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IPPNW and Pugwash Slam the Killing of Gen. Suleimani

By Jamshed Baruah

GENEVA (IDN) – Two Nobel Peace laureates – IPPNW and Pugwash – have vehemently censured the killing of Gen. Qassem Suleimani on January 3. Suleimani was Iranian major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and, from 1998 until his death, commander of its Quds Force, a division primarily responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations. [2020-01-14]

In a statement on January 8, IPPNW – the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War – “condemned the deliberate and calculated murder” of Iranian Major General Qassim Suleimani by U.S. forces in Iraq. “The killing of Gen. Suleimani in a drone strike authorized by the U.S. President was not only a violation of international law and of long-standing U.S. policy prohibiting assassinations of foreign officials,” the IPPNW said, “it has also further inflamed an already volatile region. A war between the US and Iran would have disastrous results and must be prevented.”

IPPNW is particularly concerned that, as a direct result of this precipitous action, Iran has declared that it will no longer comply with the terms of the 2015 multinational agreement that has prevented it from developing a nuclear weapons capability. The Trump administration withdrew from that agreement in 2018, despite Iran’s compliance, which had been verified by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The organization committed to the prevention of nuclear wars recalled that U.S.-Iranian relations have been strained—frequently to the breaking point—as far back as 1953, when the U.S. helped depose Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mosaddegh, and 1979, when a revolutionary government removed the U.S.-backed Shah and held 52 Americans hostage for more than a year.

“The Iran nuclear agreement was seen by many, including IPPNW, as a stepping stone toward a more constructive period of international engagement with a country that will be crucial to any future negotiations for peace in the Middle East,” the statement added: “That opportunity has now been squandered through the reckless and, apparently, politically motivated act of a U.S. President who has repeatedly shown terrible judgment in international affairs.”

IPPNW urges the U.S. Congress to assert its constitutional authority and to prevent another unjustified war in a region that has been plagued by near-constant war for decades. We also urge leaders in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia to step up in this moment of crisis, and to work with Iran, Iraq, and other directly affected countries in pursuit of a meaningful and lasting peace. “One long-overdue step toward this goal would be the negotiation of a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (MEWMDFZ),” IPPNW said.

Furthermore, all States that have not yet done so, including the U.S. and Iran, should sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), and follow through with the elimination of all nuclear weapons in the region and globally.

Reinforcing IPPNW’s views, the Pugwash Conferences said the killing was "not justified under international law”. In a statement on January 14, Pugwash – an international organization that brings together scholars and public figures to work toward reducing the danger of armed conflict and to seek solutions to global security threats – said: “This attack was a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and an act of war against Iran.“

The killing, the statement added, “has increased tension and raised the risk of conflict in an already difficult situation. The tragic unintentional downing of the Ukrainian aircraft by an Iranian missile highlights the peril that can arise at moments of intense crisis.“

Furthermore, the U.S. rejection of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) has contributed to this escalating confrontation and has made it more, not less, difficult to constrain Iran’s nuclear program. “Salvaging the JCPOA would help defuse this ongoing crisis while addressing non-proliferation concerns,” the statement added.

Pugwash appealed to all parties to avoid further escalatory steps that could lead to a disastrous conflict and called on the international community and the United Nations urgently to seek a peaceful resolution of the current dangerous situation.

The statement was signed by Iraq’s former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Hussain Al Sharistani; Pugwash Secretary General Paolo Cotta-Ramusino; the organization’s President Sergio Duarte; Pugwash Chair Council Saideh Lotfian of Iran; and Pugwash Executive Committee Chair Steven Miller.

Pugwash has set up an important network in Iran. On June 23-24, 2019 a delegation from Pugwash travelled to the country to participate in a specially arranged two-day meeting organized together with the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) in Tehran.

The central focus of the discussions was the current status of the JCPOA, more than one year after the United States withdrew from implementing it, and the ensuing program of ever-tightening sanctions imposed by the President Donald Trump on Iran that has dramatically increased tension in the Middle East.

The meeting also put this into context by looking at the regional situation of arms control, as well as Iran’s relations with China, Russia, the EU, and its neighbours including Afghanistan.

The key points discussed were:

With so-called ‘secondary sanctions’ applied by the US against other countries and businesses for trading with Iran, we are at a unique point in United Nations history where countries are being punished for upholding a UN Security Council Resolution (2231).

The recent resumption of nuclear activities by Iran, in disagreement with the limits set by the JCPOA, is the result of an internal domestic compromise following the year of ‘strategic patience’ that brought no results in sanctions relief.

The steps taken by Iran are viewed in reaction to the US withdrawal from the JCPOA and the lack of EU action since. It was stated several times that each step has been relatively small and is reversible.

Iran is adamant that these steps are legal remedial measures, well within their right according to the Dispute Resolution Mechanism of the JCPOA outlined in paragraphs 36 and 37.

The overwhelming emphasis of Iranian sentiment is that it is incumbent on the EU to make progress in providing sanctions relief according to the terms of the JCPOA. The main issue for Iran is to grant the capability of selling oil.

If steps are not taken soon by the EU and U.S. to address the economic obligations toward Iran under the JCPOA then the regional situation will continue to deteriorate dramatically.

Further regional instability can provoke dangerous attitudes in other regional actors, particularly with respect to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

On the current path, an Iranian exit from the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty may become a possibility, even though Iranian authorities are far from keen to take this step which would serve only to promote a regional arms race.

All countries must understand that the development of a civilian nuclear program without a serious system of international control will always create ambiguity with respect to possible military dimensions. [IDN-InDepthNews – 14 January 2020]

Photo: Pugwash gathering in Teheran discusses implications of U.S. abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal. Credit: Pugwash.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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