No Belgian Waffle from the UN

By Kenneth R. Timmerman
FrontPageMagazine.com
| August 31, 2006


Expect a sigh and a whimper today at the United Nations when the International Atomic Energy Agency reports, as expected, that Iran has failed to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1696.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a UN sanctions resolution on Iran. The State Department insists – all press speculation to the contrary – that sanctions will be approved, even if it takes three more weeks to get agreement on the details. “There is no Plan B,” as one official put it.
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The question remains: will those sanctions have any bite? That is far less certain.
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One reason for the stone-faced optimism at Foggy Bottom is the language of UN Security Council Resolution 1696, which set the August 31 deadline for Iran to comply with UN demands.
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Given the war in Lebanon, the fact that the Security Council actually passed a resolution to restrain Iran’s nuclear development program at the height of summer could be considered a near miracle.
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Even more surprising: as written, UNSC resolution 1696 is a block of concrete compared to the normal mush that comes out of the UN. For that, we can thank the U.S. ambassador to the UN (and my fellow Nobel Peace prize nominee for 2006), John Bolton.
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The resolution makes mincemeat out of Iran’s argument that it has a “right” to nuclear technology, by demanding that Iran “suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development,” in a manner “to be verified by the IAEA.”
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In paragraph 7 of its operative section, it requests that the Director General of the IAEA report back to the UN by August 31 whether Iran has indeed complied with the UN demands. (No suspense there). Then in paragraph 8, it unveils the hammer: “appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to persuade Iran to comply with this resolution and the requirements of the IAEA&”
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Recall that Chapter VII of the UN charter deals with “threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression.” This is where the UN rubber meets the road. If the UN has any meaning at all, it is spelled out in this part of the UN charter and in the way the Security council enforces it.
Even for UN-skeptics like me, there is something inexorable about invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter that conjures up the chain-mail clanking of tank treads against asphalt.
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Amy Reed, of the center-left Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, explains why: “Unlike the IAEA board requests of Iran to suspend such activities, this request is not voluntary and is legally-binding.”
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In other words, even if the French, the Russians and the Chinese whine about imposing sanctions on Iran, they have in fact already agreed to impose them under 1696.
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Sanctions under Article 41 could include measures aimed specifically at the leadership in Iran, including a ban on travel by high level officials and a freeze of their overseas assets. They could also include any form of “complete or partial interruption of economic relations” with Iran that would be mandatory on all UN member states.
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But just how extensive a package actually gets approved by the Security Council will depend on that great Belgian contribution to the art of diplomacy: the waffle.
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And there is the rub. “The game plan here and the goal here is not to impose sanctions,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters on Tuesday. “The goal here is to change Iranian behavior.”
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Ever since followers of Ayatollah Khomeini – including Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – seized the U.S. embassy on Nov. 4, 1979 and held U.S. diplomats hostage for 444 days, the U.S. has attempted to change the behavior of this regime.
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Almost without exception, Washington has offered inducements, from secret arms shipments under President Reagan to secret offers of a “comprehensive settlement” with Iran under President Clinton.
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Offering inducements to terrorists is never a good idea. Ask the Israelis, who unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000 as an inducement to Hezbollah to respect Israel’s borders.
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It’s an even worse idea when the terrorists are on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons capability. For more on Iran’s progress toward the bomb, and how the CIA has failed miserably to understand events inside Iran, read the excellent report just released by Republican staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
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This is the fatal flaw in the State Department’s current strategy, a strategy that includes that absolutely incomprehensible error of inviting Iran’s former president, Mohammad Khatami, to visit the United States to rally Iran’s legions of lobbyists against the policies of the Bush administration.
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It’s no coincidence that Khatami arrives today, the very day of the UN Security Council deadline. If the State Department dismissed Ahmadinejad’s joking offer of a live television debate with President Bush earlier this week as a “diversion,” perhaps it was because they wanted to focus attention on Khatami’s upcoming “dialogue” with Jimmy Carter. (After all, Carter gave us all this mess to begin with).
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Instead, the focus should be on Iran’s misdeeds, its non-stop violation of its international commitments and its double-dare taunting of the United States.
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“Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make,” President Bush told a Joint Session of Congress just nine days after the September 11 attacks. “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
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Those were simple, clear words. Now is not the time to walk away from them, or to let the State Department waffle.
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