Shortly after the development of the atomic bomb, humans began living under the threat of a major nuclear conflict with its potentially catastrophic effects. Leaders have long recognized the immense danger of this situation and have crafted treaties in an attempt to reduce or to eliminate this threat.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was a major attempt to rein in nuclear weapons. Specifically, this treaty attempted to stop the proliferation of these weapons to non-nuclear states and to pursue the disarmament of the nuclear states (the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France) with the goal of totally eliminating their nuclear arsenals. Nuclear states were to also share the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology with the non-nuclear states.
This treaty went into force in 1970 with 191 nations now adhering to the treaty. However, there has been a lack of compliance by the original nuclear states with the nuclear disarmament requirement. Moreover, Israel, India, Pakistan and South Sudan didn't accept the treaty, and North Korea didn't comply with it. South Sudan is the only one of these nations that doesn't possess nuclear weapons.
In 2017, efforts by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons led to the U.N. General Assembly's passing of the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty. This treaty reflected the worldwide concern that nuclear weapons were still a major threat to humanity and must be eliminated. The vote was 122 for (including Iran) and 1 against (the Netherlands) with 1 abstention and 69 nations not voting (including the nuclear states and all of NATO except the Netherlands).
Domestically, the 1976 U.S. Arms Export Control Act essentially requires that the U.S. president, upon learning a non-NPT member was involved in nuclear proliferation activities, cut off U.S. foreign aid. Unfortunately, U.S. presidents have not followed this law regarding Israel and its nuclear weapons program, and Israel still receives billion of dollars in aid every year. In fact, a recent New Yorker article by Adam Entous revealed that four sitting U.S. presidents, beginning with Bill Clinton, signed secret letters agreeing never to discuss Israel's nuclear weapons. This hypocritical behavior makes a mockery of U.S. law and harms U.S. credibility.
The U.S. claims to be concerned about nuclear proliferation. However, consider the U.S. treatment of Israel and Iran. Israel, an alleged U.S. ally with a history of attacks on its neighbors, has nuclear weapons and the U.S. lavishes large amounts of military aid on it. Iran, not an ally, doesn't have a nuclear weapons program, but the U.S. still imposes incredibly harsh sanctions and threatens a military attack against it. Clearly, the U.S. position is not based on principle, but on politics, and perhaps the real U.S. goal for Iran is regime change.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.