Thursday, May 24, 2012

William O. Beeman--More on U.N. Security Council Resolutions against Iran

Many commentators claim that Iran should be denounced, if not attacked for ignoring seven U.N. Security Council Resolutions calling for it to stop uranium enrichment. (Iran has the inalienable right to enrich uranium as granted to it as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The U.N. Resolutions single out Iran as the only Treaty signatory being called on to suspend this inalienable right).

I have been criticized by neoconservatives for calling the U.N. Sanctions into question. 

It is the duty of the Security Council not to make resolutions that are based on unsound premises. It is too bad that the Council is imperfect in this regard. In the Iranian case, the United States has blocked any arguments in the subsequent resolutions that Iran has in fact demonstrated that it has no nuclear weapons program, thus fulfilling the point of the original Resolution 1696 that "confidence building" has indeed been achieved by any objective measure. I invite all  readers to actually read the resolutions. They all point back to the original resolution 1696.

One would think that six years of continual, unbroken, authoritative statements from the United Nations' own bodies as well as the United States and Israeli authorities and reporting organizations that Iran has no nuclear weapons program would provide enough "confidence building." However, the United States and its allies steadfastly ignore the conclusions of their own inspections and intelligence bodies. The vendetta against Iran is so strong and so ideologically driven that it promulgates even nonsensical resolutions.

Not to stray too far from the Iranian case, but I am sure most readers can think of a few Security Council Resolutions denouncing the actions of U.N. member states that he would argue are without foundation. Indeed one need look no further than our own former Ambassador, John Bolton to see reams of criticism of this sort.  I am equally sure that a large number of readers, particularly Republicans, would be able and willing to denounce these resolutions as without substance based on what they may or may not feel about their foundation.

That said, I am in good company in denouncing and pointing out the flaws in Security Council resolutions as much as Ambassador Bolton or numerous members of Congress. It may not change the mindset of those who want to use these Resolutions as some kind of justification for attacking Iran, but I hope it will at least prompt a few people to actually read them rather than invoking them in a ritual manner, and then proclaiming, ex cathedra, that no one dare question them because they don't have the "authority" to do so.

Bill Beeman
University of Minnesota

William O. Beeman--United Nations Resolutions Against Iran have Failed—and for good reason: their basic premise no longer applies

The article below was written in 2008. Nevertheless, commentators STILL claim that Iran's failure to obey Security Council Resolutions calling for suspension of uranium enrichment are justification for sanctions and for attacking Iran militarily. Since this article was written eight IAEA Reports and four National Intelligence Estimates have been released all of which say that there is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Numerous intelligence officials in the United States, Europe and Israel have said the same thing. So why do the media and some politicians keep insisting that Iran is building nuclear weapons? They clearly are using this as an excuse to attack Iran. If it weren't the nuclear issue, it would be something else.
--Bill Beeman

United Nations Resolutions Against Iran have Failed—and for good reason: their basic premise no longer applies

William O. Beeman

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1696 calling for Iran to suspend nuclear enrichment were passed on July 31, 2006, nearly two years ago. Every sanction and demand placed on Iran since that time has been based on this Resolution and its strengthened re-iteration, Resolution 1737 on December 27.

Clearly after two years the Resolution and its follow-ups have not worked. Iran has not suspended its uranium enrichment activities, and indications this week are that it is not likely to do so in the future. The United States and its reluctant European allies clearly can not put enough pressure on Iran to cause it to abandon what the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran (but not Israel, Pakistan or India) is signatory, is its “inalienable right” to peaceful nuclear development. As long as it does not violate Provision One of the NPT, namely the agreement not to develop nuclear weaponry.

Ironically Security Council Resolution 1696 reaffirms the right to peaceful nuclear development. Since this Resolution has failed, it is worth looking at it again to examine its flaws.

It is first essential to understand the purpose of the resolution, which is stated clearly in points one and two of the Resolution in which the Security Council:

1. Calls upon Iran without further delay to take the steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors in its resolution GOV/2006/14, which are essential to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear programme and to resolve outstanding questions,
2. Demands, in this context, that Iran shall suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA

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.

It is certainly time to revisit the original Resolution 1696 to find new ways to guarantee to the world that Iran is in fact not building weapons. Since there is no evidence whatever that they are, this should be easy, if the United States will only stop trying to force Iran into the impossible choice of giving up an inalienable right in order to satisfy a rapacious U.S. administration bent on its destruction. Appeasement cuts both ways.

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.