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Iran Nuclear Issues

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program goes back many decades. In recent years global political change has caused Iran’s program to fall under intense scrutiny and even occasioned charges that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran, however, has maintained that the purpose of its nuclear program is the generation of power; any other use is a violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which Iran is a signatory.

On August 14, 2002, an associate of Mujahedin-e-Khalq (regarded as a terrorist group by the U.S.) and critic of Tehran, Alireza Jafarzadeh, revealed the existence of two secret nuclear sites, a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and a heavy water facility in Arak. In response, the U.S. has since late 2003 claimed that Tehran is seeking to build nuclear arms in violation of its agreements under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and also that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear missiles.

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Iran's Efforts for Its Nuclear Program

On November 14, 2004, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator announced a voluntary and temporary suspension of its uranium enrichment program (not in itself a violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) after pressure from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany acting on behalf of the European Union (known in this context as the EU-3 or EU3). The measure was said at the time to be a confidence-building measure, to continue for some reasonable period of time, six months being mentioned as a reference. On November 24, Iran sought to amend the terms of its agreement with the EU to exclude a handful of the equipment from this deal for research work. This request was dropped four days later.

On August 8 and August 10, 2005, the Iranian government resumed its conversion of uranium at the Isfahan facility, allegedly with continued suspension of enrichment activities. This led to (on September 19, 2005) the European Union pressuring the IAEA to bring Iran’s nuclear program before the United Nations Security Council. In January 2006, James Risen, a New York Times reporter, alleged in his book State of War that in February 2000, a U.S. covert operation - code-named Operation Merlin - to provide Iran with a flawed design for building a nuclear weapon, in order to delay the Iranian nuclear weapons program, had backfired. Instead, the plan may have accelerated Iran’s nuclear program by providing useful information, once the flaws were identified.

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Background

The foundations for Iran’s nuclear program were laid in the 1960s under auspices of the U.S. within the framework of bilateral agreements between the two countries. In 1967 the Tehran Nuclear Research Centre (TNRC) was built and run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). The TNRC was equipped with a US supplied 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor. Iran signed and ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. With the establishment of Iran’s atomic agency and the NPT in place plans were drawn by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahiavi (Iran’s monarch) to construct up to 23 nuclear power stations across the country together with USA by the year 2000.

By 1975, The U.S. Secretary of State Hedry Kissinger, had signed National Security Decision Memorandum 292, titled “U.S - lran Nuclear Cooperation,” which laid out the details of the sale of nuclear energy equipment to Iran projected to bring U.S. corporations more than $6 billion in revenue. At the time, Iran was pumping as much as 6 million barrels (950,000 m3) of oil a day, compared with about 4 million barrels (640,000 m3) daily today.

President Gerald R. Ford even signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and operate a U.S-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The deal was for a complete “nuclear fuel cycle”. The Ford strategy paper said the “introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran’s economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals.”

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