Piecing together the mystery of Iranian nuclear strategy suggests that right now, the Islamic Republic is perhaps willing to speed up negotiations without preconditions and with greater transparency.by Zvi Bar'el 8 comments
The Iranian nuclear program is a contentious and closely monitored issue in international politics. The Tehran government has rapidly advanced its nuclear program over the past decade, which it claims is for peaceful civilian purposes. But the international community, led by Western nations, believe the program is designed to create nuclear weapons.
Iran has stressed in the past that it is a signatory state to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that it has the right to enrich uranium for civil uses. In an effort to use diplomatic means to deal with the Iran nuclear issue, the United States and its allies have offered incentive-based packages to persuade the Iranian regime to abandon its nuclear program. But continual defiance and the revelation of secret enrichment facilities in Iran have hampered these efforts.
In reaction to Iran’s insubordination, the U.S., Israel and the European Union have launched a series of increasingly stringent sanctions against the Iran nuclear program and those controlling it, to which the Tehran government has responded with defiance, and vows to punish those behind the measures.
The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran brought to power a theocratic Islamic Republic governed by Shi'ite Muslim clerics. In the 1990s, Iran’s nuclear program was fully revived and in 2002, following revelations of clandestine research into fuel enrichment, the Iran nuclear program became a concern the international community could no longer avoid.
The West fears Iran’s nuclear program will be used to produce weapons of mass destruction and refers to the nation’s use of rhetoric against the U.S. and Israel in particular to support the claim. After the withdrawal of American support for Iran’s nuclear program in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution, the Iranian government began receiving assistance from Pakistan’s nuclear scientist, AQ Khan. Following the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian nuclear program was given a high degree of importance by the country's new Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Unlike his predecessor, Khamenei holds a more favorable view of nuclear energy and military technology, both of which can be achieved by advancing the Iran nuclear program.
During the administration of President George W. Bush, the Iran nuclear program became a priority and efforts were made to curtail Tehran’s efforts to enrich uranium through several United Nations Security Council resolutions. In December 2006, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1737, which urged all UN member states “to prevent the supply, sale or transfer” of any goods to Iran that could be used to further its nuclear program. The following year, the UN Security Council passed another resolution blacklisting financial institutions used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the government body suspected of controlling the Iran nuclear program.
Although the UN resolutions have tried to bring an end to Iran’s nuclear program, they have largely been seen as unsuccessful, and Iran continues to defy international demands. Iran’s escalation of threats against its Middle Eastern neighbor Israel, and its support for Palestinian and Lebanese terror groups have led the Israeli government on a campaign to expose Iran’s military plans for its nuclear ambitions.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN body that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, has reported that Iran is using its centrifuges to enrich uranium, which could be upgraded and enriched to a level for military use. Revelations in September 2009 of a secret second uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom intensified the mistrust over Iran's nuclear ambitions and paved the way for more sanctions.
Demands for stronger sanctions came again in early February 2010 when Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announced that his country had rejected a package deal with the West to send its uranium abroad, which would then be returned as fuel rods. These demands resulted in a further round of sanctions on Tehran, including tighter financial curbs and an expanded arms embargo, but were not the crippling sanctions the U.S. and Israel were seeking.
In June 2010, the UN approved a new round of sanctions on Iran, which were augmented in a month later by further stricter steps against the Iranian banking system, implemented by the U.S. and the European Union.
For its part, Iran still maintains that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes, and says that it is enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, not the 90 percent level required for nuclear weapons.
The West is continuing to use all diplomatic means necessary in order to curtail the Iran nuclear program. But both the United States and Israel have stated that military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities are still on the table.