Wednesday, February 01, 2006

In a Persian Garden

After months of behind-the-scenes talks, all five permanent United Nations Security Council Members have finally agreed that Iran's contentious nuclear endeavours deserves their consideration (although the EU agreed not to consider action against Iran, such as sanctions, until after the UN nuclear watchdog, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), submits a conclusive report on March 6, 2006.) This is the correct course of action. Besides putting on show of belligerence not seen since the Iran hostage crisis, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly threatening another member state with annihilation, Iran is actually guilty of myriad violations of international law.

The issue on most people's minds these days is the legitimacy of force if Iran refuses to comply with the demand that its nuclear program be dismantled. In fact, the use of military force is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Nevertheless, the use of force is only authorised if it falls under one of two categories: self-defence (Article 41 of the United Nations Charter), or Security Council authorization (Article 42 of the Charter, which was used to authorize the military response by the United States and its allies against Iraq to drive that country out of Kuwait in "Operation Desert Storm" of 1990-91).

According to the Charter, to deem self-defence lawful requires that an attack has already been launched against a victim state. If a state believes it must resort to a pre-emptive strike, it must give solid proof that the action is necessary and that the act of defence is proportional, according to principles outlined in the Charter. The threat must be proven to be clear and imminent, and only after peaceful alternatives have failed.

But much has changed since the UN Charter was written. Today, the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) strongly suggests that a preventative war may be the only reasonable course of action, with many legal experts now arguing that international laws must be updated to reflect the difficulty in proving capability and intent, and the ability of modern weapons to cause complete annihilation of an enemy. Of course, simple possession of WMD’s does not in itself imply intent to wage war.

However, Iran is already in violation of Article 2.4 of the UN Charter prohibiting threats of war:
"All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state..."
In 1974, the General Assembly concluded that in situations where a state is implicated in terrorism, the very involvement is as if the State perpetrated the attack. In theory, a nation could invoke the right of self-defence against the neighbour state that provides tactical support for the terrorists. Article 3(g) of the UN's Definition of Agression, 14 Dec. 1974, prohibits "the sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State..."

Iran actively supports anti-Israel terror through the funding of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. And recall that in January 2002, Iran attempted to smuggle 50 tons of ammunition to Palestinians aboard the ship Karine A. In so doing, Iran also violated the 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (the Financing Convention). Iran's nuclear program is clearly an extension of this animosity; proof continues to pour in that Iran is building nuclear weapons and not power plants as claimed.

If Israel chooses to strike first, she also has the support of precedent established by the United Nations itself. In 1967, the UN Security Council declined to condemn Israel's pre-emptive strike at the outset of the Six Day War, partly because Egypt’s troop build-up was clearly visible and their intent openly stated in public rhetoric.

In its defence, Iran's chemical weapons and ballistic missiles, and possibly its nuclear weapons program, may be meant to dissuade internal challengers and gain influence in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea regions. The development of these various weapon systems can also be seen as a reaction to Iran's own experience as a victim of attacks during the Iran-Iraq War. Iran also believes it is threatened by US influence in the Middle East and the Arab myth of Israeli expansionism

Nevertheless, based on its actions and words, Iran has repeatedly violated international law and the UN Charter, and must be dealt with appropriately. Israel is correct in its expectation that the UN must act to protect Member States from imminent attack. If the UN fails to do so, or is unwilling to do so, the rule of international law makes clear that in "a case of necessity, of self-defence, a State is authorized to enter and destroy or remove weapons and bases that may be used against it." [Oppenheim L., International Law, vol. 1 par. 130, pg. 266, 6th edition, London, 1944]


Anonymous said...

It is strange for an apologist for Israel to invoke the many resolutions is Israel in violation of?
As for WMD....there is only one country currently in posession of such weapons in the region....Israel. Talking about a premptive strikes will only inflame the region and cause cooler heads to be sidelined.
Maybe if Israel gives up its weapons, others may be tempted to abandon their pursuit of them. This is not a one sided conflict between the forces of good and evil. Someone who has travelled around the region....and I don't mean just in Isreal,Egypt or Jordan will know that.
Please drop the intellectual masterbation and realise that human beings regardless of their religion or "divine right" to the land, are suffering and dying enough right now.
Dropping bombs on Iran, will do nothing to bring peace to a part of the world already drenched in blood.

Morey Altman said...

Thanks for the comment. I wasn't going to respond because you didn't sign your name, but I suppose you have a right to an opinion even if you don't feel very strongly about it. I don't consider myself an apologist for Israel (this is how it's spelled) or anyone else. The facts can speak for themselves. If you read all the way through you'll see a paragraph in defence of Iran's position. My post was about Iran's violations of the UN charter and international law in regards to its hostile attitude toward Israel. Perhaps I'll deal with Israel's violations in another post. btw, Israel has not officially admitted it has nuclear weapons so your suggestion that they give them up is premature. I would, however, agree that a good first step to more positive debate would be to at least admit to these weapons. Not that it would make much difference. At the moment, plenty of people are dying in the Middle East through the use of conventional weapons, most of them Muslims at the hands of other Muslims. I think that's worth YOUR considering for a moment.