As Iran says it will resume its uranium enrichment program, nuclear talks in London between the Islamic Republic and three European countries — Britain, Germany and France — have ended unsuccessfully. Some weeks ago the same talks in Geneva were deemed “not discouraging.”
More talks are due to be held in the coming weeks in Geneva, but Iran's representative in nuclear negotiations informed participants that if the London talks do not produce results uranium enrichment will go on.
Last week, intelligence sources stressed that Iran needs five to seven years to achieve its nuclear goals. But members of the Iranian army who have recently sought refuge in the West believe Iran will have the bomb even sooner, or that it may already have the capability.
American aircraft and spy satellites have been conducting surveillance on Iran's suspected nuclear facilities. Other intelligence sources have said that the uranium enrichment centers in Iran are well hidden, making military action improbable. Talk of a possible military attack by the U.S. merely maintains an atmosphere of fear and panic.
While Tehran insists it is improving atomic facilities to generate electricity, emerging evidence and purchases of uranium enrichment equipment all point to the construction of an atomic bomb, which in strategic equations can destabilize the region.
Meanwhile, Iran, currently the world's second largest producer of oil, is fast running out of natural resources and needs to have nuclear technology. At present there is not enough fuel for conventional power stations. With the urban population at 80 percent, having increased by 40 percent over the last quarter century, an alternative source of energy is inevitable.
Iran's moves toward nuclear capabilities to reduce potential military threats and regain its lost role in the region have resulted in receiving more concessions from Europe and pitting the EU against the U.S. — the latter which has even been compelled to take a softer line.
The country, which is now surrounded by American military forces and NATO, has no other way to be creative in this game. That is why Tehran wants the U.S. to have an apparent intermediary role, so that it can provoke European states, which benefit more from America's absence in the region, to ensure the stability of the current regime.
In fact while these talks between Tehran and the EU continue, there are daily media reports about the export of nuclear equipment and missile platforms to the Islamic Republic.
Der Spiegel has reported on equipment shipments to Iran by a German company. In recent days, similar news was broadcast about Norwegian and Belgian companies by the media of these countries.
Last month, an explosion was heard as far as 100km from Bushehr nuclear base. Alalam TV (Iran's state-run Arabic channel) broadcast the news in a way that international news agencies took to mean a military air attack happened there. Consequently, it was for some hours a breaking news story.
The next day, however, an IRIB (Iran's state broadcasting organization) vice president, who is also a member of the national Security Council, stated that he did not know the source of these rumors.
Presidential military nominees naturally back the Islamic Republic's policy of the carrot and stick. Iran's leader stressed that the country's next president should continue with the nuclear program regardless of the threat of foreign intervention.
Last year the trial phase of the Shahab3 missile, which was completed by Ukrainian, Chinese and North Korean technology, did not succeed. As reported, the accuracy of the missile was so poor that experts sarcastically predicted that if these missiles were targeted at Jerusalem, they would hit Damascus or Cairo. However, other reports say Shahab4 missiles, which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, are more accurate and have a longer range, and have already been aimed at Israel and Europe.
Israel has formally refused to rule out any military action against nuclear facilities in Iran. America's adamance at referring the Islamic Republic case to the Security Council has not been effective until now. Indeed, Europeans' hope to reach an agreement with Iran that blocks American diplomacy and a possible regime change.
Certainly a strong government in Iran — one with a president that is dependent on the conservatives — would result in the completion of the military's nuclear program and benefit the state as its stature in the international community increases. The only threat to the Islamic Republic is an internal revolution which the current government would do anything to avoid.
Omid Habibiniais a Ph.D. student in Communications, Journalist and Media Researcher.
Iran Nuclear Chronology
1957 The Institute of Nuclear Science, under the auspices of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), moves from Baghdad to Tehran, and the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, takes a personal interest in nuclear energy.
1 July 1968 Iran signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on the day it is opened for signature.
December 1972 The Iranian government announces that it intends to obtain nuclear power plants within the next ten years, and Iran's Ministry of Water and Power begins to study the possibility of constructing a nuclear power plant in southern Iran.
March 1974 The Shah announces that Iran intends to generate 23,000MWe at nuclear power plants “as soon as possible,” with an initial target date of 1994. The Shah establishes the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), with the Swiss-trained nuclear physicist Dr. Akbar Etemad as its chairman, and announces that it will be run under his direct supervision. The AEOI's budget for fiscal year 1975 is set at $30.8 million.
June 1974 The Shah of Iran says that Iran will have nuclear weapons, “without a doubt and sooner than one would think.” The statement is denied by Iran's embassy in France, and the Shah later backs off the statement, reaffirming that “not only Iran, but also other nations in the region should refrain from planning to gain atomic arsenals.”
1975 Iran's delegate to the Geneva Disarmament Conference reaffirms his country's opposition to nuclear weapons development. The Shah of Iran claims that the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons is “ridiculous” considering the arsenals held by the United States and Soviet Union.
August 1975 A German team from Kraftwerk Union (KWU) begins work on the Bushehr reactors on the basis of a letter of intent.
October 1975-September 1976 The budget for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran is increased from $30.8 million in fiscal year 1975 to more than $1 billion for fiscal year 1976.
