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Old Sunday, December 23, 2007
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Post U.s. Nuclear Policy Toward Iran


U.S. Policy Toward Iran
Iran's Geostrategic Situation
Iran's Nuclear History
Necessities For And Obstacles To Building A Bomb
Iran's Foreign Contracts Since The Shah
Iran's Covert Procurement Network
Iran's Nuclear Capability
Iran According To The IAEA
Implications Of U.S. Policy
A Policy Prescription For The U.S.


The United States perceives Iran's quest for nuclear energy as a threat to
its interests in the Middle East and to the success of the existing
nonproliferation regime. The media is constantly filled with allegations
that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability in the same manner as its
neighbor to the west, Iraq, had before the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Iran's
nuclear weapon ambitions have been suspected by the West, and the United
States in particular, for almost ten years. Throughout this time,
accusations have been prevalent, even though little evidence has been
offered that demonstrates an Iranian ability to manufacture atomic weapons.

Iran has been an enemy of the United States since 1979, when the pro-U.S.
Shah of Iran was deposed by the fundamentalist regime of the Ayatollah
Khomeini. The U.S. hostage situation from 1979 to 1980 and strong suspicions
that Iran supports international terrorism are two principal reasons why the
United States and Iran have had little in the way of diplomatic relations
since 1979. The two countries have instead been distrustful of each other
and have shown an ideological aversion to each others' cultures and
societies. The United States' suspicions that Iran is pursuing a nuclear
weapons program increased following the conclusion of the Gulf War. The Gulf
War uncovered Iraq's considerable progress toward the production of nuclear
weapons. Iraq's progress fueled the fires of America's long-standing
concerns that Iran also is building the bomb, despite its legal standing as
a non-nuclear weapons state under the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT). Furthermore, Iran is known to have chemical weapons, which it
used during its war with Iraq, and has been building a considerable
conventional military since the end of the war in 1988. The United States
government has correctly determined that like Iraq, Iran must be prevented
from developing a nuclear weapons capability. The United States, however,
has chosen a policy to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions that undermines all
aspects of the nonproliferation regime, which in the long-run could be more
harmful than the uncertain possibility that Iran is attempting to develop
nuclear weapons.

This paper will determine whether a basis exists for the United States'
discriminatory export control policy toward Iran. In pursuing this effort,
this paper will also attempt to clarify Iran's nuclear ambitions and
possibly determine Iran's progress in developing nuclear weapons. It must be
remembered that this paper is based only on open-source material. Thus, the
government may have classified information regarding Iran's nuclear progress
that would make this paper's hypotheses incorrect. This paper is
strengthened, however, by the fact that the United States government has
publicly provided little evidence that demonstrates Iran's attempts to build
nuclear weapons.

The first section of this paper describes U.S. policy toward Iran. The
second section analyzes Iran's geostrategic situation, while the third
section provides a brief nuclear history of Iran. The fourth section
theorizes on how Iran might proceed to produce nuclear weapons, including
the obstacles to Iran's alleged ambition. The following three sections
depict and analyze Iran's overt and covert progress in the nuclear field.
The next two sections describe the actions of the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) and the implications of U.S. policy toward Iran. The
final section provides policy prescriptions for the United States regarding
the Iranian situation.


The Clinton administration initiated a policy of "dual containment" with
regards to Iran and Iraq. Unlike past policies, with which the United States
attempted to counter- balance Iran and Iraq against each other, the current
policy is meant to weaken both states simultaneously. For Iran, this policy
is based on the fourteen month hostage crisis, which began on November 4,
1979, in addition to the U.S. State Department's list of states that sponsor
international terrorism, of which Iran has been a member since January 1984.
The United States is also attempting to contain Iran due to: its suspected
efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction; its conventional military
build-up; its enmity with Israel and alleged attempts to derail the Middle
East peace process; and Iran's efforts to subvert U.S. allies in the region.
Additionally, the United States has concluded by certain Iranian statements
that the country is pursuing the atomic bomb. The two greatest examples used
by the U.S. to demonstrate Iran's nuclear ambitions are the statements made
by then-speaker of the parliament Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in October
1988 and deputy president Ataollah Mohajerani in October 1991. Rafsanjani
told a group of Iranian soldiers that "[w]e should fully equip ourselves
both in the offensive and defensive use of chemical, bacteriological, and
radiological weapons. From now on you should make use of the opportunity and
perform this task." Mohajerani stated in reference to Israel that "because
the enemy has nuclear facilities, the Muslim states too should be equipped
with the same capacity."

