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Iran: between international right and duty.

In a rally marking the thirty-first anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that his country had produced its first batch of uranium enriched to 20 percent. (1) The international community reacted with doubt and fear that Iran would not stop until it reached the level necessary to produce nuclear weapons. Iran denied this, arguing that it is not exceeding its sovereign rights and that its nuclear technology is for peaceful purposes. But why is the international community, led by the United States, fearful of the Iranian policy? And is Iran really exceeding its rights? This article argues that, while Iran has a right to use nuclear technology peacefully, it has a duty to fulfill its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the 1973 Safeguards Agreement, its 1993 Subsidiary Arrangement, and relevant UN Security Council resolutions. The article explains that the failure of Iran to report certain nuclear material, facilities, activities and design information, as well as its denial of access to the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), coupled with its challenge to the Security Council resolutions, led the IAEA to believe Iran was concealing the truth. This has made the agency reluctant to declare the Iranian nuclear program peaceful, despite its inability to find any proof to the contrary.


Nuclear weapons are defined differently by various authors. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) defines them as "explosive devices whose energy results from the fusion or fission of the atom.... (They release) not only immense quantities of heat and energy, but also powerful and prolonged radiation." (2) It is this radiation that causes the utmost concern, not only for the ICJ, but also for the international community. It affects health, agriculture, natural resources and demography over a very wide area, both at the time it is used and for a long time afterwards, and it may lead to the destruction of civilization and the entire ecosystem as we know it. (3)

The campaign to enforce a nuclear nonproliferation regime started soon after World War II and today includes nearly 30 major multinational agreements, starting with the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963, passing through the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, and ending with various other nonproliferation treaties. But, of all these treaties, the 1968 Nuclear NPT stands out as the most salient international agreement on the subject, with 188 ratifications as of March 2002. (4) The treaty represents a binding commitment on all of its signatory states to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, while at the same time promoting cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and equal access to it. The treaty was given teeth when the IAEA was established to verify the member states' compliance through periodic inspections organized by the agency. Iran ratified the treaty in 1968 and was given international assistance to develop its nuclear program throughout the period of the shah (1941-79). But problems soon emerged with the Islamic Revolution of 1979.


The Iranian nuclear program was launched in the 1950s, during the shah's regime, and with direct assistance from the United States as part of its "Atoms for Peace" program. (5) The 1970s witnessed a boom in Iran's nuclear capabilities, with the help of the United States, France, West Germany, India and South Africa. (6) On May 15, 1974, Iran signed its agreement with the IAEA as required by the NPT. Four years later, the shah decided to suspend the nuclear purchase program because of mounting financial problems and internal criticism. However, in 1979, he was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini, and with that a new chapter in Iranian nuclear history unfolded.

After the Islamic Revolution, Iran witnessed a drawdown in its nuclear development for various reasons. For one, most of the states that were helping to build its nuclear capability had serious reservations about the new Islamic government and backed away from bilateral agreements signed with the shah, leaving nuclear reactors unfinished. Second, the new regime did not believe in the shah's nuclear aspirations, as was evident in a fatwa (religious ruling) that Ayatollah Khomeini issued against acquiring nuclear weapons, (7) as well as in the clerics' rejection of his plans to finance the rapid modernization of the civilian and military infrastructures with Iran's oil revenues. (8) Third, the war with Iraq (1980-88) led to the destruction of many nuclear sites in Iran. However, it was that war that opened the eyes of the ruling clerics to the benefits of modern technology, which might have deterred Iraq and forced the Americans to think twice before deploying their navy in the Persian Gulf. (9) The severe energy crisis in Iran also contributed to such a realization. As a result, the Iranian government made nuclear development a top priority.

Towards the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, Iran was successful in signing nuclear-cooperation agreements with various countries, including Argentina and, later, North Korea and China, to increase its supply of feedstock and equipment for enriching uranium and establish more nuclear reactors, including plans to build lightweight water reactors at Bushehr with the help of Russia, but under IAEA safeguards. In the years that followed, Iran proceeded in the face of international criticism, especially from the United States, to try to finish its work on the nuclear reactors and take steps to construct several facilities for eventually producing enriched uranium.

Iran's problems with the IAEA became clear in February 2003. The agency reported serious concerns over Iran's nuclear program without producing evidence of a diversion of nuclear material, and later gave it a deadline for revealing all the details of its nuclear activities. Trying to show its good faith, it agreed on December 18, 2003, to a Subsidiary Arrangement (10) with the IAEA, which contained more details than the 1973 Safeguards Agreement and gave greater authority to the agency's inspectors.

