Iran's nuclear program: Wikis


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Nuclear program of Iran

The nuclear program of Iran was launched in the 1950s with the help of the United States as part of the Atoms for Peace program.[1] The support, encouragement and participation of the United States and Western European governments in Iran's nuclear program continued until the 1979 Iranian Revolution that toppled the Shah of Iran.[2]

After the 1979 revolution, the Iranian government temporarily disbanded elements of the program, and then revived it with less Western assistance than during the pre-revolution era. Iran's nuclear program has included several research sites, a uranium mine, a nuclear reactor, and uranium processing facilities that include three known uranium enrichment plants.

Iran's first nuclear power plant, Bushehr I, was expected to be operational in 2009.[3] There are no current plans to complete the Bushehr II reactor, although the construction of 19 nuclear power plants is envisaged.[4] Iran has announced that it is working on a new 360 MWe nuclear power plant to be located in Darkhovin. Iran has also indicated that it will seek more medium-sized nuclear power plants and uranium mines for the future.[5]



The controversy over Iran's nuclear programs centers in particular on Iran's failure to declare sensitive enrichment and reprocessing activities to the IAEA.[6] Enrichment can be used to produce uranium for reactor fuel or (at higher enrichment levels) for weapons.[7] Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful,[8] and has enriched uranium to less than 5 percent, consistent with fuel for a civilian nuclear power plant.[9] Iran also claims that it was forced to resort to secrecy after US pressure caused several of its nuclear contracts with foreign governments to fall through.[citation needed] After the IAEA Board of Governors reported Iran's noncompliance with its safeguards agreement to the UN Security Council, the Council demanded that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment activities[10] while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has argued that the sanctions are "illegal," imposed by “arrogant powers,” and that Iran has decided to pursue the monitoring of its self-described peaceful nuclear program through "its appropriate legal path,” the International Atomic Energy Agency.[11]

After public allegations about Iran's previously undeclared nuclear activities, the IAEA launched an investigation that concluded in November 2003 that Iran had systematically failed to meet its obligations under its NPT safeguards agreement to report those activities to the IAEA, although it also reported no evidence of links to a nuclear weapons program. The IAEA Board of Governors delayed a formal finding of non-compliance until September 2005, and (in a rare non-consensus decision) reported that non-compliance to the UN Security Council in February 2006. After the IAEA Board of Governors reported Iran's noncompliance with its safeguards agreement to the United Nations Security Council, the Council demanded that Iran suspend its enrichment programs. The Council imposed sanctions after Iran refused to do so. A May 2009 U.S. Congressional Report suggested "the United States, and later the Europeans, argued that Iran's deception meant it should forfeit its right to enrich, a position likely to be up for negotiation in talks with Iran."[12]

In exchange for suspending its enrichment program, Iran has been offered "a long-term comprehensive arrangement which would allow for the development of relations and cooperation with Iran based on mutual respect and the establishment of international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program."[13] However, Iran has consistently refused to give up its enrichment program, arguing that the program is necessary for its energy security, that such "long term arrangements" are inherently unreliable, and would deprive it of its inalienable right to peaceful nuclear technology. Currently, thirteen states possess operational enrichment or reprocessing facilities,[14] and several others have expressed an interest in developing indigenous enrichment programs.[15] Iran's position was endorsed by the Non-Aligned Movement, which expressed concern about the potential monopolization of nuclear fuel production.[16]

To address concerns that its enrichment program may be diverted to non-peaceful uses,[17] Iran has offered to place additional restrictions on its enrichment program including, for example, ratifying the Additional Protocol to allow more stringent inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, operating the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz as a multinational fuel center with the participation of foreign representatives, renouncing plutonium reprocessing and immediately fabricating all enriched uranium into reactor fuel rods.[18] Iran's offer to open its uranium enrichment program to foreign private and public participation mirrors suggestions of an IAEA expert committee which was formed to investigate the methods to reduce the risk that sensitive fuel cycle activities could contribute to national nuclear weapons capabilities..[19] Some non-governmental U.S. experts have have endorsed this approach.[20][21] The United States has insisted that Iran must meet the demands of the UN Security Council to suspend its enrichment program. In every other case in which the IAEA Board of Governors made a finding of safeguards non-compliance involving clandestine enrichment or reprocessing, the resolution has involved (in the cases of Iraq[22] and Libya[23][24][25]) or is expected to involve (in the case of North Korea[26][27]) at a minimum ending sensitive fuel cycle activities. According to Pierre Goldschmidt, former deputy director general and head of the department of safeguards at the IAEA, and Henry D. Sokolski, Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, some other instances of safeguards noncompliance reported by the IAEA Secretariat (South Korea, Egypt) were never reported to the Security Council because the IAEA Board of Governors never made a formal finding of non-compliance.[28][29] Though South Korea's case involved enriching uranium to levels near weapons grade,[30][31] South Korea said it had voluntarily reported an isolated activity[30] and Goldschmidt has argued "political considerations also played a dominant role in the board’s decision" to not make a formal finding of non-compliance.[32]


Iranian newspaper clip from 1968 reads: "A quarter of Iran's Nuclear Energy scientists are women." The photograph shows some female Iranian PhDs posing in front of Tehran's research reactor.

1950s and 60s

The foundations for Iran's nuclear program were laid after a 1953, CIA-supported coup deposed democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and brought Shah (King) Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power.[33]

A civil nuclear co-operation program was established under the U.S. Atoms for Peace program. In 1967, the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) was established, run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). The TNRC was equipped with a U.S.-supplied, 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor, which became operational in 1967 and was fueled by highly enriched uranium.[34]

Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and ratified it in 1970, making Iran's nuclear program subject to International Atomic Energy Agency verification.

Advertisement from the 1970s by American nuclear-energy companies, using Iran's nuclear program as a marketing ploy.


The Shah approved plans to construct, with U.S. help, up to 23 nuclear power stations by the year 2000.[35] In March 1974, the Shah envisioned a time when the world's oil supply would run out, and declared, "Petroleum is a noble material, much too valuable to burn... We envision producing, as soon as possible, 23 000 megawatts of electricity using nuclear plants."[36]

Iran, a U.S. ally then, had deep pockets and close ties to Washington. U.S. and European companies scrambled to do business in Iran.[37] Bushehr would be the first plant, and would supply energy to the inland city of Shiraz. In 1975, the Bonn firm Kraftwerk Union AG, a joint venture of Siemens AG and AEG Telefunken, signed a contract worth $4 to $6 billion to build the pressurized water reactor nuclear power plant. Construction of the two 1,196 MWe nuclear generating units was subcontracted to ThyssenKrupp, and was to have been completed in 1981.

The joint stock company Eurodif operating a uranium enrichment plant in France was formed in 1973 by France, Belgium, Spain and Sweden. In 1975 Sweden’s 10% share in Eurodif went to Iran as a result of an arrangement between France and Iran. The French government subsidiary company Cogéma and the Iranian Government established the Sofidif (Société franco–iranienne pour l’enrichissement de l’uranium par diffusion gazeuse) enterprise with 60% and 40% shares, respectively. In turn, Sofidif acquired a 25% share in Eurodif, which gave Iran its 10% share of Eurodif. Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi lent 1 billion dollars (and another 180 million dollars in 1977) for the construction of the Eurodif factory, to have the right of buying 10% of the production of the site.

"President Gerald Ford signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The deal was for a complete 'nuclear fuel cycle'."[38] At the time, Richard Cheney was the White House Chief of Staff, and Donald Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense. The Ford strategy paper said the "introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran's economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals."

Then-United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recalled in 2005, "I don't think the issue of proliferation came up."[38] However, a 1974 CIA proliferation assessment stated "If [the Shah] is alive in the mid-1980s ... and if other countries [particularly India] have proceeded with weapons development we have no doubt Iran will follow suit."[39]

The Shah also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with South Africa under which Iranian oil money financed the development of South African fuel enrichment technology using a novel "jet nozzle" process, in return for assured supplies of South African (and Namibian) enriched uranium.[40]

Post Revolution, 1979–1989

After the 1979 Revolution, Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of its plans to restart its nuclear program using indigenously-made nuclear fuel. Iran paid the U.S. to deliver new fuel and upgrade its power in accordance with a contract signed before the revolution. The U.S. delivered neither the fuel nor returned the billions of dollars payment it had received.[citation needed]

In January 1978, Kraftwerk Union stopped working at the Bushehr nuclear project with one reactor 50% complete, and the other reactor 85% complete, and fully withdrew from the project in July 1979 (see below, European reactions 1979–89). Iran paid Germany in full, totaling billions of dollars, for the two nuclear facilities in Bushehr.[41] By July 1979, Iran had paid Kraftwerk Union $2.5 billion of the total contract.

When France after 1979 refused to give any enriched uranium to Iran and also Eurodif didn’t return Iran’s investments (see European reactions 1979–89), Iran's government suspended its payments and tried to get refunded the loan by making pressure on France by handling militant groups, including the Hezbollah who took French citizens hostage in the 1980s.[citation needed]

Between March 24, 1984 to 1988, the Bushehr reactors were damaged by multiple Iraqi air strikes and work on the nuclear program came to a standstill.

European reactions in 1979–89

In January 1979, Kraftwerk Union (see 1970s) stopped working at the Bushehr nuclear project with one reactor 50% complete, and the other reactor 85% complete, and fully withdrew from the project in July 1979. Kraftwerk said they based their action on Iran's non-payment of $450 million in overdue payments. The company had then received $2.5 billion of the total contract. The French company Framatome, a subsidiary of Areva, also withdrew itself.

Another result of the 1979 Revolution was France's refusal to give any enriched uranium to Iran after 1979. Iran also didn't get back its investment from Eurodif (see European reactions in the 1970s). In 1982, French president François Mitterrand refused to give any uranium to Iran, which also claimed the $1 billion debt.

In 1984, Kraftwerk Union did a preliminary assessment to see if it could resume work on the project, but declined to do so while the Iran–Iraq War continued.

IAEA reactions 1979–89

In 1983 the IAEA planned to provide assistance to Iran under its Technical Assistance Program to produce enriched uranium. An IAEA report stated that its aim was to “contribute to the formation of local expertise and manpower needed to sustain an ambitious program in the field of nuclear power reactor technology and fuel cycle technology”.

U.S. reactions 1979–89

The United States in or after 1983 persuaded the IAEA to terminate its project to assist Iran in producing enriched uranium.[42] (See above, IAEA reactions in 1979–89.) In April 1984, the U.S. State Department said, "We believe it would take at least two to three years to complete construction of the reactors at Bushehr." The spokesperson also said that the light water power reactors at Bushehr "are not particularly well-suited for a weapons program." The spokesman went on to say, "In addition, we have no evidence of Iranian construction of other facilities that would be necessary to separate plutonium from spent reactor fuel." (citation needed)

Argentine refueling of research reactor 1987–93

According to a report by the Argentine justice in 2006, Iran in 1987–88 signed three agreements with Argentina's National Atomic Energy Commission. The first Iranian-Argentine agreement involved help in converting the U.S. supplied Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) research reactor from highly enriched uranium fuel to 19.75% low-enriched uranium, and to supply the low-enriched uranium to Iran. The uranium was delivered in 1993.[43] The second and third agreements were for technical assistance, including components, for the building of pilot plants for uranium-dioxide conversion and fuel fabrication. Under US pressure, assistance under second and third agreements was reduced.[44]


From the beginning of 1990s, Russian Federation formed a joint research organization with Iran called Persepolis which provided Iran with Russian nuclear experts, and technical information stolen from the West by GRU and SVR, according to GRU defector Stanislav Lunev.[45] He said that five Russian institutions, including the Russian Federal Space Agency helped Tehran to improve its missiles. The exchange of technical information with Iran was personally approved by the SVR director Trubnikov.[45]

In 1992, following media allegations about undeclared nuclear activities in Iran, Iran invited IAEA inspectors to the country and permitted those inspectors to visit all the sites and facilities they asked to see. Director General Blix reported that all activities observed were consistent with the peaceful use of atomic energy.[46][47] The IAEA visits included undeclared facilities and Iran's nascent uranium mining project at Saghand. In the same year, Argentine officials disclosed that their country had canceled a sale to Iran of civilian nuclear equipment worth $18 million, under US pressure.[48]

In 1995, Iran signed a contract with Russia to resume work on the partially-complete Bushehr plant,[49] installing into the existing Bushehr I building a 915MWe VVER-1000 pressurized water reactor, with completion expected in 2009. There are no current plans to complete the Bushehr II reactor.

In 1996, the U.S. convinced the People's Republic of China to pull out of a contract to construct a uranium conversion plant. However, the Chinese provided blueprints for the facility to the Iranians, who advised the IAEA that they would continue work on the program, and IAEA Director Mohammad El Baradei even visited the construction site.[50]

In 1991, an agreement was found for the French-Iranian disagreement since 1979 (see Post Revolution, 1979–1989): France refunded more than 1.6 billion dollars. Iran remained shareholder of Eurodif via Sofidif, a Franco-Iranian consortium shareholder to 25% of Eurodif. However, Iran refrained from asking for the produced uranium.[51][52]

In 1990, Iran began to look outwards towards new partners for its nuclear program; however, due to a radically different political climate and punitive U.S. economic sanctions, few candidates existed.

