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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
October 21, 2009 - Potential Nuclear Agreement With Iran
TA potential agreement has been reached between Iran and the West. While it seems like a victory for Iran, there is one very positive element in the agreement. The agreement calls for Teheran to turn over 75% of the enriched uranium that is has to Russia, who will further enrich it, before turning it over to France who will turn the enriched uranium into fuel rods for Iran’s experimental reactor. The problem with the agreement is it does not stop Iran from further enriching uranium, nor does it apply to Iran’s heavy water plant that can also enrich uranium or any other undisclosed plants. The major advantage of the agreement, it delays Iran’s ability to develop a bomb in one year. One year is a significant amount of time, and it should allow Israel to delay a decision to attack. On the other hand, anything that can delay the very fateful Israeli decision on whether to attack is probably a good thing. Of course the year must not be wasted. Further development of Israel’s defensive abilities must be pursued, while on the other hand, there should be a continued effort to build elusive peace agreement.
One of the mostly overlooked recommendations of the Winograd Commission that investigated the Second Lebanon War was a recommendation that Israel work to change the laws of war. Three years have passed and Prime Minister Netanyahu has finally instructed the government to try to start the process to make the changes. According to Winograd and other critics, the current rules make it very difficult for a nation to defend itself against a non conventional threat. The problem in international law, which is tied to the theories of Just Wars, is in both the start and prosecution of war. In terms of the start of the war, there tend to be two problems: first you cannot start of war to prevent one, but you are allowed to preempt an imminent war, or respond to an attack, but all of that related to an attack from another country. It does not relate to an attack by a nongovernmental group like Hezbollah or even Hamas, even when they have defacto control of territory.
The second problem is how one acts during the war. The international law is vague on civilian deaths and describes them as so called 'collateral damage'. They are supposed to be minimized. However, that law is not very helpful when fighting an enemy whose whole strategy is to hide within the civilian population.
Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program
Developing or procuring nuclear weapons is a key pillar of the Iranian regime’s survival strategy. The Khomeini regime initially declared it would not pursue nuclear energy, and it abandoned elements of the existing nuclear program such as the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which was already under construction by German firms at the time of the Shah.
However, the mullahs soon realized that a young and vibrant Iranian society and a burgeoning democratic opposition represented serious challenges to their backward rule. Unable to lead Iran and manage a population that was newly freed from monarchist oppression, the mullahs adopted a new strategy that ultimately led them to pursue nuclear weapons technology as an insurance policy against their eventual downfall.
First, though, they instigated war and strife in neighboring countries on the pretense of exporting the revolution. This was accompanied by severe repression at home, under the banner of religious authorities. The pursuit of nuclear weapons capability formed the last of three pillars that the regime’s key officials deemed necessary to maintain their grip on power.
Nuclear weapons would also support the regime’s pursuit of regional hegemony and its intention to blackmail foreign interlocutors, secure economic and political concessions, and force international acceptance of the mullahs’ rule.
Of course, The regime has publicly insisted that its nuclear activities are peaceful and intended mainly for energy purposes. But these claims are belied by Iran’s vast oil and gas reserves, which provide a very inexpensive energy source that some experts believe could last for the next 300 years. By any assessment, nuclear energy is not cost-efficient in Iran, and the regime would need some further incentive to pursue associated technologies.
Furthermore, if the regime’s intentions were as innocent as officials have claimed, the regime would not have actively concealed the details of their nuclear program for nearly two decades. The first significant challenge to that concealment came from the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in August 2002, when intelligence reports from the group revealed the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment site and the Arak heavy water facility. Subsequent revelations unveiled the extent to which the regime’s clandestine nuclear weapons work had advanced, and this triggered inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
That in turn prompted further action by the United Nations Security Council, without which the Iranian regime would have surely obtained a nuclear weapon by now, and the fate of the Middle East would have been forever altered. The Iranian Resistance is proud of having contributed to this outcome, and it remains committed to the historic task of preventing an aggressive, virulently sectarian and repression theocracy from developing weapons of mass destruction and using them to threaten its own people, the surrounding region, and the world.
The role of Iranian resistance in revealing the regime’s nuclear program
The Iranian regime started its drive to nuclear weapons in 1983. From the outset, it was evident to the Resistance that the mullahs would pursue this goal at astronomical cost and to the detriment of the Iranian people. The campaign to expose the nuclear weapons program required considerable resources and entailed a great deal of risk as Resistance operatives obtained, verified, and disseminated information.
The MEK relied on a vast network of sources in the Iranian regime’s civilian and military institutions, as activists scrutinized the nuclear program and its various elements from 1991 onward. Over three decades, the MEK has made more than one hundred revelations of secret sites, projects, procurements, and key figures involved in the regime’s nuclear program, often in the face of incredulity and annoyance by the world powers seeking accommodation with the regime. However, that incredulity has generally vanished as evidence emerged to corroborate the Resistance’s warnings.
Those warnings concern various aspects of the nuclear project, including enrichment, bomb components, and missile delivery systems. The MEK’s information leads to no other conclusion than that The regime has worked systematically on various stages of weaponization, with the goal of obtaining both a nuclear warhead and the means of delivering it to distant foreign adversaries.
The mullahs have invariably responded to these revelations by targeting both the Iranian people and the international community with false narratives backed up by stage-managed demonstrations, destruction of evidence and so on. At several critical junctures, the regime tried to further deceive the international community and the IAEA by altering the focus of its work but continuing the nuclear weapons project in a different form. But the Iranian Resistance has repeatedly interfered with those plans by obtaining details of the new strategy and exposing the regime’s latest plots.
International attention to those findings has been inconsistent, but various experts on Iranian affairs and intelligence gathering have highlighted the value of the Resistance as a source of information about developments that may be occurring outside of public view from the West.
Frank Pabian, a senior adviser on nuclear nonproliferation at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, was quoted in a 2010 New York Times article as saying of the PMOI, “They’re right 90 percent of the time.” And in an earlier interview with the same publication, a senior UN official declared, “This organization has been extremely on the mark in the past. They are a group that seems to be privy to very solid and insider information.”
Furthermore, then-US President George W. Bush cited the Resistance in a 2005 press conference and emphasized their disclosures had had a significant impact on the political will of the Western world where Iran’s nuclear ambitions are concerned. Those ambitions had been exposed, he said, “not because of their compliance with the IAEA or NPT, but because a dissident group pointed it out to the world … And as a result of those suspicions, we came together with friends and allies to seek a guarantee that they wouldn’t use any nuclear program to make weapons.”
Key Dates and Select Resistance Disclosures
- June 1991: During a trip to Washington, DC, Mohammad Mohaddessin, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, exposed that Iran had begun working on a nuclear weapon. He revealed that the regime’s preliminary nuclear facility is located in Mo’alm Kalaye (northern Qazvin, 120 kilometers northwest of The regime). The top-secret project was code-named “Great Plan” (also known as the “Alamout Plan”) and its initial budget was $200 million. According to the Resistance information, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) relocated the local inhabitants to clear the area for construction of this site. The Iranian Resistance made several other revelations in 1992 and exposed other plans by the regime.• October 1992: The Iranian Resistance revealed that the regime had bought three nuclear weapons from Kazakhstan. According to the information obtained from inside the Iranian regime the warheads were paid for but had not been delivered yet. The Kazak Ambassador to Washington (who was in charge of its nuclear program in 1992) confirmed in an interview on November 2, 1996 that the regime had attempted to buy nuclear weapons but the shipment was stopped prior to the delivery.
- August 14, 2002: In a press conference in Washington, the NCRI revealed the existence of two secret sites (uranium enrichment site in Natanz and plutonium-producing heavy water facility in Arak) and details of the regime’s nuclear activities, which had remained secret for 17 years. Information on the Natanz site included the existence of two 25,000 square meters of underground halls. Eventually, international pressure forced the Iranian regime to show the two sites to the IAEA, and the big secret of the mullahs’ nuclear program was exposed. The revelation was a game changer in the Iranian regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
- February 20, 2003: The NCRI exposed the Kala-Electric site in Abali, The regime Province. This site was functioning under the guise of a clock manufacturing company and was used for secret testing of assembled centrifuges. The regime changed the building’s entire appearance to hide its true nature. After months of pushing, when IAEA gained access to the site, particles of highly-enriched uranium were also found at the site, prompting many questions about the nature of the mullahs’ nuclear program.
- May 27, 2003: The NCRI exposed the Iranian regime’s research on using Laser for a weaponization aspect of the nuclear program. The researched was conducted at Lashkarabad site in the vicinity of Karaj (west of Tehran). IAEA inspectors verified this when they visited the site on June 2004. The regime was eventually forced to stop the work at Lashkarabad.• December 20, 2005: In a press conference in Paris, Mohammad Mohaddessin revealed details about a secret nuclear facility and an underground tunnel used for nuclear projects in the vicinity of Qom (central Iran). He noted that construction had begun in 2000 by a specialist engineering division of the IRGC. Nearly four years after the NCRI’s press conference, US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed the existence of the same secret site, Fordow. Their joint press conference on September 25, 2009 took place only after Iranian authorities acknowledged its existence to the IAEA, recognizing that the NCRI’s revelations had rendered Fordow an open secret.
- December 23, 2006: The passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1737 imposed sanctions on 22 individuals and entities who had played significant roles in the Iranian regime’s nuclear and missile programs. Fifteen of these, or 70 percent, had been identified by the NCRI between 2003 and 2005.• February 20, 2008: In a Brussels press conference, the NCRI exposed the research and work on a nuclear warhead in Nouri Industries of Hemmat Missile Industrial Group. The IAEA subsequently made some corroborating evidence available to member states, including a video clip of a re-entry vehicle for the Shahab-3 ballistic missile.
- September 24 2009: In a press conference in Paris, the NCRI exposed the location of research and development related to detonators for nuclear weapons. The research center and surrounding area belonged to an entity solely responsible for this aspect of the nuclear program, namely the “Research Center for Explosion and Impact.” Known in Farsi as Markaz-e Tahghighat va Tose’e Fanavari-e Enfejar va Zarbeh and abbreviated as METFAZ, the center is affiliated with the Ministry of Defense. Its site on the banks of the Jajrood River, east of Tehran, was named for the nearby village of Sanjarian. As well as designing high-explosive detonators, METFAZ was actively manufacturing components for those systems at the time of the revelation.
• April 21, 2017: In a press conference in Washington, the NCRI noted that METFAZ had moved its main experiments to a new location, which it was trying to keep secret. The new location. Codenamed Pazhouheshkadeh, or Research Academy, the facility is located at Plan 6 of the Parchin site, in eastern Tehran.
• May 7, 2019: The Institute for Science and International Security and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies released the findings of a joint study titled “Shock Wave Generator for Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program.” The report confirmed the NCRI’s revelations from 2009, citing satellite imagery as proof that “the NCRI-identified site at Parchin is a high explosives research and development and manufacturing site.”
