The board of governors of IAEA today by a vote of 25-3 passed a sharply worded resolution censuring Iran over the construction of its new Fordu uranium enrichment facility near Qum, expressing serious concern and directing Iran to immediately shut down the facility. The resolution noted that Iran had broken international rules by building the new site and has referred the matter to UN Security Council for further consideration.
The resolution was drafted by US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. This was IAEA’s first resolution on Iran since 2006. At the time, the IAEA also referred Iran’s nuclear file to UNSC, which resulted in three sets of economic sanctions against the country. Today’s resolution was supported by both China and Russia, also a first since 2006. 25 counties voted in favor of the resolution. And only three countries voted against it- Cuba, Venezuela and Malaysia, with five abstentions and one member absent (among the abstentions was Brazil. Iranian President Ahmadinejad had just visited the country and Tehran expected it to cast a no vote).
The Chinese and Russian support are seen as critical for any future action by the UN Security Council over Iran’s nuclear program. The Washington Post reported yesterday that China agreed to join the US in voting for the resolution after two high-ranking US officials, Dennis Ross and Jeffrey Bader, in a recent visit to Beijing persuaded Chinese leaders that lack of a unified international stand against Iran would prompt Israel to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. An Israeli attack, the US representatives argued, would throw the entire Persian Gulf and its oil supplies into chaos, an outcome not in anyone’s interests, including China’s.
Yesterday, IAEA chief Mohamed Elbaradei told the board of governors that investigating Iran’s nuclear intentions has come to a dead end due to lack of support by the Iranian government. IAEA, he said, could not verify that Iran’s nuclear program in peaceful in nature.
Today’s resolution brings Iranian nuclear program closer to a full-fledge crisis. If Iran disregards the wide support for the resolution, it will prompt a new round of severe economic sanctions and/or military attack in the coming months. The government can probably avert the crisis by accepting the latest IAEA proposal which calls for a LEU swap agreement, whereas IAEA gets full control of Iranian LEU, shipping it to Turkey and in turn would deliver higher-grade uranium fuel to Iran for use in its nuclear reactor in Tehran (please see a previous post on the subject).