According to a report by the Argentine justice in 2006, late 1980s and early 1990s the US pressured Argentina to terminate its nuclear cooperation with Iran, and from early 1992 to 1994 negotiations between Argentina and Iran took place with the aim of re-establishing the three agreements made in 1987–88.[44]


Seen here in this ISNA footage is Gholam Reza Aghazadeh and AEOI officials with a sample of Yellowcake during a public announcement on April 11, 2006, in Mashad that Iran had managed to successfully complete the fuel cycle by itself.

On August 14, 2002, Alireza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman for an Iranian dissident group National Council of Resistance of Iran, publicly revealed the existence of two nuclear sites under-construction: a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz (part of which is underground), and a heavy water facility in Arak. It's been strongly suggested that intelligence agencies already knew about these facilities but the reports had been classified.[53]

The IAEA immediately sought access to these facilities and further information and co-operation from Iran regarding its nuclear program.[54] According to arrangements in force at the time for implementation of Iran's safeguards agreement with the IAEA,[55] Iran was not required to allow IAEA inspections of a new nuclear facility until six months before nuclear material is introduced into that facility. At the time, Iran was not even required to inform the IAEA of the existence of the facility. This 'six months' clause was standard for implementation of all IAEA safeguards agreements until 1992, when the IAEA Board of Governors decided that facilities should be reported during the planning phase, even before construction began. Iran was the last country to accept that decision, and only did so February 26, 2003, after the IAEA investigation began.[56]

France, Germany and the United Kingdom (the EU-3) undertook a diplomatic initiative with Iran to resolve questions about its nuclear program. On October 21, 2003, in Tehran, the Iranian government and EU-3 Foreign Ministers issued a statement known as the Tehran Declaration[57] in which Iran agreed to co-operate with the IAEA, to sign and implement an Additional Protocol as a voluntary, confidence-building measure, and to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities during the course of the negotiations. The EU-3 in return explicitly agreed to recognize Iran's nuclear rights and to discuss ways Iran could provide "satisfactory assurances" regarding its nuclear power program, after which Iran would gain easier access to modern technology. Iran signed an Additional Protocol on December 18, 2003, and agreed to act as if the protocol were in force, making the required reports to the IAEA and allowing the required access by IAEA inspectors, pending Iran's ratification of the Additional Protocol.

The IAEA reported November 10, 2003,[58] that "it is clear that Iran has failed in a number of instances over an extended period of time to meet its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement with respect to the reporting of nuclear material and its processing and use, as well as the declaration of facilities where such material has been processed and stored." Iran was obligated to inform the IAEA of its importation of uranium from China and subsequent use of that material in uranium conversion and enrichment activities. It was also obligated to report to the IAEA experiments with the separation of plutonium. A comprehensive list of Iran's specific "breaches" of its IAEA safeguards agreement, which the IAEA described as part of a "pattern of concealment," can be found in the November 15, 2004 report of the IAEA on Iran's nuclear program.[59] Iran attributes its failure to report certain acquisitions and activities on US obstructionism, which reportedly included pressuring the IAEA to cease providing technical assistance to Iran's uranium conversion program in 1983.[60][61] On the question of whether Iran had a hidden nuclear weapons program, the IAEA's November 2003 report states that it found "no evidence" that the previously undeclared activities were related to a nuclear weapons program, but also that it was unable to conclude that Iran's nuclear program was exclusively peaceful.

In June 2004, construction was commenced on IR-40, a 40MW heavy water reactor.

Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, on November 14, 2004, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator announced a voluntary and temporary suspension of its uranium enrichment program (enrichment is not a violation of the NPT) and the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol, after pressure from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany acting on behalf of the European Union (EU) (known in this context as the EU-3). The measure was said at the time to be a voluntary, confidence-building measure, to continue for some reasonable period of time (six months being mentioned as a reference) as negotiations with the EU-3 continued. On November 24, Iran sought to amend the terms of its agreement with the EU to exclude a handful of the equipment from this deal for research work. This request was dropped four days later. According to Seyyed Hossein Mousavian, one of the Iranian representatives to the Paris Agreement negotiations, the Iranians made it clear to their European counterparts that Iran would not consider a permanent end to uranium enrichment:

Before the Paris [Agreement] text was signed, Dr Rohani...stressed that they should be committed neither to speak nor even think of a cessation any more. The ambassadors delivered his message to their foreign ministers prior to the signing of the Paris agreed text... The Iranians made it clear to their European counterparts that if the latter sought a complete termination of Iran's nuclear fuel-cycle activities, there would be no negotiations. The Europeans answered that they were not seeking such a termination, only an assurance on the non-diversion of Iran's nuclear programme to military ends.[62]

In February 2005, Iran pressed the EU-3 to speed up talks, which the EU-3 refused to do so.[63] The talks made little progress because of the divergent positions of the two sides.[64] In early August 2005, after the June election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's President, Iran removed seals on its uranium enrichment equipment in Isfahan,[65] which UK officials termed a "breach of the Paris Agreement"[66] though a case can be made that the EU violated the terms of the Paris Agreement by demanding that Iran abandon nuclear enrichment.[67] Several days later, the EU-3 offered Iran a package in return for permanent cessation of enrichment. Reportedly, it included benefits in the political, trade and nuclear fields, as well as long-term supplies of nuclear materials and assurances of non-aggression by the EU (but not the US),[66]. Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of Iran's atomic energy organization rejected the offer, terming it "very insulting and humiliating"[66] and other independent analysts characterized the EU offer as an "empty box". Iran's announcement that it would resume enrichment preceded the election of Iranian President Ahmadinejad by several months. The delay in restarting the program was to allow the IAEA to re-install monitoring equipment. The actual resumption of the program coincided with the election of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and the appointment of Ali Larijani as the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator.[68]

In August 2005, with the assistance of Pakistan[69] a group of US government experts and international scientists concluded that traces of bomb-grade uranium found in Iran came from contaminated Pakistani equipment and were not evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program in Iran.[70] In September 2005, IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei reported that “most” highly-enriched uranium traces found in Iran by agency inspectors came from imported centrifuge components, validating Iran's claim that the traces were due to contamination. Sources in Vienna and the State Department reportedly stated that, for all practical purposes, the HEU issue has been resolved.

The IAEA Board of Governors deferred a formal decision on Iran's nuclear case for two years after 2003, while Iran continued cooperation with the EU-3. On September 24, 2005, after Iran abandoned the Paris Agreement, the Board found that Iran had been in non-compliance with its safeguards agreement, based largely on facts that had been reported as early as November 2003.[71]

On February 4, 2006, the 35 member Board of Governors of the IAEA voted 27–3 (with five abstentions: Algeria, Belarus, Indonesia, Libya and South Africa) to report Iran to the UN Security Council. The measure was sponsored by the United Kingdom, France and Germany, and it was backed by the United States. Two permanent council members, Russia and China, agreed to referral only on condition that the council take no action before March. The three members who voted against referral were Venezuela, Syria and Cuba.[72][73] In response, on February 6, 2006, Iran suspended its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol and all other voluntary and non-legally binding cooperation with the IAEA beyond what is required by its safeguards agreement.[74]

In late February 2006, IAEA Director Mohammad El-Baradei raised the suggestion of a deal, whereby Iran would give up industrial-scale enrichment and instead limit its program to a small-scale pilot facility, and agree to import its nuclear fuel from Russia. The Iranians indicated that while they would not be willing to give up their right to enrichment in principle, they were willing to consider the compromise solution. However in March 2006, the Bush Administration made it clear that they would not accept any enrichment at all in Iran.

The IAEA Board of Governors deferred the formal report to the UN Security Council of Iran's non-compliance (such a report is required by Article XII.C of the IAEA Statute),[75] until February 27, 2006.[76] The Board usually makes decisions by consensus, but in a rare non-consensus decision it adopted this resolution by vote, with 12 abstentions.[77][78]

On April 11, 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had successfully enriched uranium. President Ahmadinejad made the announcement in a televised address from the northeastern city of Mashhad, where he said "I am officially announcing that Iran joined the group of those countries which have nuclear technology." The uranium was enriched to 3.5% using over a hundred centrifuges.

On April 13, 2006, after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said (on April 12, 2006) the Security Council must consider "strong steps" to induce Tehran to change course in its nuclear ambition; President Ahmadinejad vowed that Iran won't back away from uranium enrichment and that the world must treat Iran as a nuclear power, saying "Our answer to those who are angry about Iran achieving the full nuclear fuel cycle is just one phrase. We say: Be angry at us and die of this anger," because "We won't hold talks with anyone about the right of the Iranian nation to enrich uranium."[79]

On April 14, 2006, The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) published a series of analyzed satellite images of Iran's nuclear facilities at Natanz and Esfahan.[80] Featured in these images is a new tunnel entrance near the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) at Esfahan and continued construction at the Natanz uranium enrichment site. In addition, a series of images dating back to 2002 shows the underground enrichment buildings and its subsequent covering by soil, concrete, and other materials. Both facilities were already subject to IAEA inspections and safeguards.

Iran responded to the demand to stop enrichment of uranium August 24, 2006, offering to return to the negotiation table but refusing to end enrichment.[81]

Qolam Ali Hadad-adel, speaker of Iran's parliament, said on August 30, 2006, that Iran had the right to "peaceful application of nuclear technology and all other officials agree with this decision," according to the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency. "Iran opened the door to negotiations for Europe and hopes that the answer which was given to the nuclear package would bring them to the table.""[81]

In Resolution 1696 of July 31, 2006, the United Nations Security Council demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment and reprocessing related activities.[82]

In UN Security Council Resolution 1737 of December 26, 2006, the Council imposed a series of sanctions on Iran for its non-compliance with the earlier Security Council resolution deciding that Iran suspend enrichment-related activities without delay.[83] These sanctions were primarily targeted against the transfer of nuclear and ballistic missile technologies[84] and, in response to concerns of China and Russia, were lighter than that sought by the United States.[85] This resolution followed a report from the IAEA that Iran had permitted inspections under its safeguards agreement but had not suspended its enrichment-related activities.[86]

2002–2006 : European actions

Around 2005, Germany refused to export any more nuclear equipment or refund money paid by Iran for such equipment in the 1980s.[41] (See European reactions 1979–89.)


UN Security Council

  • After Iran still refused to suspend enrichment, as required by the UN Security Council Resolution 1737, the Council decided in March 2007 to widen the scope of the sanctions.[87]
  • In UN Security Council Resolution 1803 of March 3, 2008, the Council decided to extend those sanctions to cover additional financial institutions, restrict travel of additional persons, and bar exports of nuclear- and missile-related dual-use goods to Iran.[88] The implementation of the sanctions is monitored by a Security Council Committee.[89]

