25 March 2006

The Sawers letter: The game plan on Iran is becoming clearer

The Anglo-Americans want a Security Council resolution allowing for the eventual use of force. Iran must play its cards very carefully from now onwards.

25 March 2006
The Hindu

The game plan on Iran is becoming clearer

Siddharth Varadarajan

THIS WEEK, the fog of Anglo-American diplomacy on the Iranian nuclear question parted momentarily to give the world a rare glimpse of the drive to war that lies behind. On Wednesday, the Times of London reproduced a letter written last week by John Sawers, the British Foreign Office pointman on Iran, to his counterparts in the United States, France, and Germany outlining the line of action the four allies should follow in the United Nations Security Council.

Stripped of the verbiage and the too-clever strategising on how to choreograph Russian and Chinese consent for sanctions and war, the main point in Mr. Sawers' letter is that the Iranians need to know that "more serious measures" are likely from the Security Council than just a Presidential Statement.

Mr Sawers elaborates on what the E3+US has in mind:
"This means putting the Iran dossier onto a Chapter VII basis. We may also need to remove one of the Iranian arguments that the suspension called for is ‘voluntary’. We could do both by making the voluntary suspension a mandatory requirement to the Security Council, in a Resolution we would aim to adopt in, say, early May".
Chapter VII is that part of the UN Charter dealing with threats to international peace and security. Putting the Iranian dossier on to a Chapter VII basis would allow the Anglo-Americans to do two things. First, circumvent Iran's legal right to uranium enrichment, as enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), its safeguards agreement, its Additional Protocol, and in every single resolution passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors on the Iranian issue. Secondly, generate a minimally plausible but absolutely essential legal fig leaf for military action against Iran in the likely event that the Iranians do not comply with such a Chapter VII resolution.

So far, the Russians and Chinese have made it clear that they are not prepared to appease the "Christmas in Teheran" folks in Washington and London. But in allowing the Iranian file to reach the Security Council, Moscow and Beijing have allowed the U.S. to ratchet up the rhetoric and pressure. This drive to penalise Iran in some way will become a test case for how seriously Russia, China, and the world have learned the lessons of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The reason the U.S. is keen to bring in Chapter VII is because it would like to provoke Iran into walking out of the NPT. If Iran were ever to commit this folly, the U.S. regime change plan will move swiftly into high gear. As and when force is used, it would likely be a Yugoslav-style prolonged air war aimed at targeting civilian and industrial infrastructure rather than an Iraq-style invasion.

So fluid is the situation that the Iranians need to carefully consider all their legal and political options and build a strategy aimed at widening the circle of countries opposed to confrontation and in favour of dialogue and diplomacy.

In legal terms, both Article XVII of the IAEA Statute and Article 22 of Iran's Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA provide for a dispute resolution mechanism through arbitration or the involvement of the International Court of Justice. Article 22 of the ICJ Statute is clear on this point:
Any question or dispute concerning the interpretation or application of this Statute which is not settled by negotiation shall be referred to the International Court of Justice in conformity with the Statute of the Court, unless the parties concerned agree on another mode of settlement.[Emphasis added]
The Sawers letter suggests the E3+US are trying to create a situation where the IAEA Statute would not be applicable to Iran any longer, particularly the rights that devolve upon an NPT non-nuclear weapons state whose facilities are safeguarded.

Alongside this is the growing number of threats of use of force by the United States and Israel, an issue that has already been formally raised by the Iranian ambassador to the UN, M. Javad Zarif, in a note verbale to the Secretary General on March 21:
"These statements and documents, in view of past illegal behavior of the United States, constitute matters of utmost gravity that require urgent, concerted and resolute response on the part of the United Nations and particularly the Security Council.

"It is indeed regrettable that past failures have emboldened senior US officials and even others to consider the threat or use of force, both of which are specifically rejected under Article 2(4) of the Charter as violations of one of the most fundamental principles of the Organization, as options available on the table.

"The United Nations has a fundamental responsibility to reject those assertions and to arrest this trend.

