(by Patrick Goodenough, Sept. 22, 2005, CNSNews.com) – A United States-European drive to have the U.N. nuclear watchdog refer Iran to the Security Council this week looks set to fail — a situation attributed in part to energy-hungry countries’ reluctance to antagonize a major oil producer.
A bloc of developing nations represented on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board are expected to add their voices Thursday to the more powerful ones of Russia and China, who have made it clear they oppose referral to the Security Council.
After strenuous lobbying, both at the IAEA board meeting in Vienna and at the U.N. in New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad felt sufficiently confident Wednesday to tell a cabinet meeting in Tehran that Iran had effectively neutralized American and European policies.
Ahmadinejad told ministers Western nations wanted to prevent others from joining them in mastering nuclear technology, believing that if they succeeded in doing so in Iran case this would also prevent progress by other countries such as Algeria, Turkey and Egypt.
In New York last week, Ahmadinejad raised U.S. concern by saying Iran was “ready to transfer nuclear know-how” to fellow Islamic states.
Iran says its activities are peaceful and solely aimed at generating electricity, but Western governments believe the program – which Iran concealed from the IAEA for almost two decades – provides a cover for attempts to build nuclear weapons.
A draft resolution circulating at the IAEA meeting calls for Iran to be referred to the council for failing to comply with its obligations, as a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to notify the IAEA about its nuclear activities.
The measure reportedly has the support of the 11 European Union (E.U.) representatives on the 35-member board, as well as the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan.
The remainder of the board members are China, Russia, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, as well as 14 members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a grouping of developing nations established during the Cold War.
State Department spokesman Adam Ereli appeared to acknowledge Wednesday that getting the necessary support now was proving difficult.
“Our goal is to build the broadest possible consensus,” he told a press briefing. “Sometimes it takes time to build a consensus.”
“Your approach is more effective if it’s a multilateral approach that has the broadest possible buy-in, but at the same time I think that our persistence and sense of importance is guided by the seriousness of the issue at hand, which is nuclear proliferation,” Ereli said.
In its efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis, the U.S. succeeded in drawing in allies Japan and South Korea as well as nations friendlier to North Korea — Russia and China.
Although an agreement of principles signed on Monday by all six parties involved in those negotiations have run into early hurdles, most analysts agree there is some momentum.
On the Iran track, by contrast, the U.S. and E.U. are struggling to find widespread support.
Unlike North Korea, which boasts no energy resources, Iran is OPEC’s second-largest oil producer (after Saudi Arabia) and also has the world’s second-largest reserves of natural gas (ranking behind Russia).
China, the world’s fastest-growing economy, depends on Iran for almost 15 percent of its imported oil. For Russia, the financial benefits of its close ties to Iran revolve around the building of nuclear power plants like the one under construction at Bushehr, at a cost of $1 billion.
Both Russia and China oppose referring Iran to the Security Council. As permanent members, they could furthermore use their veto to block any resolution even if Iran was referred.
India, arguably the most influential of the 14 NAM members on the IAEA board, has also expressed sympathy for Iran in the dispute over its nuclear program.
As is the case with China, Iran’s abundant energy reserves are hugely important to India.
Delhi is pushing ahead with plans to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from Iran, despite the opposition of its new “strategic partner” in Washington.
Some American lawmakers warned this month that if India hopes to benefit from President Bush’s recent offer of cooperation in the civilian nuclear field, then it should back the U.S. in the dispute with Iran.
After lengthy negotiations with Britain, France and Germany, Iran late last year agreed to suspend sensitive nuclear conversion, but resumed the activity last month after rejecting an offer by the E.U. trio to abandon its nuclear cycle activities in return for incentives.
Senior Iranian officials sent out mixed signals this week on how their government may respond to Security Council referral.
Chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani warned that Iran could withdraw from the NPT and resume uranium enrichment — a step beyond conversion and closer to providing fuel that could be used to manufacture weapons.
Although other Iranian officials said subsequently that would not happen, U.S. envoy to the IAEA Greg Schulte in a statement called Larijani’s words “reckless” and said they “only serve to deepen our concerns about the nature and intent of Iran’s nuclear program and intentions.”
North Korea is to date the only signatory nation to have pulled out of the NPT, in early 2003. The agreement it signed on Monday calls for a return to the treaty “at an early date.”
Reprinted here with permission from CNSNews.com. Visit the website at www.cnsnews.com.
1. Who are the members of the UN Security Council?
2. What is the purpose of the UN Security Council?
3. What is the purpose of the IAEA? For information, click here.
4. Define economic sanctions. If the IAEA referred Iran to the Security Council, the ultimate consequence for Iran would probably be economic sanctions.
-Which countries on the IAEA board oppose referral of Iran to the Security Council?
-What is generally believed to be the reason for this?
-Explain the specific reasons for China, Russia and India’s opposition.
5. Define proliferation.
-What is the purpose of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?
-Under the NPT, what countries are allowed to have nuclear weapons? Why?
6. For what reason does Iran say it has its nuclear program? (para. 6)
-Why don’t Western governments believe Iran?
-What do Western governments believe Iran is doing with its nuclear program?
7. Define comply. How did Iran fail to comply with its obligations to the NPT?
8. What threat did Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator make?
9. In your opinion, how effective are the UN Security Council and the IAEA? Explain your answer.