Iran and North Korea are at the forefront of the global conversation around nuclear non-proliferation, albeit for different reasons.
Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, joined The Real News Network to discuss the nuances of the U.S.-Iran relationship, the possibility of war between Iran and the U.S., and the issue of nuclear non-proliferation more generally.
While acknowledging that the U.S. relationships with both Iran and North Korea are heavily influenced by issues surrounding nuclear weapons, Bennis noted the two situations are markedly dissimilar. For one thing, “North Korea is [already] a nuclear state,” she said.
The question, Bennis continued, “is whether the U.S. is willing to accept another nuclear weapons state.”
As more states attain nuclear capabilities, important questions arise around whether nuclear non-proliferation is enough, particularly when the U.S. continues to fail to lead by example. Bennis argues we need to look at disarmament, not simply non-proliferation.
“The U.S. believes it can have non-proliferation globally,” said Bennis, “without taking any responsibility to implement its own obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.” The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, after all, required the U.S. and the four other countries with nuclear weapons capabilities to move toward complete nuclear disarmament.
“The U.S. laughs at that,” said Bennis, and so do the other treaty signatories — China, Russia, France, and Britain.
The international community continues to express concern over more countries gaining access to nuclear weapons, and the U.S. is chief among the concerned. Yet, as Bennis notes, it’s difficult to prevent other states from pursuing nuclear weapons while refusing to give up your own.
Said Bennis: “Without moving towards real disarmament on the part of the existing recognized nuclear weapon states, the notion that you’re somehow going to be able to prevent other countries from becoming new nuclear weapon states — whether it’s India and Pakistan, whether it’s Israel, whether it’s North Korea, who are the other existing nuclear weapon states — it simply doesn’t work.”
While the U.S. terminated its involvement in the Iran deal, Bennis says that the U.S. can show a greater commitment to nonproliferation by living up to its own commitments under the earlier NPT.
“It isn’t just what were [the U.S.’] obligations under the Iran nuclear deal,” she concluded. “Certainly it violated those, but the U.S. has been violating its obligations on multilateral and bilateral nuclear weapons treaties for, I guess, about 30 years now or more. So I think that we have to start from that.”