The United States is strongly opposed to Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon
capability and its containment policy reflects this goal. Fearing that Iran
could develop nuclear weapons based on equipment and knowledge used in
nuclear power-generating programs, the United States' principal goal has
been to prevent Iran from acquiring any and all nuclear equipment,
technologies, and know-how, including those necessary for the peaceful use
of nuclear energy. To accomplish this task, President Clinton has placed by
executive order a complete trade embargo, including nuclear-related
technologies, on Iran. Although this embargo is currently unilateral, the
United States is attempting to transform it into a multilateral arrangement.
To date, European countries have refused to join the United States in
placing embargoes on Iran and many of the states, including Germany and
France, have stated that the U.S. policy is wrong.

Should Iran attempt to conclude a deal with another country for nuclear
technologies, the United States has taken it upon itself to convince or
pressure the other country to cancel the arrangement. Additionally, the new
Republican Congress may pass a bill proposed by Senator Alfonse D'Amato that
will close U.S. markets to any foreign company dealing with Iran. A similar
bill has also been proposed in the House of Representatives. It has been
stated that President Clinton would approve such an act, which would have
negative repercussions on relations with U.S. allies. While applying
pressure has influenced many countries, including the Czech Republic,
Argentina, and India, other countries such as Russia and China have ignored
U.S. pleas.

Domestic export control laws in the United States concerning Iran were
created to prevent nearly all trade with Iran, nuclear or otherwise. In
order to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon capability, the United
States has had to act unilaterally due to non-existent international or
United Nations (U.N.) consensus regarding Iran. U.S. unilateral measures to
contain Iran are based on economic sanctions, bans on Iranian imports,
strict export controls, and the prohibition of foreign aid and credits. With
regard to Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions, export controls are the most
important domestic policy to prevent Iran from acquiring U.S. technology,
material, and components.

Since the 1979 American hostage crisis, the U.S. has maintained an embargo
on the export of weapons and spare parts to Iran, which is based on the U.S.
Munitions Control List and Section 38 of the Arms Export Control Act.
Furthermore, by placing Iran on the State Department's list of states that
sponsor international terrorism, Iran was then restricted from obtaining
U.S. dual-use items under Section 6 of the 1979 Export Administration Act
(EAA). Between 1984 and 1989, U.S. export control laws under the EAA were
strengthened regarding Iran, by instituting the Iran-Iraq Arms
Non-Proliferation Act within the 1993 National Defense Authorization Act,
which completely terminates Iranian (and Iraqi) access to U.S. dual-use
items. Since the law went into effect, the Commerce Department has stated
that it has issued no export licenses to Iran that violate this law.

Statements made by U.S. government officials support legislation denying
Iran access to the U.S. market for all nuclear and dual-use items. These
statements also support the goal of a multilateral trade embargo on Iran.
Secretary of State Warren Chrisopher, the U.S. official leading the
anti-Iran campaign, has referred to Iran in the media as "the terrorist
state of Iran" and the government commonly refers to Iran as an outlaw state
and a rogue state. U.S. officials have also stated that Iran could develop
nuclear weapons within ten to fifteen years. Recent estimates, however,
indicate that Iran could have a nuclear weapon in about five years. A senior
U.S. official anonymously stated in early January 1995:

The date by which Iran will have nuclear weapons is no longer 10 years from
now. If the Iranians maintain this intensive effort to get everything they
need, they could have all their components in two years. Then it will be
just a matter of technology and research. If Iran is not Interrupted in this
program by some foreign power, it will have the device in more or less five

Thus, according to U.S. estimates, Iran could develop a nuclear capability
within a span of five to fifteen years. However, a weakness in the U.S.
position is that Iran is not the only country capable of obtaining nuclear
weapons within fifteen years. Therefore, it seems that Iran is not really an
immediate threat and that the United States should enact a harsher policy
only if evidence is found against Iran.

Despite some Iranian statements to the contrary, Iran has denied American
allegations that it is either developing nuclear weapons or the means to
develop nuclear weapons. On November 18, 1992, Mohammed-Sadegh Ayatollahi,
Iran's representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),
stated that "there are no facilities and no laboratory-scale research and
development activities in Iran for the purpose of uranium enrichment." Also,
on June 30, 1992, Rezza Amrollahi, an Iranian vice-president and director of
the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), stated that accusations of
Iran's nuclear ambitions are false and groundless, and that Iran's nuclear
programs only promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Amrollahi has
also called for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle
East. Iranian denials could be a cover for its clandestine nuclear
activities, or they could also be an effort to internationally state Iran's
innocence in the face of the United States' accusations of guilt.


