With the advent of the Cold War, states’ possession of nuclear weapons and the capacity of these weapons to inflict catastrophic damage on enemies became a primary concern for the maintenance of inter- national peace and security. In an effort to reduce the danger that nuclear technology held, the Treaty on Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was proposed, with the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States acting as depositaries. The treaty entered into force on March 5th 1970, after being ratified by 187 states. The NPT holds great significance and authority as the most ratified arms limitation/disarmament agreement in existence. In fact, it is the only fully binding commitment to disarmament that exists within a multilateral treaty. In accordance with the events leading to the proposal of the treaty, the main objective of the NPT is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and the technology to develop these weapons. The goal of this objective is to eventually achieve worldwide nuclear disarmament, greatly increasing global stability and reducing threats to international security.
It was discovered that Iran has been constructing an enrichment facility at Qom and has enriched uranium to 20% without informing the IAEA.
The NPT is also committed to the promotion of peaceful usage of nuclear technology and ensuring that all states have equal access to it. A significant aspect of the NPT is the implementation of safeguards to ensure compliance with international regulations. These safeguards generally consist of inspections of a state‘s nuclear program, which are con- ducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The IAEA works in agreement with the United Nations as the central international organization for nuclear peace and co-operation. Established in 1957, the IAEA facilitates inspections and investigations of state nuclear programs, as outlined under the NPT safeguard system. Although the IAEA is an independent body from the UN, it does report activities and findings on an annual basis to the General Assembly. When a state is non-compliant with NPT safeguards or is believed to pose a potential threat to international security, the IAEA reports directly to the Security Council.
On February 4th 2006, the IAEA adopted a resolution concerning further implementation of safeguards in Iran. It was noted that after three years of investigation, the IAEA could not conclude that Iran‘s nuclear program was intended for peaceful purposes as the state insists. This lack of confidence in Iran‘s nuclear program was increased due to Iran‘s past refusals to co-operate with the IAEA through non-compliance with NPT safeguards and a history of concealing nuclear activity. It was also discovered that Iran possessed a document pertaining to the production of uranium metal hemispheres, which is directly related to the production of nuclear weapons. The IAEA called for Iran to suspend all nuclear activity until verification could be completed and requested compliance with Additional Protocol measures, which extend beyond the scope of traditional safeguards. It was expressed in the resolution that rebuilding confidence in Iran‘s nuclear pro- gram would greatly increase the stability of the situation in the Middle East. This sentiment was shared by the United Nations and various other international organizations.
Only four recognized sovereign states are not currently parties to the treaty: India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea.
However, Iran has thus far been unwilling to co-operate with the IAEA to make their nuclear program more transparent, constituting a threat to the maintenance of international peace and security. It was discovered that Iran has been constructing an enrichment facility at Qom (in breach of the IAEA safeguards imposed in 2006) and has enriched uranium to 20% without informing the IAEA. The refusal of Iran to co-operate with international organizations thus far has demanded the immediate attention of the Security Council.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
In 1957, the United Nations created the International Atomic Energy Agency for the express purpose of accelerating and enlarging the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world. The Vienna agency, which has about 2,200 professional and support staff members from more than 90 nations, wears two hats — both promoting and regulating the global development of civilian nuclear industries, including nuclear power. Accordingly, the IAEA is obliged under its statute to ensure that all the activities in which it takes part are directed exclusively to civilian uses. A second important task of the IAEA, then, is to establish a system of supervision and control to make certain that none of the assistance programs that it fosters and none of the materials whose distribution it supervises are used for military purposes.
The enormous efforts required by such a mandate were rewarded in 2005 as the IAEA and its Director General Mohamed El Baradei were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way.” But despite such accolades, Mr. El Baradei and the IAEA have come under intense criticism for its handling of Iran’s nuclear program. For instance, the Israeli newspaper Haaertz has accused Mr. El Baradei of repeatedly distorting his inspectors’ reports on Iran’s nuclear sites, and for making sure that the IAEA’s periodic reports about Iran would be camouflaged in diplomatic gibberish. The article goes on to say that, “time and again they repeated the phrase that “no proof was found” that Iran’s nuclear program had military aspects, even though they were blatantly obvious”.