• January 5, 2020: The regime announced the conclusion of its “fifth step” in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The process had ostensibly begun in response to the US withdrawal from that agreement in 2018, but it continued despite protests from European powers that are intent on upholding the agreement. Iran has remained in violation of all major provisions ever since, and the speed with which it resumed higher-than-permitted levels of uranium enrichment has raised additional questions about whether the regime had ever truly downgraded its nuclear infrastructure in the first place.
• August 26, 2020: The IAEA finally gained access to an IRGC-controlled site north of Abadeh on this date, approximately 17 years after the first known high-explosive tests were carried out there under the project name “Marivan.” In the interim, the site had become associated with METFAZ activities, and the NCRI had revealed details of clandestine, nuclear-related projects that took place there. As a result, the IRGC recognized the risk of broader exposure and endeavored to cover up evidence by razing the facilities in July 2019, continuing to stonewall international inquiries for another year.
• October 16, 2020: The NCRI issued a new report explaining that authorities in charge of nuclear weaponization had established an entirely new site in the Sorkheh-Hessar region of eastern The regime. The report specified that construction on the facility, in the midst of a ballistic missile manufacturing complex, began in 2012 and that it gradually became functional starting in 2017. As this timeline perfectly overlaps with the implementation of the JCPOA, it arguably corroborates the NCRI’s longstanding conclusion that the regime never intended to fully comply with the terms of that deal.
Development of Entities Tasked with Nuclear Weaponization
The existence of a weaponization project definitively debunks The regime’s claims about its nuclear work being exclusively peaceful Thus, the regime has worked for three decades to hide the weaponization project, its key figures, researchers, and facilities from the eyes of the international community. Meanwhile, the Iranian Resistance has worked tirelessly to expose the regime’s weaponization efforts, on the expectation that this would be a devastating blow to the regime’s ambitions.
The regime has prevented the IAEA from accessing key experts and has always kept their identity secret. Weaponization projects have always been under the control of the IRGC, and subject to tight counter-intelligence regimes. And although the institution that would eventually spawn the weaponization-focused METFAZ has undergone several structural changes over the past three decades, its mission and key players have remained unchanged.
This entity began its work under the name “Physics Research Center” in late 1989. A few years later it was renamed “Amad Plan.”
On May 15, 2003, the NCRI revealed the Lavizan-Shian site in The regime. This was the headquarters of the clandestine weaponization aspects of the regime’s nuclear project. There, 17 types of experiments on various aspects of Weapons of Mass Destruction were carried out. The revelation seriously undermined the regime’s nuclear weapons project, though the extent of the impact would only be understood gradually, over a period of years.
According to information gathered primarily by the MEK’s intelligence network, the Nuclear Committee of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), chaired at the time by Hassan Rouhani, had predicted that the IAEA would visit the Lavizan-Shian site and would find out about the secret nuclear weapons activities there. Therefore, the committee decided to demolish and relocate the site, which had been operating for 15 years. The entire area was razed and dirt was removed to a depth of several meters. This was what the IAEA inspectors examined in June 2004.
- On April 28, 2004, an NCRI press conference in Brussels exposed the Amad Plan and some of its key officials and researchers, including Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an IRGC senior officer and the de facto head of the regime’s nuclear weaponization activities. Since then, the IAEA has issued a number of requests to interview Fakhrizadeh over his unique role in the nuclear weapons program, but the regime has vehemently rejected this request.
- In Paris on November 17, 2004, the Iranian Resistance revealed that the weaponization project under the command of the Ministry of Defense had transferred to a new site called Shian-Lavizan 2 or Mojdeh (the name of the street it was located). The NCRI provided specifics about the new venue including its name and the identities of more than two dozen nuclear experts who were involved in various aspects of the weaponization effort. The “Modern Defensive Readiness and Technology Center” (MDRTC) was established with Fakhrizadeh, and he remains in his role to this day.
The Paris press conference took place just a couple of days after the conclusion of talks held in the same city between Iran and the EU3, which resulted in Europe providing a range of concessions to the Iranian regime in exchange for the promise that uranium enrichment would be suspended. The Iranian side of those talks had been led by Hassan Rouhani, and a few years later he delivered a private speech in which he boasted that he had duped the West and that the regime had used the opportunity to complete other aspects of the nuclear cycle.
- That work was apparently completed with assistance and cover from Iranian universities, in line with a scheme that the NCRI exposed in a Brussels press conference on February 20, 2008. The Resistance found that after it had revealed the Mojdeh site, Fakhrizadeh’s office was moved to the nearby Malek Ashtar University, which is part of the Defense Ministry. Fakhrizadeh functioned as the vice president of the University and head of its Pardis.
In a front-page story in the March 11, 2008 edition of the Washington Post, the NCRI revealed that nuclear weapons design work persisted but had migrated to universities and schools. Several of Fakhrizadeh’s deputies were reassigned to nuclear departments at ostensibly civilian schools such as Shahid Beheshti University and The regime University.
In July 2011, the NCRI revealed the existence of a consolidated entity to work on the weaponization aspect of the nuclear project. The entity was called the “Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research” (abbreviated in Farsi as SPND). The IAEA confirmed the years-long changes in the weaponization section and the existence of SPND in its major report on Possible Military Dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program in November 2011. The US State Department put the SPND on its sanctions list for its role in proliferation of WMD on August 29, 2014.
The NCRI provided further revelations about the relocation and concealment of SPND operations in October 2013 and September 2014. And on April 21, 2017, it established that SPND and its seven subdivisions had been fully functioning after implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 which led to the suspension of economic sanctions in exchange for promises that Iran would scale down its nuclear weapons-related activities.
Relationship between Civilian and Military Nuclear Programs
For more than 25 years, Iran’s nuclear work has consisted of two programs working in tandem. One is overt and civilian in nature and includes the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), universities and academic institutions. The other is a military program that operates secretly. As the Iranian Resistance has made clear over the years, the latter has always been at the heart of Iran’s nuclear activities.
The civilian program has provided a plausible logistical cover for the military program and acts as a conduit for it. The results of civilian research, training, accomplishments, and advancements have been directed to the military, which has ultimately benefitted from all such achievements. On April 28, 2004, the NCRI revealed that the military sector had recruited some 400 experts trained by the civilian sector.
The military nuclear program has gone through many changes over the years. However, it has never halted its work, and key figures in the sector have remained unchanged. To control information and prevent leaks, in addition to making use of past experience, specific companies affiliated with or belonging to the IRGC or the Defense Ministry have carried out the construction of the sites involved in the nuclear project.
An important feature of the Iranian regime’s nuclear program is that several sites and centers where nuclear related activities are conducted are situated in sprawling military complexes that also house scores of tunnels and silos. This not only makes IAEA access to these locations more difficult but also makes it possible to relocate these centers and projects to other locations within the vast military complex. As such, if it becomes necessary to relocate a project or center, it can easily be moved to a different silo or tunnel within the parameters of the military site. This makes pinpointing the exact location of nuclear research and activities more challenging, and reduces the chance of exposure.
The civilian sector has provided a plausible cover by establishing nuclear energy projects at universities. Resources and research can be used on the one hand, and their experts and talented individuals trained and recruited on the other. It has also provided a conduit for procuring dual-purpose technology and equipment that is ultimately used in the military program.
It is very telling that scores of authorities and senior officials of the two systems have exchanged positions and responsibilities over the years. It has been common practice to utilize scientists and researchers in the civilian side for the military program, and to lend staff from the military side to the civilian sector to increase proficiency and expertise by utilizing each other’s facilities and centers. As such, universities affiliated with IRGC and the Ministry of Defense, Imam Hossein University and Malek-Ashtar University, have played an important role as a bridge between these two programs.
A review of the military sector’s methods in obtaining essential equipment and devices revealed that on several occasions even the postal addresses of universities and academic centers affiliated with the civilian nuclear project have been used for procurement purposes. Some entities at the highest levels of the Iranian regime, including offices and centers affiliated with the president’s office, have been involved in smuggling or skirting sanctions to obtain illicit or dual-purpose equipment for these projects.
Revolutionary Guards’ Direct Role in Nuclear Projects
Since its inception, the nuclear weapons program was conducted under the command of the IRGC and was supervised by its top brass. A special section within the IRGC was assigned the task of overseeing scientific research and securing nuclear technology for military use. During the years while the project was pursued by the Ministry of Defense, the top commanders of the MOD were IRGC generals.
In 1987 a Pakistani nuclear scientist visited Iran while running a secret international smuggling network for nuclear technology and equipment. On at least two occasions, he was met by three commanders of the IRGC. The head of the IRGC delegation was Mohammad Salami, who was the director of the IRGC research. Salami later rose to the rank of Brigadier General and became the Director of Defense Research and Education in the MOD.
IRGC Brigadier General Ali Hosseini-Tash is one of the most prominent officials involved in the Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons program. In his position as the head of the research section of the MOD and as Deputy Minister of Defense, from February 2004 until September 2005, he oversaw the Amad Plan and reported directly to Minister of Defense Ali Shamkhani.
In February 2005, the NCRI revealed that the Iranian regime has worked on production of a neutron initiator by using Polonium 210 and Beryllium. This project was handled by Dr. Nasser Ehsani in Malek Ashtar University, affiliated with the MOD and under the supervision of Hosseini-Tash.
The Parchin site was one of the most important locations used by AMAD. Saeed Borji, a confidant of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and an explosives expert, was a key director of this center. He was in direct contact with the Ukrainian expert Vycheslav V. Danilenko, who oversaw the construction of explosive chambers used in Parchin. Borji was the head METFAZ, a subdivision SPND. When Parchin was being used for these experiments, Hosseini-Tash directly supervised the organ that worked on weaponization.
In his memoirs, entitled “National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy”, published in 2011, Hassan Rouhani wrote that Hosseini-Tash took part in the meetings of the nuclear committee of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) from 2003 to 2005. He wrote on page 141:
“Regarding the nuclear committee located at the secretariat of the SNSC and the organs that should play a key function, I mentioned previously that several months before I took over, this committee was active in the secretariat and members of the committee were selected by the leaders. Dr. Ali-Akbar Velayati (Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative), Dr. Kamal Kharrazi (Foreign Minister), Hojjatolislam Ali Younessi (Minister of Intelligence), Admiral Ali Shamkhani (Defense Minister), Dr. Hosseini-Tash (Deputy Minister of Defense), Gholamreza Aghazadeh (head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran), and I (secretary of SNSC) were members of this committee.”
While only one official from each ministry took part in these meetings, the Ministry of Defense was represented by both Hosseini-Tash and Shamkhani, on account of Hosseini-Tash having a prominent, established role in the nuclear program. This role persisted at least through August 2015 when Hosseini-Tash was identified by the Associated Press as the proposed Iranian signatory of an agreement between the regime and the IAEA regarding the investigation of the Parchin site.
Other persons with ties to the IRGC have played dual roles in the civilian and military sectors for years, and have been called upon to fill whichever role was needed for the nuclear program at a given time.
