The Iran Trap
By Scott Ritter
13 September, 2005
the complicated world of international diplomacy surrounding the issue
of Iran's nuclear program, there is but one thing that the United States,
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the so-called EU-3 (Germany,
France and Great Britain) and Iran can all agree upon
Iran has resumed
operations of facilities designed to convert uranium into a product
usable in enrichment processes. From that point forward consensus on
just about anything begins to fall apart.
of its uranium conversion program seems to have brought to an end a
negotiating process begun in November 2004 between the EU-3 and Iran,
at which time Iran agreed to freeze its uranium enrichment-related activities
in exchange for the EU-3's agreement to broker a deal that would provide
inducements for Iran to give up its nuclear enrichment program.
With the EU-3 initiative
now dead in the water, it appears that the next logical step in the
diplomatic process is for the IAEA to refer the matter to the Security
Council, where the United States, backed by the EU-3, have threatened
to push for economic sanctions. The IAEA board meets in Vienna, Austria
on 19 September to discuss this matter.
The EU-3 countries
are uniform in their criticism of Iran's diplomatic slap in the face,
but in fact neither the EU-3 nor the IAEA have a legal leg to stand
Iran, as a signatory
to the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), asserts its 'inalienable right'
under Article IV of the NPT to 'develop research, production and use
of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.'
Such rights are
conditional, however, but Iran strongly believes that it has complied
with Articles I and II of the NPT, where it agrees not to manufacture
or acquire nuclear weapons, and Article III, where it accepts full safeguards,
including on-site inspections.
Iran has yet to
be declared to be in formal breach of any of these obligations, which
raises the basic question: what is it the EU-3 wish to accomplish vis-à-vis
their diplomatic intervention?
The real purpose
of the EU-3 intervention -- to prevent the United States from using
Iran's nuclear ambition as an excuse for military intervention -- is
never discussed in public.
The EU-3 would rather
continue to participate in fraudulent diplomacy rather than confront
the hard truth -- that it is the United States, and not Iran, that is
operating outside international law when it comes to the issue of Iran's
In doing so, the
EU-3, and to a lesser extent the IAEA, have fallen into a trap deliberately
set by the Bush administration designed to use the EU-3 diplomatic initiative
as a springboard for war with Iran.
The heart of the
EU-3's position regarding Iran's nuclear program is the matter of nuclear
enrichment, which the EU-3 outright oppose. This, of course, is an extension
of the American position (as well as that of America's shadow ally,
Legally, this is
an unsupportable position under the NPT, but one which has been pursued
based upon two fundamental points.
The first is Iran's
history of deception regarding its nuclear program, in which Iran hid
critical aspects of this effort from the international community. Iran
now claims to have come into compliance with its NPT obligations, by
having declared the totality of its efforts, something neither the EU-3
and the IAEA, nor the United States and Israel can refute factually.
Indeed, the recent
disclosure by the IAEA that the hard 'evidence' it possessed to sustain
the charge that Iran was pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program (the
existence of traces of highly enriched uranium on Iranian centrifuges)
The fact that the
uranium came from Pakistan, not Iran, has undercut any case the EU-3
might have had in pursuing its confrontational stance with Iran.
In the face of this
development, the EU-3 -- Britain, Germany and France -- need to ask
themselves a very fundamental question: what is their true policy objective
being pursued vis-à-vis Iran?
The answer appears
to be little more than serving as a front for American complaints against
the Iranian nuclear program. Given this, the EU-3 must next confront
the real policy of the United States when it comes to Iran -- regime
change. As was the case with Iraq, Europe has failed to confront the
Bush administration's policy of regime change.
Instead, the EU-3
has allowed their seemingly unified European foreign policy position
regarding Iran to be hijacked by a neoconservative cabal in Washington,
DC as a stepping stone to war.
Europe would like
to believe that the diplomatic initiative undertaken by the EU-3 last
November represents a nominal 'Plan A', which avoids direct confrontation
between the United States and Iran through use of the European intermediary.
