Can Rouhani Meet Washington’s Expectations?

obligations

With all the excitement surrounding the by-now legendary Obama-Rouhani phone call, insufficient attention has been paid so far to the actual substance of the declared US position on resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis. We believe a quick review is in order.

In his UN speech President Obama clearly stated:

“We insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

Following suit, National Security Advisor Susan Rice took advantage of her CNN interview this week to expand on the president’s comments. The starting point for rehabilitation of Tehran’s international status, she said, begins with full compliance and full transparency vis-à-vis the IAEA and UN Security resolutions:

The United States has not spoken about a right of Iran to enrich. We have said that, as a member of the NPT, in the context of Iran meeting its international obligations.

That means fulfilling its responsibilities under the IAEA resolutions as well as the U.N. Security Council resolutions, that once it’s done that, we would recognize that it, like every other nation, as a good standing member of the NPT has a right to the use of peaceful nuclear energy.

Now, that is obviously a very long-held position and it’s not a new position expressed by the United States or by others. But we’re some distance from that being achievable obviously because right now Iran remains in noncompliance with its obligations under the Security Council resolutions.

The references by senior US officials to UN Security Council and IAEA resolutions are not just empty words, but rather carry with them very concrete meaning. For those who’ve forgotten: UNSC resolution 1929 from June 2010, the last such resolution on the Iranian nuclear crisis, states clearly in its operative section that Tehran must (wording taken directly from the resolution itself):

  • suspend all enrichment-related activities
  • cooperate fully with the IAEA on all outstanding issues (“particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear programme”)
  • comply fully and without qualification with its IAEA Safeguards Agreement
  • act strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol
  • ratify promptly the Additional Protocol
  • discontinue any ongoing construction of any uranium-enrichment, reprocessing, or heavy water-related facility
  • not acquire an interest in any commercial activity in another State involving uranium mining, production or use of nuclear materials and technology
  • not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons

On the ground, Iran continues to defy its obligations to the IAEA and the UN Security Council, continues to deny access to critical sites (including, but not only, Parchin), continues to enrich uranium, and continues to advance its heavy water program. At the end of the day, its actions run contrary to the international community’s expectation it address concerns about activities which indicate a military nuclear purpose.

These are the facts – quite a challenge for Rouhani, no matter how sophisticated (and nice) he is.  Time will tell if he’s really up to the challenge.

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