When President Bush needed a rationale for invading
Iraq, he told Congress that Saddam Hussein posed "a continuing threat to the
national security of the United States" by "actively seeking a nuclear
weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations."
Now, every congressperson knew – or should have known – that Saddam was not
actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability. Just days before Bush invaded
Iraq, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General ElBaradei had
reported to the Security Council that "after three months of intrusive inspections,
we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of
a nuclear weapons program in Iraq."
The IAEA is an agency of the United Nations whose original mission was to facilitate
the international transfer of nuclear technology, equipment, and materials for
But, the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) – which went
into force in 1970 – required signatories to make certain materials, facilities,
and activities subject to the IAEA-NPT Safeguards and Physical Security regime.
The IAEA regime thereby became responsible for assuring the Security Council
that "declared" materials are not stolen or diverted to the production
Then, in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, the IAEA discovered that Iraq
had been enriching small quantities of uranium but not declaring it. Worse,
they discovered that Iraq actually had a well-funded – but chaotic – nuke development
Failure to declare the very small quantities of low-enriched uranium was a
violation of Iraq's Safeguards agreement. But the Iraqi program the IAEA uncovered
-to produce large quantities of very highly-enriched uranium for use in nukes
was a violation of the NPT, itself.
Hence, under the terms of the Gulf War cease-fire resolution, Iraq was required
by the Security Council to cooperate with its agent – the IAEA Action Team
on Iraq – in transparently destroying or rendering harmless every vestige of
the Iraqi nuclear programs.
The IAEA Board of Governors then asked all NPT signatories to voluntarily
negotiate an Additional Protocol to their existing IAEA Safeguards agreements.
The IAEA's safeguards regime was to be transformed, thereby, from a quantitative
system – focused on accounting for declared materials and monitoring of declared
activities – to a qualitative system, capable of forming a comprehensive picture
of a state's nuclear and nuclear-related activities, including all nuclear-related
imports and exports.
Each Additional Protocol also provides the IAEA the authority to visit any
of the signatory's facilities to investigate questions about – or inconsistencies
in – the signatory's nuclear declarations.
Iran signed an Additional Protocol to its Safeguards agreement and immediately
invited the IAEA to conduct the exhaustive two-year inspection of Iran's nuclear
and nuclear-related activities just completed.
As was the case with Iraq in the months immediately preceding Bush's invasion,
the IAEA has found no evidence that NPT-proscribed materials have been stolen
or diverted, nor that Iran is engaged in any NPT-prohibited activity. In particular,
there is no evidence that Iran has been enriching uranium in the facilities
it has constructed or is constructing.
Now, without question, the U.S.-UK invasion of Iraq in spite of the no-nuke
report by the IAEA Action Team dealt a severe blow to the credibility and effectiveness
of the NPT-IAEA regime.
And, if Bush-Cheney can get the Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran
– or worse – in spite of the no-nuke report by the IAEA, the NPT-IAEA nuke proliferation-prevention
regime may be dealt a fatal blow.
This week retiring Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared to be developing
a rationale for launching – or condoning – a Bush preemptive attack against
Iran, just as he did just before Bush launched his preemptive attack against
Powell had "seen some information that would suggest that they [Iranians] have
been actively working on delivery systems."
"I'm not talking about uranium or fissile material or the warhead,"
Powell said. " I'm talking about what one does with a warhead."
Powell suggests Iran already has nukes that are small enough and light enough
to be delivered by a ballistic missile. Worse, Powell implies the IAEA is not
competent – even with Additional Protocols in place – to detect such massive
and flagrant NPT violations.
Two years ago, Powell had this to say:
"The NPT can only be as strong as our will to enforce it, in spirit
and in deed. We share a collective responsibility to be ever vigilant, and to
take concerted action when the treaty – our treaty – is threatened."
The NPT is being threatened. And guess who's threatening it.