United Nations Security Council Resolution 1696 Essay

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On July 31, 2006 the United Nations Security Council ratified resolution 1696 in response to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports of the potential for undeclared nuclear material or activities in Iran. The June 2006 IAEA Director General report indicated “the Agency is unable to make progress in its efforts to provide assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran. After more than three years of Agency efforts to seek clarity about all aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, the existing gaps in knowledge continue to be a matter of concern (International Atomic Energy Agency 2006, 7).” Iranian efforts to conceal aspects of its nuclear program and failure to comply with IAEA safeguards created distrust amongst the international system and prompted the ratification of resolution 1696. Resolution 1696 “demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, and gave it one month to do so or face the possibility of economic and diplomatic sanctions to give effect to its decision (U.N. Security Council 2006, 1).” Iran is one of the 189 signatories of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and therefore strictly limited to civilian applications of nuclear energy. The NPT is intended to prevent additional states from developing nuclear weapons, disarm current nuclear powers and facilitate the use of peaceful nuclear technology. All NPT signatories are required to follow nuclear safeguards to create international transparency to ensure no treaty signatory is building nuclear military capabilities. These safeguards are in place “to [prevent] diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices (International Atomic Energy Agency 1945 Article 3).” The November 2003 IAEA Director General report documented Iran’s failure to comply with mandatory nuclear safeguards required by the NPT. The IAEA report states, “it is clear that Iran has failed in a number of instances over an extended period of time to meet its obligations… with respect to the reporting of nuclear material and its processing and use, as well as the declaration of facilities where such material has been processed and stored (International Atomic Energy Agency 2003, 9).” Specifically, Iran failed to report; amounts of imported nuclear material, production of enriched and depleted uranium dating back to 1999, loss of nuclear material, production and transfer of nuclear waste, plutonium extraction and design information on seven different nuclear program facilities (International Atomic Energy Agency 2003, 9). The Iranian government ignored the U.N. demand to cease nuclear research and enrichment. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded to resolution 1696, stating “Those who think they can use the language of threats and force against Iran are mistaken. If they don't realize that now, one day they will learn it the hard way (BBC News 2006)." Iranian non-compliance with resolution 1696 led to resolution 1737, ratified on December 23, 2006, which applied economic sanctions, cut communication and froze all foreign Iranian funds, including corporate and personal assets. These sanctions were compounded by resolutions 1747 ratified in 2007 and 1929 ratified in 2010. Israeli security sources estimate the total cost of sanctions at $130 billion since 2012 alone (The Times of India 20013). These sanctions have been credited with creating Iranian willingness to negotiate which resulted in the November 24, 2013 Geneva interim agreement. The agreement puts a short-term hold on uranium enrichment above 3.5% and releases nuclear reactor design details for the Arak nuclear power plant in exchange for reduced economic sanctions. The interim agreement affirms Iran’s right to nuclear energy as stated in the NPT but doesn’t clarify if that includes the right to enrich uranium (Gearan 2013).