By Rowan Wolf of Uncommon Thought Journal
The U.S. network news reports conveniently leave out the information that target of “the raid” that resulted in the continued detention of “five Iranians,” was an Iranian consulate. It was not just “some place.” It was a particular place. It was not just “five Iranians.” It was five members of the Iranian Consulate in Irbil, Iraq. Those are critical pieces of information, make all the difference between protecting Iraq’s security, and essentially attacking the sovereign territory of Iran – an act of war. Iran has thus far refused to be provoked into a retaliatory act which could be used by Bush to legitimate a war on Iran. The presentation of this in the U.S. news is spin – the same kind of spin and half-truth that got us into Iraq.
Condoleezza Rice has stated the Bush authorized the Iranian consulate raid. Now they are claiming that the individuals “detained” in the raid are members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s al-Qod’s Force. Not at all surprising, Iran is demanding their release. The Bush administration claims, and perhaps it is true, that the five individuals swept up in the raid on the consulate were involved in bringing weapons and money into Iraq for the purposes of the “insurgency.” However, that doesn’t make any difference in terms of the violation of the Vienna Convention.
No matter who “approved” the raid; no matter who was in the consulate; no matter what they were doing or planning; it makes no difference. The Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs is very clear. If you want to declare someone under consulate protection a “criminal” and get them out of the country, then the receiving nation (in this case Iraq) declares the individual(s) “persons non grata,” and the sending state (in this case Iran) has to remove them in a timely fashion (Article 23). Neither Iraq, or the United States has the authority to invade the consulate and remove anyone.
Article 31 of the Convention declares consulates “inviolable.” People (including the receiving state) can’t even enter the consulate without consular permission. Nor can they detain consular personnel or confiscate consular property – from files to furniture. Consular archives receive further protection under Article 33.
Consular personnel are also inviolable (Article 41), and are guaranteed freedom of movement and communication (Articles 41 and 35). Consular staff and others are even free of requirements to register as aliens in the receiving nation (Article 46).
Over the top of all of this, it is the responsibility of the receiving nation (Iraq) to protect the consulate, consulate inviolability, and consular staff, their families, and visitors (Article 23 and 40 among others).
So, in approving the raid on a consulate, Bush violated not just Iran’s rights, but Iraq’s. Since it is Iraq who agreed to a consulate, it also accepted the responsibility of protecting it. Since they did not, the US violated both nations, and continues to do so by not releasing either the people nor the items it has confiscated.
It would make no difference if Osama bin Laden had been in the consulate in Irbil. The course of action would have been for Iraq to declare the individuals “persons non grata” and demand their removal from the country. Further, those persons would have had safe passage back to Iran.
Now the implication is that the five individuals are member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – Qods Force. While that doesn’t make any difference in terms of the Convention, some information about the IRGC Qods is useful.
(The following information is primarily taken from the Global Security article Qods (Jerusalem) Force Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC – Pasdaran-e Inqilab))
First, the IRGC is a branch of the Iranian government – the Mullah side of the government. It was first formed under Khomeini in 1979 in the revolution that overthrew the Shah and expelled the United States from Iran. It has remained a formal part of the state ever since that time. It serves both a domestic and international purposes. It is similar in some regards to MI6 of Britain, or a kind of combined FBI-CIA-Special Forces Unit in the U.S. It seems likely that millions of Iranians over the years have been (or are) members of the IRGC or the Baseej “volunteers under the control of the IRG.”
The Qods Force refers largely to the international arm of the IRGC. It engages in both overt and covert activities outside Iran – including the alleged training and support of groups such as Hizbullah. “Qods” is Persian for “Jerusalem,” which speaks volumes about the true heart of conflict in the Middle East and Southern Asia. However, as the conflict has spread, so (it is alleged) have the activities of the Qods – Sudan for example (https://www.aei.org/events/filter.all,eventID.861/transcript.asp “Sudan: Genocide, Terrorism, and America’s National Interest, AEI).
It is possible that those who were in the Consulate were (or are) connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It is possible that they were, or are, connected to the Qods Force. However, that does not make the invasion of an Iranian Consulate in Iraq legal. It would not make the invasion of an Iranian Consulate in the US legal. Instead, like so many other international agreements that the Bush administration has decided do not apply to them, this action jeopardizes others. Denying the Geneva Convention, and the conventions against torture place US forces (and civilian contractors) at risk. Declaring the nuclear nonproliferation agreement, and ban on preemptive war does not apply to the US has put the entire world at risk. Violating the Vienna Convention places all U.S. State Department and diplomatic staff at risk. Given that, it is telling that Rice could speak of it so blithely.
International agreements are no more amenable to Presidential exemption than is US law. George Bush has utilized the “signing statement” as a mechanism for exempting himself from the laws of the United States. He apparently feels that he can ignore international law and agreements the United States is a signatory of with equal disregard. In both cases he is wrong. While ignoring the laws of the United States may ultimately get him impeached. Violation of international agreements may ultimately bring him before an international tribunal.
1/12/07 AP, U.S. Contradicts Iraqi Foreign Minister
1/07/07 Jerusalem Post, Whose finger will be on the button?
Iran Chamber Society, Islamic Revolution of 1979
1/15/07 Sengupta, Independent, America threatens to ‘deal with’ Iran over its support for insurgents