The Security Council and Iran

Unanimous decision to censure the Islamic Republic

At the International Atomic Energy Agency’s final regular meeting of 2009, Iran was punished with yet another resolution from the United Nations Security Council. A new document urges Iran to comply fully with the demands of the UNSC and suspend uranium enrichment, as well as immediately halt construction at the new enrichment facility in Fordo, near Qom.

The resolution was drafted by Germany and adopted with full majority, including Russia and China. It not only sends the issue of Iran’s nuclear activities once again to the UNSC, but also opens the door to a fourth sent of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, called the document “a mistake…hasty and undue, showing a clear double standard.” In a statement at the end of the board meeting, Soltanieh said he was not surprised by the adoption of the document and warned that in response Iran would seriously consider whether to continue its cooperation with the agency.

The new resolution also opens another wound in the confidence-building process between Iran and the West – the so-called “Enrichment Deal.” On Oct. 21 the outgoing IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei, after exhausting discussions with Iran, Russia, France and the U.S., drafted a plan for the future fueling of the research reactor in Tehran. According to the plan, Iran must export the bulk of its low-grade enriched uranium to another country – probably Russia – where it would be enriched to higher grades and re-exported to France. France, in turn, would process the high-grade enriched uranium into metal rods to deliver back to Tehran to fuel its research reactor, and for medical and radiological purposes. Iran, however, strongly objects France’s participation in the deal, as it considers Paris an unreliable business partner due to its failure to deliver promised fuel to Iran in the past.

Iran has not yet given a clear answer to the draft, but it has repeatedly said it would prefer to buy higher-enriched uranium, instead of exporting its low-enriched bulk and “lose precious time in waiting for the fuel to return.” In what he called “a compromise modification,” Iran’s FM Manouchehr Mottaki suggested a swap of low-enriched uranium for higher-enriched uranium on Iranian soil, as Tehran considered the IAEA’s guarantees that the fuel would return on time insufficient.

The IAEA has already rejected this suggestion. At a joint press conference in Vienna with German FM Guido Westerwelle a day before the IAEA Board meeting, the outgoing ElBaradei said the nuclear fuel should leave Iran as a sign of goodwill – he called on the Iranian government to act “not on the basis of mistrust, but on the basis of trust.” Two days later, by the end of the meeting, both ElBaradei and U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies called the draft enrichment deal “a golden opportunity which Iran should not hesitate to seize.” Ambassador Davies noted that the newly adopted resolution criticizing Iran’s nuclear activities was not meant to be a punitive measure, but a stimulus to bring Iran back to the confidence building process.

For now the future of the Iranian nuclear issue remains unclear. Analysts are still contemplating the course new Director General Yukiya Amano will take. The threat of a fourth set of sanctions still looms over Iran, however Michael Adler, an expert from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, believes at this stage a new set of sanctions against Iran was rather unlikely.

“With this new resolutions the United States clearly showed their patience is not unlimited. But I think that Washington very much wants there to be a diplomatic process,” says Adler.

Meanwhile, the Iranian government has authorized its Atomic Energy Organization (AEO) to build ten more nuclear enrichment sites. Iran’s state-run TV reports that the AEO should begin the construction of five of the enrichment facilities over the next two months. At the Iranian government’s request, the organization should also propose locations for the remaining five enrichment plants within a two-month period. Reports from Tehran also quote prominent Iranian law-makers, who say the Islamic Republic might go as far as withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a sign of protest against what they call “a discriminatory and hasty policy of the West.”

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