Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Common cause on stopping Trident renewal

London Mayor Boris Johnson rightly points out that the Scottish National Party (SNP) wants to scrap Trident, adding that this is “in defiance of most experienced and serious Labour MPs.” (“Regressive, sarcastic and pious – welcome to Britain under Ed Miliband and the SNP,” Daily Telegraph, 30 March)
However he omitted to mention that the Conservative Defence Secretary Michael Fallon sensibly told Parliament on Trident renewal on 20 January “we also share the vision of a world that is without nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament.” (Hansard column 105, www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm150120/debtext/150120-0002.htm)
An opinion poll published on 25 March identifies that 81% of Labour Parliamentary candidates also don’t want Trident, thus making common cause with Mr Fallon.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Syria vote was one of Parliament's finest hours‏

This letter was submitted to the Financial Times on 26 March

 I was very surprised to see you including amongst the 'low points' of the Parliament that just ended the assertion that the MPs' vote against David Cameron's plan to bomb Syria's President Assad's assets [over his alleged use of chemical weapons]  was "damaging [to] Britain's standing in the world." ("Coalition defies predictions with celebration of five-year alliance," March 26).
I think the opposite is true. So does Ed Miliband, who said in Thursday night's interview with Jeremy Paxman, that he was absolutely right to stand up to pressures from the Obama administration in Washington DC, and scupper yet another US plan to militarily interfere in a middle east state.
Miliband learned from Tony Blair's New Labour's disastrous support of US President George W. Bush in invading Iraq, and David Cameron's  military adventure in Libya, which  has created a chaotic, highly unstable and very dangerous failed state, albeit having removed demotic dictator, with whom Blair had made pragmatic friends.
Had the UK joined the US in bombing Syria, it is  highly likely Assad would have fallen, Syria would have descended into total chaos like Libya and Iraq, and ISIS fanatics would now be established in Damascus, ruling over an even bigger so-called 'Islamic State'.
Moreover, the Miliband decision led to  diplomacy replacing bellicosity, as Assad was forced to agree to full chemical weapons disarmament under United Nations auspices, something backed by the wider international community.
I think credit  should be given to Ed Miliband for his perspicacity and  tough wisdom in facing down Cameron and Obama over this crucial issue; and to our outgoing MPs more widely for learning from history, and acting accordingly.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Guardian hot air over climate campaign

This letter was sent to The Guardian on 8 March, but remains unpublished
As someone who has tried, in vain, for eight years to get  submissions made to The Guardian's  Comment is Free  published on the myths of nuclear power's benefits to combatting climate change, I read with both surprise and expectation  Alan Rusbridger's admission ("Why we put the climate on the cover," 7 March) that, as Guardian editor, he now feels  he has not given sufficient space or prominence to the complex range of issues encompassed by climate change, and ways to mitigate and adapt to it..

I did have one article published on this key issue nearly ten years ago ("There is nothing green about Blair's nuclear dream, 20 October 2005, www.theguardian.com/politics/2005/oct/20/greenpolitics.world).
Then nothing.

A few days before  Mr Rusbridger's front page concession that he had underplayed the climate change concern, your Brussels-based environment  reporter, Arthur Neslen, wrote piece on line( "UK joins Romanian push for new EU nuclear aid package," Guardian, 5 Thursday  March, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/04/uk-joins-romanian-push-for-new-eu-nuclear-aid-package) revealing the UK Government had signed up to a lobby letter - with seven other EU countries -  calling on the European commission for increased nuclear aid funding, in which the signatory states misleadingly described  nuclear-generated electricity as carbon-free electricity.”

The Guardian now needs to provide the space, hitherto withheld, for criticism of this kind of willing misrepresentation by ministers - following the  script of the lavishly-funded nuclear lobby -  of the  known facts to be demonstrably,  and robustly debunked, as I started to do ten years ago in your newspaper.


Saturday, 7 March 2015

Labour's role in halting our pro-proliferation policy on nuclear WMDs

On Monday Parliament debate the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

This sounds obscure, but is central to both security and spending policy of the next Government.

The NPT will have its quinquennial review at the United Nations in New York, starting in April. The review will be held from 27 April–22 May straddle the UK General Election on 7 May, so little media  or political attention will  be paid, which is unfortunate, but predictable

Monday’s debate is thus is the penultimate chance, before Thursday’s wider defence debate, that Parliament will have to debate this important matter on the future security of the planet bristling with  nuclear WMDs before the election,

Based on past experience, the minister will to draw to MPs’ attention to the policy mantra always wheeled out in non-proliferation debates, that:

-The Government has unilaterally reduced the number of deployed nuclear warheads;

- The UK deploys the minimum number of nuclear weapons for our security, what the will misleading call our “Nuclear Deterrent”

- The UK has participated in debates at the Conference on Disarmament and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review conference preparatory meetings;

 -and the UK attended the conference in Vienna last December on the Humanitarian Effect of Nuclear Weapons

All true. But this leaves out what has not been done.

