Iran escapes with soft IAEA resolution

Published Friday, November 18, 2011

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is set to approve a resolution on Friday offering only a "deep and increasing concern" of Iran's nuclear program, following an explosive IAEA report released last week.

The resolution falls short of Western and Israeli hopes for a strong international condemnation of Iran, with the Russians and Chinese succeeding in watering down the wording of the text.

The resolution, tabled at the IAEA by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, says it is "essential for Iran and the agency to intensify their dialogue."

It calls on Tehran, which says its nuclear program is peaceful, "to comply fully and without delay with its obligations under relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council."

It expresses "continuing support for a diplomatic solution, and calls on Iran to engage seriously and without preconditions in talks aimed at restoring international confidence."

No deadline was requested of Iran to respond to the resolution, a significant concession to Russia and China. The resolution comes amid deep division between the P5+1 powers - US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany - over Iran's nuclear program.

US, Britain, France, and Germany want to increase international pressure after an IAEA report, sourcing "credible" evidence, came close to explicitly accusing Iran of secretly developing a nuclear weapon.

Russia, however, criticized the report as "politicized," and with China, have sought to thwart Western efforts to ratchet up pressure on the Islamic Republic.

Mark Hibbs from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank said the resolution "goes far to accommodate the interest in China and Russia -- and Iran -- in resolving outstanding issues diplomatically."

He noted it calls on Iran to address outstanding "substantive issues" but does not single out weapons-related items in the IAEA report, "and, most significantly, it doesn't set any deadline for Iran to comply."

"At this point, the Western group believes that P-5 unanimity in a weaker Iran resolution is more important than taking the risk that a tougher text would not be acceptable to the Chinese and the Russians," Hibbs said.

Israel bemused

Israel's ambassador to the IAEA, Ehud Azoulay, expressed disappointment in the resolution.

"It could be tougher," Azoulay said on the sidelines of the meeting at the IAEA's Vienna headquarters.

Fears abound of a possible Israeli strike on its arch enemy should world powers fail to act on Iran's nuclear program.

Media reports largely held Mossad responsible for a deadly blast at an Iranian missile site last week that killed 36. Iran dismissed talk of an Israeli sabotage, saying the explosion occurred due to the transport of ammunition.

Israel is the only Middle Eastern state known to possess a nuclear arsenal, rumored at approximately 200 warheads. The Jewish state has neither denied nor confirmed the existence of its nuclear weapons, in line with its policy of ambiguity.

Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and has thus escaped the type of international scrutiny currently directed at Iran.

Israel is concerned a nuclear Iran threatens its existence, while the Jewish state's Arab neighbors have long complained that Tel Aviv's nuclear arsenal is a threat to regional stability.

(al-Akhbar, AFP)

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