On top of the Obama Administration’s escalated nuclear weapons production and pledge to continue providing cover for Israel’s nuclear arsenal, the Administration’s assertion that “Iran is breaking rules all nations must follow” does not stand up to scrutiny.
“Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow,” President Barack Obama said September 25. The Washington Post (WaPo) reported he was “condemning what he described as a ‘covert uranium enrichment facility’ that Western intelligence discovered years ago and has since been covertly monitoring. He called for Iran to allow international inspectors to ‘immediately investigate’ the facility, located beneath the mountains near the city of Qom.”
Iranian officials, earlier that week, had written a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—the international agency which investigates whether or not a nation is “breaking rules all nations must follow”—informing it of the plant’s construction. “An Iranian assertion that construction on its second enrichment facility began only last year and further analysis of satellite photos of the site have cast fresh doubts on the Barack Obama administration’s charge that the construction of the plant near Qom involved a covert decision to violate Iran’s obligations to report immediately to the [IAEA] on any decision to build a new facility,” Gareth Porter reports at Inter Press Services (I.P.S.), adding:
Iran’s Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, told a news conference Tuesday that his agency took over a military ammunition dump in 2008 to begin work on the enrichment facility near Qom.
Meanwhile, a new photo analysis by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) of the Qom site in 2004 and 2005 suggests it was not dedicated to building a uranium enrichment facility at that time….
[ISIS satellite photograph analysis specialist Paul Brennan] told I.P.S. it is “technically possible” that the relatively slight changes he saw from 2004 to 2005 were associated with the enrichment facility, but said the images of the site at that stage appear similar to many other tunnel facilities built into a mountain that are maintained by the Iranian military.
“The Iranian military has hundreds of these around Iran,” Brannon said….
If construction on the Qom site did not begin until 2008, as Salehi claimed, it would have been long after Iran had withdrawn from an agreement with the IAEA—the so-called “modified Code 3.1” – obligating it to report design information on nuclear facilities as soon as the decision is made.
That would further suggest that Iran is serious about remaining in compliance with its obligations under the Safeguards Agreement.
Iran notified the IAEA in March 2007 that it intended to revert to the earlier version of the “Code 3.1” Subsidiary Arrangement with the agency, which obligated it to provide design information at least 180 days before introduction of nuclear material into the facility. Subsidiary Arrangements are codicils to the Safeguards Agreement – the document which defines the basic transparency and other obligations of each IAEA member state….
A key element of [Mr. Obama’s charge] was that Iran had violated the “modified Code 3.1” agreement at the very time it had been ostensibly implementing that agreement….
When a reporter asked directly, “Do you have a clear idea of when the construction started?” [a senior Administration official] flatly refused to answer. The official also refused to answer when asked if the construction was started before President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in August 2005….
If the satellite imagery for 2006, 2007 and 2008 shows that construction did not begin until after the Iranian withdrawal from its commitment to modified Code 3.1, it would provide new evidence that Iran intended to remain within the letter of its safeguards agreement and was not planning a covert enrichment facility….
The Safeguards Agreement itself clearly forbids unilateral “modification” of a Subsidiary Arrangement, but it says nothing about withdrawal from such an agreement, which is what Iran is asserting it did in March 2007.
The distinction between “modification” and “withdrawal” from provisions of an international agreement is well established in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
Unilateral withdrawal is permitted under that Convention, provided that the provision in question is separable from the remainder of the agreement, is not the essential basis of consent by the other party and continued performance of the remainder of the agreement would not be “unjust”.
The head of the IAEA Legal Department appears to have accepted that those three conditions applied to the case of Iran’s “Modified Code 3.1” agreement.
Last Monday, Mr. Salehi was consistent with the earlier letter to the IAEA that Iran “was preparing a letter for international inspectors in Vienna ‘about the location of the facility,’ adding, cryptically, ‘and others,’ ” William Broad and David Sanger at The New York Times reported Wednesday. The reference to “others” is leading investigators to more transparency into Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program after having questioned 30-50 tons of uranium from a mine near the Strait of Hormuz unaccounted for. Mr. Broad and Sanger add that “raw uranium is not the stuff of bombs”, therefore I doubt that a uranium inventory is included in the Safeguards Agreement—only nuclear materials at facilities for enrichment—but, I could be wrong. More importantly—past the “wonkiness”—a violation of the Treaty is acting in ways that prevent the IAEA from documenting uranium enrichment. Iran has not done so.
Thursday, diplomats from the five permanent member-nations of the U.N. Security Council—the U.S., U.K., France, Russia and China—plus Germany (known as the P5+1) and the European Union met with Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, for seven and a half hours in Geneva. Mr. Obama called the meeting a “constructive beginning”. Glenn Kessler at the WaPo reported the meeting “reduces for now the threat of additional sanctions, which has been made repeatedly by the United States and others over the past week… Under the tentative deal, Iran would give up most of its enriched uranium to Russia in order for it to be converted into desperately needed material for a medical research reactor in Tehran. Iran also agreed to let international inspectors visit the newly disclosed uranium-enrichment facility in Qom within two weeks, and then to attend another meeting with negotiators from the major powers by the end of the month.
