, Covering 1 January to 31 December 2010” (Washington, D.C.: Director

of National Intelligence), https://www.fas.org/irp/threat/wmd-acq2010.pdf. Cited in the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s (NTI’s) report on WMD in Iran, http://www.nti.org/country-profiles/iran/.

[15] For a detailed analysis, see Richard F. Pilch and Raymond A. Zilinskas, eds, Encyclopedia of Bioterrorism Defense (Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-Liss, 2005), pp. 278–280.

[16] “Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions for the period 1 January to 31 December 2006,” http://www.counterwmd.gov/files/Acquisition_Technology_Report_030308.pdf.

[17] For a reliable account of reports, resolutions, and background facts and figures, see “IAEA & Iran,” http://www.

iaea.org/newscenter/focus/iaeairan/index.shtml. See also Bruno Pellaud, Negotiating with Iran: Testing Alternative Approaches, in Joachim Krause, ed., Iran’s Nuclear Programme: Strategic Implications (New York: Routledge, 2012), pp. 53–81.

[18] See the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “The Text of the Agreement between Iran and the Agency for the Application of Safeguards in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” INFCIRC/214 (Vienna: IAEA, December 1973), http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/Others/infcirc214.pdf.

[19] See IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council

resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” report by the director general of the IAEA to the boards of governors, GOV/2011/65 (Vienna: IAEA, November 8, 2011), par. 53,

http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2011/gov2011-65.pdf.

[20] See ibid., par. 52.

[21] “Weapons Proliferation in the New World Order,” 102nd Congress, 2nd sess., January 1992, which concluded that Iran would have the bomb by 2000. Cited in Joseph Cirincione, Jon B.Wolfsthal, and Miriam Rajkumar, Deadly Arsenals, Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Threats, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005), pp. 295, 308.

[22] Mark Fitzpatrick, Iran’s Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Capabilities: A Net Assessment, Executive Summary (London: IISS, February 3, 2011), http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-dossiers/irans-nuclear-chemical-andbiological-capabilities/.

[23] Ibid., Iran Nuclear Brief (London: The Arms Control Association, IISS, October 3, 2011), p.1.

[24] In his retirement speech to the Israeli Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on January 7, 2011,

Mossad Chief Meir Dagan stated that Iran would not be able to produce a viable nuclear weapon before 2015. He elaborated that Iran is still far from being capable of producing nuclear weapons and that a series of malfunctions and failures have set the Iranian nuclear weapons program back by several years. Yossi Melman, “Outgoing Mossad Chief:Iran Won’t Have Nuclear Capability Before 2015,” Haaretz, January 7, 2011, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/outgoing-mossad-chief-iran-won-t-have-nuclear-capability-before-2015-1.335656.

[25] Joseph Cirincione, Bomb Scare: The History & Future of Nuclear Weapons (New York: Columbia University

Press, 2007), p. 47.

[26] “On numerous occasions, the Iranian people and government officials have announced that they do not seek

to develop nuclear weapons and that nuclear weapons have no place among the needs of the nation and the military system of the country. We believe that using nuclear weapons is haraam and prohibited and that it is everybody’s duty to make efforts to protect humanity against this great disaster. We believe that besides nuclear weapons, other types of weapons of mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons also pose a serious threat to humanity The Iranian nation which is itself a victim of chemical weapons feels more than any other nation the danger that is caused by the production and stockpiling of such weapons and is prepared to make use of all its facilities to counter such threats.” The Center for Preserving and Publishing the Works of Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, “The Supreme Leader’s View of Nuclear Energy,” April 13, 2011, http://english.khamenei.ir//index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1442&Itemid=13.

[27] Cirincione, Bomb Scare, p. 75.

[28] Ibid., p. 77.

[29] See “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” GOV/2012/37 (Vienna: IAEA, August 30, 2012), par. 23–25, 37, http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2012/gov2012-37.pdf.

[30] Armor- and Mechanized-Based Opposing Force: Organization Guide, Field Manual Headquarters, No. 100-

60 (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, July 16, 1997), p. iv, http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/

row/100-60.pdf.

[31] Ibid., p. iii.

[32] IISS, The Military Balance, 2011 (London: IISS, 2011), p. 309.

[33] Information for this chart extracted from ibid.

[34] See John Chipman and Sidney Bearman, Strategic Survey, 1995–1996 (London: IISS, 1996), p. 30.

[35] Stephanie Cronin, “Conscription and Popular Resistance in Iran, 1925–1941,” International Review of Social

History, Vol. 43, No. 3 (December 1998), pp. 451–471, http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=1&fid=69726&jid=ISH&volumeId=43&issueId=03&aid=69725.

[36] Richard A. Gabriel, ed., Fighting Armies: Antagonists in the Middle East: A Combat Assessment (London: Greenwood, 1983), p. 99.

[37] Ibid, pp. 97–99.

[38] IISS, The Military Balance, 2011, p. 297.

[39] Ibid, p. 298.

[40] The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), “Country Report: Iran, March 2005” (London: EIU, 2005), pp. 27, 30. See also World Bank Statistics, “Iran, Islamic Rep. at a Glance” (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, March 29, 2012), http://devdata.worldbank.org/AAG/irn_aag.pdf.

[41] Anthony H. Cordesman, Iran’s Developing Military Capabilities, draft report on CD (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 14, 2004), p. 2.

[42] See the official site of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), http://www.oic-oci.org/.