International Atomic Energy Agency

  • On May 10, 2007, Iran and the IAEA vehemently denied reports that Iran had blocked IAEA inspectors when they sought access to the Iran's enrichment facility. On March 11, 2007, Reuters quoted International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Marc Vidricaire, "We have not been denied access at any time, including in the past few weeks. Normally we do not comment on such reports but this time we felt we had to clarify the matter...If we had a problem like that we would have to report to the [35-nation IAEA governing] board ... That has not happened because this alleged event did not take place."[90]
  • On July 30, 2007, inspectors from the IAEA spent five hours at the Arak complex, the first such visit since April. Visits to other plants in Iran were expected during the following days. It has been suggested that access may have been granted in an attempt to head off further sanctions.[91]
  • In late October 2007, according to the International Herald Tribune, the head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, stated that he had seen "no evidence" of Iran developing nuclear weapons. The IHT quoted ElBaradei as saying "We have information that there has been maybe some studies about possible weaponization. That's why we have said that we cannot give Iran a pass right now, because there is still a lot of question marks... . But have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weaponization program? No." The IHT report went on to say that "ElBaradei said he was worried about the growing rhetoric from the U.S., which he noted focused on Iran's alleged intentions to build a nuclear weapon rather than evidence the country was actively doing so. If there is actual evidence, ElBaradei said he would welcome seeing it."[92]
  • Israel criticised IAEA reports on Iran as well as the former IAEA-director ElBaradei. Israel's Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman dismissed reports by the UN nuclear watchdog agency as being "unacceptable" and accused IAEA head ElBaradei of being "pro-Iranian".[93]
  • In a February 2009 press interview, IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran has low enriched uranium, but "that doesn't mean that they are going tomorrow to have nuclear weapons, because as long as they are under IAEA verification, as long as they are not weaponizing, you know." ElBaradei continued that there is a confidence deficit with Iran, but that the concern should not be hyped and that "many other countries are enriching uranium without the world making any fuss about it".[94]
  • The IAEA remains unable to draw a conclusion on whether Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program. It normally draws conclusions about the absence of undeclared nuclear activities only in countries that have an Additional Protocol in force. Iran ceased its voluntary and non-legally binding implementation of the Additional Protocol and all other voluntary cooperation with the IAEA beyond that required under its safeguards agreement after the IAEA Board of Governors decided to report its safeguards non-compliance to the UN Security Council in February 2006.[74] The UN Security Council then passed Resolution 1737, invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter, obligating Iran to implement the Additional Protocol. Iran has maintained that the Security Council's engagement in "the issue of the peaceful nuclear activities of the Islamic Republic of Iran" are unlawful and malicious.[95] In its Safeguards Statement for 2007, the IAEA found no indication of undeclared nuclear material or activities in 47 of 82 states that had both NPT safeguards agreements and Additional Protocols in force, while it was unable to draw similar conclusions in 25 other states.[96] In August 2007, Iran and the IAEA entered into an agreement on the modalities for resolving remaining outstanding issues,[97] and made progress in outstanding issues except for the question of "alleged studies" of weaponization by Iran.[98] Iran says it did not address the alleged studies in the IAEA work plan because they were not included in the plan.[99] The IAEA has not detected the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies and says it regrets it is unable to provide Iran with copies of the documentation concerning the alleged studies, but says the documentation is comprehensive and detailed so that it needs to be taken seriously. Iran says the allegations are based on “forged” documents and “fabricated” data, and that it has not received copies of the documentation to enable it to prove that they were forged and fabricated.[100][101]
  • In February 2009 IAEA Director General reportedly said that he believed the possibility of a military attack on Iran’s nuclear installations had been ruled out. “Force can only be used as a last option... when all other political possibilities have been exhausted,” he told Radio France International.[102][103] Former Director General Hans Blix criticized Western governments for the years lost by their "ineffective approaches" to Iran's nuclear program. Blix suggested the West offer "guarantees against attacks from the outside and subversive activities inside" and also suggested U.S. involvement in regional diplomacy "would offer Iran a greater incentive to reach a nuclear agreement than the Bush team's statements that 'Iran must behave itself'."[104]
  • In February 2009, anonymous diplomats at the atomic energy agency reportedly complained that most U.S. intelligence shared with the IAEA had proved inaccurate, and none had led to significant discoveries inside Iran.[105]
  • In July 2009, Yukiya Amano, the in-coming head of the IAEA said that he did not see any evidence Iran was trying to gain the ability to develop nuclear arms. "I don't see any evidence in IAEA official documents about this," Yukiya Amano told Reuters.[106]
  • In November 2009, the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors overwhelmingly backed a demand of the U.S., Russia, China, and three other powers that Iran immediately stop building its newly-revealed nuclear facility and freeze uranium enrichment. Iranian officials shrugged off approval of the resolution by 25 members of the Board, but the U.S. and its allies hinted at new U.N. sanctions if Iran remained defiant.[107]


  • Interviews and surveys show that the majority of Iranians in all groups favor their country's nuclear program, including a full fuel cycle program, but most also believe that nuclear weapons are contrary to Islam.[108][109][110] Polls in 2008 showed that the vast majority of Iranians want their country to develop nuclear energy, and 90 percent of Iranians believe it is important (including 81% very important) for Iran "to have a full fuel cycle nuclear program."[111] Though Iranians are not Arab, Arab publics in six countries also believe that Iran has the right to its nuclear program and should not be pressured to stop that program.[112]
  • In explaining why it had left its enrichment program undeclared to the IAEA, Iran said that for the past twenty four years it has "been subject to the most severe series of sanctions and export restrictions on material and technology for peaceful nuclear technology," so that some elements of its program had to be done discreetly. Iran said the U.S. intention "is nothing but to make this deprivation" of Iran's inalienable right to enrichment technology "final and eternal," and that the United States is completely silent on Israel's nuclear enrichment and weapons program.[113] Iran began its nuclear research as early as 1975, when France cooperated with Iran to set up the Esfahan Nuclear Technology Center (ENTC) to provide training for personnel to develop certain nuclear fuel cycle capabilities.[114][115] Iran did not hide other elements of its nuclear program. For example, its efforts at mining and converting uranium were announced on national radio,[116][117] and Iran also says that in consultation with the Agency and member states throughout the 1990s it underlined its plans to acquire, for exclusively peaceful purposes, fuel enrichment technology.[113] Iran's contracts with other nations to obtain nuclear reactors were also known to the IAEA – but support for the contracts was withdrawn after a U.S. special national intelligence estimate declared that while "Iran's much publicized nuclear power intentions are entirely in the planning stage," the ambitions of the shah could lead Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, especially in the shadow of India's successful nuclear test in May 1974".[118] In 2003, the IAEA reported that Iran had failed to meet its obligations to report some of its enrichment activities, which Iran says began in 1985, to the IAEA as required by its safeguards agreement. The IAEA further reported that Iran had undertaken to submit the required information for agency verification and "to implement a policy of co-operation and full transparency" as corrective actions.[58]
  • The Iranian government has repeatedly made compromise offers to place strict limits on its nuclear program beyond what the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Additional Protocol legally require of Iran, in order to ensure that the program cannot be secretly diverted to the manufacture of weapons.[119] These offers include operating Iran's nuclear program as an international consortium, with the full participation of foreign governments. This offer by the Iranians matched a proposed solution put forth by an IAEA expert committee that was investigating the risk that civilian nuclear technologies could be used to make bombs.[19] Iran has also offered to renounce plutonium extraction technology, thus ensuring that its heavy water reactor at Arak cannot be used to make bombs either.[120] More recently, the Iranians have reportedly also offered to operate uranium centrifuges that automatically self-destruct if they are used to enrich uranium beyond what is required for civilian purposes.[121] However, despite offers of nuclear cooperation by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, Iran has refused to suspend its enrichment program as the Council has demanded.[122] Iran’s representative asserted that dealing with the issue in the Security Council was unwarranted and void of any legal basis or practical utility because its peaceful nuclear program posed no threat to international peace and security, and, that it ran counter to the views of the majority of United Nations Member States, which the Council was obliged to represent.
  • "They should know that the Iranian nation will not yield to pressure and will not let its rights be trampled on," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a crowd August 31, 2006 in a televised speech in the northwestern Iranian city of Orumiyeh. In front of his strongest supporters in one of his provincial power bases, the Iranian leader attacked what he called "intimidation" by the United Nations, which he said was led by the United States. Ahmadinejad criticised a White House rebuff of his offer for a televised debate with President Bush. "They say they support dialog and the free flow of information," he said. "But when debate was proposed, they avoided and opposed it." Ahmadinejad said that sanctions "cannot dissuade Iranians from their decision to make progress," according to Iran's state-run IRNA news agency. "On the contrary, many of our successes, including access to the nuclear fuel cycle and producing of heavy water, have been achieved under sanctions."
  • Iran insists enrichment activities are intended for peaceful purposes, but much of the West, including the United States, allege that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, or a nuclear weapons "capability". The August 31, 2006 deadline called for Iran to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1696 and suspend its enrichment-related activities or face the possibility of economic sanctions. The United States believes the council will agree to implement sanctions when high-level ministers reconvene in mid-September, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said. "We're sure going to work toward that [sanctions] with a great deal of energy and determination because this cannot go unanswered," Burns said. "The Iranians are obviously proceeding with their nuclear research; they are doing things that the International Atomic Energy Agency does not want them to do, the Security Council doesn't want them to do. There has to be an international answer, and we believe there will be one."[81]
  • Iran asserts that there is no legal basis for Iran's referral to the United Nations Security Council since the IAEA has not proven that previously undeclared activities had a relationship to a weapons program, and that all nuclear material in Iran (including material that may not have been declared) had been accounted for and had not been diverted to military purposes. Article XII.C of the IAEA Statute[123] requires a report to the UN Security Council for any safeguards noncompliance.[124] The IAEA Board of Governors, in a rare non-consensus decision with 12 abstentions,[77] decided that "Iran’s many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement" as reported by the IAEA in November 2003 constituted "non-compliance" under the terms of Article XII.C of IAEA Statute.[71]
  • Iran also minimizes the significance of the IAEA's inability to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, arguing the IAEA has only drawn such conclusions in a subset of states that have ratified and implemented the Additional Protocol. The IAEA has been able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran,[125] but not the absence of undeclared activities. According to the IAEA's Safeguards Statement for 2007, of the 82 states where both NPT safeguards and an Additional Protocol are implemented, the IAEA had found no indication of undeclared nuclear activity in 47 states, while evaluations of possible undeclared nuclear activity remained ongoing in 35 states.[126] Iran ceased implementation of the Additional Protocol and all other cooperation with the IAEA beyond that required under its safeguards agreement after the IAEA Board of Governors decided to report its safeguards non-compliance to the UN Security Council in February 2006.[74] Iran insisted that such cooperation had been "voluntary," but on December 26, 2006, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1737,[127] invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which among other things required Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA, "beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol." The IAEA reported on November 19, 2008 that, while it is "able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran," it "has not been able to make substantive progress" on "key remaining issues of serious concern" because of a "lack of cooperation by Iran."[128] Iran has maintained that the Security Council's engagement in "the issue of the peaceful nuclear activities of the Islamic Republic of Iran" are unlawful and malicious.[129] Iran also argues that the UN Security Council resolutions demanding a suspension of enrichment constitute a violation of Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which recognizes the inalienable right of signatory nations to nuclear technology "for peaceful purposes."[130][131]
  • Iran agreed to implement the Additional Protocol under the terms of the October 2003 Tehran agreement and its successor, the November 2004 Paris agreement, and did so for 2 years before withdrawing from the Paris agreement in early 2006 following the breakdown of negotiations with the EU-3. Since then, Iran has offered not only to ratify the Additional Protocol, but to implement transparency measures on its nuclear program that exceed the Additional Protocol, as long as its right to operate an enrichment program is recognized. The UN Security Council, however, insists that Iran must suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, and the United States explicitly ruled out the possibility that it would allow Iran to produce its own nuclear fuel, even under intense international inspection.[132]
  • On April 9, 2007, Iran announced that it has begun enriching uranium with 3 000 centrifuges, presumably at Natanz enrichment site. "With great honor, I declare that as of today our dear country has joined the nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale", said Ahmadinejad.[133]
  • On April 22, 2007, Iranians foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini announced that his country rules out enrichment suspension ahead of talks with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on April 25, 2007.[134]
  • In March 2009 Iran announced plans to open the Bushehr nuclear power plant to tourism as a way to highlight their peaceful nuclear intentions.[135]
  • Reacting to the November 2009 IAEA Board of Governors resolution demanding that Iran immediately stop building its newly revealed nuclear facility and freeze uranium enrichment, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast described the resolution as a "show...aimed at putting pressure on Iran, which will be useless."[107] The Iranian government subsequently authorized the country's Atomic Energy Organization to begin building ten more uranium-enrichment plants for enhancing the country's electricity production.[136]
  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on December 1 brushed aside the threat of UN sanctions over his country's failure to accept a UN-proposed deal on its nuclear program, stating that such a move by western nations would not hinder Iran's nuclear program. Ahmadinejad told state television that he believed further negotiations with world powers over his country's nuclear program were not needed, describing warnings by Western powers that Iran would be isolated if it fails to accept the UN-proposed deal as "ridiculous."[136]

