Iran: Nuclear Programme   

Iran: Nuclear Programme

Searching more than 75 years of world history

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Officials in Iran announced on Feb. 4, 2007, that the Iranian government would not suspend its uranium enrichment activities, escalating further the protracted international dispute which had developed over the country’s controversial nuclear programme.  Many Western analysts described the Iranian announcement as a "defiant" rejection of UN Security Council Resolution 1737 (2006), which had imposed sanctions on Iran for its failure to abide by an earlier resolution calling on the country to halt its uranium enrichment activities.

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Immediate context

The protracted international dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme was controversial because several Western governments--most notably that of the USA--alleged that Iran was secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, whereas Iran claimed that it was intended for peaceful purposes only.  In February 2006, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted to report Iran to the Security Council, prompting a Security Council presidential statement in March calling on Iran to cease parts of its nuclear programme.  Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei. said in June that negotiations with the USA "would have no benefit" for Iran and urged the US government to recognise Iran’s "nuclear rights". The Security Council on July 31 called--through Resolution 1969 (2006) --for uranium enrichment work, the results of which could be used to make fuel for nuclear power plants or material for a nuclear bomb, to cease by Aug. 31 and threatened to impose sanctions on Iran.  The failure by Iran to cease its uranium enrichment activities prompted France, Germany, and the UK to present in October a draft sanctions resolution to China, Russia, and the USA, but it was rejected by Russia, which had helped Iran to build a nuclear power plant in Bushehr, a port city in southern Iran.  The Security Council finally approved Resolution 1737 in December 2006, banning the import and export of materials and technology used in uranium enrichment, reprocessing, and ballistic missiles, and freezing the assets of key individuals and companies related to the uranium enrichment programme.

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Reaction and outlook

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said that Resolution 1737 had "serious legal and executive problems" and reiterated that Iran would "not implement it".  Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said that Iran would not "stop installing and launching centrifuges", in an apparent reference to the country’s stated plans to further increase capacity at its Natanz uranium enrichment facility.  Resolution 1737 had demanded that Iran halt its uranium enrichment activities within 60 days, although it was unclear what action the Security Council would take in the event of Iran’s refusal to comply.  Some observers believed that the USA and its allies, including Israel, had already drawn up plans to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, similar to the surprise air attack on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

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Historical context

Iran, which was formerly known as Persia, declared itself neutral after the outbreak in Europe of World War II in 1939, but signed a treaty of alliance with the Soviet Union and the UK in January 1942, before declaring war against Germany in September 1943.  Iran’s relations with the West soured in March 1951 when its legislature voted to nationalise the country's oil assets, which resulted in a lengthy dispute with the UK over the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the majority of which was UK owned.  Mohammad Mossadeq, a leading advocate of the nationalisation plan who had been elected as Iran’s prime minister in April 1951 on the advice of the country’s monarch, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, was removed from power in August 1953.  The Shah, who had ruled Iran since September 1941 when his father Shah Reza Pahlevi Khan had abdicated "on account of failing health", was himself overthrown in 1979 by forces loyal to Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, heralding a renewed period of diplomatic tension with the West.  Under the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran introduced aspects of Islamic law and openly criticised the policies of the US government and Western culture.  Successive US governments frequently claimed that Iran was associated with international terrorism, and George W Bush, the current US president, said during his State of the Union address in January 2002 that Iran was part of an "axis of evil". Donald Rumsfeld, the former US Defence Secretary, in February 2002 accused Iran of assisting Talibaan and al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan, where US-led forces had been engaged in military action following the terrorist attacks in the USA on Sept. 11, 2001 .

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Timeline links

  • November 2006 The UN Security Council begins formal discussions on a draft resolution mandating sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment programme.   

  • October 2006 Iranian officials propose that France create a consortium to enrich uranium in Iran, saying that such a move could satisfy international demands for outside supervision of Iran's nuclear programme.   

  • August 2006 President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad rejects UN Security Council Resolution 1696 ordering Iran to halt all uranium enrichment activities and threatening sanctions if it fails to do so.   

  • July 2006 The Iranian authorities postpone a key meeting with the EU over Iran’s nuclear programme.    

  • June 2006 Ayatollah Khamenei says that negotiations with the USA "would have no benefit" for Iran and reiterates that Iran has the right to explore nuclear technology.  

  • March 2006 The UN Security Council approves a presidential statement calling on Iran to cease parts of its nuclear programme.    

  • February 2006 The IAEA votes to report Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear activities.   

  • January 2006 Iran announces that it has decided to resume "research and development" on its "peaceful nuclear energy programme".    

  • March 2005 The IAEA says that Iran has severely restricted access by monitors to its Parchin military complex in late 2004 and has refused a new request to revisit the facility.   

  • January 2005. US journalist alleges that US special forces have conducted secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to identify potential nuclear, chemical, and missile targets.   

  • November 2004 The government agrees to a full suspension of its uranium enrichment programme.    

  • September 2004 The IAEA approves a resolution demanding that Iran suspend all activities relating to the enrichment of uranium.    

  • March 2004 The IAEA issues a resolution deploring the omission of key information from Iran's declaration in October 2003 of its nuclear programme, but also praises Iran for increasing the level of co-operation with the IAEA.    

  • November 2003 An IAEA report concludes that Iran has concealed information and failed to meet its nuclear commitments, but insists that there is no evidence that the country has been trying to develop nuclear weapons.    

