‘Irony of Historical Proportions’: Iran Ex-FM Zarif Muses on US Deal to Sell Australia Nuclear Subs

© AP Photo / Manish SwarupIranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the Raisina Dialogue 2020 in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. Zarif is in the country on a three-day visit
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the Raisina Dialogue 2020 in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. Zarif is in the country on a three-day visit - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.09.2021
While the US has cited the dangers of nuclear proliferation allegedly posed by Iran’s nuclear power program, it holds no such reservations when it comes to giving Australia similar technology, even if it’s weapons-grade uranium.
Amid the signing of a new defensive pact between the US, UK, and Australia that will see Washington provide new nuclear submarines to its antipodal ally, former Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called attention to the double-standard behind the decision.
Taking to Twitter on Friday, Zarif called the situation “an irony of historical proportions.”
“US, UK, Australia & France - all self-proclaimed champions of non-proliferation - are racing to enable HEU [highly enriched uranium] proliferation,” he wrote. “The anger and rift today is over competition for a submarine deal with SERIOUS PROLIFERATION THREAT.”
“The world is watching,” he added.
The former Iranian chief diplomat was referring to the AUKUS defensive pact announced by London, Canberra and Washington on Wednesday. The deal includes a pledge for the US to supply Australia with its first nuclear-powered submarines, which Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said would be “in the water” by 2030.
It’s unclear which submarine class the Australians will receive, but since the country has no nuclear technology of any kind, including nuclear power plants, it will have to be supplied with that technology and the associated know-how by the United States or United Kingdom.
Of even greater worry is that the nuclear-powered submarines used by both the US and UK are fueled by weapons-grade highly enriched uranium, with a purity of 93.5%. Such a transfer has never taken place before; the only other example of one nation helping another build a nuclear-powered submarine is Brazil’s Alvero Alberto, being built in partnership with France. However, Brazil already has nuclear power technology. It is developing the sub’s power plant itself and is likely to use low-enriched uranium.
To dissuade fears that Australia might use the technology to become a nuclear power, Morrison explicitly reiterated his country’s commitment to nonproliferation and remaining nuclear-free otherwise.
However, the same could be said of Iran.
The Middle Eastern nation has seen its nuclear program heavily sanctioned and restricted by Western powers, most notably the United States, which have claimed Tehran is in pursuit of a nuclear weapon, despite protestations otherwise that include a ruling by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that use of nuclear or chemical weapons is against Islam.
In 2015, most of those sanctions were eliminated as part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement by which Iran accepted very tight restrictions on its production of fissile material, including limits on the purity and stored weight of refined uranium it made. However, Tehran began reducing its commitments made under the deal after then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it and reimposed economic sanctions, claiming without evidence that Tehran was secretly still building a nuclear bomb.
After US President Joe Biden took office in January, negotiations began for the two nations to return to the deal, but have been slow-going, with Biden citing fears about nuclear proliferation.
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