IAEA needs stronger stance on Iranian nukes
Once again the reaction of the international community to Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program has been to postpone effective action to a later date. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting last week criticized Iran for a long history of concealment of its nuclear activities, but decided not to refer the issue to the United Nations Security Council.Over 187 states are parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), including Iran and North Korea. The NPT is considered to be “the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament”; the only major countries outside the NPT are Israel, India and Pakistan.While the United States has accused Iran of secretly trying to make nuclear weapons and has urged the IAEA to send the case to the Security Council, the Agency only issued a mildly-worded resolution after Iran agreed in talks with France, Germany and Britain to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. In line with Iranian demands, the resolution described the freeze as a voluntary, confidence-building measure and not a legally-binding commitment.It would appear, once again, that Iran has managed to deceive the international community and to remain in a position to proceed with its clandestine nuclear weapons development program. The IAEA will not seal 20 centrifuges that Iran had asked to be exempted from the suspension, but will use cameras to monitor the centrifuges. But, remember, North Korea managed to develop nuclear weapons under the noses of IAEA inspectors, so faith in monitoring by cameras would appear to be very nave.The U.S. government is less trusting. “The implementation and verification of the agreement is critical. Iran has failed to comply with its commitments many times over the course of the past year and a half,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. And State Department spokesman Richard Boucher commented: “We haven’t sprung new faith in Iran’s willingness to do this The United States remains as skeptical as ever that Iran lives up to the terms of this agreement.”Over a year ago, Mohammed El Baradei, IAEA Director-General, said that “Despite omissions in disclosing details of its nuclear program, Iran is showing more cooperationIn Iran, if you look at the big picture, we are clearly moving in the right direction. If you compare where we were a year ago and where we are today, that is a sea change.” But even now, he still cautions: “A confidence deficit has been created, and confidence needs to be restored. Iran’s active cooperation and full transparency is therefore indispensable.”It is this recurring hope that “sometime in the future things will turn out right” that has enabled North Korea to proceed with its clandestine nuclear program without any sanctions being imposed so far. And the ever-optimistic IAEA bureaucrats were surprised to learn that Libya, subject to IAEA inspections under the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty, had managed to conceal its own elaborate WMD development program from them. What is needed is a little more realism about the motives and statements of rogue states.In 1994, North Korea agreed to dismantle its proliferation-sensitive nuclear program in exchange for provision of alternative electricity-generating nuclear reactors and the interim supply of heavy fuel oil. The agreement was meant to be safeguarded by IAEA inspections under the NPT, but in practice the North Korean regime used it as a means of delaying NPT compliance and continuing its clandestine development of nuclear weapons.In the past, Dr. Mohamed El Baradei has commented that “the international communitywill not be blackmailed through nuclear intimidation, and it remains steadfast in its position of zero tolerance for nuclear proliferation.” The last part of the quote must be the occasion for some wry smiles in Pakistan and India and must be a source of amusement in some circles in Iran.Iran has surely taken into account that even one nuclear weapon in North Korea’s hands has tied the hands of the United States, which has to consider some 34,000 of its soldiers within missile range as well as the impact of a nuclear strike on densely populated areas of South Korea.It would appear that the IAEA has not learned from the Libyan experience. Libya was developing a nuclear weapon in spite of being subject to IAEA inspections. Libya’s decision to come clean about its own WMD development program only resulted from serious pressure exerted by the United States and the UK.While some diplomats claim that the Libyan decision was the result of good diplomacy, only time will tell whether or not the low-key “diplomatic” approach of the IAEA in the case of Iran will culminate in another disastrous proliferation of nuclear weapon technology. We would not want to be faced with the possibility of another “preemptive” war in the Middle East to prevent this. VTPeter Leslie is a former CFO of the United Nations Development Program, now living in Vail. His comments on UN issues are on the web site of the Foreign Policy Association and his column appears bi-weekly in the Vail Trail.