"It will be highly appreciated if this letter and its annex were circulated as a document of the General Assembly under Agenda Items 9, 82, 87, 94, 95, 97, 110 and of the Security Council.
The General Assembly Agenda Items referred to by Ambassador Zarif include, inter alia, prohibition of the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons, establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East, conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, and general and complete disarmament.

What the E3+US are doing is subverting the NPT system by attacking the core bargain underlying it: that countries which renounce the right to make nuclear weapons shall not be prevented from developing civilian nuclear technology. There are valid legal grounds for considering the IAEA Board of Governors' referral of Iran to the UN Security Council as ultra vires the IAEA Statute and the U.N. Charter.

As Michael Spies of the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, New York, has argued:
The authority of the Board to refer matters to the Security Council is granted by the IAEA Statute, the Safeguards Agreements, and the Additional Protocol when applicable. Under the Statute (Art. 12(C) and the Safeguards Agreement the Board may only refer Iran to the Security Council if it finds that, based on the report from the Director General, it cannot be assured that Iran has not diverted nuclear material for non-peaceful purpose. In the past findings of “non-assurance” have only come in the face of a history of active and ongoing non-cooperation with IAEA safeguards. The pursuit of nuclear activities in themselves, which are specifically recognized as a sovereign right, and which remain safeguarded, could not legally or logically equate to uncertainty regarding diversion.
None of the reports of the Director General have ever said that inspectors has not been able to verify that there has been "no diversion of nuclear material required to be safeguarded under this Agreement, to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices," the condition under which the Safeguards Agreement with Iran allows the IAEA to "make the reports provided for in paragraph C of Article XII." What the Director General has consistently said is that there has been no diversion of safeguarded nuclear material but that he is not yet in a position to say there are no undeclared nuclear activities. But since more than 100 countries have yet to ratify the Additional Protocol, this is a "finding" the Director General will have to make for not just Iran alone. Interestingly, China, which voted in February to refer Iran to the Security Council, explicitly stated in its explanation of vote that this referral was not a referral as construed by Article XIIC of the IAEA Statute.

In the light of the foregoing analysis, this much is clear. First, the E3+U.S. want to render inoperative the IAEA Statute and the NPT as far as Iran is concerned. Secondly, the E3+U.S. want to rewrite, through a Chapter VII resolution, the provisions of a Treaty, the NPT, that 188 countries are currently signatories to. Thirdly, the U.S. and Britain have used force in contravention of the U.N. Charter and international law to attack a neighbour of Iran's barely three years ago. Fourthly, Iran has real and justifiable fears that it too will be subjected to an armed attack.

On the basis of these bald facts, Iran should try and get the U.N. General Assembly to seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice under Article 96 of the U.N. Charter on the following question: Non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT have the right to develop civilian fuel cycle technology. The E3+U.S. insistence on unilaterally imposing new rules on NPT signatories is not in the interest of international peace and security. Right from the outset, Iran has had the law on its side. Even as it displays an open mind on the question of participating in multinational fuel cycle arrangements with Russia, China, and other potential partners, Iran cannot be compelled to give up legal rights, which devolve upon it as an NPT signatory. Nor is it in the interest of other NPT members or non-members that the Security Council arrogate to itself the right to dictate changes to treaty law. In the run-up to its vote against Iran at the IAEA, India said it did not want to see any other state in its neighbourhood acquire nuclear weapons. It is only fitting that India should also state openly that it does not want to see any other state in its neighbourhood subjected to armed aggression in the name of weapons of mass destruction.


Anonymous said...

Judges say what they want to say. Iran would not have an expectation that the judges in this European panel would not formally renounce any rights of NPT non nuclear weapons states.

yuvakuran said...

Etraordinary evaluation Thank you very much


Anonymous said...

Why a HIndian will be so interested in In analysis , which seems to support Iran getting Nuclear, I am not clear!!!!!!

Hindians seem to like the game of playing status Quo all the time, as you seem to be, What action would you or your Hindian Government Take ????? None !

Anonymous said...

It seems it is easy for people to shift the focus from Iran onto the United States, which is just what Iran wants!