In order to decide whether to develop nuclear weapons, Iran would have to
first determine the costs and benefits of doing so. The largest drawback is
that a nuclear weapons program would violate Iran's status as a non-nuclear
weapons state under the NPT, which Iran ratified in 1970, and its safeguards
agreement with the IAEA. Iran has been a member of the IAEA since 1958. The
international community, through U.N. resolutions and with strong urging
from the United States, would most likely impose international economic
sanctions on Iran like those currently in place on Iraq. In addition, Iran
would be forced to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, which would have
cost so much to produce. Evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program
would destroy Iran's political and economic relations with other states,
thereby completely isolating Iran in the international system and ruining an
economy already struggling to recover from its long war with Iraq. Iran has
already seen what has happened to Iraq due to the revelation of its nuclear
weapons program, which could be a strong deterrent for Iran. At this point
in time, Iran cannot afford such harsh and stringent punishment.

Nuclear weapons could not be used to enhance Iran's international or
regional prestige because the existence of such weapons would have to remain
completely secret in order to avoid the punishments described above.
Evidence or even strong suspicions based on Iranian actions and statements
could elicit IAEA inspections, which could expose the nuclear weapons
program. Iran would have to publicly deny the existence of a nuclear weapons
program. Withdrawing from the NPT under Article X is also not a feasible
choice because the decision to do so would be viewed as confirmation of
international suspicions regarding Iran's nuclear motives and would most
likely engender a negative international response that would ultimately harm
Iran's economy. Also, a nuclear weapons stockpile would definitely make Iran
a target of the nuclear weapons states' nuclear missiles, which would not be
in Iran's best security interests.

Economic reasons also exist that prohibit Iran from developing a nuclear
weapons program. A nuclear weapons program would be extremely costly,
especially when Iran is trying to rebuild after its eight-year war with
Iraq. Although Iran is an oil-rich nation, world oil prices decreased over
30 percent between 1993 and mid-1994, thereby sharply reducing Iran's oil
revenues. Additionally, since the end of its war with Iraq, Iran has been
rebuilding its basic infrastructure and its military by borrowing large sums
of money. By 1993, Iran's foreign debt totaled $30 billion. Furthermore,
Iran's economic strength is being exhausted by high inflation and
unemployment, and a rapidly growing population. Thus, Iran may not have the
economic capacity to support a clandestine nuclear weapons program in its
current economic crisis. It seems doubtful that Iran could afford the
opportunity cost of spending billions of dollars on weapons that, if
discovered, would only further harm its economy due to international
sanctions and embargoes.

Due to the violent region of the world in which Iran is located, however,
Iranian leaders perceive reasons that support the development of nuclear
weapons. One reason is based on the Iranian belief that it is an important
actor in the international arena. Also, Iran wants to increase its influence
in the Middle East and nuclear weapons might be seen as the means to achieve
this purpose. Furthermore, Iran believes that it has been treated unfairly
and has been the subject of discrimination by the West. For these reasons
Iran might choose to develop nuclear weapons. Despite the fact that
revelation of a nuclear weapons program would result in political and
economic disaster, Iran could initiate a program because of its national

Additionally, security reasons exist to support Iran's development of a
nuclear weapons program. Iran learned from its war with Iraq that it could
only rely on itself for its security and not the international community.
Even though Iraq invaded Iran, the United States and the international
community generally supported Iraq, a country that used chemical weapons
against Iranian cities and civilians. Despite Iraq's defeat in the Gulf War,
it continues to be Iran's greatest potential foe. Should Iraq secretly
rebuild its nuclear weapons program despite the U.N. Resolutions preventing
it from doing so, it would directly threaten Iran. Iran cannot afford to be
caught unprepared and must be capable of deterring potential Iraqi
aggression. However, the Iraqi threat could be reduced, thereby convincing
Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons, if the IAEA prevents Iraq from
rebuilding its nuclear program through the stringent implementation of U.N.
Security Council Resolutions 687 and 715.

Even if the Iraqi threat is reduced by the international community, which,
as already mentioned, Iran cannot trust for its security, other threats to
Iran's interests and security exist. Iran views the increased influence of
the United States in the Middle East following the Gulf War and through the
peace process as a threat to its interests and security. Additionally, Iran
views the United States' good relations with the Gulf States, as well as the
U.S.-brokered peace process between Israel and its neighbors, as detrimental
to its influence in the region. The ability of the United States to project
its power abroad is also viewed as a security threat by Iran.

