Monday, October 31, 2005

* Iran's Nuclear Case: One Step to the UN Security Council

First draft October 30, 2005

Iran’s Nuclear Case:
One Step to the UN Security Council

Ali-Asghar Kazemi
October 2005

Keywords: Iran’s nuclear case, IAEA resolution on Iran, Iran’s new president’s statement on Israel, UN Security Council, Nuclear proliferation.

“He who learns not from past experiences, is condemned to repeat past mistakes”

Less than four months since new conservative government is in power in Iran and during this rather short period of time it has made more gaffes than any other administrations in the lifespan of the Islamic regime in Iran. Some of these blunders are truly susceptible to drag the whole nation into a serious crisis situation and jeopardize national interests and even the very existence of the religious regime.

After the much publicized presidential elections in Iran and the dubious circumstances which led to the coming into power of a hard-line inexperienced person as president, the amazing outcome of the ballot boxes was somehow welcome by naïve optimists, including this author[1]. It was hoped that upon the failure of the reformist government to cope with corruption, inflation, favoritism and other social evils, this humble and devoted man will embark in a serious battle to shore up justice, compassion, meritocracy and the rule of law inside the country and promote respect for international law and breakthrough the barriers that impeded the previous government for building confidence and establishing good relations with outside.

The latest provocative blunder of the new president, regarding the total annihilation of the state of Israel from the surface of the earth, which rose widespread reactions of the international community, leads one to believe that indeed the new president has become a liability for the nation. The question now is whether this seemingly purposeful gaffe is prone to further isolation of Iran and expedites the referral of its much debated nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council for eventual sanctions?

It is believed that never before in recent history of the UN any responsible statesman, elected into high political office of a country, has said such a provoking statement in total contradiction with the United Nations Charter, against another member state of the UN and international community. The unfortunate thing is that other statesmen of the high political apparatus in Iran did naught to attenuate the hostile tone of the blunder and thus their silence proved some kind of overall acquiescence to the matter.

Indeed, one thing that Iranian decision makers should have avoided at this very critical juncture, was giving a hostile signal to the international community at a time when the nuclear dossier is being assessed for referral to the Security Council. Unfortunately, the president’s statement at a seminar named “A world without Zionism” in Tehran, a day before the state’s organized rally against Israel, on the last Friday of Ramadan; pave the way for the unexpected occurrence. That is the shaping of an undesired consensus that the Islamic regime is in fact up to something in its nuclear venture and is becoming a real threat to the Middle East and international stability.

How can we assess Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statement as a supposedly responsible office-holder, whose official position obligates him to act and talk according to the prevailing norms of international relations? There could be several answers to this question:

-He did not really mean what he said for a group of deeply dedicated and zealous people in a rather politico-ideological gathering for the purpose of encouraging them to participate in Qods-Day rally,
-He did not realize that as a president, his public statements for domestic consumption would be propagated throughout the world in a matter of second,
-His inability to deal with important domestic problems and his several setbacks in handling foreign issues (including the nuclear case) pushed him to opt for a rather radical foreign policy, in order to divert public attention to outside,
-Putting this statement in the context of other positions so far taken by Mr. Ahmadinejad and the regime itself, he may in fact believes in what he said and he just exposed the stance of the Islamic government which at the beginning of the revolution took hostage American diplomats for 444 days,
-Finally one may argue, he has no political education, experience or insight and with a narrow vision of Islamic teachings, regardless of how he was elected to the office, he has not enough political maturity and his threats should not be taken seriously by the world community.

Each of the above arguments or a composition of several of them could prove true. This means that no matter what is in the back of the president’s mind, his statement did not please the international community as a whole and it would be extremely difficult for the Islamic regime to repair the extraordinary damage inflicted to the nation.

Now, after the widespread condemnations of almost all countries around the world, the UN Secretary General, the Security Council, and even Iran’s very few allies, such as Venezuela, who voted against the last IAEA resolution of September 24, 2005, the Islamic regime is much baffled about the bungle that led to this messy situation. We shall wait and see how the matter will develop until the next session of the IAEA Governing Council on November 24, 2005. Meanwhile, Iran has a very difficult task to manage the crisis with a view to avoid the worst. Otherwise, with this rather quick escalation, it is not hard to imagine that Iran’s nuclear case is almost one step away from the Security Council.