However, things took a bad turn when the hard-line conservative Ahmadinejad rose to power in August 2005. Soon afterward, Iran adopted a more confrontational posture. Its president announced that his country was resuming efforts to convert uranium into a gaseous form, the first step in the so-called fuel cycle, and that it was resuming its enrichment work, which it had voluntarily suspended. (11) It also removed the IAEA seals on enrichment-related equipment and material in several locations around the country.

The Iranian issue became more complicated in 2006, when the IAEA sent the Iranian file to the UN Security Council, which issued a Presidential Statement soon afterwards calling on Iran to reestablish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development. (12) But Iran continued its enriched uranium project, whose level reached 3.6 percent, as reported by the agency.

Various countries, including the United States, offered Iran a range of incentives for development if it suspended its nuclear activities. But Iran tried to avoid direct and clear commitments, pushing the Security Council to issue Resolution 1696 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which gave Iran a deadline for suspending "all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development" or face potential economic and diplomatic sanctions. (13)

Iran's reply was a counterproposal that stopped short of rejecting demands for a halt to its nuclear enrichment program, saying the issue could be resolved in talks. In reaction, the Security Council raised its tone, adopting a series of resolutions under Chapter VII that imposed various sanctions on Iran. Thus, on December 23, 2006, the Security Council passed Resolution 1737, imposing sanctions on Iran that required states to take all necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer, whether by land, air or sea, of all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology that could contribute to Iran's enrichment-related reprocessing or heavy-water-related activities, or to the development of nuclear-weapons delivery systems. This resolution also asked the states to report any development on this front to a committee it established for this purpose. (14)

In March 2007, Iran announced that it was suspending its Subsidiary Arrangement and going back to the original agreement. But this step was another violation of international law, for soon afterwards the IAEA announced that in accordance with Article 39 of Iran's Safeguard Agreement, these arrangements could not be suspended unilaterally, and that they required the acceptance of the agency itself to become effective. (15) The Security Council weighed in as well, with Resolution 1747 under Chapter VII. This resolution added more constraints on Iran by extending the list of items that states should not supply or transfer to Iran and calling on states to exercise restraint when selling and transferring to the country various other commodities, including battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters and warships, among other items. It also called upon the states to exercise restraint when providing to Iran any training or technical or financial assistance related to the supply, sale, transfer, manufacture or use of such items in order to prevent a destabilizing accumulation of arms.

With Iran's continuing defiance and inability to clarify the related issues with the IAEA, the Security Council adopted yet another measure under Chapter VII--Resolution 1803--on March 3, 2008, followed by Resolution 1835, (16) to reinforce the previous resolutions and apply even more sanctions against Iran. This time, it called upon all states to "exercise vigilance" in entering into new commitments with Iran in order to avoid any contribution to the proliferation of sensitive nuclear activities or to the development of nuclear-weapons delivery systems. It also provided a list of banks that states should exercise caution when dealing with, specifically Bank Melli and Bank Saderat and their branches and subsidiaries abroad. In addition, the Security Council gave states a green light to inspect the cargoes of aircraft and vessels on their territories that are owned or operated by Iran Air Cargo and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line, if they are suspected of carrying prohibited goods as described in the Security Council resolutions. (17)

The Iranian issue was not resolved, and the sanctions on Iran did not lead to any change in the Iranian policy, leading the Security Council to issue yet another sanction on June 9, 2010: Resolution 1929. (18) After emphasizing the previous resolutions and the 1993 Subsidiary Arrangement between the IAEA and Iran--specifically, Code 3.1--the resolution imposed another round of sanctions, including measures directed against 41 entities and individuals linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and the defense ministry, in addition to some banks and the national shipping line. However, despite these sanctions and the attempts of many countries to provide Iran with incentives to encourage it to comply with the IAEA requirements, the Iranian issue remains at a standoff as of this writing. But the questions remain, does Iran have the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes to begin with? And, if it does, why is it attacked as a violator of international law?