[43] See Annual Ministerial Sessions reports See also “Report of the Meeting of the OIC Six-Member Committee on Palestine Submitted to the Annual Coordination Meeting of Foreign Ministers of OIC Member States” (New York: United Nations, September 28, 2012), http://www.oic-oci.org/english/conf/fm/acm2012/REP-PALESTINE-ENGLISH.pdf.

[44] Barry Posen’s definition of offensive, defensive, and deterrent military doctrines may help us to identify the particular task of weapons in each military doctrine. See Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine, pp. 14–16.

[45] On the logic of pre-emptive attack in a nuclear war, see: Bruce G. Blair, The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War

[46] The concept of targeting weapons of mass destruction on urban-industrial centers originates from the development of air power theory in the 1920s and the 1930s and the strategic bombing campaigns of World War II. One of the leading air-power strategists was Giulio Douhet, who believed that bombing could be used directly against an enemy’s industrial, commercial, transportation, and civil population. See Jeffrey Legro, Cooperation under Fire: Anglo-German Restraint During World War II (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995), p. 100. See also Theo Farrell and Helene Lambert, “Constructing Nuclear Use: Deterrence Norms and International Law in State Practice,” paper presented at the ECPR-ISA Joint Conference, Vienna, Austria, September 16–20, 1998.

[47] See IISS, The Military Balance, 2004-2005 (London: IISS, 2005), p. 124; and IISS, The Military Balance, 2011, pp. 309–310.

[48] Martin S. Navias, Going Ballistic: The Build up of Missiles in the Middle East (London: Brassey’s, 1993), pp. 20, 24.

[49] Samore, Iran’s Strategic Weapons Programs, pp. 89–105.

[50] IISS, The Military Balance, 2011, p. 310.

[51] Fitzpatrick, Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities, p. 61.

[52] Ibid., pp. 132–133.

[53] See Helen Chapin Metz, ed., “Iran: A Country Study,” December, 1987, http://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-6398.html. 54

[54] IISS, The Military Balance, 2011, p. 311.

[55] For detailed specification of the combat aircraft, see Gordon M. Burck and Charles C. Flowerree, International Handbook On Chemical Weapons Proliferation (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1991), pp. 508–509 table 9.1.

[56]IISS, The Military Balance, 2011, p. 296.

[57] Isobelle Jaques, Afghanistan: Beyond Bonn (Steyning, U.K.: Wilton Park, May 2005), p.16.

[58] Ben Smith, Afghanistan Where Are We? Central Asian Series, No. 05/30 (Oxford: Conflict Studies Research

Centre, June 2005), p.18.

[59] Shahram Chubin, ”Does Iran want Nuclear Weapons?” Survival, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Spring 1995), pp. 89, 93.

[60] For the details of the Memorandum of Understanding between Iran and Sharjah, see Hooshang Amirahmadi,

Small Islands, Big Politics: The Tonbs and Abu Musa in the Gulf (London: Macmillan, 1996), p.162.

[61] IISS, Strategic Studies, 1993–1994 (London: IISS, 1994), p. 141.

[62] Kenneth Katzman, Iran Sanctions, Congressional Research Service (CRS), Report for Congress (Washington,

D.C.: CRS, September 13, 2012), p. 2.

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International Law

Why Human Rights Abuses Threaten Regional and Global Security

Ebad Mobaligh

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Human rights scholars (Brysk, 2009, Mullerson 1997, Chirot and McCauley 2010) argue that discrimination against people on the basis of their religious beliefs, ethnicity, and gender and violations of their social, economic, and security rights, and political opinions leads to conflicts. In response to the discrimination and violation of their rights, people either start to revolt against the aggressor or immigrate to neighboring countries for safety and protection. The rebellion is either supported by locals, locals immigrated to neighboring countries, other states who may obtain a personal gain, or in the name of human rights protection. In each of these scenarios, the internal insecurities cross borders and, with other states’ involvements, eventually become a global insecurity. Modern technology, including social media, globalized economy, and massive immigrations can easily transfer the effect of conflict from one part of the world to the others (Chirot and McCauley 2010). Mullerson argues that in the case of human rights violation, there is a direct link between domestic and international stability. He further states that human rights violation has a direct correlation with domestic stability which may at least indirectly influence international stability (Mullerson 1997).  

The authors of “A Complex Network Analysis of Ethnic Conflicts and Human Rights Violations” state that these types of discrimination and violation of rights usually occur in states that are socio-politically unstable or are in the process of democratization (Sharma et al. 2017). Mullerson posits a similar suggestion. “Sometimes the initiation of the processes of liberalization and democratization of authoritarian or totalitarian regimes can have a similar effect” (Mullerson 1997, 37). The liberation and democratization of Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan are excellent examples to support Mullerson’s argument. Sharma et al, examining conflict in new media from the around world, found a link between democratization and ethnic conflicts.