Errors of Omission

The NPT negotiations themselves really got started after the unanimous approval of a 1961 UN General Assembly resolution on negotiation of a treaty that would ban countries without nuclear weapons from acquiring them and that would require the inspections that the IAEA treaty only authorized. In particular, the resolution asked the countries “possessing nuclear weapons” to “undertake to refrain from relinquishing control of nuclear weapons and from transmitting information necessary for their manufacture” to nations not possessing nuclear weapons.

Papers available in the National Archives in Kew show that on 23 January 1968, Fred (later Lord) Mulley, as the UK Labour Government's minister of state for foreign affairs, addressed the 358th plenary meeting of the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) in Geneva, the predecessor committee to the CD, explaining why nations should sign up to the newly negotiated NPT, he told the ministerial delegations:

"As I have made clear in previous speeches, my government accepts the obligation to participate fully in the negotiations required by [NPT] Article VI and it is our desire that these negotiations should begin as soon as possible and should produce speedy and successful results. There is no excuse now for allowing a long delay to follow the signing of this treaty."(emphasis added)

A year later, on 24 January 1967, a refined joint draft by the US and Soviet Union negotiators differed from the earlier US/UK draft, according to another US embassy aide-memoire, "in that the former would ban the transfer of nuclear warheads (as distinct from nuclear delivery vehicles) not only between nuclear weapons states (NWS) and non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) but also between NWS themselves."

A secret US ‘Interpretations Memo’, dated May 1967, stated that the NPT would thus prohibit "transfer to any recipient whatsoever 'nuclear weapons' or control over them", meaning bombs and warheads.

That is just what buying significant sections of Trident from the US does in practice, and thereby undermines our compliance with the treaty which the UK Labour government helped draft, and for which the UK is a depositary state with the US and Russia.

Next year, on 23 January 1968, Fred Mulley, in his address to the ENDC in Geneva, told the representatives of the nations which Britain hoped to convince to join up to the atomic self-denying NPT, that NPT "articles 1 and 2 effectively provide for the closing of all loopholes of practical significance to the proliferation of nuclear weapons."

Sadly, with UK complicity, we can see from subsequent history and the Polaris and Trident nuclear WMD import from the United States that he was wrong.

Shortly after, on January 26 1968, a confidential memo by Mulley for the cabinet defence and oversea (sic) policy committee laid out Britain's position on the key nuclear disarmament clause, which became NPT article 6, commented:

"A number of countries may withhold their ratification of the treaty until nuclear-weapon states show they are taking seriously the obligations which this article imposes on them. It will therefore be essential to follow the treaty up quickly with the further disarmament measures if it is to be brought into force and remain in force thereafter. We have therefore begun to work on a paper examining the most suitable measures on which we should concentrate our attention once a non-proliferation treaty has been achieved."

A few days afterwards, on 30 January 1968, and the NPT was presented to the cabinet for its endorsement. A supportive foreign office memo stated:

"a lot of the thinking behind the treaty, and some of the language, originally came from us."

On 27 June that year, the NPT, including the key article VI obligation on nuclear weapon signatory states, to negotiate nuclear disarmament in good faith, was presented to Parliament as Cmnd 3683.

A talking paper (number 38) prepared for ministers in mid-April that year pointed out: "It should be remembered that the NPT is in the first instance, in the interests of non-nuclear countries themselves, adding to their security against the development of nuclear weapons in non-nuclear rival states, and sparing them the vast expense of developing such weapons themselves."

If we fast forward to June 2007, Margaret Beckett  was coming to the end of her time as Foreign Secretary under the last Labour Government, she made a very important speech to a prestigious and influential annual conference held in Washington DC by the Carnegie International Endowment for Peace

Mrs Beckett called for negotiators to take additional steps toward nuclear disarmament.

She said:

 “The judgment we made 40 years ago [at the NPT’s signing] that the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons was in all our interests is just as true today as it was then. For more than 60 years, good management and good fortune have meant that nuclear arsenals have not been used, but we cannot rely just on history to repeat itself.”

[Keynote address at Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference, Washington, D.C., June 25, 2007]

These were very wise words then, and remain just as wise today.

Last week both US Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama made speeches to mark the 45th anniversary of the entering into force of the NPT on 5th March 1970 (By contrast no British minister mentioned it at all).

