Outsourcing American Security - by Joseph Klein

Why the U.N. cannot be trusted to disarm a nuclear Iran.


President Obama led a special United Nations Security Council disarmament session on September 24, 2009, which was intended to create momentum toward achieving the goal of a nuclear-free world. The United States had circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution calling on all countries with atomic weapons to get rid of them.  In order to achieve the desired outcome of a unanimously passed resolution, the draft did not call out the proverbial elephants in the room – Iran and North Korea – or mention sanctions.

The final version of the resolution that passed followed this approach. It called for a treaty “on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control” without specifying what that meant or providing any real teeth to the resolution. It mentioned in passing the Security Council’s “particular concern at the current major challenges to the non-proliferation regime” – presumably an oblique, indirect reference to Iran and North Korea without naming them – but contained not a word about enforcing the existing resolutions against those rogue regimes.

“We live in the real world, not the virtual world. And the real world expects us to make decisions,” said French President Nicholas Sarkozy during his remarks at the Security Council session. “President Obama dreams of a world without weapons … but right in front of us two countries are doing the exact opposite”.

Which prompts the question: Why is Obama now wasting everyone’s time and our country’s prestige with a meaningless discussion and a toothless resolution that will do nothing to stop the biggest threats of nuclear proliferation?  The answer is Obama’s naïve reliance on the authority of the United Nations and his own powers of persuasion. We will take the UN treaties seriously, as will other democracies to be sure. But, whatever Obama would like to think, the Irans and North Koreas of the world will not.

The day before the special Security Council disarmament session, President Obama told the UN General Assembly how the United States under his administration has “re-engaged the United Nations” and has broken with what he has characterized as the Bush Administration’s “unilateral” approach. He said that “a world in which IAEA [UN International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections are avoided and the United Nation’s (sic) demands are ignored will leave all people less safe, and all nations less secure”.  He promised to address America’s “priorities” in the UN.

President Obama got it precisely backwards. Relying on the United Nations will make us all less safe. For example, the IAEA has reportedly censored recent published reports to exclude evidence of Iranian nuclear activities related to weaponization and a military nuclear program. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has insisted that the case for urgent action against Iran was “hyped”.

ElBaradei also believes that forceful action against the Islamic theocracy for not suspending its nuclear enrichment program would be a big mistake because the “Muslim world is angry, feels humiliated… The Iranian nuclear problem is only part of a complex situation involving the Middle East and Muslim world security”.

The UN Security Council is stymied in dealing effectively with the twin menaces of Iran and North Korea, who are helping each other to threaten international peace and security and getting away with it.  For months, before finally disclosing Iran’s latest deception to the public on September 25, 2009, President Obama had been aware of a secret Iranian nuclear enrichment plant deep inside a mountain base of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards near the religious center of Qum. Yet valuable time was lost as he persisted in his quixotic quest for a nuclear-free world and unconditional talks with Iranian officials.

In a belated letter to IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, which Iran sent after hearing that the Western allies were about to go public with their intelligence and just a few days before the Oct. 1 meeting in Geneva among Iran, the United States and five other world powers, Iran disclosed that it did indeed have a second uranium enrichment plant under construction. However, Iran described it as a pilot. Reportedly, there were no details in the letter about the location of the second facility, when it had started operations or the type and number of centrifuges it was running.

Iran is planning to wiggle out of any strong concerted international action against it, such as meaningful sanctions, by allowing the IAEA access to the facility for inspection purposes, while the government maintains that the plant is intended only for peaceful purposes. That will probably be more than enough for China and Russia to block any effective sanctions, no matter what powers of persuasion Obama thinks he may have. Yet, Mohammad Mohammadi-Golpayegani, who heads Ayatollah Khamenei’s office, contradicted the peaceful purposes façade. He said, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency, that “this new plant, God willing, will soon become operational and will make the enemies blind”.

Which is it – peaceful energy or a force to “blind” Iran’s enemies?  Iran has the “burden of proof” to demonstrate its peaceful intentions, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at his press conference that I attended on September 29th. But will the IAEA ever be able to tell the difference with the run-around that it will get from Iran?

While downplaying the Iranian threat, the IAEA Director-General ElBaradei has suggested that “uranium enrichment should be submitted to multilateral control, even for Western countries”.

Is placing the United States’ nuclear program under UN supervision what President Obama had in mind, when he said that “a world in which IAEA inspections are avoided and the United Nations demands are ignored will leave all people less safe, and all nations less secure”?  If so, our commander-in-chief is abdicating his most important constitutional responsibility to the American people.