Not Another No-End-in-Sight War

Last week, Representative Ron Paul (R, TX) pleaded with the House to not pass the House Concurrent Resolution entitled “Condemning the Government of Iran for violating its international nuclear nonproliferation obligations and expressing support for efforts to report Iran to the United Nations Security Council“:

“Those reading this bill may find themselves feeling a sense of deja vu. In many cases one can just substitute ‘Iraq’ for ‘Iran’ in this bill and we could be back in the pre-2003 run up to war with Iraq.

And the logic of this current push for war is much the same as was the logic used in the argument for war on Iraq.

As earlier with Iraq, this resolution demands that Iran perform the impossible task of proving a negative – in this case that Iran does not have plans to build a nuclear weapon.”

As Ron Paul notes, there are no violations of Iran’s “international nuclear nonproliferation obligations” for the House to condemn.

As a signatory to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons since 1968, Iran has undertaken

“not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly;

not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and

not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

As of this writing, there is no evidence that Iran has violated any of these “undertakings.”

Furthermore, Iran – as a non-nuclear-weapons party to the NPT concluded in 1974 a Safeguards Agreement [.pdf] with the International Atomic Energy Agency “with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

The IAEA Statute requires IAEA inspectors to report any observed non-compliance with Safeguards Agreements to the Director-General “who shall thereupon transmit the report to the Board of Governors”.

The Board is then required to call upon the recipient State or States “to remedy forthwith any non-compliance which it finds to have occurred.”

Until 2003 the Director-General apparently never had occasion to make such a report to the Board. However, in December, 2003, Iran signed an Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement, and although not required to do so, immediately began to adhere to it provisions.

The Additional Protocol allows for intrusive snap-inspections of Safeguarded sites, as well to inspect – upon presentation of cause – non-Safeguarded sites, import and export records of dual-use materials, technologies, equipment, etc.

Consequently, IAEA inspectors began to discover activities – some taking place as early as 1985 – that the IAEA contended should have been made subject to Iran’s original Safeguards Agreement.

Nevertheless, by December, 2004, the Director-General was able to report to the Board that Iran was now in compliance with its original Safeguards Agreement, that there were no un-safeguarded “source or special nuclear materials” in Iran and that none of those activities the IAEA contended should have been reported involved the use of source or special nuclear materials “in furtherance of any military purpose.”

The IAEA Statue requires the Board to report non-compliance to all members and to the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations.

Apparently, the Board has yet to make such a report about Iran.

Now, the NPT imposes certain requirements on the IAEA Board, too. In particular:

“The safeguards required by this article shall be implemented in a manner designed to … avoid hampering the economic or technological development of the Parties or international cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities, including the international exchange of nuclear material and equipment for the processing, use or production of nuclear material for peaceful purposes…”

In other words, the IAEA Board, itself, is violating Article IV of the NPT when it “deems it necessary” – as in did in its resolution of 6 February, 2006 – for Iran to

  • “re-establish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development,”

  • “reconsider the construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water” and

  • “implement transparency measures … which extend beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, and include…access to individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual use equipment, and certain military-owned workshops

So, if the House wants to condemn someone for “violating its international nonproliferation obligations,” why not condemn the IAEA Board? That’s not likely to result in another no-end-in-sight war.

Read more by Gordon Prather

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.