Mr Kerry said: “All countries profit when there is smart, continuous action in the direction of nuclear disarmament.” (http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/03/05/45th-anniversary-nuclear-non-proliferation-treaty#sthash.tOqTO2FK.dpuf)

President Obama said: “As I stated in Prague in 2009, reinforced in Berlin in 2013, and again reaffirmed last month in my National Security Strategy, the United States seeks the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”( http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/05/statement-president-45th-anniversary-nuclear-non-proliferation-treaty)

A month earlier, after their meeting on 6 February organized in London by the foreign Office,  the UN Security Council Permanent Five member states – the UK, US, Russia, France and China- dubbed the “P5”-  diplomats issued a joint statement through the Foreign Office which included a very interesting passage, considering it is co-signed by Russia, stating: 

“At their 2015 Conference the P5 restated their belief that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty remains the essential cornerstone for the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, and is an essential contribution to international security and stability.” 

Indeed, less than a month ago in a Parliamentary debate (on 20 January) on the Trident nuclear weapons system, the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told MPs

"we also share the vision of a world that is without nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament.” (emphasis added)


Why is  the Government determined to continue a process that will result in £100 thousand million (£100 billion) on a nuclear weapons system when the Defence Secretary has put it on the Parliamentary record as recently as January he wants to realise a world  without any nuclear weapons of  mass destruction at all.

Instead of spending this unimaginably vast sum of taxpayers money - at a time when public services are being eviscerated by austerity cuts - why not implement the unilateral nuclear disarmament of which ministers are proud to announce when reducing deployed nuclear warhead numbers, and cancel the spending on Trident , which will be totally wasted when the Government’s own desire to reach complete nuclear  disarmament  is achieved?

Trident will become the ultimate ‘Stranded asset.”

The missiles great shiny white nuclear elephants!

The submarines great grey beached whales!

At the Vienna Conference on humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons last December in Vienna, which the Government - through its Ambassador to Austria and United Nations institutions in Vienna - was pleased to attend, the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) proposed as Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.

As a recent ICAN briefing states:

“A treaty to ban nuclear weapons could be a straightforward legal instrument with prohibitions on the use, deployment, development and production, transfer, and stockpiling of nuclear weapons and on assistance with these prohibited acts. It would require the elimination of nuclear weapons for states that possess them, with the specific processes for elimination being the responsibility of the nuclear-armed states to implement and verify, in accordance with international laws and agreements.”

If the government wants to live up to its clearly stated belief in a non- nuclear weapons world, it should surely back such a treaty!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Iran's atomic ambitions and the Netanyahu address to Congress

This letter  was submitted to the New York Times today:
Despite the Times’ considerable coverage of Israel Premier Netanyahu’s visit to Washington to address the Congress on Iran’s atomic ambitions, including 'Kerry Welcoming, but Wary of Netanyahu, (March 2) (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/02/world/middleeast/kerry-and-netanyahu-hold-phone-conversation-amid-tensions.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0) two aspects of Israel’s and Iran’s nuclear policies have been overlooked.
First, while Premier Netanyahu has used all his lobbying power to oppose any nuclear development by Iran, his own former Ambassador to Paris, Avi Pazner, was a paid lobbyist from 2010 to 2013 for French-state owned nuclear company, Areva, to build two new nuclear reactors in Israel’s regional neighbor, Jordan, according to respected French journal Le Nouvel Observateur on February 18. http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/economie/20150217.OBS2748/info-obs-le-porte-parole-de-netanyahou-etait-paye-par-areva.html)

In a secret letter obtained by the magazine, dated September 2010, Ambassador Pazner was contracted to lobby the Israeli Government to support the deal. For his covert services, between Sept 1st 2010 and August 31, 2013, he was paid the considerable fee of 585.000 euros.
Second, all the time that the United States, France and Britain have been pressing the Iranian government to cease enriching uranium, the Islamic republic has been reaping multimillion dollar dividends from its shareholding in Eurodif, an international uranium enrichment plant at Pierrelatte in southern France.

The joint-stock Eurodif Company was formed in 1973. France, Belgium, Spain and Sweden were the original shareholders of the uranium enrichment consortium.

In 1975, four years before Iran’s revolution that brought in the present Islamic regime, the Shah’s government in Tehran purchased Sweden’s 10% share. This arrangement still exists, with a joint French-Iranian company, Sofidif (Société franco–iranienne pour l’enrichissement de l’uranium par diffusion gazeuse), headquartered in the fashionable  

The  former Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, lent $1 billion (and another $180  million  in 1977) for the construction of the Eurodif factory to  have the right of buying 10% of the site’s enriched uranium production.(http://www.greens-efa.org/cms/topics/dokbin/174/174257.pdf )
The impasse with Iran could have been ameliorated by using this forty-year old commercial arrangement, to provide Iran’s with its commercial enriched uranium requirements. Why has the existence of Sofidif never been discussed in the current nuclear stand-off with Iran?