After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, 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 a uranium enrichment plant.
Iran's first nuclear power plant, Bushehr I, was expected to be operational in March 2008 and delivering its maximum capacity to the nation's power grid by March 2009. There are no current plans to complete the Bushehr II reactor, although the construction of 19 nuclear power plants is envisaged. Iran has announced that it is working on a new 360 MWe nuclear power plant to be located in Darkhoyen. Iran has also indicated it that it will seek more medium-sized nuclear power plants and uranium mines for the future.
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. In 1985, US officials reportedly expressed concern that Iran may have developed an arsenal of chemical weapons to use in retaliation against Iraq. However, Iran's foreign minister stated in 1986 that while Iran had developed the capacity to use chemical weapons, it would not do so, and Khomeini prohibited the use of chemical weapons as contrary to Islamic principles.
In 1996, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency worried that Iran might have had as much as 2,000 tons of chemical agent during the war; however, by 2007 the Defense Intelligence Agency would only say that the Iranian chemical industry "could be used to support a chemical agent mobilization capability. Iran would have been entitled to engage in retaliatory strikes with chemicals weapons under then-existing international law. Iran did not have a chemical weapons capability prior to the war and did not use chemical weapons during the war. Iran has stated that chemical weapons have no place in its defense doctrine.
Contrary to Gawdat Bahgat's analysis, the Iranian authorities deny seeking a nuclear weapons capacity as a deterrent 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.
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.
Currently, thirteen states possess operational enrichment or reprocessing facilities, which are necessary to make nuclear fuel. Several other countries have announced an interest in developing indigenous enrichment programs. To alleviate concerns that its civilian nuclear program may be diverted to non-peaceful uses, Iran has offered to place additional restrictions on its nuclear program beyond its legal obligations. These offers included, for example, ratifying the Additional Protocol to allow more stringent inspections by the IAEA, 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. Iran's offer to open its uranium enrichment program to foreign private and public participation corresponds to 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. It has also been endorsed by American scholars and experts. Iran has likewise 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", but which required a cessation of enrichment by Iran.
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. Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and ratified it in 1970. With the establishment of Iran's atomic agency and the NPT in place, the Shah approved plans to construct, with U.S. help, up to 23 nuclear power stations by the year 2000.
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." 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.
"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'." 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."
The Shah had 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.
Iran, a U.S. ally then, had deep pockets and close ties to Washington. U.S. and European companies scrambled to do business there.
Gawdat Bahgat, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies states that "Despite assertions that Iran’s nuclear program under the Shah was only for peaceful purposes, some sources claim that the Shah intended to build a nuclear weapons capability. In the mid-1970s, the Shah was quoted as saying that Iran would have nuclear weapons 'without a doubt and sooner than one would think.' The Center for Non-proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies claims that the Western intelligence community 'had long suspected that the Shah’s nuclear scientists conducted research into military applications.'...despite these speculations on the Shah’s intentions, it is important to point out that in 1974, when the AEOI was established, the Shah called for making the entire Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone (MENWFZ)."
Then-United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said in 2005, 'I don't think the issue of proliferation came up'. However a 1974 CIA proliferation assessment had 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." As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran signed in 1968, their program would have been under International Atomic Energy Agency inspection.
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. The joint stock company Eurodif 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. 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.
The U.S. was also paid 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. Germany was paid in full, totaling billions of dollars, for the two nuclear facilities in Bushehr, but after three decades, Germany has also refused to export any equipment or refund the money. Iran's government suspended its payments and tried refunding the loan by making pressure on France by handling militant groups, including the Hezbollah who took French citizens hostage in the 1980s. In 1982, president François Mitterrand refused to give any uranium to Iran, which also claimed the $1 billion debt. In 1986, Eurodif manager Georges Besse was assassinated; the act was allegedly claimed by left-wing militants from Action Directe. However, they denied any responsibility during their trial. In their investigation La République atomique, France-Iran le pacte nucléaire, David Carr-Brown and Dominique Lorentz pointed out toward the Iranian intelligence services' responsibility. More importantly, they also showed how the French hostage scandal was connected with the Iranian blackmail. Finally an agreement was found in 1991: 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 abstained itself from asking for the produced uranium.
