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October 8, 2005

Saving Face


by Gordon Prather

Iran will not be deterred "by anything short of a threat of force," said Arieh Eldad, a member of Israel's right-wing National Union Party, part of a delegation of Knesset members visiting Washington this week.

What programs is he threatening?

Well, apparently the same ones Assistant Secretary Stephen Rademaker has been threatening, at the 2005 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and most recently before the UN committee which deals with disarmament issues.

"In the case of Iran, IAEA investigations have exposed almost two decades of clandestine nuclear work, as well as a pattern of evasion and deception, that can only be explained as part of an illegal nuclear weapons program. 

"Earlier this year, the United States lent its strong support to the efforts of the United Kingdom, France, and Germany to negotiate objective guarantees that would assure the international community that Iran has given up the pursuit of nuclear weapons. 

"In August, however, Iran spurned these negotiations by violating the 2004 Paris Agreement on which the negotiations were founded. 

"This, in turn, led to the adoption by the IAEA Board of Governors, just one week ago, of a resolution finding Iran in noncompliance with its nuclear nonproliferation obligations, and committing the Board to report Iran's noncompliance to the United Nations Security Council and to the General Assembly, as required under the IAEA Statute.

"We applaud this exercise in effective multilateralism, and hope that it will persuade the Iranian government to return to the negotiating table on the basis of the 2004 Paris Agreement. 

"Should Iran decline to do so, however, the Board of Governors will have no alternative but to fulfill its obligation under the IAEA Statute and the recently adopted Board Resolution to report the matter to the United Nations. 

"In the meantime, we hope that all governments will take note of the Board's finding of noncompliance and adjust their national policies accordingly. 

"We think it self-evident, for example, that, in the face of such a finding, no government should permit new nuclear transfers to Iran, and all ongoing nuclear projects should be frozen."

Rademaker's harangue is chock-full of what might charitably be described as "misleading statements." But Rademaker – perhaps inadvertently – revealed the real significance of the September 24, 2005 Resolution of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In October 2003, Iran entered into an agreement with Britain, France, and Germany (E3) with the "explicit expectation of opening a new chapter of full transparency, cooperation and access to nuclear and other advanced technologies."

Iran agreed to a number of important transparency and voluntary confidence building measures, including the voluntary suspension of all uranium-enrichment related activities.

In November, 2003, IAEA Director-General Elbaradei reported that "to date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities … were related to a nuclear weapons program."

In November, 2004, ElBaradei reported that "all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities."

So, that same month, under the so-called Paris Agreement, Iran voluntarily extended the negotiations with the E3 and the suspension of uranium-enrichment activities.

But, Iran made it clear that any attempt to turn their voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment activities into a cessation or long-term suspension would be "incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Paris Agreement and therefore unacceptable to Iran."

When the E3 finally got around to submitting their proposal to the Iranians on August 8, 2005, it did explicitly require Iran "not to pursue fuel cycle activities other than the construction and operation of light-water power and research reactors".

Now, the IAEA was not a party to the Paris Agreement, so the failure of the Paris Agreement was literally none of the IAEA's business.

However, because Iran's Safeguards Agreement specifically cites the NPT as its reason for being, the demand by the E3 that Iran forfeit its inalienable rights under the NPT to pursue any and all fuel cycle activities is the IAEA's business.

It is the E3 – not the Iranians – who have not only "violated" the Paris Agreement, but the NPT, as well.

Furthermore, Rademaker has just revealed that the US effectively strong-armed the Board into disgracefully making Iran's "violation" of the Paris Agreement the rationale for referring Iran's Safeguarded nuclear programs to the UN Security Council as a "threat to international peace and security."

ElBaradei wants Iran to resume negotiations with the E3 so someone can save face.

Who? Well, the entire IAEA Board, for starters.


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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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