Five years ago today, Xiyue Wang was unjustly detained in Iran while conducting research there for his Ph.D. dissertation. We and others at Covington were honored to participate in the global advocacy campaign that culminated in Mr. Wang’s release in December 2019. Here, for the first time publicly, we discuss our work on his case.
Trump’s trade policy in a second term would basically be more of the same: he would continue hard bargaining with China and other trade partners, including by threatening tariffs under various provisions of U.S. trade law. President Trump would try to build on the Phase 1 trade agreement with China and would continue his hostility…
STATEMENT OF STEPHEN G. RADEMAKER
Senior Of Counsel, Covington & Burling LLP
“50 Years of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Strengthening the
NPT in the Face of Iranian and North Korean Nonproliferation Challenges”
Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism
Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation
Committee on Foreign Affairs
U.S. House of Representatives
March 3, 2020
Chairman Deutch, Chairman Bera, Ranking Member Wilson, Ranking Member Yoho, and Members of the Subcommittees, I appreciate the invitation to appear before you today to discuss the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the two greatest threats facing it today: Iran and North Korea.
I will begin by making some observations about the treaty itself, and then move on to a discussion of the challenges presented by the Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs.
- Reflections on the NPT
You will hear very contradictory views expressed about the NPT. On the one hand, there are those who celebrate its strength, pointing out that, with 191 states parties, it is the one of the most universally-adhered to treaties in history, and that it has limited the spread of nuclear weapons to just nine countries, which is a much smaller number than anyone would have predicted when the treaty entered into force 50 years ago tomorrow.
On the other hand, there are critics who will point out that nine countries is four more than the five countries that are permitted to possess nuclear weapons under the treaty, that permitting even five nuclear weapon states was five too many, and that the treaty is bound to collapse because of its inherent unfairness to the non-nuclear weapon states. For many of these critics, the kind of problem we face today with Iran and North Korea was inevitable, and could only have been avoided if the five nuclear weapon states had moved much faster over the past 50 years to abolish nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.
Personally I see the NPT as much more a story of success than of failure. It’s remarkable to consider how far the treaty has come from its somewhat inauspicious beginnings, and the many challenges it has overcome in the intervening years.
For starters, there’s the astonishing fact that despite all the complaints about how unfair the treaty is in advantaging five nuclear weapon states over everyone else, initially two of the five nuclear weapon states refused to join the treaty. Neither France nor China acceded to the NPT until 1992, 22 years after the treaty entered into force.
As for the rest of the world, the list of treaty successes is considerably longer than the list of treaty failures. We often forget how many countries were actively exploring the development of nuclear weapons before the treaty came along. Back then it wasn’t countries like Iran and North Korea we were worried about, but rather much more technologically-advanced countries like Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, and Australia–countries that could produce nuclear weapons much more readily than Iran and North Korea if they decided to do so.
South Africa possessed nuclear weapons under the Apartheid government, but gave them up and joined the NPT in 1991. Ukraine found itself in possession of the world’s third-largest nuclear weapons arsenal upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but gave that up and joined the treaty in 1994. Argentina and Brazil long appeared to be locked into a nuclear arms race, but in the 1990s they decided that they would prefer a relationship like the one between France and Germany to the one between Pakistan and India, and both countries abandoned their nuclear programs in favor of the treaty.
On October 14, 2019, President Trump issued an Executive Order Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Syria. This Order provides authority for the imposition of sanctions (including secondary sanctions) on certain entities and individuals in response to Turkey’s military operations in Syria, which the Order states endanger innocent civilians, destabilize the region, and undermine the campaign to defeat the Islamic State.
The Executive Order provides authority to impose sanctions on parts of the Government of Turkey, current and former officials of the Government of Turkey, sectors of Turkey’s economy, and persons who are otherwise determined to be involved in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, or territorial integrity of Syria. The Executive Order provides additional authority to impose sanctions on foreign persons engaged in a range of activities that disrupt or prevent a ceasefire in northern Syria, the voluntary return to Syria of displaced persons, or efforts to promote a political solution to the conflict in Syria, or involve the commission of serious human rights abuses in relation to Syria. It further authorizes various secondary sanctions (a) for certain dealings in support of persons whose property is blocked pursuant to the Executive Order, and (b) against foreign financial institutions that knowingly conduct or facilitate any significant financial transaction on behalf of such a blocked party.
Relying on the Executive Order, the Administration blocked all property and interests in property of the Government of Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, as well as the property and interests in property of the Minister of National Defense, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, and Minister of the Interior.
Administration Also Revises Russia Sanctions, Terminates Most Sudan Sanctions
On October 13, President Trump announced that he would no longer certify to Congress that the suspension of U.S. sanctions against Iran pursuant to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) is “appropriate and proportionate” to the steps that Iran has taken to terminate its illicit nuclear program. The President’s much-anticipated announcement does not mean that the United States is withdrawing from the JCPOA, nor does it automatically result in the re- imposition of any U.S. sanctions against Iran. Rather, the President’s announcement gives the Congress 60 days to introduce legislation to re-impose U.S. sanctions that could be considered under expedited procedures. Importantly, although President Trump did not call on Congress to re-impose the pre-JCPOA U.S. nuclear-related sanctions, he did threaten to terminate U.S. participation in the JCPOA in the future if Congress and U.S. allies do not take action to address perceived flaws in the agreement.
At the same time, the Trump Administration expanded sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (“IRGC”), and designated four additional entities for sanctions for their support of Iran’s weapons proliferation activities. Further, Senators Bob Corker and Tom Cotton announced that they would be introducing legislation to address perceived shortcomings in the JCPOA, consistent with President Trump’s request.
The developments of late last week follow several other recent changes in U.S. sanctions involving Russia and Sudan.
On September 29, the Trump Administration, as expected, revised key aspects of the U.S. sectoral sanctions against Russia relating to dealings in debt of certain parties operating in Russia’s financial services and energy sectors. The move was required by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (“CAATSA”) discussed in our alert of July 28, 2017.
Finally, on October 12, the Trump Administration terminated most U.S. sanctions against Sudan, which had been substantially suspended since January 2017 pursuant to an Executive Order that President Obama issued in the waning days of his Administration.
Failure to Make INARA Certification
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (“INARA”) requires that the President certify to Congress every 90 days that: (1) “Iran is transparently, verifiably, and fully implementing” the JCPOA; (2) Iran has not committed a material breach with respect to the JCPOA, or if it has committed a material breach, then it has cured that breach; (3) Iran has not taken any action that could significantly advance its nuclear weapons program; and (4) suspension of U.S. sanctions against Iran in connection with the JCPOA is “appropriate and proportionate” to the specific and verifiable measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear program and is “vital to the national security interests of the United States.”