* * *
[1] For example see: A. A. Kazemi, “Iran’s Presidential Elections: The Miracle of the Ballot Boxes” in the Middle East Academic Forum see also my article “ New Conservative Power Grip

Friday, October 28, 2005

* Iran: The Price of Going Nuclear

First draft October, 2005

Iran: The Price of Going Nuclear

Ali-Asghar Kazemi
October 2005

Keywords: Nuclear proliferation, International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran’s nuclear project, United Nations Security Council.


Whether for peaceful purposes or not, Iran’s nuclear aspiration has become one of the most urgent dilemma of our present international relations. Perhaps if we did not have the events of September 11, 2001, this venture could go un-noticed along with many other similar undertakings, which usually occur, in technological, scientific and strategic developments around the world. In fact, as we know well, Iran’s nuclear ambitions go back to the Shah’s regime before the revolution. In those days, technologically advanced Western countries were competing for the lucrative nuclear deal with this oil-rich country.

With the advent of the revolutionary regime in Iran since 1979 the situation changed and a new-fangled political environment emerged in total contradiction with the West. The “nuclear Iran” is now considered as an unwelcome and ominous menace to the established order in the region and the world. After several years of talks and negotiations within the IAEA and the EU, the problem now is on the verge of being referred to the UN Security Council for eventual sanctions. What are the chances of the case being submitted to this organ and what are the prices that Iran may pay in pursuing the project?

Mounting Pressure on Iran
Iran’s defiance to the world opinion by resuming some of its nuclear activities in the past recent weeks, and the increasing ambiguity in official public statements with respect to its nuclear project, irritated many, especially the EU and the United States. As an immediate result, the IAEA Governing Council and the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee took two separate actions putting more and more pressure on Iran.
On the one hand, the IAEA adopted a Resolution on September 24, 2005 on Iran’s nuclear activities[1] which was rather harsh and surprising for Iranians who were counting on the negative votes of NAM[2] states as well as Russia, China and India. The two first abstain from voting and India voted for the resolution. The only negative vote was that of Venezuela, which presumably because of its quarrel with the United States and perhaps not necessarily out of its amicable relations with Iran, did not support the resolution.

The resolution states that "the history of concealment of Iran's nuclear activities" had resulted in the "absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes have given rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council, as the organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.”[3] Many countries including the United States and the EU seem to be suspicious that Iran has ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, while Iran has always claimed that its program is strictly peaceful and for generating energy.

This resolution shows the international community’s concern about Iran’s nuclear undertaking and its alleged non-cooperation regarding the non-proliferation rules. At the same time, the text keeps open the possibility of negotiations with EU3 in order to put forward proposals which could re-establish trust. Thus, the resolution “calls on Iran to observe fully its commitments and to return to the negotiating process that has made good progress in the last two years.”
On the other hand, when the Norwegian Committee awarded the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize on 7 October 2005 to the IAEA and Director General ElBaradei, this gesture was interpreted as a serious stand of the international community to endorse this world body to contain any drive for nuclear ambitions and proliferation.[4]

Optimists saw the award as a new mandate for the IAEA to continue to solve nuclear issues around the world, including that of Iran, by way of peaceful means and diplomacy, meaning that the referral of the case to the UN Security Council for eventual sections is not on the agenda. Pessimists however, view that as a warning to those who still may be perplex as to the widespread consensus in the international community to inhibit any action in breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).[5]

The West and the United States have welcomed the selection of the IAEA and its Director General as the recipients of the prize and started to capitalize on the case to further push Iranians to proceed with the pending negotiations with EU and suspend all its nuclear activities within the framework of the 2003 Paris agreement with EU3.

