There Is No Military Solution To the Iranian Nuclear Situation
But there is a lot each one of us can do to build momentum for a peaceful solution: quality and quantity of non-governmental organization preparation for and
Educate yourself—use this information packet, gather and use the resources listed here, follow the news, and analyze the news you read.
Educate others—request additional information packets to distribute, copy this packet, organize a public program using the suggested speakers (list included), write letters to your local paper (sample included), talk to your friends and family and neighbours.
Speak up loud and clear—raise the urgent need for a peaceful solution (suggested solutions included) at every opportunity and public forum on the Middle East, war and peace events, and especially at rallies and programs calling for an end to the War against Iraq. We need to add the call for a peaceful resolution to the Iran crisis to all anti-war mobilizations.
Pressure your elected representatives—peace movements around the world must build momentum for a peaceful solution to this crisis if we are to avert another war. Tell your elected officials to contact their foreign ministry or state department and request better diplomatic efforts and a stop to all talk of military action. Ask them if they will introduce a resolution or letter from colleagues instructing the foreign ministry to pursue every diplomatic channel available.
Write to your United Nations Mission calling on your ambassador to stop escalating the the situation. Ask them to work for a ban on fissile material production in the Mid-East.
- Talking Points
- Alternative Solutions
- Draft letter to Parliamentarians
- Draft letter to the Editor
- Resources for More Information
Major events in the evolving Iranian nuclear situation
For more details, please see RCW's Iran chronology.
August: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovered an undeclared and extensive nuclear program in Iran going back nearly two decades.
September: Iran confirmed construction on two newly constructed nuclear facilities (Arak and Natanz) and invited the IAEA to visit them in December.
December: The United States again accused Iran of developing weapons of mass destruction, which it has been doing since the mid 1980s.
February: The IAEA visited Iran, and began extensive investigation into Iran's nuclear activities.
June 6: The IAEA published a report on the implementation of Iran's NPT Safeguards Agreement. At its June meeting, the IAEA Board of Governors, referring to this report, urged Iran to resolve pending issues regarding its nuclear program and not begin enriching uranium as a confidence building measure.
October: Iran implemented a policy of “full disclosure” and began cooperating with the IAEA on questions of its nuclear program. France, Germany and the United Kingdom began negotiating with Iran as an alternative diplomatic approach to the hard line the United States was taking. The EU3, as they became known, and Iran adopted the Tehran Agreed Statement on October 21, 2003, outlining a process for a diplomatic solution.
November: IAEA Director General El Baradei announced there was no evidence Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The inspection team did find that Iran had concealed the extent of its nuclear development, including uranium enrichment, which is in violation of its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and IAEA Safeguards Agreement. Iran officially announced it would sign the NPT's Additional Protocol, which gives the IAEA more extensive monitoring authority, and suspend all uranium enrichment activities.
December: Iran signed but did not ratify the Additional Protocol.
The IAEA's investigation continued, uncovering various sensitive aspects of the fuel cycle.
Iran and the EU3 negotiated, with the EU3 pushing for suspension of uranium enrichment and Iran pushing for recognition of its right to the fuel cycle.
The Iranian Parliament introduced various resolutions requiring the government to continue with the nuclear fuel cycle despite any international pressure.
November 15: Iran and the EU3 signed the Paris Agreement, in which Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment pending the outcome of negotiations, and the EU3 recognized Iran's right to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
March: The EU3 changed is negotiating position to exclude Iranian uranium enrichment from any agreed solution. This became the only “objective guarantee” that Iran was not developing nuclear weapons when the United States required it as a condition of backing the negotiations.
April: Iran announced plans to resume uranium enrichment if unsatisfied with EU proposals for resolving the crisis.
August: Iran elected hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad President. He rejected the European proposals and pledged an "irreversible resumption of enrichment."