Kraftwerk Union, the joint venture of Siemens AG and AEG Telefunken who had signed a contract with Iran in 1975, fully withdrew from the Bushehr nuclear project in July 1979, after work stopped in January 1979, with one reactor 50% complete, and the other reactor 85% complete. They said they based their action on Iran's non-payment of $450 million in overdue payments. The company had received $2.5 billion of the total contract. Their cancellation came after certainty that the Iranian government would unilaterally terminate the contract themselves, following the revolution, which paralyzed Iran's economy and led to a crisis in Iran's relations with the West. The French company Framatome, a subsidiary of Areva, also withdrew itself.
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. In April of that year, 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."
The Bushehr reactors were then damaged by multiple Iraqi air strikes between March 24, 1984 to 1988 and work on the nuclear program came to a standstill. 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, Iran signed three agreements with Argentina in 1987-88. Argentina has had a National Atomic Energy Commission since 1950, and completed its first nuclear reactor, Atucha I in 1974 and Embalse in 1984, a year after the return to democracy. The first Iranian-Argentine agreement involved help in converting a nuclear reactor in Tehran so that it could use 20%-enriched uranium (ie, low-grade uranium that cannot be used for weapons production) and indicates that it included the shipment of the 20%-enriched uranium to Iran. 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 was reduced, but not completely terminated, and negotiations with the aim of re-establishing the three agreements took pace from early 1992 to 1994.
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. 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.
In 1995, Iran signed a contract with Russia to resume work on the partially-complete Bushehr plant, installing into the existing Bushehr I building a 915MWe VVER-1000 pressurized water reactor, with completion expected in 2007. 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.
On August 14, 2002, Alireza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman for an Iranian dissident group National Council of Resistance of Iran, 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 possible that intelligence agencies already knew about these facilities but the reports had been classified.
The IAEA immediately sought access to these facilities and further information and co-operation from Iran regarding its nuclear program. According to arrangements in force at the time for implementation of Iran's safeguards agreement with the IAEA, 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.
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 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 recognise 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, 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. 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.
On the question of whether Iran had a hidden nuclear weapons program, the IAEA reported in November 2003 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. The IAEA remains unable to draw such a conclusion since the IAEA only certifies the absence of undeclared nuclear activities for nations that have formally ratified the Additional Protocol. According to the IAEA's own Annual Safeguards Implementation Report of 2004, of the 61 states where both the NPT safeguards and the Additional protocol are implemented, the IAEA has certified the absence of undeclared nuclear activity for only 21 countries, leaving Iran in the same category as 40 other countries including Canada, the Czech Republic, and South Africa. Nevertheless, Iran did voluntarily implement the Additional Protocol, and the IAEA certified in January 31, 2006 that "Iran has continued to facilitate access under its Safeguards Agreement as requested by the Agency, and to act as if the Additional Protocol is in force, including by providing in a timely manner the requisite declarations and access to locations. As of August 2007, Iran and the IAEA entered into an agreement on the modalities of resolving additional outstanding issue.
The IAEA Board of Governors deferred a formal decision on Iran's nuclear case for two years after 2003, until September 24, 2005, in order to encourage Iran to co-operate with the EU-3 diplomatic initiative. The Board deferred the formal report to the UN Security Council, required by Article XII.C of the IAEA Statute, for another five months, until February 27, 2006. The IAEA Board of Governors eventually opted to vote on the resolution rather than adopting it by consensus, making it a rare non-consensus decision with 12 abstentions.
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.
In early August 2005, Iran removed seals on its uranium enrichment equipment in Isfahan , which UK officials termed a "breach of the Paris Agreement" though a case can be made that the EU violated the terms of the Paris Agreement by demanding that Iran abandon nuclear enrichment 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), Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of Iran's atomic energy organization rejected the offer, terming it "very insulting and humiliating" 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
In August 2005, with the assistance of Pakistan 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. At this level, it could be used in a nuclear reactor if enough of it was made.
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."
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. 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.
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.""
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 government says it sees nuclear power as a way to modernise and diversify its energy-sources, other than its large oil and gas reserves. The Iranian public, nearly all political candidates, and the current government are unified on this point: Iran should be developing its peaceful nuclear industry. In addition, it states that 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.
Some of Iran's officials from the pre-revolutiony 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". Similarly, Dr. Akbar Etemad, the former head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, told Time magazine:
"With the Shah, we also came to the conclusion that Iran was in great need of nuclear energy because our population was steadily growing and our gas and oil will run out. That's why even though I was in the old regime, I should be fair to the new regime because they are following the same line. To speak frankly, with its bellicose behavior the West is pushing Iran towards nuclear weapons, even if they don't want them now."
