The [Islamic] Republic of Iran gained a momentous diplomatic victory the other day at the UN Security Council. After much “wrangling” by the 15-member Council, the world body issued what is styled a “Presidential Statement.” By its terms – the statement requested Iran to halt its uranium enrichment activities and charged the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify that Iran would have done so in 30 days.
The term “president” refers to the presidency of the Council, which until March 31 belonged to Argentina. Next month it will be China’s turn to preside over the Council, followed by that nuclear powerhouse called Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire, formerly Congo). Besides the five permanent members –China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – the Council consists also of the following ten non-permanent members: Argentina, Congo, Denmark, Ghana, Greece, Japan, Peru, Qatar, Slovakia and Tanzania.
The jurisdiction of the Security Council is to address threats to international peace and security. Because the Iranian pursuit of nuclear energy is not a threat to international peace and security, the Council wisely sent the Iranian file back to the IAEA. The Presidential Statement has no basis in international law of the Charter. The Presidential Statement is not binding on Iran. It is a face-saving device concocted by the Council to get the likes of the United States and her lackeys (the other self-anointed members of the “international community”) off the back of the Council with their unreasonable and offside (hors jeu) requests to the Council.
All along Iran had wanted the file to go back to the IAEA and have its situation treated in that agency. So for the next thirty days Iran has its wish. Exactly how long is 30 days? That depends on one’s definition of “days.” Are these 30 calendar days or business days – even then, are these Iranian business days or American business days. The game will go on.
The Security Council was wise to rebuff the United States and its lackeys, because the last time it did what they wanted it to do the United States and United Kingdom went off on their own and invaded Iraq in violation of the Charter. The operative Security Council instrument in that case was resolution 1441. Unlike the Presidential Statement, the Council’s resolutions are binding on the naughty party. In that resolution, the Security Council said that it was considering under the UN Charter’s Chapter VII (action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression) Iraq’s non-compliance of prior Council resolutions and apparent lack of cooperation with the nuclear agency and inspectors. But not once anywhere in that document the Security Council found or determined that Iraq’s non-compliance was a threat to international peace and security. Therefore, the resolution did not authorize the use of force or any other sanction under Chapter VII and in fact the Council reserved its rights to revisit the matter if other efforts would fail to garner Iraqi cooperation. Yet, the Bush-Cheney administration and the other members of the gang-that-could-not-shoot-straight jumped the gun and invaded Iraq!
No wonder this time around – with the echo of the Iraq situation in the background — the Council issued a non-binding statement whose only dignity is owed to its ceremonial “presidential” stature.
When I taught about the rule of law in our daily lives, I had my students enact a scene from Robert Bolt’s brilliant 1966 play about Sir Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor of England, called A Man for All Seasons. After his intended son-in-law (Roper) had urged him to arrest the Devil even if it meant to cut down every law in the land – More replied: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!”
Mr. Bolton, take heed!
About Guive Mirfendereski is a professorial lecturer in international relations and law and is the principal artisan at trapworks.com. Born in Tehran in 1952, he is a graduate of Georgetown University's College of Arts and Sciences (BA), Tufts University's Fletcher School (PhD, MALD, MA) and Boston College Law School (JD). He is the author of A Diplomatic History of the Caspian Sea>>> Features in iranian.com