There has been a lot of debate about Iran and its nuclear weapons program in the international circle. Many countries, including the United States, have condemned Iran for this and have repeatedly asked for a nonproliferation of its nuclear capabilities. While many people all over the world view the situation is Iraq as being a very dangerous one, there are many people, for instance the people of Kuwait, who feel that there is a more serious and closer threat at hand from Iran. The government of Iran has been favoring its nuclear program and most of the Americans believe that the Iranians are highly unstable people and thus Iran's nuclear capabilities are considered to be a very large threat to the rest of the world, even bigger one for the countries in the Middle East. Everyone knows that Iran has the capability to assemble nuclear weapons in the matter of weeks. The nuclear capability of Iran is a big threat to US security since it would make the region of Middle East very unstable. There are, however, some elements that are resisting this US position over Iran's nuclear program. A recent article published on MSNBC entitled “Merkel resists US pressure over Iran sanctions,” talks about how the US should not exert more pressure on Iran in terms of sanctions, etc.
Iran's foray into nuclear technology gathered steam in the mid-1960s under the auspices of the United States within the framework of bilateral agreements between the two countries. Up until 1974, the United States had turned down the Shah's suggestion for a Joint Economic Commission (JEC) that would regulate and expand Iran's commercial relations with the United States. Yet, after the massive increase in oil prices during 1973 and 1974, the United States suddenly became very interested in establishing a JEC with Iran. In a secret letter dated April 13, 1974, to the Shah's confidante Amir Assadollah Alam, US Ambassador to Iran Richard Helms wrote, “We have noted the priority that His Imperial Majesty gives to developing alternative means of energy production through nuclear power. This is clearly an area in which we might most usefully begin on a specific program of cooperation and collaboration ...” In two National Security Decision Memoranda dated April 22, 1975, and April 20, 1976, US President Gerald Ford authorized selling Iran uranium enrichment and reprocessing facilities in return for Iran buying eight nuclear reactors from the United States. Iran and the United States then signed an agreement worth approximately US$15 billion, by which the United States agreed to build eight NPPs in Iran that would have had a total capacity of 8,000 megawatts (MW). The formal announcement of the agreement was made in October 1977 by Sydney Sober, a representative of the US State Department, in his address to the symposium, “The US and Iran: An Increasing Partnership” (Sahimi 42).
Iran has been a mischief for a long time and it has been testing the limits ever since 1985. Iran signed the NPT (Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty) then but has since failed to adhere to the restrictions. It has also not allowed having its nuclear facilities inspected by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), which is part of the NPT. Although inspections of the facilities did commence in 1992, a new problem arose that identified that Iran was in fact drawing up plans to build up nuclear weapons. Many efforts were made by the United States to try and stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons and these have extensively been reported. The United States and European countries agree that a nuclear Iran, which would violate the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), would create more instability in a region that is already troubled. Also, Iran's long-range missiles will make much of the European continent vulnerable to a nuclear strike. However, the United States and the prominent trio of the European Union--Britain, France, and Germany--differ on the means to the end. The former seeks to confront Iran with military pressure and the threat of economic sanctions backed by the UN Security Council, while the latter seeks to secure Iran's cooperation in the inspection of its nuclear sites and suspension of its uranium enrichment program through an offer of economic assistance. Both have demonstrated respective “stick” and “carrot” approaches to Iran, which may work well to propel nuclear negotiations, however tense, forward without provoking confrontation (Wang 11).
It was in 2002 when Iran officially admitted on having a nuclear program that was aimed to finally produce nuclear weapons. By the end of 2002, Iran had also revealed to the world that it was going to restart its plutonium production and would remove all IAEA personnel and inspectors from their land. By January of 2003, Iran had also withdrawn from the NPT (Nuclear Issues). Earlier in the 1990s, it was known that Iran produced enough radioactive material for the production of two or three nuclear weapons, which could have been raised to five or six. Many researchers and analysis of the current situation in Iran has divulged that Iran is definitely capable of producing many nuclear warheads, although there is still a debate whether Iran has in fact been able to create such weapons. Many claim, such as the Bush administration, that Iran does in fact have already made the nuclear devices but that they are having trouble with their detonation devices and that is why Iran has not been able to conduct any tests and build their weapons. It has been assumed that Iran is currently capable of producing as many as nine nuclear weapons (Miller 89).
A nuclear facility in Iran, is known to employ some three thousand scientists and researchers, who come from a variety of other nuclear countries such as the Soviet Union, China and Pakistan. The nuclear weapons program is run under the strict control of the Iranian military, which is under the direct supervision of their President. It has been estimated that if Iran starts to produce its weapons at full capacity of the two facilities that it currently has, it would be able to produce as many as fifty-five nuclear weapons annually and would have as many as 200 nuclear weapons by the end of 2010. This is seen as a very big threat to the US security. The US fears this because it feels that Iran has the capability of launching a nuclear strike on its neighbors, thereby disturbing the peace of the whole of Middle East Asia. It has been estimated that Iran can reach all of Iraq and most of Saudi Arabia with its current missile technology. It is also feared that soon Iran would be able to produce longer range missiles that would have the range of almost six thousand kilometers.