Mullerson further elaborates that during the Cold War, most threats to international relations came from domestic instabilities caused by human rights violation rather than cross-border attacks from different states (Mullerson 1997). The argument of Rainer and Goel regarding Myanmar’s genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minorities and the regional impact of its insecurities is one of the prime examples of arguments stating that there is a correlation between human rights violation and regional and global insecurities (Rainer and Goel 2020). Mullerson presents additional evidence, deriving from the growth of religious fundamentalists and their discrimination against other religions which is disturbing global instability. He further elaborates with regard to the treatment meted out by the extreme right-wing pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the Muslim minorities in India and argues that the religious beliefs of the BJP are a recipe for intra-religious conflict (Mullerson 1997). India, one of the world’s largest democracies, has witnessed streams of intra-religious violence since the BJP came into power. Mullerson argues that the internal conflict in India may not cause global instability since Hindu extremism is confined within the borders of India; however, he suggests that the Islamic fundamentalists view Western secularization, democracy, and the global social economy as a threat to their fundamental values, and that this may be the biggest threat to many countries as well as the entire world (Mullerson 1997). He further argues that the Russians, who deem the technological and economic growth of the Western countries as a threat to their national security, may further fuel the agenda of the Islamic fundamentalists to slow the technological and economic advancements of the West. 

It is evident from all the arguments that discrimination against people on the basis of their religious beliefs, ethnicity, and gender and violations of their social, economic, and security rights, and political opinions lead to conflicts. Significant evidence has been provided to suggest that in the case of Myanmar, the internal conflict not only created internal and regional instability but also resulted in economic instabilities for Myanmar. Alison Brysk states that there is a direct correlation between human rights and the long-term stability of a state (Brysk 2009).

After WWII, and ever since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in the UN, many states with stable democracies have incorporated human rights into their foreign policy either by being a good Samaritan or under pressure from human rights institutions to address human rights violations in other states. The policy was not given much consideration during the Cold War; however, after the Cold War, many states took actions even against their old friends who committed gross human rights violations during the Cold War.

However, Brysk argues that states do not sacrifice their national interest to protect other states. He states, “Global good citizen states see the blood, treasure, and political capital they contribute to the international human rights regime as an investment, not a loss. Like other states, global good Samaritans are following their national interest; the difference is that they have a broader, longer-term vision of national interest” (Brysk 2009). However, that is not the goal of the discussion in this paper; the main argument here is that as other states get involved whether for being a good citizen of the world or for their personal interest, the conflict is dragged outside the borders of the states. The US actions to stop aid to Myanmar, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US’ military operation against Yugoslavia to protect ethnic Albanians and prevent regional instability are prime examples of internal conflicts due to human rights violation, creating insecurities regionally as well as globally.

Bibliography

Brysk, Alison. 2009. Global Good Samaritans: Human Rights As Foreign Policy. New York, UNITED STATES: Oxford University Press USA – OSO. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/apus/detail.action?docID=415385.

Chirot, Daniel, and Clark McCauley. 2010. Why Not Kill Them All?: The Logic and Prevention of Mass Political Murder. Princeton, UNITED STATES: Princeton University Press. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/apus/detail.action?docID=617256.

“How to Fail at Regime Change | Harvard Political Review.” n.d. Accessed September 21, 2020. https://harvardpolitics.com/world/regime-change-failure/.

Mullerson, Rein. 1997. Human Rights Diplomacy. London, UNITED KINGDOM: Taylor & Francis Group. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/apus/detail.action?docID=1665651.

Rainer, Elise, and Anish Goel. 2020. “Self-Inflicted Instability: Myanmar and the Interlinkage between Human Rights, Democracy and Global Security.” Democracy and Security ahead-of-print (ahead-of-print): 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/17419166.2020.1811968.

Sharma, Kiran, Gunjan Sehgal, Bindu Gupta, Geetika Sharma, Arnab Chatterjee, Anirban Chakraborti, and Gautam Shroff. 2017. “A Complex Network Analysis of Ethnic Conflicts and Human Rights Violations.” Scientific Reports 7 (1): 8283. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-09101-8.

Wehrey, Frederic. n.d. “Why Libya’s Transition to Democracy Failed.” Washington Post. Accessed September 21, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/02/17/why-libyas-transition-failed/.

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International Law

Freedom of religion in the African Human Rights System

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Apart from the Mainstream religious beliefs such as Islam and Christianity, Africa is also the home of different indigenous religious beliefs most of which are considered regressive. For scholars like Lauric Henneton, colonization in the early modern period was as much about religious missions, about ‘the harvest of souls’, as it was about expanding territorial boundaries and economic resources. In post-colonial Africa, the primary goal of the Organization of African Union(OAU) was defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its member states rather than promoting and protecting the individual rights of the people of Africa. The latter becomes a matter of priority when the African Commission established by the African Charter on Human and peoples’ Right (the Banjul Charter) in 1981. Article 8 of the Charter provides that: “Freedom of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed. No one may, subject to law and order, be submitted to measures restricting the exercise of these freedoms.”This provision does not explicitly mention the word “belief” despite the fact that the right to hold a particular belief is generally considered to be an absolute one. Furthermore, this provision fails to guarantee the right to change one’s religion. However, probably the most problematic part of Article 8 of the charter is its inclusion of ‘the claw-back clause’ – “…subject to law and order…”. Such formulation allows member states to limit the right to freedom of religion ‘to the maximum extent permitted by domestic law’. In other words, they can enact laws which could potentially violate the right to freedom of religion and negate the regional human right protection system.  Even though it has never been the primary subject of contention, the issue of freedom of religion has dealt with by the African Commission and Court of Human and peoples’ rights as an auxiliary matter in several cases. In this blog post, I will present four different cases related to freedom of religion decided by the ACHPR and the ACtHPR in their chronological order.   