United States

  • President George W. Bush insisted on August 31, 2006 that "there must be consequences" for Iran's defiance of demands that it stop enriching uranium. He asserted "the world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran. The Iranian regime arms, funds, and advises Hezbollah."[137] The IAEA issued a report saying Iran had not suspended its uranium enrichment activities, a United Nations official said. This report opened the way for UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. Facing a Security Council deadline to stop its uranium enrichment activities, Iran has left little doubt it will defy the West and continue its nuclear program.[81]
  • A congressional report released on August 23, 2006 summarized the documentary history of Iran's nuclear program, but also made allegations against the IAEA. The IAEA responded with a strongly worded letter to then U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, which labeled as "outrageous and dishonest" the report's allegation that an IAEA inspector was dismissed for violating a supposed IAEA policy against "telling the whole truth" about Iran and pointed out other factual errors, such as a claim that Iran had enriched "weapons-grade" uranium.[138]
  • John Bolton, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on August 31, 2006, said that he expected action to impose sanctions to begin immediately after the deadline passes, with meetings of high-level officials in the coming days, followed by negotiations on the language of the sanctions resolution. Bolton said that when the deadline passes "a little flag will go up." "In terms of what happens afterward, at that point, if they have not suspended all uranium enrichment activities, they will not be in compliance with the resolution," he said. "And at that point, the steps that the foreign ministers have agreed upon previously ... we would begin to talk about how to implement those steps." The five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, previously offered Iran a package of incentives aimed at getting the country to restart negotiations, but Iran refused to halt its nuclear activities first. Incentives included offers to improve Iran's access to the international economy through participation in groups such as the World Trade Organization and to modernize its telecommunications industry. The incentives also mentioned the possibility of lifting restrictions on U.S. and European manufacturers wanting to export civil aircraft to Iran. And a proposed long-term agreement accompanying the incentives offered a "fresh start in negotiations."[81]
  • IAEA officials complained in 2007 that most U.S. intelligence shared with it to date about Iran's nuclear program proved to be inaccurate, and that none had led to significant discoveries inside Iran through that time.[139]
  • Through 2008, the United States repeatedly refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in an attack on Iran. The US Nuclear Posture Review made public in 2002 specifically envisioned the use of nuclear weapons on a first strike basis, even against non-nuclear armed states.[140] Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh reported that, according to military officials, the Bush administration had plans for the use of nuclear weapons against "underground Iranian nuclear facilities".[141] When specifically questioned about the potential use of nuclear weapons against Iran, President Bush claimed that "All options were on the table". According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, Bush "directly threatened Iran with a preemptive nuclear strike. It is hard to read his reply in any other way."[142] The Iranian authorities consistently replied that they were not seeking nuclear weapons as a deterrent to the United States, and instead emphasize the creation of a nuclear-arms free zone in the Middle East.[143] The policy of using nuclear weapons on a first-strike basis against non-nuclear opponents is a violation of the US Negative Security Assurance pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear members of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) such as Iran. Threats of the use of nuclear weapons against another country constitute a violation of Security Council Resolution 984 of April 11, 1995 and the International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons.
  • In December 2008, President-Elect Barack Obama gave an interview on Sunday's "Meet the Press" with host Tom Brokaw during which he said the United States needs to "ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran". He said in his view the United States needs to make it clear to the Iranians that their alleged development of nuclear weapons and funding of organizations "like Hamas and Hezbollah," and threats against Israel are "unacceptable."[144] Obama supports diplomacy with Iran without preconditions "to pressure Iran to stop their illicit nuclear program".[145] Mohamed ElBaradei has welcomed the new stance to talk to Iran as "long overdue". Iran said Obama should apologize for the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II and his administration should stop talking to the world and "listen to what others are saying."[146] In his first press interview as President, Obama told Al Arabiya that "if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us."[147]
  • On April 7, 2009, a Manhattan district attorney charged a financier with the suspected misuse of Manhattan banks employed to transfer money between China and Iran by way of Europe and the United States.[149] The materials in question can be used for weapons as well as civilian purposes, but some of the material can potentially be used in making engine nozzles that can withstand fiery temperatures and centrifuges that can enrich uranium into atomic fuel. The charges would carry a maximum of up to a year in jail for fifth-degree conspiracy and a maximum of four years for falsifying business records.[150] David Albright, a nuclear weapons expert who assisted in the prosecution, said that it is impossible to say how Iran used or could use the raw materials it acquired.[151]
  • According to a document released by the US State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research in August, 2009, Iran is unlikely to have the technical capability to produce HEU (highly enriched uranium, used for bombs) before 2013, and the US intelligence community has no evidence that Iran has yet made the decision to produce highly enriched uranium.[152]
  • On July 26, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton explicitly ruled out the possibility that the Obama administration would allow Iran to produce its own nuclear fuel, even under intense international inspection.[132]
  • Following the November 2009 IAEA Board of Governors resolution demanding Iran immediately stop building its newly revealed nuclear facility and freeze uranium enrichment, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs avoided mentioning sanctions but indicated harsher measures were possible unless Iran compromised: "If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences." Glyn Davies, the chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA, told reporters: "Six nations...for the first time came together...[and] have put together this resolution we all agreed on. That's a significant development."[107]
  • A 2009 U.S. congressional research paper says U.S. intelligence believes Iran ended "nuclear weapon design and weaponization work" in 2003.[153] The intelligence consensus was affirmed by leaders of the U.S. intelligence community.[154] Some advisors within the Obama administration reaffirmed the intelligence conclusions,[155] while other "top advisers" in the Obama administration "say they no longer believe" the key finding of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate".[156] Thomas Fingar, former Chairman of the National Intelligence Council until December 2008, said that the original 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran "became contentious, in part, because the White House instructed the Intelligence Community to release an unclassified version of the report's key judgments but declined to take responsibility for ordering its release."[157] A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is the most authoritative written judgment concerning a national security issue prepared by the Director of Central Intelligence.[158]

The August 2007 agreement with the IAEA

An IAEA report to the Board of Governors on August 30, 2007 states that Iran’s Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz is operating "well below the expected quantity for a facility of this design," and that 12 of the intended 18 centrifuge cascades at the plant are operating. The report states that the IAEA has "been able to verify the non-diversion of the declared nuclear materials at the enrichment facilities in Iran and has therefore concluded that it remains in peaceful use," and that longstanding issues regarding plutonium experiments and HEU contamination on spent fuel containers were considered "resolved." However, the report adds that "the Agency remains unable to verify certain aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear program. It should be noted that since early 2006, the Agency has not received the type of information that Iran had previously been providing, including pursuant to the [unratified] Additional Protocol, for example information relevant to ongoing advanced centrifuge research."

The report also outlines a work plan agreed by Iran and the IAEA on August 21, 2007. The work plan reflects agreement on "modalities for resolving the remaining safeguards implementation issues, including the long outstanding issues." According to the plan, these modalities "cover all remaining issues and the Agency confirmed that there are no other remaining issues and ambiguities regarding Iran's past nuclear program and activities." The IAEA report describes the work plan is "a significant step forward," but adds "the Agency considers it essential that Iran adheres to the time line defined therein and implements all the necessary safeguards and transparency measures, including the measures provided for in the Additional Protocol."[159] Although the work plan does not include a commitment by Iran to implement the Additional Protocol as a permanent legal obligation, IAEA safeguards head Olli Heinonen observed that measures in the work plan "for resolving our outstanding issues go beyond the requirements of the Additional Protocol."[160]

According to Reuters, the report is likely to blunt Washington’s push for more severe sanctions against Iran. If Washington pushes for tougher sanctions, "our process will face a setback at a minimum, if not a halt,” said a senior U.N. official familiar with IAEA program on Iran, reflecting IAEA concerns that U.S.-led efforts to escalate penalties could only corner nationalistic Iran and goad it to freeze out inspectors.[161] In late October 2007, the Reuters news agency reported that, according to senior UN official, Olli Heinonen, Iranian cooperation with the IAEA was "good", although there was much that remained to be done.[162]

The November 2007 IAEA report

The November 15, 2007 IAEA report found that on 9 outstanding issues listed in the August 2007 workplan, including experiments on the P-2 centrifuge and work with uranium metals, "Iran's statements are consistent with ... information available to the agency," but it warned that its knowledge of Tehran's present atomic work was shrinking due to Iran's refusal to continue voluntarily implementing the Additional Protocol, as it had done in the past under the October 2003 Tehran agreement and the November 2004 Paris agreement. The only remaining issues were traces of HEU found at one location, and allegations by US intelligence agencies based on a laptop computer allegedly stolen from Iran which reportedly contained nuclear weapons-related designs. The IAEA report also stated that Tehran continues to produce LEU. Iran has declared it has a right to peaceful nuclear technology under the NPT, despite Security Council demands that it cease its nuclear enrichment.[163]

On November 18, 2007, President Ahmadinejad announced that he intends to consult with other Arab nations on a plan, under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council, to enrich uranium in a neutral third country, such as Switzerland.[164]

The February 2008 IAEA report

On February 11, 2008 news reports stated that the IAEA report on Iran's compliance with the August 2007 work plan would be delayed over internal disagreements over the report's expected conclusions that the major issues had been resolved.[165] French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner stated that he would meet with IAEA Director Mohammed ElBaradei to convince him to "listen to the West" and remind him that the IAEA is merely in charge of the "technical side" rather than the "political side" of the issue.[166] A senior IAEA official denied the reports of internal disagreements and accused Western powers of using the same "hype" tactics employed against Iraq before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to justify imposing further sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.[167]

The IAEA issued its report on the implementation of safeguards in Iran on February 22, 2008.[168] With respect to the report, IAEA Director Mohammad ElBaradei stated that "We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran´s enrichment programme" with the exception of a single issue, "and that is the alleged weaponization studies that supposedly Iran has conducted in the past."[169]

According to the report, the IAEA shared intelligence with Iran recently provided by the US regarding "alleged studies" on a nuclear weaponization program. The information was allegedly obtained from a laptop computer smuggled out of Iran and provided to the US in mid-2004.[170] The laptop was reportedly received from a "longtime contact" in Iran who obtained it from someone else now believed to be dead.[171] A senior European diplomat warned "I can fabricate that data," and argued that the documents look "beautiful, but is open to doubt".[171] The United States has relied on the laptop to prove that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons.[171] In November 2007, the United States National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) believed that Iran halted an alleged active nuclear weapons program in fall 2003.[172] Iran has dismissed the laptop information as a fabrication, and other diplomats have dismissed the information as relatively insignificant and coming too late.[173]

The February 2008 IAEA report states that the Agency has "not detected the use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard."[168]

The May 2008 IAEA report

On May 26, 2008, the IAEA issued another regular report on the implementation of safeguards in Iran.[174]

According to the report, the IAEA has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, and Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and accountancy reports, as required by its safeguards agreement.

Iran had installed several new centrifuges, including more advanced models, and environmental samples showed the centrifuges "continued to operate as declared", making low-enriched uranium. The report also noted that other elements of Iran's nuclear program continued to be subject to IAEA monitoring and safeguards as well, including the construction of the heavy water facility in Arak, the construction and use of hot cells associated with the Tehran Research Reactor, the uranium conversion efforts, and the Russian nuclear fuel delivered for the Bushehr reactor.

The report stated that the IAEA had requested, as a voluntary "transparency measure", to be allowed access to centrifuge manufacturing sites, but that Iran had refused the request. The IAEA report stated that Iran had also submitted replies to questions regarding "possible military dimensions" to its nuclear program, which include "alleged studies" on a so-called Green Salt Project, high-explosive testing and missile re-entry vehicles. According to the report, Iran's answers were still under review by the IAEA at the time the report was published. However, as part of its earlier "overall assessment" of the allegations, Iran had responded that the documents making the allegations were forged, not authentic, or referred to conventional applications.

The report stated that Iran may have more information on the alleged studies, which "remain a matter of serious concern", but that the IAEA itself had not detected evidence of actual design or manufacture by Iran of nuclear weapons or components. The IAEA also stated that it was not itself in possession of certain documents containing the allegations against Iran, and so was not able to share the documents with Iran.

The September 2008 IAEA report

According to the September 15, 2008 IAEA report on the implementation of safeguards in Iran,[175] Iran continued to provide the IAEA with access to declared nuclear material and activities, which continued to be operated under safeguards and with no evidence of any diversion of nuclear material for non-peaceful uses. Nevertheless, the report reiterated that the IAEA would not be able to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program unless Iran adopted "transparency measures" which exceeded its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, since the IAEA does not verify the absence of undeclared nuclear activities in any country unless the Additional Protocol is in force.

With respect to the report, IAEA Director Mohammad ElBaradei stated that “We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran's enrichment programme” with the exception of a single issue, “and that is the alleged weaponization studies that supposedly Iran has conducted in the past.” [176]

According to the report, Iran had increased the number of operating centrifuges at its Fuel Enrichment Plant in Isfahan, and continued to enrich uranium. Contrary to some media reports which claimed that Iran had diverted uranium hexafluoride (UF6) for a renewed nuclear weapons program,[177] the IAEA emphasized that all of the uranium hexafluoride was under IAEA safeguards. This was re-iterated by IAEA spokesman Melissa Fleming, who characterized the report of missing nuclear material in Iran as being "fictitious".[178] Iran was also asked to clarify information about foreign assistance it may have received in connection with a high explosive charge suitable for an implosion type nuclear device. Iran stated that there had been no such activities in Iran.[175]

The IAEA also reported that it had held a series of meetings with Iranian officials to resolve the outstanding issues including the "alleged studies" into nuclear weaponization which were listed in the May 2008 IAEA report. During the course of these meetings, the Iranians filed a series of written responses including a 117-page presentation which confirmed the partial veracity of some of the allegations, but which asserted that the allegations as a whole were based on “forged” documents and “fabricated” data, and that Iran had not actually received the documentation substantiating the allegations. According to the August 2007 "Modalities Agreement" between Iran and the IAEA, Iran had agreed to review and assess the "alleged studies" claims, as good faith gesture, "upon receiving all related documents".[179]

Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, accused the United States of preventing the IAEA from delivering the documents about the alleged studies to Iran as required by the Modalities Agreement, and stated that Iran had done its best to respond to the allegations but would not accept "any request beyond our legal obligation and particularly beyond the Work Plan, which we have already implemented."[180]

While once again expressing "regret" that the IAEA was not able to provide Iran with copies of the documentation concerning the alleged studies, the report also urged Iran to provide the IAEA with "substantive information to support its statements and provide access to relevant documentation and individuals" regarding the alleged studies, as a "matter of transparency".[175] The IAEA submitted a number of proposals to Iran to help resolve the allegations and expressed a willingness to discuss modalities that could enable Iran to demonstrate credibly that the activities referred to in the documentation were not nuclear-related, as Iran asserted, while protecting sensitive information related to its conventional military activities. The report does not indicate whether Iran accepted or rejected these proposals.[175]

The report also reiterated that IAEA inspectors had found "no evidence on the actual design or manufacture by Iran of nuclear material components of a nuclear weapon or of certain other key components, such as initiators, or on related nuclear physics studies ... Nor has the Agency detected the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies" but insisted that the IAEA would not be able to formally verify the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program unless Iran had agreed to adopt the requested "transparency measures".[175]

The February 2009 IAEA report

In a February 19, 2009 report to the Board of Governors,[181] IAEA Director General ElBaradei reported that Iran continued to enrich uranium contrary to the decisions of the Security Council and had produced over a ton of low enriched uranium. Results of environmental samples taken by the Agency at the FEP and PFEP5 indicated that the plants have been operating at levels declared by Tehran, "within the measurement uncertainties normally associated with enrichment plants of a similar throughput." The Agency was also able to confirm there was no ongoing reprocessing related activities at Iran's Tehran Research Reactor and Xenon Radioisotope Production Facility.