Yes this article was very informative, but instead of discussing the real issue- a nuclear Iran- this author turns it into some twisted analysis of American imperialism and desire to use force.

Everybody wants to make this about the US. Don't leave out the fact that every other NATO country is on board with UN Security Counsel referall. But since the US is the scapegoat of the world, the other NATO countries are immune to criticism. But this isn't even about NATO or the USA!

This is about a fanatic Muslim Theocracy, who oppresses its people, whose mission statement revolves around destroying other countries, who wants to acquire a nuclear weapon. Allowing Iran to get a nuke would be like giving your gun to a knife-wielding bandit. It just doesn't make sense. The US is the only country capable of actually doing something about it, so we become the focal point! But we'd rather have the world hate us and have a non-nuclear Iran, than yield to world opinion and allow Iran to be in possession of the worlds most powerful weapon.

Anonymous said...

Remember Hindians acured Nuclear weapons against International laws, Hindians are the proliferators, It was stated in Tomes of india that NUclear power corporation wants to build Power stations in Far east.

Hindians will stretch the laws to make money. HIndians dont care of environment or Individual liberties, they play the populist card. Even in Iran hindians are trying to play the same populist card. There is no Intellectual thinking for these Hindians.

Anonymous said...

many avoid the exact legal parameters of the NPT issue, and write about their biased politics.

Iran has not violated any of the NPT provisions. under the NPT Agreement, Iran is entitled to enrichment for peaceful purposes. the US does not like Iran POLITICS, hence, politicizing the nuclear issue.

under pressure from the US, the Security Council has not paid any attention to the only country in the Middle East which has many nuclear WEAPONS. the issue of Middle East as a nuclear free zone does not come up in the Western press, since Israel is located in the Middle East.

historically, countries with nuclear weapons granted the "Negative Security Assurance" to non-nuclear states. Bush_ Bolton_ Neo-con team stopped this policy; in other words the non-nuclear countries in the world are not given any assurance, but threatend.
Besides proliferating, the US is researching a new generation of tactical NUCLEAR weapons as offensive weapons 'fist usese'--not defensive. this proliferation is in violation of NPT agreement, article IV.

I can write more, but for now...

Anonymous said...


I meant articl VI

Anonymous said...

I recently heard and subsequently read your analysis of the U. S. strategy to manipulate various regulatory agencies, countries and even the U.N itself into a position that would give U.S. officials sufficient latitude to initial military action against Iran. ( http://www.alternativeradio.org/programs/VARS001.shtml )

The analysis is significant now that we can look back and see how the U.S. diplomatically maneuvered Iraq into a corner before instigating military aggression against them. What is different this time (or at least appears to be so…) is that before the official beginning of the war on Iraq, there was a continuous (albeit covert) bombing campaign throughout the 1990s intended to degrade the capacity of the military to defend itself.

Bill Clinton in his presidency played a major role both through
legislation (http://www.library.cornell.edu/colldev/mideast/libera.htm )
and militarily (http://www.fas.org/news/iraq/1998/12/18/index.html )
in setting the stage for the subsequent actions in Iraq even today.

Since there have been few, if any similar overt or covert actions against Iran, how do you see this issue as a factor in instigating war against Iran which would be at full, or at least not weakened operational capacity with it's military?

Anonymous said...

Gordon A.,

You have raised a good point but I do not think the military strategy would necessarily be identical to the one employed against Iraq.

If one has to draw an analogy, I would think Nato's attack on Yugoslavia might be a better template. Unremitting air strikes were used to bludgeon the Yugoslav leadership and populace, and drive a wedge between the two which eventually forced the former to sue for peace on the humiliating terms worked out by Ahtissari and Chernomyrdin.

Anonymous said...

Gordon A.,

You have raised a good point but I do not think the military strategy would necessarily be identical to the one employed against Iraq.

If one has to draw an analogy, I would think Nato's attack on Yugoslavia might be a better template. Unremitting air strikes were used to bludgeon the Yugoslav leadership and populace, and drive a wedge between the two which eventually forced the former to sue for peace on the humiliating terms worked out by Ahtissari and Chernomyrdin.