by Zafar Bangash (World, Crescent International Vol. 35, No. 11, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1427)
In what may be one of the UN’s most hypocritical moves ever, the Security Council imposed nonmilitary sanctions on Iran on December 23 for its peaceful nuclear-power programme. That the resolution went through several drafts over the course of two months reflected deep divisions among Council members, but its final passage reconfirmed that the UN does not live up to its high-sounding principles or care about the rights of others. It is simply a body used by the US to rubber-stamp its demands and as a bullies’ pulpit against those placed on the US’s enemy list.
The demand that Iran should suspend all uranium-enrichment, reprocessing, nuclear research and development runs counter to several articles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). NPT not only permits signatories to enrich uranium but also calls upon other states to assist in this process. Yet the Security Council is demanding that Iran give up its rights as a signatory to the NPT just because Washington demands it. Dr Javad Zarif, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, speaking after the vote, accused the council of practising double standards by imposing sanctions on Islamic Iran, which has consistently opposed nuclear weapons, has called for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East and opened its facilities for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, while doing nothing about Israel. In recent press statements Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has confirmed that his country possesses nuclear weapons. Dr Zarif said Iran is “being punished for exercising its inalienable rights” to develop nuclear energy, while Israel “is apparently being rewarded today for having clandestinely developed and unlawfully possessed nuclear weapons.” He went on: “It is indisputable that nuclear weapons in the hands of the Israeli regime with an unparalleled record of noncompliance with Security Council resolutions ... poses a uniquely grave threat to regional and international peace and security.”
Dr Ghulamali Haddad Adel, Iran’s speaker of the Majlis, speaking on Iranian television before the vote on December 23, warned that the Majlis would alter Iran’s relationship with the IAEA if the Security Council were to impose sanctions against Iran. “If they intend to deprive the Iranian nation of its certain right to nuclear technology by a resolution ... parliament will reconsider the nature of its relationship with the IAEA.” He was referring to the Majlis National Security Committee, which had approved a plan to reconsider Iran’s relations with the UN watchdog. Last February the Majlis suspended snap inspections by the IAEA after it referred Iran to the Security Council, which Tehran maintains has no jurisdiction in such matters.
Although the resolution was passed unanimously, a number of caveats allow members of the UN to continue normal trading relations with Iran. For instance, the resolution explicitly excludes any ban on the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is being built with Russia’s help and is likely to become operational later this year. This was discussed between Russian president Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart George Bush before the final draft was approved on December 23. The resolution also excludes a travel ban on Iranian scientists involved in nuclear-related work. There are, however, still several damaging clauses in the resolution. It freezes the assets of twelve Iranian individuals and ten companies said to be involved in nuclear and ballistic-missile programmes. Aerospace Industries Organisation, however, is not on this list, again at Moscow’s behest. Countries also have latitude to release some of Iran’s assets at their own discretion. The Security Council has also set up a committee with authority to amend the list later, if it wishes.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN ambassador, whose country was reluctant to support the resolution, said: “We believe that the resolution is written in a way which should not allow hindering legitimate activities [...] We’ll see what happens in the course of implementation.” Both Russia and China have strong commercial links with Iran and do not wish to jeopardize these to advance America’s agenda, partly because it is based on lies and driven by an imperialist itch.
There is a long history of American animosity toward Iran. The nuclear file against Iran was opened in 2002 when Washington was brimming with confidence after its removal of the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Iraq was in its cross-hairs and Iran was being lined up in the expectation that Iraq would be a walkover in America’s relentless drive to install US puppet regimes in the Middle East. In October 2003, Iran unilaterally suspended uranium enrichment with the express proviso that there should be serious negotiations with Britain, Franceand Germany to fulfill Iran’s legitimate demands. The Europeans interpreted this as Iran’s weakness and began to demand that Iran permanently halt all enrichment while negotiations were under way. The Europeans then started to drag their feet. The aim was to tire Iran out in endless negotiations while its uranium-enrichment activities remained suspended.
Iran was not prepared to accept this situation. In January 2006 Iran resumed uranium-enrichment, though not before giving IAEA inspectors adequate notice and time to install cameras to monitor all activities. Iran was acting in good faith and with total transparency, yet the US, acting through the UN Security Council and Germany, continued to play a hypocritical game. In June 2006 they put forward a list of “non-negotiable” proposals to Iran with the threat that if it refused to cooperate the matter would be placed before the Security Council for sanctions. Iran was given until August 31 to suspend all enrichment or sanctions would be imposed. Tehran refused to accept such insulting conditions. On August 22 it offered counter proposals, including the possibility of suspending its uranium-enrichment, but only as part of a package deal.
Meetings by the IAEA Board of Governors in September and October, again under pressure from the US, took the matter to the Security Council. It remained in limbo because Russia andChina refused to go along with sanctions because they would damage their interests. Even after the sanctions resolution of December 23, which is much milder than what the US had originally demanded, Iran has stood its ground. Immediately after the resolution it announced that it would proceed with installing and activating 3,000 additional centrifuges to produce enough enriched uranium to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity. Tehran has also denounced the resolution as “illegal” and “outside the council’s jurisdiction”.
The US’s animosity is motivated by two other factors: Iran’s refusal to bail the US out in Iraq, and its decision last month to use the euro rather than the US dollar for its future trade and transactions. This will further undermine the already weakened American economy, which is reeling from the consequences of Bush’s disastrous policies. Long before the sanctions were imposed Iran had started to move its assets from dollars into other currencies. With its defeat in Iraq, this may be the beginning of the end for the US as the “world’s sole superpower”.