The final security threats are all nuclear. Iran is surrounded by many
nuclear and potentially nuclear neighbors, including Israel and Iraq to the
west, Russia to the north, and Pakistan, India, and China to the east. At
present, with the exception of Israel and Iraq, Iran maintains economic and
political relations with all of these countries. Should relations
deteriorate with any of these countries in the future, Iran would want the
ability to deter their potential use of nuclear weapons against it. This
feeling of nuclear encirclement could help prompt the decision to go


Iran's quest for nuclear energy began under the Shah, who planned to build
23 nuclear power plants throughout Iran by the mid-1990s. The Shah
established the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) in 1974 and
immediately began to negotiate with the United States, France, and West
Germany for nuclear power reactors. In 1967, Iran purchased from the United
States a five-megawatt research reactor, located at the Amirabad Technical
College in Tehran, which runs on 93 percent highly-enriched uranium. Iran
simultaneously purchased hot cells from the United States, which can be used
in the process to separate plutonium from spent fuel. By 1979, when the
Shah's regime was overthrown, the Shah had concluded contracts for a total
of six nuclear power reactors with Germany, France, and the United States;
the two 1,300-megawatt German light-water power reactors at Bushehr were 65
percent and 75 percent complete and site preparation had begun for the two
935-megawatt French reactors at Darkhovin.

The Shah also prepared for its nuclear energy programs by concluding
agreements with Western countries that would provide low-enriched uranium
fuel for its reactors and train Iranian personnel in the nuclear field. Iran
concluded extendable ten-year fuel agreements with the United States,
Germany, and France. Additionally, Iran bought a ten percent share of an
enrichment facility being constructed in France by the Eurodif consortium,
which included France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy, and loaned $1 billion to
the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) toward the construction of a
gaseous diffusion enrichment facility at Tricastin, France. These
arrangements would have allowed Iran access to Eurodif enrichment technology
and amounts of the highly-enriched uranium (HEU) produced at the Tricastin

Additionally, West Germany, France, the United States, the United Kingdom,
and India all trained thousands of nuclear specialists. Iranian nuclear
personnel were also trained in Italy, Belgium, and Canada. While these
specialists were being trained in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in
order to achieve the Shah's plan for 23 nuclear power reactors, the
knowledge they gained could also have been used for a secret nuclear weapons
program. However, this is true in any country that operates nuclear power
reactors and trains their technicians and specialists abroad.

Not only did the Shah establish an ambitious plan to develop nuclear power,
but the United States believes that Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons
program also began at that time. Research into the development of nuclear
weapons was reportedly based at the Amirabad Nuclear Research Center in
Tehran. At the center, research was supposedly conducted in the areas of
weapon designs, plutonium reprocessing, and uranium enrichment; a weapons
design team was also reportedly established. The Shah's nuclear weapons
effort is believed to have included research into laser enrichment
techniques, although it is not thought to have advanced very far, even
though Iran imported four lasers from the United States in 1978.

Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions during the Shah's reign consisted primarily
of research into what equipment and processes would be necessary to complete
the task. If the nuclear weapons program did exist, it was hidden by the
programs to establish nuclear energy in Iran. The training of personnel
could have been for both projects: the overt energy programs and the covert
weapons programs.

Once the Shah's pro-Western regime fell and was replaced by the Ayatollah
Khomeini's fundamentalist regime, all of the Shah's agreements with the West
collapsed, including the training of personnel, the supply of low-enriched
uranium fuel, the Eurodif agreement, and the construction of nuclear power
reactors. Additionally, the Ayatollah cancelled the Shah's previous plans
and efforts in the nuclear field, except for nuclear research, which
continued. However, Iran's nuclear energy ambitions were reborn in 1984,
when Iran decided to continue construction of the Bushehr plants and
established a nuclear research facility at Esfahan. From this time forth,
Iran has tried to overtly obtain nuclear technologies including research
reactors, fuel, and training for its nuclear specialists from abroad. It is
also believed that Iran's drive for nuclear weapons was reborn in 1985, that
funding was allocated to the program in 1987, and that Iran's current
President, Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, was instrumental in its rebirth and
is currently in charge of the program. Thus, covert Iranian nuclear
procurement efforts may have also begun at this time, mirroring its efforts
to obtain nuclear know-how and technology for its nuclear energy programs.


It must be remembered that for Iran to secretly develop a nuclear weapons
program, it will have to surpass several technical obstacles that exist
because of its membership in the nonproliferation regime. U.S. suspicions
would already slow Iran's hypothetical nuclear weapons program because the
U.S. is attempting to stop Iran's overt purchases of nuclear material and is
trying to expose covert purchases of nuclear material. Iran would have to
rely on both overt and covert methods to obtain nuclear materials because
its nuclear, scientific, and industrial infrastructure are incapable of
indigenously producing all of the necessary items needed to assemble a
nuclear device. Thus, Iran will have to rely on foreign countries to provide
components and material through public contracts, while at the same time
attempting to obtain the needed materials through covert means.