Iran’s Softening Position
While Iran rejected the resolution as purely political and blamed countries which had voted in its favor, signaled the presumed abstaining friends, such as China, Russia and the bulk of NAM states that it shall review its economic relations with them. Later the United Kingdom became the main target of the Islamic regime and conservative media condemnations. High officials in the government threatened to retaliate against any state which would support any document with the effect of referring Iran’s nuclear case to the UN Security Council. Initially, they have alluded to a number of options open to Iran, such as the followings:

· Economic retaliations, including the stoppage of Iranian oil to unfriendly nations,
· Withdrawal from the Nuclear proliferation Treaty and its Additional Protocol, signed but not yet adopted by the Parliament,
· Resuming all nuclear activities, voluntarily suspended in earlier agreement with the EU3,
· Barring IAEA agents from any further arbitrary inspections of nuclear sites,

There is no convincing evidence that a common sense cost-benefit assessment of the above retaliatory measures have been performed nor even properly thought out within the framework of a strategic plan at any level of decision-making apparatus. Thus, soon after when the negative impacts of each of the above tentative action was elucidated by media, the whole campaign suddenly faded out and a more compromising stance emerged in official statements.
Whereas at the beginning Iran showed intransigence on the matter and rejected any action that could hinder it from using its rights to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, gradually it softened its position. Iran’s initial rigidity caused the reformists and even conservative elements of the government and the parliament to criticize the wisdom of willingly inviting troubles for the nation at a time when the country needs calm and stability for the achievement of the much publicized promises of the new government to the people.[6]

Not surprisingly, as the pressure from inside and outside Iran began to increase, in an unprecedented move in order to settle the case, the supreme leader decided to delegate portion of his supervisory prerogative on the overall state, including the three branches, to the “State Expediency Council” under the powerful pragmatic figure and the new President’s rival, Mr. Rafsanjani. Although the action was downplayed in official circles, but the consequence of this new mandate was immediately felt in policies related to the nuclear issue. Soon after this transmutation, Iran started to use a compromising stance on the matter and with some diplomatic shyness announced that it was ready to resume talks with EU3 for the purpose of breaking the deadlock. Nonetheless, it continued to stress on its earlier position that no precondition would be accepted in any future talks. (Meaning that Iran will not suspend anew the Uranium Conversion Facilities UCF in Isfahan).

Officials in Tehran are now hopeful that the case will not be referred to the UN Security Council by the IAEA next November 2005. One reason for that is that Tehran has improved cooperation since that Agency passed its Resolution of September 24th.
As a matter of fact, Just recently it was revealed by Western media that Iran has submitted a very important and critical report/document concerning its past nuclear activities to the IAEA and has conceded that an Iranian nuclear scientist(presumably a high ranking officer) be interviewed by the agency. Though the story was not supported by Iranian officials, there seems to be some truth in it. Since the IAEA Director General recently appeared optimistic that Iran’s nuclear dossier will be settled.[7]

On the other hand, there seems to be some hope for the Iranians with the new composition of the Board of Governors at the IAEA. As we know, with the entering of Belarus, Cuba and Syria as new members of this world body, the referral of the case to the Security Council may be a bit more difficult. This is especially true with the position that Russians have been taking recently[8] vis-à-vis the United States in this respect. The United States does not seem to mind that the diplomatic course initiated by EU be continued as long as an overall consensus is not reached on the matter. But, at the same time U.S. officials close to the White House did not reject the military option, as a possible alternative on the President’s table.

Prudence and Perception of Vulnerability
The perception of the potential dangers of referring the case to the UN Security Council pushed Iran to move away from the rhetoric of the inexperienced new conservative government and opt for a more cautious, compromising and cooperative stance.[9] The reasons for this decision may be explained in the following considerations:

· The political system is not ready to engage in adventurous and risky situations in which the overall existence of the Islamic regime might be threatened,
· The new conservative government lacks the necessary experience and capacity to deal with the much uncertain and hazardous issue of nuclear matter,
· Those in charge of the nuclear project have not been able to convince the public at large and educated people on the rationale of the nuclear project, even for peaceful purposes,
· The nation as a whole is not prepared to engage in another hostility and military engagement, or to endure severe economic sanctions, eventually imposed by the UN Security Council, particularly because of a dubious matter which is not really considered as a vital national issue,[10]
· The Islamic regime is quite conscious of the resolve of the West, especially the United States, that they will not allow it to continue the nuclear project in a self-sustained and independent manner.
· This may mean that even if they fail to obtain some sort of UN Security Council resolution on the matter, because of Russian or Chinese vetoes , the Americans or their allies in the region, will not hesitate to use military option as a preventive self-defense, by direct strategic targeting on Iran’s nuclear sites,
· In such case, there seem to be little chances that the international community as a whole and even the presumed friends of Iran may object or take any action against or condemn such eventual attack.
Indeed, prudence is the mother of wisdom and good governance and politics is about changing foes into friends and assuring one’s interests and survival.

