Monday, October 19, 2009

International Community Reacts to Iran’s New Nuclear Plant Declaration

The final week of September has been an important one with respect to world politics and the world economy. On 24 September, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session was held under the leadership of US President Barack Obama. Recently, the G20 Summit was held in the American state of Pittsburgh, which ended on a note similar to the previous conference held in April of this year: with new promises, new undertakings, and new programs.

Some events have emerged for the first time in the final days of September. For example, this is the first time ever that a US President has chaired a Security Council session. Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi has come to the United States for the first time in his forty years in power and he has addressed the United Nations General Assembly for the first time in his life, and has declared the role and performance of the Security Council on world matters as unsatisfactory. It has also been decided for the first time that in future, the G20 will replace G8 after its function ceases. Similarly, it is also during this week that for the first time a relatively severe reaction from world powers is being witnessed at the discovery of Iran's “secret” nuclear plant for uranium enrichment. On 27 September, Iran has also test-fired two short-range missiles about which it is said that this has been done with an aim to further strengthen Iran's defense capability. It is the view of some commentators that the range of these missiles may be as far as Israel and the US bases in the Gulf. Iran's nuclear program issue, therefore, appears to be taking a new turn.

Threat of Nuclear Weapons
To reduce the global threat of nuclear weapons, the 15-member states of the UNSC have agreed on a resolution for a joint strategy. In his presidential address, Obama has stated: "Although we have remained safe from nuclear disasters during the Cold War, we are now faced with a complex situation with regard to nuclear proliferation. It is, therefore, necessary to chart a new plan and strategy." On this occasion, Obama also said that by the use of a single nuclear weapon in a single city, hundreds of thousands of people could be annihilated. This one city could even be New York or Moscow, Tokyo or Beijing, or London or Paris. Referring to a quote by Ronald Reagan, he told the session: "A nuclear war cannot be won [so] it should never be fought."

The voicing of such sentiments by Obama is surely a welcome development. Welcoming the resolution, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that through this, a clear and united message had been conveyed to the world that the leaders of countries with nuclear weapons and of those countries without nuclear weapons were united and unanimous today in ridding the world of the problem of nuclear weapons.

Western Countries Stand
Iran's announcement that it has a second uranium enrichment plant has given various Western countries further cause to put pressure on Iran. Therefore, the chance of positive developments in talks between Germany and five other world powers on 1 October have further reduced. Presently, this situation appears to be taking an increasingly complicated turn, whereby we shall view it in light of a statement made by Teheran according to which Iran will not accept any compromises on the issue of enrichment.

On the occasion of the G20 Summit, Obama, Brown, and Nicolas Sarkozy said in a joint statement that following the revelation of another nuclear plant in Iran, not only had there been increased apprehension, but it had also led to violations by Iran of the UNSC decisions.

Prior to this, the leaders of the United States, France, and the United Kingdom revealed in a joint briefing that they had provided detailed evidence relating to a nuclear plant near the Iranian city of Qum to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Simultaneously, Iran had been warned that if it did not fulfill its international responsibilities, strict economic sanctions could be enforced against it.

New Nuclear Facility
The revelation of Iran's new nuclear facility came when the G20 Summit and the UNSC session ended on one hand, while on the other, as it has been mentioned before, Iran is about to have negotiations with six world powers on the issue of its nuclear program. In one respect, therefore, the apprehensions of the world leaders are not unfounded. Iran has previously been a source of much aggravation for western powers, the United States in particular, so the risk of tensions in bilateral relations after the revelation of the new nuclear plant has increased. In addition, missile tests and the testing of a launcher with the capability to fire more than one missile have also been carried out, which has already heated up relations between the West and Iran.

Israel has also felt the intensity of this heat. The Israeli foreign minister has pleaded with the Western powers that they should adopt a clear and decisive position against this new situation that has developed. He has said that the presence of this uranium enrichment plant proves that Iran definitely wants to build nuclear weapons. He has further stated that they have been saying all along that Iran is speeding up its nuclear activity for military purposes and following the revelation of the nuclear plant, their fears have been vindicated.

Iran's stance, however, is that the purpose of its nuclear program is to produce electricity. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has said that their program was in no way a “secret”; they are ready to have it inspected by the inspectors of the IAEA. Referring to the rules of the IAEA, they have said that it was necessary to inform the mentioned agency six months before beginning the process of uranium enrichment, whereas according to them, they had made the declaration 18 months before hand. The clear implication of this is that there is currently no enrichment taking place at the plant.

If this incidentally is the situation and the IAEA rules are indeed so, the question that arises is: Why do the United States, the West, Israel, and various other powers need to create such uproar about it? One possible reason for this could be that these powers do not believe the statement by the Iranian leadership that Iran has not yet begun the process of enriching uranium. The other possibility is that, in their view, the legal position of Iran is weak. The third and final possibility is that under no circumstance do the world powers wish to view Iran as an emerging state on the world stage, the kind of state that is militarily strong and whose political, economic, social, and cultural foundations are also firm. There is no ambiguity in that a strong Iran is an impediment to the US imperial agenda. The third reason for the hue and cry is, therefore, political, and the truth is that it is also the most important reason.

Subsidiary Arrangement
Here, it is also worth mentioning that in 2003, Iran had consented over the Subsidiary Arrangement in the spirit of which it was mandatory to inform the IAEA at the initial stages of preparing a uranium enrichment plant. It was also in 2003 that Iran signed the Additional Protocol based on which the IAEA was given the authority to inspect the location. Subsequently, however, Iran reneged on both the above-mentioned agreements in 2006 and 2007. Concerning the former agreement, the IAEA states that this kind of unilateral rejection is not legally permissible, but Iran has maintained a single stance for suspending both agreements that permission could not be obtained from the parliament, which is a mandatory condition for international agreements. Moreover, Iran also insists that it will continue to act on the rules and regulations of the NPT and that it is the IAEA's prerogative to delegate itself additional authority. In reality, this is the procedure whereby a politically clear situation appears to be falling victim to legal ambiguity. Iran's belief that demands for halting uranium enrichment through the UNSC resolutions is not a legal, rather a political issue, is a meaningful point. There is no doubt that legal details are not more important than political actions and political considerations.

The Bleak Future Ahead
The revelation of a new nuclear plant can also be seen as an action by Iran against the United States, the West, and Israel. This reaction by Iran, which has remained under constant by the US pressure and its allies since 9/11, was not inconceivable. If Iran adopts an even more severe stance in its reaction, the comprehensive negotiations of 1 October fail, its legal position is also proven weak, and if Iranian President Ahmedinejad adopts an inflexible and uncooperative attitude. Worried by economic restrictions, will they accept some compromise on their nuclear program? Or will the United States or Israel wage war against Iran? In the view of commentators, a war by the United States against Iran is impossibility, although executing an attack through Israel cannot be ruled out.

If a situation to wage war against Iran from anywhere develops [God forbid], the statistics provided by the World Bank on the occasion of the G20 Summit on the political, economic, and social condition of humans inhabiting this earth could become a hundred times more horrendous: "Owing to economic shock, poor and extremely insecure people have reached a most dangerous turn in their lives: many homes have been sacrificed at the altar of poverty and desperation, health care facilities have suffered the most, there has been a decline in the number of children going to school, and the progress cycle in other areas of life has stopped or is moving in reverse."

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