The crisis can be traced back to 2002 when Iran began work on its first nuclear reactor at Bushehr. Iran stated at the time, and has maintained vigorously ever since, that its nuclear ambitions are purely civilian and that it has no desire to build a nuclear weapon. Under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Iran is entitled to a civilian nuclear programme; problems have arisen over the issue of uranium enrichment. Iran claims the right to enrich uranium as fuel for its nuclear programme, but the enrichment process is also closely associated with the construction of nuclear weapons. The IAEA have inspected Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to ensure compliance with international agreements, but has not always found the Iranian authorities cooperative.
In late 2006, after a period of prolonged wrangling, the Security Council passed a resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment activity. The sanctions banned all forms of nuclear trade with Iran, and also froze some Iranian assets. They were not as wide ranging as the US and Europe originally wanted due to the opposition of China and Russia, and further sanctions imposed in 2007 were again limited.In late 2007 Iran announced that it had installed 3000 centrifuges, necessary for uranium enrichment, but a US intelligence assessment suggested that Iran had not restarted a nuclear weapons programme. In 2008 the International Atomic Energy Agency said that there was no evidence that Iran had diverted material into a nuclear weapons programme, but also identified areas where the Iranian regime had failed to comply with inspection requirements. In March 2008
the Security Council agreed Resolution 1803, which extended the existing sanctions package on Iran.
It was hoped that the election of President Obama might lead to an improvement in relations between Iran and the West, but in late 2009 the crisis escalated once more. The Iranian regime announced the existence of a second uranium enrichment facility at Qom, in clear defiance of Security Council resolutions. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, said the Iranians were clearly “the wrong side of the law,” and the IAEA went on to condemn Iran’s actions by a 25 to 3 margin, with 6 abstentions; China and Russia joined in the condemnation of Iran, and only Malaysia, Venezuela and Cuba supported the Iranian regime. Far from showing any sign of compromise, the Iranians then announced their intention to build a further ten enrichment facilities and tested its medium range Sajji 2 missile, capable of hitting Israel and US bases in the Gulf.
In 2010 the new head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, adopted noticeably tougher language than his predecessor in talking about Iran’s nuclear programme. Amano said "The information available to the agency... is extensive... and broadly consistent and credible in terms of the technical detail... [and] raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. Iran needs to co-operate in clarifying outstanding issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions."
It appears that Iran is in clear breach of several United Nations rules and regulations, although the road to a resolution to the situation is not an easy one.
Many in the West do not believe that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are purely peaceful. The U.S. government has accused Iran of “across the board pursuit of weapons of mass destruction”. There is clearly evidence that Iran has not always complied with IAEA inspections and concerns were heightened when Iran admitted receiving a black market document about how to construct a nuclear device from a Pakistani scientist. The pronouncements of the Iranian President have done little to reduce tensions. Ahmadinejad has been outspoken in his criticism of Israel, denying the Holocaust, calling for the state of Israel to be relocated in Central Europe and demanding that Israel be “wiped off the map”.
If Iran is continuing to do whatever they wish with regards to the enrichment of Uranium, and current efforts by the UN and IAEA are not working, then a new approach is required.
In June 2010 the Security Council approved Resolution 1929, which imposed fresh sanctions on Iran. Sales of heavy weapons to Iran, such as attack helicopters and missiles, have been banned. In addition rules governing transactions with Iranian banks were tightened, and travel restrictions and asset freezes extended. Critically, however, there were no sanctions imposed on Iran’s important oil and gas trade, partly due to compromises forced by the objections of China and Russia.
Too many sanctions can be greatly detrimental to the people living within Iran. Myanmar is a good example of a country in which sanctions have directly effected the livelihood of innocent citizens, whereas the wealthy rulers of the country (at whom the sanctions were aimed) did not suffer in the slightest.
Many nations want nothing to do with the situation in the gulf, believing that it is the Iranian people's mandate to sort out the Iranian problem. They question what they see as interference from the United Nations and other powerful western countries.
Politically, this also leaves many western powers stuck in the mire. Following the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, support for overseas action in the United States and United Kingdom is at an all time low, and France was reluctant to commit ground troops in the recent fighting in Libya due to similar concerns.
The rapid and often excessive spread or increase. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty aims to stop any nation from building more Nuclear Weapons to stop the spread of the devices and the capabilities. The NPT does not call for states to disarm their nuclear weapons.
A state that is in position of nuclear weapons. The only states admitting to the possession of such weapons are the P5 (the five permanent members of the security council who are United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and the People's Republic of China) and the “De-Facto” Nuclear Powers (sometimes called the D3; India, Pakistan and Israel). Israel is often considered as being in possession of nuclear capabilities, but has always categorically denied this fact. Iraq was cited as a potential nuclear threat before the Second Gulf War, but no WMDs have been discovered to date.
Not to be confused with a Nuclear Power, Nuclear Energy is the energy created by Nuclear Fission in Nuclear Power Plants. It is a renewable source of energy and is environmentally safe (as long as the nuclear waste is treated properly, which it often is not). Nuclear Energy is the one entirely useful by-product of the research into Nuclear Weapons.
This is the theory that no state will ever use a nuclear weapon against another state because the aggressor knows that if they were to use nuclear weapons to cause widespread destruction, the same destruction could be turned upon them almost immediately. It is for this reason that the current nuclear powers will not disarm “unless everyone else does so first”. Disarming now would leave a state at the mercy of another nuclear power as the state would have no way to guarantee its own retaliation if it were to be attacked.
The aftermath of nuclear war. If two nuclear powers were to go to war the devastation to the world would be incalculable. The destruction wrought by one single nuclear bomb is severe, but the radiation has many other long term effects.
The nth Country ExperimentEdit
This experiment took university graduates that had degrees in science but no experience with nuclear technology. These scientists were able to build a nuclear device within three years using freely available texts on nuclear energy. The experiment shows that any person or any nation has the potential for nuclear armament, and that this can be done on a relatively small scale in absolute secrecy.