The EU-3 comfort
themselves with the knowledge that any failure of their initiative pushes
the world not to the brink of war, but rather toward a 'Plan B', intervention
by the Security Council of the United Nations, which would seek to compel
Iran back into line with the threat of economic sanctions.
A failure by the
Security Council to achieve change on the part of Iran would then, and
only then, pave the way for 'Plan C', American military intervention.
concede that there is little likelihood that the Security Council will
impose sanctions on Iran, given the intransigence on the part of Russia
However, they have
lulled themselves into a false sense of complacency by noting that given
the situation in Iraq, and now in the United States in the aftermath
of Hurricane Katrina, the US military is so overstretched that any talk
of the Bush administration implementing a 'Plan C' is out of the question.
What the Europeans
-- and the member nations of the EU-3 in particular -- fail to recognize
is that the Bush administration's plan for Iran does not consist of
three separate plans, but rather one plan composed of three phases leading
to the inevitability of armed conflict with Iran and the termination
of the theocratic regime of the Mullahs currently residing in Tehran.
These three phases
-- the collapse of the EU-3 intervention leading to a referral of the
Iran matter to the Security Council, the inability of the Security Council
to agree upon the imposition of economic sanctions against Iran, and
the US confronting the Security Council over its alleged inability to
protect American national security interests - lead inevitably toward
As with Iraq earlier,
the United States has embraced a position which requires Iran to prove
the negative (i.e., demonstrate that it does not have a nuclear weapons
program) as opposed to the US and the IAEA proving that one does in
The criteria put
forward by the Bush administration for Iran to comply -- no-notice inspections
of any site at any time -- are an affront to a sovereign nation that
has yet to be shown to be in violation of any of its legal obligations.
The fact that the
United States used a similar program of no-notice weapons inspections
as a front for espionage against Iraq in support of its regime-change
policy against Saddam Hussein has not escaped the attention of the Iranians,
who have flat-out rejected any such extra-legal requirements on its
The United States,
and to a lesser extent the IAEA and the EU-3, have taken Iran's intransigence
as a clear sign that Iran has something to hide.
Once again, as was
the case with Iraq, the United States has put process over substance,
and unless the EU-3 block, the American effort to have the Iranian case
transferred to the Security Council, the end result will be war.
The Iran trap has
been well baited by the Bush administration, so much so that a Europe
already burned once by American duplicity regarding Iraq, and a war
weary American public, fail to recognize what is actually transpiring.
The bait for this trap is, of course, diplomacy, first in the form of
the EU-3 intervention, and that having failed, in the form of Security
Polls taken in April
2005 showed that most Americans (63% to 37%) believed the Bush administration
should take military action to stop Iran from developing or trying to
develop a nuclear weapons program.
It is completely
irrelevant that Iran has yet to be shown to have a nuclear weapons program
(in fact the overwhelming amount of data available points to the exact
Today, in September
2005, many Americans might be loath to immediately embrace a direct
path towards war with Iran. However, according to recent polls, most
Americans support referring the matter of Iran to the Security Council
for the purpose of imposing sanctions.
If the Security
Council, because of Russian and Chinese opposition, refuses to support
sanctions, the American people will be confronted by the Bush administration
with the choice to either appear weak before the United Nations, or
to take matters into our own hands (i.e., unilateral military action)
in the name of national defence. The outcome in this case is certain
Since the result
of any referral of the Iran issue to the Security Council is all but
guaranteed, the push by the EU-3 to have the IAEA refer Iran to the
Security Council, while rooted in the language of diplomacy, is really
nothing less than an act of war.
The only chance
the world has of avoiding a second disastrous US military adventure
in the Middle East is for the EU-3 to step back from its policy of doing
the bidding of the US, and to confront not only Iran on the matter of
its nuclear program, but also the larger issue of American policies
of regional transformation that represent the greatest threat to Middle
East security and stability today.
Scott Ritter is
former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998 Author of 'Iraq Confidential:
The Untold Story of America's Intelligence Conspiracy', published by
I.B. Tauris (London) and Nation Books (US) in October 2005.
The opinions expressed
here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position
or have the endorsement of Aljazeera.