Structural cause and security repercussions for Iran

The wording of the anti-Iranian resolution adopted on September 12 by the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which demanded Iran’s discontinuation of nuclear activities and set a deadline for Iran’s unconditional acceptance of the additional protocol came as a surprise attack on Iran’s national security. Subsequently, the agreed-upon statement by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom and the Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council issued in Tehran on October 21 led to a late November resolution that strongly deplored "Iran’s past failures and breaches of its obligation to comply with the provisions of its safeguard agreement."

"Should any further serious Iranian failures come to light," determined the resolution, "the Board of Governors would meet immediately to consider…all options at its disposal, in accordance with the IAEA Statute and Iran’s Safeguards Agreement" (emphasis mine). The central thesis of this scenario was to deter Iran from emerging as a nuclear weapons state, to subject Iran to a gradual process of decapitation, and ultimately, to bring about the balkanization of the Middle East.

Any vulnerable state might reluctantly sacrifice or compromise its sovereignty, independence and free will as a result of coercion exerted by international structural forces (the alternative is to build a strong state and weaken its civil society). As such, Iran as a weak state controlled by its strong civil society "voluntarily" decided to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. That voluntary approach was incorporated into a British-drafted resolution that obligates Iran to comply "in a complete and verifiable manner." Thus, in both theory and practice, the voluntary dimension dissipates upon examination and the IAEA is authorized to "have a particularly robust verification system in place: an additional protocol, coupled with a policy of full transparency and openness on the part of Iran."

Although the "cause and effect relationship" is well understood in international relations theory, the legality of coercive actions is questionable under international law. Fundamentally, contracts and agreements concluded under duress are null and void. Further, the NPT lacks legality because it was approved in breach of the treaty objectives enshrined in paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 60 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Therefore, the implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran is immaterial, unlawful and unfounded under international law. The NPT does not fall within the ambit of Jus Cogens, which refers to "a rule or principle that binds all states and does not allow any exceptions." Accordingly, the NPT cannot be regarded as binding within the context of peremptory norms. Agreements are to be kept only when they are not breached by the parties thereto.

Therefore, all of these non-proliferation treaties and subsequent protocols materialized at the lead of weapons-states, whose main objective was to control and regulate defensive strategy, assure sustainable security, and maintain their own military superiority. Joseph Nye is incorrect in arguing that "ordered inequality is better than anarchy." Rather, non-proliferation must be based on a universal notion of a collective security regime. If one ignores the biased and discriminatory aspects of the NPT that divide the world into haves and have-nots, its contents would deserve all-out support. Who would oppose confidence and security building measures to be equally enjoyed in an international society of states?

But since Iran adhered to the NPT, circumstances have changed, rendering the treaty irrelevant. Arms competition continues, as international tensions are heightened. Tactical weapons were used in the Balkan, Persian Gulf and Afghanistan wars, as well as in recent operations in Iraq by the US and its allies. Treaty members have violated the pact (Director General Mohamed ElBaradei referred to violations committed by more than 50 countries in his 2000 report). The United States and France have both aided friendly countries in achieving nuclear military capabilities, and treaty parties, including the United States, have used threats and force against the territorial integrity and political independence of other parties. Treaty members have ignored their own commitments to Iran, including some commitments considered reciprocal and thus equaling material breaches of the agreement.

The collapse of bipolarity in the world has translated some Iranian prospects into threats. The eight-year invasion of Iran by Iraq; the nuclearization of Pakistan, India and Israel and obvious change in the balance of power in the Middle East; the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq by the United States and its allies and the emergence of new threats against Iran; the abrogation of the friendship treaty between Iran and the former Soviet Union; the denial of the NPT by some regional countries, such as the United Arab Emirates; the 1996 International Court of Justice’s advisory verdict permitting use of nuclear weapons as a form of legitimate defense; the weakening of the United Nations and its inefficiency in preventing nuclear military powers; and finally, the recent resolution calling for immediate suspension of Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities and compelling Iran to join the 93+2 additional protocol–all change the circumstances that led to Iran’s signing of the NPT in 1968 and its unlimited extension in 1995. All of these changes would have entitled Iran to declare its membership in the NPT effectively suspended or terminated.

Therefore, Iranian officials have argued that regardless of Iran’s withdrawal from the NPT and despite the fact that more than 50 countries have violated contents of the treaty, Iran’s commitment to the NPT continues as a sign of Iranian goodwill and stems from religious teachings and moral beliefs to the effect that no Muslim is allowed to use any manner of weapon of mass destruction.

The ideas of non-interference, non-invasion and the right to legitimate defense, all salient features of United Nations literature, aim to support the sovereignty of nations. Therefore, sovereignty remains the essence of our international system and a cornerstone for international relations. Why has the United States, as one of the main drafters of the NPT, despite its power refrained from accepting the 93+2 additional protocol on the pretext of safeguarding its national sovereignty and independence, all the while using pressure to make Iran accept this same protocol?

If such interpretations govern international relations, they result in threat and intervention in the internal affairs of an independent country for the purpose of imposing one’s will. According to the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Consultative Assembly must first approve the signing of any international treaty. Therefore, which international norm or democratic value is compatible with forcing a government that is by no means free to choose to accept or reject treaty membership?

That being said, Iranians residing inside or outside the country, including those who are living in the West; those who spare nothing inside Iran to protect the dignity of their country; those who accepted Iranian nationality under any Iranian system; and those who oppose the regime but respect Iran’s territorial integrity and dignity, all have national pride and love for their country, no matter the nature of the regime. Iran considers itself a treasure, holding dear its freedom, independence, dignity and honor, purity of heart, sacred national customs and quest for the meaning of life. If Iranians were to be deprived of independence and freedom, perhaps all their actions would lose moral value. They love life for the sake of freedom and, as evidenced by history, they have always donated the blood of their martyrs to attain it. The Iranian state is not an interest group that will sit at the negotiating table to barter away the dignity and independence of the Iranian people without obtaining approval of its parliament. The Majlis has to decide on that.

The road to confidence in international relations is a two-way street. If western countries and their allies consider Iran a potential threat to their interests (which, of course, would be gravely mistaken), Iran, reciprocally, considers some western countries and their allies, as a result of their behavior, potential threats to Iran’s security and national sovereignty. Since heading off an active threat takes precedence over confronting a potential threat, Iran is entitled to work to dispel its own worries and get the necessary guarantees in return for reassuring the West and joining any international treaty. Otherwise, the threat of sanctions and the like will benefit no one.

In summary, the international elite is expected to do its best to safeguard the sovereign right of all countries. Otherwise, it would be whimsical to expect sustainable security to be established on the ruins of those rights.-