UN Security Council Resolution 1696, passed on July 31, is specific. It is a Chapter 7 resolution, which names a member state for being at odds with the UN, cites the state’s failure to comply with the resolution, then raises the stakes over its enforcement.
Resolution 1696 was passed in response to—as noted in its text—“the many reports of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Director General and resolutions of the IAEA Board of Governors related to Iran’s nuclear programme.”
The IAEA’s concerns—as the UN watchdog of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of July 1968—over the past several years have been with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons capability by abandoning the IAEA safeguards and repudiating its commitment to the NPT.
Iran became a signatory of the NPT in 1970, and under its agreement was provided nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
The disclosure of Iran’s illegal nuclear program came through the IAEA inspections of February 2003.
The recently published book by Gordon Corera, Shopping For Bombs, meticulously documents the sinister underworld of illegal nuclear proliferation built by A.Q. Khan—a Pakistani metallurgist who stole the design for the centrifuge required for uranium enrichment when working for the Dutch partner of Urenco, a European consortium in the business of providing nuclear technology for civilian use—during the years Pakistan pursued its goal of acquiring a nuclear weapon. (Pakistan conducted five nuclear tests in May 1998, disclosing its nuclear weapons capability to the world.)
In February 2003, Iran relented after months of delays and disputations, and permitted IAEA inspection of its nuclear site at Natanz—surrounded by mountains and constructed deep underground. The inspection was headed by, as Corera describes, a “tough, tenacious IAEA inspector from Finland, Olli Heinonen.”
Heinonen and his team recognized immediately what was taking place there, and where the equipment for enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels originated.
The centrifuges on display were of Urenco design, stolen by A.Q. Khan and proliferated in the nuclear black market.
Resolution 1696 demands Iran immediately cease uranium enrichment activities as required by the IAEA and the NPT. It requests “by 31 August a report from the Director General of the IAEA primarily on whether Iran has established full and sustained suspension of all activities mentioned in this resolution, as well as on the process of Iranian compliance with the IAEA Board and with the above provisions of this resolution.”
Iran’s response has been to insist on its rights as a sovereign nation to acquire nuclear technology while denying, despite evidence, efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.
On Aug. 31, as the hours ticked away on the deadline stipulated in the resolution, U.S. President George Bush gave a major speech to the American Legion National Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Mentioning Iran and the UN resolution, he declared, “We will continue to work closely with our allies to find a diplomatic solution—but there must be consequences for Iran’s defiance, and we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”
The world has been at this crossroads before. It had to do with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the tyrant’s refusal to comply with repeated Chapter 7 Security Council resolutions.
Speaking to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 12, 2002—one year after the terrorists attacked New York and Washington—Bush stated in reference to Iraq’s non-compliance, “The Security Council resolutions will be enforced—the just demands of peace and security will be met—or action will be unavoidable.”
The world will not be surprised if the UN fails to enforce Iran’s compliance on this matter.
But then the world must not be surprised if the U.S. under Bush proceeds to check Iran’s nuclear ambitions before the clock runs out.