According to the report, Iran also continued to refuse to provide design information or access to verify design information for its IR-40 heavy water research reactor. Iran and the IAEA in February 2003 agreed to modify a provision in the Subsidiary Arrangement to its safeguards agreement (Code 3.1) to require such access.[182] Iran told the Agency in March 2007 that it “suspended” the implementation of the modified Code 3.1, which had been “accepted in 2003, but not yet ratified by the parliament”, and that it would “revert” to the implementation of the 1976 version of Code 3.1.[183] The subsidiary arrangement may only be modified by mutual agreement.[184] Iran says that since the reactor is not in a position to receive nuclear material the IAEA's request for access was not justified, and requested that the IAEA not schedule an inspection to verify design information.[181] The Agency says its right to verify design information provided to it is a "continuing right, which is not dependent on the stage of construction of, or the presence of nuclear material at, a facility".[183]

Regarding the "alleged studies" into nuclear weaponization, the Agency said that "as a result of the continued lack of cooperation by Iran in connection with the remaining issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme, the Agency has not made any substantive progress on these issues." The Agency called on member states which had provided information about the alleged programs to allow the information to be shared with Iran. The Agency said Iran's continued refusal to implement the Additional Protocol was contrary to the request of the Board of Governors and the Security Council. The Agency was able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.[185] Iran says that for the six years the Agency has been considering its case, the IAEA has not found any evidence to prove that Tehran is seeking a nuclear weapon.[102]

Regarding the IAEA report, several news reports suggested that that Iran had failed to properly report the amount of low-enriched uranium it possessed because Iranian estimates did not match the IAEA inspector's findings, and that Iran now had enough uranium to make a nuclear bomb.[186][187] The reporting was widely criticized as unjustifiably provocative and hyped.[188][189][190] In response to the controversy, IAEA spokesman Melissa Fleming asserted that the IAEA had no reason at all to believe that the estimates of low-enriched uranium produced by Iran were an intentional error, and that no nuclear material could be removed from the facility for further enrichment to make nuclear weapons without the agency's knowledge since the facility is subject to video surveillance and the nuclear material is kept under seal.[191]

Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the February report failed to "provide any new insight into Iran's nuclear program".[192] He asserted the report was written in a way which clearly causes misunderstanding in public opinion. He suggested the reports should be written to have a section about whether Iran has fulfilled its NPT obligations and a separate section for whether "fulfillment of Additional Protocol or sub-arrangements 1 and 3 are beyond the commitment or not".[193]

Second enrichment plant

On September 21, 2009, Iran informed the IAEA that it was constructing a second enrichment facility. The following day (September 22) IAEA Director General ElBaradei informed the United States, and two days later (September 24) the United States, United Kingdom and France briefed the IAEA on an enrichment facility under construction at an underground location at Fordo, twenty miles north of Qom. On September 25, at the G-20 Summit, the three countries criticized Iran for once again concealing a nuclear facility from the IAEA. The United States argued that the facility, which was still months from completion, was too small to be useful for a civil program but could produce enough high-enriched uranium for one or more bombs per year.[citation needed] Iran said the plant was for peaceful purposes and would take between a year and a half to two years to complete, and that the notice Iran had given had exceeded the 180 days before insertion of nuclear materials the IAEA safeguards agreement that Iran was following required. Iran agreed to allow IAEA inspections.[194]

In October 2009 the United States, members of the IAEA visited Iran and the new Fordo enrichment plant, planning to analyze their findings and deliver a report "in due time".[195]

Also in October, the United States, France and Russia proposed a U.N.-drafted deal to Iran regarding its nuclear program, in an effort to find a compromise between Iran's stated need for a nuclear reactor and international concerns that Iran harbors a secret intent on developing a nuclear weapon. After some delay in responding, on October 29, Ahmadinejad voiced an openness towards cooperation with other world powers. "We welcome fuel exchange, nuclear co-operation, building of power plants and reactors and we are ready to co-operate," he said in a live broadcast on state television.[196] However, he added that Iran would not retreat "one iota" on its right to a sovereign nuclear program. [197]

In November 2009, the IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution that criticized Iran for defying a U.N. Security Council ban on uranium enrichment, censured Iran for secretly building a uranium enrichment facility and demanded that it immediately suspend further construction. It noted the IAEA chief Mohammed El-Baradei cannot confirm that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively geared toward peaceful uses, and expressed "serious concern" that Iran's stonewalling of an IAEA probe means "the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program" cannot be excluded.[107]

Iran declares itself to be a nuclear state

On 9 February 2010 according to Government sources, Iran announced that it would produce uranium enriched to up to 20% to produce fuel for a research reactor used to produce medical radioisotopes, processing its existing stocks of 3.5% enriched uranium.[198][199] Two days later during the celebrations in Tehran for the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Islamic revolution, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran was now a "nuclear state."[199] IAEA officials confirmed it had begun the enrichment up to 20%, but could not verify if it the process had been successful.[200]

Responding to criticism, President Ahmadinejad said, "Why do they think that 20 per cent is such a big deal? Right now in Natanz we have the capability to enrich at over 20 per cent and at over 80 per cent, but because we don’t need it, we won’t do it." He added "If we wanted to manufacture a bomb, we would announce it."[201][199] On the same day as the President's announcement, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Reuters that their 20% enrichment production, was going "very well," adding "There is no limit on enrichment. We can enrich up to 100 percent...But we never had the intention and we do not have the intention to do so, unless we need (to)." He maintained that the 20% production was for a Tehran medical reactor, and as such would be limited to around 1.5 kg per month.[198]

The Laptop and "Alleged Studies"

The current controversy over Iran's nuclear program revolves around allegations of nuclear studies by Iran with possible military applications until 2003, when, according to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, the program was ended. The allegations, which include claims that Iran had engaged in high-explosives testing, sought to manufacture "green salt" and to design a nuclear-capable missile warhead, were based on information obtained from a laptop computer which was allegedly retrieved from Iran in 2004[202] The US presented some of the alleged contents of the laptop in 2005 to an audience of international diplomats, though the laptop and the full documents contained in it have yet to be given to the IAEA for independent verification. According to the New York Times:

Nonetheless, doubts about the intelligence persist among some foreign analysts. In part, that is because American officials, citing the need to protect their source, have largely refused to provide details of the origins of the laptop computer beyond saying that they obtained it in mid-2004 from a longtime contact in Iran. Moreover, this chapter in the confrontation with Iran is infused with the memory of the faulty intelligence on Iraq's unconventional arms. In this atmosphere, though few countries are willing to believe Iran's denials about nuclear arms, few are willing to accept the United States' weapons intelligence without question. "I can fabricate that data," a senior European diplomat said of the documents. "It looks beautiful, but is open to doubt."[203]

Meanwhile, on August 21, 2007, Iran and the IAEA finalized an agreement, entitled "Understandings of The Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA on the Modalities of Resolution of the Outstanding Issues," that listed outstanding issues regarding Iran's nuclear program and set out a timetable to resolve each issue in order. These unresolved issues included the status of Iran's uranium mine at Gchine, allegations of experiments with plutonium and uranium metal, and the use of Polonium 210.[204] Specifically regarding the "Alleged Studies", the Modalities agreement asserted that while Iran considers the documents to be fabricated, Iran would nevertheless address the allegations "upon receiving all related documents" as a goodwill gesture. The Modalities Agreement specifically said that that aside from the issues identified in the document, there were “no other remaining issues and ambiguities regarding Iran’s past nuclear program and activities.”

The United States was opposed to the Modalities Agreement between Iran and the IAEA, and vehemently objected to it, accusing Iran of "manipulating" IAEA. However Olli Heinonen, the IAEA Deputy Director general of safeguards underlined the importance of the Iran-IAEA agreement as a working arrangement on how to resolve the outstanding issues that triggered Security Council resolutions:

"All these measures which you see there for resolving our outstanding issues go beyond the requirements of the Additional Protocol...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."[205]

Following the implementation of the Modalities Agreement, the IAEA issued another report on the status of Iran's nuclear program on Feb 22, 2008. According to this report, the IAEA had no evidence of a current, undeclared nuclear program in Iran, and all of the remaining issues listed in the Modalities Agreement regarding past undeclared nuclear activities had been resolved, with the exception of the "Alleged Studies" issue. Regarding this report, IAEA director ElBaradei specifically stated:

[W]e have made quite good progress in clarifying the outstanding issues that had to do with Iran's past nuclear activities, with the exception of one issue, and that is the alleged weaponization studies that supposedly Iran has conducted in the past. We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran's enrichment programme.[206]

The US had made some of the "Alleged Studies" documentation available to the IAEA just a week prior to the issuance of the IAEA's Feb 2008 report on Iran's nuclear program. According to the IAEA report itself, the IAEA had "not detected the use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard." Some diplomats reportedly dismissed the new allegations as being "of doubtful value...relatively insignificant and coming too late."[207]

It was reported on March 3, 2008, that Olli Heinonen, the IAEA Deputy Director general of safeguards, had briefed diplomats about the contents of the "Alleged Studies" documents a week earlier. Reportedly, Heinonen added that the IAEA had obtained corroborating information from the intelligence agencies of several countries, that pointed to sophisticated research into some key technologies needed to build and deliver a nuclear bomb.[208]

In April 2008, Iran reportedly agreed to address the sole outstanding issue of the "Alleged Studies"[209] However, according to the subsequent May 2008 IAEA report, the IAEA was not able to actually provide these same "Alleged Studies" documents to Iran, because the IAEA did not have the documents itself or was not allowed to share them with Iran. For example, in paragraph 21, the IAEA report states: "Although the Agency had been shown the documents that led it to these conclusions, it was not in possession of the documents and was therefore unfortunately unable to make them available to Iran." Also, in paragraph 16, the IAEA report states: "The Agency received much of this information only in electronic form and was not authorised to provide copies to Iran." The IAEA has requested that it be allowed to share the documents with Iran. Nevertheless, according the report, Iran may have more information on the alleged studies which "remain a matter of serious concern" but the IAEA itself had not detected evidence of actual design or manufacture by Iran of nuclear weapons or components.

The refusal by the United States to release the full documentation has caused a standoff with Iran, and continues to be a source of friction between the IAEA and the United States. According to the New York Times,

The Bush administration's refusal to turn over the data has been a source of friction with Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general of the agency, who has argued that Iran must be given a fair chance to examine some of the case that Washington has developed. But it remains unclear how much of the data Dr. ElBaradei will be allowed to disclose to the Iranians.[210]

Furthermore, according to IAEA head Mohammad ElBaradei,

A lot is in documents which we cannot share with the Iranians because of the need to protect sources and methods. Iran says, how can I tell you if it is fake or authentic if I am not getting a copy? So in many ways it's like a merry-go-round.[211]

Iranians continue to assert that the documents are forgeries. According to Iran's Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, "The government of the United States has not handed over original documents to the agency since it does not in fact have any authenticated document and all it has are forged documents."[212]

The IAEA has requested that third-parties allow it to share the documents on the alleged studies with Iran. The IAEA has further stated that though it has not provided full documents containing the alleged studies, information from other countries has corroborated some of the allegations, which appear to the IAEA to be consistent and credible, and that Iran should therefore address the alleged studies even without obtaining the full documents. However, questions about the authenticity of the documents persist, with claims that the documents were obtained either from Israel or the MEK, an Iranian dissident group officially considered to be a terrorist organization by the United States, and that investigations into the alleged studies are intended to reveal intelligence about Iran's conventional weapons programs.[213][214][215][216] Some IAEA officials have requested a clear statement be made by the agency that it could not affirm the documents' authenticity. They cite that as a key document in the study had since been proven to have been fraudulently altered, it put in doubt the entire collection.[217]

Nuclear power as a political issue

Iran's nuclear program and the NPT

Iran's nuclear program started in 1950s and continued into the 1970s with the support, encouragement and participation of the United States and Western European governments.[2]

The Iranian nuclear program has been controversial. Although the development of a civilian nuclear power program is explicitly allowed under the terms of the NPT, there have been allegations that Iran has been illicitly pursuing a nuclear weapons program, in violation of the NPT. (See Iran and weapons of mass destruction)

The Iranian public, nearly all political candidates, and the current government are unified on this point: Iran should be developing its peaceful nuclear industry.[218][219] In addition, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa saying that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons was forbidden under Islam.[220]

Some of Iran's officials from the pre-revolutionary regime have also expressed their support for the view that Iran has a legitimate need for nuclear energy. Ardeshir Zahedi for example, who signed the NPT on behalf of Iran during the Pahlavi dynasty as Iran's then-foreign minister, in an interview in May 2006, characterized the program as an "inalienable right of Iran".[221]

The IAEA reports on Iran have consistently stated that there is no evidence that Iran diverted nuclear material for weapons use. As Michael Spies of the Lawyer's Committee on Nuclear Policy has stated:[222]

"The conclusion that no diversion has occurred certifies that the state in question is in compliance with its undertaking, under its safeguards agreement and Article III of the NPT, to not divert material to non-peaceful purposes. In the case of Iran, the IAEA was able to conclude, in its November 2004 report, that all declared nuclear materials had been accounted for and therefore none had been diverted to military purposes. The IAEA reached this same conclusion in September 2005."