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:
"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:
"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."
"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.
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": 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".
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". 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", and that Iran has "the right to a peaceful use of nuclear energy and we cannot accept nuclear apartheid". 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". A similar statement was made by the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Hassan Rowhani.
Then Chairman of IAEA Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation (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.
The IAEA Board of Governors eventually concluded, in a rare non-consensus decision with 12 abstentions, that Iran's past safeguards "breaches" and "failures" constituted "non-compliance" with its Safeguards Agreement 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
The IAEA issued its report on the implementation of safeguards in Iran on February 22, 2008. 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.
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. The laptop was reportedly received from a "longtime contact" in Iran who obtained it from someone else now believed to be dead. A senior European diplomat warned "I can fabricate that data," and argued that the documents look "beautiful, but is open to doubt". The United States has relied on the laptop to prove that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons. In November 2007, the United States National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) believed that Iran halted an alleged active nuclear weapons program in fall 2003. Iran has dismissed the laptop information as a fabrication, and other diplomats have dismissed the information as relatively insignificant and coming too late.
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."
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.
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 hexaflouride (UF6) for a renewed nuclear weapons program, the IAEA emphasized that all of the uranium hexaflouride 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". 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.
The IAEA also reported that it had held a series of meetings with Iranian officials to resolve the oustanding 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 Aug 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.
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.
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". 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.
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".
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...
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:
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 even planned to provide assistance to Iran under its Technical Assistance Program to produce enriched uranium. An IAEA report 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”. However, the IAEA was forced to terminate the program under U.S. pressure.
Iran also believes it has a legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, 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. In fact, Iran's enrichment program was openly discussed on national radio, and IAEA inspectors had even visited Iran's uranium mines as early as 1992, a decade before the public exposure of the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. 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 1968, 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. 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.
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.
Israel 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. 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.
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. Iranian spokesman Gholam Hoseyn Elham has dismissed Israeli attacks on its nuclear facilities as "impossible". "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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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. Much of the debate about the 'Iranian nuclear threat' is therefore driven not so much by any hard evidence about a weapons program but by concern that Iran's mastery of civilian technology would provide the means to rapidly develop a weapons capability should Iran wish to do so in the future. President Bush has claimed that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons could trigger "World War III", while Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns has warned Iran may be seeking a nuclear weapons capability. Skeptics of Iran's intentions cite Iran's concealment of many nuclear activities for nearly two decades in violation of its NPT safeguards obligations. According to The Economist magazine, "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. Note that Iran only promised to suspend enrichment on a temporary basis, which it verifiably did according to the IAEA, but did not make promise to suspend all nuclear research. The Iranians also attribute 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.
Some skeptics also argue that energy and economic considerations would not justify Iran's nuclear power program, since "if Iran really were short on energy, it could build gas-fired power plants at much lower cost, or make better use of its vast hydraulic resources;" and that the huge investment needed for nuclear power would pay greater returns if used to maintain or upgrade Iran's basic oil industry infrastructure. In another story the Economist magazine argued 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. However, independent studies conducted in the National Academy of Science in the US and Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the British Parliament have since confirmed that Iran has a valid economic basis for its nuclear energy program. Another analysis of the economics of Iran's investment in nuclear fuel cycle activities, including mining, conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication, concludes that they are poor energy investments compared to capturing and generating electricity from natural gas that is currently flared from oil fields. However, the British parliamentary report specifically stated that "the gas flared off by Iran is not recoverable for energy use" and that "other energy-rich countries such as Russia use nuclear power to generate electricity and we do not believe that the United States or any other country has the right to dictate to Iran how it meets its increasing demand for electricity Skeptics also point out that the P5 plus Germany have offered substantial benefits to Iran, including legally binding fuel supply guarantees, and therefore that Iran is fully capable of having nuclear power without needing to enrich its own uranium. The deal offered by the P5 would leave Iran, like most countries with nuclear power programs, reliant on external sources of fuel. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Iran has the right to peacefully process uranium for fuel, and that Iran "will not retreat one iota in the face of oppressing powers".
In November 2007, Bush appears to have modified his position, acknowledging that Iran has a sovereign right to civilian nuclear technology.
On July 31, 2006, the United States convinced European powers, China, and Russia to pass UN Security Council Resolution 1696. The resolution demanded 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.
ElBaradei criticized Iran, however, for continued attempts at uranium enrichment. "Iran has not addressed the long outstanding verification issues or provided the necessary transparency to remove uncertainties associated with some of its activities...," wrote ElBaradei.
