IAEA's Free Pass to Iran

September 27, 2004


American Israel Public Affairs Committee: Near East Report

The latest IAEA resolution grants Iran more time to come clean about its nuclear activities and fails to refer Tehran to the U.N. security council to help slow Iran's pursuit of nuclear arms.

After negotiations on Iran's nuclear program in September, the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a resolution that essentially gives Tehran another two months before it must halt its nuclear program and cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors.

IAEA Fails to Issue Referral to Security Council

The IAEA resolution, the fifth on Iran's nuclear program in the last two years, made no mention of referral to the U.N. Security Council. The U.N. body could issue sanctions against the Islamic regime to help slow its nuclear pursuits.

Instead, the resolution merely repeated statements of concern and regret about Iran's performance in certain areas. It called once again for a full suspension of enrichment activities and requested yet another report on Iranian compliance before the next meeting on November 25 in order to "decide whether or not further steps are appropriate."

The United States had been pressing for a tougher line, including an October 31 deadline for Iran to resolve outstanding issues, but ultimately supported the final statement. Administration proliferation point-man John Bolton was quoted by The New York Times as saying that "whatever the precise wording of the resolution, the issue of Security Council referral will be up at the November board meeting and everyone knows it. We're quite satisfied with that."

Although the Europeans resisted an immediate referral of Iran to the Security Council, some of their top-level diplomats have grown impatient with Iran's stalling tactics. Prior to the IAEA meeting, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called developments with Iran "highly alarming." The economic incentives offered by the Europeans to Iran have failed to convince Iran to change course on its nuclear path, underscoring the clerics' determination to complete their nuclear program at all costs.

IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei has said that the IAEA has not answered the question of whether or not Iran is developing nuclear weapons. "Can we say everything is peaceful? Obviously we are not at that stage." Following the September meeting, Elbaradei told CNN that while in his view the threat may not be imminent, "...we are facing Iran acquiring, if not already acquired [sic], a capability to produce the material that can be used for nuclear weapons should they decide to do that."

Iran Reacts With Defiance and Threats

Iran's response to the IAEA decision was swift and harsh. Reza Aghazadeh, director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, declared: "Our great nation will not permit any interference and/or interruption in our…nuclear program and it will not give up at any price." He told reporters that Iran has already begun converting 37 tons of raw uranium "yellowcake" in order to process it for use in nuclear centrifuges-machines that can enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels.

Hassan Rohani, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said: "They cannot force Iran to suspend enrichment through the resolution," adding: "Iran will stop implementing the additional protocol [authorizing snap U.N. inspections] if its case is sent to the Security Council, and parliament will probably demand from the government to drop out of the nonproliferation treaty."

Meanwhile, Iran paraded Shihab-3 ballistic missiles through the streets of Tehran adorned with banners reading "We will crush America under our feet" and "Israel must be wiped off the map."

A Critical Six Months

Nuclear experts fear Iran will soon have acquired all the necessary foreign technology to fabricate a nuclear warhead on its own, and warn that the clock is ticking.

The Iranian opposition group that first revealed damning evidence of Iran's nuclear facilities claims Tehran plans to build its first nuclear weapon in mid-2005.

If development of an atomic bomb is already underway, it may be at a military site receiving increased scrutiny from U.S. officials. Concerns are growing that development of warheads could take place at the Parchin explosives production and testing complex near Tehran. U.N. inspectors have not yet visited the facility.