UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is working hard to prevent Iran's nuclear ambitions from getting to the UN Security Council. The UN Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, has been doing the same for years. 2005 was the year the world waited for the UN, while Iran took us many steps closer to nuclear war.
The IAEA decided formally in September 2005 that Iran had breached its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In its words, the IAEA: "Finds that Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] Safeguards Agreement... constitute non compliance in the context of Article XII.C of the Agency's Statute." And it "Finds also that the history of concealment of Iran's nuclear activities referred to in the Director General's report, the nature of these activities, issues brought to light in the course of the Agency's verification of declarations made by Iran since September 2002 and the resulting absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes have given rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council..."
The statute of the IAEA requires that such findings be accompanied by a referral of the case to the Security Council. The statute says: "Article XII.C: ...The Board [of Governors of the IAEA] shall report the non-compliance to all members and to the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations. ...Article III.B.4: ...if in connection with the activities of the Agency there should arise questions that are within the competence of the Security Council, the Agency shall notify the Security Council..."
In 2005, however, the Board of Governors of the IAEA refused to send Iranian non-compliance to the Security Council. The Board, therefore, breached its own statutory obligation -- at the behest of the Organization's Director General and the UN Secretary General.
Here is a timeline which indicates the role of UN officials in facilitating Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons.
- The IAEA has been investigating Iran's nuclear programme for approximately three years.
- On September 12th and November 26th 2003, the IAEA Board of Governors indicated grave concern with Iran's breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT safeguards agreement.
- The U.S. has long called for the referral of Iranian non-compliance to the Security Council. In December 2004, for example, the U.S. representative told the IAEA Board of Governors: "The United States believes that Iran's violations of its safeguards agreement have triggered a requirement under Article XII.C of the IAEA Statute and that the Board should report this noncompliance to the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly. ...[I]n order to help restore the credibility of this institution, the Board needs to comply with the IAEA Statute by informing the Security Council of Iran's safeguards violations...Quite apart from the question of how this Board chooses to handle these matters, of course, the United States reserves all of its options with respect to Security Council consideration of the Iranian nuclear weapons program. After all, pursuant to Article 35(1) of the Charter of the United Nations, any member of the United Nations may bring to the attention of the Security Council any situation that might endanger the maintenance of international peace and security."
- On September 17, 2005, Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad publicly declared to all members of the UN General Assembly while at UN Headquarters, that his country had no intention of complying with its NPT obligations: "The discriminatory approaches regarding the NPT that focuses on the obligations of state-parties and disregards their rights under the Treaty should be discontinued."
- September 24, 2005 the IAEA Board of Governors adopted a resolution which found Iran had breached the NPT Safeguards Agreement and spoke about the range of Iran's transgressions having "given rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council." Still, no actual reference to the Security Council was forthcoming. IAEA Director General ElBaradei applauded the inaction: "I am encouraged that the issue has not been referred to the Security Council, precisely to give time for diplomacy and negotiation."... "...time is still available for diplomacy to resolve outstanding issues, for Iran to build confidence, and that the question of reporting to the Security Council could only be discussed at a later date."
- At the next meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, November 24, 2005, the Board had before it a Report on Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Report indicated that the Board did not have the information, or access to the information, it had sought in order to establish Iran's good intentions. The Report said: "The Agency is still seeking additional assurances that no P-2 programme was conducted...The Agency is currently reviewing the new information provided by Iran on the P-1 and P-2 enrichment programmes and has emphasized to Iran the importance of providing the additional requested supporting documentation...Iran's full transparency is indispensable and overdue...The Agency...is still awaiting additional information and permission to undertake additional visits...The Secretariat will continue its investigation of all relevant information available to it...The Director General will continue to report to the Board as appropriate."
- Once again, ElBaradei discouraged the Board from moving the issue of Iran's non-compliance with the NPT to the Security Council. On November 24 he said: "I still believe that robust verification by the Agency, combined with active dialogue among all concerned parties, is the best way to move forward."
- On January 3, 2006 Iran sent a formal note to the IAEA informing the Agency that it "has decided to resume from 9 January 2006 those R & D on the peaceful nuclear energy programme which has been suspended as part of its expanded voluntary and non-legally binding suspension." "Research" has been a code word for experiments involving the enrichment of uranium.
- January 4, 2006 IAEA officials reportedly summoned Iranian officials to a meeting on January 5th in Vienna to explain their intentions on research. The Iranians fail to attend.
- On January 10, 2006 the IAEA reported that Iran had removed IAEA seals on enrichment-related equipment and material at its facility in Natanz in central Iran. They thus undid the suspension of enrichment-related activities requested by the IAEA Board of Governors "before the Agency ha[d] clarified the nature of Iran's nuclear programme."
- On January 12, 2006 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan made it clear his first goal was to prevent Iranian nuclear ambitions from coming to the Security Council (in total disregard of the IAEA Statute mandating the reference.) Annan was asked at a press briefing: "are you indicating that perhaps it is too early for the IAEA to refer the Iranian dispute to the Security Council?" He responded: "First of all, I think we should try and resolve it, if possible, in the IAEA context. [Mohamed] ElBaradei is working with the parties, doing his best to try and resolve it there." He added: "I have been talking to all the parties, doing whatever I can to encourage a negotiated settlement and really keeping people at the table and trying to discourage escalation, and I will continue to do that."
- On January 12, in fact there were three statements:
- The E3-EU (Britain, France and Germany) said: "[W]e have decided to inform the IAEA Board of Governors that our discussions with Iran have reached an impasse."
- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a briefing at 1:00 p.m. in which she said: "The United States fully supports the decision announced today by the [E3-EU]. [W]e agree the Iranian regime...leaves the EU with no choice but to request an emergency meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors. That meeting would be to report Iran's noncompliance with its safeguards obligations to the UN Security Council...[T]he EU...statement essentially says the basis for negotiation is no longer there, because what the Iranians did was to unilaterally destroy the basis on which the negotiations were taking place..."
- And bringing up the rear came Kofi Annan at a press encounter following his lunch meeting with the Security Council: "today I had a forty-minute conversation with Mr. [Ali] Larijani, the Iranian negotiator of the nuclear issue. ...He in turn affirmed to me that they are interested in serious and constructive negotiations...[T]he negotiations relate to the EU3. And as I said they indicated they are serious about going back to the table."
So where are we? The UN's top officer believes involving the Security Council would "escalate" the Iranian problem, not offer greater possibility of resolving it. He twists the problem from Iran having escalated the stakes, to the involvement of the "organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security" as escalation. True to Annan's form throughout his tenure as Secretary-General, the focus of criticism not so subtly becomes the United States. The UN chief aims to shift the dynamic from taking strong action against an Iranian madman, bent on nuclear proliferation and the obliteration of a UN member state, to placing roadblocks in the way of an American-driven effort to stop it.
In the past President Bush could have spearheaded a push to remove Kofi Annan from office, given the enormity of successive scandals that have plagued the organization in recent years. The President also could have insisted that ElBaradei, who was up for renewal last June, be denied a third term in office. Instead, the administration demurred on both counts, preferring to play multilateralism with one hand tied behind its back. Annan and ElBaradei will ultimately not be able to prevent the Iranian issue from getting to the Security Council. But with like-minded Council members such as Russia, China and others, they will continue to work behind the scenes to prevent serious Security Council action. In short, the UN will not liberate the U.S. administration from taking responsibility for preventing a nuclear Iran.
This UN "F" is for failing humankind.