A Hopeful Sign: IAEA Endorses Iran’s Nuclear Action Plan

A general view of the E3/EU+3 Iran Talks, 20 November 2013. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

A general view of the E3/EU+3 Iran Talks, 20 November 2013. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

The United Nations (UN) atomic watchdog has endorsed the plan to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. This is a major step forward in the ongoing mission to bring Iran in line with the UN aim of a non-nuclear age. Iran has always argued that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only, which it is free to pursue. However, some other countries (especially Israel) have contended that it is driven by military ambitions. This has been a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that Iran had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years. This is in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, has urged the rest of the world to stop treating his country as a pariah state. He continued to assert that ‘Nuclear weapons have no place in our security strategy and Iran has no motivation to move in that direction’, he assured the world he (and Iran) is committed to a ‘constructive engagement’ with the international community. However, the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later dismissed these claims asserting they prove to show nothing more than a ‘change in words and unchanging deeds.’ Yet, when Israel itself has a nuclear programme that is described as an ‘open secret’, it is no wonder that Israel has always felt a clandestine programme was under-way in Iran. Indeed Israel’s nuclear programme is one that the Western Powers have systematically avoided to mention. This could have much to do with the fact that many nations secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or turned a blind eye to its theft. These include today’s staunchest campaigners against proliferation, the US, France, Germany, Britain. Of course Israel, unlike Iran, never signed up to the 1968 NPT so could not violate it. However, this should not cloud our view of the seriousness that Iran itself may assign to the fact that Israel is a nuclear armed nation.

Regardless, the plan envisages the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) undertaking monitoring and verification of a series of ‘voluntary measures’ to be taken by Iran over a period of six months. it is hoped by the IAEA that the work undertaken by the Agency will provide an important contribution to resolving this important issue and will lead to further positive developments. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ‘warmly welcomes the interim agreement that has been reached in Geneva regarding the nuclear programme of Iran’. He again confirmed the UN’s ‘unswerving commitment’ to the aim of total nuclear disarmament. Having said all that, Iran has postponed talks due to be held in January until 8th February, but regardless of this brief setback the USA has hailed Iran’s suspension of high-level uranium enrichment as an ‘unprecedented opportunity’ after a long stand-off that threatened to ignite yet another conflict in the Middle East. This must be seen as marking a substantial breakthrough in the ongoing struggle against nuclear proliferation and the threat to global peace and security it represents.

Finally, it is worth noting the impact that sanctions has had on the situation, they are a very complex and often divisive issue. There are reasonable arguments that they only impact on the innocent citizens and not those in power. However, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation (AEOI), said in a televised report ‘the iceberg of sanctions against Iran is melting’. This partial lifting of sanctions will ease restrictions on trade in petrochemicals and precious metals as well as other areas of trade. This, in many ways shows the importance that a successful and committed policy of sanctions can have on states’ actions and policies. They are not always the most effective form of international relations.  However, the statement from Ali Akbar Salechi shows that these sanctions and their lifting is a substantial issue for Iran, its leaders and population and as such must be seen as playing their part.

Finally, it is with some hope that this blog post is written, in a time when there is much to be concerned about in the region, with the situation in Syria being nothing less than horrific. With the situations in Ukraine and Egypt, South Sudan and Lebanon all suffering from a threat to their peace and hard-fought for democracy it is worth noting when there is a glimmer of positivity in the realm of international peace.

Further Reading

  • 2014. UN atomic watchdog endorses plan to ensure peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. United Nations News, [online] 24 January. Available at: <un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46996&Cr=nuclear&Cr1=iran#.Uud0SBDFKM9> [Accessed 26 January 2014].
  • TREATY ON THE NON-PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS (NPT). United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, [online] Available at: <un.org/disarmament/WMD/Nuclear/NPT.shtml> [Accessed 28 January 2014].
  • 2013. WELCOMING HISTORIC AGREEMENT ON IRAN NUCLEAR PROGRAMME, SECRETARY-GENERAL. United Nations Department of Public Information, [online] 23 November. Available at: <un.org/News/Press/docs/2013/sgsm15491.doc.htm> [Accessed 28 January 2014].
  • 2014. The truth about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal. The Guardian Online, [online] 15 January. Available at: <theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/15/truth-israels-secret-nuclear-arsenal> [Accessed 28 January 2014].
  • 2014. Iran and IAEA postpone nuclear talks until February. The Guardian Online, [online] 14 January. Available at: <theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/14/iaea-iran-postpone-nuclear-talks-february> [Accessed 28 January 2014].
  • 2014. US hails ‘unprecedented opportunity’ as Iran halts enriching high-level uranium. The Guardian Online, [online] 20 January. Available at: <theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/20/iran-halt-enrichment-uranium-iaea-confirms-eu-sanctions> [Accessed 28 January 2014].