September: France, Germany, and the UK put Iran’s nuclear program on the agenda of IAEA Board of Governors' meeting. In an unusually split and contentious decision (Board Resolutions are usually agreed to by consensus), it passed a resolution noting that the situation was “within the competence” of the Security Council and urged Iran to suspend its nuclear fuel cycle activities.
January: Iran resumed uranium enrichment research.
February: The EU called an emergency meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, and the Board passed another resolution with a split vote (27 in favor, 3 against, 5 abstained) reporting Iran to the Security Council. The permanent five members of the Security Council (P5: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States), who are also on the IAEA Board of Governors, agreed the Council would not act on the situation until after the regularly scheduled IAEA Board Meeting in March.
March 6: Although there was no resolution on Iran at the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, the Board passed the entire Iran dossier to the UN Security Council including the IAEA Director General's report.
March 13: The UN Security Council began considering the Iranian nuclear program. The EU3 developed a text for a Presidential Statement and circulated it to the rest of the P5. They negotiated it for two weeks, with minimal input from the other ten elected Security Council members.
March 29: The Security Council unanimously agreed to a Presidential Statement on behalf of the Council, expressing concern and requesting Iran to halt its nuclear program as a way to build confidence that it does not have ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.
March 30: Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki delivered a statement to the Conference on Disarmament proposing the establishment of a regional enrichment capability.
April 11: Iranian President Ahmadinejad announced Iran had successfully enriched uranium.
April 28: The IAEA submitted its report on the implementation of Iran's NPT Safeguards Agreement to the Security Council. The Security Council is likely to consider a resolution with similar language to the March Presidential Statement.
June 6: The permanent five members of the Security Council, with Germany, (P5+1) offered Iran a new package deal. The United States would join the negotiations, but Iran must suspend uranium enrichment before negotiationsl begin.
July 12: The P5+1 agreed to bring Iran back into the Security Council after Iran did not respond to the most recent package deal by the July 12 deadline.
July 16: Iran said the package proposal was an "acceptable basis" on which to begin negotiations.
July 20: Britain, France and Germany introduced a draft text of a Security Council resolution telling Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, endorsing the package proposal and threatening further measures if Iran does not comply.
July 31: The Security Council passed Resolution 1696, demanding Iran suspend all enrichment and reprocessing activities by August 31 or face economic and diplomatic sanctions.
August 31: The International Atomic Energy Agency's Director General released his report, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran", in response to the July 31 Security Council Resolution 1696.
November 23: The IAEA announced that Iran will give inspectors access to records and equipment from two of its nuclear sites.
December 23: The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1737, imposing sanctions on Iran for failing to halt uranium enrichment.
January 2: Iranian government Spokesman Gholam-Hussein Elham said 3000 centrifuges are currently being installed at the Iranian nuclear reactor in Natanz will be operational by March of this year.
January 18: IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei called for a resumption of negotiations with Iran. "Only applying pressure, he suggested, could prompt the Islamic republic to follow the path of North Korea, which kicked out U.N. inspectors, pulled out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003 and then conducted its first-ever nuclear test last October. . . . My priority is to keep Iran inside the system."
January 22: Iran barred 38 UN inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), from entering the country. The agency said the move was a “first step” in limiting cooperation with the IAEA, in line with a demand made by parliament after UN Sanctions were imposed on Iran a month ago over its disputed nuclear program.
January 29: IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei proposed a simultaneous "time-out" plan during the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, in which it will hold off on imposing sanctions if Tehran suspends uranium enrichment. This proposal was rejected by the US.
February 19: ElBaradei argued Western powers need to reassure Iran over its security rather than just ratchet up sanctions if they want to resolve a nuclear standoff.
February 22: The IAEA reported that Iran is steadily expanding its efforts to enrich uranium, stating that Iran was now operating or about to switch on roughly 1,000 centrifuges at its nuclear facility at Natanz.
February 26: The P5+1 agreed to begin work on a new UN Security Council resolution on Iran.
