PRAGUE, 2 February 2006 -- The 35-member IAEA board of governors contains a mix of nations ranging from close allies of the United States, like Australia, to active opponents of Washington, like Venezuela, with other countries in the middle, like India.
Over the next two days, this volatile collection of nations will have to decide whether to agree to what was originally a Western proposal to report Iran to the UN Security Council because it has resumed work towards nuclear-fuel enrichment.
The Western powers suspect Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear-weapons program, which the Iranians deny.
Regional expert Walter Posch, of the EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris, says he expects much bargaining for support in the corridors of the IAEA. "The trade-offs that are under way now are really important; there must be negotiations between the larger European countries, plus the Americans, with each of the [other] countries," he said.
With Syria, Cuba, and Yemen on the governing board, as well as Venezuela, there is a core of nations likely to oppose the move to report Iran. There are others which are not expected to be enthusiastic, like predominantly-Muslim Indonesia, as well as nonaligned Algeria and Belarus.
There are still others with some doubts, like South Africa, Argentina, and Brazil, which are known to be uneasy that interference with Iran's nuclear program could set a precedent conflicting with their own nuclear ambitions.
Tehran Lacking Support?
Analyst Posch says despite this lineup, Iran may not get enough support to defeat the proposal: "It's almost as if the Iranians have overplayed their cards in terms of the sympathy they can gain, and a referral [to the Security Council] might be very likely."
He says this is because of two factors. One is that many board members may not be willing to side with Iran in view of the extreme nature of the anti-Israeli comments of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
The other is that this time, Russia and China -- veto-holding members of the Security Council -- are aligned with the United States, France, and Britain in supporting the resolution.
To Report Or Refer?
To obtain the backing of Moscow and Beijing, the Western powers watered down their resolution from a formal "referral" of Iran to the Security Council to a "report."
This means no UN sanctions can be imposed on Iran until after the issue of a full IAEA report on the subject on 6 March.
In the meantime, analyst Glen Barclay of Australian National University in Canberra says the Western powers in one sense may have played into Ahmadinejad's hands: "He is looking for something which activates mass popular support [for himself] and, of course, there is nothing like external pressure to rally a nation behind its leader, so this [crisis] is fine from his point of view."
Analyst Posch says Ahmadinejad has destroyed the atmosphere and the small credit of trust which former reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami managed to build in the West.
The IAEA Resolution
On 2 February, the 35-member Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency began discussing a draft resolution aimed at referring the matter of Iran's nuclear program to the United Nations Security Council. The key section of the resolution is Section 1, which states that the Board of Governors:
Underlines that outstanding questions can best be resolved and confidence built in the exclusive peaceful nature of Iran's program by Iran responding positively to the calls for confidence building measures which the Board has made on Iran, and in this context deems it necessary for Iran to:
- reestablish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and processing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the Agency;
- reconsider the construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water;
- ratify promptly and implement in full Additional Protocol;
- pending ratification, continue to act in accordance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol with Iran signed on 18 December 2003;
- implement the transparency measures, as requested by the Director General, which extend beyond the former requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, and include such access to individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual use equipment, certain military-owned workshops and research and development as the Agency may request in support of its ongoing investigations.
THE COMPLETE TEXT: To read the complete text of the resolution, click here.