On Wednesday, 15th of November, Rafael Grossi, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated that Iran has stockpiled 22 times more enriched Uranium than the limit set in 2015 Iran nuclear deal. This amount accounts for about 4486.8 KG. “Iran’s stance is not only unprecedented but unambiguously contrary to the cooperation that is required,” wrote Grossi in a report to the agency’s member states. This comes after Iran’s nuclear advisor’s statement in July that it is fully capable of making nuclear weapons. As the conflict in the region arises again several member states of the IAEA along with UN nuclear watchdogs have eyes on each minute development of Iran nuclear program.
Chronology of Events in Iran Nuclear Program
1950s-1970: Beginnings of Iran’s Nuclear Program
- Iran’s interest in nuclear technology dates back to the 1950s when the United States under the “Atoms for Peace” program supported the development of civilian nuclear power.
1970s-2002: Shah’s Era and the Bushehr Project
- During the rule of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Iran began its nuclear program with the help of the United States, France and Germany.
- The Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant project began in the 1970s with German assistance but was later abandoned after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
2002: Revelation of Secret Nuclear Facilities
- In August 2002 an exiled Iranian opposition group revealed the existence of two nuclear facilities in city of Natanz and Arak . This raised concerns about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
2003-2005: Diplomatic Efforts and Suspension
- In 2003, Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program temporarily as part of negotiations with the EU-3 (France, Germany, and the UK).
- Talks continued, but Iran resumed enrichment activities in 2005 leading to increased international concerns.
2006: UN Sanctions Implemented
- The United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
2010: Stuxnet Cyberattack
- Stuxnet, a computer worm, was discovered and reported by cybersecurity experts. Experts envisage that it was designed to target Iran’s nuclear facilities particularly those at Natanz and sabotage the centrifuges used in nuclear plant.
2011-2015: Escalation and Nuclear Deal
- International negotiations including the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015.
- The JCPOA aimed to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
2018: U.S. Withdrawal from JCPOA
- In May 2018, the United States under President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA reimposing sanctions on Iran.
2020: Assassination of Iranian Nuclear Scientist
- Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a key figure in Iran’s nuclear program was assassinated in November 2020 raising tensions in the region.
- Ongoing Negotiations and Developments
- Negotiations have been ongoing to revive the JCPOA, with talks between Iran and the remaining parties (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the UK) and indirect talks with the U.S.
Iran’s Nuclear Journey
Iran’s quest for nuclear technology began during last ruler of the Pahlavi dynasty Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. With the cooperation of the US under the ‘Atoms for Energy’ programme, it started working on its first nuclear energy reactor. In 1970 it joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), resulting in increased Western cooperation and tech exchange. However, all these came to a stop with the Iranian Revolution and the rise of the Islamic regime.
In the first few years, the regime completely abandoned the programme and drove several projects to the brink of death. It jailed Akbar Etemad regarded as the father of Iran’s nuclear programme and who first chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). The regime’s distaste towards the West further halted several cooperative initiatives that were fruiting at that time. However, the Iraq-Iran war from 1980-88 changed its perspective on nuclear weapons. The massive use of chemical bombs and the threat of a massive bomb developed by Iraq, pushed the government to reconsider its stance on nuclear weapons. According to a 2002 report by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), there was evidence of Iran developing and working on nuclear weaponisation for almost 18 years that is from 1986. Some internal reports suggest that it started working in uranium enrichment as soon as in 1982 with the intent of making nuclear weapons. However, attainment of Nuclear Technology is in progress no concrete report states otherwise.
US and Israel Roles in Iran Nuclear Program
The United States and Israel have played significant roles to curb the development of Iran’s nuclear energy technology. Key aspects of their involvement are as follows: –
Stance on Non-Proliferation:
Both the United States and Israel are strong proponents of non-proliferation efforts aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. They argue that Iran’s nuclear activities could be a cover for developing nuclear weapons thus posing a threat to regional and global security.
Diplomatic Efforts and Sanctions:
The United States has been a key player in diplomatic efforts to address Iran’s nuclear program. It has been actively involved in negotiations and has at times imposed sanctions on Iran to limit its nuclear activities. The U.S. stance has been influenced by concerns about the potential military dimension of Iran’s program.
Israeli Concerns and Pre-emptive Measures:
Israel, which views Iran as a significant security threat, has been particularly vocal in expressing concerns about the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Israel has not hesitated to consider pre-emptive measures including the possibility of military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
The U.S. and Israel were reportedly involved in the development and deployment of the Stuxnet computer worm which targeted Iran’s nuclear facilities. This cyberattack discovered in 2010 was a covert effort to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.
What is the Global Concern About Iran Gaining Nuclear Power?
Since its formation, the Islamic Republic of Iran harboured deep displacement towards the West, especially the Americans and their allies. During the Iranian Revolution which would later result in the establishment of the Islamic Republic, some militarized Iranian college students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line, took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took them as hostages. This resulted in the first of many sanctions that it would receive from America. The revolution was led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a religious cleric, who was against the liberal and modern policies of Pahlavi. His speeches and talks drove animosity towards the West in Iranian people. As the years went by this stance was cemented and amplified. This placed Iran on the receiving end of Western scrutiny when it came to atomic power.
It provides weapons and ammunition to several terror outfits and militant organisations. Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad in Gaza and West Bank, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Siriya, Al-Ashtar Brigades and Saraya Al-Mukhtar in Bahrain and Houthi militants in Yemen are on the receiving end of these fundings and weapons. Religious differences also drive this proxy war.
It also has a deep link with terror outfits like Kata’ib Hizballah (KH), Harakat al-Nujaba and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq along with ties with problematic regimes like the Assad Regime and Pakistani deep state.
The Islamic regime of Iran is also been a promoter of Islamic extremism since its beginning. Countless cases of human rights violations, religious persecution, exploitation, oppression and persecution of women took place in the name of Sharia Law. The killing of Mahsa Amini and the protest following that is a stark testament to that.
Why Friendly Countries NOT Providing Nuclear Tech?
There are several reasons why friendly countries are not providing nuclear Technology to Iran:
International Agreements and Sanctions:
Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Obtaining nuclear technology from other countries might be viewed as a violation of international agreements and could lead to more stringent sanctions.
Nuclear Proliferation Concerns:
The international community closely monitors the spread of nuclear technology to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation. Providing nations will have to face serious sanctions.
Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities has been a source of tension in the Middle East. Neighbouring countries and global powers hesitant to contribute to Iran’s nuclear program due to regional security concerns.
Security and Stability:
Concerns about the stability and security of the Iranian government have also played a role.
To assess the future of Iran nuclear program and its impact on the region, it’s crucial to examine the current situation. Over the past six decades, Iran has experienced fluctuations in its nuclear program reaching a point where reversal seems improbable. The nation now possesses a significant quantity of enriched uranium with some analysts suggesting the involvement of Pakistan’s weapon technology. In July of this year an Iranian spokesperson informed Al Jazeera that the capability to develop an atomic bomb exists but has not been pursued. Despite the U.S. annual intelligence report stating no evidence of Iran developing an atomic bomb, however the claim has sparked attention.
Considering Iran’s possession of radioactive material there’s a risk of the nation entering a nuclear arms race. Consequently, international forums must delicately navigate the conflict and work towards a swift resolution. Iran also needs to reflect on its position in modern history and adopting a broader perspective to prevent any escalation.