March 13, 2012
Asia Times

Iran's Legal Right to Attack Israel

by Kaveh L Afrasiabi

. . . Tehran's legal argument in defense of a pre-emptive strike on Israel centers on several inter-related elements.

First, under Article 51 of the UN Charter, Iran has the right to strike Israel because Israel has already engaged in overt hostile acts including the assassination of Iran's nuclear scientists, sabotage, and life-threatening cyber-warfare, not to mention Israeli political and military leaders' open declarations of intent to attack Iran in the immediate future.

Second, these illegal acts combined with the declarations of intent constitute an imminent national security threat to Iran, defined under customary international law in terms of "outward hostile acts" of one state against another.

Third, Iran has already exhausted all the diplomatic means for deterring an Israeli strike, such as by repeatedly complaining to the UN Security Council, to no avail as the Security Council has turned a blind eye.

Fourth, Israel's stated intention to attack Iran violates international law for a number of other reasons:

Iran has never threatened to use its nuclear capability to attack Israel.

There is a legal bar against any attack on Iran's civilian nuclear facilities, in light of the Resolution 533 of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which prohibits any such attack and deems it a violation of international law.

Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), its leadership has formally renounced nuclear weapons, there is an absence of any treaty constraint barring Iran's possession of a nuclear fuel cycle, and to this date after extensive inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities, the IAEA has never detected any diversion of nuclear material to military purposes.

Evidence, including reports in Washington Post citing the opinion of US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, suggests Israel is well beyond the "preparatory stages" of an attack on Iran . . .


Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy, Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11, and Looking for Rights at Harvard. His latest book is UN Management Reform.

"Wipe Out Israel? Or Palestine?," The Wisdom Fund, December 20, 2005

"America's Undeclared War on Iran Has Already Begun," The Wisdom Fund, December 7, 2011

"War With Iran Neither Rational Nor Lawful," The Wisdom Fund, January 11, 2012

John Glaser"Israel's Mossad Carries Out Assassinations of Iranian Scientists, New Book Argues,", July 7, 2012

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