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May 16, 2005

Bush's Nutty Referral


by Gordon Prather

Well, according to Reuters, France-Britain-Germany "warned" Iran that they will "break off talks and join Washington in seeking UN Security Council action if Tehran makes good on its threats to resume atomic work."

Poodle Blair promptly announced, "We certainly will support referral to the UN Security Council if Iran breaches its undertakings and obligations."

What talks? What Iranian threats? What breaches? What Iranian undertakings? What Iranian obligations?

Well, the French-Brit-German and Iranian foreign ministers met in Tehran back in October of 2003, emerging to announce that the Iranian government had been persuaded to sign an additional protocol to its Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and to immediately commence ratification procedures. In the meantime, as a "confirmation of its good intentions," the Iranian government volunteered to cooperate with the IAEA in accordance with the additional protocol.

Furthermore, even though Iran had the "inalienable right" as a signatory to the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, Iran announced that – as a further "confidence-building measure" – it would temporarily suspend all uranium enrichment and processing activities already planned or underway

Last November, the French-Brit-German foreign ministers – acting as agents for the European Union – began "talks" with Iran on "a mutually acceptable long-term arrangement."

To build further confidence, Iran decided to voluntarily continue its temporary suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities, including

  • the manufacture and import of gas centrifuges and their components;

  • the assembly, installation, testing, or operation of gas centrifuges;

  • work to undertake any plutonium separation, or to construct or operate any plutonium separation installation; and

  • all tests or production at any uranium conversion installation.

  • The IAEA was officially notified of this voluntary suspension and invited to verify and monitor it.

    The IAEA Board of Governors was officially notified that the voluntary suspension by Iran was not a legal obligation and would be sustained only so long as the EU-Iranian talks continued.

    What did the Europeans hope to gain from these "talks"?

    Essentially, a normalization of diplomatic and economic relations with oil-gas-rich Iran.

    What did Iran hope to gain from these "talks"?

    They, too, wanted normalization: the lifting of economic sanctions that have been imposed and threatened for more than 20 years by the U.S. on Russian, Chinese, South American, and European companies that do business with Iran.

    But more than that, Iran wanted tangible recognition by the EU of their inalienable right under the NPT to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

    Finally, Iran sought firm guarantees from the EU that Iranian peaceful "nuclear" activities and facilities would be secure from attack or destruction.

    So even though Reuters "reports" that the EU is breaking off the "talks" because the Iranians have "threatened" to resume – subject to their IAEA Safeguards Agreement – converting uranium-tetrafluoride to uranium-hexafluoride, it is more likely that it is Iran breaking off the talks because the EU has been unable to overcome U.S. objections to establishing normal diplomatic and trade relations with Iran, much less providing the Iranians guarantees against U.S. or Israeli preemptive strikes.

    What happens next?

    Well, the Iranians will probably turn to Russia and China to secure tangible recognition of their inalienable rights, as well as protection against U.S. or Israeli preemptive strikes.

    How about the EU?

    Well, President Bush (who wasn't even a party to the "talks") says he's going to take the decision by Iran to resume certain safeguarded activities – voluntarily suspended, temporarily – to the UN Security Council. And poodle Blair says he'll support that referral.

    That's nuttier than when Bush and Bolton were demanding that the IAEA Board refer to the UN Security Council the "nuclear weapons program" they claimed Iran was pursuing that Director General ElBaradei had spent two years searching Iran for, and could find absolutely no evidence of.

    At least there's a provision in the IAEA Statute – reaffirmed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference – for Bush-Bolton doing that.

    "The Conference reaffirms that the IAEA is the competent authority responsible to verify and assure – in accordance with the statute of the IAEA and the IAEA's safeguards system – compliance with its safeguards agreements with states parties…

    "States parties that have concerns regarding noncompliance with the safeguards agreements of the treaty by the states parties should direct such concerns, along with supporting evidence and information, to the IAEA to consider, investigate, draw conclusions, and decide on necessary actions in accordance with its mandate."


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    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.

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