Dr. Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, for instance, enrolled in the IRGC soon after it was formed, then went on to receive his MS in nuclear physics in 1987 and his PhD in 2002, becoming an expert in laser technology. Abbasi has been one of the key figures in the military section, where he has played an active role since the inception of the weaponization headquarters. He has also been active in recruiting suitable individuals for the military nuclear project since the early 1990s.
By his own acknowledgment, Dayani’s real rank in the IRGC is General. He became a member of the faculty of the Physics Department of Imam Hossein University in 1993 and was named Dean of the Physics Department. But according to the state-run media, he rarely showed up at the university and evidently spent most of his time in another venue, i.e. the headquarters for the weaponization of the nuclear project. He became the head of the civilian sector, the AEOI on February 13, 2000, a post he held until August 2013.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi (known as Dr. Mohseni within the regime), the current head of SPND has a similar background. He is an IRGC Brigadier General and has played various roles in the nuclear weapons program.
1950s & 1960s Edit
The foundations for Iran's nuclear program were laid on 5 March 1957, when a "proposed agreement for cooperation in research in the peaceful uses of atomic energy" was announced under the auspices of Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace program. 
In 1967, the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) was established, run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). The TNRC was equipped with a US-supplied, 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor, which was fueled by highly enriched uranium.  
Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and ratified it in 1970, making Iran's nuclear program subject to IAEA verification.
A Central Treaty Organisation nuclear sciences institute  was moved from Baghdad to Tehran after Iraq left CENTO.
The Shah approved plans to construct up to 23 nuclear power stations by 2000.  In March 1974, the Shah envisioned a time when the world's oil supply would run out, and declared, "Petroleum is a noble material, much too valuable to burn . We envision producing, as soon as possible, 23,000 megawatts of electricity using nuclear plants." 
US and European companies scrambled to do business in Iran.  Bushehr, the first plant, would supply energy to the city of Shiraz. In 1975, the Erlangen/Frankfurt firm Kraftwerk Union AG, a joint venture of Siemens AG and AEG, signed a contract worth $4 to $6 billion to build the pressurized water reactor nuclear power plant. Construction of the two 1,196 MWe, and was to have been completed in 1981.
In 1975 Sweden's 10 per cent share in Eurodif went to Iran. The French government subsidiary company Cogéma and the Iranian Government established the Sofidif (Société franco–iranienne pour l'enrichissement de l'uranium par diffusion gazeuse) enterprise with 60 and 40 per cent shares, respectively. In turn, Sofidif acquired a 25 per cent share in Eurodif, which gave Iran its 10 per cent share of Eurodif. Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi lent 1 billion dollars (and another 180 million dollars in 1977) for the construction of the Eurodif factory, to have the right of buying 10 per cent of the production of the site.
"President Gerald Ford 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."
A 1974 CIA proliferation assessment stated "If [the Shah] is alive in the mid-1980s . and if other countries [particularly India] have proceeded with weapons development we have no doubt Iran will follow suit." 
Post-revolution, 1979–1989 Edit
Following the 1979 Revolution, most of the international nuclear cooperation with Iran was cut off. Kraftwerk Union stopped working at the Bushehr nuclear project in January 1979, with one reactor 50 per cent complete, and the other reactor 85 per cent complete, and they fully withdrew from the project in July 1979. The company said they based their action on Iran's non-payment of $450 million in overdue payments,  while other sources claim the construction was halted under pressure from the United States.   The United States cut off the supply of highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel for the Tehran Nuclear Research Center, which forced the reactor to shut down for a number of years. The French Eurodif international enrichment facility stopped supplying enriched uranium to Iran as well.   Iran has later argued that these experiences indicate foreign facilities and foreign fuel supplies are an unreliable source of nuclear fuel supply.  
In 1981, Iranian governmental officials concluded that the country's nuclear development should continue. Reports to the IAEA included that a site at Esfahan Nuclear Technology Center (ENTEC) would act "as the center for the transfer and development of nuclear technology, as well as contribute to the formation of local expertise and manpower needed to sustain a very ambitious program in the field of nuclear power reactor technology and fuel cycle technology." The IAEA also was informed about Entec's largest department, for materials testing, which was responsible for UO
2 pellet fuel fabrication and a chemical department whose goal was the conversion of U
8 to nuclear grade UO
2 . 
In 1983, IAEA officials were keen to assist Iran in chemical aspects of reactor fuel fabrication, chemical engineering and design aspects of pilot plants for uranium conversion, corrosion of nuclear materials, LWR fuel fabrication, and pilot plant development for production of nuclear grade UO
2 .  However, the US government "directly intervened" to discourage IAEA assistance in Iranian production of UO
2 and UF
6 .  A former US official said "we stopped that in its tracks." Iran later set up a bilateral cooperation on fuel cycle related issues with China, but China also agreed to drop most outstanding nuclear commerce with Iran, including the construction of the UF
6 plant, due to US pressure. 
In April 1984, West German intelligence reported that Iran might have a nuclear bomb within two years with uranium from Pakistan. The Germans leaked this news in the first public Western intelligence report of a post-revolutionary nuclear weapons program in Iran.  Later that year, Minority Whip of the United States Senate Alan Cranston asserted that the Islamic Republic of Iran was seven years away from being able to build its own nuclear weapon. 
During the Iran–Iraq War, the two Bushehr reactors were damaged by multiple Iraqi air strikes and work on the nuclear program came to a standstill. Iran notified the International Atomic Energy Agency of the blasts, and complained about international inaction and the use of French made missiles in the attack.   In late 2015, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani revealed that Iran considered pursuing weapons of mass destruction during the war against Iraq. 
In 1985, Iran began to put pressure on France in order to recover its debt from the Eurodif's investment and to get the enriched uranium delivered. French hostages were taken in Lebanon from spring 1985 in 1986, terror attacks were perpetrated in Paris and Eurodif manager Georges Besse was assassinated. In their investigation La République atomique, France-Iran le pacte nucléaire, David Carr-Brown and Dominique Lorentz pointed to the Iranian intelligence services' responsibility. It was later ascertained, however, that the assassination was committed by the left-wing terror group Action directe. On 6 May 1988, French premier Jacques Chirac signed an accord with Iran: France agreed to accept Iran back in its share-holder status of Eurodif and to deliver it enriched uranium "without restrictions".
In 1987–88, Argentina's National Atomic Energy Commission signed an agreement with Iran to help in converting the reactor from highly enriched uranium fuel to 19.75 per cent low-enriched uranium, and to supply the low-enriched uranium to Iran.  According to a report by the Argentine justice in 2006, during the late 1980s and early 1990s the US pressured Argentina to terminate its nuclear cooperation with Iran, and from early 1992 to 1994 negotiations between Argentina and Iran took place with the aim of re-establishing the three agreements made in 1987–88.  Some have linked attacks such as the 1992 attack on Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and the AMIA bombing as part of an Iranian campaign to pressure Argentina into honoring the agreements.   The uranium was delivered in 1993. 
From the beginning of the 1990s, Russia formed a joint research organization with Iran called Persepolis which provided Iran with Russian nuclear experts, and technical information. Five Russian institutions, including the Russian Federal Space Agency helped Tehran to improve its missiles. The exchange of technical information with Iran was personally approved by the SVR director Trubnikov.  President Boris Yeltsin had a "two track policy" offering commercial nuclear technology to Iran and discussing the issues with Washington. 
In 1991 France refunded more than 1.6 billion dollars, Iran remained shareholder of Eurodif via Sofidif. However, Iran refrained from asking for the produced uranium.  
In 1992 Iran invited IAEA inspectors to visit all the sites and facilities they asked. Director General Blix reported that all activities observed were consistent with the peaceful use of atomic energy.   The IAEA visits included undeclared facilities and Iran's nascent uranium mining project at Saghand. In the same year, Argentine officials disclosed that their country had canceled a sale to Iran of civilian nuclear equipment worth $18 million , under US pressure. 
In 1995, Iran signed a contract with Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy to resume work on the partially complete Bushehr plant,  installing into the existing Bushehr I building a 915 MWe VVER-1000 pressurized water reactor, with completion expected in 2009.
In 1996, the US convinced the People's Republic of China to pull out of a contract to construct a uranium conversion plant. However, the Chinese provided blueprints for the facility to the Iranians, who advised the IAEA that they would continue work on the program, and IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei even visited the construction site. 
Overview of 2002–2012 Edit
In 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) first reported that Iran had not declared sensitive enrichment and reprocessing activities.  Enrichment can be used to produce uranium for reactor fuel or (at higher enrichment levels) for weapons.  Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful,  and has enriched uranium to less than 5 per cent, consistent with fuel for a civilian nuclear power plant.  Iran also claims that it was forced to resort to secrecy after US pressure caused several of its nuclear contracts with foreign governments to fall through.  After the IAEA Board of Governors reported Iran's noncompliance with its safeguards agreement to the UN Security Council, the Council demanded that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment activities  while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has argued that the sanctions are "illegal," imposed by "arrogant powers," and that Iran has decided to pursue the monitoring of its self-described peaceful nuclear program through "its appropriate legal path," the International Atomic Energy Agency. 
After public allegations about Iran's previously undeclared nuclear activities, the IAEA launched an investigation that concluded in November 2003 that Iran had systematically failed to meet its obligations under its NPT safeguards agreement to report those activities to the IAEA, although it also reported no evidence of links to a nuclear weapons program. The IAEA Board of Governors delayed a formal finding of non-compliance until September 2005, and reported that non-compliance to the UN Security Council in February 2006. After the IAEA Board of Governors reported Iran's noncompliance with its safeguards agreement to the United Nations Security Council, the Council demanded that Iran suspend its enrichment programs. The Council imposed sanctions after Iran refused to do so. A May 2009 US Congressional Report suggested "the United States, and later the Europeans, argued that Iran's deception meant it should forfeit its right to enrich, a position likely to be up for negotiation in talks with Iran." 
In exchange for suspending its enrichment program, Iran has been offered "a long-term comprehensive arrangement which would allow for the development of relations and cooperation with Iran based on mutual respect and the establishment of international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program."  However, Iran has consistently refused to give up its enrichment program, arguing that the program is necessary for its energy security, that such "long term arrangements" are inherently unreliable, and would deprive it of its inalienable right to peaceful nuclear technology. In June 2009, in the immediate wake of the disputed Iranian presidential election, Iran initially agreed to a deal to relinquish its stockpile of low-enriched uranium in return for fuel for a medical research reactor, but then backed out of the deal.  Currently, thirteen states possess operational enrichment or reprocessing facilities,  and several others have expressed an interest in developing indigenous enrichment programs.  Iran's position was endorsed by the Non-Aligned Movement, which expressed concern about the potential monopolization of nuclear fuel production. 
