America’s New Era of Leadership

President Obama declared shortly after his inaugural that "the gravest danger to the American people is the threat of a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon and the spread of nuclear weapons to dangerous regimes."   

He vowed to "crack down on nuclear proliferation by strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that countries like North Korea and Iran that break the rules will automatically face strong international sanctions." 

Well, at least Obama didn’t threaten to automatically launch "preventative" wars of aggression – a la Bush the Younger — against countries like North Korea and Iran who break the "rules" imposed by the Bush-Cheney-Bolton Proliferation Security Initiative.   

No, Obama appears to be merely threatening to ensure that "strong international sanctions" are "automatically" imposed by the UN Security Council on countries who "violate" the NPT and/or the UN Charter. 

Well, that lets out Iran, which has violated neither.

And, as a direct result of the Bush-Cheney-Bolton unilateral abrogation, in the fall of 2002, of the 1994 Agreed Framework between President Clinton and Kim Jung-Il, North Korea withdrew from the NPT, and now has – quite legally — a nuke stockpile, with ballistic missiles capable of delivering them. 

As for North Korea violating the UN Charter, at the insistence of Bush-Cheney-Bolton, in July, 2006, the Security Council adopted resolution 1695, which did "condemn" the "multiple launches" by North Korea of ballistic missiles that month and "demanded" that North Korea "suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme". 

And the Security Council did "require" all UN Member States to "prevent" — consistent with international law — "the procurement of missiles or missile related-items, materials, goods and technology" by other states from North Korea, as well as the "transfer of any financial resources" to North Korea related to its missile programs. 

But, even the Missile Technology Control Regime is a voluntary arrangement, involving 27 countries, agreeing to coordinate their export policies with respect to (a) ballistic missiles, (b) space launch vehicles, (c) cruise missiles and (d) remotely piloted vehicles.  The Security Council is essentially exceeding its authority by "requiring" those 27 countries to enforce – or violate — their own export laws. 

In any event, the Security Council stopped well short of determining – under Chapter VII of the UN Charter – that North Korea’s actions thus far constituted an "act of aggression" or a "breach of the peace" or even a "threat to peace".   

But, back to Iran. 

Iran has been a NPT signatory – and has had all its NPT-proscribed materials, facilities, activities subject to a Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency – since 1974.   

As recently as 19 February, 2009, Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported to the IAEA Board of Governors that the IAEA Secretariat "has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran".   

So, if Iran’s nuclear programs have been verified for the umpteenth consecutive time to conform to its NPT-Safeguards "rules", why has Obama strong-armed China, Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom into sending yet another demand to the IAEA that Iran meet additional requirements, going far beyond those required of it under the NPT?  

In particular;  

    "We call upon Iran to meet without delay the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governors and to implement the resolutions of the UN Security Council." 

    We further call upon Iran to implement and ratify promptly the Additional Protocol and to implement all measures required by the Agency in order to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. 

That’s Change we can Believe in? 

The statutory "objective" of the IAEA – a UN "chartered" agency — is to "seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world".   

[True, it also to "insure" – so far as it is able – that assistance "under its supervision or control is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose".]  

What does that mean?  Clearly, it means that the IAEA’s principal function in Iran is to do what it can to assist the Iranians safely and securely establish and operate their nuclear-energy programs, beginning with the mining of uranium-ore and ending with the disposition of nuclear waste.   

The IAEA’s nuke proliferation-prevention functions are strictly limited to ensuring – insofar as it is able – that no NPT-proscribed materials, subject to IAEA Safeguards, are ‘diverted’ to a military purpose.  

Whatever else goes on in Iran — not involving NPT-proscribed materials — is literally none of the IAEA’s beeswax.  None!   

In particular, the IAEA Board "requirement" that Iran ratify an Additional Protocol to its IAEA Safeguards agreement was outrageous interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, and hence, an outrageous violation of international law.  

Furthermore, the IAEA Board violated its own statute by "referring" its illegal demands – and Iran’s refusal to honor them – to the UN Security Council for possible action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. 

In any event, possibly because of objections by Russia and China, the Security Council has refused – thus far — to take action under Chapter VII.  However, perhaps hoping to prevent another war of aggression by Bush-Cheney-Bolton, Russia and China have gone along with several resolutions, "calling" on Iran to acquiesce to the IAEA Board’s demands. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki had this – among other things – to say when he allowed to address the Security Council, shortly after UNSCR 1747 had already passed.

    "As an organ of an international Organization created by States, the Security Council is bound by law, and Member States have every right to insist that the Council keep within the powers that they accorded it under the Charter of the United Nations.

    "The Security Council must exercise those powers consistently with the purposes and principles of the Charter. Equally, the measures it takes must be consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations and with other international law. Members of the Security Council do not have the right to undermine the Council’s credibility.

    "There is every reason to assert that the Security Council’s consideration of the Iranian peaceful nuclear program has no legal basis, since the referral of the case to the Council [by the IAEA Board] and then the adoption of resolutions [by the UNSC] fail to meet the minimum standards of legality.

Barack Obama reportedly was a "Senior Lecturer" in Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago’s prestigious Law School.  If he truly wishes to usher in a New Era of Leadership, now might be a good time for him to get up to speed with the Iranians on international law.

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.