March 8: The IAEA approved a 40% cut in its technical assistance to Iran, in line with Security Council sanctions. None of the aid programs that were cut directly applied to Iran's uranium enrichment program. Iran's foreign minister warned that the move could affect Tehran's cooperation with the agency.
March 25: Iran responded to Resolution 1747, saying the country would partially suspend cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and called the sanctions illegal.
March 29: The United States and key allies began pressing the International Atomic Energy Agency to find Iran in violation of its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty over Tehran's refusal to allow remote monitoring of its underground uranium enrichment plant. However, IAEA officials are withholding judgment, pending examination of Iran's agreements to see if its refusal to allow installation of extra cameras giving a full overview of its Natanz operations is a violation of the treaty.
May 23: The IAEA Director General's report on the implementation of safeguards in Iran was released.
July 9: IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei reported that Iran has slowed down the expansion of its uranium enrichment program.
July 12: Iran and the IAEA agreed to the modalities for resolving all outstanding issues related to the agency's investigation of iran's past nuclear activities. The draft plan entitled, "Understandings of The Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA on the Modalities of Resolution of the Outstanding Issues," consists of a 60-day work plan and schedule for Iran and the IAEA to resolve all outstanding issues.
July 30: inspectors visited the heavy water nuclear reactor under construction at Arak for a routine design information verification inspection. The IAEA noted that construction of the reactor was ongoing. Additionally, the IAEA further noted that according to satellite imagery, operation of the adjacent heavy water plant was also ongoing. It is the first such visit since Iran in April blocked access to the plant.
August 21: The IAEA and Iran finalized a work plan to resolve all outstanding issues, after further meetings between Iranian and IAEA officials in Vienna on 24 July and in Tehran 20-21 August.
August 22: The US ambassador to the IAEA accused Iran of manipulating the IAEA in response to the 21 August work plan for resolving outstanding issues related to Iran's past nuclear activities.
August 30: The IAEA Director General described the 21 August work plan as a significant step forward, in a report on the implementation of safeguards in Iran submitted to the IAEA Board. The report also indicated that "Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities" and "is also continuing with its construction of the IR-40 reactor and operation of the Heavy Water Production Plant" contrary to the decisions of the UN Security Council. IAEA Deputy Director general of safeguards Olli Heinonen underlined the importance of the work plan, emphasizing, "When you read the plan you see this is not an open-ended timeline: there are certain linkages in this approach, but it's important that it is not open-ended…. The key now is that Iran adheres to this timeline, provides us with the information that we need and access to the information." He further noted that "All these measures which you see there for resolving our outstanding issues go beyond the requirements of the Additional Protocol." Regarding concerns that Iran was manipulating the IAEA investigation and that the deal rules out further inquiries, Heinonen stated, "If the answers are not satisfactory, we are making new questions until we are satisfied with the answers and we can conclude technically that the matter is resolved—it is for us to judge when we think we have enough information. Once the matter is resolved, then the file is closed."
There is no military solution. Military action is unwarranted, will have disastrous consequences, and will be counter-productive.
Military action is unwarranted:
To date, the IAEA has not uncovered substantial evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Non-compliance under the Safeguards Agreement requires a finding of diversion, or uncertainty regarding diversion, of nuclear materials toward military use. The IAEA concluded in November 2004 that no diversion had occurred, but it is not yet in a position to determine the presence or absence of additional undeclared nuclear materials or activities.
Iran remains five to ten years from possessing a nuclear warhead. This leaves ample time to seek a diplomatic solution; the situation has been needlessly and artificially elevated into a crisis. There is no imminent threat.
The International Atomic Energy Agency must verify the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, and the international community is right to work to ensure Iran abandons any nuclear weapons ambitions. However, all actions in this situation must be peaceful, diplomatic, fair and international. There is time for the IAEA to conclude its investigation and they should be given the opportunity and support to do so.