To address concerns that its enrichment program may be diverted to non-peaceful uses,  Iran has offered to place additional restrictions on its enrichment program including, for example, ratifying the Additional Protocol to allow more stringent inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, operating the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz as a multinational fuel center with the participation of foreign representatives, renouncing plutonium reprocessing and immediately fabricating all enriched uranium into reactor fuel rods.  Iran's offer to open its uranium enrichment program to foreign private and public participation mirrors suggestions of an IAEA expert committee which was formed to investigate the methods to reduce the risk that sensitive fuel cycle activities could contribute to national nuclear weapons capabilities.  Some non-governmental US experts have endorsed this approach.   The United States has insisted that Iran must meet the demands of the UN Security Council to suspend its enrichment program. [ citation needed ] In every other case in which the IAEA Board of Governors made a finding of safeguards non-compliance involving clandestine enrichment or reprocessing, the resolution has involved (in the cases of Iraq  and Libya    ) or is expected to involve (in the case of North Korea   ) at a minimum ending sensitive fuel cycle activities. According to Pierre Goldschmidt, former deputy director general and head of the department of safeguards at the IAEA, and Henry D. Sokolski, Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, some other instances of safeguards noncompliance reported by the IAEA Secretariat (South Korea, Egypt) were never reported to the Security Council because the IAEA Board of Governors never made a formal finding of non-compliance.   Though South Korea's case involved enriching uranium to levels near weapons grade,  the country itself voluntarily reported the isolated activity  and Goldschmidt has argued "political considerations also played a dominant role in the board's decision" to not make a formal finding of non-compliance. 
Estimating when Iran might possibly achieve nuclear "breakout" capability, defined as having produced a sufficient quantity of highly enriched uranium to fuel a weapon – if a working design for one existed and the political decision to assemble it was made – is uncertain. A detailed analysis by physicists at the Federation of American Scientists concludes that such an estimate would depend on the total number and overall efficiency of the centrifuges Iran has in operation, and the amount of low-enriched uranium it has stockpiled to serve as "feedstock" for a possible high-enrichment program.  A 23 March 2012 US Congressional Research Service report quotes 24 February 2012 IAEA report saying that Iran has stockpiled 240 pounds of 20-per-cent-enriched uranium – an enrichment level necessary for medical applications – as an indication of their capacity to enrich to higher levels.  The authoritarian political culture of Iran may pose additional challenges to a scientific program requiring cooperation among many technical specialists.  Some experts argue that the intense focus on Iran's nuclear program detracts from a need for broader diplomatic engagement with the Islamic Republic.   US intelligence agency officials interviewed by The New York Times in March 2012 said they continued to assess that Iran had not restarted its weaponization program, which the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate said Iran had discontinued in 2003, although they have found evidence that some weaponization-related activities have continued. The Israeli Mossad reportedly shared this belief. 
On 14 August 2002, Alireza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman for an Iranian dissident group National Council of Resistance of Iran, publicly revealed the existence of two nuclear sites under construction: a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz (part of which is underground), and a heavy water facility in Arak. It has been strongly suggested that intelligence agencies already knew about these facilities but the reports had been classified. 
The IAEA immediately sought access to these facilities and further information and co-operation from Iran regarding its nuclear program.  According to arrangements in force at the time for implementation of Iran's safeguards agreement with the IAEA,  Iran was not required to allow IAEA inspections of a new nuclear facility until six months before nuclear material is introduced into that facility. At the time, Iran was not even required to inform the IAEA of the existence of the facility. This "six months" clause was standard for implementation of all IAEA safeguards agreements until 1992, when the IAEA Board of Governors decided that facilities should be reported during the planning phase, even before construction began. Iran was the last country to accept that decision, and only did so on 26 February 2003, after the IAEA investigation began. 
In May 2003, shortly after the US invasion of Iraq, elements of the Iranian government of Mohammad Khatami made a confidential proposal for a "Grand Bargain" through Swiss diplomatic channels. It offered full transparency of Iran's nuclear program and withdrawal of support for Hamas and Hezbollah, in exchange for security assurances from the United States and a normalization of diplomatic relations. The Bush administration did not respond to the proposal, as senior US officials doubted its authenticity. The proposal reportedly was widely blessed by the Iranian government, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.   
France, Germany and the United Kingdom (the EU-3) undertook a diplomatic initiative with Iran to resolve questions about its nuclear program. On 21 October 2003, in Tehran, the Iranian government and EU-3 Foreign Ministers issued a statement known as the Tehran Declaration  in which Iran agreed to co-operate with the IAEA, to sign and implement an Additional Protocol as a voluntary, confidence-building measure, and to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities during the course of the negotiations. The EU-3 in return explicitly agreed to recognize Iran's nuclear rights and to discuss ways Iran could provide "satisfactory assurances" regarding its nuclear power program, after which Iran would gain easier access to modern technology. Iran signed an Additional Protocol on 18 December 2003, and agreed to act as if the protocol were in force, making the required reports to the IAEA and allowing the required access by IAEA inspectors, pending Iran's ratification of the Additional Protocol.
The IAEA reported 10 November 2003,  that "it is clear that Iran has failed in a number of instances over an extended period of time to meet its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement with respect to the reporting of nuclear material and its processing and use, as well as the declaration of facilities where such material has been processed and stored." Iran was obligated to inform the IAEA of its importation of uranium from China and subsequent use of that material in uranium conversion and enrichment activities. It was also obligated to report to the IAEA experiments with the separation of plutonium. However, the Islamic Republic reneged on its promise to permit the IAEA to carry out their inspections and suspended the Additional Protocol agreement outlined above in October 2005. 
A comprehensive list of Iran's specific "breaches" of its IAEA safeguards agreement, which the IAEA described as part of a "pattern of concealment," can be found in a 15 November 2004 report of the IAEA on Iran's nuclear program.  Iran attributes its failure to report certain acquisitions and activities on US obstructionism, which reportedly included pressuring the IAEA to cease providing technical assistance to Iran's uranium conversion program in 1983.   On the question of whether Iran had a hidden nuclear weapons program, the IAEA's November 2003 report states that it found "no evidence" that the previously undeclared activities were related to a nuclear weapons program, but also that it was unable to conclude that Iran's nuclear program was exclusively peaceful.
In June 2004, construction was commenced on IR-40, a 40 MW heavy water reactor.
Under the terms of the Paris Agreement,  on 14 November 2004, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator announced a voluntary and temporary suspension of its uranium enrichment program (enrichment is not a violation of the NPT) and the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol, after pressure from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany acting on behalf of the European Union (EU, known in this context as the EU-3). The measure was said at the time to be a voluntary, confidence-building measure, to continue for some reasonable period of time (six months being mentioned as a reference) as negotiations with the EU-3 continued. On 24 November, 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. According to Seyyed Hossein Mousavian, one of the Iranian representatives to the Paris Agreement negotiations, the Iranians made it clear to their European counterparts that Iran would not consider a permanent end to uranium enrichment:
Before the Paris [Agreement] text was signed, Dr Rohani . stressed that they should be committed neither to speak nor even think of a cessation any more. The ambassadors delivered his message to their foreign ministers prior to the signing of the Paris agreed text . The Iranians made it clear to their European counterparts that if the latter sought a complete termination of Iran's nuclear fuel-cycle activities, there would be no negotiations. The Europeans answered that they were not seeking such a termination, only an assurance on the non-diversion of Iran's nuclear programme to military ends. 
In February 2005, Iran pressed the EU-3 to speed up talks, which the EU-3 refused to do so.  The talks made little progress because of the divergent positions of the two sides.  Under pressure from US the European negotiators could not agree to allow enrichment on Iranian soil. Although Iranians presented an offer, which included voluntary restrictions on the enrichment volume and output, it was rejected. The EU-3 broke a commitment they had made to recognize Iran's right under NPT to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. 
In early August 2005, after the June election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president, Iran removed seals on its uranium enrichment equipment in Isfahan,  which UK officials termed a "breach of the Paris Agreement"  though a case can be made that the EU violated the terms of the Paris Agreement by demanding that Iran abandon nuclear enrichment.  Several days later, the EU-3 offered Iran a package in return for permanent cessation of enrichment. Reportedly, it included benefits in the political, trade and nuclear fields, as well as long-term supplies of nuclear materials and assurances of non-aggression by the EU (but not the US).  Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of Iran's atomic energy organization rejected the offer, terming it "very insulting and humiliating"  and other independent analysts characterized the EU offer as an "empty box".  Iran's announcement that it would resume enrichment preceded the election of Iranian President Ahmadinejad by several months. The delay in restarting the program was to allow the IAEA to re-install monitoring equipment. The actual resumption of the program coincided with the election of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and the appointment of Ali Larijani as the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator. 
Around 2005, Germany refused to export any more nuclear equipment or refund money paid by Iran for such equipment in the 1980s.  (See European reactions 1979–89.)
In August 2005, with the assistance of Pakistan  a group of US government experts and international scientists concluded that traces of bomb-grade uranium found in Iran came from contaminated Pakistani equipment and were not evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program in Iran.  In September 2005, IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei reported that "most" highly enriched uranium traces found in Iran by agency inspectors came from imported centrifuge components, validating Iran's claim that the traces were due to contamination. Sources in Vienna and the State Department reportedly stated that, for all practical purposes, the HEU issue has been resolved. 
In a speech to the United Nations on 17 September 2005, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested that Iran's enrichment might be managed by an international consortium, with Iran sharing ownership with other countries. The offer was rejected out of hand by the EU and the United States. 
The IAEA Board of Governors deferred a formal decision on Iran's nuclear case for two years after 2003, while Iran continued cooperation with the EU-3. On 24 September 2005, after Iran abandoned the Paris Agreement, the Board found that Iran had been in non-compliance with its safeguards agreement, based largely on facts that had been reported as early as November 2003. 
On 4 February 2006, the 35 member Board of Governors of the IAEA voted 27–3 (with five abstentions: Algeria, Belarus, Indonesia, Libya and South Africa) to report Iran to the UN Security Council. The measure was sponsored by the United Kingdom, France and Germany, and it was backed by the United States. Two permanent council members, Russia and China, agreed to referral only on condition that the council take no action before March. The three members who voted against referral were Venezuela, Syria and Cuba.   In response, on 6 February 2006, Iran suspended its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol and all other voluntary and non-legally binding cooperation with the IAEA beyond what is required by its safeguards agreement. 
In late February 2006, IAEA Director Mohammad El-Baradei raised the suggestion of a deal, whereby Iran would give up industrial-scale enrichment and instead limit its program to a small-scale pilot facility, and agree to import its nuclear fuel from Russia (see nuclear fuel bank). The Iranians indicated that while they would not be willing to give up their right to enrichment in principle, they were willing to  consider the compromise solution. However, in March 2006, the Bush Administration made it clear that they would not accept any enrichment at all in Iran. 
The IAEA Board of Governors deferred the formal report to the UN Security Council of Iran's non-compliance (such a report is required by Article XII.C of the IAEA Statute),  until 27 February 2006.  The Board usually makes decisions by consensus, but in a rare non-consensus decision it adopted this resolution by vote, with 12 abstentions.  
On 11 April 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had successfully enriched uranium. President Ahmadinejad made the announcement in a televised address from the northeastern city of Mashhad, where he said "I am officially announcing that Iran joined the group of those countries which have nuclear technology." The uranium was enriched to 3.5 per cent using over a hundred centrifuges.
