Is it within the right of the Security Council to impose demands upon UN member states that not only violate treaties and conventions, international law and World Court decisions”but also the UN Charter according to whose “functions and powers” the Security Council presumably acts?
The answer, of course, is no. Nor is the question merely academic. Because at a meeting of six global powers scheduled to be held in Vienna perhaps as early as June 1, representatives of the five Permanent Members of the Council (Britain, China, France, the Russian Federation, and the United States) plus Germany very well could finalize an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that makes UN Charter- and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty-violating demands on Iran. Should this or any subsequent meeting among these powers produce a draft Security Council resolution that calls upon Iran to surrender its “inalienable right” under Article IV.1 of the NPT “to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discriminati on” (1970), along with enforceable, Chapter VII-type penalties in case Iran resists their orders, the UN Charter and the NPT will have been overthrown, and the current crisis greatly heightened”all in the name of maintaining “international peace and security.”
The position of Tehran with respect to its nuclear program has been repeated almost daily since last August 1, when Tehran stated that “no incentive would be sufficient to compromise Iran’s inalienable right to all aspects of peaceful nuclear technology,” and informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that it had decided to resume uranium enrichment at Esfahan. “As this right is inalienable’,” Tehran explained, “it cannot be undermined or curtailed under any pretext. Any attempt to do so would be an attempt to undermine a pillar of the Treaty and indeed the Treaty itself.” Then just days ago, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a gathering of the 114-member Non-Aligned Movement in Malaysia that any agreement must “recognize the essential right of Iran to have nuclear technology.” A final declaration adopted by the NAM on May 30 “reaffirmed” this right. And in the same spirit, added that “states’ choices and decisions in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear technology and its fuel cycle policies must be respected,” and that “any attack or threat of attack against peaceful nuclear facilitiesconstitutes a grave violation of international law.”
Washington’s position also has been expressed many times in recent months. Perhaps most forcefully by UN Ambassador John Bolton, who in early March asserted point-blank the American demand that “no enrichment in Iran is permissible.”
There is no doubting that as a signatory to the NPT, Iran enjoys the right to engage in every phase of the nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment of the kind it had been clandestinely researching for most of the past two decades, and reportedly accomplished in early April”the two conditions being that in concealing its activities, Iran was in breach of its Safeguards Agreement to the NPT, and that such activity must be for peaceful purposes. When Iran’s President announced the “historic moment” during a nationally televised address on April 11, he was quite explicit about its civilian end-use: “[T]he nuclear fuel cycle has been completed at laboratory scale and uranium enrichment for nuclear power plants was achieved,” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said. Never once has the Islamic Republic of Iran (1979-) asserted an intent to develop or acquire nuclear weapons. In fact, Iran’s clerical leadership has consistently rejected nuclear weapons as contrary to Islamic custom and law. And Tehran long has advocated the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East”yet another NPT-related goal (Article VII), reiterated by the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States while visiting Beijing on May 30. What is more, not one of the IAEA’s 17 (or so) written reports to its Board of Governors has ever produced serious evidence to the contrary”not even the reports dated February 27 and April 28 of this year, the release of which has been accompanied by the referral of Iran’s nuclear dossier to the Security Council. Indeed, for its strongest case today, the IAEA has adopted a Mad Hatter’s logic to the effect that it is unable to confirm the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities inside Iran–a sop to every state that seeks to keep the issue of Iran’s nuclear program at the front and center of the global stage. To repeat the irresistible Rumsfeldian line from the Secretary of Defense’s days hawking the ballistic missile threat to the United States back in the 1990s: The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Therefore, Iran’s nuclear program poses a grave threat to international peace and security. Say no more.
Similarly, there is no doubting that as a signatory to the NPT, Washington’s rejection of Iran’s “inalienable right” not only places Washington in violation of the treaty, but also in violation of its obligations as well. Article IV.2 of the NPT calls on parties to the treaty to share their material and technological expertise with non-nuclear weapons parties “with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world””again, the one caveat being for peaceful purposes. But far more important to five of the six states now bartering over the fate of Iran’s nuclear program, Article VI imposes an obligation on nuclear weapons parti es “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” To date, I am unaware of any serious effort on the part of Britain, France, Russia, China, and in particular the United States to uphold their Article VI obligations. Although it is unimaginable that these five states will ever find their nuclear dossiers hauled before the Security Council”the absolute vetoes they enjoy as Permanent Members of the Council be ing one of the major constitutional flaws of the international order”who in all honesty believes that the fabled “international community” for which the Permanent Five serve as proxies is outraged over its failure to confirm the absence of undeclared nuclear material or activities inside Iran?
At this stage in the dangerous and escalating, largely U.S.-manufactured, and wholly unnecessary “crisis” over Iran’s nuclear program, the question the world ought to ask is not whether Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons, and therefore poses a Chapter VII-type threat to international peace and security. Quite the contrary. The crucial question is whether the United States, as the most belligerent and serially aggressive power in the world today, will be able to use its considerable influence over the three peripheral belligerents (Britain, France, and Germany) to bribe and cajole both China and Russia into enforcing from the floor of the Security Council the NPT-violating principle that “no enrichment in Iran is permissible”?
“They are trying to turn the denial of rights of developing states into an international standard,” in the words of Iran’s Foreign Minister before the Non-Aligned Movement in Malaysia. “Even more dangerous is their effort to turn nuclear disarmament, which has a serious priority for the international community and NAM, into a secondary issue.”
What responses Britain, France, Germany, and especially China and Russia summon will ultimately go a long way toward deciding whether the American crimes of Afghanistan and Iraq are extended to Iran.
DAVID PETERSON is an independent researcher and writer in Chicago.
2. Note Verbal No. 350-1-17/928 (IAEA INFCIRC/648), August 1, 2005, pp. 4-5
3. In Eileen Ng, “Iran’s FM plays down incentive plan for suspending uranium enrichment,” Associated Press, May 29.
4. For these excerpts from the Putrajaya Declaration, see “Non-aligned nations back Iran’s nuclear program,” Japan Economic Newswire, May 30.
5. In “No uranium enrichment permissible’ for Iran”US envoy,” Agence France Presse, March 6.
6. For a summary of IAEA findings with respect to Iran’s clandestine work on the nuclear fuel cycle through October, 2003, see Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2005/67), pars. 4-8 and pars. 42-52, September 2, 2005.
7. In Anton La Guardia, “Has Iran reached nuclear point of no return?” Daily Telegraph, April 12, 2006
8. “Arab League chief calls for nuclear-free Middle East,” Xinhua, May 31, 2006.
9. See Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2006/15), ; and Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2006/27).
10. Significantly, none of the Security Council “reforms” proposed by the UN Secretary-General have gone so far as to eliminate the absolute veto of the Permanent Five members of the Security Council. See In Larger Freedom: Toward Security, Development, and Human Rights for All, March, 2005, pars. 251-258 . Also see DAVID PETERSON, “‘In Larger Freedom’ I,” ZNet, March, 2005.
11. In P. Vijian, “IAEA Fails To Detect Misuse Of Nuclear Material, Says Iran,” Malaysian National News Agency, May 30