It’s Not Iran, Stupid

President Obama sent a message, via Energy Department Secretary Steven Chu, to the September meeting of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reaffirming the commitments he made, to seek "a world without nuclear weapons," in his "electrifying" speech in Prague and in his United Nations Security Council Resolution 1887.

In making their decision to award Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee "attached special importance to Obama’s vision of, and work for, a world without nuclear weapons."

And rightly so.

Just a few weeks before, Obama had chaired a truly historic session of the Security Council, challenging other Council members – including the heads of state of Russia, China, Great Britain and France – to "overcome cynicism" about the possibility of a world without nuclear weapons.


Obama’s UNSC Resolution 1887, which begins by;

"Resolving to seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, in accordance with the goals of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), in a way that promotes international stability, and based on the principle of undiminished security for all,"

Obama then

"Calls upon all States that are not Parties to the NPT to accede to the Treaty as non-nuclear-weapon States so as to achieve its universality at an early date, and pending their accession to the Treaty, to adhere to its terms;"

Did you Likudniks all hear that?

The Security Council – the folks that gave us UNSC Resolution 487, which "strongly condemned" Israel for attacking the IAEA-Safeguarded nuclear reactor in Iraq – is once again calling upon Israel to place all its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.

Now, there were reports that the Likudniks in the Obama-Biden administration had attempted to get Iran singled out by name in UNSCR 1887 as an example of a State not in compliance with its NPT obligations, and hence, ineligible to enjoy the benefits of the peaceful use of atomic energy guaranteed them by the NPT.

Worse still, deserving of having egregious sanctions – and other acts of war – imposed by fellow NPT-signatories.

But the Chinese and Russians would have none of that. They know that the principal obligation of a non-nuclear-weapons state NPT-signatory is to not "manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons."

Consequently, a non-nuclear-weapons state is required to conclude a Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, covering certain NPT-proscribed "nuclear materials" and all activities involving their chemical or physical transformation, for the "exclusive purpose" of "verifying" the "non-diversion" of NPT-proscribed "nuclear materials" to nuclear weapons.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei had just reported for the umpteenth consecutive time that he "continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran."

Furthermore, ElBaradei reported that he could find no "evidence" that Iran has ever manufactured or otherwise acquired a nuclear weapon. Nor does he believe the Iranians are attempting to do so.

Since this was the last report ElBaradei would file as Director-General, Ambassador Soltanieh, Iran’s Resident Representative to the IAEA, sent him a valedictory letter [.pdf], to be circulated to all IAEA Member States, excerpts of which follow:


I have the honor to refer to your last report on implementation of Safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2009/55) and inform you of the following to be put on the record of the Agency:

  • The Islamic Republic of Iran has always supported the IAEA as the sole pertinent international technical Organization related to the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the world;

  • My Government has trusted you as a sincere international civil servant, trying to lead this Organization in a professional and impartial manner;

  • We share the view of many other Member States that you have resisted the political pressure by a few western countries, trying to interfere in the tasks of the Secretariat, and sparing no effort in derailing it from its professional technical mandate.

  • The demarche of the Ambassadors of United States, France and United Kingdom, against Your Excellency, after the conclusion of the negotiation and agreement on the Work Plan (INFCIRC/711), for the resolution of outstanding issues, in August 2007, is a clear example of such ill will and political motivation, with the aim of keeping the issue on the Agenda of the Board of Governors. However, the immediate historical response by the three Ambassadors of the Troika of the Non-Aligned Movement, representing the majority of Member States, proved the righteous decision by the Agency and Islamic Republic of Iran.

  • I have to recall that the Work Plan was the fruitful result of a political decision by my Government, in response to the appeal by Your Excellency to our former Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.

  • Following extraordinary cooperation of Iran, all six outstanding issues were resolved and you did report to the Board of Governors such an achievement (GOV/2009/55).

The details of the resolution of Baradei’s "outstanding issues" comprise the next half-dozen pages, and the letter concludes with Saltanieh "expecting" ElBaradei

to announce that the safeguards implementation in Iran shall be conducted [henceforth] in a routine manner, in accordance with the last paragraph of the Work Plan (INFCIRC/711). I assure you that, in doing so, as a [ElBaradei] legacy, you shall open a new chapter for mutual confidence building and trust, leading to enhanced cooperation, where we would then be in a better position to answer questions, if any, [just] like other Member States, in accordance with our Safeguards Agreement.”

Now, until recently, Likudniks pretty much dictated what the UN Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors did or didn’t do. But there are increasing signs that the rank-and-file members of the UN General Assembly and IAEA General Conference – led by member states counted among the leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Arab League, et al – are no longer in a mood to be dictated to.

Of course, even Nobel Laureates can sometimes be a little slow to recognize the signs.

For example, here is what Nobel-Laureate Steven Chu told the IAEA General Conference last week after delivering Nobel-Laureate Barack Obama’s message:

"Countries that violate their international obligations must face serious consequences both here and at the UN Security Council. Failure to impose meaningful consequences puts at risk everything we have achieved."

As everyone at the Conference except Chu knew well, it is the United States that has repeatedly violated its obligations, under the NPT, the IAEA Statute and the UN Charter: 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.