According to Antonio Cassesse, nuclear weapons, in theory, can be used to launch an attack against another state, to retaliate against the enemy's first use of nuclear weapons, to inflict devastating losses on the enemy in the course of a conventional war, or to strike preemptively. But the only case given a green light under international law is in the case of self-defense. (19) This is exactly the decision that the International Court of Justice reached in its 1996 advisory opinion, "The Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons." But even this possibility has its preconditions: (20) necessity and proportionality of the attack, an obligation to distinguish between civilian and military objectives and avoid the unnecessary suffering of combatants, and respect for the inviolability of neutral powers. (21)

However, only a few states have been allowed to have nuclear weapons. In 1970, the NPT identified five of them: the United States, France, Russia, Britain and China. (22) Today, three others have joined the nuclear club without acceding to the NPT: Israel, India and Pakistan. All other countries, specifically those that signed the NPT agreement, including Iran, waived their right to acquire or manufacture such weapons for their own defense. (23) In fact, Articles 1 and 2 of the agreement provided that each nuclear-weapons state has an obligation not to assist, induce, encourage or transfer to any other country any kind of nuclear weapon or explosive devices, directly or indirectly, nor to receive such material from non-nuclear-weapons states. (24) But, at the same time, the NPT accords all other signatory states a different kind of privilege: the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Nuclear technology is not only used for building destructive weapons; it can also be used for producing significant benefits in a variety of fields, from medicine to agriculture to industry. (25) It is used to generate electricity, diagnose diseases, treat cancer, and sterilize food and medicine. In this context, Article 6 of the NPT states that all parties to the treaty not only have the right to participate in and exchange equipment, material and scientific information for the peaceful use of nuclear energy; they are also allowed to cooperate with other states to further develop the application of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Not only that. In order for the drafters of the NPT to co-opt other states' objections to only a select few having the right to nuclear technology, they included Article 5, which requires all parties to ensure that the potential benefits from any peaceful application of nuclear energy will be made available to all other non-nuclear weapon states without discrimination, provided the appropriate international observation and procedures are applied. (26) It is these rights to which Iran is absolutely entitled.

One might question Iran's need for such technology when it has the fourth-largest oil reserves and second-largest gas reserves in the world. However, today Iran's population has more than doubled to 70 million since the Iranian Revolution (27) and is expected to reach 100 million by 2025, and its oil consumption has increased by 8 percent at a time when its production is only 70 percent of its pre-revolution level. If this trend continues, Iran is actually expected to become an oil importer in the future. This is a disaster to a country that relies on oil for 45 percent of its budget. (28) It is no wonder that Iran needs nuclear technology to deal more effectively with various problems--electricity, for one.

According to the IAEA's Department of Nuclear Energy, the ongoing and planned development activities of the Iranian Nuclear Power Plant Department, in compliance with the country's five-year plan, includes the completion of construction of Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1, building up a total nuclear-power-generation capacity of 20,000 megawatts by 2025 to account for about 10 percent of the country's power-generation capacity at that point, and the establishment of new nuclear power plants to meet this target. (29) This is in addition to the construction of technical-support infrastructure and radioactive-waste management, the development of strategic plans for developing nuclear generation capabilities for the next 20 years, (30) and the production of nuclear fuel materials that can be used for producing nuclear power and research reactors?' Iran has many similar plans to use nuclear technology for economic improvement with which the IAEA should have no problem, in principle. The problem is the proper application of the necessary safeguards.


The fundamental objective behind the establishment of safeguards is to ensure that nuclear material is not diverted for use in the production of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices. The IAEA in its Handbook on Nuclear Law explains that safeguards have three basic functions: (1) implementation of accounting measures to require a country to report all kinds and quantities of fissionable material to the IAEA; (2) enforcement of containment and surveillance measures through the use of seals on nuclear-material containers and filmed or televised recordings of key areas at nuclear facilities to detect the presence of unauthorized material; and (3) the conducting of inspections to make sure that the declared quantities of nuclear material are where they are declared to be, and that there is no undeclared nuclear material in the country. (32)

The Application of Safeguards in Connection with the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which Iran signed with the IAEA in 1973, reflected these goals. As expected, it insisted on accounting measures that require Iran to provide the agency with information concerning the presence of nuclear material (Article 8) and any transfer of such material out of the country (Article 92) or into it (Article 95). In addition, it stressed containment and surveillance measures in order to give the agency the ability to verify that prohibited nuclear material is not in use. Finally, various articles talked about the inspection requirement, whereby Iran allows the agency's inspectors to observe any transfer of nuclear material into or out of Iran if they choose to do so (Article 93), as well as to access any location where the initial report or any subsequent inspections indicate that nuclear material is present, without any impediment (Article 76). (33) It was agreed that no change or termination of safeguards could be made without the acceptance of both parties, the IAEA and Iran. (34)

