Greg Jones’ recent “description of”:http://www.tnr.com/article/environment-and-energy/94715/jones-nuclear-iran-ahmadinejad Iran as a “de facto nuclear weapon state” inspired me to think about the problem with using that term casually. David Albright and Andrea Stricker’s “description”:http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/all/David%20Albright of Iran as a “virtual nuclear weapons state” might be a bit better, but I think it suffers from the same problem: it’s not a term of art and, therefore, has limited analytic value.
Article IX of the NPT:
bq. For the purposes of this Treaty, a nuclear-weapon State is one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January 1967.
I know that the authors to which I linked understand the above. And I’m not quite sure what the correct term for a country like Iran should be. But finding something more precise may be in order. Iran obviously doesn’t meet the Article IX definition; a nuclear-armed Iran still wouldn’t meet it. Since it’s hard to equate a state with nuclear weapons to one without such weapons, I really can’t think of a good reason to use the term other than to gain attention.
Incidentally, the international community has gone to some effort to maintain the distinction between the legitimate nuclear weapons states and other states with nuclear weapons.
For example, “UNSCR 1172”:http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N98/158/60/PDF/N9815860.pdf?OpenElement stated that, despite their 1998 nuclear tests, neither India nor Pakistan could “have the status of a nuclear-weapon State.”
And the 2005 RevCon “final document”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2000_06/docjun similarly stated that those tests did “not in any way confer a nuclear-weapon State status or any special status whatsoever.”
“The 2010 NPT RevCon final document”:http://www.acronym.org.uk/npt/npt2010%20-%20Final%20Declaration%20Draft%203.pdf said the same thing about North Korea and its nuclear tests.
Clarity is good. I guess that’s my point.