Iran Elected to UN Disarmament Commission

Julie Stahl | Jerusalem Bureau Chief | Monday, April 17, 2006

Iran Elected to UN Disarmament Commission

Jerusalem ( - Under threat of United Nations Security Council sanctions for its own nuclear program, Iran has been elected to a vice-chair position on the U.N. Disarmament Commission, whose mission includes preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

The commission's deliberations began last Monday and are scheduled to continue until April 28. On the first day of the commission meeting, Iran along with Uruguay and Chile was elected as one of three vice-chairs.

It happened on the same day that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised his people "good news" about the country's nuclear program.

The following day, Iran announced that it had managed to enrich uranium, a key ingredient in the production of a nuclear bomb.

On Monday, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that his country would continue to enrich uranium, and dismissed the idea that the U.S. might attack nuclear facilities in Iran.

"We are certain that Americans will not attack Iran because the consequences would be too dangerous," Rafasanjani was quoted as telling the Kuwaiti parliament.

Dr. Dore Gold, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. said that electing Iran to a leadership position on the UN Disarmament Commission was like asking the "cat to guard the milk."

"Clearly the Iranians have an interest in establishing disarmament rules that protect their clandestine nuclear weapons program," said Gold, author of Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos.

"For the last decade and a half, Iran has appointed a very large diplomatic mission to the U.N. and has sought to obtain appointments to as many U.N. bodies as possible," said Gold in a telephone interview.

It is not a surprise, therefore, that Iran would find a place at the table of even the most sensitive committees, he said.

According to Gold, the various commissions at the U.N. establish the "background noise" and "international norms" that are adopted for dealing with problems worldwide.

"They have a way of penetrating the judgments of the U.N. secretariat and other U.N. bodies," he said.

The Disarmament Commission's new chairman, Joon Oh from South Korea, said prior to the group's meeting that it was not intended to be an isolated event but should be considered an integral part of worldwide disarmament efforts.

According to a release on the Disarmament Commission's website, the agenda items include recommendations for achieving nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and "practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons."

The commission was established by a U.N. General Assembly resolution in 1952 to pursue "effective international control of atomic energy" and make sure that atomic energy was used only for peaceful purposes.

While Iran's election to the commission is not a "decisive development," Gold said, it is "one link" in the chain that helps Iran use multi-lateral organizations to serve its interests.

Prof. Anne Bayefsky, who edits the Eye on the U.N. website, quoted U.N. Undersecretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuaki Tanaka, as saying that the commission "played a unique role" with "the advantage of being a fully universal deliberative body."

"This is the U.N. fiction, which brings us close to nuclear war with each passing day," Bayefsky said. "The allusion is to universal democracy, though the majority of voters is non-democratic and include thugs, racists and war-mongers."

As tensions grow over the situation in Iran, Washington has not ruled out the idea of a military option in dealing with Iran, though it has downplayed the idea.

The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently referred Iran to the Security Council, where the U.S. is pushing for sanctions to be leveled against the Islamic Republic.

But Gold said that if the U.N.'s dealings with Iraq set a precedent for its dealings elsewhere in the world, then it is not likely that the U.N. would be an effective body in dealing with Iran.

"The U.N. has long ago forfeited its role as an international body safeguarding international peace and security and this is just the latest proof of why the U.N. doesn't work," Gold said of Iran's election to vice chair the Disarmament Commission.

Iran says its nuclear development is for a civilian energy program but the U.S., Israel and other Western nations believe Iran is really developing nuclear weapons.

The Institute for Science and International Security, a U.S. think tank, released satellite images on Sunday showing that Iran had expanded its uranium enrichment site at Isfahan and has reinforced its underground site at Natanz.

London's Sunday Times quoted unnamed Iranian officials as saying that Iran had recruited and trained 40,000 suicide bombers, who were ready to attack American and British targets.

"We are ready to attack American and British sensitive points if they attack Iran's nuclear facilities," said Dr. Hassan Abbasi, head of the Center for Doctrinal Strategic Studies in the Revolutionary Guards.