By Nader Bagherzadeh & Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich
Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) acknowledges the â€œinalienable rightâ€ of non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) to research, develop, and use nuclear energy for non-weapons purposes. The NPT also supports the â€œfullest possible exchangeâ€ of such nuclear-related information and technology between nuclear weapons states (P5) and non-nuclear weapons states. Iran, a NNWS has been denied its â€œinalienable rightsâ€ while support and the exchange of nuclear-related information has been withheld. This begs the question why Iran should continue to honor the NPT?
Indications are that Tehran did not believe that in the international arena, its biggest foe would be injustice. When former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton was busy engineering completely illegal sanctions against Iran, it was with the goal of testing Tehranâ€™s patience in the hope of having it exit the NPT so that he could muster up support for yet another war against an Islamic country in the Middle East. But Iran remained steadfast and in sharp contrast to the United States, it continued to respect international laws in the firm belief that justice would prevail. It did not.
Since 2003, the IAEA has consistently failed its obligations towards Iran as defined by the 1974 Safeguards Agreement. It has failed to facilitate refueling of a small reactor in Tehran, used mostly for short-lived medical isotopes. It has cancelled several key technical assistance programs with Iran, some of them related to nuclear safety issues, under pressure from the US. At Americaâ€™s behest, the IAEA has become a conventional weapon inspector agency, seeking information about national secrets of Iran related to missiles and conventional bomb making capabilities; which is completely outside of its jurisdiction, as spelled out in the 1974 agreement. In violation of Article 9 of the 1974 Agreement, the IAEA has shared Iranâ€™s sensitive nuclear technology with member nations, as well as outside nuclear experts with dubious connections to Iranâ€™s enemies. And most importantly, the Agency with tremendous pressure from US, has elevated a technical non-compliance matter to the level Chapter 7 UNSC sanctions, which should have been used when there is a clear indication of a nuclear weapons program.
The Agencyâ€™s clear violation of Iranâ€™s rights under the NPT leads one to wonder if the IAEA is ever going to clear Iranâ€™s file and revert it back to the normal status while the US is exerting pressure. It is unrealistic for Iranâ€™s leadership to assume that by fully engaging the IAEA, sometime in the near future, this agency, working against the wishes of Obamaâ€™s administration, will clear Iranâ€™s path to have nascent enrichment capability. After all, the so called â€œlaptopâ€ filled with mostly fabricated information against Iranâ€™s nuclear programs did not show up until it was clear that the IAEA was going to declare 6 outstanding concerns on Iranâ€™s past nuclear activities were no longer valid.
Although Obama has extended his hand towards Iran, the policy of â€œzero-enrichmentâ€ has not changed an iota from Bushâ€™s policy. When Obama chose Gary Samore and Dennis Ross to handle Iranâ€™s nuclear case, it was obvious that Obama did not have any major changes in mind, and the goal was to use a softer approach to gather more support for putting pressure, or as Ross calls it â€œbigger sticks.â€ Moreover, a recent trip by Ross to Beijing to convince Chinese leadership to sign up for more sanctions against Iran on behalf of Obama, shows that not only Ross was not marginalized after he was transferred from the State Department to the White House, but he is practically in the driverâ€™s seat for Obamaâ€™s Iran policy.
In addition to the Westâ€™s shaping of IAEAâ€™s illegitimate position on Iranâ€™s nuclear file, relentless fabricated attacks by the western media has finally resulted in portraying Iran as an outlaw when it comes to the nuclear activities. The propaganda machine led by the likes of Fred Hiatt of Washington Post and Nicolas Goldberg of Los Angeles Times, have helped create such an environment that a recent Pew poll showed that more than 50% of Americans support a US military strike against Iran while the U.S. is in a quagmire in the graveyard of the empires – Afghanistan, and continues to be engaged in its sixth year war in Iraq.
The latest IAEAâ€™s report which continued its demands from Iran to go beyond its obligations under the NPT safeguards and Subsidiary Arrangement Code 3.1 is another misrepresentation of the truth by the Agency. Iranâ€™s Majlis (parliament) never approved this code which requires reporting any nuclear project at the point of inception. It is ironic that a major NPT member (i.e. US) is allowed to threaten Iranâ€™s nuclear facilities with military strikes, but when Iran rightfully wants to prevent that from happening by using passive defensive majors, she is censured by the Board.
Iranâ€™s continued cooperation with the IAEA may be a call for equality. Their security in pursuing their goal stems from the justness of their cause, itself a compelling reason to delay a war with the US. However, this cooperation is not serving the development of peaceful nuclear energy in Iran. The Agency has been a tool in the hands of major powers and it does not seem that the status will change anytime soon. The way Obama is pushing the chess pieces against Iran by seeking an oil embargo and crippling sanctions, he may be boxed into a war, even if he is ostensibly against it. Perhaps it is time for Iran to reconsider her membership and leave the NPT.
Dr. Nader Bagherzadeh is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Irvine, California.
Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich has a Masterâ€™s in Public Diplomacy from USC Annenberg. She is an independent researcher and writer.