But, in August 2002, the Americans announced that Iran was building not only a heavy-water reactor plant in Arak that could be used to produce plutonium, but also a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz that would accommodate 50,000 operational centrifuges, and would eventually give it the capacity to produce several nuclear weapons a year. (35) Though the Iranians admitted to the presence of the facilities, they argued that they did not constitute a violation of their safeguard obligations but rather a "failure" to report their nuclear plans, pointing out that other countries--such as Argentina, Japan and Belgium--had enrichment and reprocessing capabilities without facing any objections or accusations from the agency or the international community. However, faced with the threat of taking the issue to the Security Council, Iran decided to contain the problem by signing yet another agreement, the Subsidiary Arrangement of December 2003. (36)

The new protocol built on the preceding agreement by requiring Iran not only to provide an extended declaration of its activities to the agency, but also to allow inspectors broad rights to access sites in the country. (37) The agency quickly put the agreement to good use, visiting sites across the country and verifying that many corrections were made. (38)

On August 21, 2007, the Understandings of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA of the Modalities of Resolution of the Outstanding Issues was also finalized. This agreement between the IAEA and Iran aimed at resolving the Iranian problem, not only through listing the outstanding issues of Iran's nuclear program, such as the use of plutonium and the status of the uranium mine at Gchine, but also by specifying a timetable to resolve these issues in an orderly manner. Despite the adoption of these agreements, however, the Iranian issue remained intractable. It might be asked, what is the problem if both the previous director general, Mohamad ElBaradei, and his successor, Yukiya Amano, announced several times that official IAEA documents contained no evidence proving that Iran is seeking nuclear-weapons capabilities? (39)

Article 27 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties requires states to carry out the treaties that they sign, in good faith, while prohibiting them from invoking provisions in their internal laws to justify their failure to carry out their obligations under those treaties. Iran is in clear violation of this principle in international law because of its failure to observe its obligations under the NPT, its Safeguard Agreements, its Subsidiary Arrangement and the Security Council resolutions.

Failure to Report Material, Facilities and Activities

Code 3.1 of the 2003 Subsidiary Arrangement placed an obligation on Iran to provide the IAEA with information on various issues, such as the location of nuclear-fuel-cycle-related research-and-development activities, uranium mines, concentration plants, and the location of facilities where further processing of intermediate and high-level waste containing plutonium takes place. Also, the description of each building on each site is to be provided, as well as the estimated annual production of uranium mines and a 10-year plan for the country's development of the nuclear fuel cycle. The agreement also gave the agency the right to ask for any information regarding the quantities, uses and locations of nuclear material exempted from the safeguards. (40)

On this front, Iran violated its obligations. In November 2003, the IAEA revealed that, for the past 18 years, Iran had been pursuing undeclared centrifuge uranium enrichment and had concealed numerous nuclear facilities, material and activities. (41) This practice continued. In his November 2009 report--a criticism repeated in the February 2010 report (42)--the director general of the IAEA reported that Iran had failed again to inform the agency of the decision to construct, or to authorize construction of, a new facility as soon as such a decision was taken and to submit information as the design was developed. This facility, which is located on a military base near the city of Qom, southwest of Tehran, is thought to be capable of housing 3,000 centrifuges. (43) Iran has yet to answer all of the agency's questions regarding the purpose of such facilities and how they fit into the nuclear program.

Failure to Provide Design Information

A point that is central to Code 3.1 is the obligation to provide design information to the agency on facilities that are related to nuclear development as soon as the decision to construct or to authorize construction of a facility is taken. Not only that: the agreement specifies that Iran is obliged to update the agency on the project when it happens.

Iran has faced various problems on this front. In January 2004, for example, the director general reported that Iran had failed to declare designs for a sophisticated P2 advanced centrifuge that can be used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. (44) The agency confronted Iran with this information, based on reports given by member-states as well as a commercially available satellite image of the site, indicating construction had occured there between 2002 and 2004. (45) These construction activities were resumed in 2006 and have continued to date. In addition, Iran failed to provide the agency with the design features of the IR-40 fuel assembly at the Fuel Manufacturing Plant at Esfahan. A similar complaint was presented by the director general in his February 2010 report, when he criticized Iran for failing to notify the agency of its decision to authorize construction at other facilities, namely the Darkhovin and Fordow Fuel Enrichment plants. (46)

