With the third round of nuclear talks approaching, Iranian senior figures are taking turns to the airwaves to present a well-rehearsed, grievance-filled version of the issues at stake in their current nuclear standoff with the international community. This time, speaking out is former Iranian minister of foreign affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati – currently a diplomatic adviser to the Supreme Leader. Velayati, who is wanted in Argentina for the 1994 Iran-orchestrated terror attack against the AMIA Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, announced in an interview with the Iranian news agency IRNA that he hoped that “the P5+1 group recognizes Iran’s inalienable nuclear right within the framework of the [United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] NPT and refrains from sitting on the sidelines.” He added, “By accepting Iran’s right to use peaceful nuclear energy, the forthcoming talks in Moscow should reach a favorable result.”
Iran has been spinning this tale for years now – and its propaganda is making considerable gains with Western leftists and among non-aligned movement members.
Iran is basically playing the victim card, darkly evoking an American-led and Zionist-orchestrated plot to deny Iran, alone among nations, the right to peacefully develop nuclear energy. The demand by the P5+1 to suspend all uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities, Iran says, is an attempt to deny a right guaranteed under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to all its members. It is an unfair attempt, says Iran, because it is infused with a double standard where nuclear-weapons states and Israel are ganging up on Iran to preach to Tehran what they don’t practice. And it is a dangerous precedent, concludes Iran, because if legitimized, this mechanism can be adopted later to frustrate the legitimate nuclear ambitions of any other nation that is not a Western country and a friend of the United States.
So, as talks approach, it is useful to remind Western audiences of the basic facts around this matter.
First, Iran is a member of the NPT, and it is thus entitled to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only as long as it meets its obligations under the NPT. But the International Atomic Energey Agency (IAEA) regards Iran as being in breach of its treaty obligations. This was stated explicitly and forcefully by the IAEA on September 24, 2005:
… Iran’s many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement … constitute non-compliance in the context of Article XII.C of the Agency’s Statute … [T]he 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 program is exclusively for peaceful purposes have given rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council, as the organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
The Security Council has passed six UN Security Council resolutions under Chapter VII (1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835, and 1929), which makes them mandatory and binding on all nations according to international law, commanding Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities.
The IAEA has reaffirmed this point in every report it published since Ambassador Yukiya Amano became its director general in early 2010.
And the June 2008 proposal to Iran, signed by the P5+1, further states that, provided Iran complies with its obligations under the NPT and with the aforementioned resolutions, “China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union High Representative state their readiness: to recognize Iran’s right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in conformity with its NPT obligations; to treat Iran’s nuclear program in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT once international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program is restored.”
This text is now an integral part of UNSCR 1929 – and the details it offers (including detailed aspects of technological assistance) should leave no doubt to the following simple facts:
Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy, including the right to enrich for peaceful purposes, was never denied in principle and has been affirmed ad nauseam by Iran’s interlocutors. All Iranian protestations and lamentations to the contrary are lies, smokes and mirrors.
Iran’s right is suspended because Iran has failed to comply with the obligations that make it possible for Iran, and indeed any other nation who wishes to have a nuclear program, to pursue nuclear energy within the NPT framework.
Iran’s behavior is illegal. Iran’s non-compliance demands concrete steps sanctioned by UN Chapter VII binding resolutions.
No concession should be made, therefore, on these matters, and no compromise should be offered on enrichment suspension.
This provision, far from being a punishment, is the only remaining guarantee against the collapse of an already shaky non-proliferation regime.