(by Patrick Goodenough, Sept. 27, 2005, CNSNews.com) – Iran has accused the U.N. nuclear watchdog of acting under American and European pressure, following passage of a resolution critical of its nuclear activities.
But the U.S. attributed the move to recognition by “a growing majority of nations” that Iran’s noncompliance must be tackled.
India’s vote in favor of the resolution at the weekend was seen as a particular victory for the U.S.-E.U. position, and White House spokesman Scott McClellan said its support was appreciated.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors passed a resolution by majority vote stating that Iran’s nuclear program had a “long history of concealment and deception.”
It threatened to take Iran before the U.N. Security Council for violations of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but stopped one step short of actual referral. That could now happen at the next board meeting, in November.
A draft resolution that would have referred Iran to the council now was withdrawn earlier in the week after its European Union (E.U.) sponsors failed to win sufficient support in the 35-member board.
Iran boasted about its lobbying success in foiling that first attempt, but when the second resolution came to a vote, countries whose support Iran had been banking on either went the other way or abstained.
The motion passed by 22 votes to one, with 12 abstentions.
Significantly, Security Council permanent members China and Russia both abstained.
Furthermore, the solidarity of the non-aligned bloc crumbled as India, Peru, Ecuador and Singapore voted in favor of the resolution. The remaining developing nations abstained, apart for Venezuela, which voted against the measure.
India’s vote was especially noteworthy, given its traditional friendship and growing energy ties with Iran. As one of the most influential non-aligned countries — and a nuclear power — its decision may have carried weight with others.
In a recent major policy announcement, President Bush pledged to help India to develop its nuclear energy sector.
Congress will have to approve the president’s offer, and some lawmakers warned that if India wanted to benefit from the offer of cooperation, it should take a stand against Iran’s nuclear activities.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government came under heavy fire at home for not siding with Iran at the IAEA board vote.
The opposition Hindu nationalist BJP, which led India’s previous government, demanded to know why the administration had made a “significant shift in [foreign] policy” without consulting the opposition.
The government’s communist allies, too, lashed out at the decision, accusing Delhi of “surrendering” to American pressure, and demanding to know why it had “broken ranks with the non-aligned countries which had decided not to support the U.S. stand on Iran.”
The foreign ministry said in a statement the vote had nothing to do with the U.S. offer of nuclear cooperation.
“India takes decisions on issues based on its own independent assessment and in consonance with the country’s national interests.”
At a press conference, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran disagreed when asked whether the move marked a shift away from a non-aligned position and towards a pro-Western one.
“I do not think that you should interpret India’s position as being aligned on the left or on the right or aligned with this group of countries or that group of countries,” he said. “I think India has all along taken decisions on issues of concern to itself on the basis of its own assessment, and on the basis of its own national interest.”
Saran also said he saw no reason why India’s stance should affect plans to build a multi-billion dollar pipeline to carry natural gas from Iran to India.
On Monday, the IAEA began its annual general conference in Vienna, with Saturday’s board decision still resonating.
Speaking at the meeting of the agency’s 138 member countries, Iranian vice president Gholamreza Aqazadeh warned that taking Iran to the Security Council would “escalate tension and add volatility to an already vulnerable political situation in the region.”
The weekend resolution, he said, showed “how issues can reach the borders of absurdity when politics overwhelm the work of the agency.”
Aqazadeh did not announce any immediate retaliatory steps, although other Iranian officials have hinted that the country may begin enriching uranium, a process to produce fuel either for nuclear weapons or energy programs.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is designed for purely peaceful electricity-generation, but at the same time concealed its nuclear activities from the IAEA for 18 years, until it was exposed by a regime critic in 2002.
The U.S. and its European allies believe Iran is using the program as a cover to develop the expertise and material needed to build nuclear weapons.
Britain, France and Germany, representing the broader E.U., negotiated with Iran over an extended period in a bid to end the nuclear standoff.
In a deal with the trio last November, Iran agreed to suspend sensitive uranium conversion – one step short of enrichment – but it resumed the activity last month after rejecting an E.U. offer for incentives in exchange for ending its nuclear fuel cycle activities.
Reprinted here with permission from CNSNews.com. Visit the website at www.cnsnews.com.
1. To what does the U.S. credit passage of an IAEA resolution critical of Iran’s nuclear activities? How does this differ from Iran’s claim?
2. Of the 35 Countries voting on the IAEA resolution, only 1 country voted against it. Name the country. Why do you think that country cast the only dissenting vote? (If you don’t know anything about the country or it’s leader, don’t just guess – do a google search and you should find the answer quickly.)
3. What is the significance of 12 countries (including Russia and China) abstaining from voting on the resolution critical of Iran? What can you infer about their faith in Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is designed solely for peaceful electricity generation?
4. Describe the role that the U.S. Congress played in India’s decision to vote against Iran.
5. On what basis did India cast its vote, according to India’s Foreign Secretary Saran? What two groups in India were vocal in their opposition to the vote? What agreement does India still expect to keep with Iran? Do you think Iran will do so? Explain your answer.
6. For what reason do the U.S. and its European allies believe Iran has a nuclear program? (para. 27)
7. Why is it in the best interest of the rest of the world to support the U.S. and the E.U. in their attempts to stop Iran’s nuclear activities?
Think about this passage from a Sept. 23 CNSNews.com article when answering, as well as the amount of aid and trade the U.S. gives to the rest of the world:
“Marking the start of ‘Sacred Defense Week’ — a commemoration of the 1980 Iraqi invasion which triggered a costly eight-year war — Iran displayed weaponry Thursday including six Shahab-3 ballistic missiles. … The missiles were draped in banners bearing such slogans as ‘Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth’ and ‘We will trample America under our feet.’“
Iran’s 20 year secret nuclear program was discovered in 2002. Iran says its program is for fuel purposes only, but it has been working on uranium enrichment which is used to make nuclear bombs. Under the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons. The U.S. is attempting to get the UN’s IFEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to refer Iran to the UN Security Council with the hope that if Iran does not stop their work, the Security Council will impose sanctions on Iran and cause them to comply with the NPT.