Last year ended with some momentum toward ending the standoff over Iran's nuclear program. If a comprehensive agreement can be forged this year, it will be a major step toward freeing the world of the costly and dangerous burden of nuclear weapons.
Iran has suffered from sanctions for failing to live up to obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. A report from the International Federation of Human Rights stated the consequences for the Iranian people:
"Unemployment is on the rise, inflation is at unprecedented levels and most people have to combine several jobs because the minimum wage is insufficient to counterbalance inflation. Iran's population is experiencing an increasing income gap between rich and poor."
Iran cannot afford to be diverting precious resources to the pursuit of nuclear weapons. As President Obama said, "Iran must know that security and prosperity will never come through the pursuit of nuclear weapons -- it must be reached through fully verifiable agreements that make Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons impossible."
The new year brings great hope of a comprehensive settlement on Iran's nuclear program, following last year's six-month interim agreement. There is more, too.
Jordan is hosting a large-scale simulated inspection exercise for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This treaty bans all nuclear weapons test explosions.
Eight countries still need to ratify the CTBT for the pact to take effect globally: Iran, China, Israel, Egypt, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The United States also has yet to ratify the CTBT, and clearly this is an area where non-proliferation leadership is needed.
The treaty is vital for creating the conditions for deeper nuclear arms reductions. If the U.S. or Russia were to resume nuclear weapons tests it would be followed by others, leading to a costly arms race and increased tensions. It would be a return to the Cold War days. No one wants to see those days again. The only place left for nuclear tests is the history books.
The CTBT is enforced through an international monitoring and inspection system, the one to be tested in Jordan.
Mohammad Hussien Al Momani, Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications, said, "Jordan is proud to host this exercise. It is in line with Jordan's desire to strengthen the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation framework, in particular in the Middle East."
Nearly 20 years ago, the government of Canada published a paper on aerial inspection confidence building measures to help build peace in the Middle East. The upcoming CTBT inspection exercise in Jordan can be a good building block for future security in the Middle East and the world.
President Obama is committed to ratifying the CTBT, finishing a goal shared by almost every president since Dwight Eisenhower. In fact, President Eisenhower and President Kennedy both supported the goal of ending nuclear testing, and did achieve a limited treaty banning tests in the atmosphere, underwater and in outer space. Both Republicans and Democrats supported this plan.
The Senate would need to show the same cooperation to get the CTBT passed today.
A lasting agreement with Iran and ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty are two goals within reach. It's diplomacy in action, the only road to peace and nuclear disarmament.