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Russian-Built Reactor Erased From Iran Sanctions

Britain, France and Germany (the ‘EU3’) have submitted to China and Russia a reworked proposal for UN sanctions on Iran complete with revisions aimed primarily at satisfying Russia. To that end, all mention of the ongoing Russian construction of the nuclear facility in Bushehr is said to have been expunged from the language.

Yet, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said that the “general philosophy” has not changed and continues to “target the Iranian nuclear and ballistic program as well as the entities that run them and the individuals in charge of them.” With the effectiveness of the United Nations already questioned by critics – such as with reports of Hizballah’s re-arming beyond pre-war levels while UNIFIL stands mandated watch – “targeting” the Iranian nuclear program without including a nuclear reactor under construction appears another example of the ineffectiveness of a system requiring consensus of parties with both protagonist and antagonist interests.

An unnamed source familiar with the revised language said, “It’s not a matter of what the sanctions say but whether this is a Chapter 7 resolution,” alluding to the enforceability of mandatory compliance that Chapter 7 UN sanctions carry. With this incremental view, the language is not as important as the mandatory nature of Iran’s compliance with what is included, a compliance that would be expected to go unfulfilled. This, following the given logic, would in turn lead to stronger action later.

However, it would undoubtedly lead to more rounds of negotiating among Security Council members who would be expected to protect their interests with equal vigor, such as Russia’s estimated $1 Billion contract for the construction of the nuclear facility at Bushehr. The ‘first round’ of sanction haggling among members is still ongoing three months after the Security Council’s own deadline for Iran to halt enrichment activities. Iranian nuclear efforts continue unabated in the interim and would likely continue on through subsequent rounds of sanctions negotiations.

However, Russia’s Federal Nuclear Agency director, Sergei Kiriyenko, insisted that protecting Russia’s economic interests is not a priority with regard to its dogged defense of the Bushehr nuclear project and its impact on the language of Iran sanctions. He said, “It’s an interesting project, we have put a lot of work in that, but I can’t say it’s super-profitable.” But profitable or not, Russia has implied a certain veto if its project is threatened by sanctions.

Even the IAEA’s Mohamed ElBaradei appears frustrated, saying that Iran needs to go beyond its legal obligations under the NPT in order to explain the nature of its nuclear program, operational for two full decades before its 2003 exposure. Considering this, ElBaradei said to Iran that “you need to go out of your way” in explaining in order to achieve transparency. The IAEA director general added, “Much of that goes beyond the … Safeguards Agreement, so the solution is not going to be found by relying on one legal clause or another.”

It is important to note that Iran is not required under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to allow the IAEA to inspect facilities that Tehran has not declared to be conducting nuclear work. So long as Tehran does not declare a site, it is off the IAEA radar. The issue remains, based on past track record, of the likelihood that Iran has facilities that are as yet unknown conducting experiments and development.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini’s representative at Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rowhani, said that referring Iran to the UN Security Council was a big mistake by the five permanent members and Germany (5+1 Group). He called the action “illogical and politically motivated.”

In Estonia, President Bush ruled out talks with Iran on Iraq amid the constant rumblings in Washington and elsewhere that the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group may advocate such a move. “Iran knows how to get to the table with us. And that is to do that which they said they would do, which is verifiably suspend their enrichment programs,” the president said.

By ceding to Iran Russia’s construction of another nuclear reactor, a troubling picture emerges within the context of the president’s words: That Iran’s nuclear program is already clearly negotiable while it’s export of terrorism – to Iraq, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and elsewhere – is simply a reality to be accepted and not confronted beyond the occasional ‘strongly worded statement.’ It is Iran’s international sponsorship and export of terrorism that makes their nuclear ambitions so perilous, not the other way around.