Iran’s Nuclear Program Part 1

The following is a summary and commentary on an article found on the Council on Foreign Relation’s website. The author is Greg Bruno and the article was last updated on March 10, 2010.

The nuclear controversies surrounding Iran date back to the 1950s when the United States under President Eisenhower started the ‘Atoms for Peace’ program. Under this program it was announced that the US would supply Iran with military, economic and civilian assistance. Part of this was a “proposed agreement for cooperation in research in the peaceful uses of atomic energy.” Iran was to receive 13.2 pounds of low-enriched uranium to being their research. In the early stages, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi established the Tehran Nuclear Research Center and negotiated a deal with the US for a five-megawatt reactor. Throughout the end of the 1950s and early 1960s, the US was giving assistance in developing nuclear energy. On July 1, 1968 Iran signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and also signed the Safeguards Agreement provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency. More foreign assistance was provided by Germany and France during the 1970s, with deals made with firms of both countries for the “construction of nuclear plants and the supply of nuclear deals.”

However, while one may assume that it was the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that may have began deterring western nations from providing nuclear support to Iran, it was in 1974 where agreements began to come apart. A US report declared that “while Iran’s much publicized nuclear power intentions are entirely in the planning stage, the ambitions of the shah could lead Iran to pursue nuclear weapons…” and Bruno goes on describing that it may have been the success of India’s nuclear proliferation that may have given the Shah the hopes of gaining nuclear weapons. The US, Germany and France backed out of deals made with Iran, deteriorating relations and forcing Iran to look for help in other countries. Support was found in Argentina, China and Russia, something that was unnerving to the western countries. Bruno states that Washington began blocking nuclear deals between Iran and the countries named above, which then made it necessary for Iran to disclose as little information as possible on the deals being made. This discretion caused more problems for Iran than expected, as the US increased efforts to block deals during the 1980s and 1990s.

While the decrease of western support caused problems for Iran’s attempts at nuclear technology, Bruno argues that Iran’s nuclear program received revived interest in the mid-1980s, receiving “assistance from Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan…” but it was after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini that efforts for nuclear fuel reached a maximum. Under the new Ayatollah, Khamenei, deals were made with Russia to revive the projects originally made with Germany. Plants were supposed to be finished by 2009 and another reactor was planned for 2016. The Iranians stand strong on their opinion that they are only looking to diversify their energy portfolio, but questions arose out of the fact that they are looking for, or receiving, assistance from China, Pakistan and North Korea.

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