Since the 1960's, Iran has been attempting to acquire from abroad nuclear
components necessary for the production of nuclear energy. Unlike the Shah,
Khomeini and his successor Rafsanjani have had problems obtaining the
contracts necessary to construct the reactors and facilities needed for the
production of nuclear energy. Once foreign countries such as Russia and
China assist Iran in constructing nuclear reactors, it is possible that Iran
could turn and use them for a nuclear weapons program. However, Iran would
have to disregard its obligations to the NPT, circumvent IAEA safeguards,
and deceive IAEA inspectors in order to divert the fissile materials and
spent fuel to a weapons program. Diverting the fissile materials would not
be easy. The IAEA will be watchful that no other countries develop nuclear
weapons programs as Iraq, and possibly North Korea, have. It would not be in
the best interest of the IAEA to appear incompetent in accomplishing its
mandate by failing to detect yet another nuclear proliferant.

In order for Iran to obtain uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing
technology, as well as other dual-use items necessary for developing nuclear
weapons, Iran would have to steal or covertly purchase it. Also, Iran would
need weapons-grade uranium or plutonium for its nuclear weapons, which would
be extremely difficult to acquire due to the highly-sensitive nature of the
materials. Iran could choose to try to obtain low-enriched uranium under the
guise of its nascent nuclear energy program. All that would then be
necessary is for Iran toan enrichment
facility for use in the weapons program. Iran would have to circumvent IAEA
safeguards and inspections in order to divert the fissile materials and to
establish enrichment or reprocessing facilities. Although unconfirmed
reports indicate that Iran is attempting to establish uranium enrichment
facilities at Karaj and Moallem Kalayeh, other media reports and U.S.
statements indicate that Iran does not have enrichment or reprocessing
facilities at this time. In order to obtain weapons-grade material and other
dual-use items necessary to construct enrichment facilities and build the
bomb, Iran would have to bypass the national export controls of the
unwitting supplier country, as well as the international export regimes such
as the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Zannger Committee, should the
supplier country be a member of one or both of these regimes. Thus, Iran
would have to surmount many international obstacles should it desire nuclear


As discussed previously, Iran would have to purchase technology, material,
components, and fissile materials from abroad in order to successfully
construct its nuclear power reactors and other facilities necessary for the
peaceful use of nuclear energy. Once the Khomeini and then Rafsanjani
regimes reinitiated Iran's nuclear energy programs, they immediately began
negotiating with numerous countries for assistance. The United States has
viewed these negotiations as an Iranian attempt to covertly supply needed
know-how and technologies to its clandestine nuclear weapons program.
Therefore, the United States has applied pressure on the supplier countries
not to fulfill their contracts with Iran. The United States, however, has
not always been successful because not all countries are easily cowed by the
U.S., and others do not believe that Iran is guilty of skirting its
obligations under the NPT. This section describes Iran's most important
contracts, and attempted contracts, for assistance from foreign countries.

Argentina--Nuclear trade relations between Argentina and Iran have been
extensive since May 5, 1987, when the two countries signed agreements
concerning the delivery of highly-enriched uranium. The $5.5 million deal
would provide Iran with a new core for its U.S.-provided five-megawatt
research reactor in Tehran so that the reactor could operate on 20 percent
highly-enriched uranium. The contract also includes the Argentine export of
the 20 percent enriched uranium to Iran. In September 1988, the IAEA
approved the transfer of 115.8 kilograms of uranium, which would fall under
IAEA safeguards, from Argentina to Iran. Reportedly, the deal also provides
Iran with uranium enrichment information and technology, as well as training
Iran's nuclear technicians at the Jose Balseiro Nuclear Institute in
Argentina. No open-source evidence exists that Argentina has provided Iran
with uranium enrichment know-how or technology and the United States has
been unable to persuade Argentina to back out of the uranium contract. In
1992, the IAEA again confirmed that Argentina could supply Iran with reactor

Although the United States was unsuccessful in preventing Argentina from
selling 20 percent enriched uranium to Iran, the United States was
successful in preventing Argentina from fulfilling a contract with Iran in
early 1992. In early 1992, Argentina agreed to sell Iran a fuel fabrication
facility and a uranium dioxide conversion plant, but turned down Iranian
requests for a heavy water production facility. By the end of 1992, under
heavy pressure from the United States, Argentina agreed to back out of the
deal, despite Iranian protests that the equipment would be covered by IAEA
safeguards. In February 1992, the United States had convinced Argentina to
halt a shipment to Iran that included reactor tubing and machine tools.
Additionally, Iran has received hot cells from Argentina, as it had from the
United States in the 1960s.

