The International Atomic Energy Agency is due to release an explosive report on Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities this week. The Washington Post and other media outlets seem to have viewed early copy of the report and its conclusions are disturbing.
Although the IAEA has chided Iran for years to come clean about a number of apparently weapons-related scientific projects, the new disclosures fill out the contours of an apparent secret research program that was more ambitious, more organized and more successful than commonly suspected. Beginning early in the last decade and apparently resuming — though at a more measured pace — after a pause in 2003, Iranian scientists worked concurrently across multiple disciplines to obtain key skills needed to make and test a nuclear weapon that could fit inside the country’s long-range missiles, said David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who has reviewed the intelligence files.
“The program never really stopped,” said Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. The institute performs widely respected independent analyses of nuclear programs in countries around the world, often drawing from IAEA data.
What happens next is that the Board of Governors of the IAEA, which is composed of 35 of its member states, will issue some sort of formal reaction to the report. This is where the drama and diplomacy occur. In the past, the United States and its European allies have used the Board of Governors as a springboard to bring Iran’s nuclear non-compliance before the Security Council. In 2006, the Board of Governors voted to refer Iran to the Security Council and a few months later, Iranian officials were slapped with international sanctions. That is the process by which Iran sanctions have occur.
Now, imagine a year from now the United States is no longer a member of the IAEA because it was forced to stop paying its membership dues once Palestine was admitted as a member. For one, a cash-strapped organization like the IAEA probably would no longer afford to keep such close tabs on Iran’s nuclear ambitions after its biggest funder pulls out. Even if another funder like Saudi Arabia steps up do you suppose that the United States would have a harder or easier time convincing the board of governors to refer the situation to the Security Council if the USA is not on the board of governors?
This is what is at stake with the self-defeating legislation currently governing the USA’s relationship with UN agencies like the IAEA. If Palestine is in, the USA is out.
Supporters of this legislation think they are punishing the UN. But pulling out of these agencies hurts America too. The IAEA without the United States as a board member is much less likely to advance American interests.