All this has caused a lot of concern for the United States and the US is thus taking many steps in order to stop Iran from building these weapons of mass destruction. The US has tried to do so since 1985 but has so far failed in stopping Iran's threat. Although Iran did stop for a little while between 1992 and 1994, it started its nuclear program once again in 1996. Perhaps it is the Iran's attitude towards the United States (which has been described by many as hostile and unfriendly) that drives Iran to keep defying the laws and uphold its nuclear weapons programs; perhaps it's the Iran dream to rule over the Middle East Asian region. In an age of WMD, transparency is essential. The Europeans took the diplomatic lead on Iran's nuclear program because everything about it was so nebulous. Iran's “civilian” nuclear facilities are defended like strategic military targets, many of them buried thousands of feet underground, beyond the reach of bunker-busters. The program's justifications--energy insecurity and national scientific Pride--were never very convincing; after the discovery of large, clandestine uranium-enrichment facilities, nobody at all believed them. The facilities themselves were arguably permitted under the nuclear-nonproliferation treaty, but building them secretly was not. There could be only one reason Iran would go to such lengths to keep an otherwise-legitimate program secret: It was trying to develop nuclear weapons, and it knew that the facilities would be military targets (Loyola 20).
Led at first by France, Britain, and Germany, the West has maintained unity in its confrontation with Iran. The diplomatic strategy is based on an ordered progression--from referral by the IAEA, to a non-binding letter from the Security Council president, to a sanction-less Chapter VII resolution, to a resolution imposing economic sanctions. This approach has so far proven remarkably successful not only in isolating Iran from the rest of the international community, but also in isolating any support the Iranians may enjoy in the Council. Unfortunately, the strategy also eliminates what little deterrence there may be against Iran's nuclear-weapons development. Several months ago, when asked whether the U.S. or Israel would use preemption if diplomacy failed (the question on everybody's mind), British foreign secretary Jack Straw reacted as if the question had been about space aliens: The use of force was “inconceivable,” he said. And nothing we have said publicly (except the increasingly useless “all options remain on the table”) has contradicted that assertion (Loyola 20).
The events of the past three years in Iran demonstrate the difficulty of implementing the NPT's doctrines and reflect the sluggish and inadequate pace of treaty enforcement in a system reliant on states' self-initiative. They have also shown that there is no consensus on what NPT doctrine should be, leading to divisions that a nation like Iran can exploit. Under the NPT there is no concrete, automatic response to a state's nuclear pursuits, and enforcement is hindered by unrelated political events. As a result of the NPT's lack of action, Iran has been able to disregard calls for a reduction of its nuclear program for several months, as it continues with its nuclear program. These actions underscore the weakness of the NPT in defining and handling non-compliance before a nation begins to make nuclear arms. The NPT's shortcomings are made more apparent as states such as Iran decide to withdraw from the treaty. States are allowed to withdraw from the NPT with no adverse consequences if they feel that “extraordinary events” jeopardize their national security and if they give three months' notice. Iran signed the NPT in 1985 but did not allow safeguards for another five years. Subsequent discrepancies led the IAEA to demand special inspections at the Yongbyon nuclear facility. In response, Iran declared that it would withdraw from the NPT. Eventually, direct negotiations between the United States and Iran led to the Agreed Framework, which stipulated that Iran would halt production of nuclear-weapons-grade material and remain party to the NPT. In return, the United States would supply fuel oil shipments, construct two light-water nuclear power reactors in Iran, and normalize relations (Choe 38).
Today, based on initial steps taken to address a possible Iranian attempt to acquire nuclear capability, the major European powers have an opportunity to show greater unity, without generating tensions with the United States, than they did on the issue of an Iraqi weapons program. The US-led military offensive in Iraq in 2003 created deep rifts among countries in Europe, polarizing Britain from France and Germany, as well as widening the US-European split. The case of Iran may be different. The Iranian reception of the measures taken by the United States and Europe thus far to preclude the possibility of a nuclear Iran suggest that the combination of a more conciliatory front from Britain, France, and Germany, and a more confrontational stance from the United States may be effective in preventing a nuclear Iran without provoking major diplomatic or armed conflict. Furthermore, the “European” approach to Iranian nuclear development may provide Europe with the opportunity to wield influence complementary to that of the more hard-lined US policy, without corroding trans-Atlantic relations (Wang 11).
After the case for war in Iraq instigated confrontation within the United Nations, European countries seem to have joined together in attempting to avoid a repeat of the Iraq showdown between European countries and the United States and Britain. When the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog arm of the United Nations, reported that Iran had been engaging in covert enrichment and reprocessing activities for 18 years, the Bush administration decided that negotiations were too conciliatory. As part of the administration's more hard-line policy, it declared Iran part of the “axis of evil.” The United States pressured IAEA to declare Iran in “violation” of NPT and sought to bring the matter before the UN Security Council, which can authorize economic sanctions and military action. European countries acknowledged Iran's breaches of nuclear treaties but believed that Iran could be pressured to cooperate. They resisted US diplomatic pressure and sought to obtain Iran's compliance through economic incentives (Wang 12).
Some may view the progress so far as a short-term compromise on a long-term conflict and emphasize instead the need for the United States and European powers to devise a long-term strategy for dealing with Iran, before the US-European split deepens even more after Iraq. The powers may need to draw a specific timetable of benchmarks for Iran to meet in order to eliminate its nuclear weapons capability. They must agree on the penalties, from taking Iran to the UN Security Council to economic sanctions to the physical dismantling of facilities, in the event of Iranian violations. But signs are that there is a basis for a comprehensive strategy, allowing for European unity, as the top three European powers conform to a tough new EU policy to stem the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Iran may be the impetus for Europe and the United States to coalesce their respective foreign policy tactics into a multi-faceted policy toward states attempting to acquire nuclear capability (Wang 12).
Thus, we can conclude that Iran is fast becoming a problem for the United States because it has backed out of the NPT and because it is still trying to develop nuclear weapons. This is not just s problem for the Middle Eastern countries, but also a severe problem for the US, as Iran can be the next threat to the United States. It is important for the government of US to realize that force is not the matter to be taken lightly and implemented in areas such as Iran. Iranians are arrogant people and they have a very long history. In one recent media event, the President of Iran was sitting in a press conference, where a British reporter was asking him about why are they not listening to the West. On this, the President of Iran replied that the West was nothing and why should they listen to England or the United States. He is known to quote that both these countries were relatively new to Iran, which has a history that goes in thousands of years, and they are not any newborn nation like the US or the UK. This goes on to show the mentality of the Iranians and why they are not willing to sign the NPT and give up their nuclear program.
Choe, Julia, “Problems of Enforcement: Iran, Iran, and the NPT”, Harvard International Review, 28, (2), 2006
Loyola, Mario, “Before They Go Nuclear ... Iran and the Question of Preemption,” National Review, 58, (15), August 28, 2006
Miller, Steven E. “The Real Crisis: Iran's Nuclear Gambit.” Harvard International Review, 25, (2), 2003
Sahimi, Muhammad, “Forced to Fuel: Iran's Nuclear Energy Program”, Harvard International Review, 26, (4), 2005
Wang, Tina, “Conciliation: A New, Clear Iran Policy?” Harvard International Review, 26, (2), 2004
Merkel resists US pressure over Iran sanctions
Angela Merkel on Wednesday ?signalled she would not bend to US pressure to impose extra sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, setting the stage for a difficult meeting on Thursday with George W. Bush at his Texas ranch.
"The United Nations is the place where sanctions [against Iran] are negotiated," the German chancellor said in an interview with the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. The comments are likely to frustrate Washington, especially as Paris and London have made clear their readiness to consider European Union sanctions.
Mr Bush on Wednesday stressed the need for Germany to be firm on Iran, telling Ntv, a German television station, that he would use the two-day Texas meeting to tell Ms Merkel "we defin?itely need help from Germany on the Iran problem".
Washington has called for the EU to impose new measures of its own against Tehran, following the imposition of unilateral US financial sanctions last month.
However, the EU would almost certainly be unable to impose new sanctions before a December foreign ministers' meeting. Continued doubts among German, Italian and Spanish officials about unilateral European measures against Tehran also mean it might be hard to reach agreement, even at that date.
Many European officials argue that UN measures would be much more effective than EU ones and that Chinese and Russian support for such steps would be jeopardised if the EU went ahead with unilateral sanctions. In addition, the German chancellor is under domestic pressure to lobby Mr Bush against using military force against Iran.
Ms Merkel said she would support "expanded and tougher sanctions" in the UN if Iran was shown - in reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency expected this month - to be continuing with its nuclear activities. "We need the international community to be united on this, including Russia and China," she said.
"I will commit everything to achieving a diplomatic solution. I'm sure the American president will have an open mind when I say this."
Germany is one of Iran's largest business partners, and Karsten Voigt, the ?chancellor's envoy on US-German relations, said "pressure will continue from Washington" for German companies to cut exports and for export credit guarantees to be reduced.
He said Germany's business ties to Iran had already been reduced and further action by Berlin was unlikely. Berlin had evidence of US companies doing undisclosed business with Iran via shadow companies in the Middle East, he said.
Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran's president, on Wednesday ruled out any step to rein in the nuclear programme, in an apparent response to a recent call by Vladimir Putin, Russia's president. In elliptical comments aimed at "bad tempered" countries - understood to be the US and European states - he said: "We don't see any need to be accountable to you."
Mr Ahmadi-Nejad ruled out the possibility, floated by some European diplomats, of maintaining only 3,000 centrifuges - the devices that can enrich uran?ium for either nuclear fuel or weapons-grade material.
At present Iran has in?stalled almost 3,000 centrifuges at a facility in Natanz, but it may take years to make them work smoothly. Once that point is reached, however, Iran could produce enough material for a bomb within a year. Despite western scepticism, Iran insists its programme is peaceful.