The IAEA Report on which this resolution was based, GOV/2006/14 was formulated on February 7, 2006, now nearly two and one-half years ago.
What is striking about both the IAEA Report and the UN Resolution is that both call on Iran to suspend its enrichment activities to “build confidence” that Iran is not violating Provision One of the NPT.
However, the world seems to have forgotten that the suspension of uranium enrichment was merely a means to that confidence building, and not an end in itself. The Bush administration now focuses on suspension of enrichment rather than confidence building. Since enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel is clearly allowed under the NPT, this creates a paradox, and is the principal flaw in the Resolution. No one talked about alternative means of confidence building, though imaginative diplomacy would certainly have been able to craft such a provision that would have been acceptable to Iran.
More importantly, in two and one half years, a lot has taken place. Most notably, the United States National Intelligence Estimate was published in December 2007 in which it is clearly stated that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program. The IAEA continually reaffirms this estimate, and both Russia and China are in agreement as well.
If Iran does not have a weapons program, it is not in violation of NPT Provision One. There is no need for the confidence building called for in Resolution 1696, and therefore no need for suspension of Iran’s enrichment program.
The anger and public denial of the NIE on the part of President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and others in the Bush administration results from frustration with this situation. And no wonder, the basic reason for the Security Council Resolution has now been completely gutted. Bush officials spent hours and hours berating, jawboning and cajoling other nations, particularly European Allies, to go along with these Resolutions, and even to implement further sanctions based on them now to no avail.
The deep irony in the situation is that American intelligence itself has vitiated the very reason for these actions.
Iranians see through this charade. For this reason they refuse to relinquish their treaty rights, and have determined to stand up to the United States. They have earned the anger of the Bush administration, but the admiration—often grudging—of much of the rest of the world.
William O. Beeman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is President of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association. His latest book, The “Great Statan” vs. the “Mad Mullahs”: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other was published in April in an updated edition by the University of Chicago Press.