While making courtesy calls, John Bolton, our
newly appointed ambassador to the United Nations, reportedly "raised possible
Security Council action on Iran's announcement that it plans to resume enriching
uranium, said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity."
Here we go again.
President Bush accuses an Islamic state of pursuing an illicit nuclear weapons
Bush then refers the issue to the UN Security Council and demands "action."
The International Atomic Energy Agency conducts an exhaustive search and finds
no indication of a nuclear weapons program.
The Security Council refuses to authorize a preemptive attack against the nuclear
weapons program the IAEA says doesn't exist.
Bush launches a preemptive attack anyway, claiming that reliance by the United
States "on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone" will
not "adequately protect the national security of the United States against
the continuing threat posed by Iraq."
But wait a minute.
Iran hasn't announced any plans to resume enriching uranium.
Iran hasn't even finished manufacturing the several thousand gas centrifuges
it hopes to eventually employ in a uranium enrichment pilot plant.
What Iran did was inform
the IAEA [.pdf] that it had "decided to resume the uranium conversion
activities" at the facility in Isfahan and request that the IAEA "be
prepared for the implementation of the safeguards-related activities in a timely
manner prior to the resumption of the UCF activities."
Here is what State Department acting spokesman Tom Casey told reporters the
"It is critical to us that Iran maintain its suspension [on all enrichment-related
activities, including uranium conversion], that it maintain its adherence to
Agreement [.pdf], and that it not take any steps that would be in violation
of that. Obviously, as we said yesterday, if they were to break that agreement,
then the next steps would, to our way of thinking, be a referral from the IAEA
board to the Security Council."
If Iran "breaks that agreement" – to which neither the U.S. nor the
IAEA is a party – we intend to get the Board of Governors of the IAEA to refer
the "breaking" to the Security Council for "possible action"?
Now, the IAEA statute does provide for the Board to refer an egregious breach
of an IAEA Safeguards Agreement to the Security Council for possible action.
But Iran is in full compliance with its full-scope safeguards agreement.
And the EU-Iran Paris Agreement was merely to begin negotiations on a mutually
acceptable agreement that "will provide objective guarantees" to the
EU above and beyond the existing full-scope IAEA safeguards agreement,
that "Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes"
and that the EU "will equally provide firm guarantees" to Iran "on
nuclear, technological, and economic cooperation and firm commitments on security
On March 23, 2005, Iran offered a package of "objective guarantees"
that included a voluntary "confinement" of Iran's nuclear programs,
- Forgoing the reprocessing of spent fuel and the production of plutonium;
- A ceiling on enrichment at reactor fuel level;
- Limiting the extent of the enrichment program to that required for Iran's
- The immediate conversion of all enriched uranium to fuel rods to preclude
even the technical possibility of further enrichment;
- An incremental and phased approach to implementation of the uranium-enrichment
program, beginning with the least sensitive aspects – such as uranium conversion.
The Iranians also proposed that there be an unprecedented "continuous
on-site presence of IAEA inspectors at the conversion and enrichment facilities."
Now, as a consequence of the EU failure to respond in a timely manner to the
Iranian offer, the Iranians have announced they will resume uranium conversion.
Well, that announcement did finally elicit an EU response, which included an
offer of an "assured supply of fuel over the coming years." But in
return, the EU would require Iran to make "a binding commitment not to
pursue fuel cycle activities other than the construction and operation of light
water power and research reactors."
"The [EU] proposals are unacceptable," Iranian negotiator Hossein Moussavian
said, describing them as a "clear violation" of the Paris Agreement.
Will the IAEA Board refer the resumption of uranium conversion to the Security
Council for possible action?
Not likely. You see, the Board itself has already explicitly recognized that
the Iranian suspension was "not a legally binding obligation." Furthermore the
Iranians are right. "The Board of Governors has no factual or legal ground,
nor any statutory power, to make or enforce such a demand, or impose ramifications
as a consequence of it."