On 13 April 2006, after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said (on 12 April 2006) the Security Council must consider "strong steps" to induce Tehran to change course in its nuclear ambition President Ahmadinejad vowed that Iran will not back away from uranium enrichment and that the world must treat Iran as a nuclear power, saying "Our answer to those who are angry about Iran achieving the full nuclear fuel cycle is just one phrase. We say: Be angry at us and die of this anger," because "We won't hold talks with anyone about the right of the Iranian nation to enrich uranium." 
On 14 April 2006, The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) published a series of analyzed satellite images of Iran's nuclear facilities at Natanz and Esfahan.  Featured in these images is a new tunnel entrance near the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) at Esfahan and continued construction at the Natanz uranium enrichment site. In addition, a series of images dating back to 2002 shows the underground enrichment buildings and its subsequent covering by soil, concrete, and other materials. Both facilities were already subject to IAEA inspections and safeguards.
On 28 July 2006, the UN Security Council approved a resolution to give Iran until the end of August to suspend uranium enrichment or face the threat of sanctions. 
Iran responded to the demand to stop enrichment of uranium 24 August 2006, offering to return to the negotiation table but refusing to end enrichment. 
Qolam Ali Hadad-adel, speaker of Iran's parliament, said on 30 August 2006, that Iran had the right to "peaceful application of nuclear technology and all other officials agree with this decision," according to the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency. "Iran opened the door to negotiations for Europe and hopes that the answer which was given to the nuclear package would bring them to the table." 
In Resolution 1696 of 31 July 2006, the United Nations Security Council demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment and reprocessing related activities. 
In UN Security Council Resolution 1737 of 26 December 2006, the Council imposed a series of sanctions on Iran for its non-compliance with the earlier Security Council resolution deciding that Iran suspend enrichment-related activities without delay.  These sanctions were primarily targeted against the transfer of nuclear and ballistic missile technologies  and, in response to concerns of China and Russia, were lighter than that sought by the United States.  This resolution followed a report from the IAEA that Iran had permitted inspections under its safeguards agreement but had not suspended its enrichment-related activities. 
UN Security Council Edit
The UN Security Council has passed eight resolutions on Iran:
- (31 July 2006) demanded that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment activities, (23 December 2006) imposed sanctions after Iran refused to suspend its enrichment activities, required Iran to cooperate with IAEA, (24 March 2007) expanded the list of sanctioned Iranian entities, (3 March 2008) extended those sanctions to additional persons and entities, (27 September 2008) reaffirmed the preceding four resolutions, (9 June 2010) imposed a complete arms embargo on Iran, banned Iran from any activities related to ballistic missiles, authorized the inspection and seizure of shipments violating these restrictions, and extended the asset freeze to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), established Panel of Experts (whose mandate was extended three times by Resolution 1984 (8 June 2011), Resolution 2049 (7 June 2012), and Resolution 2105 (5 June 2013)).
International Atomic Energy Agency reports, 2007–2015 Edit
The IAEA has consistently stated it is unable to conclude that Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Such a conclusion would normally be drawn only for countries that have an Additional Protocol in force. Iran ceased its implementation of the Additional Protocol in 2006, and also ceased all other cooperation with the IAEA beyond what Iran acknowledged it was required to provide under its safeguards agreement, after the IAEA Board of Governors decided, in February 2006, to report Iran's safeguards non-compliance to the UN Security Council.  The UN Security Council, invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter, then passed Resolution 1737, which obligated Iran to implement the Additional Protocol. Iran responded that its nuclear activities were peaceful and that Security Council involvement was malicious and unlawful.  In August 2007, Iran and the IAEA entered into an agreement on the modalities for resolving remaining outstanding issues,  and made progress in outstanding issues except for the question of "alleged studies" of weaponization by Iran.  Iran said it did not address the alleged studies in the IAEA work plan because they were not included in the plan.  The IAEA did not detect the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies and said it regrets it was unable to provide Iran with copies of the documentation concerning the alleged studies, but said the documentation was comprehensive and detailed, and therefore needed to be taken seriously. Iran said the allegations are based on "forged" documents and "fabricated" data, and that had not received copies of the documentation to enable it to prove that they were forged and fabricated.  
In 2011, the IAEA began to voice growing concern over possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program, and has released a number of reports chastising Iran's nuclear program to that effect. 
February 2007 Report Edit
In February 2007, anonymous diplomats at the atomic energy agency reportedly complained that most US intelligence shared with the IAEA had proved inaccurate, and none had led to significant discoveries inside Iran. 
On 10 May 2007, Iran and the IAEA vehemently denied reports that Iran had blocked IAEA inspectors when they sought access to Iran's enrichment facility. On 11 March 2007, Reuters quoted International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Marc Vidricaire, "We have not been denied access at any time, including in the past few weeks. Normally we do not comment on such reports but this time we felt we had to clarify the matter . If we had a problem like that we would have to report to the [35-nation IAEA governing] board . That has not happened because this alleged event did not take place." 
May 2007 Report Edit
On 30 July 2007, inspectors from the IAEA spent five hours at the Arak complex, the first such visit since April. Visits to other plants in Iran were expected during the following days. It has been suggested that access may have been granted in an attempt to head off further sanctions. 
August 2007 Report and Agreement between Iran and the IAEA Edit
An IAEA report to the Board of Governors on 30 August 2007 stated that Iran's Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz was operating "well below the expected quantity for a facility of this design," and that 12 of the intended 18 centrifuge cascades at the plant were operating. The report stated that the IAEA had "been able to verify the non-diversion of the declared nuclear materials at the enrichment facilities in Iran," and that longstanding issues regarding plutonium experiments and HEU contamination on spent fuel containers were considered "resolved." However, the report added that the Agency remained unable to verify certain aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran's nuclear program.
The report also outlined a work plan agreed by Iran and the IAEA on 21 August 2007. The work plan reflected agreement on "modalities for resolving the remaining safeguards implementation issues, including the long outstanding issues." According to the plan, these modalities covered all remaining issues regarding Iran's past nuclear program and activities. The IAEA report described the work plan as "a significant step forward," but added "the Agency considers it essential that Iran adheres to the time line defined therein and implements all the necessary safeguards and transparency measures, including the measures provided for in the Additional Protocol."  Although the work plan did not include a commitment by Iran to implement the Additional Protocol, IAEA safeguards head Olli Heinonen observed that measures in the work plan "for resolving our outstanding issues go beyond the requirements of the Additional Protocol." 
According to Reuters, the report was likely to blunt Washington's push for more severe sanctions against Iran. One senior UN official familiar said US efforts to escalate sanctions against Iran would provoke a nationalistic backlash by Iran that would set back the IAEA investigation in Iran.  In late October 2007, chief IAEA inspector Olli Heinonen described Iranian cooperation with the IAEA as "good," although much remained to be done. 
In late October 2007, according to the International Herald Tribune, the head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, stated that he had seen "no evidence" of Iran developing nuclear weapons. The IHT quoted ElBaradei as saying "We have information that there has been maybe some studies about possible weaponization. That's why we have said that we cannot give Iran a pass right now, because there is still a lot of question marks. . But have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weaponization program? No." The IHT report went on to say that "ElBaradei said he was worried about the growing rhetoric from the U.S., which he noted focused on Iran's alleged intentions to build a nuclear weapon rather than evidence the country was actively doing so. If there is actual evidence, ElBaradei said he would welcome seeing it." 
November 2007 report Edit
15 November 2007, IAEA report found that on nine outstanding issues listed in the August 2007 workplan, including experiments on the P-2 centrifuge and work with uranium metals, "Iran's statements are consistent with . information available to the agency," but it warned that its knowledge of Tehran's present atomic work was shrinking due to Iran's refusal to continue voluntarily implementing the Additional Protocol, as it had done in the past under the October 2003 Tehran agreement and the November 2004 Paris agreement. The only remaining issues were traces of HEU found at one location, and allegations by US intelligence agencies based on a laptop computer allegedly stolen from Iran which reportedly contained nuclear weapons-related designs. The IAEA report also stated that Tehran continues to produce LEU. Iran has declared it has a right to peaceful nuclear technology under the NPT, despite Security Council demands that it cease its nuclear enrichment. 
On 18 November 2007, President Ahmadinejad announced that he intended to consult with Arab nations on a plan, under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council, to enrich uranium in a neutral third country, such as Switzerland. 
Israel criticised IAEA reports on Iran as well as the former IAEA-director ElBaradei. Israel's Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman dismissed reports by the IAEA as being "unacceptable" and accused IAEA head ElBaradei of being "pro-Iranian." 
February 2008 report Edit
On 11 February 2008, news reports stated that the IAEA report on Iran's compliance with the August 2007 work plan would be delayed over internal disagreements over the report's expected conclusions that the major issues had been resolved.  French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner stated that he would meet with IAEA Director Mohammed ElBaradei to convince him to "listen to the West" and remind him that the IAEA is merely in charge of the "technical side" rather than the "political side" of the issue.  A senior IAEA official denied the reports of internal disagreements and accused Western powers of using the same "hype" tactics employed against Iraq before the 2003 US-led invasion to justify imposing further sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. 
The IAEA issued its report on the implementation of safeguards in Iran on 22 February 2008.  With respect to the report, IAEA Director Mohammad ElBaradei stated that "We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran's enrichment programme" with the exception of a single issue, "and that is the alleged weaponization studies that supposedly Iran has conducted in the past." 
According to the report, the IAEA shared intelligence with Iran recently provided by the US regarding "alleged studies" on a nuclear weaponization program. The information was allegedly obtained from a laptop computer smuggled out of Iran and provided to the US in mid-2004.  The laptop was reportedly received from a "longtime contact" in Iran who obtained it from someone else now believed to be dead.  A senior European diplomat warned "I can fabricate that data," and argued that the documents look "beautiful, but is open to doubt."  The United States has relied on the laptop to prove that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons.  In November 2007, the United States National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) believed that Iran halted an alleged active nuclear weapons program in fall 2003.  Iran has dismissed the laptop information as a fabrication, and other diplomats have dismissed the information as relatively insignificant and coming too late. 
The February 2008 IAEA report states that the Agency has "not detected the use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard." 
May 2008 report Edit
On 26 May 2008, the IAEA issued another regular report on the implementation of safeguards in Iran. 
According to the report, the IAEA has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, and Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and accountancy reports, as required by its safeguards agreement.
Iran had installed several new centrifuges, including more advanced models, and environmental samples showed the centrifuges "continued to operate as declared", making low-enriched uranium. The report also noted that other elements of Iran's nuclear program continued to be subject to IAEA monitoring and safeguards as well, including the construction of the heavy water facility in Arak, the construction and use of hot cells associated with the Tehran Research Reactor, the uranium conversion efforts, and the Russian nuclear fuel delivered for the Bushehr reactor.
