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October 02, 2003

To sign or not to sign, that is the question - or is it ?
Arash Jalali  [info|posts]

There have recently been several postings as well as some very interesting and thought-provoking comments on FTOI regarding Islamic Republic's nuclear issues, especially the signing of an additional NPT protocol. I have also been reading a lot about this matter in Iranian newspapers. It seems to me that there have been enough articles written about this additional protocol to give one a fairly good understanding of the implications of signing (or not signing) it.

However, having read the GOV/2003/69 resolution, there appears to be a very common misconception - even among Iranian journalists - as to what exactly it is that the board calls on Iran to do by the end of October 2003.

If one takes a cursory look at the text of the resolution, one of the first things that catches one's attention is the series of underlined words in it, such as "calls on", "stressing", "recognizing", "decides", etc. I am certainly not an expert on international law but I reckon these underlined words signify legal terms which have specific connotations. For example, the board has in some cases, "decided" that Iran should cooperate whereas in other cases it has "called on" or even "requested" Iran to take some sort of action. Having said that, here are a few observations which I believe would help us better understand the situation:

  1. Only in one article, i.e. article 4, the specific date of October 2003 has been mentioned as a deadline for Iran's compliance regarding five issues none of which has anything to do with the signing of the additional protocol, and that is indeed where the (probably strongest) term, "decides" has been used.
  2. The board has merely "requested" Iran to "work with the Secretariat to promptly and unconditionally sign" the additional protocol as a "confidence building" measure. The verb "request" seems to have the least imperative tone since it has also been used to address the IAEA's Director General.
  3. The October 30 deadline, among other things, demands Iran to fully declare all of its imported material and enrichment equipment as well as to determine the source, date of receipt, and the storing (hiding?) locations of such imports.

Iranian politicians, as well as the media, have somehow (intentionally or otherwise) managed to lead everyone, at least in Iran, into believing that the issue, i.e. the deadline, is about signing the additional protocol, whereas the issue is really about Iran coming clean on its already committed material breaches of the NPT; and that I think is the real dilemma the Islamic Republic is facing. We all know what happens if Iran does not comply with the resolution, but even if they in fact do fully comply with GOV/2003/69 then they will have to confess to an already committed breach.

There are two outcomes here, both of which could potentially lead to sanctions against Iran, unless the Islamic Republic somehow manages to cut a secret deal with the Americans and/or the Europeans so that they would cut them a little slack and turn a blind eye on their past breaches in return for God knows what, but certainly including Iran's full compliance in the future which could also include the signing of the additional protocol. It is quite possible that the foreign minister's latest trip to New York was just about cutting this very deal.

Nema Milaninia at October 2, 2003 06:47 AM [permalink]:

I actually think the Iranian government has done the smart thing by interpreting the resolution to mean that its only obliged to ratify the protocol to ameliorate pressure. If it hadn't, and if mass media also hadn't gained such interpretation, then Iran would be forced to prove a negative which Iraq was in the months leading up to the last war. Proving a negative, logically speaking, is an impossibility and therefore there's no tangible way in which the Iranian government could ever demonstrate that it does not intend on weaponizing its nuclear program. On the other hand, opening up the facilities to inspections as provided by the protocol allows the IAEA to be the agent of action thus eliminating Iran burden of proof. It certainly goes without say that Iran needs to ratify the protocol, whether or not the deadline and the imposition is a violation of the IAEA's mandate.

Senior Grad at October 4, 2003 10:20 PM [permalink]:

Haven't got a chance to read your article, Arash. Sorry! :-( I like Kharrazi's pose in that photo, though. I can't quite capture it by words...

Senior Grad at October 5, 2003 09:23 AM [permalink]:


I don't want by any means to belittle your writing, as usual organized and neatly written. The truth is there's been a flurry of postings with the same theme recently and I can't just take another one. Bad timing, you might say.

I am taken, however, by the picture you (or others?) chose for this posting. Your guys do come up with apt (and sometimes pretty funny) pictures. Very good taste, indeed. :-)

After a night of tossing and turning and thinking, I think I've found some words that may capture the moment that that picture was taken from Mr. Kharrazi, the honorable minister of Iranian foreign affairs! Here's how it must've happened:

Mr Kharrazi is saying to himself: "Sounds like we screwed up one more time. Hmmmmmmm! But who the hell really cares?" [In original language: mesé in ké dobaaré gand zadimaa. hmmmmmmm! binim baba, ki be ki é?] I also suspect the photo was taken during his "Hmmmmmmm!" moment...

Arash Jalali at October 5, 2003 12:20 PM [permalink]:

Senior Grad,
I can very well imagine a fictitious contest for "the most boring author award" in which I would win the first prize and most probably by a huge margin. However, as I am not a newspaper columnist (thank God for that!), when I am writing an article, I do not usually preoccupy myself with certain considerations such as whether or not it would be entertaining or refreshing. I write about something which I think would "add" something to the whole body of thoughts and ideas that may have already been put forward by others; and in doing that, I do my best not to repeat myself or others. In fact, the only reason why I posted this article, as I have also pointed out in its opening, was because I thought in most of the related postings in this forum as well as in other places, the focus of the issue is somehow misrepresented or overlooked. Therefore, although I do apologize to you and other readers of this forum for not being able to live up to your aesthetic (and maybe even intellectual) tastes and expectations, I respectfully refuse to accept "bad timing" as a criticism to this posting, unless you kindly direct me to a prior posting or comment which has somehow made the point I have tried to make in this article. It is quite possible that I might have missed such comment despite the great care which I usually take in such matters. As Russell says:

Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality. - "Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?", 1947

Senior Grad at October 5, 2003 01:06 PM [permalink]:

I very much appreciate your detailed reply. If that's a consolation, Arash, I should confess that I haven't read any of the postings in FToI after Babak Seradjeh's posting on Iran's nukiler (as President Bush would pronounce it) plan(t)s, because, if I may dare to say so, enough is enough already. :-) Having said that, you should not be discouraged by the reaction of readers with a such a short attention span as I have. My comment was not meant to be a criticism. I was just trying to be funny and write something. :-)

shiraz at October 5, 2003 09:59 PM [permalink]:

I agree with Russell. Doubting is always a safe way of preventing pretentiousness.

yahya at October 9, 2003 04:48 PM [permalink]:

U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton asked why Washington did not take a similar line on Israel's nuclear program, Bolton said: "The issue for the U.S. is what poses a threat to us and to our allies...We are not platonic guardians, we are representing American interests."

yahoo news

Arash Jalali at October 10, 2003 03:58 AM [permalink]:

I guess he forgot to mention "nuclear ambiguity" as the reason. I wonder if American official are technically allowed to use the term "nuclear ambiguity" in their comments. Any ideas ?