Military action would have disastrous consequences:
Military action would further destabilize the already tense region, exacerbating the existing conflicts in Iraq and Palestine.
Bombing nuclear facilities is particularly dangerous, as it has the potential to disperse radioactive materials into the environment. Any attack on nuclear facilities would violate Protocol I to the Geneva Convention that states “nuclear electrical generating stations, shall not be made the object of attack, even where these objects are military objectives, if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and consequent severe losses among the civilian population.”1
Military action would be counter-productive:
Any military action would strengthen the position of hard liners in Iran and unite the population behind them. Nuclear energy is an issue of national pride in Iran. Threatening and particularly using force would only increase their determination to pursue a nuclear program.
Military action would most likely drive any nuclear program underground rather than destroy it, like we saw when Israel bombed the nuclear facilities at Osirak in Iraq in 1981. This simply increased the funding for an underground program in the 1980s, which was verifiably dismantled under UN supervision long before the 2003 United States attack.
Issues and Context:
Iran, the Security Council and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Iran and the UN Security Council:
- A UN Security Council resolution under Chapter VII could be used to legitimate war now or in the distant future. Chapter VII resolutions provide a legal basis for the use of force.
- In Iraq, a decade old resolution was used to justify the use of force in 2003.
The way the UN Security Council handles this situation can affect its credibility.
- The UN Security Council must not act in a discriminatory manner. The Council did not act when North Korea was referred in 1994 and again in 2003 after it withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran has not withdrawn from the Treaty nor has it been found to be in non-compliance with the Treaty.
- However, the UN Security Council also must not appear ineffective or unable to handle proliferation accusations. It must work with the UN system and the international community to find a viable solution.
Iran and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT):
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty contains two central bargains:
- Non Nuclear Weapon States agree to never acquire nuclear weapons, and in exchange are guaranteed access to civilian nuclear energy; and
- Nuclear Weapon States agree to eliminate their arsenals.
Civilian nuclear energy is legally guaranteed under Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but has serious proliferation risks.
- Iran’s pursuit of nuclear fuel cycle capabilities has been the focus of U.S. and EU efforts because the same technology used for energy can be used for weapons.
- The five nuclear weapon states (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States), Pakistan and Israel used nuclear reactors to create the materials for their nuclear weapons. India and North Korea acquired nuclear weapons through so-called peaceful civilian nuclear programs.
- Nuclear power is never peaceful due to the devastating health and environmental impact. There is no safe way to dispose of the waste produced by nuclear power.
There is an inextricable link between non-proliferation and disarmament.
- Lackluster progress on nuclear disarmament, especially in the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) undermines support for nonproliferation and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.
- The breakdown of the last NPT Review Conference signals that the non-nuclear weapon states are increasingly unwilling to accept the concessions demanded of them regarding the development of nuclear technology without similarly demonstrated progress on the total elimination of nuclear arsenals.
- The exclusion of nonproliferation and disarmament from the 2005 United Nations World Summit illustrates that nonproliferation efforts will be stymied without the nuclear weapon states implementing commitments already made.
The Security Council should support the International Atomic Energy Agency’s work to successfully verify compliance with safeguards. The Security Council should respect the work plan that has been developed between Iran and the IAEA to settle the questions of Iran's past activities, and, with the advice of the IAEA, should set a timeline for the conclusion of the investigation into the verification of current activities.
Continue to explore diplomatic resolutions. Enlarge the negotiation partners to include a Non-Aligned representative and the United States, similar to the group of states negotiating with North Korea in the six Party Talks. The United States should negotiate with Iran. Investigate the proposal for a regional enrichment capability.
Address the root causes of security concerns in the whole region. Restart the peace processes in the Middle East. Put political weight and drive behind establishing a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East. The Security Council supported such a zone in a 1981 resolution (487), states party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty agreed to it in a Resolution at the 1995 Review Conference, and the General Assembly unanimously adopts a resolution supporting the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East every year (A/RES/60/52 this year).
