On Thursday, September 26th, the 67th session of the UN General Assembly is scheduled to include a debate on nuclear disarmament, during which the Iranian regime’s ongoing, illegal nuclear program is expected to be foremost on the agenda.
Escalated sanctions imposed by the international community (including Canada) have had a serious impact on the Iranian regime. By any measure – government revenues, oil exports, currency devaluation, and inflation – Iran continues to pay a costly price for its nuclear program. Unfortunately, despite being a major oil producing and exporting country, Iran has yet to abandon its quest to achieve nuclear capability.
Nothing would benefit the international community and the Iranian people more than a decision by the Iranian regime to voluntarily end its nuclear program – the goal of diplomatic efforts and continuing sanctions. While some have raised hopes that the new Iranian government is more conciliatory than its predecessor, there is strong reason to believe that the new leadership will use the upcoming UN General Assembly as an opening to break out of international sanctions without ending its nuclear drive.
Points to Consider
- Iran’s leadership, including current President Hassan Rouhani, has a record of using negotiations and rhetoric as a veil to continue developing its nuclear program. It is therefore critical that the international community evaluate Iran’s actions, not its words.
- Iran has an opportunity to end its diplomatic and economic isolation by taking concrete, transparent, and verifiable measures to end its illegal nuclear program. Achieved through peaceful diplomacy, this solution remains the ideal means of resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. Failing such a change in Iranian actions, regardless of any change in Iranian rhetoric, sanctions should be maintained and strengthened.
- The initial actions Iran must be required to take – under the supervision of the UN’s Atomic Energy Agency – are:
- End further enrichment of uranium;
- Safely transfer enriched uranium outside Iran;
- Shut down its development facility located underground at Qom;
- Remove advanced centrifuges located at Natanz and install no additional centrifuges;
- End its development of plutonium, beginning with shutting down the heavy-water reactor located at Arak.
- A nuclear Iran would represent an unprecedented danger in the world’s most unstable region, by:
- Provoking a nuclear arms race among various regimes (including Sunni and Shia regimes currently fueling violence in Syria and elsewhere);
- Empowering the Iranian regime to continue, with full immunity, to violate the human rights of the Iranian people;
- Providing the Iranian regime with a shield to expand its violent activities – including terrorism – across the Middle East and around the world; and
- Allowing the Iranian regime – a radical theocracy – to pose a permanent, existential threat to Israel.
The Need for Iranian Actions, not more Rhetoric
Although there may be differences of opinion internationally regarding Iran’s timeline for producing a nuclear weapon, there is near-unanimous agreement among Western powers that Iran’s nuclear drive must be halted before Iran has the capability and technological know-how to create such a weapon. Containment of a nuclear Iran is not an option any Western government has expressed willingness to accept.
Multiple actions are required of the Iranian regime, as there are multiple paths to a nuclear weapon; pausing development in one area does not necessarily mean the program as a whole will not advance. A nuclear weapon requires enriched nuclear fuel as well a compatible delivery mechanism (such as a missile). Even should Iran agree to halt its enrichment of uranium, its current stock of centrifuges would allow for the rapid enrichment of uranium at any time. Likewise, a pause in the uranium track could prove meaningless if Iran retains the capacity to develop plutonium.
An Iranian Record of Misdirection
The current Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, has admitted that nuclear negotiations have been used by Iran as a cover to continue developing a nuclear capability. As Rouhani once explained:
While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the [nuclear] facility in Isfahan. By creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work there.
Speech by Hassan Rouhani, to the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, 2004
Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, a former spokesperson for Iranian President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), has described this policy in detail:
During the confidence-building era we entered the nuclear club, and despite the suspension [of uranium enrichment], we imported all the materials needed for our nuclear activities of the country…The solution is to prove to the entire world that we want the power plants for electricity. Afterwards we can proceed with other activities… As long as we were not subjected to sanctions, and during our negotiations we could import technology, we should have negotiated for so long, and benefited from the atmosphere of negotiations to the extent that we could import all the technology needed… We had one overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building, and a covert policy, which was continuation of the activities…
Fars News Agency, 2008
The Dangers of a Nuclear Iran
In light of rising Sunni-Shia violence across the region, the Middle East is facing unprecedented instability, conflict, and rising extremism. Imagine adding nuclear weapons to an already dangerous equation. In violation of UN obligations, the Iranian regime has for years maintained an illegal nuclear program that experts widely believe is for the purpose of building a nuclear weapon. If successful, Iran will have triggered a regional nuclear arms race, sharply escalated tensions, and put the entire Middle East on the verge of a potentially catastrophic regional war.
A nuclear weapon would empower the Iranian regime to continue, with full immunity, to abuse human rights and suppress the pro-democracy movement. Since coming into power in 1979, the Iranian regime has been governed by a council of religious leaders who have imposed their strict, radical version of Islam on the country. As a result, the Iranian regime is one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights. In Iran, Christians are regularly imprisoned, women are executed by stoning for “adultery”, and gay citizens are publicly hanged. In the 1980s, the regime even ordered tens of thousands of Iranian children – roped together – to clear minefields.
A nuclear weapon would provide a protective shield behind which the Iranian regime will be able to expand its violent activities – including terrorism – across the Middle East. Iran is widely considered to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Every year, Iran spends hundreds of millions and sends thousands of Iranian operatives to directly support terror groups across the region – providing funds, arms, training, and in-field guidance. This has included jihadists in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza – all banned terror entities under Canadian law. All three have made significant use of suicide bombings. Since the Arab Spring, Iran has provided extensive military and financial support to the Assad regime’s brutal efforts in the Syrian civil war, which has now claimed more than 100,000 lives.
A nuclear weapon would position the Iranian regime – perhaps the most extremist in the world – as a permanent, existential threat to Israel. The Iranian regime has suggested that 9-11 was caused by the United States government, and stated that Israel is a ‘cancer’ and a ‘rotting corpse’ that will soon be removed from the Middle East. The Iranian leadership is also on record as stating that Iran cannot be deterred from a future nuclear war. Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani has openly stated that Israel is a “one-bomb country” that would be instantly destroyed with a single warhead, while a full-scale war would “just produce damages in the Muslim world.” This is due to the fact that Israel is densely populated and geographically small – only some two-thirds the area of Vancouver Island.