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November 22, 2013 1:44 pm

How FDR Would Handle Iran

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avatar by Bob Feferman


Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Photo: Elias Goldensky.

If Franklin Delano Roosevelt were alive today, how would he deal with negotiations with Iran and their claim of the right to enrich uranium? No doubt he would apply the Four Freedoms as the foundation to addressing the Iranian nuclear issue.

In his 1941 State of the Union speech given prior to America’s entry into World War II, President Roosevelt laid out the moral case for supporting the allies in the fight against Nazi Germany. Roosevelt identified what he called “The Four Freedoms”: the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear.

The Iranian regime violates all four freedoms on a regular basis.

Iran’s support for violent terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah is a blatant violation of human rights, not to mention a threat to global peace. For years, these groups have been targeting Israeli civilians with rockets and missiles supplied by Iran, causing Israelis to live in terror and fear.

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Inside Iran, freedom of speech and worship are regularly denied to the people. Members of the Baha’i and Christian faith are imprisoned for their religious beliefs. Journalists, political dissidents, and human rights activists are imprisoned and tortured for criticizing the regime.

Finally, Iran’s support for the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad has deprived the Syrian people of “freedom from want.” The conflict has left more than 120,000 Syrians dead and unleashed a massive humanitarian crisis in which 40 percent of the Syrian population (9.3 million people) requires humanitarian aid simply to subsist. Given the fact that Iran already deprives millions of innocent people of the Four Freedoms, is there any doubt that a nuclear-armed Iran would only feel emboldened to do even worse?

This danger is closely linked to Iran’s claim to nuclear rights, which has reportedly been the key sticking point in negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.

In theory, Iran does have a right to nuclear power for peaceful purposes according to the terms of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Even putting aside the fact that Iran has flagrantly violated the NPT, that “right” is not what is in dispute. In fact, Iran already has a nuclear reactor at Bushehr that generates electricity. Russia supplies the fuel rods and removes the spent fuel.

The Bushehr operation is the model for a win-win resolution of the conflict with Iran. In fact, of the 31 countries excepting Iran that generate electricity from nuclear power plants, only 12 of these 31 countries enrich their own uranium for reactor fuel.

The problems that Iran has created with the international community result from its repeated violations of the NPT.

Article III of the Treaty in fact requires that each signatory accept safeguards “… for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfillment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty…”

When Iran’s covert enrichment facility at Natanz was exposed in 2002 , it was thus violating its treaty obligation to allow for the “verification” of the peaceful purposes of its enrichment program by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Similarly, in 2009, Iran again violated the same treaty when it was caught building the underground enrichment facility at Fordow without notifying the IAEA.

Furthermore, Iran enriches uranium in quantities, and at levels, far beyond what it requires for a peaceful nuclear energy program, and it demands that those rights be recognized as an inalienable right. This behavior is not recognized or protected by any treaty or agreement.

By deceiving the international community, Iran has forfeited any just claims to its right to enrich uranium. That explains why the multiple resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council (e.g. 1696) require that Iran “…suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development…”

Iran has tellingly not made such a suspension, and U.S. willingness to provide Iran sanctions relief in spite of this are of great concern. Why, exactly, should we be giving Iran the sanctions relief it badly desires while not even asking it to suspend its enrichment in return as stipulated by international law?

What would a reasonable comprehensive agreement look like?

On October 31, our organization suggested in a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders:

The objective of a nuclear agreement is to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons by limiting Iran’s ability to produce fissile material under strong international inspections. A comprehensive agreement should require Iran to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions 1696 and 1737, requiring Iran to suspend enrichment and reprocessing-related activities until “confidence is restored in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program…” The period of confidence-building is one that we believe must last several years. Iran must also fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to resolve questions about its nuclear activities.

As Roosevelt warned in his speech, “As a nation we take pride in the fact that we are soft-hearted; but we cannot afford to be soft-headed. We must always be weary of those who with sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal preach the ‘ism’ of appeasement.”

While Iran continues to spin its centrifuges and gets closer to nuclear weapons capability, we must not allow Iranian leaders to “spin” the world about its purported nuclear rights. We must remember that Iran continues to assault human rights and denies the central four freedoms – not only to its own people, but to others in the region as well.

Nuclear rights are not an inalienable human right.

In concluding his speech, Roosevelt said, “Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is in our unity of purpose.”

We all have the right to live in freedom from the fear of Iran’s radical theocratic regime armed with nuclear weapons. All those who seek this freedom must remember Roosevelt’s words: “Our strength is in our unity of purpose.”

Bob Feferman is Outreach Coordinator for the non-partisan advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).

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