David M. Weinberg
The root corruption of the nuclear deal that the Obama administration reached with Iran in July 2015 was not only that Iran got to keep its nuclear facilities but that President Barack Obama didn’t insist on truly intrusive international supervision of what goes on deep inside them.
After all, Iran had clandestinely crossed every red line set by the West over 20 years – putting nuclear plants online, building heavy water facilities, refining uranium, working on explosive triggers and warheads and generally breaching all its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – and Iran got away with it.
It lied, formally and repeatedly, to the international community about its nuclear efforts.
So “anywhere, anytime” international inspections of Iran’s secret-most nuclear and military facilities were the minimum prerequisite for a verifiable deal. Obama said so himself, but then reneged on this.
Under the terms of the P5+1 agreement with the ayatollahs (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), U.N. inspectors were given the right only to “coordinate” their visits to suspect Iranian sites, “in consultation between Iran and the world powers.” Worse still, Iran was given the right to deny and challenge U.N. requests to send inspectors to suspicious sites. In these cases, an arbitration board composed of Iran and the powers would decide on the issue. This allows Tehran time to cover up any sign of noncompliance with its commitments.
The sycophantic then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called this “managed access,” which is a weak-kneed euphemism for nowhere, no-time inspections.
Since then, of course, Iran has stymied access by international inspectors to military and nuclear sites, especially the Parchin military base, where Iran clearly was experimenting with nuclear weapons production.
Now, the head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency is refusing to take at face value evidence presented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about secret atomic archives and warehouses in Tehran.
Several months ago, Israel revealed the existence of Iran’s nuclear archive, and in a heroic Mossad operation that will yet be the stuff of movies, heisted perhaps a third of the documents, which unquestionably prove that Iran serially lied about its nuclear weapons effort and that the effort is merely mothballed, at best.
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano should have acted with alacrity and moved in to capture the remaining documents. But nada. Nothing. The IAEA hasn’t even asked to visit the site. Amano has done absolutely nothing to follow up expeditiously and capture Iran red-handed – before it covers its tracks.
Last week, in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu exposed the existence of a secret atomic warehouse in the Turkuzahbad district of Tehran with nuclear equipment and material. But Amano has poured cold water on the prime minister’s urgent warnings and managed only to find time to spar publicly with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu urged the IAEA to immediately send inspectors to the site with Geiger counters. Amano scorned the prime minister’s challenge and blathered something bland, in classic U.N. bureaucratic style, to the effect that “all information obtained, including from third parties, is subject to rigorous review and assessed together with other available information to arrive at an independent assessment based on the agency’s own expertise.”
In other words: Go to hell, Israel; we know better; we’ll take our time and we don’t really want to embarrass or anger the Iranians.
In another part of the U.N. speech, Netanyahu revealed Hezbollah’s secret sites for building and storing precision-guided missiles in and around Beirut’s international airport.
Lebanon’s president dismissed Netanyahu’s claims and the U.N.’s peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, was silent – as it has been throughout the past 12 years of Hezbollah’s military buildup since the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
A beefed-up UNIFIL was supposed to block Hezbollah’s return to southern Lebanon. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 to expand UNIFIL was then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s “great achievement”; a foreign policy “success” that, ever since, she hasn’t ridiculously stopped congratulating herself for.
The point of all this is to illustrate the limitations – indeed, the uselessness and even venality, of international institutions – when it comes to guaranteeing Israeli security.
There is a long and sordid history here, whereby the U.N. and other international institutions have abandoned Israel, beginning with the U.N.’s failure to uphold Israel’s right of free passage through the Straits of Tiran when Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser closed them in 1967 and the swift departure of U.N. forces in Sinai when Nasser demanded this so that he could attack Israel.
The Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai has failed completely to prevent the incursion of al-Qaida and ISIS into the now-Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, or prevent attacks against Egyptians and Israelis. The U.N. Disengagement Observer Force on the Golan mostly fled several years ago when the Syrian civil war heated up and Israel could no longer sufficiently protect them (!). The U.N. Relief and Works Agency perpetuates Palestinian dreams of overwhelming Israel with returning refugees and has allowed its facilities to be overrun by Hamas as weapons depots and firing grounds.
In the meantime, UNESCO has passed several resolutions denying Jewish history in Jerusalem (essentially, declaring Zionism false and illegitimate), and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees regularly brands Israeli “practices in the occupied territories” as war crimes.
All of which explains why Israel is never going to entrust its security to any type of international troop force, as has been repeatedly and perniciously proposed by European and American negotiators seeking Israeli withdrawals in the West Bank.
All of which explains why Israel must continue to take the offensive against Iran’s nuclear program, without reliance on international inspectors.
U.N. forces, U.N. monitors, U.N. experts, U.N. diplomats, and even (some) EU and U.S. diplomats simply cannot be relied upon to rigorously rein in the ambitions of Iran and other bad actors in the region.
David Ben-Gurion once derisively dismissed the U.N. as “Um-Shmum” – meaning, irrelevant. He was wrong. The U.N. is much more maleficent.
David M. Weinberg is vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, jiss.org.il. His personal website is davidmweinberg.com.