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February 28, 2009

The Future of the IAEA


by Gordon Prather

Not everyone present at an open meeting of the UN Security Council this week was happy to hear our new UN Ambassador, Susan Rice, say that the Change-You-Can-Believe-In administration "will seek an end to Iran's ambition to acquire an illicit nuclear capacity."

End Iran's "ambition"?

To acquire an "illicit" capacity?

Understandably upset, Iranian ambassador, Mohammad Khazaee, promptly got off a letter to the Council president, which said, in part, that

"Despite the allegations made by the U.S. representative, Iran's nuclear program has been, is and will remain absolutely peaceful and Iran has never tried nor will ever try to acquire nuclear weapons.

"It is unfortunate that, yet again, we are hearing the same tired, unwarranted and groundless allegations that used to be unjustifiably and futilely repeated by the previous U.S. administration. ...

"Instead of raising allegations against others, the United States had better take concrete and meaningful steps in correcting its past wrong policies and practices vis-ŕ-vis other nations, including the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Under a Safeguards Agreement concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency – pursuant to the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons – Iran agreed to allow IAEA inspectors to "verify" that no NPT-proscribed "source or special nuclear materials" were ever used in furtherance of a nuclear weapons program.

However, the NPT, the IAEA Statute and the Iranian Safeguards Agreement [.pdf], itself, all affirm Iran's "inalienable" right to enjoy all the benefits of the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Mohamed ElBaradei, soon-to-retire as IAEA Director-General, has just reported [.pdf] to the IAEA Board of Governors for the umpteenth time that;

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

Furthermore;

"The Agency has finalized its assessment of the results of the physical inventory verification (PIV) carried out at Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) on 24–26 November 2008, and has concluded that the physical inventory as declared by Iran was consistent with the results of the PIV."

Finally;

"The (PIV) results also showed that the enrichment level of this low enriched UF6 product verified by the Agency was 3.49% U-235."

So, that's that. The IAEA Secretariat has just verified for the umpteenth time that Iran continues to be in complete compliance with its NPT-obligations.

So, if Iran's Safeguarded nuclear programs have been verified for the umpteenth time to be entirely peaceful in nature, why is Rice-II telling the Security Council that – in her opinion – those Safeguarded nuclear programs must be ended, and the sooner the better?

So, it's time to Bomb-Bomb-Iran?

Well, perhaps not yet. Obama-Biden-Hillary say they will give the "diplomatic" approach another try.

Unfortunately, the so-called "diplomatic approach" – as practiced by Bush-Cheney-Bolton – has already resulted in (a) the defenestration of the NPT, (b) the corruption of the IAEA Board of Governors, (c) loss of respect for the authority of the UN Security Council and (d) the further marginalization of the UN, itself.

In particular, as a result of more than two years of intense Bush-Cheney-Bolton "diplomatic" pressure, the IAEA Boardadopted resolution GOV/2006/14 [.pdf] and the Security Council subsequently adopted UNSCR 1747 [.pdf] – in which the Council:

"reaffirmed that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall without further delay take the steps required by the Board of Governors in (IAEA) resolution GOV/2006/14, which are essential to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear program and to resolve outstanding questions."

Apropos to the letter of protest, triggered by Rice-II's inflammatory offhand remarks about Iran's "ambitions," here's what Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki had to say two years ago when he was finally allowed to address the Security Council, after – of course – UNSCR 1747 had already passed.

"As an organ of an international Organization created by States, the Security Council is bound by law, and Member States have every right to insist that the Council keep within the powers that they accorded it under the Charter of the United Nations.

"The Security Council must exercise those powers consistently with the purposes and principles of the Charter. Equally, the measures it takes must be consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations and with other international law. Members of the Security Council do not have the right to undermine the Council's credibility.

"There is every reason to assert that the Security Council's consideration of the Iranian peaceful nuclear program has no legal basis, since the referral of the case to the Council [by the IAEA Board] and then the adoption of resolutions [by the UNSC] fail to meet the minimum standards of legality.

"Iran's peaceful nuclear activities cannot, by any stretch of law, fact or logic, be characterized as a threat to peace."

Apparently, our new UN Ambassador either hasn't read this litany of Bush-Cheney-Bolton "unwarranted and groundless allegations" that have been used "unjustifiably and futilely"or doesn't believe a word of it.

In a week or so, the IAEA Board will meet, perhaps to select the successor to Director-General ElBaradei.

ElBaradei effectively defeated Bonkers Bolton, who had tried to have him replaced for giving the lie to the claims of Bush-Cheney-Bolton about, first, Iraq's (nonexistent) nuclear-weapons program, and then Iran's.

Now, ElBaradei wasn't perfect.

In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, he had this to say;

"I have no doubt that, if we hope to escape self-destruction, then nuclear weapons should have no place in our collective conscience, and no role in our security.

"To that end, we must ensure – absolutely – that no more countries acquire these deadly weapons.

"We must see to it that nuclear-weapon states take concrete steps toward nuclear disarmament.

"And we must put in place a security system that does not rely on nuclear deterrence."

Now, insofar as that's ElBaradei saying "we" on behalf of fellow peaceniks, that's OK. But insofar as it's the IAEA Director-General saying "we" on behalf of his Nobel laureate staff, that's not OK.

In particular, the IAEA is not a disarmament agency. Nor is it a nuke counter-proliferation agency.

Unfortunately, there is reportedly a "growing rift" between (a) IAEA Board members who want to focus on stopping the spread of nuclear technologies and materials, and (b) those who want to focus more on NPT "disarmament obligations."

But, perhaps all is not lost. Sometime during the next several weeks, perhaps someone will get a copy of the IAEA Statute [.pdf] and read it aloud to President Obama, Secretary Hillary, Ambassador Rice and all members of the IAEA Board of Governors.

They would hear that its principal mission is to "accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity, throughout the world."


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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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