Belgium--In 1991, Ion Beam Applications (IBA) received an export permit from
the Belgian government for a cyclotron that had been purchased by Iran for
its Karaj medical complex. According to IBA director Yves Jongen, the
cyclotron can only be used for medical purposes. Although the cyclotron was
delivered and installed at Karaj, there is no evidence that it is

The Czech Republic--Iran and the Czech Republic were discussing the possible
purchase of nuclear equipment in 1993, until the United States pressured the
Czech Republic to promise not to sell nuclear technology to Iran. Officials
from the Czech company Skoda Plzen admitted that their director had visited
Tehran in November 1993 to discuss "supplies of parts for a nuclear power
plant." Skoda Plzen is experienced in constructing nuclear power plants. A
Czech delegation first visited Iran in 1992, which sparked initial U.S.
concerns that there could be a deal in the future. Again, the United States
successfully pressured a country not to sell Iran equipment to develop its
nuclear power plants.

France--As already discussed, the Eurodif contract collapsed when the
Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979. During the 1980s, Iran contended
that the contract was still valid and asked France to supply it with
enriched nuclear fuel, which France refused to do. The issue remained in
dispute until December 1991, when France and Iran reached an agreement
concerning the Eurodif issue. In addition, reports of a secret protocol that
was part of the Eurodif settlement between Iran and France surfaced. These
reports indicated that France agreed to supply Iran with enriched uranium
for its nuclear "projects," which most likely means its research reactors
and nuclear power reactors, once they are completed and operational. In
November 1991, the United States asked France to cooperate in a high-
technology embargo on Iran. French officials negatively stated, "This is not
a question of export control policy. This is politics, full stop. America
does not like the current Iranian regime, and they want us to buy on to
their hatred of the moment. No way." To date, the United States has
continued to try to convince France to embargo Iran, however, this has
failed because France would like to increase its volume of trade with Iran.

Germany--German construction of the Bushehr reactors came to a halt when the
Shah was overthrown in 1979. When Iran decided to reinitiate construction of
the Bushehr reactors in 1984 and turned to West Germany to complete the
project, West Germany refused to do so until Iran's war with Iraq came to an
end. At present, Germany continues to refuse to assist Iran in completing
the reactors by labeling Iran a "region of tension," which has forced Iran
to turn to other countries, most notably Russia.

Germany has denied reports that Iran illegally obtained sensitive materials
from German companies. Iran has reportedly attempted to purchase dual-use
components from German and Swiss companies that could be used for building
laboratory-scale gas centrifuges, including balancing machines, diagnostic
and monitoring equipment, and, from Great Britain, samarium-cobalt magnetic
equipment that could be used in a centrifuge top bearing. However, German
officials have stated that their export controls have prevented sales and
smuggling of German dual-use components to Iran. The German Federal Export
Office (BFA) points to Paragraph 5D of the German Commodity Control
Ordinance as the primary obstacle to Iranian nuclear procurement efforts in
Germany. Paragraph 5D states,

The export of goods and technology for production of (other) goods requires
a license, if the goods are to be used for nuclear construction, operation,
or installation; if the buyer or destination country is Algeria, India,
Iran, Israel, Jordan, Libya, North Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, or Taiwan,
and if the exporter has knowledge of this connection.

Thus, Germany believes that its export controls are stringent enough to
prevent Iran from acquiring German nuclear and dual-use technologies,
whether the end use is peaceful or for weapons.

India--Iran's nuclear negotiations with India in 1991 were of great concern
to the United States. Iran and India were negotiating the sale of a
10-megawatt research reactor for installment at the Iranian facility Moallem
Kalayeh, and the possible sale of a 220-megawatt nuclear power reactor.
India initially suggested the sale of a five-megawatt research reactor, but
Iran insisted on a ten-megawatt reactor, which, according to anonymous
specialists, could produce enough plutonium or weapons-grade uranium for one
nuclear weapon within one year if operated 24 hours a day. Despite the fact
that the research reactor, as well as the 220- megawatt reactor, would have
been covered by IAEA safeguards, the United States placed pressure on India
not to export the research reactor for fear that Iran would use it to
produce weapons-grade fissile materials. Although no reports indicated what
form of pressure the United States applied to India, India initially seemed
to comply with U.S. demands. However, reports indicate that by March 1992,
the deal may have continued as planned despite U.S. pressure.

North Korea--A potential source for Iranian nuclear acquisitions is North
Korea, which is suspected of developing a small number of nuclear weapons.
Iran and North Korea already have extensive relations in developing
ballistic missiles. In fact, North Korea's considerable ballistic missile
development program may have been largely financed by Iran. While there are
no known nuclear ties between Iran and North Korea, it should not be
discounted for the future. Both countries are isolated in the international
system and are also usually considered to be rogue states. The fact that few
countries cooperate with them could push them together as partners in many
areas of industry. If North Korea has developed nuclear weapons, it is
unlikely that it would provide Iran with any of its precious weapons- grade
fissile materials. However, it could provide Iran with nuclear knowledge and
necessary technologies, such as weapons designs, and enrichment and
reprocessing technologies.