An IAEA official told the New York Times that "the qualitative and quantitative development of Iran's enrichment program continues to be fairly limited."
The Bush Administration asserts that Iran's failure to uphold the Security Council resolution meant that the UN should impose more sanctions. On March 24, 2007, the UN Security Council voted to impose another round of sanctions, prohibiting the sale of Iranian weapons to other countries and freezing the overseas assets of more Iranian individuals and organizations.
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.
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.
France's foreign minister Bernard Kouchner warned that the international community had to be prepared for the possibility of war in the event that Iran obtains atomic weapons. "We will not accept that such a bomb is made," Kouchner said. "We must prepare ourselves for the worst," he said. He did not elaborate on what kind of preparations that could entail. "We have decided, while negotiations are under way ... to prepare for eventual sanctions outside the United Nations, which would be European sanctions," he said.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
The Iranians had also indicated that they were willing to consider suspending large-scale enrichment for up to 2 years, but was not prepared to freeze enrichment entirely
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.
In June 2007, IAEA director Mohammad ElBaradei suggested that Iran should be allowed limited uranium enrichment under strict supervision of the IAEA. 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
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.
The 2007 NIE report, allegedly based on new evidence, differed from 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". 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.
Mohammed ElBaradei, the Director of the IAEA, noted in particular that the NIE'c 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.
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.” 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.”
At the most recent 2008 G8 summit in Japan in 2008, G8 leaders said:
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 14 June 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.
India quickly downplayed the incident and restated its commitment to develop closer ties with Iran. India urged international diplomacy to solve the Iranian nuclear row but added that it could not "turn a blind eye to nuclear proliferation in its neighborhood.
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 to India's energy security concerns. The United States has expressed concern that the pipeline project would undermine international efforts to isolate Iran.
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.
Officials in several countries have voiced support for Iran in the on-going standoff with the US over its nuclear program. These include Iraq Algeria and Indonesia. Turkey has expressed support for Iran's right to a nuclear program for peaceful energy production, and along with Egypt has urged for a peaceful solution to the standoff. President Putin of Russia, while urging more transparency from Iran, has said that there is no objective evidence that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.
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. 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.
Some argue that President Bush's ENR proposal conflicts with the key bargain of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that promised states forswearing nuclear weapons “the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.” Since then, Bush administration's has modified this proposal in order to accommodate the interests of Canada, which wants to build uranium enrichment plants to export enriched uranium fuel for nuclear-power plants, albeit possibly only under a "black box" arrangement that does not transfer technical knowhow.
Iran has offered to accept international participation in its nuclear program, and to operate its enrichment facilities as a consortium with foreign governments, as long as the program is conducted on Iranian soil. This idea has been endorsed by Western and American experts. This proposal was rejected by the Western countries.
According to a 2004 analysis by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies,
"Many NPT state parties, particularly those from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), have already stated their opposition to President Bush’s proposals to restrict enrichment. In their view, precluding states from developing enrichment and reprocessing capabilities contradicts an important tenet of the NPT-that is, the deal made by the nuclear weapon states (NWS) to the non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS). Article IV of the NPT states that NNWS have the inalienable right to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, a right intended to provide an incentive for NNWS to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Bush proposals, however, introduce another element into the nonproliferation regime by segmenting countries into those that can engage in enrichment and reprocessing and those that cannot. Since most states with fuel cycle capabilities are from the developed world, it is clear that the target group of the proposal is the developing world.
Similar past proposals to restrict enrichment have caused deep divisions between NPT signatory states, as developing countries have consistently rejected efforts to place additional limits on the fuel cycle. The Final Document of the United Nations General Assembly resolution S-10/2 which was adopted at the 27th plenary meeting of the tenth special session on 30 June 1978 stated in paragraph 69: "Each country's choices and decisions in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy should be respected without jeopardizing its policies or international cooperation agreements and arrangements for peaceful uses of nuclear energy and its fuel-cycle policies".
This position was reiterated in the 1980 NPT Review and Extension Conference and has been consistently reiterated in every Review Conference since then, including the 1995 Review Conference and in the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference. The Final Document of the 10th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2002 also reiterated that non-proliferation measures should not be used to jeopardize the inalienable rights of all States to have access to and be free to acquire technology, equipment and materials for peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and that each country's choices regarding nuclear fuel cycle policies should be respected.
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