Putin on Iran’s Nuclear Program

One doesn’t always think of Russian President Vladimir Putin as being the epitome of good judgment, but I have to say I think he hits just about exactly the right chord in his comments here on Iran’s nuclear program and the surrounding law and diplomacy:

Russia’s Putin Says Iran Nuclear Push is Peaceful

(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he has no doubt that Iran is adhering to international commitments on nuclear non-proliferation but regional and international concerns about Tehran’s nuclear programme could not be ignored.

Putin, whose country is among six world powers seeking to ensure that Iran does not seek to develop nuclear weapons, also said Iranian threats to Israel’s existence were unacceptable.

His remarks appeared aimed to strike a balance between the interests of Iran, on the one hand, and on the other, Israel and global powers seeking to ensure Tehran does not acquire nuclear weapons.

“I have no doubt that Iran is adhering to the rules in this area. Because there is no proof of the opposite,” Putin, whose country is one of six leading those diplomatic efforts, told Russian state-run English-language channel RT.

But he criticised Iran for rejecting a Russian offer to enrich uranium for Tehran’s nuclear programme and took aim at aggressive Iranian rhetoric about Israel, with which Putin has been improving ties in recent years.

“Iran is in a very difficult region and when we hear … from Iran that Israel could be destroyed, I consider that absolutely unacceptable. That does not help,” Putin said.

Putin suggested that Washington was exaggerating dangers posed by Iran, saying “the United States uses Iran to unite Western allies against some real or non-existent threat”.

Putin said that concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme, which Tehran says is purely for peaceful purposes including power generation, must be addressed.

Last week, Russia joined China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany in pressing Iran to cooperate with a stalled investigation by the U.N. nuclear agency into suspected atomic research by the Islamic state.

In a June 5 joint statement intended to signal their unity in the decade-old dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme, the six powers said they were “deeply concerned” about the country’s atomic activities.

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Michael Roddy)

Another account of his comments with some additional quotes is here.

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8 Comments on “Putin on Iran’s Nuclear Program”

  1. yousaf says:

    Putin is exactly right.

    All legal, technical issues re. Iran’s nuclear program were settled in 2008. see e.g. my take:

    http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/05/16/reset-on-iran-now/

    Everything else the politicized DG has brought up has been about extra-judicial “concerns”.

    If the IAEA wants to press these issues, the CSA has an arbitration clause. The IAEA should go for it, especially if they are so confident they are right.

    The Russians have been very clear all along that legal matters re. Iran’s nuclear program have been settled, and what remains are political issues. e.g.:

    http://rt.com/politics/russia-iran-nuclear-security-lavrov-167/

    =========================
    QUOTING:

    ““We were told by the IAEA that they (the Iranians) will install next generation centrifuges,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on Thursday. “However, (Iran) is doing everything in line with their commitments under the Safeguards Agreement.”

    The Safeguards Agreement, which was signed between the IAEA and Iran in 1974, sets forth the parameters for Tehran’s nuclear activity. Iran presently enriches uranium to 20 percent concentration – enough to power nuclear reactors and medical research, but far below the level needed for nuclear weapons.

    The Foreign Ministry says Iran is obliged to halt enrichment work during the negotiation process.

    “The IAEA has been notified, and the IAEA will be there and will supervise this, but I’d like to repeat that this is a legal aspect of the matter, while the ****political**** aspect is that we, along with the other Security Council members, have called on Iran to freeze enrichment operations during the negotiations,” Lavrov emphasized.

    ========================

    • Dan Joyner says:

      Yes, I agree that that is an important distinction he is making. The UNSC’s determinations are not based on underlying violations by Iran of substantive law. The UNSC is a political body that is mandated to determine threats to international peace and security. Thats a political calculus, not a legal one. And it is susceptible to all the subjectivity to which any political calculus is subject.

      • yousaf says:

        I’d go further and say that nuclear enrichment in Iran — after the DNI has said explicitly he has a ‘high level of confidence’ that no nuclear weaponization decision has been made — does not constitute a threat to the peace.

        It would be great to see the details of how the UNSC determines that in general, and how it determined it in this case.

