Security Council must curb IranWASHINGTON I went to college with a guy who walked into the local police station one night and asked the cop behind the desk to arrest him. The cop asked why, and the guy said he was hearing voices and afraid he was going to do something really bad. The cop said he couldn't arrest the guy, because he hadn't broken a law. So the guy went outside, picked up a big rock and heaved it through the window.
Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is behaving so provocatively that it is asking the global community to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons. The enforcers of nuclear nonproliferation rules are determined to look the other way. This is dangerous for the world and for Iran. It's time for the UN Security Council to do its job.
Investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency reported in November 2003 that Iran had been developing an undeclared uranium enrichment program for 18 years, had covertly imported nuclear material and equipment, carried out 113 unreported experiments to produce uranium metal, separated plutonium and concealed many other aspects of its nuclear activities.
Two years later, in September 2005, the IAEA board of governors adopted a resolution declaring that Iran's many failures and breaches "constitute noncompliance in the context of Article XII.C of the Agency's Statute." This obliges the board to report Iran to the Security Council but does not specify within which timeframe.
Shortly thereafter, in November 2005, IAEA inspectors reported that they had found in Iran documents delivered around 1987 by the A.Q. Khan network, related to casting and machining uranium metal into hemispherical forms. The only known use for such forms is in nuclear weapons.
Yet matters stalled there, frozen by fear that Russia would use its veto in the UN Security Council to block further action. So, the breakers of the rules mock the nuclear watchdog that is supposed to warn of dangerous violations, while some of the key rule enforcers look the other way.
Some in Washington dream of an executioner to handle Iran and other "rogue actors." This blood lust scares or angers other countries. The fearful wring their hands and pray that the problem will solve itself. The angry feel better watching the underdog chase away the domineering American giant. The venal - Russia and China have significantly contributed to Iran's undeclared nuclear program without informing the agency - hope that America will stop Iran from getting the bomb without harming their business with Iran.
Each of these responses is a form of free-riding on France, Germany and Britain, which have tried to carry the freight but are unable to without America's motor. These three states, plus the United States, Japan, Canada and other stalwarts should reassert the primacy of diplomacy and proffer modest initiatives to improve the nonproliferation compliance system.
There is no way around the fact that in cases of noncompliance such as Iran the IAEA must be given authority to conduct wider and deeper inspections. Only the UN Security Council can grant this authority. Veto-wielding members should recognize their temptation to undercut nonproliferation when cases get hard, and instead should adopt a generic and binding resolution to strengthen inspections under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
As suggested by Pierre Goldschmidt, former head of the IAEA's safeguards department, such a resolution should establish, independently of any specific case, that when a state has been found by the IAEA to be in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement, the following would take place automatically.
First, the agency's verification authority would widen until the state's declarations are correct and complete. This would include giving inspectors immediate access to relevant locations, to individuals at their working place and to original documents where they are normally used or stored.
Second, a noncompliant state would be required within 60 days to conclude with the IAEA an INFCIRC/66-type safeguards agreement for all nuclear facilities. While this requirement sounds dreadfully bureaucratic, it is very important. It would block a noncompliant state from withdrawing from the nonproliferation treaty and claiming the right to do whatever it wants with its nuclear material and equipment, as North Korea did and Iran threatens to do.
Third, the Security Council should establish that a noncompliant state must suspend sensitive nuclear fuel cycle-related activities for 10 years. This time would allow the international community to gain sufficient confidence that the state has become trustworthy enough to operate nuclear fuel facilities that could be used in making nuclear weapons.
The Security Council can make these vital reforms without eroding state sovereignty or development. None of these measures would trigger sanctions or violence. Indeed, they would quicken the international community's capacity to regain confidence that a state that had wandered off the peaceful nuclear path had corrected its course and would once again be a reliable neighbor or business partner.
(George Perkovich is vice president for studies of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and co-author of 'Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security.')