Concluding Remarks
I have argued elsewhere in several occasions that the Islamic regime in Iran, despite its ideological and revolutionary nature, has a very low propensity to conflict and confrontation. It is now in a state that any uncalculated risk in its various domestic and international undertakings, including the nuclear project, might cost it a price unbearable by any common sense standard. Iranian leaders are quite aware of the potential threats to their very survival. They have the experience of what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq. They may not afford to challenge the supposedly unfair rule of the game in the present world order, unless they convince the people of Iran to sacrifice once again themselves for an unknown utopia. This means that despite the sporadic bullying actions by the regime, the overall system in Iran will do every thing in its power to avoid escalation of the nuclear crisis [11]and other pending issues.

Whether we like it or not, the world power structure is extremely unequal and the rule of the game unjust and unfair. Though mankind was able to change the total insecurity of “the state of nature” into “state of civility” through “social contract” and by law and order at the national level and civic institutions, at the international level this ideal is still far- reaching. This means that power is still the undisputed instrument of world politics and as one has correctly said: “right is might.” In other words, if you don’t have the power you can’t claim your right.

* * *

[1] The International Atomic Energy Agency’s governing board approved the resolution despite threats by Iran to begin enriching uranium. The resolution was drafted by Britain, France and Germany and backed by the United States, who had wanted Iran to be immediately referred to the Security Council, but it was watered down by the Europeans. With 22 votes for, one against and 12 abstentions, the outcome highlighted the split between Western nations and others such as Russia, China and South Africa, which disagree with the EU three and Washington on how to deal with Iran. The resolution requires Tehran to be reported to the Security Council at an unspecified date, meaning Iran would probably not be referred to the Security Council until the IAEA board meets in November,

[2] Non-Aligned Movement
[3] Under the IAEA statute, the board is required to notify the Security Council if a state-party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is found in noncompliance with its agency safeguards agreement. Such agreements allow the IAEA to monitor NPT states-parties’ declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure that they are not diverted to military purposes.
[4] In an address to the Board, Dr. ElBaradei said he was grateful that the Norwegian Nobel Committee had recognized the challenges ahead for the Agency. These included the fight against nuclear terrorism and significant expansion of the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, he said: "I compare ourselves to an orchestra. I am simply the conductor of a qualified, well-tuned and dedicated orchestra... We need to make every possible effort for the highest level of security. We owe it to humanity. The award also shows the will of humanity to address challenges and to seize the opportunity for a better life for future generations," Dr. ElBaradei said.

[5] Conservative Iranian officials and media have expounded their usual “conspiracy theory” and claimed that for the second time the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has shown its enmity toward the Islamic regime by awarding the Prize to a person in direct clash or opposition with Iran. Two years ago the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the controversial Iranian human right activist Shirin Ebadi
[6] One such critique came from the head of Expediency Council, Mr. Rafsanjani, who sharply criticized the wisdom and logic of the new administration to use unwise and undiplomatic rhetoric for the defense of Iran’s nuclear project.
[7] In a meeting with Iran’s Ambassador to Vienna and Iran’s permanent envoy to the IAEA, Mr. ElBradei said that “ resolving the crisis is moving on the right track and the concerned parties would do their best to this effect” Iran Daily , October 22, 2005 . p.1
[8] Recently it was announced that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a trip to Russia was not able to convince her counterpart that the case of Iran should be referred to the UN Security Council.
[9] In an earlier paper I had argued that the overall propensity of the high official’s decision makers to conflict and confrontation is very low, especially when it comes to the matter of survival of the Islamic regime. See e.g. : Iran’s New President and the Nuclear Issue, August 2005,

[10] It is necessary to note that despite some sporadic state-organized rallies in support of the nuclear project, there no scientific findings as to the overall public opinion with respect to that matter in Iran.
[11] See: Ali-Asghar Kazemi, “Iran-U.S. Nuclear Wrangle: The Crisis of Credibility” and “Iran’s New President and the Nuclear Issue” in Middle East Academic Forum See also: Ali-Asghar Kazemi, “Heading for a Clash! Iran-U.S. New Conservatives’ Lineup over the Nuclear Issue”