TENSION between Iran and the United States and its allies has been rising, following Iran's rejection of the preliminary agreement that was reached between the two sides on Oct. 1, 2009 in Geneva. Under the deal, Iran was supposed to send 75 percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia for conversion into fuel for a research reactor in Tehran. Russia was supposed to enrich Iran's LEU to 19.75 percent (Iran's LEU is at 3.8 percent level), and France to convert it into fuel rods.
Iran also agreed to allow the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit the newly disclosed uranium-enrichment facility in Qom-called the Fordow facility-within two weeks. Iran delivered on that promise. After the visit by the inspectors, Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA outgoing director-general, declared that the facility was a "big hole in the mountain" and nothing to worry about.
But when the preliminary proposal was taken to Tehran, the various factions within the hard-line, conservative camp could not decide how to respond to the proposal. Given Iran's historical suspicion of the West in general, and of France and Russia in particular, many of its hard-liners are not willing to send the hard-earned LEU abroad. Others, such as Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, supported the proposal. So there were heated arguments in Tehran over the issue.
Finally, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in the most important issues facing the nation, rejected the proposal. Iran then made a counterproposal. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki declared that Iran is open to a simultaneous exchange of fuel rods for its research reactor with Iran's LEU in Tehran. This was rejected by the United States and its allies in the P5+1 group-the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) plus Germany-which only adds to the Iranians' suspicion. If the ultimate goal is to transfer Iran's LEU outside of its reach, what difference does it make where to deliver the fuel and receive the LEU?
The U.S. and its allies responded by lobbying the Board of Governors (BOG) of the IAEA to pass a resolution on Nov. 27 to censure Iran for the construction of the Fordow enrichment plant. The resolution, drafted by the P5+1 group, demanded that Tehran stop uranium enrichment and immediately freeze the construction of the Fordow nuclear facility. It passed in a 25-3 vote with six abstentions.
As expected, Tehran rejected the IAEA resolution, the first one passed against Iran since 2006, as "politically motivated" and "illegal," aimed at depriving Iran of its basic rights. It announced a lofty goal of setting up to 10 other enrichment facilities on the scale of that in Natanz, which is supposed to house up to 55,000 centrifuges. Although the announcement is more than likely a bluff, it speaks to Iran's deep anger.
Is there any validity to Tehran's argument that the latest IAEA resolution is illegal? Let me first point out that, after Iran's rigged June 12 presidential election, the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of a great majority of Iranians. As an Iranian-American, I happen to be one of those who consider Ahmadinejad's reelection fraudulent. He and the government that he leads, which is essentially a military junta, are dangerous to Iran's future.
However, the issue between Iran and the West goes beyond Ahmadinejad or any other Iranian government-democratic or not, for that matter. It has to do with Iran's national rights in the framework of the international agreements that it has signed, in particular the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The issue also has to do with the double standards of the U.S. and its allies. They have agreed to transfer their nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and India; did nothing to prevent Pakistan from developing a nuclear arsenal; and supported Israel in its quest for nuclear weapons. …