The report stated that the IAEA had requested, as a voluntary "transparency measure", to be allowed access to centrifuge manufacturing sites, but that Iran had refused the request. The IAEA report stated that Iran had also submitted replies to questions regarding "possible military dimensions" to its nuclear program, which include "alleged studies" on a so-called Green Salt Project, high-explosive testing and missile re-entry vehicles. According to the report, Iran's answers were still under review by the IAEA at the time the report was published. However, as part of its earlier "overall assessment" of the allegations, Iran had responded that the documents making the allegations were forged, not authentic, or referred to conventional applications.
The report stated that Iran may have more information on the alleged studies, which "remain a matter of serious concern", but that the IAEA itself had not detected evidence of actual design or manufacture by Iran of nuclear weapons or components. The IAEA also stated that it was not itself in possession of certain documents containing the allegations against Iran, and so was not able to share the documents with Iran.
September 2008 report Edit
According to 15 September 2008 IAEA report on the implementation of safeguards in Iran,  Iran continued to provide the IAEA with access to declared nuclear material and activities, which continued to be operated under safeguards and with no evidence of any diversion of nuclear material for non-peaceful uses. Nevertheless, the report reiterated that the IAEA would not be able to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program unless Iran adopted "transparency measures" which exceeded its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, since the IAEA does not verify the absence of undeclared nuclear activities in any country unless the Additional Protocol is in force.
With respect to the report, IAEA Director Mohammad ElBaradei stated that, "We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran's enrichment programme" with the exception of a single issue, "and that is the alleged weaponization studies that supposedly Iran has conducted in the past." 
According to the report, Iran had increased the number of operating centrifuges at its Fuel Enrichment Plant in Isfahan, and continued to enrich uranium. Contrary to some media reports which claimed that Iran had diverted uranium hexafluoride (UF6) for a renewed nuclear weapons program,  the IAEA emphasized that all of the uranium hexafluoride was under IAEA safeguards. This was re-iterated by IAEA spokesman Melissa Fleming, who characterized the report of missing nuclear material in Iran as being "fictitious." [ citation needed ] Iran was also asked to clarify information about foreign assistance it may have received in connection with a high explosive charge suitable for an implosion type nuclear device. Iran stated that there had been no such activities in Iran. 
The IAEA also reported that it had held a series of meetings with Iranian officials to resolve the outstanding issues including the "alleged studies" into nuclear weaponization which were listed in the May 2008 IAEA report. During the course of these meetings, the Iranians filed a series of written responses including a 117-page presentation which confirmed the partial veracity of some of the allegations, but which asserted that the allegations as a whole were based on "forged" documents and "fabricated" data, and that Iran had not actually received the documentation substantiating the allegations. According to the August 2007 "Modalities Agreement" between Iran and the IAEA, Iran had agreed to review and assess the "alleged studies" claims, as good faith gesture, "upon receiving all related documents." 
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, accused the United States of preventing the IAEA from delivering the documents about the alleged studies to Iran as required by the Modalities Agreement, and stated that Iran had done its best to respond to the allegations but would not accept "any request beyond our legal obligation and particularly beyond the Work Plan, which we have already implemented." [ citation needed ]
While once again expressing "regret" that the IAEA was not able to provide Iran with copies of the documentation concerning the alleged studies, the report also urged Iran to provide the IAEA with "substantive information to support its statements and provide access to relevant documentation and individuals" regarding the alleged studies, as a "matter of transparency".  The IAEA submitted a number of proposals to Iran to help resolve the allegations and expressed a willingness to discuss modalities that could enable Iran to demonstrate credibly that the activities referred to in the documentation were not nuclear-related, as Iran asserted, while protecting sensitive information related to its conventional military activities. The report does not indicate whether Iran accepted or rejected these proposals. 
The report also reiterated that IAEA inspectors had found "no evidence on the actual design or manufacture by Iran of nuclear material components of a nuclear weapon or of certain other key components, such as initiators, or on related nuclear physics studies . Nor has the Agency detected the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies" but insisted that the IAEA would not be able to formally verify the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program unless Iran had agreed to adopt the requested "transparency measures." 
February 2009 report Edit
In a 19 February 2009, report to the Board of Governors,  IAEA Director General ElBaradei reported that Iran continued to enrich uranium contrary to the decisions of the Security Council and had produced over a ton of low enriched uranium. Results of environmental samples taken by the Agency at the FEP and PFEP5 indicated that the plants have been operating at levels declared by Tehran, "within the measurement uncertainties normally associated with enrichment plants of a similar throughput." The Agency was also able to confirm there was no ongoing reprocessing related activities at Iran's Tehran Research Reactor and Xenon Radioisotope Production Facility.
According to the report, Iran also continued to refuse to provide design information or access to verify design information for its IR-40 heavy water research reactor. Iran and the IAEA in February 2003 agreed to modify a provision in the Subsidiary Arrangement to its safeguards agreement (Code 3.1) to require such access.  Iran told the Agency in March 2007 that it "suspended" the implementation of the modified Code 3.1, which had been "accepted in 2003, but not yet ratified by the parliament", and that it would "revert" to the implementation of the 1976 version of Code 3.1.  The subsidiary arrangement may only be modified by mutual agreement.  Iran says that since the reactor is not in a position to receive nuclear material the IAEA's request for access was not justified, and requested that the IAEA not schedule an inspection to verify design information.  The Agency says its right to verify design information provided to it is a "continuing right, which is not dependent on the stage of construction of, or the presence of nuclear material at, a facility." 
Regarding the "alleged studies" into nuclear weaponization, the Agency said that "as a result of the continued lack of cooperation by Iran in connection with the remaining issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme, the Agency has not made any substantive progress on these issues." The Agency called on member states which had provided information about the alleged programs to allow the information to be shared with Iran. The Agency said Iran's continued refusal to implement the Additional Protocol was contrary to the request of the Board of Governors and the Security Council. The Agency was able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.  Iran says that for the six years the Agency has been considering its case, the IAEA has not found any evidence to prove that Tehran is seeking a nuclear weapon. 
Regarding the IAEA report, several news reports suggested that Iran had failed to properly report the amount of low-enriched uranium it possessed because Iranian estimates did not match the IAEA inspector's findings, and that Iran now had enough uranium to make a nuclear bomb.   The reporting was widely criticized as unjustifiably provocative and hyped.    In response to the controversy, IAEA spokesman Melissa Fleming asserted that the IAEA had no reason at all to believe that the estimates of low-enriched uranium produced by Iran were an intentional error, and that no nuclear material could be removed from the facility for further enrichment to make nuclear weapons without the agency's knowledge since the facility is subject to video surveillance and the nuclear material is kept under seal. 
Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the February report failed to "provide any new insight into Iran's nuclear program."  He asserted the report was written in a way which clearly causes misunderstanding in public opinion. He suggested the reports should be written to have a section about whether Iran has fulfilled its NPT obligations and a separate section for whether "fulfillment of Additional Protocol or sub-arrangements 1 and 3 are beyond the commitment or not." 
In a February 2009 press interview, IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran has low enriched uranium, but "that doesn't mean that they are going tomorrow to have nuclear weapons, because as long as they are under IAEA verification, as long as they are not weaponizing, you know." ElBaradei continued that there is a confidence deficit with Iran, but that the concern should not be hyped and that "many other countries are enriching uranium without the world making any fuss about it." 
In February 2009 IAEA Director General reportedly said that he believed the possibility of a military attack on Iran's nuclear installations had been ruled out. "Force can only be used as a last option . when all other political possibilities have been exhausted," he told Radio France International.   Former Director General Hans Blix criticized Western governments for the years lost by their "ineffective approaches" to Iran's nuclear program. Blix suggested the West offer "guarantees against attacks from the outside and subversive activities inside" and also suggested US involvement in regional diplomacy "would offer Iran a greater incentive to reach a nuclear agreement than the Bush team's statements that 'Iran must behave itself'." 
August 2009 Report Edit
In July 2009, Yukiya Amano, the incoming head of the IAEA said: "I don't see any evidence in IAEA official documents" that Iran is trying to gain the ability to develop nuclear arms. 
In September 2009, IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei that Iran had broken the law by not disclosing its second uranium enrichment site near Qom sooner. Nevertheless, he said, the United Nations did not have credible evidence that Iran had an operational nuclear program. 
November 2009 Report Edit
In November 2009, the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors overwhelmingly backed a demand of the US, Russia, China, and three other powers that Iran immediately stop building its newly revealed nuclear facility and freeze uranium enrichment. Iranian officials shrugged off approval of the resolution by 25 members of the Board, but the US and its allies hinted at new UN sanctions if Iran remained defiant. 
February 2010 Report Edit
In February 2010, the IAEA issued a report scolding Iran for failing to explain purchases of sensitive technology as well as secret tests of high-precision detonators and modified designs of missile cones to accommodate larger payloads. Such experiments are closely associated with atomic warheads. 
May 2010 Report Edit
In May 2010, the IAEA issued a report that Iran had declared production of over 2.5 metric tons of low-enriched uranium, which would be enough if further enriched to make two nuclear weapons, and that Iran has refused to answer inspectors’ questions on a variety of activities, including what the agency called the "possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear program.  
In July 2010, Iran barred two IAEA inspectors from entering the country. The IAEA rejected Iran's reasons for the ban and said it fully supported the inspectors, which Tehran has accused of reporting wrongly that some nuclear equipment was missing. 
In August 2010, the IAEA said Iran has started using a second set of 164 centrifuges linked in a cascade, or string of machines, to enrich uranium to up to 20 per cent at its Natanz pilot fuel enrichment plan. 
November 2011 Report Edit
In November 2011 the IAEA released a report  stating inspectors had found credible evidence that Iran had been conducting experiments aimed at designing a nuclear bomb until 2003, and that research may have continued on a smaller scale after that time.  IAEA Director Yukiya Amano said evidence gathered by the agency "indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."  A number of Western nuclear experts stated there was very little new in the report,  and that media reports had exaggerated its significance.  Iran charged that the report was unprofessional and unbalanced, and had been prepared with undue political influence primarily by the United States. 
In November 2011, IAEA officials identified a "large explosive containment vessel" inside Parchin.  The IAEA later assessed that Iran has been conducting experiments to develop nuclear weapons capability. 
The IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution  by a vote of 32–2 that expressed "deep and increasing concern" over the possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program and calling it "essential" that Iran provide additional information and access to the IAEA.   The United States welcomed the resolution and said it would step up sanctions to press Iran to change course.  In response to the IAEA resolution, Iran threatened to reduce its cooperation with the IAEA, though Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi played down talk of withdrawal from the NPT or the IAEA. 
February 2012 report Edit
On 24 February 2012, IAEA Director General Amano reported to the IAEA Board of Governors that high-level IAEA delegations had met twice with Iranian officials to intensify efforts to resolve outstanding issues, but that major differences remained and Iran did not grant IAEA requests for access to the Parchin site, where the IAEA believes high-explosives research pertinent to nuclear weapons may have taken place. Iran dismissed the IAEA's report on the possible military dimensions to its nuclear program as based on "unfounded allegations." Amano called on Iran to agree to a structure approach, based on IAEA verification practices, to resolve outstanding issues.  In March 2012, Iran said it would allow another inspection at Parchin "when an agreement is made on a modality plan."   Not long after, it was reported that Iran might not consent to unfettered access.  An ISIS study of satellite imagery claimed to have identified an explosive site at Parchin. 