Testimony presented to the Foreign Select Committee of the British Parliament supported this claim:[223]

"The enforcement of Article III of the NPT obligations is carried out through the IAEA's monitoring and verification that is designed to ensure that declared nuclear facilities are operated according to safeguard agreement with Iran, which Iran signed with the IAEA in 1974. In the past four years that Iran's nuclear programme has been under close investigation by the IAEA, the Director General of the IAEA, as early as November 2003 reported to the IAEA Board of Governors that "to date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities ... were related to a nuclear weapons programme." ... Although Iran has been found in non-compliance with some aspects of its IAEA safeguards obligations, Iran has not been in breach of its obligations under the terms of the NPT."

A U.S. State Department report dated August 30, 2005 titled "Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments wrote:[224]

"Iran’s past failure to declare the import of UF6, failure to provide design information to the IAEA on the existing centrifuge facility prior to the introduction of nuclear material, and its conduct of undeclared laser isotope separation, uranium conversion experiments, and plutonium separation work ... also make clear that Iran has violated Article III of the NPT and its IAEA safeguards agreement."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the "Iranian nation has never ignored provisions of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but, they themselves have both deviated from NPT and used weapons of mass destruction."[225]

The U.S. State Department report further claimed that "Iran is pursuing an effort to manufacture nuclear weapons, and has sought and received assistance in this effort in violation of Article II of the NPT":[224] The November 2007 United States National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) alleged that Tehran halted a nuclear weapons program in fall 2003, but that Iran "at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapon".[172]

In March 2009, the Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Maples testified before the United States Congress that Iran lacks weapons-grade highly enriched uranium and has not yet made a decision on whether to produce any. They also testified that Iranian missile tests were not directly related to its nuclear activities, and that the two programs were believed to be on separate development tracks.[226]

Iran's foreign minister has described attempts to stop it from gaining nuclear capabilities as "nuclear apartheid" and "scientific apartheid". In a November 2005 guest column in Le Monde, Manouchehr Mottaki said that the West's demands Iran "surrender its inalienable right to fully master nuclear technology" were "nuclear apartheid".[227][228] In subsequent statements in February 2006 he insisted that "Iran rejects all forms of scientific and nuclear apartheid by any world power", and asserted that this "scientific and nuclear apartheid" was "an immoral and discriminatory treatment of signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty",[229] and that Iran has "the right to a peaceful use of nuclear energy and we cannot accept nuclear apartheid".[230] His words were later echoed in a June 2006 speech by Iran's deputy chief nuclear negotiator Javad Vaeedi, in which he claimed that "developing countries are moving towards destroying technological apartheid".[231] A similar statement was made by the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Hassan Rowhani.[232]

Then Chairman of IAEA Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation[233] (and Director of the Australian Nonproliferation and Safeguards Organization) John Carlson noted in considering the case of Iran that

Formally IAEA Board of Governors (BOG) decisions concern compliance with safeguards agreements, rather than the NPT as such, but in practical terms non-compliance with a safeguards agreement constitutes non-compliance with the NPT.[234]

The IAEA Board of Governors eventually concluded, in a rare non-consensus decision with 12 abstentions,[235] that Iran's past safeguards "breaches" and "failures" constituted "non-compliance" with its Safeguards Agreement[71][236] even though the IAEA had concluded that there was no diversion of fissile material to military use. In the decision, the IAEA Board of Governors also concluded that the concerns raised fell within the competence of the UN Security Council.[71]

Nuclear power as deterrent

Gawdat Bahgat of the National Defense University asserts that Iran's nuclear program is formed by three forces: one, perception of security threats from Pakistan, Iraq, Israel, and the United States; two, domestic economic and political dynamics; and three, national pride.[237]

According to Bahgat, Iranian officials have little confidence in the international community because of its behavior during the 1980s Iran–Iraq War. During that war the larger and more populous Iran had the upper hand, but to close the geographic and demographic gap, Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iranian troops and civilians. These chemical weapons killed or injured thousands of Iranians and played a major role in turning the war in favor of Iraq. The international community was notably indifferent, doing little to condemn Iraq or to protect Iran.

Shahram Chubin, Director of Studies at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, asserts that in response to this, “Iran has learned from its war with Iraq that, for deterrence to operate, the threatening state must be confronted with the certainty of an equivalent response. The threat of in-kind retaliation (or worse) deterred Iraq’s use of chemical weapons in Desert Storm; it appears that the absence of such a retaliatory capability facilitated its decision to use chemical weapons against Iran."[238]

Contrary to these analyses, the Iranian authorities deny seeking a nuclear weapons capacity for deterrence or retaliation since Iran's level of technological progress cannot match that of existing nuclear weapons states, and the acquisition of nuclear weapons would only spark an arms race in the Mideast. According to Ambassador Javad Zarif:

It is true that Iran has neighbors with abundant nuclear weapons, but this does not mean that Iran must follow suit. In fact, the predominant view among Iranian decision-makers is that development, acquisition or possession of nuclear weapons would only undermine Iranian security. Viable security for Iran can be attained only through inclusion and regional and global engagement.[239][240]

Iran's President Ahmadinejad, during an interview with NBC anchor Brian Willians in July 2008, also dismissed the utility of nuclear weapons as a source of security and stated:

Again, did nuclear arms help the Soviet Union from falling and disintegrating? For that matter, did a nuclear bomb help the U.S. to prevail inside Iraq or Afghanistan, for that matter? Nuclear bombs belong to the 20th century. We are living in a new century...Nuclear energy must not be equaled to a nuclear bomb. This is a disservice to the society of man.[241]

And according Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation:

In matters of national security we are not timid. We will assert our intentions. If nuclear weapons would have brought security, we would have announced to the world that we would go after them… We do not think a nuclear Iran would be stronger… If we have weapons of mass destruction we are not going to use them – we cannot. We did not use chemical weapons against Iraq. Secondly, we do not feel any real threat from our neighbours. Pakistan and the Persian Gulf, we have no particular problems with them, nor with Afghanistan. The only powerful country is Russia in the north, and no matter how many nuclear weapons we had we could not match Russia. Israel, our next neighbour, we do not consider an entity by itself but as part of the US. Facing Israel means facing the US. We cannot match the US. We do not have strategic differences with our neighbours, including Turkey.[242]

Nuclear Free Zone in the Mideast

     Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones      Nuclear weapons states      Nuclear sharing      Neither, but NPT

Iran has consistently supported the creation of a nuclear-weapons free zone in the Mideast. In 1974, as concerns in the region grew over Israel's nuclear weapon programme, Iran formally proposed the concept of a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East in a joint resolution in the UN General Assembly.[243] The Shah of Iran had made a similar appeal five years earlier but had failed to attract any support.[244] The call for the creation of nuclear weapons free zone in the Mideast was repeated by Iran's President Ahmadinejad in 2006.[245] It was reiterated by Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki in 2008.[246]

Views on Iran's nuclear power program

The Iranian viewpoint

In taking a stance that the Shah expressed decades ago, Iranians feel its valuable oil should be used for high-value products, not simple electricity generation. "Petroleum is a noble material, much too valuable to burn... We envision producing, as soon as possible, 23000 megawatts of electricity using nuclear plants," the Shah had previously said.[247] Assuming pumping rates remain steady, Iran has only enough oil to last another 75 years. Iran also faces financial constraints, and claims that developing the excess capacity in its oil industry would cost it $40 billion, let alone pay for the power plants.[248] Roger Stern from Johns Hopkins University partially concurred with this view, projecting that due to "energy subsidies, hostility to foreign investment and inefficiencies of its [Iranian] state-planned economy", Iranian oil exports would vanish by 2014–2015, although he notes that this outcome has "no relation to 'peak oil.'"[249] Earlier, the Gerald Ford Administration had arrived at a similar assessment,[250] and independent studies conducted by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the British Parliament and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences previously confirmed that Iran has a valid economic basis for its nuclear energy program.

The Iranians believe that concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation are pretextual, and any suspension of enrichment is simply intended to ultimately deprive Iran of the right to have an independent nuclear technology:

[W]e had a suspension for two years and on and off negotiations for three... Accusing Iran of having “the intention” of acquiring nuclear weapons has, since the early 1980s, been a tool used to deprive Iran of any nuclear technology, even a light water reactor or fuel for the American-built research reactor....the United States and EU3 never even took the trouble of studying various Iranian proposals: they were – from the very beginning – bent on abusing this Council and the threat of referral and sanctions as an instrument of pressure to compel Iran to abandon the exercise of its NPT guaranteed right to peaceful nuclear technology...[251]

Iran says that its inalienable right to peaceful nuclear technology has been the subject of "the most extensive and intensive campaign of denial, obstruction, intervention and misinformation" and that the international community has been subject to "bias, politicized and exaggerated information" on the Iranian nuclear program and activities.[113]

After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of its plans to restart its nuclear program using indigenously-made nuclear fuel, and in 1983 the IAEA planned to provide assistance in uranium conversion (not enrichment) to Iran under its Technical Assistance Program, until the program was terminated under US pressure.[252] An IAEA report at the time stated clearly that its aim was to “contribute to the formation of local expertise and manpower needed to sustain an ambitious program in the field of nuclear power reactor technology and fuel cycle technology.” Iran's enrichment program was openly discussed on national radio in the early 1980s,[253] and IAEA inspectors were even invited to visit Iran's uranium mines in 1992.[254]

Iran announced plans in 1995 to build a uranium hexafluoride (UF6) conversion plant at the Nuclear Technical Centre in Esfahan, with Chinese assistance. During a November 1996 IAEA visit to Isfahan, Iran informed the IAEA Department of Safeguards that it planned to build a uranium hexafluoride (UF6) conversion plant at the Nuclear Technology Center.[255] The UF6 plant was scheduled to open after 2000, but the project was abandoned by China under pressure from the United States in October 1997.[256][257][258] The Iranians informed the IAEA that they would complete the project nonetheless. In 2000, the Iranians completed the uranium conversion project, using the blueprints provided to them by China, and declared the facility to the IAEA. The facility was planned with the intention of supplying UO2 (Uranium dioxide) as fuel to the 40 MW Heavy Water Reactor under construction at Arak and to meet the needs of UF6 (Uranium hexafluoride) for the Natanz enrichment facility.[259]

Iran argues that it disclosed information about its programs in which "in nearly all cases, it was not any way obliged to disclose in accordance with its obligations under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA."[113] Iran says its voluntary confidence building measures were only "reciprocated by broken promises and expanded requests" and that the EU3 "simply wanted prolonged and fruitless negotiations" to inhibit Iran from exercising its inalienable right to peaceful nuclear technology.[260]

Iran says it has suggested to the EU3 to ask the IAEA to develop monitoring modalities for Iran's enrichment program as objective guarantees to ensure that Iran's nuclear program will remain exclusively for peaceful purposes and has also provided its own set of Western suggested modalities to the Agency.[113]

However, Iran says it will not suspend its enrichment because "it would further be deprived from its inalienable right to work on nuclear fuel cycle, with the aim of producing required fuels for its research reactors and nuclear power plants."[113]

Dr. William O. Beeman, Brown University's Middle East Studies program professor, who spent years in Iran, says that the Iranian nuclear issue is a unified point of their political discussion:

"The Iranian side of the discourse is that they want to be known and seen as a modern, developing state with a modern, developing industrial base. The history of relations between Iran and the West for the last hundred years has included Iran's developing various kinds of industrial and technological advances to prove to themselves—and to attempt to prove to the world—that they are, in fact, that kind of country."

Iran also believes it has a legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,[261] a right which in 2005 the U.S. and the EU-3 began to assert had been forfeited by a clandestine nuclear program that came to light in 2002.

Iranian politicians compare its treatment as a signatory to the NPT with three nuclear-armed nations that have not signed the NPT: Israel, India, and Pakistan. Each of these nations developed an indigenous nuclear weapons capability: Israel by 1966,[262] India by 1974, and Pakistan by 1990.

