Press TV has conducted an interview with Norman Gary Finkelstein, a political scientist, activist and author, from Tehran, to discuss Washington’s plans to increase spending on the country’s missile systems.
What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: What do you think about that Dr. Finkelstein? Because I am just thinking off-the-cuff right now of Agent Orange, let’s say in the Vietnam War or we can look at what had happened in Fallujah, Iraq, and the use of depleted uranium. So your take? What gives the United States, in your perspective, the right to basically be the one leading the call of others to make sure that they do not go after any type of nuclear program, when they themselves have the majority of WMDs [Weapons of Mass Destruction] in the world?
Finkelstein: First of all I want to thank Richard Weitz [the other guest of the program] for appearing on the program and I look forward to having a useful and productive discussion with him. Rather than again to a technical question about whether or not Agent Orange constitute to chemical weapon, I happen to think it does, but I think we can put that aside, because we do not want to get to an overly technical discussion and let’s look at more accessible, a simpler discussion.
Now, Richard said a few moments ago President Obama is committed to abolishing weapons of mass destruction and in fact the United States has legally committed under the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT], [it] has a legal obligation under article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has a legal obligation to eliminate its nuclear weapons stockpile.
So, the first question that arises is I mention the Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968, which is to say it is nearly a half century ago; it was a legal obligation under a treaty to eliminate its nuclear weapons stockpile.
Now, you have to ask an obvious question; a half century later, why has not that been accomplished? That was a legal obligation. Now, you might say, ‘Well, the United States has been engaging in negotiations to eliminate the nuclear weapons,’ but we have a second issue; in 1996, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), it debated the legality of the use of nuclear weapons and the International Court of Justice, in its opinion, it issued an advisory opinion, it said in its advisory opinion it is not enough to say you are negotiating to end your nuclear weapons stockpile, to eliminate it. The International Court of Justice said you have to eliminate it; there is a goal; the goal is eliminating those weapons and you have to show in your conduct – in your conduct – that you are eliminating them.
Now, that was twenty years ago. So the question obviously arises, why is it taking so long? Fifty years ago the International Court of Justice reminded the five nuclear powers… twenty years ago.
Now, Richard Weitz says President Obama is committed to eliminating weapons of mass destruction; well, why should we accept the good faith of that commitment if fifty years ago, a half century ago, the US made that commitment?
Let me just make one last point; it is not just the US; France was very angry at the beginning at negotiations between the P5+1, the five nuclear powers and Germany, and Iran. It said we were not tough enough on Iran. Why does France have nuclear weapons? Who is France protecting itself from? A nuclear attack from Central Africa? Why does it have nuclear weapons?
Press TV: Your take? Go ahead.
Finkelstein: Well, first of all, it is a serious answer and so giving a serious answer, I would like to have a serious discussion about it. You might be right, for all I know, I can’t read the minds of the Kremlin or Beijing, you might be right that the Chinese and the Russians, they do not want to implement Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, you might be right but that does not change the fact that legally they are now in violation of an international treaty; they are lawbreakers.
In the case of the United States, you say the concern of the United States is they do not want to eliminate their nuclear weapons because there is a possibility that somewhere, at some place, at some time, someone might acquire a nuclear weapon of its own.
But Richard, you have to agree that by that argument, nuclear weapons can never be eliminated, because there is always some possibility that some time, some place, somewhere, someone in some basement in some place in the South Pacific will come up with a nuclear weapon.
So, by your standard, you have now created a pretext and an excuse for nullifying the Non-Proliferation Treaty and then the obvious question is then what was the point of it? What you are doing is you are setting up a double standard in the world.
The double standard is the nuclear powers have the right to keep their nuclear weapons, because somewhere, some place, some time, someone might develop a nuclear weapon but the rest of the world, the other 180 signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, they have no right to have nuclear weapons.
So, five countries have the right to protect themselves, but what about the 180 other countries? If someone, somewhere, some place, some time might develop it, then they might want to develop it against Iran, not against Russia, not against China, not against the US, not against the UK, not against France; they might want to use it against Iran, maybe Saudi Arabia, for all I know; but they are not, Iran is not allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, but the US, UK, France, Russia and China are.
So, you created a double world, some people can protect themselves, but the 180 other signatories are not allowed to. Is that fair? A fundamental principal of international law is the equality of sovereignty states; states are equal under international law; that is most fundamental principal of our international system; that is why a state of a hundred people has the right to be in the UN General Assembly with one vote like the US has one vote.
But you have now created a two-tier world; five countries can protect themselves against someone, somewhere, some place, some time, but the 180 other counties do not have that right.
[In response to Richard Weitz] Richard is right, there is a two-tiered systsem in the United nations, where the five nuclear powers as it happens have the right to veto, the problem, Richard, with that argument is those people who joined the General Assembly in the United nations, they agreed by becoming members to that two-tier system, but the signatories to the NPT, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, they did not agree to a two-tier world; they insisted on Article VI, which says the nuclear powers will eliminate their nuclear weapons and in turn we will agree not to develop them or acquire them.
They never agreed to two tiers. The International Court of Justice did not agree to two tiers; in paragraph 99, the International Court of Justice said that the nuclear powers have to eliminate those nuclear weapons stockpiles.
The second point, very quickly, is you said how do we get to our desirable endpoint; there is a very simple way; there is a midpoint, there is an end goal and a midpoint; the midpoint is, around the world, various regions have signed weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zones, have created weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zones; the easiest way to begin is to create a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East; a proposal that Iran and Egypt made already as far back as 1974. They have made that proposal.
Right now, the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), headed by Professor Frank von Hippel at Princeton [University], just a month ago… they said again, let us create a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East.
So, if I were to agree with you for argument’s sake, it is hard to get to the endpoint; why not get to the mid-point? Iran is on record as supporting a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. Which country opposes it? It is Israel.
[In response to the other guest] But Richard in 2012, why was the meeting cancelled? There is no dispute about that. There was supposed to be a meeting on the question a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. Why was it cancelled? Because Israel told the US they were opposed to it and the US forced the cancellation of the agreement.
Let’s be honest about that. I do not want to have an argument with you, you seem like a very decent guy, I find your arguments interesting, intellectually stimulating, but let’s be honest; Iran is on record, it wants to create a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, who is the obstacle? Israel told the United States no and the US forced the cancelation of the meeting and that is not an ancient history, that was the end of 2012.