…nuclear energy now produces about 15% of the globe’s electricity and emits far fewer greenhouse gases than other power sources.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, formally called the Treaty on the Non- proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, is the cornerstone of the international effort to halt the proliferation, or spread, of nuclear weapons. It was signed in 1968 by three nuclear powers – the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom – and forty other countries, but has since grown to include 189 parties. Only four recognized sovereign states are not currently parties to the treaty: India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea. India, Pakistan and North Korea have openly tested and declared that they possess nuclear weapons, whereas Israel has had a policy of opacity regarding its own nuclear weapons program.
Although the concepts of “pillars’ appears nowhere in the NPT, the treaty is nevertheless sometimes interpreted as a 3 pillar system, with an implicit balance among them: non- proliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology. Article II forbids non-nuclear-weapon states that are parties to the treaty to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices. Article III concerns controls and inspections that are intended to prevent the diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or explosive devices. These safeguards are applied only to non-nuclear-weapon states and only to peaceful nuclear activities. The treaty contains no provisions for verification of the efforts by nuclear-weapon states to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Under the provisions of Article IV, all parties to the treaty, including non-nuclear-weapon states, may conduct nuclear research and development for peaceful purposes. In return for agreeing not to develop nuclear weapons, non-nuclear-weapon states receive two promises from nuclear-weapon states: the latter will help them to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and the latter will “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”.
…“from 1955 to 2000, no country began a nuclear weapons program without first receiving civilian assistance”…
Although various components of the treaty have been subject to criticism, it is the provisions in Article IV that reveal a certain tension within the NPT’s stated objectives. For instance, the promotion of peaceful nuclear energy should be viewed as a double- edged sword. On the one hand, nuclear energy now produces about 15% of the globe’s electricity and emits far fewer greenhouse gases than other power sources. On the other hand, agreements on nuclear cooperation have often been a precursor to the development of nuclear weapons programs because such deals provide ready access to technologies useful for developing weapons.
As the University of South Carolina political scientist Matthew Fuhrmann argued in the summer 2009 issue of International Security, the initiation of peaceful nuclear cooperation is so strongly correlated with the development of weapons programs that “from 1955 to 2000, no country began a nuclear weapons program without first receiving civilian assistance” (although he also points out that a vast majority of states with nuclear energy have not developed weapons programs).
Key Iranian Nuclear Sites
Natanz – Uranium enrichment plant
- Iran resumed uranium enrichment work at Natanz in July 2004, after a halt during negotiations with leading European powers over its programme.
- It announced in September 2007 that it had installed 3,000 centrifuges, the machines that do the enrichment.
- This is the facility at the heart of Iran’s dispute with the United Nations Security Council.
- The Council is concerned because the technology used for producing fuel for nuclear power can be used to enrich the uranium to a much higher level to produce a nuclear explosion.
Qom – Uranium enrichment plant
- The facility is believed to be on a mountain on a former Iranian Revolutionary Guards missile site to the northeast of Qom on the Qom-Aliabad highway, Western diplomatic sources say.
- Construction on the secret facility started in earnest in mid-2006.
- It is believed that the plant is not yet operational but that it has the facility for 3,000 centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium.
- Iran wrote to the International Atomic Energy Agency saying it intended to build a plant to enrich uranium to 5% – not enough for a weapon.
Arak – Heavy water plant
- The existence of a heavy water facility near the town of Arak first emerged with the publication of satellite images by the US-based Institute for Science and International Security in December 2002.
- Heavy water is used to moderate the nuclear fission chain reaction either in a certain type of reactor – albeit not the type that Iran is currently building – or produce plutonium for use in a nuclear bomb.
Iran has ignored several sanctions imposed by the Security Council from 2006-2008 on this matter.
Isfahan – Uranium conversion plant
- Iran is building a plant at a nuclear research facility to convert uranium ore into three forms: o Hexafluoride gas – used in gas centrifuges of Uranium oxide – used to fuel reactors, albeit not the type Iran is constructing of Metal – often used in the cores of nuclear bombs. The IAEA is concerned about the metal’s use, as Iran’s reactors do not require it as fuel.
Bushehr – Nuclear power station
- Iran’s nuclear programme began in 1974 with plans to build a nuclear power station at Bushehr with German assistance.
- The project was abandoned because of the Islamic revolution five years later, but revived in the 1990s when Tehran signed an agreement with Russia to resume work at the site.
- Moscow delayed completion on the project while the UN Security Council debated and then passed resolutions aimed at stopping uranium enrichment in Iran.