Failure to Provide Access to Inspectors

As explained earlier, the 1973 Safeguard Agreement, and later the Subsidiary Arrangement of 2003, stressed the obligation of Iran to allow the agency's inspectors access to nuclear facilities without delay. Iran did not do so. The present director general has stated that Iran still denies IAEA access to the Arak site for heavy-water production, and that the agency had to rely on satellite imagery to monitor it. The agency repeated its request to let its inspectors access this site as well as any other with similar production in order to take "samples for destructive analysis." (47) What is more, even when its inspectors decided to place seals on certain facilities to get more information, those seals were removed soon afterwards. (48)

Failure to Observe Security Council Resolutions

When Iran joined the United Nations, it pledged its respect and allegiance to the UN Charter, which obliges members to observe all Security Council resolutions under Chapter VII. The Iranian issue reached the Security Council in 2006, after the IAEA reported a failure of compliance. The Security Council has issued six resolutions so far against Iran: Resolution 1696 (2006), Resolution 1737 (2006), Resolution 1747 (2007), Resolution 1803 (2008), Resolution 1835 (2008) and Resolution 1929 (2010). These resolutions were issued under Chapter VII, thus requiring absolute compliance in order to avoid a hierarchy of enforcement measures to ensure implementation, culminating in full-fledged war, if necessary. (49) It has not come to that yet with Iran. But the Security Council has placed various sanctions on the country in an attempt to make Iran fulfill one primary obligation: reestablishment of full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development. The objective is to achieve full transparency and trust before Iran can be allowed to exercise its rights under the NPT again.

At no time since the issuance of the first resolution has Iran given up its enrichment program. In his February 2010 report, Director General Yukiya Amano stated that Iran has continued to operate the enrichment plants in Natanz, and that the construction of another one at Fordow is ongoing and 10 others are in the planning stage. In addition, contrary to its obligations under the Security Council resolutions, Iran has continued constructing the IR-40 nuclear reactor and refused to stop many related heavy-water activities. (50) All of this led the director general to deduce that the Iranian program "raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile." (51)

One does not have to read the IAEA reports, however, to know that Iran is violating Security Council resolutions. Ever since their issuance, the Iranian government has not only denied the legality of these decisions; it has also challenged them in various announcements regarding the latest developments in its nuclear program. On February 9, 2010, for example, Iran announced that it would produce enriched uranium up to 20 percent to make fuel for a research reactor that would eventually create medical radioisotopes. Two days later, its president announced that Iran is now a "nuclear state." (52)

Concealment of Facilities and Material

Perhaps the biggest problem facing the IAEA over Iran is a lack of transparency. Iran has not only admitted to reporting wrongful information to the agency and producing material important to uranium conversion in a different facility than the one it reported; it has also used depleted uranium (U[O.sub.2]), which it had previously declared as lost during processing. (53) This is in addition to its intention to use uranium metal in different material than it had reported. (54) All of this led the IAEA to have serious doubts regarding the transparency and cooperation of Iran. It even talked about an "Iranian policy of concealment," calling upon Iran, as had the Security Council, to suspend all further uranium-enrichment and reprocessing activities as a confidence-building measure until all gaps in the agency's understanding of the Iranian program had been overcome. (55) Until this is done, and even lacking the proof to incriminate Iran, it seems that the IAEA has no choice but to continue its showdown with Tehran.


There are 192 nation-states in the world today, 188 of which have ratified the NPT and thus waived their right to manufacture or possess nuclear weapons. Iran ratified that treaty and then signed with the IAEA, first the Safeguard Agreement and later the Subsidiary Arrangement. This means that Iran is given the right to develop nuclear technology for economic development and peaceful purposes under certain obligations that it has to fulfill towards the agency. Iran has failed to do this. It has failed continually to report certain information about nuclear material, facilities, activities and designs; denied access to IAEA inspectors; and challenged Security Council resolutions. What is worse, Iran has not been transparent regarding various aspects of its nuclear program, and it only admitted them after being confronted by the IAEA. As a result, the IAEA has talked about a policy of concealment, despite its inability to find any proof to suggest Iran is developing the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons.

