The IAEA Report is out:What Now?

Nov.8 2011.
On Tuesday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on Iranian nuclear activities. Within the report, buried in a technical annex, the general public was given access to damning new evidence that the Iranian regime is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. The report detailed Iran’s efforts to develop a sophisticated trigger that could be used to set off a nuclear chain reaction, the pursuit of warhead designs, and the modeling of nuclear explosions. Disturbingly, but not surprisingly, this capability has been developed with the assistance of former Soviet, North Korean, and Pakistani nuclear experts. The information included in the report is based on information provided by ten nations and has been independently verified by the IAEA.

The release of this additional intelligence marks a year of steadily growing pressure from the UN watchdog agency and its head, Yukiya Amano. The willingness of the IAEA to publicly express its concern about Iran’s nuclear weapons program is a welcome shift from years of more reluctant leadership under former IAEA chief Muhammad Elbaradei. It is important for observers to understand that this report is as unambiguous as documents of this type are likely to be. Disclosure that the IAEA believes that Iran “has sufficient information to design and produce a “workable implosion nuclear device” with highly enriched uranium should serve as a wake-up call, if not a surprise, to the international community. Yet despite near unanimity amongst international experts on Iran’s nuclear intent, the obstacles to concerted action are likely to remain. China and Russia are already positioning themselves to block any collective international response. In fact, both countries reportedly pressured the IAEA to water down its public reporting so as not to “drive Iran into a corner” prior to the reports release. Since its release, they have also done their best to downplay the significance of the report’s findings.

The IAEA report has already added to the growing sense of crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear program. Yet the report isn’t the only recent UN report that should impact the thinking of the international community when it comes to Iran’s nuclear pursuits. The report I am referring to is the one recently issued by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran in October. The report paints a damning picture of a worsening human rights situation in the country, one that leaves women, children, ethnic and religious minorities, labor activists, dissidents, and political opposition figures increasingly vulnerable to the capriciousness of the regime in Tehran.

In addition to the October’s findings of the Special Rapporteur, in early November the UN Human Rights Committee also released a report that expressed growing concern regarding Iran’s worsening human rights record. The committee placed special emphasis on the continuing abuse inflicted upon the homosexual community, religious minorities like the Baha’is, Christians, and Jews, and the high level of state sanctioned executions, many of them of children, being implemented in Iran.

It is this demonstrated brutality that should serve as a wake up call to the international community regarding the true danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. Why should the international community trust a regime that poses an abject threat to its own civilian population with a weapon that could threaten regional and international stability? The destructive capacity of a nuclear weapon is so great, and the Iranian regime’s disregard for the most basic of human rights so apparent, that it is of tremendous importance that the international community, including Russia and China, band together to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon. In the absence of harsher sanctions imposed by a range of international actors Iran is likely to succeed in its pursuit of a nuclear capability. In this event it is likely that Iran will prove even more impervious to outside pressure on its domestic human rights abuses, and furthermore it will pose an even more significant threat to people throughout the Middle East. Iran's status as the foremost sponsor of international terrorism, and its willingness to target civilians all over the world, should raise further concern.

The next several weeks are likely to prove crucial in rallying international support for halting Iran’s nuclear program. Yet the international community seems unlikely to respond to the threat. In the absence of international action most Americans are probably wondering what they can do. Here are two things we can do off of the bat. First Americans can contact their elected representatives in Washington and encourage them to support sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank. Such an action by the United States government would effectively limit Iran’s ability to market petroleum on the global market, thus starving the regime of resources. The second thing everyday Americans can do is contact their elected officials at the state level and encourage them to join California, Florida, and hopefully New York State, in prohibiting companies that do extensive business in Iran’s energy sector from holding contracts with their state governments or municipalities. By limiting the Iranian regime’s access to international energy markets the United States can hit Tehran where it really hurts; the pocketbook. In so doing Americans can effectively stand behind both their interests, and their values, and hopefully shift Iran’s behavior in the process.

If you have not already joined Iran180, we welcome you to join this urgent cause today.

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