Iran - Military Action: Legal or Not?

The story sounds familiar: a state in the Middle East is suspected of wanting to develop nuclear weapons. There are problems over inspections, and talk, especially in Washington, of the need for military action. But once again, the question is, would it be legal?

The World Today
5 minute READ

Daniel Geron

The Iranian government’s recent and timely decision to suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, at least temporarily, has successfully averted any referral of the matter to the UN Security Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Noting the persistent outstanding issues and Iran’s repeated broken promises in the last eighteen months, some states, and the United States in particular, remain suspicious that a secret nuclear weapons programme continues. The matter may still be referred to the Security Council, either by the IAEA or by states independently.

Consensus within the Council does not seem likely. China and Russia, both of whom wield a veto, have signalled strong resistance to referring the issue to the Council. Such a scenario raises the possibility of unilateral military strikes against Iran, reminiscent of the recent US-led invasion of Iraq and Israel’s airborne attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981.

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