Friday’s IAEA Board of Governors’ resolution, on outgoing Director General (DG) Mohamed ElBaradei’s last working day at the Agency, is not intended to get Iran’s opaque nuclear program off with a slap on the wrist. It is much more serious for the country. The resolution of 25 of 35 member states voting for (and 3 against: Venezuela, Cuba and Malaysia) must be a clear signal to Iran. Nobel laureate ElBaradei, whose efforts in preventing another war in the Middle East while preserving professional integrity cannot be praised any more may actually be highly satisfied with the resolution. He might even acknowledge lack of trust and confidence on either side, but the vote clearly shows that Iran cannot interpret the NPT (with withdrawals of its additional protocols and modified Code 3.1 regulations at will) as it does.
Incoming DG Yukiya Amano will face enormous problems with Iran right in the beginning of his term. The covert construction of the Fordow/Qom site for enriching uranium has been condemned in the resolution as illicit, and any speculation as to whether commencement of construction work has started before or after Iran’s withdrawal of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty’s (NPT) modified Code 3.1 which requires member states to indicate new sites even at the time of planning is no longer regarded important. As Juan Cole sees it, Iran’s opaque nuclear program might seek a “breakout capability” whenever their rulers consider it necessary despite the Supreme Leaders’ claims that an atomic bomb is incompatible with Islam.
But who is presently ruling the country? There are signs of serious power struggles within the complex oligarchy with both the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s and a due to a legitimacy crisis stricken President Ahmadinejad’s decline in influence. The opposition represented by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mir Hossein Mousavi (neither would be a trustworthy alternative to the present regime) and Mehdi Karroubi, not to talk about Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, has been silenced in recent weeks. Silenced by terror, in show trials, family threats, and on the streets. Even yesterday’s confiscation of 2003 Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi’s prize money may be an example.
Right now, the country can only be regarded a military dictatorship, or junta. The Revolutionary Guards, or pasdaran, have already taken control of Iran. Withdrawal from the NPT may only be the next logic step.