A solution might lie in applying three strategies, of which two depend on the international community and one on the outcome of Iran's internal struggle. The first strategy uses economic and political punishment as a means to correct Iran's path. The United Nations has tried sanctions against Iran. The pressure, specifically from the United States and Israel, to impose even more sanctions on the country continues. The United States fears that a nuclear Iran would threaten the security in the region, among other things. It would strengthen Islamic fundamentalist movements in the Middle East, specifically Hezbollah and Hamas, (56) encourage countries like Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to follow suit, (57) and pose a grave danger to the security of Israel. In fact, Ahmadinejad announced several times that "confronting the Zionist regime is a national and religious duty" and that "Israel has no future in the region." (58) This has made Israel one of Iran's strongest adversaries, advocating the use of any means necessary to counter the Islamic Republic, starting with sanctions. Many argue, however, that adding to the present sanctions might not be wise; and they are actually talking about going in the other direction. An easing of sanctions, according to this view, might induce Iran to conform to nonproliferation standards and help the opposition rehabilitate the country and consolidate its power base. (59) Others believe that sanctions will only punish the Iranian citizenry and instead recommend "smart sanctions," such as more effective export controls, a travel ban against Iranian leaders, measures denying Iran access to capital markets, and penalties against businesses that invest in Iran's oil industry. (60)

Those analysts have a strong point. It is enough to ask whether the Security Council resolutions were actually applied--not by Iran, but by the rest of the international community, which has an obligation to observe them or at least not help the targeted state. This compliance has not been observed. Only recently, President Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russia might finish its work on the Bushehr nuclear reactor as early as this summer. (61) In fact, over 300 Russian firms have participated in the construction of that reactor, creating more than 20,000 jobs for Russians. (62) China, which depends on Iran for 14 percent of its total oil imports, (63) is also exporting through its companies critical valves, vacuum gauges and transducers (64) to help Iran in its uranium-enrichment program, for example. (65) Perhaps what the United States should push for now is not new sanctions, but simply the observance of the present ones. The truth remains that, despite the advantages of other policies suggested by analysts and the problems of enforcement, sanctions should not be eased or lifted. Doing this now will send the wrong message to other states that are thinking of building a nuclear arsenal. It might also strengthen Iran and its conservative government as they exploit such a step to consolidate their position inside Iran, using it as proof of their godly victory against the world.

The second strategy that might be employed by the international community to make Iran fulfill its obligations under international law is through force. The Security Council has already passed various resolutions under Chapter VII, so, in principle, the United Nations can use Iranian noncompliance as a reason to launch a war in order to apply these resolutions by force. However, at present, this is highly unlikely. The Security Council would need to issue another Chapter VII resolution in this regard, and that would provoke strong resistance from many members. Even the United States might have reservations. The Americans are in over their heads in Afghanistan and Iraq and are already facing serious economic problems. Another war might multiply their problems several times over. But, again, Iran should not be given assurances as long as it continues to violate international law. Coercive measures, while they should remain an absolute last resort, should be kept on the table as an additional deterrent.

This leaves us with the third strategy, which depends on the result of the power struggle inside Iran itself between the conservatives, headed by Ahmadinejad, and the reformists, whose most popular figures are Mohammad Khatami (66) and MirHussein Mousavi. Although both parties, along with most Iranians, believe in the necessity of nuclear technology and have no intention of giving it up, there is no consensus on "passing the nuclear-weapons threshold." (67) The conservatives do not really believe in international law and have no respect for their treaty commitments. (68) In fact, ever since Ahmadinejad took power, the country has found itself in a more confrontational stance with the rest of the world. However, the leaders of the other party believe that Iranian interests would be fulfilled through new ties with Europe, the Gulf and the rest of the world. This was evident in Khatami's signing of the Subsidiary Arrangement in 2003, before he left power. The problem here is the time factor. The reformists lost in the 2009 elections, and they might need a long time to recover. They defied the policies of the ruling elite, and they have suffered for it. The struggle is far from over, however. How that power struggle ends will have the utmost effect on shaping the resolution of the Iranian issue.

(1) "Iran 'Makes First Batch of 20% Enriched Uranium,'" BBCnews (online), February 11, 2010 (cited April 2010); available from east/8510451.stm.

(2) This definition is applied by the International Court of Justice in its case "The Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons," International Court of Justice (online), July 8, 1996 (cited February 2010); available from 7495.pdf?PHPSESSID=2adb01 fge352715341falc4261ea1ca3.

(3) The International Court of Justice explained that "ionizing radiation has the potential to damage the future environment, food and marine ecosystem, and to cause genetic defects and illness in future generations." See "The Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons," International Court of Justice (online), July 8, 1996 (cited February 2010); available from PHPSESSID=2adb01f9e352715341falc426lealca3.