The Iranian authorities assert that they cannot simply trust the United States or Europe to provide Iran with nuclear energy fuel, and point to a long series of agreements, contracts and treaty obligations which were not fulfilled.[263] Developing nations say they don’t want to give up their rights to uranium enrichment and don’t trust the United States or other nuclear countries to be consistent suppliers of the nuclear material they would need to run their power plants.[264]

Determination to continue the nuclear program and retaliate against any Western attack is strong in Iran. Hassan Abbasi, director of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps think tank, Doctrinal Analysis Center for Security without Borders (Markaz-e barresiha-ye doktrinyal-e amniyat bedun marz,) has announced that "approximately 40,000 Iranian estesh-hadiyun (martyrdom-seekers)" are ready to carry out suicide operations against "twenty-nine identified Western targets," should the U.S. military hit Iranian nuclear installations.[265]

Some have argued that there is a double standard between the treatment of Iran, which was reported to the Security Council for undeclared enrichment and reprocessing activities, and South Korea, which had failed to report enrichment and reprocessing experiments but was not found in non-compliance.[266] In South Korea's case, issues were reported by the IAEA Secretariat but the IAEA Board of Governors did not make a formal finding of non-compliance.[267][28] In making its decision, the Board said "there is no indication that the undeclared experiments have continued" and observed that the "Republic of Korea has an Additional Protocol in force and that developments in the Republic of Korea demonstrate the utility of the Additional Protocol."[268] Pierre Goldschmidt, former head of the department of safeguards at the IAEA, has called on the Board of Governors to adopt generic resolutions which would apply to all states in such circumstances and has argued "political considerations played a dominant role in the board’s decision" to not make a formal finding of non-compliance.[32]

Middle Eastern views

The New York Times reported in 2007 that Iran's nuclear program had spurred interest in establishing nuclear power programs by a number of neighboring countries, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt. Many countries outside the Mideast nations are also interested in nuclear power. According to the report, "roughly a dozen states in the region have recently turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for help in starting" nuclear programs.[269] The article also described neighbouring states as very hostile to any nuclear weapons program Iran might embark on, stating "many diplomats and analysts say that the Sunni Arab governments are so anxious about Iran’s nuclear progress that they would even, grudgingly, support a United States military strike against Iran." However, some Arab countries have nuclear programs that are as old as Iran's, and their interest in nuclear power corresponds to a worldwide nuclear renaissance which applies also to Arab states that are seeking to conserve hydrocarbon resources, reduce carbon emissions, and provide electricity and safe drinking water for their rapidly growing populations.[270]

Like Iran, Egypt refuses to implement the Additional Protocol, although Iran has signed it and implemented it for two years until it was reported for safeguards non-compliance. Egypt links its position to Israel's refusal to accept IAEA safeguards and calls the Protocol "a voluntary thing."[271] On May 17, 2009, Arab League Chief Amr Moussa said that Israel's nuclear program was more worrying than Iran's. This followed a statement in March that the member states of the Arab League would abandon the NPT if Israel ever made its possession of nuclear weapons official.[272]

Recently Arab countries have been using economic means to persuade Russia and China to support sanctions against Iran's controversial program.[273]

Israeli views

Some Israeli officials publicly characterize Iran's nuclear program as an "existential threat" to Israel, and Israeli leaders assert that all options are kept open in dealing with Tehran.[274][275] However, some Israeli officials have privately and publicly rejected such a characterization of Iran's program.[276][277][278] According to The Economist, "most of those Israeli experts willing to talk rate the chances of an Iranian nuclear attack as low. Despite Mr Ahmadinejad, most consider Iran to be a rational state actor susceptible to deterrence."[279]

Israel, which is widely believed to possess the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal[280] and which is one of three nations not a party to the NPT,[281] does not believe the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate conclusion that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, insisting that it has additional evidence of an active and continued Iranian nuclear weapons program.[282][283] Israel has also rejected the IAEA's November 2007 and February 2008 reports on Iran, and Israeli officials have called for the resignation of IAEA Director General ElBaradei, accusing him of being "pro-Iranian."[284][285] Senior Israeli, French British, German and American officials have reportedly pressured the IAEA to release allegedly censored evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.[286] IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire, though, issued a brief statement on the matter, characterizing the allegations against ElBaradei as "misinformation or misinterpretation" which have "no basis in fact." [287]

In early June 2008, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz expressed frustration with the perceived ineffectiveness of sanctions aimed at discouraging Iran from uranium enrichment. Israel believes the enrichment may be used to aid an alleged nuclear weapons program. Mofaz said that the United Nations Security Council and the international community have "a duty and responsibility to clarify to Iran, through drastic measures, that the repercussions of their continued pursuit of nuclear weapons will be devastating." In the same interview, Mofaz also made more direct threats to Iran's nuclear facilities, saying "if Iran continues with its programme for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it."[288] Iranian spokesman Gholam Hoseyn Elham has dismissed Israeli attacks on its nuclear facilities as "impossible".[289] "The Israeli regime has been emboldened due to carelessness and silence of the Security Council," the Iranians further said in a response letter to the United Nations.[290] These statements came only days after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked for stronger sanctions, saying that "the long-term cost of a nuclear Iran greatly outweighs the short-term benefits of doing business with Iran."[291]

Israeli officials were reportedly concerned about the Bush administration's decision on July 16, 2008, to send a high-ranking diplomat to attend negotiation sessions between EU representatives and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator in Geneva. Israel sources reportedly obtained assurances from the Bush administration that there would be no compromise on the demand that Iran end uranium enrichment.[292]

The Israelis have also sought to "alert the American intelligence community to Iran's nuclear ability," in preparation for the new NIE, reportedly due in November 2008.[293] In September 2008, Yossi Baidatz, the head of the research division of Israeli military intelligence was quoted to say that Iran was "not likely" to obtain nuclear capabilities by 2010.[294]

US and European viewpoint

In March 2005, the New York Times reported that a bipartisan Congressional inquiry concluded that the United States had inadequate intelligence to reach any conclusions on the state of Iran's nuclear program.[295] In March 2009, the US Director of National Intelligence and Defense Intelligence Agency Director both testified before Congress that Iran did not have highly-enriched uranium for bomb-making and had not made the decision to produce any, and also that Iran's missile program was not related to its nuclear program.[296]

Much of the debate about the 'Iranian nuclear threat' is therefore driven by concern that Iran's mastery of civilian technology could provide it the means to rapidly develop a weapons capability should Iran wish to do so in the future.[223] President Bush claimed that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons could trigger "World War III", while in 2007 Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns warned Iran may be seeking a nuclear weapons capability.[297] Steven C. Welsh, Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine, when discussing Iran's nuclear program says that Iran "concealed this program for nearly two decades by lying, dissembling and deceiving UN inspectors".[298] The Economist magazine opined that "even before the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Iran was negotiating in bad faith. During this period, European officials believe, it continued to work in secret on nuclear research, having promised to suspend uranium enrichment."[299] The Iranians attributed the concealment of portions of their nuclear program to the fact that the US repeatedly hampered their overt attempts at acquiring the necessary technology for their program, and also point out that they promised to suspend enrichment rather than cease all research.[300] After about two years, Iran ceased its voluntary[301] and temporary suspension of enrichment after receiving a "very insulting and humiliating"[66] offer which some analysts described as an "empty box".[302] In response, the West rejected an Iranian offer for a nuclear consortium in Iran and said they would go to the Security Council for sanctions.[303] Iran says its voluntary confidence building measures were only "reciprocated by broken promises and expanded requests" and that the EU3 "simply wanted prolonged and fruitless negotiations" to inhibit Iran from exercising its inalienable right to peaceful nuclear technology.[260]

Western governments say they now accept Iran's desire for nuclear power. For example, in November 2007, President Bush acknowledged Iran's sovereign right to civilian nuclear technology.[304] Independent analyses support the economic basis for an Iranian nuclear power program. A study by the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology concluded in March 2004 that "some of John Bolton's criticisms were not supported by an analysis of the facts (for example, much of the gas flared off by Iran is not recoverable for energy use), but that Iran's decision to adopt the nuclear power option could not entirely be explained by the economics of energy production."[305][306] An article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that "Iran’s claim to need nuclear power to preserve exports is genuine."[307]

The P5 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States) plus Germany (the P5+1) have offered benefits to Iran, including "legally binding" fuel supply guarantees.[308] The deal offered by the P5+1 would leave Iran reliant on external sources of fuel, as is true for most countries with nuclear power programs though many of them also lack indigenous resources to produce their own fuel, or don't have the same strategic security concerns as Iran.[309][310] Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected this proposal, saying that Iran had the right to process uranium for fuel and that Iran "will not retreat one iota in the face of oppressing powers."[311]

While recognizing Iran's interest in nuclear power, skeptics such as The Economist and ISIS have questioned the rationale for Iran's enrichment program. An op-ed published in January 2008 in The Economist, which said the threat of force had "put some steel" into the diplomatic process, opined that "learning to enrich uranium—a hugely costly venture—still makes questionable economic sense for Iran, since it lacks sufficient natural uranium to keep them going and [they] would have to import the stuff."[312] A February 2009 ISIS report argued there was a perceived "fundamental inconsistency" between the stated purposes and available information on the capabilities of Iran's domestic uranium production program. The report, citing data published by Iran and the IAEA on Iran's uranium resources, argued that those resources are sufficient for developing a weapons capability, but would not meet the requirements for even a single power reactor.[313] The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran responded to this and related stories by saying it had sufficient uranium mines. The Foreign Ministry of Iran said Western claims of a uranium shortage were "media speculation without any scientific basis"[314] and that Iran was not seeking uranium on international markets.[315] The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has said surveys had shown proven reserves of approximately 3,000 tons of uranium so far and that the expected resources of Iran could be at the range of 20,000–30,000 tons. The organization concluded that "according to all the surveys performed in power sector of Iran, nuclear option is the most competitive to fossil alternatives if the existing low domestic fuel prices are gradually increased to its opportunity costs at the level of international prices."[316] In effect, the Bush administration took the position that Iran was too dangerous to be allowed "the technology to produce nuclear material for electricity".[317]

In December 2008, the ISIS asserted that Iran had produced 425 kilograms of uranium, and that Iran had "not yet achieved a break-out capability", but that Iran may be close to a break-out capability.[318] In response to claims that Iran had enough material to make a weapon, the Arms Control Association urged the U.S. and media to exhibit greater care when making claims about Iran's nuclear program.[319] Ivan Oelrich and Ivanka Barzashka, from the Federation of American Scientists, say that the "simplistic calculations" contained in the ISIS article were wrong because "just taking the quantity of LEU and multiplying by the U-235 concentration does not work because not all of the U-235 is recovered".[320] Cheryl Rofer, a retired 35 year researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory and former president of the Los Alamos Committee on Arms Control and International Security,[321] has argued that for Iran to make a bomb from this material it would need to kick all the inspectors out of the country, reconfigure thousands of closely watched centrifuges, and then engage in years of enrichment.[322][323] According to the American Institute of Physics, the most difficult step in building a nuclear weapon is the production of fissile material.[324] Iran has enriched uranium to "less than 5 percent," consistent with fuel for a nuclear power plant and well below the purity of WEU (around 90%) typically used in a weapons program.[325][326] HEU with a purity of 20% or more is usable in a weapon, but this route is less desirable because far more material is required to obtain critical mass.[7] "Our production of a nuclear energy program is completely within the framework or structure of international laws," said Ali Akbar Javanfekr, media adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.[327] David Albright, president of the group which published the report, maintained that Iran's enriched uranium meant that Israel was losing control over the timing of Iran's nuclear activities and that even Iran pretending to have a bomb would be a threat.[328] The International Atomic Energy Agency said its inspectors have not found evidence to suggest that Iran is attempting to process low-enriched uranium into weapons-grade uranium.[329] "At the moment, I'm not very concerned," said Andreas Persbo, an analyst at the Verification Research, Training and Information Center.[330]

Western sources have expressed mixed views on the logic of Iran's nuclear fuel cycle investments. An op-ed published in The Economist opined that with the money spent on its nuclear program, Iran could have built "ten conventional plants of the same capacity, fired solely by the natural gas that Iran currently flares off into the sky".[331][332] David Isenberg, a senior analyst with the Washington-based British American Security Information Council (BASIC), has argued oil and gas production has its own costs, that Iran gains strategic value from being an oil and gas exporter, and that "as a sovereign nation Iran is entitled to make its own sovereign decisions as to how provide for its own energy needs".[333]

Christoph Bertram, a former director of the International Institute for Security Studies, has said that a "nuclear Iran" would not be in Iran's strategic interest, and rather that a nuclear Iran would jeopardise the strenuously-gained political capital that it has earned since the end of the Iran-Iraq war.[334] Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, argues that "a strategic decision on the final aim of the Iranian nuclear programme has not been made". Perthes suggests a WMD-free zone in the Middle East is the best way to deal with the alleged nuclear ambitions of Iran.[335]

On July 31, 2006, the Security Council passed a resolution demanding that Iran stop "all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities." (Reprocessing involves removing highly radioactive plutonium from nuclear waste products, a procedure that can lead to production of bomb-grade fuel.) A month later, an IAEA report indicated that "there are no indications of ongoing reprocessing activities in Iran."[336]

The United States failed to get any backing for military attacks on Iran to enforce the sanctions. The March resolution even restated the UN position that the Middle East region should be nuclear free.[337]

U.S. officials told the New York Times that the new sanctions went beyond the nuclear issue. "The new language was written to rein in what they [U.S. officials] see as Tehran's ambitions to become the dominant military power in the Persian Gulf and across the Middle East."[338]

Kouchner was not specific about what penalties Europe might impose, other than to say they could be "economic sanctions regarding financial movements." "Our German friends proposed this. We discussed it a few days ago," he said. "The international community's demand is simple: They must stop enriching uranium," Kouchner said. "Our Iranian friends want to create, they say, civilian nuclear energy. They have the right to that, but all that they are doing proves the contrary. That is why we are worried," he said.[339]