- In December 2007, Moscow started delivering the canisters of enriched uranium the plant needs.
The Security Council has long been committed to securing peace and stability in the Middle East. The threat posed by the possession of nuclear weapons and the secretive development of such weapons is a large component of the current and historical instability of the area. Thus, the Security Council has passed a number of resolutions on the topic of nuclear non-proliferation. There have been seven resolutions passed on the issue since 2006, the most recent being Resolution 2049 (2012), adopted by the Council on June 7th 2012. The resolution reaffirms resolution 1929 from 2010. Resolution 2049 extends until July 2013 the mandate of the Panel of Experts of its committee to monitor the implementation of the sanctions regime in Iran.
The Council has also forbidden Iran from constructing any new uranium enrichment or reprocessing facilities and has barred them from collaborating with another state on any project involving nuclear technology (such as uranium mining).
Resolution 1929 is in response to the IAEA’s resolution regarding Iran‘s nuclear program, which states that the nation has been unwilling to cooperate with the IAEA and its requests since 2006 to halt nuclear activity until an in-depth investigation can be completed. This is necessary in order to eliminate the possibility of nuclear development for military purposes. In addition, Iran has ignored several sanctions imposed by the Security Council from 2006-2008 on this matter. Resolution 1929, in an effort to ensure Iranian cooperation, imposes the strictest economic sanctions that have been seen against Iran in the nuclear non-proliferation issue.
Resolution 1929 reaffirms the commitment of the five permanent members of the Security Council to resolve the Iranian nuclear situation through negotiation and the use of sanctions where appropriate. The Council has called for Iran to ratify a Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty immediately, in accordance with the IAEA’s prior demands, and to co-operate with the IAEA on all matters pertaining to nuclear technology. The Council has also forbidden Iran from constructing any new uranium enrichment or reprocessing facilities and has barred them from collaborating with another state on any project involving nuclear technology (such as uranium mining).
In addition, the resolution called for all member states to restrict their trade relationships with Iran in regards to weaponry and military equipment. Prohibited goods include missiles or missile systems, combat aircraft, battle tanks, large calibre artillery systems, and related material such as spare parts. Travel of individuals or companies related to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is also strictly prohibited.
The Security Council, in partnership with the European Union, has acknowledged that it is willing to peacefully negotiate this issue with Iran providing that demands to stop all nuclear activities for the time being are heeded. Once an appropriate level of confidence in Iran‘s nuclear pro- gram is established, the Security Council and the IAEA are willing to re-extend the same treatment to Iran and its peaceful nuclear activities that other states enjoy. The Council is also willing, as terms of negotiation, to offer Iran political and economic support in the international community if an agreement can be reached. These terms of negotiation were originally presented to Iranian authorities on June 14th , 2008, to no avail.
Resolution 1929 received the support of 12 member states (including all five permanent members), but was voted against by Turkey and Brazil.
What went wrong?
While there is unanimous agreement among the members of the Security Council that action must be taken on the Iranian nuclear issue, states differ in their opinions of the best course of action. Resolution 1929 received the support of 12 member states (including all five permanent members), but was voted against by Turkey and Brazil. Lebanon abstained from voting on this resolution. While the five permanent members, and particularly the United States, are willing to pursue further methods of negotiation with Iran such as strict economic sanctions, Turkey and Brazil have been advocates of political and diplomatic strategies. In particular, the two states have focused a large amount of effort on reaching agreement with Iran regarding the Tehran Research Reactor, a nuclear facility in Tehran under immense investigation by the IAEA. An agreement on this issue would serve to increase confidence in Iran‘s nuclear program and its true purposes. While the Security Council applauds this effort, tension may arise with members pushing for stronger economic and political action towards Iran.
As outlined in Resolution 1929, several restrictions have been imposed on trade with Iran. These restrictions were agreed to by the European Union, which is one of Iran‘s largest trading partners. Other important trade relationships include the UAE, Germany (part of the EU), Japan, and China. Economic relationships are an aspect to be heavily considered by member states when debating further courses of action. Resolution 1929 also affirms the belief of the Security Council and the IAEA that co-operation with Iran could aid in the facilitation of a more stable environment in the Middle East. Many member states of the Security Council are heavily invested in increasing stability in the area, and achieving a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue may be in some states’ direct self-interest.