Pakistan--Pakistani-Iranian nuclear ties are ambiguous and mostly based on
rumor. It has been reported that after Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the head of
Pakistan's secret uranium enrichment program, visited Iran in 1987, Iran and
Pakistan signed a nuclear cooperation agreement. This agreement is believed
to have included the training of Iranian nuclear technicians and
specialists. However, in November 1988, an official of the Pakistan's
Foreign Office denied that Iranian nuclear engineers were being trained in
Pakistani nuclear facilities.

The West has been highly concerned that Iran may have received uranium
enrichment technologies from Pakistan, despite Iranian statements, such as
those made by Mohammed- Sadegh Ayatollahi, that deny such activities as
uranium enrichment in Iran. Pakistan has also stated that it would not
export nuclear weapons-related technologies, although German intelligence
believes that Iran may have acquired German gas centrifuge uranium
enrichment technology via Pakistan. There have also been concerns that
Pakistan assisted Iran with the development of plutonium reprocessing
facilities and other nuclear weapons-related equipment. Pakistan has always
denied these rumors, and U.S. experts have tended to believe them. There is
no hard evidence whether Iran has obtained enrichment technology from
Pakistan, although it does not seem to be in Pakistan's best interests that
it provide Iran with such information. Relations between both neighboring
countries could deteriorate in the future, which could prove disastrous for
Pakistan had it indeed helped Iran to develop nucCommission on Iraq (UNSCOM). UNSCOM has been investigating the
covert procurement network that Iraq used to supply its weapons of mass
destruction and missile programs. Iran would have had to recreate its
network to avoid detection by the U.N., which would make its current
smuggling efforts even more difficult to expose.


As this paper has demonstrated, Iran's nuclear program is overtly directed
to establishing a national nuclear energy program. Iran's efforts to obtain
nuclear materials, reactors, and training for its nuclear specialists are to
further its nuclear energy programs. While these efforts could also be used
to fuel a nuclear weapons program, there are only suspicions to base this
on, and no hard evidence. There is no confirmation available that Iran has
established enrichment technologies or reprocessing facilities. It is also
unknown whether Iran has any uranium to enrich; the uranium provided for its
Russian and Chinese reactors will be closely monitored by the IAEA and
Russia and China. There is clearly a large intelligence gap between those
nuclear equipment and facilities Iran is known to have and those it is
suspected of having.

An anonymous U.S. official stated in 1992 that "we have not established that
there are any secret nuclear facilities in Iran," even though many of Iran's
facilities are suspected of contributing to Iran's clandestine nuclear
weapons program. Based on what Iran has purchased openly over the past
several years, it seems highly unlikely that Iran's nuclear infrastructure
has greatly improved. Estimates that Iran will have a bomb within five to
ten years seem unrealistic based on Iran's current nuclear infrastructure.
Iran will be lucky if the VVER-1000 to be constructed within four years by
Russia is completed on time. Even the estimated 5,000 tons of uranium ore
deposits that have been discovered at Saghand, in the Yazd Province will not
be mined for at least another five to seven years, as stated by the IAEA in
1992. A couple of small calutrons and research reactors can hardly be
considered the basis of a nuclear weapons program. Iran just does not have
the infrastructure necessary to develop nuclear weapons in the immediate

In 1992, a State Department official stated, "I don't think the Iranians are
going about it in such a brutish fashion as Saddam Hussein. Their program is
much more subtle and long-term." Three years later, the State Department
describes Iran's nuclear weapons program in the media as being similar to
Hussein's, an all-out crash program to obtain the bomb. Iran's nascent
nuclear infrastructure does not provide a reasonable explanation for this
change. The State Department may have based this estimate on the fact that
Iran has concluded deals with China and Russia for a possible total of six
reactors, which, according to the U.S. government, will be used in Iran's
nuclear weapons program. Despite the fact that there is a lack of evidence
in the media that Iran even has a nuclear weapons program, and that its
nuclear infrastructure is, as stated in a draft version of the 1991 National
Intelligence Estimate, "disorganized" and "in an initial stage of
development," Iran is suddenly considered to be on a fast-track to
developing nuclear weapons, possibly even within five years.


