Security Council Resolution 1696, RIP

by Avi Bell

That thud you hear is the collapse of Security Council Resolution 1696 (2006).

Resolution 1696, adopted July 31, specifically invoked Chapter VII in order to demand that Iran stop uranium enrichment and other worrying aspects of its nuclear program, and warned in paragraph 8 of the resolution that the Security Council would impose economic and/or diplomatic sanctions in the event of noncompliance by August 31.

Iran moved up its answer to August 22 in order to conform to the Muslim lunar calendar and answered with the predictable no. On August 31, in accordance with Resolution 1696, the IAEA reported not only that Iran had resumed open enrichment activities, but that inspectors had discovered new traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian facility which did not match nuclear fingerprint of previous enriched uranium found in Iranian sites. Iran responded by reiterating its earlier response: Iran “will not give up one iota” of its nuclear rights.

So, will there be sanctions?

The New York Times reports that Russia and China do not want sanctions and that the E.U.’s foreign ministers are in agreement that it’s “too early to impose sanctions on Iran.” AFP reports that Kofi Annan, meanwhile, has arrived in Iran to let the Iranians know that notwithstanding the clear language of resolution 1696, the UN Secretary General opposes sanctions and believes “patience is more effective.”

Sadly, the Security Council’s inaction was rather predictable. Some days ago, the United States already began maneuvering to create an ad hoc coalition of countries that will impose economic sanctions on Iran. However, it’s difficult to believe these efforts will meet substantial success.

Iran seems to be very clearly following the path blazed by North Korea for building nuclear weapons. For those who believe that there is a realistic chance that Iran’s leaders might transfer these weapons to allies like Hezbollah in what Iranian president Ahmadinejad labels the ongoing war with the “World Arrogance” (i.e., the West) and the “Zionist regime” (i.e., Israel), this is extremely frightening.

But it once again shows why the Security Council is likely to remain ineffective.

China and Russia are neither the “World Arrogance” nor the “Zionist regime” and may therefore safely enjoy continued oil and nuclear trade with Iran for the indefinite future. If and when war breaks out, China and Russia will be able to sit safely on the sidelines, having exploited the situation to the maximum.

France and Britain are part of the “World Arrogance,” but France (and perhaps Britain too) does not have the stomach to confront Iran and by French estimation, France can free-ride on future American and Israeli steps while enjoying the benefits of Iranian trade in the meantime.

What is truly worrying is that for the foreseeable future, Israel will lack the ability and the United States the political will to confront Iran. It’s not crazy to believe that if matters continue, in several years Ahmadinejad will have a new genocide to deny.

2 Responses

  1. Leaving aside the conjecture momentarily (and with some difficulty) the Iran scenario does show the incompetence of the Security Council, resultant largely from the permanent veto system. Indeed genocides have in fact happened because of SC incomptence or lack of willingness to intervene; one continues to happen to Darfur. The Iranian question should not get any preferential treatment just because it may impact directly on Israel; all breaches of SC Resolutions and int law should be dealt with in a spirit of equal gravity, although the appropriate action to every violation or suspected violation will be dependent on a cocktail of complex factors, as we all know. I firmly believe the outmoded veto system is prime among them.

    Presumably, then, Prof. Bell you would support the removal or revision of the permanent veto system in order to reduce the potential for such incompetence in the SC in the future??

  2. Since I don’t accept the premise that the incompetence of the Security Council results primarily from the permanent veto system, I do not accept the conclusion that removing the permanent veto system would improve the performance of the Security Council in the future.

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