Sanction the IAEA Board, Not Iran

You probably heard that – as a result of extreme pressure brought by the Bush-Cheney administration – a special meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors was convened last week to discuss what to do about the “gravest” threat to develop to “our” national security since the end of the Cold War.

The “threat”?

The announced resumption of certain IAEA-safeguarded programs, voluntarily and temporarily suspended by Iran more than two years ago.

What did the Board decide to do?

Well, you may have heard misleading reports that the Board – unable to satisfy itself that Bush-Cheney allegations that Iran had a nuclear weapons program that IAEA inspectors had been unable to find any trace of, despite almost three years of intrusive inspections, were without merit – did refer the matter to the Security Council.

The Associated Press even reported – falsely – that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ordered the end of voluntary cooperation with the IAEA “in response to the UN agency decision to refer Iran to the Security Council over fears the country is trying to develop a nuclear bomb.”

But there was no referral.

Far from turning over the alleged “Iranian nuclear crisis” to the Security Council, the IAEA Board specifically “remains seized with the matter.”

The AP did correctly report that “Iran will resume uranium enrichment and will no longer allow snap IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities – voluntary measures it had allowed in recent years in a gesture to build trust.”

But the AP didn’t tell you that Iran’s Parliament had passed a law last year that required – in the event the IAEA Board reported Iran to the Security Council – the cessation of all voluntary cooperation with the IAEA above and beyond that required by Iran’s Safeguards Agreement. And a resumption of all Iranian safeguarded nuclear programs that had been voluntarily suspended.

Now, certain members of the IAEA Board claim to have been unable to satisfy themselves about “the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s program.” Hence the Board called on Iran to [.pdf]:

  • “reestablish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the Agency”;
  • “reconsider the construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water”;
  • “ratify promptly and implement in full the Additional Protocol”;
  • “pending ratification, continue to act in accordance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol which Iran signed on Dec. 18, 2003”; and
  • “implement transparency measures, as requested by the director general, including in GOV/2005/67, which extend beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, and include such access to individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual-use equipment, certain military-owned workshops, and research and development as the Agency may request in support of its ongoing investigations.”

But then the Board went on to:

“Request the director general to report to the Security Council of the United Nations that these steps are required of Iran by the Board and to report to the Security Council all IAEA reports and resolutions, as adopted, relating to this issue.”

No referral?

Just a request that Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei report to the Security Council the absolutely outrageous discriminatory demands that his Board of Governors has made of Iran – an IAEA member in undisputed compliance with its Safeguards Agreement and the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons?

Well, if the Board is lucky, ElBaradei won’t make such a report. And if he does, the Board better hope the Security Council will just ignore it.

Because, in anticipation of a such a report, the Iranian delegate made these points in a note verbale to the Board Feb. 2, 2006 [.pdf]:

  • “The mere fact that some members of the Board – who have no privilege over the others – pre-impose certain decisions on the Board, goes against the legal stance and authority of the Board.”
  • “Furthermore, these developments have revealed the political pressures over the Board and will jeopardize the credibility of its decisions.”
  • “The resumption of R&D activities after two and a half years of suspension cannot provide the ground for taking harsh decisions by the Board and reporting the issue to the Security Council. Those activities are exclusively peaceful and completely within the IAEA legal framework, and their suspension was decided by Iran, voluntarily and provisionally.”
  • “The Board decision to report the issue to the Security Council has no legal and technical basis.”

Iran’s right; it’s the IAEA Board the Security Council should sanction, not Iran.

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.