Following two inspections, the first in February 1992 and the second in
November 1993, the IAEA has found Iran to be in good standing with the NPT.
During the seven-day familiarization inspection in 1992, the IAEA visited
six locations, including Bushehr, the Esfahan Nuclear Technology Center, the
Amirabad Nuclear Research Center in Tehran, the Karaj Agricultural and
Medical Research Center, Saghand, and Moallem Kalayeh. The inspection was
initiated following an invitation given to the IAEA by AEOI director Reza
Amrollahi. Of the six facilities, three had never previously been visited by
the IAEA. Following the inspection, IAEA Deputy Director Jon Jennekens
stated, "We visited without any restriction everything we had asked to see.
All nuclear activities in Iran are solely for peaceful purposes." Regarding
accusations that the IAEA had been led to a phoney location and not to the
real Moallem Kalayeh facility, David Kyd, a spokesman for the IAEA, stated,
"None of our member states ever suggested that we were taken to a wrong

Unlike the first invited inspection, the second inspection in November 1993
was a "political mission" based on information provided by the United
States. The United States gathered its information from an Iranian
opposition group based in Baghdad called the People's Mojahedin, which has
issued statements over the past several years that reportedly exposed Iran's
nuclear weapons program and its nuclear facilities. Following the
inspection, the IAEA could not confirm any of the opposition group's claims.
After visiting facilities in Tehran, Esfahan, and Karaj, David Kyd announced
that IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards Bruno Pellaud "found no
evidence which was inconsistent with Iran's declaration that all its nuclear
activities are peaceful."

The United States almost seems to be grasping for straws concerning Iran's
suspected nuclear weapons program by considering information provided by the
People's Mojahedin. The opposition group obviously has its own agenda; the
People's Mojahedin wants to remove the current regime from power in Iran. It
would be in the group's best interest to provide the United States with
biased information in order to influence the U.S. to pressure Iran with
embargoes and sanctions. Considering Iraq is also an enemy of the United
States, it seems strange that the U.S. would listen to the People's
Mojahedin, which is supported by Iraq. By considering information from such
a biased group, the United States could undermine its attempts to convince
European countries, as well as Russia and China, to cease all trade with
Iran. The United States' position lacks credibility because it readily
accepted information from the People's Mojahedin as fact.


At the very least, the U.S. policy will harm relations with Iran further,
thereby increasing the hatred and mistrust that exists between the two
countries. The United States' export control policy toward Iran could
potentially undermine the entire nonproliferation regime. By erecting strict
and extreme export controls and by trying to convince all other countries
not to trade with a country that the IAEA finds in good standing, the United
States risks undermining the NPT, nuclear safeguards and inspections, and
export controls. This is especially so considering the fact that after
analyzing Iran's nuclear infrastructure, there appears to be little basis
for the United States to adopt such an extreme policy at this time.

The U.S. policy undermines Article IV of the NPT, which states that NPT
member countries in good standing are allowed access to nuclear items for
the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Because the IAEA has found Iran to be in
good standing, Iran is legally allowed to build nuclear power reactors.
Within the NPT, sta not based
on nonproliferation but on ideology: the fact that Iran is a terrorist
state; it is an opponent of the Middle East peace process; it is an enemy of
Israel; it exports fundamentalist beliefs in the region; it is an obstacle
to U.S. goals in the region; and that it took U.S. citizens hostage in 1979.
If the United States has classified proof that Iran is cheating, it should
submit the evidence to the IAEA and the international community so likely that the
U.S. would have used the information to establish an international coalition
against Iran had it existed. Since the United States seems to have no
information that it is willing to publicly share, it should remain quiet but
watchful, just in case hard evidence emerges that Iran is attempting to
develop nuclear weapons.


The United States does not have a solid basis for its export control policy
toward Iran that is based on evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
The policy is most likely based on ideological factors, most of which center
on the hatred and mistrust Iran and the United States have felt toward each
other since 1979. Although Iran has several geopolitical and security
reasons to develop nuclear weapons, its nuclear infrastructure to date is
small and disorganized. Estimates that Iran could produce nuclear weapons
within the next five years are unrealistic. At best, Iran could probably
produce nuclear weapons within 10 to 15 years, if it so chooses. This is no
different from numerous other countries throughout the developing world,
should they also choose to pursue that course. Instead of pursuing a policy
that potentially undermines the pillars of the nonproliferation regime, the
United States should strongly enforce its national export control systems,
as well as international export control regimes. No country wants Iran or
any other country to develop nuclear weapons, but at the same time the
nonproliferation regime itself should not be perverted to achieve that goal.
If even a small percentage of the suspicions concerning Iran's nuclear
ambitions are true, Iran warrants close supervision. Iran should also be
monitored due to its support for terrorism and its opposition to the
Arab-Israeli peace process. However, this should be done using the existing
legal tools provided by the nonproliferation regime and not by methods that
undermine or supersede it.
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