In President Bush’s first State of the Union message, he essentially accused North Korea, Iran, and Iraq of having clandestine nuke programs:
“States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.
“I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”
But at that time North Korea, Iran, and Iraq were signatories to the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and had their nuclear materials, facilities, and activities subject to IAEA periodic inspection.
As for North Korea, under the so-called Agreed Framework, all existing “nuclear” activities had been “frozen” under IAEA lock and seal in return for a promise by the United States of alternative energy supplies.
Now, were ever the IAEA were to determine that (a) Iraq was not in compliance with Gulf War Security Council resolutions, or that (b) North Korea was not in compliance with the Agreed Framework, or that (c) Iran was not in compliance with its Safeguards Agreement, it could ask the UN Security Council to impose “sanctions,” which could under the UN Charter include the use of military force.
However, until the IAEA made such a determination and until the Security Council authorized the use of force, Bush would have to "stand by."
So Bush announced his own National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction in late 2002, launched an unsanctioned preemptive attack on Iraq in March (to remove an imaginary nuke threat) and announced ad hoc his Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), whose stated objective was to create a web of international “counter-proliferation partnerships” to prevent “proliferators” from “carrying out their trade in WMD and missile-related technology.”
The PSI was "necessary" because “proliferators and those facilitating the procurement of deadly capabilities are circumventing existing laws, treaties, and controls against WMD proliferation.”
That is, the PSI supersedes existing treaties including the NPT and international law, itself
That’s why, at the Seventh NPT Review Conference last year, Iran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi pleaded with the delegates to strengthen the three “pillars” of the Treaty: (a) nonproliferation, (b) peaceful use of nuclear energy, and (c) disarmament.
“Mr. President, the ‘inalienable right’ of the states to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes emanates from the universally accepted proposition that scientific and technological achievements are the common heritage of mankind.
“The promotion of the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes has been, therefore, one of the main pillars of the NPT and the main statutory objective of the IAEA.
“It is unacceptable that ‘some’ intend to limit the access to peaceful nuclear technology to an exclusive club of technologically advanced states under the pretext of ‘nonproliferation.’ This attitude is in clear violation of the letter and spirit of the treaty and destroys the fundamental balance which exists between the rights and obligations in the treaty.
“Iran, for its part, is determined to pursue all legal areas of nuclear technology, including enrichment, exclusively for peaceful purposes and has been eager to offer assurances and guarantees that they remain permanently peaceful.”
In fact, the previous November, Iran had agreed to negotiate with the Brits-French-Germans on a mutually acceptable agreement that “will provide objective guarantees” to the European Union that Iran’s safeguarded nuclear program explicitly to include uranium-enrichment activities voluntarily suspended for the duration is exclusively for peaceful purposes.
But when the Brits-French-Germans finally got around to submitting their proposal, it explicitly required Iran “not to pursue fuel cycle activities other than the construction and operation of light-water power and research reactors” in complete violation of the spirit and letter of the so-called Paris Agreement [.pdf].
Now the IAEA was not a party to the negotiations. Nevertheless, under extreme U.S. pressure, the IAEA Board “urged” [.pdf] Iran to accept the offer even though they would essentially be requiring, thereby, Iran to forfeit its "inalienable" rights, guaranteed by the NPT and the Iranian Safeguards Agreement.
Well, Iran didn’t accept, and they have since resumed some of the safeguarded activities they had voluntarily suspended.
The reaction of our secretary of state?
"We agree that the Iranian regime’s defiant resumption of uranium enrichment work leaves the EU with no choice but to request an emergency meeting of the IAEA board of governors to report Iran’s noncompliance with its safeguards obligations to the UN Security Council."
And defying whom?