Wrist-Slap for the Mullahs
The Wall Street Journal:
The Governing Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency voted last Saturday to express an "absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes." The U.S. is taking it as a victory that Russia and China voted to abstain, and that India voted for censure. The hope is that the Board will actually refer Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council at the next meeting in November.
The IAEA vote does not come out of the blue. Iran admitted to violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in the spring of 2003. Iran's case should have been referred to the Security Council that fall, but the U.S. agreed to allow Britain, France and Germany to negotiate directly with Tehran. Over the next year, the IAEA called on Iran to suspend its nuclear-related activities on six separate occasions. Iran finally agreed last November, only to withdraw from talks several months later.
Even this, however, might not have moved the IAEA to action had Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not used his speech to the U.N. General Assembly this month to denounce the "nuclear apartheid" of the NPT regime. Now Iran is threatening to expel U.N. inspectors from nuclear sites if the IAEA moves forward with a referral to the Security Council.
The bluster might work: Europe especially is unlikely to vote for trade sanctions with oil prices already high. Also, by November both Cuba and Belarus will be voting members of the 35-member IAEA governing board. These are among the countries whose support the U.S. will require simply to move Iran's case to the Security Council, where China and Russia would likely block even a mild resolution. No wonder the mullahs believe they can be so dismissive of the U.N. as they march toward their goal of becoming a nuclear power.