(4) The NPT obtained the highest number of ratifications among all other treaties dealing with nuclear weapons. See Charles W. Kegley, Jr., and Eugene R. Wittkopf, World Politics: Trend and Transformation, 9th edition (Thompson & Wadsworth, 2004), pp. 558-559. Also see Pierre Goldshmidt, "Is the Nuclear Non-proliferation Regime in Crisis? If So, Why? Are There Remedies?" Carnegie Endownment (online), May 11, 2006 (cited March 2010); available from

(5) The "Atoms for Peace" program was inspired by Eisenhower's speech to the UN General Assembly on December 8, 1953. The program, which directed the world's attention to the peaceful use of nuclear technology, helped supply equipment and information to schools, hospitals and research institutions within the United States and throughout the world. In this context, the two countries signed the 1957 Agreement for Cooperation Concerning Civil Uses of Atoms, which was renewed by the United States on March 13, 1969, for 10 more years. Mustafa Kibaroglu, "Good for the Shah, Banned for the Mullahs: The West and Iran's Quest for Nuclear Power," Middle East Journal, Vol. 60, No. 2, Spring 2006, p. 213.

(6) The shah planned and worked to establish uranium enrichment plants, 23 nuclear reactors, two Siemens 1,200-megawatt nuclear reactors at Bushehr, started in 1975, and two other 950 megawatt pressurized reactors at Darkhovin on the Karoon River south of the city of Ahvaz. "Iran Nuclear Timeline," Iran Nuclear Watch (online), August 2006 (cited February 2010); available from

(7) Adam Tarock, "Iran's Nuclear Program and the West," Third World Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 4, 2006, p. 650.

(8) For example, the clerics worked to close down the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), which was established by the shah and had its mark on the development of Iran's nuclear program. See Kibaroglu, op. cit., p. 216.

(9) Ibid.

(10) These arrangements do not require ratification.

(11) "Iran's Nuclear Program," The New York Times (online), Feb. 10, 2010 (cited Feb. 2010); available from

(12) "Presidential Statement," Security Council (online), March 29, 2006 (cited Jan. 2010); available from

(13) Resolution 1696 (2006), Security Council (online), July 31, 2006 (cited Jan. 2010); available from

(14) "Resolution 1747 (2007)," Security Council (online), March 24, 2007 (cited January 2010); available from

(15) James M. Acton, "Iran Violated International Obligations on Qom Facility," Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (online), Sept. 25, 2009 (cited March 2010); available from

(16) Resolution 1835 was issued on Sept. 27, 2008, to reinforce the previous decisions and to remind Iran of her obligations, but did not add anything new. For the full text, please see "Resolution 1835," Security Council (online), Sept. 27, 2008 (cited March 2010); available from N0852512.pdf?OpenElement.

(17) "Resolution 1803," March 3, 2008 (cited January 2010); available from

(18) See Resolution 1929 and its annexes at "Security Council Imposes New Sanctions on Iran," June 9, 2010 (cited August 2010); available from. http ://

(19) Antonio Cassesse, International Law, 2nd Edition (Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 412.

(20) Ibid, pp. 412-413.

(21) Also see" Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons," International Court of Justice (online), July 8, 1996 (cited Feb. 2010); available from 7495.pdf?.PHPSESSID=2adb01f9e352715341falc426lealcaY

(22) "The Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," United Nations (online) 2005 (cited February 2010); available from

(23) Gerhard von Glahn, Law among Nations: An Introduction to Public International Law, 7th ed. (Allyn & Bacon, 1996), p. 630.

(24) See I.A. Shearer, Starke's International Law, 11th ed. (Butterworth, 1994), p. 283.

(25) International Atomic Energy Agency, Handbook on Nuclear Law. July 2003 (cited Feb. 2010); available from

(26) See Ian Brownlie, Principles of Public International Law, 5th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 253.

(27) "Ahmedinejad Offers Iran Couples Cash to Have Babies," BBC (online), July 28, 2010 (cited August 2010); available from 10795669

(28) Adam Tarock, "Iran's Nuclear Program and the West," Third Worm Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 4, 2006, p. 650.

(29) "Islamic Republic of Iran," 1AEA (online); March 2009 (cited March 2010); available from cnpp2009/countryprofiles/Iran/Iran2008.htm.

(30) Ibid.

(31) Ibid

(32) Also see Jack Barkenbusm, "Nuclear Power Safety and the Role of International Organizations," International Organization, Vol. 41, No. 3, Summer 1987, p. 483.