Tensions have been raised by media reports of an Israeli air incursion over northeastern Syria on September 6. One U.S. official said the attack hit weapons heading for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, an ally of Syria and Iran, but there also has been speculation the Israelis hit a nascent nuclear facility or were studying routes for a possible future strike on Iran. Others suspect Israel was performing an intelligence operation for the U.S.[340]

With Iran adding to the talk of military options, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns called in September 2007 for U.N. Security Council members and U.S. allies to help push for a third round of sanctions against Iran over the nuclear program.[341]

In 2006 the Germans suggested that Iran would be able to operate their enrichment program, subject to IAEA inspections. The German Minister of Defense Franz Josef Jung stated that a ban on Iranian enrichment work was unrealistic, that "One cannot forbid Iran from doing what other countries in the world are doing in accordance with international law" and that IAEA oversight of any Iranian enrichment activities would provide the necessary assurances to the international community that Iran could not secretly divert the program of weapons use.[342] Later, the Europeans reportedly also considered a compromise proposal where Iran would be allowed to continue spinning its centrifuges but would not feed any processed uranium hexafluoride (UF6) into the machines during the course of negotiations.[343]

The Iranians had also indicated that they were willing to consider suspending large-scale enrichment for up to 2 years, but were not prepared to freeze enrichment entirely[344]

The compromise ideas were reportedly shot down by the US, and Robert Joseph, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control reportedly told ElBaradei: "We cannot have a single centrifuge spinning in Iran. Iran is a direct threat to the national security of the United States and our allies, and we will not tolerate it. We want you to give us an understanding that you will not say anything publicly that will undermine us."[345]

In June 2007, IAEA director Mohammad ElBaradei suggested that Iran should be allowed limited uranium enrichment under strict supervision of the IAEA.[346] His remarks were formally criticised by Nicholas Burns, the US Under-Secretary of State, who said: "We are not going to agree to accept limited enrichment"[347]

ElBaradei later criticized the US position and said,

I have seen the Iranians ready to accept putting a cap on their enrichment [program] in terms of tens of centrifuges, and then in terms of hundreds of centrifuges. But nobody even tried to engage them on these offers. Now Iran has 5,000 centrifuges. The line was, "Iran will buckle under pressure." But this issue has become so ingrained in the Iranian soul as a matter of national pride.

In February 2008, Pierre Vimont, the French Ambassador to the United States, urged that the United States adopt a more flexible approach to Iran by accepting its regional role and recognizing that the nuclear issue has broad popular support among Iranians.[348]

The United States has claimed Iran's launching of a data processing satellite could be linked to the development of a military nuclear capability and that the activities were of "great concern".[349] The U.S. specifically said it would continue "to address the threats posed by Iran, including those related to its missile and nuclear programs."[350] Despite the U.S. saying it would use all elements of the national power to deal with Tehran,[351] Iran criticized the West's double standards[352] and said the launch was a step to remove the scientific monopoly certain world countries are trying to impose on the world.[353] Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwafaq al-Rubaie said Iraq was very pleased with the launch of Iran's peaceful data-processing national satellite.[354]

On February 26, 2009 U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that the United States "will seek to end Iran's ambition to acquire an illicit nuclear capability and its support for terrorism".[355] Robert Wood, spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said that the U.S. believes that "Iran doesn’t need to develop its own nuclear capacity" and specifically that the U.S. does not believe that Iran needs to develop an indigenous uranium enrichment capacity.[356] On April 8, 2009, Wood said that "on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interest" the U.S. would sit with the P-5+1 in discussions with Iran and ask the EU High Representative for Common and Foreign Security Policy to extend an invitation to Iran to meet with representatives of the P-5+1. Wood further said, "We hope this will be the occasion to seriously engage Iran on how to break the logjam of recent years and work in a cooperative manner to resolve the outstanding international concerns about its nuclear program".[357] U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said "pursuing very careful engagement on a range of issues that affect our interests and the interests of the world with Iran makes sense".[358]

In March 2009, the Supreme Leader of Iran questioned the sincerity so far of the U.S.'s new rhetoric,[359] and Iran’s ambassador to International Atomic Energy Agency said U.N. sanctions united Iranians to protect their “national interest” of enrichment.[360] In April 2009, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country "welcomes a hand extended to it should it really and truly be based on honesty, justice and respect."[361] Karim Sadjadpour, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has said Iran's leader "holds strongly that Tehran must not compromise in the face of U.S. pressure or intimidation, for it would project weakness and encourage even greater pressure."[362] Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, has said "the United States should be willing to discuss what Iran (as a signatory of the NPT) describes as its “right to enrich.” It may well be necessary to acknowledge this right, provided that Iran accepts both limits on its enrichment program (no HEU) and enhanced safeguards".[363] Mark Fitzpatrick, a Senior Fellow for Non‐Proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, has said "a key policy challenge is how to build a barrier between a latent nuclear weapons capability and actual weapons production. This is difficult when, as in Iran’s case today, the distinction is blurred almost to the point of invisibility."[364]

2007 Iran National Intelligence Estimate

In December 2007 the United States National Intelligence Estimate (representing the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies) "judged with high confidence" that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, with "moderate confidence" that the program remains frozen, and with "moderate-to-high confidence" that Iran is "keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons." The estimate said that the enrichment program could still provide Iran with enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle of next decade but that intelligence agencies “do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons” at some future date. Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader of the Senate in 2008, said he hoped the administration would “appropriately adjust its rhetoric and policy”.[365][366] The conclusion that Iran had a nuclear weapons program in 2003 was reportedly mainly based on the contents of a laptop computer that was allegedly stolen from Iran and provided to US intelligence agencies by dissidents.[367] The Russians dismissed this conclusion, stating that they had not seen evidence that Iran had ever pursued a nuclear weapons program.[368]

The 2007 NIE report, contradicted the previous 2005 NIE conclusion which asserted that Iran had an active and on-going nuclear weapons program in 2005. According to a senior administration official, in a January 2008 conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israeli and other foreign officials asked President Bush to explain the 2007 NIE. Bush "told the Israelis that he can't control what the intelligence community says, but that (the NIE's) conclusions don't reflect his own views".[369] After Bush seemed to distance himself from the report, the White House later said Bush endorses the "full scope" of the US intelligence findings on Iran.[370]

Mohammed ElBaradei, the Director of the IAEA, noted in particular that the NIE's conclusions corresponded with the IAEA's consistent statements that it had "no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran."[371]

In February 2009 testimony before the U.S. Senate, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reaffirmed the conclusions of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimateand and said "although we do not know whether Iran currently intends to develop nuclear weapons, we assess Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop them." He said Iran was unlikely to achieve a nuclear weapon before 2013 because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems, and that this would be in the case that it decided to do so.[372] Stephen Lendman, an American research associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization based in Canada, has argued Iran's commercial nuclear program is perfectly legal and that the U.S. has a double standard towards Iran's nuclear program.[373] Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear weapons expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund, has said the Obama administration does not want to be drawn into a debate over Iran's intent because "when you're talking about negotiations in Iran, it is dangerous to appear weak or naive."[374]


Since 2003, when the IAEA began investigating Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear activities, the G8 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) has repeatedly voiced its concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. At the 2003 G8 summit in France, G8 leaders said: “We will not ignore the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear program.”[375] The 2004 G8 Action Plan on Nonproliferation “deplore[d] Iran's delays, deficiencies in cooperation, and inadequate disclosures, as detailed in IAEA Director General reports.”[376] In 2005 G8 leaders concluded that “It is essential that Iran provide the international community with objective guarantees that its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes in order to build international confidence.”

In 2006, after Iran was found in non-compliance with its safeguards agreement and reported to the UN Security Council, the G8 toughened its position: “Iran not having shown willingness to engage in serious discussion of those proposals and having failed to take the steps needed to allow negotiations to begin, specifically the suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities, as required by the IAEA and supported in the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement, we supported the decision of those countries' Ministers to return the issue of Iran to the United Nations Security Council.”[377] The following year, G8 leaders “deplore[d] the fact that Iran [had] so far failed to meet its obligations under UNSC Resolutions 1696, 1737 and 1747,” and threatened “further measures, should Iran refuse to comply with its obligations,” but held out the prospect that “[i]nternational confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program would permit a completely new chapter to be opened in our relations with Iran not only in the nuclear but also more broadly in the political, economic and technological fields.”[378]

At the most recent 2008 G8 summit in Japan in 2008, G8 leaders said:[379]

We express our serious concern at the proliferation risks posed by Iran’s nuclear programme and Iran’s continued failure to meet its international obligations. We urge Iran to fully comply with UNSCRs 1696, 1737, 1747 and 1803 without further delay, and in particular to suspend all enrichment-related activities. We also urge Iran to fully cooperate with the IAEA, including by providing clarification of the issues contained in the latest report of the IAEA Director General. We firmly support and cooperate with the efforts by China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States supported by the High Representative of the EU to resolve the issue innovatively through negotiation, and urge Iran to respond positively to their offer delivered on June 14, 2008. We also commend the efforts by other G8 members, particularly the high-level dialogue by Japan, towards a peaceful and diplomatic resolution of the issue. We welcome the work of the Financial Action Task Force to assist states in implementing their financial obligations under the relevant UNSCRs.

Other views

Indian viewpoint

India's rapidly developing ties with the United States and historically close ties with Iran have created difficulties for India's foreign policymakers.[380] India, a nuclear power which is not party to the NPT, has expressed its concern over the possibility of another nuclear weapon-armed state in its neighborhood with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stating that he was against Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.[381] India voted in the IAEA Board of Governors to report Iran to UN Security Council in 2005 for non-compliance with its NPT safeguards agreement.[382] Despite some domestic opposition, the Indian government later voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council in 2006.[383] Leftist parties in India have criticized the government for bowing to US pressure on the issue.[382]

India quickly downplayed the incident and restated its commitment to develop closer ties with Iran.[384] India urged international diplomacy to solve the Iranian nuclear row[385] but added that it could not "turn a blind eye to nuclear proliferation in its neighborhood."[386]

Despite heavy U.S. criticism, India has continued negotiations on the multi-billion dollar natural gas pipeline from Iran to India through Pakistan. India is keen to secure energy supplies to fuel its rapidly growing economy and the gas pipeline may address India's energy security concerns. The United States has expressed concern that the pipeline project would undermine international efforts to isolate Iran.[387]

In-context of the Indo-US nuclear deal

India is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). According to US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, it was India's vote against Iran which helped clear the way for the US-India nuclear cooperation deal [388][389] Critics say the US-India nuclear cooperation deal itself undermines the Non-Proliferation Treaty at a time when Iran was accused of violating the treaty.[390] Critics argue that by promising nuclear cooperation with India, the Bush administration has reversed a legal ban on such cooperation which was in place since the passage of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978, and violated US obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty which prohibits sharing nuclear technology with non-signatories such as India.[391][392][393][394] The Harvard International Review concedes in an editorial that the Indo-US nuclear deal "undermines the world’s present set of nuclear rules" but argues that the Iranian nuclear program remains an "unacceptable risk" regardless of the NPT. It reasoned that "regardless of what the NPT says, and regardless of what Iran says about the NPT, an Iranian nuclear program is still an unacceptable risk."[395]

Developing countries and the Non-Aligned Movement

On September 16, 2006, in Havana, Cuba, all of the 118 Non-Aligned Movement member countries, at the summit level, declared their support of Iran's civilian nuclear program in their final written statement.[396] The Non-Aligned Movement represents a majority of the 192 countries comprising the entire United Nations.

On July 30, 2008, the Non-Aligned Movement welcomed the continuing cooperation of Iran with the IAEA and reaffirmed Iran's right to the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. The movement further called for the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East and called for a comprehensive multilaterally negotiated instrument which prohibits threats of attacks on nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.[397]

Other countries

Public opinion surveys conducted in 2006 in Iran's three neighboring countries of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey found large numbers of people favoring the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran and even greater numbers opposed to any American military action against Iran[398]

In February 2007, lawmakers from 56 member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, addressing Iran's nuclear program at a meeting in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, urged "full respect for equal and inalienable rights for all nations to explore modern technologies including nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."[399]

Officials in several countries have voiced support for Iran in the on-going standoff with the US over its nuclear program. These include Iraq [400] Algeria[401] and Indonesia.[402] Turkey has expressed support for Iran's right to a nuclear program for peaceful energy production,[403] and along with Egypt has urged for a peaceful solution to the standoff.[404] Former President Vladimir Putin of Russia, while urging more transparency from Iran, has said that there is no objective evidence that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.[405] On September 11, 2009, Prime Minister Putin opposed the use of force or further sanctions against Iran.[406]

Support for tough measures against Iran's nuclear program has fallen in 13 out of 21 Arab countries according to a new BBC World Service Poll.[407] According to a 2008 global poll of Arab public opinion, the Arab public does not appear to see Iran as a major threat and does not support international pressure to force Iran to curtail the program.[408] Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa echoed remarks made by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, saying that Israel, not Iran, posed a nuclear threat to the Middle East.[409]

Nuclear facilities in Iran

See also


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