        My understanding is that no formal determination was made, it was something implicitly — but evidently, wrongly — decided by the UNSC in its political deliberations.

        How have these things been handled in the past and how should they be handled?

        I found your work on the UNSC here very illuminating:

        http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2182257

      • yousaf says:

        Could Iran be a threat to the peace even after it (hypothetically) stops its nuclear program?

        Can a UNSC resolution based on an IAEA referral stand even if the IAEA ‘concern’ evaporates?

      • Johnboy says:

        Yousaf: “Could Iran be a threat to the peace even after it (hypothetically) stops its nuclear program?”

        Only the Security Council can determine that there is a threat to the peace, which would suggest that once the UNSC makes such a determination then it stands until such time as the Security Council blows the all-clear.

        Of course, that requires a determination from the Council that there is a threat to the peace. Which would be nice but, in this case, appears to be conspicuous by its absence.

        And absent such a determination then I can’t see how the Security Council can claim the authority to act under Chapter VII.

        The Charter clearly says that the sequence of events is this:
        a) Make the determination that there exists A Threat To The Peace
        b) Use that determination to justify pulling out The Big Sticks contained in Chapter VII

        Yousaf: “Can a UNSC resolution based on an IAEA referral stand even if the IAEA ‘concern’ evaporates?”

        UNSC: “Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

        I would suggest that this means “Yeah, the measures stand until we say otherwise”.

        After all, only the Security Council itself can blow the whistle on A Threat To The Peace, in which case only the Security Council can sound the All Clear.

  2. Nick says:

    Bolton did not get to establish Article 39 for Iran, I am sure he wanted it badly.

    Dan can correct my understanding of this, but it is like saying (using programming style):
    if (Iran is guilty, i.e. Article 39)
    then it should be punished with Articles 41 and 42;

    but the “if” part was never satisfied, and they jumped to 41 and 42, anyway. I guess it is OK , because politicians are not logical.

    Here is Article 39:

    The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.

    • Johnboy says:

      There doesn’t appear to be much wriggle-room to interpret Article 39 other than this:
      A) The Security Council can use Articles 41 and 42 to maintain *or* restore peace
      B) The “maintain peace” means that the Security Council can invoke Articles 41 or 42 even when there is simply a “threat to the peace”, even if there is no shootin’ ‘n’ stuff.
      C) Which rather requires that somebody blows the whistle on We Have Reached The Stage Where Peace Is Under Threat and….
      D) The UN Security Council is authorized to be the referee who blows that whistle.

      But the inescapable legal point appears to me that the UN Security Council must blow that whistle BEFORE it can stop play and award the penalty against the offending player.

      The Council is like a soccer referee e.g. it is authorized to both blow the whistle AND then show the Yellow Card or the Red Card.

      But that whistle-blowing prelude doesn’t appear to me to be an optional-extra, precisely because the wording of Article 39 is this:
      The Security Council shall determine [blah] [blah] [blah] **AND** shall [blah][blah] or [blah][blah][blah]….

      The “and” suggests that the Council can no more
      a) Go in boot’s ‘n’ all merely because it feels like it
      than it can
      b) Determine that there is a threat to the peace but then say “But, heh, who cares? Who’s for pizza?”.

      The whistle blowing *and* the card-flashing come as a job-lot, not as optional-extras.

      • Bibi Jon says:

        Eric Brill seems to concur:

        “The Security Council may take many strong measures under Articles 40 and 41, even military action under Article 42 – but only if the Security Council first determines that Iran’s nuclear program is a Peace Threat.”

        “Despite the US’ strong urging, Russia and China have refused to let the Security Council do this. They have been so cautious that neither “Article 39″ nor any of its threshold phrases – “threat to the peace,” “breach of the peace” or “act of aggression” – appears anywhere in the Iran Resolutions. Even its key single words are conspicuously absent: One searches in vain through many thousands of words for a single appearance of “threat” or “breach” or “aggression.” The United States was denied the “green light” it had claimed in 2003, when it argued that the Peace Threat determination in Resolution 1441, adopted four months earlier, authorized the US to attack Iraq without explicit permission from the Security Council.”

        See http://www.raceforiran.com/the-iran-nuclear-dispute-a-new-approach


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