“Under the tentative agreement, U.S. officials said, Iran would export most of its 3,300 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Russia, which would then convert it to the material needed for the reactor. France would also assist in fabricating the material into metallic rods for use in the medical reactor.
Iran submitted the letter to the IAEA almost two weeks with the full intention to open it up to investigators and Warren Strobel and Margaret Talev at McClatchy report that U.S. officials said Iran only agreed “in principle” to export “‘most’ of its approximately 3,000 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Russia, where it would be further refined, to 19.75 percent purity”. Press TV reports today: “Iranian officials say, however, that the offer to ‘purchase’ 20 percent enriched uranium is what would be discussed at an October 18 meeting with the IAEA, stressing that the session would have nothing to do with the Geneva talks”and that Iran “will take the best offer from either of the sales candidates, which include Russia, France and the United States”.
Iran was not in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty through the Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, so the meeting was a “constructive beginning” toward what?
“The ultimate U.S. goal is suspension of Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities,” Mr Kessler reports. “And Tehran insists that it will never take that step…. [Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki] told reporters in New York that Iran is not building any other nuclear facilities, saying the ‘only case under construction is Qom’. He said that the Geneva talks took place in a ‘constructive’ atmosphere and that Iran is committed to continuing negotiations with the six powers, including the possibility of a future presidential summit. But he also made it clear that Iran would not yield to pressure to suspend its enrichment of uranium.”
Low-enriched uranium (L.E.U.) is a clear right granted to Iran as signatories of the N.P.T., a right vocally acknowledged as uncontroversial among world “leaders”. The enrichment facility at Natanz, where Iran is producing L.E.U. at 3.6% percent, is regulated to operate enrich uranium at lesser than 5%. Iran has notified the IAEA that it doesn’t intend to enrich uranium at higher than 5% at Qom—with the pledge to keep it transparent to investigators.
“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in an interview last week with The Washington Post and Newsweek, said he was seeking international assistance to fuel the reactor, which is closely observed by international inspectors and produces medical isotopes to help detect and treat diseases. He said the reactor, which requires uranium enriched to 19.75 percent, is running out of fuel because countries had refused to sell it to Iran,” reports Mr. Kessler. To which, Mr. Strobel and Ms. Talev add: “That is much less than the purity needed to fuel a nuclear bomb.”
Jim Lobe reports at I.P.S. that the loudest drum-thumpers for sanctions in the neoconservative and Likudnik circles continue to express “strong scepticism, if not contempt, for Obama’s claims that the talks constituted a ‘constructive beginning’ toward ‘serious and meaningful engagement’.”
“There is a tacit acceptance [by the U.S.] that Iran has the right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium, which has always been a key issue for the Iranians,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. “[I]f this principle is accepted, [Iran] can show greater flexibility.”
Howard Schneider and Joby Warrick at WaPo wrote of Israel’s ‘concerns’ and officials’ continued abuse of the Nazi holocaust as a propaganda tool:
Israeli Foreign Ministry and other officials declined to comment on the Geneva meetings—a message in itself in a country that considers Iran a chief security concern and has pointedly refused to rule out military action against its nuclear facilities….
There is debate within the Israeli government about the nature of the Iranian threat. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu feels the threat to Jews is as acute as on the eve of World War II. His defense minister, however, has said he does not consider the risk from Iran “existential.”…
But the fear is not that Iran would use a bomb against Israel so much as exploit its success in developing one to influence regional politics and embolden militant groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, that sit on Israel’s borders and count on Iran’s support.
On the face, this claim of ‘existential threat’ from Iran to Israel by proxy seems valid. The problem is that to accept this validity, one must ignore the constant threat posed by Israel which “has pointedly refused to rule out military action” against Iran and that Israel’s “covert” nuclear arsenal is uncontroversial and its complete lack of transparency continues to be protected by U.S. might under the Obama Administration.
The “existential threat” Palestine, Lebanon and Iran face from Israel is more than a threat, but a promise proven true as Israel is continuously—as Mr. Obama would say—“breaking rules all nations must follow” as the threat of force is unjust in accordance with the U.N. Charter.
Iran’s decision to reinforce this facility near Qom to withstand a military strike isn’t an admission that it would be a valid military target, but clearly logical, considering Israel’s promise to strike peaceful civilian uranium enrichment facilities for its energy program. Israel “has pointedly refused to rule out military action against its nuclear facilities” is clever word slinging, but is still “breaking rules all nations must follow”.
Of course, that’s if you believe Mr. Obama actually believes those words, himself. Empirical evidence shows this farcical rhetoric toward Iran is nothing more than typical U.S.-Israeli “extreme rejectionism“; ‘What we say, goes!’
Mr. Obama’s “rules” don’t apply to “all nations”.
Dr. Porter discussed the article cited in this post at AntiWar Radio with Scott Horton, last week. Listen to the interview here.