1 January 1978 US President Jimmy Carter and the Shah of Iran agree on a plan for Iran to purchase between six and eight light water nuclear reactors from the United States.
17 October 1978 A secret US Department of State telegram from the American embassy in Iran to the Secretary of State says now is not a good time to conclude bilateral nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran because the unstable political situations in Iran and a reorganization of Iranian bureaucracy has halted all proceedings. The Shah told the American ambassador, according to the telegram, that only the nuclear plants that are already under construction by the French and German companies, Bushehr and Darkhovin, will continue at this time. Because no US nuclear sales are likely to take place soon, the document says, there is no rush resolve outstanding issues in the agreement. The telegram says the situation is confused by the replacement of Dr. Etemad by Dr. Sofudehnia as head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), the absorption of the AEOI into the Ministry of Energy, the investigations of AEOI officials for corruption, and a reassessment of Iran's energy needs.
Late 1970s The United States obtains intelligence data indicating that the Shah has set up a clandestine nuclear weapons development program. Also, according to Akbar Etemad, director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran until October 1978, researchers at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center are involved in laboratory experiments that could have applications for reprocessing spent fuel.
1979 Because of the Revolution in Iran, the United States stops its supply of highly enriched uranium (HEU) to Iran. Iran cancels its agreement with the Eurodif consortium, demanding full repayment of the $1 billion loan it provided for the construction of the Tricastin plan. Iran halts payments begun in 1977 for future enrichment services.
May 1979 During the Iranian Revolution, a Khomeini adviser tells energy specialist Dr. Fereydun Fesharaki, “It is your duty to build the atomic bomb for the Islamic Republican Party.”
1980 Iran decides to restart the construction of its nuclear reactors.
March 1980 A US report quotes an intelligence source who says that Iran's interest in new smaller reactors leads him to believe that it wants to develop nuclear weapons.
24 March 1984 Iraq attacks the Bushehr nuclear power plant.
April 1984 Jane's Defence Weekly cites reports from West German intelligence that Iran may have a nuclear bomb within two years. According to a French report, “very enriched uranium” from Pakistan can contribute to this effort. The Germans leaked this news in the first public Western intelligence report of a post-revolutionary nuclear weapons program in Iran.
Mid-Late 1984 Iran asks Germany to complete the Bushehr reactors.
Mid-1980s An estimated 15,000-17,000 Iranian students are sent abroad for nuclear-related training. Some return to teach at Sharif Technical University, which is also established at this time “to serve as a pool of trained technicians for the nuclear weapons program.”
12 February 1985 Iraq attacks the Bushehr nuclear power plant again it repeted also several times.
September 1985 The foreign ministers of Iran, Syria, and Libya say that their countries should develop nuclear weapons to counter the Israeli nuclear threat.
February 1986 Abdul Qadir Khan, Pakistan's leading nuclear scientist, makes a secret visit to Bushehr. Pakistan and Iran sign a secret nuclear cooperation agreement later in the year.
1987 Iran says it plans to build a yellowcake plant in Yazd Province.
1987 Iranian President Rafsanjani commissions a study on the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.
1987 Under Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Moshen Rezai, a special unit of the IRGC begins working on a project at Bandar-e Abbas to extend the range of Silkworm missiles procured from China with the intention of arming them the with nuclear warheads
Late 1987-September 1990 The US government approves sales of “more than $306 million in high-technology items,” including computers and oscilloscopes, which may have nuclear weapons applications, to Iran and Syria. The United States grants export licenses for $138 million worth of computers to Iran. Shipments of other nuclear-related technology, including a $130,000 oscilloscope, are also approved. These items may have nuclear weapons applications. The approvals were granted despite a US ban on the sale of sensitive technology to these countries by taking advantage of loopholes in US law; such as the “sanctity of previous contracts” (those approved before legislation is passed); the practice of allowing US-made equipment to be repaired in other countries, including those designated as supporters of terrorism; and the practice of permitting US-made parts to be sold in countries on the terrorist list if they are built into foreign equipment and comprise less than 20% of that equipment. US arms control expert Gary Milhollin identifies the dual-use items on the list. A Commerce Department spokesperson declined to comment on the approvals.
January 1987 Abdul Qadir Khan, Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, revisits Bushehr.
January 1987 Fereydun Fesharaki, who headed the Shah's secret nuclear weapons program, returns to Iran after a seven-year exile; all of his expenses are paid by the government.
April 1989-October 1990 Two Iranian nationals, Ray Amiri and Dan Danesh, illegally export Tektronix oscilloscopes to Iran from the United States. The oscilloscopes are used to process nuclear weapons test data. Amiri and Danesh also export logic analyzers, pulse generators, and other electronic equipment that could be used to develop nuclear weapons.
May 1989 The United States alleges that Iran may have received illegal nuclear-related exports from West Germany.
February 1990 Korea Power Engineering Company representatives travel to Iran to conduct a feasibility study on completing the plant.
8 February 2005 According to a diplomat close to the EU-Iran talks in Geneva, Britain, France and Germany “are going to read the riot act to the Iranians” regarding quality control work accomplished on centrifuge parts, which is not permitted (whereas maintenance work is), and which they did not report.
16 February 2005 Speaking in London, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom contends that Iran will have the knowledge to build nuclear weapons within six months.