Amnesty International and others v. Sudan

In this case, the complaints described numerous serious violations that took place in different parts of Sudan, primarily between 1989 and 1993. The cases were submitted by four different Non-Governmental organizations alleging that the Sudanese government involved in extrajudicial and summary execution, torture and discrimination on the basis of religion. Though the case involves a number of issues, for the purpose of this blog I will only focus on the ruling of the commission regarding freedom of religion. It was alleged that Christians and other non-Muslims were subjected to expulsion, arbitrary arrests and detention. Their churches were closed, and religious leaders were prevented from getting food with the aim of converting them to Islam. In addition to this, the domestic court of Sudan entertained their case based on Shari’a law which is not subscribed by those victims. The government, on the other hand, alleged that Sudan has guaranteed the right to freedom of faith and worship in its constitution.

The commission founds violation of Article 8 and Article 2 of the African charter stating that

“There is no controversy as to Shari’a being based upon the interpretation of the Muslim religion’, but when applying Shari’a the tribunals in Sudan must do so in accordance with the other obligations undertaken by the State of Sudan. Trials must always accord with international fair-trial standards”

The commission has also emphasized that “Shari’a law, being based on a religious belief, should not be applied to those who do not adhere to the religion of Islam” Accordingly,  tribunals that apply only Shari’a law are not competent to judge non-Muslims, and everyone should have the right to be tried by a secular court if they wish.” Concerning other claims related oppression of religious leaders and expulsion of missionaries from the country, since the government of Sudan fails to ‘provides evidence or justifications that would rebut the allegations” the commission concluded that there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Charter. 

Centre for Minority Rights in Development and Minority Rights Group International on behalf of Endorois Welfare Council v. Kenya

This case started following the eviction of thousands Endorses tribe members by the then Kenyan government to create a game reserve for tourism. The area from which the community was evicted, according to the complainant had been considered as “the spiritual home of all Endorois”. Their eviction, thus, prevented them from practicing their religion in the appropriate place.  After exhausting all the domestic remedies, in 2003 the Centre for Minority Rights Development and Minority Rights Group International brought the communication to the African Commission on behalf of the Endoroi community. Before the commission, the government argued that even though the eviction had actually happened, it was justified and “subject to administrative procedures” The commission found infringement of freedom of religion of the community reasoning that the action of the government was neither necessary nor backed by sound justifications. The commission asserted that “allowing the Endorois community to use the land to practice their religion would not detract from the goal of conservation or developing the area for economic purposes”. Most importantly, in a way which could remedy the shortcoming of Article 8 of the Charter, the commission  underscored that “states cannot take recourse to the limitation clauses of the African Charter  in order to violate the express provisions of the charter and its underlying principles”(Para. 173)

Prince v. South Africa

The case started following Mr. Garreth Anver Prince’s denial of access to the bar in South Africa due to his religious use of cannabis (he was a member of the Rastafari). His claim was that the prohibition of cannabis usage for ritual purposes amounted to a disproportionate infringement on his right to freedom of religion.   In addition to his freedom of religion, Mr. Prince alleged that the prohibition of the use of marijuana is an affront to his dignity. The Constitutional court of South Africa decided against Mr. Prince underscoring the qualified or non-absolute nature of the right to freedom of religion. The court specifically ascertained that “While members of a religious community may not determine for themselves which laws they will obey and which they will not, the state should, where it is reasonably possible, seek to avoid putting the believers to a choice between their faith and respect for the law.” Following his unsuccessful appeal, Mr. Prince brought his case before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Right claiming that South Africa had violated, inter alia, his freedom of religion. The commission affirm the decision of South African constitutional court emphasizing that while the right to hold religious beliefs is an absolute one, the right to act according to the belief is not. As such, “the right to practice one’s religion must yield to the interests of society in some circumstances” (para 41). In legitimizing the limitation imposes by South Africa, the commission made reference to Article 27 of the African Charter which provides the necessity of considering the rights of others in allowing the exercise of any right guaranteed therein.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights v. Kenya

The African commission V. Kenya is the latest decision rendered by the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights related to the right to freedom of religion. Unlike the rulings of the commission which are merely recommendations, the court’s decision has binding effects. Nevertheless, the court’s mandatory jurisdiction is shrinking.  Within the past six months, Tanzania, Benin and Ivory Coast have revoked the right of individuals and NGOs to sue them before the ACtHPR. Consequently, out of 54 member states of AU, the court has binding jurisdiction only over five countries.[1] The facts of this case are similar to the second case discussed in this paper. Following the eviction of members of the Ogiek community from their ancestral land, non-governmental organizations that represent the interest of the community brought an action before the Commission alleging that the action of the Kenyan government had violated different rights of the ogiek tribe members which are enshrined in the African charter. One of which was the right to freedom of religion. The government, on the other hand, argued that the “applicant has failed to adduce evidence to show the exact places where the alleged ceremonies for the religious sites of the Ogieks are located”. The respondent state has also contended that members of the community have already changed their religion to Christianity and therefore the forest has no relevance to exercise their religion.

The court decided that there was a violation of Article 8 of the African charter reasoning that “the communities’ religious practices were inextricably linked with the land and the environment and that interference with their connection to the land placed severe constraints on their ability to practice religious rituals.” (para 166 and 167)


[1] Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, and Rep. of Tunisia

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International Law

Triangularity of Nuclear Arms Control

Alexander Savelyev

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In December 2019, the United States officially invited China to enter intoa strategic security dialogue. The White House said it hoped Beijing’s consent to this proposal might become the first step towards an international agreement encompassing all nuclear weapons of the United States, Russia, and China.As expected, this proposal was rejected. China said its nuclear arsenal was much smaller than those of the United States and Russia, and it would be able to participate in such talks only when their nuclear potentials were brought to parity with its own.

In March 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump once again declared his intention to ask Russia and China to hold such talks with the aim of avoiding a costly arms race (Reuters.com, 2020).The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s response followed virtually in no time. Its spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that China had no intention of taking part in the so-called China-U.S.-Russia trilateral arms control negotiations, and that its position on this issue was very clear (ECNC.cn., 2020). He called upon the United States to extend the New START and to go ahead with the policy of U.S-Russian nuclear arms reduction, thus creating prerequisites for other countries to join the nuclear disarmament process. There is nothing new about China’s stance. A year earlier Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng  Shuang, while speaking at a news conference in May 2019, made a similar statement. China refused to participate in a trilateral arms control agreement (Fmprc.gov.2019).

It is noteworthy that while advising the United States and Russia to downgrade their nuclear potentials to its level, China does not say what exactly this level is. One of the rare official statements (if not the sole one) on that score was the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement, published on April 27, 2004,that China’s nuclear arsenal was the smallest of all (Fact Sheet China, 2004). Even in that case the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not specify if it was referring to the quintet of the UN Security Council’s permanent members. If so, China’s nuclear arsenal, according to official statistics, consisted of no more than 190 warheads (Britain’s level that year). Such(understated according to most analysts)estimates, have also been mentioned by a number of experts. For example, Harvard researcher Hui Zhang says China in 2011 had 166 nuclear warheads. There are other, higher estimates. For instance, Professor Phillip Karber of Georgetown University believes that China has 3,000 warheads at its disposal (Karber, 2011), while many other researchers call this in question.

The estimate offered by H. Kristensen and M. Korda of the Federation of American Scientists, who issue annual world surveys of nuclear arms potentials, is shared by most researchers and draws no objections from political circles in various countries, including the United States. According to their calculations as for April 2020,the United States had 3,800 deployed and non-deployed nuclear warheads, and Russia, 4,312 warheads. As for China, the same survey says it has 320 non-deployed nuclear warheads (Kristensen and Korda, 2020).

While underscoring the importance of nuclear arms cuts by the United States and Russia to China’s level, Beijing does not specify if this idea applies only to strategic or all nuclear weapons. In the former case, if China’s approach is to be accepted, Russia and the United States would have to slash their nuclear arsenals by 65%-75% (from 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads in compliance with the rules of the still effective New START). But if the total number of nuclear warheads on either side is to be counted, each country’s nuclear potential would shrink by no less than 90%. Only after this will China be prepared to consider in earnest its participation in nuclear arms control talks.

The United States and Russia can hardly find this suitable. At the same time, these countries have not yet officially formulated their specific approaches to and basic provisions of hypothetical trilateral talks and a future agreement on this issue. For the time being, these issues are in the focus of experts’ attention in a number of countries, and theyhave over the past few years offered a variety of possible formats and parameters of a future “multilateral” treaty. In most cases, experts delve into certain aspects of a future agreement that might be attractive to China. Very few think of what China might lose the moment it enters into nuclear arms control talks or what military-political consequences might follow if China eventually changed its mind regarding participation in such negotiations.

In my opinion, China’s demand for achieving the “comparability” of nuclear potentials as a precondition for beginning a trilateral dialogue stems precisely from its evaluation of the consequences of its participation in the negotiations. This stance is neither far-fetched nor propagandistic, contrary to what some experts and politicians claim, but rests upon major political, military and strategic cornerstones. Disregard for China’s arguments actually reduces to nothing all efforts, above all those taken by Washington, to engage Beijing in nuclear arms talks.

As far as the United States is concerned, the motives behind its attempts to persuade China to join nuclear arms talks are not quite clear. There may be several possible considerations that the United States is guided by in its policy on the issue. One is that Washington may be looking for a way to obtain necessary information about the current state of China’s nuclear potential and plans for its development in the future in order to be able to adjust its own modernization programs accordingly. Another explanation is that the United States may be reluctant to go ahead with the nuclear disarmament policy and hopes to use China’s unequivocal refusal to participate in negotiations as a chance to blame it for the disruption of this process and for dismantling the nuclear arms control system as such. I believe both explanations may be true, but their analysis lies beyond the scope of this article.

Options Of Engaging China In Nuclear Arms Control Talks

“Americans performed three very different policies on the People’s Republic: From a total negation (and the Mao-time mutual annihilation assurances), to Nixon’s sudden cohabitation. Finally, a Copernican-turn: the US spotted no real ideological differences between them and the post-Deng China. This signalled a ‘new opening’: West imagined China’s coastal areas as its own industrial suburbia. Soon after, both countries easily agreed on interdependence (in this marriage of convenience): Americans pleased their corporate (machine and tech) sector and unrestrained its greed, while Chinese in return offered a cheap labour, no environmental considerations and submissiveness in imitation.

However, for both countries this was far more than economy, it was a policy – Washington read it as interdependence for transformative containment and Beijing sow it as interdependence for a (global) penetration. In the meantime, Chinese acquired more sophisticated technology, and the American Big tech sophisticated itself in digital authoritarianism – ‘technological monoculture’ met the political one.

But now with a tidal wave of Covid-19, the honeymoon is over” – recently wrote professor Anis H. Bajrektarevic on a strategic decoupling between the biggest manufacturer of American goods, China and its consumer, the US.

Indeed, Washington has not formulated in detail its official stance on engaging China in negotiations yet. Disarmament experts consider a number of options that may be proposed in principle. These options may be grouped into three main categories. The first one is putting pressure on China with the aim of making it change its mind regarding arms control. The second one is the search for proposals China may find lucrative enough, which the Chinese leadership might agree to study in earnest. And the third one is a combination of these two approaches.

As far as pressure on China is concerned, the United States is already exerting it along several lines. For one, China is criticized for the condition and development prospects of its nuclear arsenal. Specifically, it is blamed on being the only nuclear power in the Permanent Big Five that has not reduced its nuclear potential. Moreover, as follows from a statement made in May 2019 byRobert Ashley, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, “over the next decade, China is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile in the course of implementing the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in China’s history”(Adamczyk,2019). Both officials and many experts have been quoting this postulate asan established fact requiring no proof.

China is also accused of the lack of transparency, that is, refusal to disclose the size and structure of its nuclear forces, programs for their upgrade, and other nuclear policy aspects. The U.S. leadership argues that this state of affairs by no means promotes strategic stability and international security. Some experts believe that China’s involvement in negotiations would help avoid some adverse effects, for example, another nuclear arms race under a Cold War scenario (Zhao, 2020). Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security in the Barack Obama administration, believes it may be possible to “make a case for the Chinese to come to the table early on intermediate-range constraints of ground-launched missiles, because they are staring at the possibility of a deployment of very capable U.S. missiles of this kind” (Mehta, 2020).

Apparently, the United States had counted on Russia’s support in such matters, especially as the Russian leadership said more than once that the New START, signed in 2010,was to become the last bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty and time was ripe for other nuclear states to join the nuclear disarmament process. However, in late 2019 Russia made a U-turn in its stance on China’s participation in negotiations. Speaking at a conference entitled “Foreign Policy Priorities of the Russian Federation in Arms Control and Nonproliferation in the Context of Changes in the Global Security Architecture,” held on November 8, 2019 in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia respected China’s position concerning its refusal to participate in the talks. Moreover, he stated that declaring China’s consent to participate in the negotiating process as a precondition looked “openly provocative.”Thus Russia made it clear that it had no intention of putting pressure on China regarding the issue, but at the same time it would have nothing against the Chinese leadership eventually making a decision to join the United States and Russia in nuclear disarmament talks. Russia is unlikely to alter its position even under pressure from the United States, which has long harbored plans for using the prolongation of the New START as a factor for getting China involved in the talks in some way, or even securing its consent to become a signatory to the treaty. Specifically, the U.S. president’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brian made an unequivocal statement on that score (Riechmann, 2020). Also, in May 2020, the United States came up with an ultimatum that it would not extend the New START until China agreed to participate in it. Moreover, the newly appointed special U.S. presidential representative for arms control, Marshall Billingslea, actually demanded that Russia “bring the Chinese to the negotiating table.”

The United States may exert (or is already exerting) pressure on China “indirectly, ”for example by using such levers as the U.S.-Chinese trade war and China’s alleged “responsibility” for the spread of the coronavirus (which the United States regards as proven). Such pressures may be largely exerted covertly.

Some military and political experts believe that it is worth exploring compromise options of China’s participation in nuclear arms control. Such optionsmay accommodate the interests of all partakers and match the specific structure and quantitative parameters of weapons subject to control. Establishing transparency in the given sphere would be one of the “simple” ways of involving China in the strategic dialogue. In other words, such transparency would imply mutual disclosure of information about the number of missiles and deployed warheads, their basic parameters, including range, and also specific locations and deployment sites (Tosaki, 2019). It must be noted that this seemingly “least painful” and easy-to-accomplish solution for making China join the international arms control dialogue is in fact least acceptable to it.

The long list of other proposals includes various options of a “mixed” approach to the control of missile systems. For instance, reaching an agreement on a common ceilingfor intermediate-range ground-based and air-launched missiles or a similar restriction on any strategic missiles regardless of the type of deployment (ground, sea, or air launched), as well as the intermediate-range missiles of three nuclear powers―China, the United States, and Russia. The proponents of this approach believe that this may provide an approximately equitable basis for talks among the aforesaid states (Zhao, 2020).

All of the aforementioned recommendations―and a number of other ideas―for plugging China into bilateral or multilateral nuclear arms control talks are based on the past experience of negotiations on the issue. In the meantime, the specifics of China’s nuclear policy are left unnoticed or intentionally ignored. It is generally believed that inviting China to participate in negotiations is tantamount to official recognition of its status as a great power responsible, like the United States and Russia, not only for its own security but also for global security. This recognition is often considered a reason enough to expect China to consent to participate in such negotiations and the main problem is seen in the formulation of concrete proposals for discussion. In the meantime, such an approach looks erroneous.

The Fundamental Principles Of China’s Nuclear Policy

China’s policy concerning nuclear arms and their role in maintaining national security has remained unchanged for more than 55 years, starting from its accession to the “nuclear club” in 1964. Central to that policy is China’s pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons or threaten to use them against non-nuclear countries and countries in nuclear free zones. It is believed that Mao Zedong made that decision personally in 1964 (Fravel, 2019).

In accordance with this pledge, China, as it reiterates, maintains its nuclear deterrence weapons at a required minimum by declaring its readiness for retaliation against an aggressor in the event of a hypothetical nuclear attack. China vows it does not participate in a nuclear arms race against any country. These provisions have remained unchanged for many years and can be found in many Chinese fundamental military and strategic planning documents, available from open sources (The State Council, 2019), and are repeatedly quoted by the Chinese mass media (Xinhuaneet.com., 2019).

In contrast to the classical nuclear deterrence formula China does not demonstrate its retaliatory strike capabilities; on the contrary, it conceals them for various reasons. Enhancing the survivability of retaliatory strike systems is one. Such “existential” means of deterrence enables the country possessing a relatively small nuclear potential to keep a potential aggressor in a state of strategic uncertainty as it cannot be certain that its first strike would “disarm” the defending opponent by eliminating all of its nuclear weapons with a surprise counterforce strike.

To confirm its adherence to the no-fist use principle, China declares that it limits its nuclear potential to the “minimum” defense requirements, while all upgrade programs are geared mostly to ensuring the survivability and reliability of retaliatory strike systems. China’s nuclear forces have become more survivable due to the creation and deployment of mobile ICBMs, and measures to shelter a considerable part of its nuclear potential, including mobile ICBMs and shorter-range missiles in a network of underground tunnels―the Underground Great Wall of China. Also, other means of hiding nuclear weapons are used, such as mock ICBM silos and shelters for nuclear submarines inside coastal rocks.

As the information about the condition, development prospects and size of China’s nuclear potential remains scarce, its nuclear policy issues are in the focus of attention of many specialists and think tanks in the United States and other countries. Most of them (but far from all) believe that China’s declared policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons and estimates of its nuclear potential (around 300 warheads) agree with reality (Pifer, 2019). But other researchers maintain that under certain circumstances China may revise its attitude to the no-first-use principle and abandon the minimum deterrence concept in favor of gaining opportunities for conducting limited nuclear war. Such conclusions are made on the basis of data showing the growth of qualitative parameters of China’s nuclear forces―greater accuracy of nuclear warheads, the deployment of MIRVs on ICBMs, forecasts for a considerable increase in the overall number of nuclear weapons at the country’s disposal, etc. (Giacomdetti, 2014; Yoshihara and Bianchi, 2019; Schneider, 2019).

It should be acknowledged that the lack of official information about the condition and development prospects of China’s nuclear arsenal and implementation of programs in the strategic field (creation of a heavy ICBM, research and development of a missile attack warning system, deployment of a missile defense, and others)afford ground for a variety of speculations over China’s compliance with the professed principles regarding nuclear weapons.In the meantime, this by no means contradicts the fundamental principle of China’s nuclear policy―no-first-use of nuclear weapons―which will remain unchanged in the foreseeable future. Even if one assumes that China does participate in the nuclear arms race (which is also a subject of speculations), it is by no means its instigator.

Certain changes are possible, though. China may acquire real capabilities for a limited response to a limited nuclear attack. In other words, the country’s military-political leadership, empowered to make a decision to use nuclear weapons, will acquire extra opportunities and options for retaliation other than a massive nuclear strike against the enemy’s major unprotected targets, such as cities and industrial centers. At the same time there is no reason to say that the improvement of parameters of China’s strategic nuclear forces increases the risk of a first counterforce strike against a would-be aggressor just because the nuclear potentials of China and the two leading nuclear powers are incomparable. In this case size does matter.

Effects Of Arms Control On China’s Nuclear Strategy And Policy

Should China agree to participate in negotiations or draft an agreement on control of its nuclear weapons, its nuclear strategy and policy will most likely undergo the most serious changes. And these changes, in the author’s opinion, may be far from positive. They will result not from possible restrictions imposed on China’s nuclear forces or disadvantageous terms of a future treaty forced upon China, but the very fact of concluding such an international treaty.

A close look at Soviet-U.S. and Russian-U.S. nuclear arms control agreements reveals how the parties’ approaches to solving the problems of national security and strengthening strategic stability have been changing. At early stages the two sides managed to come to terms regarding the overall number of ground-based launchers of strategic ballistic missiles, SLBM capable submarines and SLBM launchers. Later, the class of strategic weapons was expanded to incorporate heavy bombers armed with long-range cruise missiles and gravity nuclear bombs. Some types of nuclear weapons, for instance, strategic air-launched ballistic missiles were banned. Next, there followed restrictions on nuclear warheads deployed on delivery vehicles and then their reductions. A total ban was applied to ground-based intermediate- and shorter-range cruise missiles. An attempt was made to outlaw ICBMs with multiple warheads. Each clause of the concluded treaties was scrutinized by the expert community and drew worldwide interest.

In addition, efforts were made to develop a mechanism to verify compliance with the assumed commitments. The first Soviet-U.S. agreements SALT-1 (1972) and SALT-2 (1979) assigned the control function to “national technical means of verification”―intelligence satellites. The contracting parties pledged to refrain from creating impediments to their operation. Also, the signatories undertook “not to use deliberate concealment measures which impede verification by national technical means of compliance.” In the next agreements―the INF Treaty (of 1987) and, particularly, START-1 (1991)―a comprehensive system of control and verification was developed and adopted. It envisaged exchanges of data (including the geographical coordinates of each ICBM silo) and various notifications and on-site inspections, which made it totally impossible to conceal even the slightest violations of these agreements. This system of verification functions within the framework of the still effective Russian-U.S. New START, concluded in 2010.

It is hard to imagine a hypothetical agreement with China not including compliance verification procedures. And it is very unlikely that the system of verification in such an agreement will be“soft,” as was the case with the one established under the earlier SALT-1 and SALT-2 treaties. On the contrary, as follows from statements by U.S. officials, the United States is determined to pay the closest attention to the verification and control of compliance with all future agreements. U.S. Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Christopher Ford has made an explicit statement on this score.

Even if such an agreement does not impose any obligations on China, requiring reduction of its nuclear potential, Beijing will be expected to provide exhaustive information about its nuclear weapons and deployment sites. Also, China will have to give up measures to conceal its nuclear forces, change the locations of mobile missile systems and allow foreign inspectors to visit classified facilities (including the Underground Great Wall of China) in order to confirm that the provided information is correct and proper action has been taken under assumed commitments. Besides, China will have to notify other signatories of the commissioning of new nuclear weapons and withdrawal from operational duty or elimination of older systems, the redeployment of weapons, etc. All these measures will make it possible to keep under full control China’s nuclear potential and nuclear arms delivery vehicles.

These measures, understandable from the standpoint of an arms control treaty, may have truly disastrous effects on China’s entire official nuclear policy. Information disclosure and control measures would make China’s nuclear arsenal totally vulnerable to a first nuclear strike and partially – to a non-nuclear strike. A potential aggressor, possessing a considerable advantage in nuclear weapons and full information about the deployment sites, will have a guaranteed capability to destroy the adversary’s entire nuclear potential. Theoretically, it would spend far more nuclear weapons than the victim of the aggression (in this particular case, China) would lose, but still retain an enormous attack potential. In a situation like this, there will be no weapons available to deliver a retaliatory strike. All this will mean that China’s declared no-first-use policy will lose credibility. In other words, it will turn into a propaganda slogan, with no real resources to rely on to implement this policy in practice.

Apparently, it is precisely these considerations that are behind China’s refusal to participate in nuclear arms control talks, and they will remain in place at least until the strategic situation in this field undergoes fundamental change. One of the most important conditions for China to enter into such negotiations (it says so openly) is further reduction of nuclear arsenals by Russia and the United States to levels comparable with China’s potential. As it has been already stated, this condition, described as a political one, has fundamental strategic, military and technical grounds.

Likely Consequences Of China’s Participation In A Nuclear Arms Control Treaty

As has been said above, China’s consent to enter into nuclear arms control negotiations and conclusion of a corresponding agreement will be unlikely in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, it is worth pondering on what decisions in the military and political field the Chinese leadership may adopt if it has to give in to U.S. pressure. One of the most important decisions is, to my mind, the possibility of China remaining committed to the no-first-use principle.

Currently, this principle is ensured not so much by the quantitative parameters of China’s nuclear arsenal, but as its stealthy deployment, concealment measures, and refusal to provide relevant information. In order to retain a retaliatory strike potential in a situation where the information about the deployment sites of China’s nuclear forces has been disclosed while the amount of nuclear arms available remains considerably inferior to those of the “partner” or “partners,” China will have to exert major efforts to ensure the invulnerability of at least some of them. Doing this will be impossible without a major buildup of the nuclear potential, above all, of the least vulnerable strategic systems (mobile ICBMs and SLBMs). All of this will require considerable expenses and time. Even if the work on a new treaty takes two or three, or even five years, one can hardly expect any considerable changes in the quantitative and qualitative structure of China’s nuclear forces by the moment this work is finalized.

The problem of strategic nuclear forces’ vulnerability may theoretically be resolved (at least to a certain extent) by developing and deploying missile defenses around deployment sites. But this would entail heavy spending, too. Also, such a program can hardly be implemented within tight deadlines. The problem of greater vulnerability of China’s strategic nuclear forces can also be resolved by adopting the “launch-under-attack” concept or “launch on warning” concept. Their adoption might be considered, although with great reservations, to conform to the no-first-use principle, but in this case it will be essential to build a warning system based on early warning satellites and radars. However, still there will be no guarantees that such a system will be able to issue a timely notification to the military and political leadership of a missile attack against China, if such a strike is carried out with U.S.S LBM shaving short flight-in time and counterforce capability. Under such a scenario China’s strategic forces will have to remain on high alert all the time. This means that China will be forced to give up keeping missile warheads in store separately and to deploy them on strategic delivery vehicles, thus demonstrating its readiness for instant retaliation in case of an attack warning.

The above arguments prompt the conclusion that China, if it agrees to the drafting and signing a nuclear arms control treaty, will certainly have to depart from the principle of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, with all the ensuing negative consequences. This may also trigger an enhanced arms race and induce China to adopt more aggressive nuclear arms concepts.

It is nakedly clear that China finds it far easier to refuse to hold nuclear arms control talks than address the adverse military and strategic effects its participation in such an international agreement is bound to entail. In this situation the United States should give more thought to its policy of engaging China in nuclear arms control talks and focus on Russian-U.S. strategic relations, including the prolongation of the New START without any linkages and preconditions.

As far as Russia is concerned, its current policy of avoiding pressure on China to make it engage in nuclear arms talks looks reasonable. From the political standpoint―alongside with other considerations―a trilateral agreement would mean that Russia officially regards China, albeit formally, as a “partner” (if not a “potential adversary”), just as the United States, and that strategic relations among such parties are based on the concept of nuclear deterrence, the balance of nuclear forces, and their capabilities to deliver first and retaliatory strikes. Incidentally, China’s participation would have the same implications for Russia. Lending this dimension to bilateral relations hardly meets the interests of the two countries.

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