  • October 2003 Iran announces that it has agreed to allow unfettered inspection of its nuclear facilities and the suspension of its uranium enrichment programme.    

  • May 2003 It is reported that the US Defence Department (the Pentagon) has proposed a policy of "regime change" in Iran.    

  • February 2003 President Seyyed Mohammed Khatami announces that Iran has discovered and extracted uranium for the production of nuclear energy for peaceful use only; the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation says that Iran will allow IAEA experts greater access to its nuclear sites.    

  • May 2002 Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issues a fierce denunciation of US foreign policy.    

  • February 2002 US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accuses Iran of helping Talibaan and al-Qaida fighters to flee Afghanistan.    

  • January 2002 US President George W Bush says that the USA will act against an "axis of evil" formed by Iran, Iraq, and North Korea and accuses the three countries of developing weapons of mass destruction.    

  • March 2001 US President George W. Bush renews US trade and investment sanctions against Iran.    

  • April 1995 It emerges that China has opened negotiations to build two 300-MW pressurised water reactors in Iran, which are consistent with "peaceful nuclear co-operation".   

  • July 1993 The sale by China of a 300-MW nuclear power station, to be built under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is confirmed by the government.    

  • March 1993 The USA claims that Iran is supporting Muslim militant activity in Egypt and Sudan and is developing a significant nuclear and chemical weapons capability.    

  • March 1992 Publication of allegations that Iran has obtained two nuclear warheads and a medium-range delivery system from the newly independent state of Kazakhstan.    

  • February 1992 The IAEA visits six Iranian nuclear power installations but fails to uncover any evidence to support allegations that Iran had embarked on a covert nuclear weapons programme.    

  • November 1991 The IAEA says that it would not be concerned by any sale by India of a nuclear reactor to Iran.    

  • July 1991 President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani says that Iran is determined to complete the construction of its nuclear reactor at Bushehr, which was damaged during the war with Iraq.    

  • October 1990 Iran and Iraq announce a resumption of diplomatic relations.    

  • August 1990 Iran announces that that Iraq has accepted Iran's terms for a comprehensive peace plan based on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 598.    

  • November 1986 US President Ronald Regan admits his administration has operated a secret policy of selling arms to Iran (the Iran-Contra affair).    

  • January 1981 Iran and the USA reach agreement to resolve the hostage crisis; the US hostages are released.    

  • September 1980 Iran-Iraq war breaks out.    

  • April 1980 The USA launches--and then aborts--an airborne commando operation to rescue the 53 US hostages being held in Tehran.    

  • January 1980 Abolhassan Bani-Sadr is elected as the first President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.    

  • November 1979 Militant Iranian "students" occupy the US embassy in Tehran taking its staff as hostages.    

  • August 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini calls on the Islamic world to "rise against the great powers".    

  • April 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini proclaims the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.    

  • February 1979 The Iranian government led by Dr Bakhtiar falls following heavy fighting in Tehran between troops loyal to the government and supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini, who assumes power.    

  • February 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran from exile in France.    

  • January 1979 The Shah is forced into exile; Ayatollah Khomeini announces the formation of a provisional "Revolutionary Islamic Council" to replace the ""illegal government" of the Shah.   

  • September 1978 Violent demonstrations by supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini prompt the government to declare martial law.    

  • December 1977 US President Jimmy Carter visits the Shah in Tehran after saying that the USA supports a "strong Iran".    

  • October 1977 Students call for the return to Iran of the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, who was living in exile in Iraq.    

  • January 1975 Iran agrees to help finance the Eurodif project in return for the European nuclear consortium supplying Iran with 10 per cent of its output of enriched uranium.    

  • January 1974 The trial of 12 persons accused of plotting to kill or kidnap the Shah opens in Tehran.    

  • October 1971 The 2,500th anniversary of the foundation of the Persian empire is celebrated throughout Iran.    

  • October 1967 The coronation of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi takes place in Teheran, some 26 years after he rose to power in 1941.    

  • January 1963 The Shah’s "white revolution" of social and economic reforms is approved in a national referendum.    

  • June 1958 Iran opens the Teheran Nuclear Centre.    

  • July 1957 The International Atomic Energy Agency is formed.   

  • August 1955 The first international conference on the peaceful uses of atomic energy is held in Geneva.    

  • December 1953 US President Eisenhower calls for the establishment of an international atomic energy agency, under the aegis of the UN.    

  • March 1951 The day after the assassination of Iranian Premier Ali Razmara, who was sympathetic to the West, the Iranian parliament nationalises the country's oil assets.   

  • October 1949 The government issues instructions to all of its overseas diplomatic missions to use the name "Persia" or "Perse" instead of "Iran".    

  • May 1946 The Atomic Scientists' Association submits a paper to the UN Atomic Energy Commission advocating the international control of the production of atomic energy.   

  • September 1943 Iran declares war against Nazi Germany.   

  • January 1942 Iran signs a treaty of alliance with the Soviet Union and the UK.    

  • September 1941 Iran recalls its ambassadors in Germany, Italy, and Romania, aligning itself with the Allied powers.    

  • September 1941 Shah Reza Pahlevi Khan abdicates "on account of failing health" and is replaced by his 21-year-old son the Crown Prince Mohammed Reza Khan.   

  • September 1939 Iran declares its neutrality upon the outbreak of World War II.    

  • March 1935 Persia is renamed Iran. 

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۱۳۸٦/۱/٢ - سيد کريم