Iran and Syria are under intensified scrutiny for allegedly concealing military nuclear activities in contravention of their commitments under the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says a three-year investigation by the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded that a building in Syria destroyed by an Israeli air strike in 2007 was “very likely’ to have been a nuclear reactor that should have been declared to the agency.” The IAEA also reported that it had credible evidence that Iran had pursued nuclear weapon-related activities in the past and said that some of the activities might still be continuing.
SIPRI says in its 2012 Yearbook, released this week, the difficulties encountered by inspectors in
both countries led to renewed calls to expand the IAEA’s legal powers to investigate NPT states parties suspected of violating their treaty-mandated safeguards agreements, even beyond those set out in the Model Additional Protocol.
“The unresolved Iranian and Syrian nuclear controversies raised further doubt about the efficacy of international legal approaches, in particular the role of the UN Security Council, in dealing with suspected or known cases of states violating important arms control treaty obligations and norms. During 2011 Iran continued to defy five Security Council resolutions, adopted since 2006, demanding that it suspend all uranium enrichment and other sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities. A divided Security Council failed to take action on Syria’s nuclear file after the IAEA Board of Governors had declared the country to be non-compliant with its safeguards agreement.
“In the view of some observers, the lack of action set the stage for future controversies about the
suitability of extra-legal measures, including the pre-emptive use of military force, in addressing proliferation concerns.”
Meanwhile, the diplomatic impasse over the fate of the nuclear programme of North Korea remained unresolved, SIPRI adds. “Preliminary discussions aimed at restarting the suspended Six-Party Talks on the denuclearization of North Korea made little progress, despite renewed contacts between North Korean and US diplomats. The legal and normative challenges posed by North Korea to the global non-proliferation regime were underscored by reports that the country had been involved in covert transfers of nuclear and ballistic technologies to third countries on a larger scale than previously suspected.”
SIPRI notes North Korea has demonstrated a military nuclear capability. “However, there is no
public information to verify that it possesses operational nuclear weapons. At the end of 2011 North Korea was estimated to have separated roughly 30 kilograms of plutonium. This would be sufficient to construct up to eight nuclear weapons, depending on North Korea’s design and engineering skills.
According to a leaked report prepared in 2011 by the UN Security Council’s panel of experts on North Korea, the country has pursued a uranium-enrichment programme ‘for several years or even