Declare a regional moratorium on fissile material production as a first confidence building step toward a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East. Stopping the production of nuclear weapons materials would address the security concerns of everyone in the region, and by broadening the prohibition would also provide a face saving measure for Iran.
Make a global commitment to sustainable energy, and a global moratorium on nuclear energy. We urge Iran not to pursue the capacity to produce nuclear fuel. All governments should commit resources for energy efficiency and faster development of renewable sources of energy. The international community should create an International Sustainable Energy Agency and move resources from military spending to renewable energy.
Nuclear weapon states must take the lead in non-proliferation by totally, irreversibly and verifiably disarming their nuclear weapons arsenals and production capabilities, living up to their end of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty bargain. There is no moral high ground in either proliferation or nuclear weapons possession, but states with nuclear weapons will have more credibility in their non-proliferation efforts while they are permanently disarming their own arsenals.
As one of your constituents, I'm writing to insist that you take any and all action available to you to prevent a military response to the current Iranian nuclear situation. There is no military solution to this situation and military action will only make things worse. Please direct the [Foreign Ministry/State Department/Diplomatic Service] to pursue good faith negotiations that will prevent the escalation of this situation, and to examine and undertake all other possibilities, such as establishing a nuclear weapon free zone in the region.
As a short term, face saving measure, I fully support the idea of a regional moratorium on the production of materials related to nuclear weapons. This could take the shape of a politically binding agreement, by all states in the region, to stop the enrichment or production of fissile materials (plutonium and uranium). This could also pave the way for the implementation of numerous UN General Assembly resolutions calling for a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East, a much more sustainable and just solution than any military action.
In 2003, the war on Iraq was justified by the supposed threat of weapons of mass destruction. That war continues to this day, and has further destabilized the already volatile Middle East. The 2003 threat proved to be false, but the destruction caused by the war cannot be undone. Any actions that would provoke a similar response to the Iranian situation will also be devastating to the region.
I look forward to your positive response to this letter, and to hearing from you what steps you have taken to prevent military intervention in Iran.
[Your Name Here]
To The Editor:
Iran is much in the news because of its dispute with western countries over its nuclear ambitions. As the United Nations Security Council deliberates how to proceed, the course of action is being controlled by the five permanent members. Those five countries (USA, UK, France, China, and Russia) are also the only countries recognized as Nuclear Weapon States under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). They are defensive when it comes to their obligation to disarm under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, yet are unyielding in the face of the Iranian claims that their program is for peaceful purposes allowed under that same treaty.
The world does not need another nuclear state. However, diplomatic brinksmanship and threats of military strikes take us closer to that precipice. Governmental leaders need to work toward a regional solution that addresses wider security concerns, such as a regional nuclear weapon free zone. A voluntary ban on the production of fissile materials (plutonium and enriched uranium) needed to make a bomb would be a confidence building measure benefiting all.
It is well past time for all governments to renew their commitments to rid the world of nuclear weapons. It is only by working together that this goal can be achieved. There is no military solution to the Iranian crisis.
[Your Name Here]
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom's Disarmament Project, Reaching Critical Will, has a website containing recent developments, background information, and links to other information resources on Iran:
The website also contains information about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty:
As well as information on link with Nuclear Energy:
Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy website with excellent legal analysis of the situation and information on the Security Council:
Greenpeace's Preventive Peace Strategy and a Google Earth map of US of Military Plans:
Center for Nonproliferation Studies has an extensive timeline of political developments:
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has a Timeline and an Iran Index with all IAEA reports and resolutions:
Center for Nonproliferation Studies also has a Chronology of Iran's IAEA Safeguards:
Arms Control Association has key documents including the IAEA reports and expert NGO analysis of the evolving situation:
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has longer, more in depth articles:
Institute for Science and International Security has in-depth analysis for the technically-minded: