The issue of a nuclear Iran is a complex and touchy subject that will no doubt be a huge topic of debate during the upcoming US election cycle. But with both sides arguing frightening scenarios, it can all be a little confusing. To help get a better understanding of it, we have included ten key events from 2002 on during which Iran has been pursuing its nuclear program which began in the 1950s. Keep in mind that Iran has 16 known nuclear facilities and insists that they are for peaceful purposes. Iran is also a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).
2002 – The Russians resume construction of Iran’s first nuclear facility in Bushehr which began under the Shah under contract with German companies and help from the Ford administration in the US.
2003 – The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspects Bushehr, as well as the newly revealed enrichment and heavy water facilities at Natanz and Arak, for any sign of nuclear weapon development and finds no evidence.
2004 – The IAEA rebukes Iran for failing to fully cooperate with their investigations, and Iran agrees to voluntarily and temporarily suspend uranium enrichment (enrichment is not a violation of the NPT).
2005 - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wins presidential election in Iran and Iran resumes uranium enrichment but is found in non-compliance with the Safeguards Agreement by the IAEA.
2006 – Iran announces it has successfully developed enriched uranium to 3.5% (over 20% is considered weapons grade while 90% is used to produce nuclear weapons) despite IAEA protests and in violation of UN resolution 1696. UN Security Council votes for sanctions (UNSC Resolution 1737), pushing Iran to speed up uranium enrichment.
2007 – President Ahmadinejad claims he can produce nuclear fuel on an “industrial scale”. After more UN violations by Iran, U.S. announces toughest sanctions on Iran in 30 years.
2008 – Iran tests several missiles and claims to be able to launch one into space. Russia refuses to impose further sanctions on Iran.
2009 – Germany and several UN Council Members offer Iran the opportunity to enrich their uranium abroad. Iran rejects the proposal as political and announces plans for further facilities.
2010 – Turkey and Brazil offer a plan for enrichment abroad but the US and certain EU countries do not agree with a plan which they say is too limited. A November IAEA report says Iran has 28 centrifuge cascades that are now enriching uranium up to 19.8%.
2011 – Recent IAEA reports suggest that Iran is working on nuclear weaponry. The IAEA found explosive containment facilities and concluded that Iran was attempting to develop nuclear weapon capability.
The complexity of the issue is much more than can be summarized by these ten milestones. However, given the recent escalation in rhetoric regarding the Straits of Hormuz, Iranian naval exercises in the region and the Western response, it is hoped that readers will look more in depth into how we arrived at the state we find ourselves.
.org/>Shelly Mirriam is a science student and also writes for Masters in Environmental Science which helps students find the right environmental science degree.