The February IAEA report also described progress in Iran's enrichment and fuel fabrication efforts, including a tripling of the number of cascades enriching uranium to nearly 20 per cent and testing of fuel elements for the Tehran Research Reactor and the still incomplete IR-40 heavy water research reactor.  Though Iran was continuing to install thousands of additional centrifuges, these were based on an erratic and outdated design, both in its main enrichment plant at Natanz and in a smaller facility at Fordow buried deep underground. "It appears that they are still struggling with the advanced centrifuges," said Olli Heinonen, a former chief nuclear inspector for the Vienna-based U.N. agency, while nuclear expert Mark Fitzpatrick pointed out that Iran had been working on "second-generation models for over ten years now and still can't put them into large-scale operation".  Peter Crail and Daryl G. Kimball of the Arms Control Organisation commented that the report "does not identify any breakthroughs" and "confirms initial impressions that Iran's announcements last week on a series of 'nuclear advances' were hyped." 
May 2012 report Edit
In May 2012, the IAEA reported that Iran had increased its rate of production of low-enriched uranium enriched to 3.5 per cent and to expand its stockpile of uranium enriched to 19.75 per cent, but was having difficulty with more advanced centrifuges.  The IAEA also reported detecting particles of uranium enriched to 27 per cent at the Fordu enrichment facility. However, a diplomat in Vienna cautioned that the spike in uranium purity found by inspectors could turn out to be accidental.  This change drastically moved Iran's uranium toward bomb-grade material. Until then, the highest level of purity that had been found in Iran was 20 per cent. 
August 2012 report Edit
In late August, the IAEA set up an Iran Task Force to deal with inspections and other issues related to Iran's nuclear program, in an attempt to focus and streamline the IAEA's handling of Iran's nuclear program by concentrating experts and other resources into one dedicated team. 
On 30 August, the IAEA released a report showing a major expansion of Iranian enrichment activities. The report said that Iran has more than doubled the number of centrifuges at the underground facility at Fordow, from 1,064 centrifuges in May to 2,140 centrifuges in August, though the number of operating centrifuges had not increased. The report said that since 2010 Iran had produced about 190 kg of 20-per-cent-enriched uranium, up from 145 kg in May. The report also noted that Iran had converted some of the 20-per-cent-enriched uranium to an oxide form and fabricated into fuel for use in research reactors, and that once this conversion and fabrication have taken place, the fuel cannot be readily enriched to weapon-grade purity.  
The report also expressed concerns over Parchin, which the IAEA has sought to inspect for evidence of nuclear weapons development. Since the IAEA requested access, "significant ground scraping and landscaping have been undertaken over an extensive area at and around the location," five buildings had been demolished, while power lines, fences, and paved roads were removed, all of which would hamper the IAEA investigation if it were granted access. 
In a briefing to the Board of Governors on this report in early September 2012, IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts and Assistant Director General Rafael Grossi displayed satellite images for its member states which allegedly demonstrate Iranian efforts to remove incriminating evidence from its facility at Parchin, or a "nuclear clean-up." These images showed a building at Parchin covered in what appeared to be a pink tarpaulin, as well as demolition of building and removal of earth that the IAEA said would "significantly hamper" its investigation. A senior Western diplomat described the presentation as "pretty compelling." The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said that the purpose of the pink tarpaulin could be to hide further "clean-up work" from satellites. However, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, denied the contents of the presentation, saying that "merely having a photo from up there, a satellite imagery . this is not the way the agency should do its professional job." 
According to the Associated Press, the IAEA received "new and significant intelligence" by September 2012, which four diplomats confirmed was the basis for a passage in the August 2012 IAEA report that "the agency has obtained more information which further corroborates" suspicions. The intelligence reportedly indicates that Iran had advanced work on computer modeling of the performance of a nuclear warhead, work David Albright of ISIS said was "critical to the development of a nuclear weapon." The intelligence would also boost fears by the IAEA that Iran has advanced its weapons research on multiple fronts, as computer modeling is usually accompanied by physical tests of the components which would enter a nuclear weapon. 
In response to this report, the IAEA Board of Governors on 13 September passed a resolution that rebuked Iran for defying UN Security Council resolutions to suspend uranium enrichment and called on Iran to allow inspections of evidence that it is pursuing weapons technology.  The resolution, which passed by a vote of 31–1 with 3 abstentions, also expressed "serious concerns" about Iran's nuclear program while desiring a peaceful resolution. Senior United States diplomat Robert Wood blamed Iran for "systematically demolishing" a facility at the Parchin military base, which IAEA inspectors have attempted to visit in the past, but were not granted access, saying "Iran has been taking measures that appear consistent with an effort to remove evidence of its past activities at Parchin."  The resolution was introduced jointly by China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. 
November 2012 report Edit
On 16 November, the IAEA released a report showing continued expansion in Iranian uranium enrichment capabilities. At Fordow, all 2,784 IR-1 centrifuges (16 cascades of 174 each) have been installed, though only 4 cascades are operating and another 4 are fully equipped, vacuum-tested, and ready to begin operating.  Iran has produced approximately 233 kg of near-20 per cent enriched uranium, an increase of 43 kg since the August 2012 IAEA report. 
The IAEA August 2012 report stated that Iran had begun to use 96 kg of its near-20 per cent enriched uranium to fabricate fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which makes it more difficult to further enrich that uranium to weapons grade, since it would first need to be converted back to uranium hexafluoride gas.  Though more of this uranium has been fabricated into fuel, no additional uranium has been sent to the Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant at Isfahan. 
The November report noted that Iran has continued to deny the IAEA access to the military site at Parchin. Citing evidence from satellite imagery that "Iran constructed a large explosives containment vessel in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments" relevant to nuclear weapons development, the report expresses concern that changes taking place at the Parchin military site might eliminate evidence of past nuclear activities, noting that there had been virtually no activity at that location between February 2005 and the time the IAEA requested access. Those changes include:
- Frequent presence of equipment, trucks and personnel.
- Large amounts of liquid run-off.
- Removal of external pipework.
- Razing and removal of five other buildings or structures and the site perimeter fence.
- Reconfiguration of electrical and water supply.
- Shrouding of the containment vessel building.
- Scraping and removal of large quantities of earth and the depositing of new earth in its place. 
Iran said that the IR-40 heavy water-moderated research reactor at Arak was expected begin to operate in the first quarter of 2014. During on-site inspections of the IR-40 design, IAEA inspectors observed that the installation of cooling and moderator circuit piping was continuing. 
February 2013 report Edit
On 21 February, the IAEA released a report showing continued expansion in Iranian uranium enrichment capabilities. As of 19 February, 12,699 IR-1 centrifuges have been installed at Natanz. This includes the installation of 2,255 centrifuges since the previous IAEA report in November. 
Fordow, the nuclear facility near Qom, contains 16 cascades, equally divided between Unit 1 and Unit 2, with a total of 2,710 centrifuges. Iran is continuing to operate the four cascades of 174 IR-1 centrifuges each in two tandem sets to produce 19.75 per cent LEU in a total of 696 enriching centrifuges, the same number of centrifuges enriching as was reported in November 2012. 
Iran has produced approximately 280 kg of near-20 per cent enriched uranium, an increase of 47 kg since the November 2012 IAEA report and the total 3.5 per cent LEU production stands at 8,271 kg (compared to 7,611 kg reported during the last quarter). 
The IAEA February 2013 report stated that Iran has resumed reconverting near-20 per cent enriched uranium into Oxide form to fabricate fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which makes it more difficult to further enrich that uranium to weapons grade, since it would first need to be converted back to uranium hexafluoride gas. 
The February report noted that Iran has continued to deny the IAEA access to the military site at Parchin. Citing evidence from satellite imagery that "Iran constructed a large explosives containment vessel in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments". Such installation could be an indicator of nuclear weapons development. The report expresses concern that changes taking place at the Parchin military site might eliminate evidence of past nuclear activities, noting that there had been virtually no activity at that location between February 2005 and the time the IAEA requested access. Those changes include:
- Reinstatement of some of the chamber building's features, for example wall panels and exhaust piping.
- Alterations to the roofs of the chamber building and the other large building.
- Dismantlement and reconstruction of the annex to the other large building.
- Construction of one small building at the same place where a building of similar size had previously been demolished.
- Spreading, levelling and compacting of another layer of material over a large area.
- Installation of a fence that divides the location into two areas. Most of these activities have also been documented by ISIS in satellite imagery reports, dated 29 November 2012, 12 December 2012 and 25 January 2013. 
Iran said that the IR-40 heavy water-moderated research reactor at Arak was expected begin to operate in the first quarter of 2014. During on-site inspections of the IR-40 design, IAEA inspectors observed that the previously reported installation of cooling and moderator circuit piping was almost complete. The IAEA reports that Iran will use the TRR to test fuel for the IR-40 reactor, a reactor that the UN Security Council has demanded that Iran stop building because it could be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. The IAEA report states that "on 26 November 2012, the Agency verified a prototype IR-40 natural uranium fuel assembly before its transfer to TRR for irradiation testing."  Since its last visit on 17 August 2011, the Agency has not been provided with further access to the plant so is relying on satellite imagery to monitor the status of the plant. 
March 2015 report Edit
In March 2015, IAEA Director General Amano reported that Iran did not provide sufficient access or information to resolve a dozen issues related to the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program, giving only very limited information on only one of those issues. 
December 2015 report Edit
In December 2015, the IAEA issued a report concluding: 
The Agency assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003. The Agency also assesses that these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities. The Agency has no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.
Following this report, the IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution closing its consideration of the issues in the report and terminating previous resolutions about Iran. 
Iranian views Edit
Interviews and surveys show that the majority of Iranians in all groups favor their country's nuclear program.    Polls in 2008 showed that the vast majority of Iranians want their country to develop nuclear energy, and 90 per cent of Iranians believe it is important (including 81 per cent very important) for Iran "to have a full fuel cycle nuclear program."  Though Iranians are not Arab, Arab publics in six countries also believe that Iran has the right to its nuclear program and should not be pressured to stop that program.  A poll in September 2010 by the International Peace Institute found that 71 per cent of Iranians favored the development of nuclear weapons, a drastic hike over the previous polls by the same agency.  However, in July 2012, a poll on an Iranian state-run media outlet found that 2/3 Iranians support suspending uranium enrichment in return for a gradual easing of sanctions.     Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born commentator with the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company, stated that while Iranians may want nuclear energy, they don't want it at the price the government is willing to pay. 
