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What if ...? Solving the Iran stand-off
by Craig Rowley
I have been mulling over a question or two. Make that a whole series of questions. They are '"What if ..." questions. They are not messy and futile backward looking "What if ..." questions of the "toothpaste back into the tube" type. They are future focused, solution focused questions that ask what if we could do something, what if we did this or something like it or something else. What if we could work through a problem together?
The Iranian regime has a nuclear program. It includes several research sites, a uranium mine, a nuclear reactor, and uranium processing facilities that include a uranium enrichment plant. Iran claims it is using the technology for peaceful purposes. The United States, however, makes the allegation that the program is part of a drive to develop nuclear weapons. A nuclear program for peaceful purposes, even one involving the enrichment of uranium, is allowed under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), whilst a nuclear weapons development program is not. And therein lies the nub of the problem.
In the last weeks of last year the UN Security Council approved economic sanctions on Iran. If Tehran fails to comply with resolution 1737 by the end of a 60-day deadline that the UN imposed, the Security Council will consider new measures. What if the Iranian regime fails to comply?
In a few weeks time the 35 members of the Board of Governors of the United Nation's nuclear monitoring body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will meet in Vienna and review the reports compiled by their inspection teams. They need to decide whether Iran has taken the steps required by their resolution GOV/2006/14, steps "which are essential to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear programme." The IAEA will then make its report to the UN Security Council on Iran’s nuclear activities. What if the IAEA reports that Iran failed to comply with their resolution and thereby Security Council resolution 1737? What then? What is the next move for the Security Council?
Coercive diplomacy seems to have been the strategy so far. That was reflected in the first Security Council resolution on Iran in response to its nuclear programme. In June 2006, acting under Article 40 of Chapter VII of the United Nations in order to make mandatory the IAEA requirement that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment activities, the Security Council issued resolution 1696 threatening Iran with economic sanctions in case of non-compliance. Resolution 1696 avoided any implication that use of force may be warranted. Exercise of that option, the use of force, was premature.
Resolution 1737 did not include a clear statement that use of force would be warranted in case of non-compliance. With Resolution 1737 the Security Council affirmed only that it shall review Iran’s actions in the light of the IAEA’s report and:
The Security Council could continue with the current sanctions and set a new deadline with an explicit threat attached. What if it does so? What is likely to happen after that?
The Security Council could authorise additional and more punitive sanctions. What if it did this? What is likely to happen in this scenario?
And though unlikely at this stage, the Security Council could ultimately authorise action more punitive, more violent, than the use of sanctions. What if it does?
As we enter dialogue and together consider these questions, and in all likelihood the assumptions on which each of us base our answers to these questions, I hope we can look to the possibility of a positive outcome.
As we’ve been discussing the issues in Ceasefire and I’ve been keeping myself informed, learning what I can about the issues raised and considering everything constructive that I’ve come across during that time, I chanced upon some old Persian wisdom: “Epigrams succeed where epics fail.” So what if we keep this in mind: People make peace.
What if a way could be found, with the help of any people who want to find a way, a way without war, a firm and fair way to have Iran take those steps needed for it to be taken off America's state-sponsors-of-terrorism list without anyone being wiped of any map? What if we considered what Albert Einstein said about the menace of mass destruction?
- Albert Einstein, 'The Menace of Mass Destruction', in Out of My Later Years.
What if we did compare our situation to one of a menacing epidemic? What if conscientious and expert, intelligent, objective and humane thinking persons were brought together to work out an intelligent plan to solve this problem?
I’ve been mulling over these questions. Most of all I’ve have in mind a couple prompted by a quote by John Ralston Saul that Margo Kingston used to open the final chapter of Not Happy, John! That quote is: “If we believe in democracy you have to believe in the power of the citizen – there is no such thing as abstract democracy.”
And the questions I mostly think about now are these: What if we, as the citizens of free democracies and the peoples seeking a democratic future, believed in our power? What if we exercised our real power, did not unthinkingly leave these problems entirely to the powers that be, and could work through our problems together?