Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Zarif vs. Brownback: Iran’s Rights or Iran’s Folly?

On August 14, 2006, CNN published opposing editorials from Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Javad Zarif, which outlined their views on Iran’s rights to develop civilian nuclear energy and implications for a nuclear weapons program.

In his editorial, Javad Zarif argues that UN Security Council Resolution 1696, which was passed on July 31 and calls on Iran stop all uranium enrichment by August 31, is unwarranted and unhelpful. Zarif argues that the mandatory suspension of uranium enrichment is inconsistent with international law and the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a treaty to which Iran is a member. Zarif notes that Iran has an inalienable right to develop a civilian nuclear program under the auspices of the NPT and the international community and Iran has opened up its nuclear facilities for inspection.

Zarif states that while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that it is not yet in a position "to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran," the IAEA has also acknowledged that reaching such a conclusion is a time-consuming process. He also rightly points out, “Also ignored is the recent IAEA report that 45 other countries are in the same category as Iran, including 14 European nations and several members of the Security Council.”

Zarif concludes that the rush to pass a Security Council resolution while Iran was considering a package of incentives offered by the so-called P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, United States + Germany) threatens to hamper negotiations and a peaceful resolution to the issue. He writes, “The lack of any genuine ground suggests that involving the Security Council was aimed at imposing pressure on Iran to abandon its rightful program. This is a shortsighted policy, as it would, in the process, undermine the NPT by depriving its members from drawing rightful benefits from their membership. This is particularly troubling while non-members are rewarded for their intransigence.”

Meanwhile, Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) claims that Iran does not need a civilian nuclear program because of its “huge oil resources,” and the country is using the program to develop nuclear weapons in order to oppress its own people and threaten its neighbors.

Brownback compares Iran’s leaders to the leaders of the Soviet Union stating, “History shows the folly of such arrogance. Soviet leaders presumed their nuclear arsenal gave them the ability to operate with impunity and would allow them to remain in power indefinitely. They eventually discovered that nuclear weapons did not ensure the success of their military adventures, and they ultimately realized their nuclear arsenal could not conceal the repression of their people. Despite thousands of warheads, Soviet communism crumbled.”

Brownback argues that the US should stand up to the Iranians as it did to the Soviets. He says “the US should not rule out military options, there is much we can do without firing a shot.” At the core of his argument, Brownback urges the US to move the conversation about Iran’s nuclear program to a discussion of democracy, human rights and terrorism. According to Brownback, “If we discuss only nuclear weapons, we play into the hands of the brutal rulers in Tehran. If we take every opportunity to remind Iran's leaders and the rest of the world of the Iranian government's repression of its people, its terrible human rights record, and its support for terrorism, we can demonstrate that even a nuclear arsenal would not excuse the regime's arrogant and reckless behavior.”

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