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June 23, 2007

A Congress Voters Can't Buy


by Gordon Prather

On January 13, 2007, just days after the new Democrat-controlled Congress convened, President Bush took the opportunity provided by a joint press conference with the new German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to condemn both Iran and President Ahmadinejad.

"Countries such as ours have a great responsibility to work together and send a common message to Iran that it's behavior... trying to clandestinely develop a nuclear weapon or using the guise of a civilian program to get the know-how ... is unacceptable,"

Bush then repeated the often made – but completely bogus – charge that Ahmadinejad had called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

"And that's unacceptable. And the development of a nuclear weapon seems to me would make them a step closer to achieving that objective,"

Of course, Bush increasingly finds the real world "unacceptable." But as the Washington Post's Jeffrey Smith notes –

"Having a president call something "unacceptable" is not the same as having him order U.S. troops into action. But foreign policy experts say the word is one of the strongest any leader can deploy, since it both broadcasts a National position and conveys an implicit threat to take action if his warnings are disregarded."

National position?

According to a CBS News poll taken a few weeks after Bush's "implicit threat," a large majority of Americans – 71% – did not consider Iran to be a threat requiring military action.

Nevertheless, a large majority – 59% – reckoned Bush's war in Iraq would soon lead to a larger war in the region.

When asked in that public opinion poll how much "public opinion" should affect Bush's decision-making about the situation in Iraq, 30% said "some" and 62% said "a lot."

When asked how much Congressional actions should affect Bush's decision-making about the situation in Iraq, 42% said "some" and 51% said "a lot."

So, what "mandate" had voters given the 110th Congress?

To somehow prevent Bush from launching another war of aggression, attacking yet another state, Iran, posing no threat to us.

Accordingly, Walter Jones (R,NC) introduced House Joint Resolution 14 and Robert Byrd (D,WV) introduced Senate Resolution 39, both reaffirming the Constitutional requirement of Congressional approval before offensive military action can be undertaken by the President.

The next step ought to have been for Congress to determine – as best it could – whether Iran did indeed have such a clandestine nuclear weapons program, and if so, to what extent that program posed an imminent threat to you and yours.

Now, the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons requires signatories not already having nuclear weapons to conclude a Safeguards Agreement – with the International Atomic Energy Agency – applicable to certain proscribed "source and special nuclear materials" and activities "with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons."

On 22 February, 2007, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei made his quarterly report [.pdf] to the IAEA Board of Governors, wherein he concluded –

"Pursuant to its NPT Safeguards Agreement, Iran has been providing the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and facilities, and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with such material and facilities.

"The Agency is able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.

Hence, Iran was in compliance with its NPT obligations.

The same, of course, could not be said for all IAEA Board Members, most especially the United States.

Consider that –

"Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.

So, Congressional oversight committees, if necessary, should have subpoenaed Secretary of State Rice and/or her munchkins – the Ambassador to the United Nations and the Special Envoy to the IAEA – and demanded from them an explanation as to why we have been falsely charging Iran with being in noncompliance with the NPT and with their IAEA Safeguards Agreement.

In particular, after ElBaradei reported in February that there was no indication that Iran had ever diverted any NPT-proscribed materials to a military purpose, why did Rice's munchkins proceed to strong-arm the UN Security Council into passing Resolution 1747?

In it, the Council begins by "reaffirming"

(a) its commitment to the NPT and the need for all signatories "to comply fully with all their obligations," and

(b) the "right" of all signatories to conduct research and development, to produce and to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes "without discrimination"

Now, bear in mind that the whole world knows that Iran is fully complying with all its NPT obligations and knows that the United States is not only not complying with all our NPT obligations, but, in blatant disregard of the NPT, has been discriminating against Iran – denying Iran its "inalienable rights" under the NPT – and strong-arming other NPT signatories into similarly discriminating.

Notwithstanding that, under UNSCR 1747 [.pdf], the Council – acting under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter – "reaffirms" that Iran "shall, without further delay, take the steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors in its resolution GOV/2006/14."

What that language means is that the Security Council has decided – under Article 39 of Chapter VII – that Iran's Safeguarded nuclear programs constitute a "threat to the peace, breach of peace, or act of aggression" and therefore calls upon all UN member states to apply "complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations"!

Of course, the 110th Congress hasn't pursued the mandate given it, hasn't demanded to know why we're willfully violating the IAEA Statute, the NPT and the UN Charter, why we're trying to provoke Iran into withdrawing from the NPT. Or worse.

Bush probably finds that "acceptable" Congressional behavior.


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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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