Iran, Again

June 28, 2004


American Israel Public Affairs Committee: Near East Report

Ignoring intensive diplomatic efforts, Iran continues to pursue its nuclear weapons program, whose completion would pose unacceptable global dangers. The U.N.'s nuclear agency has consistently but ineffectually reported and "deplored" the Iranian program. It's time to submit the issue to the Security Council, the only international body authorized to impose meaningful sanctions on recalcitrant regimes.

Last month, the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran is continuing efforts to hide its nuclear program. Iran, under the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty, has foresworn nuclear weapons, and its entire nuclear program is supposed to be under IAEA inspection. For eighteen years, however, Iran kept its nuclear program hidden, admitting to it only after an Iranian opposition group revealed its extent. Since then, IAEA inspectors have repeatedly caught Iran in efforts to deceive the agency.

On June 21, the IAEA's Board of Governors again dutifully passed a resolution "deploring" Iran's failures to fully disclose its nuclear program. The Board resolved "to remain seized of the matter" and to consider the issue again in September. Iran responded by threatening to halt cooperation with the IAEA and renew its uranium enrichment program. Its foreign minister said that Iran "has to be recognized…as a member of the nuclear club." Iran openly intends to master the entire nuclear fuel cycle, giving Tehran the capability to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Iran could have that capability within two years.

Last year, the European Union (EU) issued a new non-proliferation policy, stating that proliferation was so important that the EU would consider even the use of military force against violators. The EU should certainly consider compliance with non-proliferation norms in determining its economic relations. Along with Russia, Japan, Canada and Australia, the EU comprises over fifty percent of Iran's international trade, giving it enormous economic sway over Iran. If ever there were a case for using that sway against a violator, Iran is it. Of course, none of them have evinced any interest in doing so. Passing toothless IAEA resolutions every three months only gives Iran more time to complete its nuclear plans. At the IAEA's September meeting, this issue must be referred to the Security Council, which can impose multilateral sanctions on Iran. Until then, the U.S. must seek to persuade the EU and the other democracies to live up to their fine words about confronting the danger of nuclear proliferation.