Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program
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The interest of Iran’s leaders to pursue nuclear energy technology has been active since the 1950s when the then United States President Dwight Eisenhower launched a program which was aimed at providing nuclear energy that would be used for peaceful purposes. The program made steady progress especially since Iran was receiving Western help. However, certain concerns regarding Iran’s intentions began to arise and combined with the upheaval of the Islamic Revolution that followed in 1979, outside assistance ceased (Bruno, 2010). Most recently in 2002 and 2003, clandestine research into enrichment of fuel as well as conversion brought to surface the questionable ambitions of Iran as they proved to go beyond peaceful intent. Suspicion continued to deepen when in September 2009 a second uranium enrichment facility was revealed to have been constructed near Qom without the knowledge and consent of international inspectors. This paper will analyze the nuclear weapons program of Iran, the tools that the United States are using to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons and recommendable strategies that would help stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
The fears of the Western countries were confirmed in 2010 when a report was released by the IAEA detailing the potential of Iran to produce a nuclear weapon based on a number of factors including additional enrichment of fuel and presumed plans for the development of a missile-ready warhead. A liberal and pluralist look into the authority of the United States in deciding to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons would reveal the action of the United States to be unnecessary and inappropriate. Based on the fact that the United States and other western nations are conducting their nuclear energy research activities unobstructed, Iran would expect equal treatment. United States’ efforts to stop Iran would reflect the intentions of America to be the only group with power in the world.
The United States, though, is justified to call for measures to be taken against Iran for failing to comply with the Safeguards Agreement that it made with the IAEA. The western countries and other countries involved in nuclear energy activities are bound by the terms and policies of the IAEA. The public controversy about the nuclear program of Iran began around 2002 when information was revealed by the National Council of Resistance on Iran proving that Iran had built nuclear related facilities at Arak and Natanz without informing the IAEA. The safeguards agreement allow for the monitoring of nuclear facilities as well as materials ensuring that they are not diverted and applied for military purposes. In the fall of 2002 investigations were began by the IAEA on the nuclear activities of Iran at Natanz and Arak and the February that followed the sites were visited by inspectors (Report by the Director General, 2009). The first resolution of the IAEA was adopted in 2003 calling on Tehran to become more cooperative with the agency in its investigations and also to suspend its activities of enriching uranium. The month that followed, Iran made an agreement with the three countries (The United Kingdom, France, and also Germany) and agreed to suspend its activities of enrichment.
In November 2009 the ElBaradei reported that Tehran still defied the demands of the council by continuing to work on its uranium enrichment program and also its heavy-water reactor program (Burr, 2009). The western nations and other states-parties to the NPT have a sole concern that Iran might be researching on nuclear weapons and enriching uranium aiming to develop nuclear weapons. Were this to take place, the security of other nations globally would be at stake hence the need to take necessary steps and ensure such activities are stopped. Additionally, if Iran continues its nuclear development activities global non-proliferation would be endangered since the weaknesses in the NPT would be exposed as well as the unwillingness or inability of the international community to ensure the NPT is enforced.
The common tools that the United States can use to stop Iran from continuing with its nuclear development activities are segregation of diplomacy, some military options, isolation, and also economic sanctions. The first series of sanction imposed on Iran were adopted in December 2006 by the UN Security Council. Selling or transfer of nuclear technology that is sensitive was blocked in resolution 1737 (Report by the Director General, 2009). Another resolution in 2008 introduced additional sanctions on travel and finances of Iranian nationals as well as companies. The European Union in particular imposed its own sanctions in that year and froze the assets of almost forty individuals and entities that transacted with Bank Melli (The largest Bank in Iran). The Bank has been accused by western officials of supporting the missile and nuclear programs of Iran.
Diplomatic strategies are also applied with an example of the resubmission of a 2006 offer by the European Union to Iran providing incentives and expecting Iran to abandon its enrichment activities. Still Iran remains uncooperative and defiant as evidenced by the approval of ten new plants for uranium enrichment by the Iranian government in 2009 (Rubin, 2008). The following year it announced its plans to heighten the levels of enrichment of stockpiles of Uranium that are existent thereby causing escalation in the concerns of the international community. Most recently President Obama expressed that use of the military is an option being considered since the other measures only seem to heighten Iran’s defiance but are not effective in stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons development activities. The President made this speech in Washington during a policy conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs committee.
The present tools available for use by the United States in stopping Iran’s nuclear development activities are recommendable but a change in some present approaches would transform these tools into more effective measures. A new and comprehensive diplomatic strategy would overcome the challenges that previous strategies have faced (Rubin, 2008). These new strategies would have to have calibrated financial as well as military leverage. In addition, close coordination and allied support is necessary if the diplomatic solution is to be strong and have better leverage. Alliances that can be built and solidified involve Europe, Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia. As long as Tehran remains confident of Moscow’s support and protection limited hope for a diplomatic solution exists. Necessary measures and strategies have to be formulated to ensure the alliance is made between the U.S. And Russia. Application of both unilateral as well as multilateral sanctions by states and international organizations prior to and after any diplomatic rapprochement would create that additional leverage. An intensive diplomatic effort that maintains previous incentives and introduces new incentives without potential of being perceived by Iranian officials as weaknesses that can be exploited would be necessary in demonstrating a united front as well as creating a new leverage against Iran (Bruno, 2010). Should diplomacy fail, more intensive sanctions ought to be put. A proposed embargo is one on gasoline exports to Iran which would impact on the Iranian people psychologically hence costing Iranian leaders (Rubin, 2008). Military option would include early preparation for action such as prepositioning of extra U.S. forces as well as allied forces, aircrafts and other necessary resources.
In conclusion, the Iranian crisis is an issue that needs to be addressed in order to eliminate the security threat posed to America and other nations globally. The United States has been using a number of tools in its efforts to stop Iran from continuing with its nuclear development activities. However, they have had limited success in recent times and Iran continues to be uncooperative and defiant. A new and more intensive diplomatic strategy has to be formulated and improved military options considered for more results. The United States can for example build more alliances in order to gain more leverage on Iran.
Bruno, G. (2010). Iran’s Nuclear Program. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved on 3rd June 2012, from: http://www.cfr.org/iran/irans-nuclear-program/p16811
Burr, W. (2009). “A Brief History of U.S.-Iranian Nuclear Negotiations,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January/February 2009.
Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008) and 1835 (2008) in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Report by the Director General, GOV/2009/74. November 16, 2009.
Rubin, M. (2008). Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy toward Iranian Nuclear Development. Report of an Independent Task Force Sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center.
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