(33) "The Application of Safeguards in Connection with the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," International Atomic Energy Association (online), December 13, 1974 (cited March 2010); available from

(34) Ibid.

(35) Ray Takeyh, "Iran's Nuclear Calculations," Worm Policy Journal, Vol. 20, No. 2, Summer 2003, p. 21.

(36) Kibaroglu, op. cit., p. 210.

(37) "Iran Signs Additional Protocol on Nuclear Safeguards," IAEA (online), December 2003 (cited March 2010); available from http:/

(38) Kibaroglu, op. cit., p. 210.

(39) "No Sign Iran Seeks Nuclear Arms: New IAEA Head," Reuters" (online), July 3, 2009 (cited March 2010); available from

(40) "Model Protocol Additional to the Agreement between State(s) and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards," IAEA (online), Feb. 17,2010 (cited March 2010); available from

(41) Goldshmidt, op. cit.

(42) "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008) and 1835 (2008) in the Islamic Republic ofIran," IAEA (online), February 18, 2010 (cited March 2010); available from IAEA_Report_Iran_18Feb2010.pdf.

(43) "IAEA: Iran Broke Law by Not Revealing Nuclear Facility," CNN (online), September 30, 2009 (cited March 2010); available from

(44) Christiane Amanpour, "Iran Made Radioactive Element," CNN (online), Feb. 24, 2004 (cited Jan 2010): available from

(45) "Iran's Refusal to Apply Code 3.1 Is Serious Impediment to IAEA to Verify Country's Nuclear Activities: U.S. Ambassador," The Journal of Turkish Weekly (online), Sept. 26, 2009 (March 2010); available from -3-1-is-serious-impediment-to-iaeato-verify-country-s-nuclear-activities -us-ambassador-.html.

(46) "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions ...," op. cit.

(47) Ibid.

(48) Kibaroglu, op. cit., p. 211.

(49) These measures may start with a mere condemnation and an invitation to remedy the problem that is seen as "a threat to the peace, a breach to the peace, or an act of aggression," a placement of various sanctions on the country, and it may actually reach a full-fledged war against the violator to force compliance. See Gerhard Von Glahn & James Larry Taublee, Law Among Nations, 9th edition (Longman, 2010), p. 576.

(50) "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions ...," op. cit.

(51) Leonard S. Spector, "Can Iran's Accelerating Nuclear Program Be Stopped," Yale Global (online), March 10, 2010 (March 2010); available from can-iran's-accelerating-nuclearprogram-be-stopped.

(52) "'Nuclear State' Iran Marks 31st Birthday," CBSNews (online), Feb. 11, 2010 (cited March 2010; available from

(53) "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Report by the Director General," IAEA (online), Nov. 2003 (cited Jan. 2010); available from

(54) Ibid.

(55) Kibaroglu, op. cit., p. 211.

(56) James M. Lindsay and Ray Takeyh, "After Iran Gets the Bomb" Foreign Affairs, Vol. 2, No. 89, March/ April 2010, p. 37.

(57) Ibid, p. 38.

(58) "Admadinejad Says Holocaust a Lie, israel Has No Future," Reuters (online), Sept. 18, 2009 (cited April 2010); available from 17S20090918.

(59) Ibid, p. 27.

(60) James M. Lindsay and Ray Yakeyh, op. cit., p. 47.

(61) "New U.S.-Russia Nuclear Deal 'Soon' Says Hillary Clinton," BBC news (online), March 18, 2010 (cited March 2010); available from

(62) "Iran's Nuclear Calculations, Worm Policy Journal, Vol. 20, No. 2, Summer 2003, p. 26.

(63) Bill Powell, "China's Iran Dilemma," TIME (online) Feb. 22, 2010 (cited April 2010), available from,9171,1963587,00.html.

(64) Transducers are instruments that monitor gas centrifuges, which are devices that enrich uranium.

(65) Gordon G. Chang, "China's Illicit Nuclear Transfers to Iran," Hudson New York (online) April 12, 2010 (cited April 2010); available from chinas-illicit-nuclear-transfers-to-iran.php.

(66) Khatami, who served as Iran's president from 1997-2005, withdrew from the 2009 elections in favor of his friend Mir-Hussein Mousavi.

(67) "Iran's Nuclear Calculations," World Policy' Journal, Vol. 20, No. 2, Summer 2003, p. 26.

(68) Ibid.

Dr. El-Masri is an assistant professor at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
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Author:Masri, Samar El-
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Date:Sep 22, 2010
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