In explaining why it had left its enrichment program undeclared to the IAEA, Iran said that for the past twenty-four years it has "been subject to the most severe series of sanctions and export restrictions on material and technology for peaceful nuclear technology," so that some elements of its program had to be done discreetly. Iran said the US intention "is nothing but to make this deprivation" of Iran's inalienable right to enrichment technology "final and eternal," and that the United States is completely silent on Israel's nuclear enrichment and weapons program.  Iran began its nuclear research as early as 1975, when France cooperated with Iran to set up the Esfahan Nuclear Technology Center (ENTC) to provide training for personnel to develop certain nuclear fuel cycle capabilities.   Iran did not hide other elements of its nuclear program. For example, its efforts at mining and converting uranium were announced on national radio,   and Iran also says that in consultation with the Agency and member states throughout the 1990s it underlined its plans to acquire, for exclusively peaceful purposes, fuel enrichment technology.  Iran's contracts with other nations to obtain nuclear reactors were also known to the IAEA – but support for the contracts was withdrawn after "a U.S. special national intelligence estimate declared that while 'Iran's much publicized nuclear power intentions are entirely in the planning stage,' the ambitions of the shah could lead Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, especially in the shadow of India's successful nuclear test in May 1974".  In 2003, the IAEA reported that Iran had failed to meet its obligations to report some of its enrichment activities, which Iran says began in 1985, to the IAEA as required by its safeguards agreement. The IAEA further reported that Iran had undertaken to submit the required information for agency verification and "to implement a policy of co-operation and full transparency" as corrective actions. 
The Iranian government has repeatedly made compromise offers to place strict limits on its nuclear program beyond what the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Additional Protocol legally require of Iran, in order to ensure that the program cannot be secretly diverted to the manufacture of weapons.  These offers include operating Iran's nuclear program as an international consortium, with the full participation of foreign governments. This offer by the Iranians matched a proposed solution put forth by an IAEA expert committee that was investigating the risk that civilian nuclear technologies could be used to make bombs.  Iran has also offered to renounce plutonium extraction technology, thus ensuring that its heavy water reactor at Arak cannot be used to make bombs either.  More recently, the Iranians have reportedly also offered to operate uranium centrifuges that automatically self-destruct if they are used to enrich uranium beyond what is required for civilian purposes.  However, despite offers of nuclear cooperation by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, Iran has refused to suspend its enrichment program as the council has demanded.  Iran's representative asserted that dealing with the issue in the Security Council was unwarranted and void of any legal basis or practical utility because its peaceful nuclear program posed no threat to international peace and security, and, that it ran counter to the views of the majority of United Nations Member States, which the council was obliged to represent.
"They should know that the Iranian nation will not yield to pressure and will not let its rights be trampled on," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a crowd 31 August 2006, in a televised speech in the northwestern Iranian city of Orumiyeh. In front of his strongest supporters in one of his provincial power bases, the Iranian leader attacked what he called "intimidation" by the United Nations, which he said was led by the United States. Ahmadinejad criticised a White House rebuff of his offer for a televised debate with President Bush. "They say they support dialog and the free flow of information," he said. "But when debate was proposed, they avoided and opposed it." Ahmadinejad said that sanctions "cannot dissuade Iranians from their decision to make progress," according to Iran's state-run IRNA news agency. "On the contrary, many of our successes, including access to the nuclear fuel cycle and producing of heavy water, have been achieved under sanctions."
Iran insists enrichment activities are intended for peaceful purposes, but much of the West, including the United States, allege that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, or a nuclear weapons "capability". 31 August 2006, deadline called for Iran to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1696 and suspend its enrichment-related activities or face the possibility of economic sanctions. The United States believes the council will agree to implement sanctions when high-level ministers reconvene in mid-September, US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said. "We're sure going to work toward that [sanctions] with a great deal of energy and determination because this cannot go unanswered," Burns said. "The Iranians are obviously proceeding with their nuclear research they are doing things that the International Atomic Energy Agency does not want them to do, the Security Council doesn't want them to do. There has to be an international answer, and we believe there will be one." 
Iran asserts that there is no legal basis for Iran's referral to the United Nations Security Council since the IAEA has not proven that previously undeclared activities had a relationship to a weapons program, and that all nuclear material in Iran (including material that may not have been declared) had been accounted for and had not been diverted to military purposes. Article XII.C of the IAEA Statute  requires a report to the UN Security Council for any safeguards noncompliance.  The IAEA Board of Governors, in a rare non-consensus decision with 12 abstentions,  decided that "Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement" as reported by the IAEA in November 2003 constituted "non-compliance" under the terms of Article XII.C of IAEA Statute. 
Iran also minimizes the significance of the IAEA's inability to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, arguing the IAEA has only drawn such conclusions in a subset of states that have ratified and implemented the Additional Protocol. The IAEA has been able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran,  but not the absence of undeclared activities. According to the IAEA's Safeguards Statement for 2007, of the 82 states where both NPT safeguards and an Additional Protocol are implemented, the IAEA had found no indication of undeclared nuclear activity in 47 states, while evaluations of possible undeclared nuclear activity remained ongoing in 35 states.  Iran ceased implementation of the Additional Protocol and all other cooperation with the IAEA beyond that required under its safeguards agreement after the IAEA Board of Governors decided to report its safeguards non-compliance to the UN Security Council in February 2006.  Iran insisted that such cooperation had been "voluntary," but on 26 December 2006, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1737,  invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which among other things required Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA, "beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol." The IAEA reported on 19 November 2008, that, while it is "able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran," it "has not been able to make substantive progress" on "key remaining issues of serious concern" because of a "lack of cooperation by Iran."  Iran has maintained that the Security Council's engagement in "the issue of the peaceful nuclear activities of the Islamic Republic of Iran" are unlawful and malicious.  Iran also argues that the UN Security Council resolutions demanding a suspension of enrichment constitute a violation of Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which recognizes the inalienable right of signatory nations to nuclear technology "for peaceful purposes."  
Iran agreed to implement the Additional Protocol under the terms of the October 2003 Tehran agreement and its successor, the November 2004 Paris agreement, and did so for two years before withdrawing from the Paris agreement in early 2006 following the breakdown of negotiations with the EU-3. Since then, Iran has offered not only to ratify the Additional Protocol, but to implement transparency measures on its nuclear program that exceed the Additional Protocol, as long as its right to operate an enrichment program is recognized. The UN Security Council, however, insists that Iran must suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, and the United States explicitly ruled out the possibility that it would allow Iran to produce its own nuclear fuel, even under intense international inspection. 
On 9 April 2007, Iran announced that it has begun enriching uranium with 3 000 centrifuges, presumably at Natanz enrichment site. "With great honor, I declare that as of today our dear country has joined the nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale", said Ahmadinejad. 
On 22 April 2007, Iranians foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini announced that his country rules out enrichment suspension ahead of talks with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on 25 April 2007. 
In March 2009 Iran announced plans to open the Bushehr nuclear power plant to tourism as a way to highlight their peaceful nuclear intentions. [ citation needed ]
Reacting to the November 2009 IAEA Board of Governors resolution demanding that Iran immediately stop building its newly revealed nuclear facility and freeze uranium enrichment, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast described the resolution as a "show . aimed at putting pressure on Iran, which will be useless."  The Iranian government subsequently authorized the country's Atomic Energy Organization to begin building ten more uranium-enrichment plants for enhancing the country's electricity production. 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on 1 December brushed aside the threat of UN sanctions over his country's failure to accept a UN-proposed deal on its nuclear program, stating that such a move by western nations would not hinder Iran's nuclear program. Ahmadinejad told state television that he believed further negotiations with world powers over his country's nuclear program were not needed, describing warnings by Western powers that Iran would be isolated if it fails to accept the UN-proposed deal as "ridiculous." 
Watched by senior officials from Iran and Russia, Iran began fueling Bushehr I on 21 August 2010 the nation's state media reported, in an effort to help create nuclear-generated electricity. While state media reported it will take about two months for the reactor to begin generating electricity, Russia's nuclear agency says it will take longer. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, recently asserted Iran's right to establish nuclear plants. 
On 17 September 2012, speaking at the IAEA General Conference, Iranian nuclear chief Fereydoun Abbasi attacked the IAEA, saying that "terrorists and saboteurs" had possibly infiltrated the IAEA in order to derail Iran's nuclear program. Abbasi said that on 17 August 2012, an underground enrichment plant was sabotaged, and IAEA inspectors arrived in Iran to inspect it soon after.  The Associated Press noted that his comments reflected a determination in Iran to continue defying international pressure regarding its nuclear program.  Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said that Iran's accusations regarding the IAEA "are a new low. Increasingly cornered, they are lashing out wildly."  Abassi's allegations were viewed by some Western experts as providing a potential pretext for Iran to officially downgrade its level of cooperation with the IAEA.  Abbasi also met separately with IAEA Director General Amano, after which the IAEA pressed Iran to address concerns in its nuclear program, and said that the IAEA was ready for negotiations soon. The IAEA did not comment on Abbasi's statements regarding "terrorists and saboteurs," but did say that it was vital that Iran cooperate with IAEA inspectors in order to clarify suspicions regarding its nuclear program.   In an interview on the sidelines of the IAEA General Conference. Abbasi was quoted as saying that Iran had intentionally provided false information about its nuclear program to mislead western intelligence. Abbasi, who had been an assassination target in 2010, said Iran sometimes exaggerated and sometimes understated its progress.  
Iran planned to showcase its nuclear exports at Atomexpo 2013. 
The negotiations between Ahmadinejad's government and the P5+1 group did not end the dispute due to Iran's firm stance on not suspending uranium enrichment. At the same time, the top clerics in Tehran felt Ahmadinejad's firm standing against the West would destabilize their regime. Ahmadinejad had some tendency toward Iranian nationalism, which deviated from the clerics' theocratic rule. Hence they labeled the faction associated with him as "deviant current". When Ahmadinejad became a lame duck president in the last year of his second term (2012–2013), the clerics bypassed him and the Majles, and tried to negotiate secretly with the U.S. officials. They sent a separate team to Muscat to negotiate a nuclear deal through a back channel with the White House. Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said acted as mediator between the two governments. 
In September 2013, in an interview with the Washington Post, the newly elected President of Iran Hassan Rouhani said that he wanted a resolution to the nuclear issue within "months, not years." Rouhani said he saw the nuclear issue as a "beginning point" for US–Iran relations. 
United States views Edit
President George W. Bush insisted on 31 August 2006, that "there must be consequences" for Iran's defiance of demands that it stop enriching uranium. He asserted "the world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran. The Iranian regime arms, funds, and advises Hezbollah."  The IAEA issued a report saying Iran had not suspended its uranium enrichment activities, a United Nations official said. This report opened the way for UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. Facing a Security Council deadline to stop its uranium enrichment activities, Iran has left little doubt it will defy the West and continue its nuclear program. 
A congressional report released on 23 August 2006, summarized the documentary history of Iran's nuclear program, but also made allegations against the IAEA. The IAEA responded with a strongly worded letter to then US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, which labeled as "outrageous and dishonest" the report's allegation that an IAEA inspector was dismissed for violating a supposed IAEA policy against "telling the whole truth" about Iran and pointed out other factual errors, such as a claim that Iran had enriched "weapons-grade" uranium. 
John Bolton, then US ambassador to the United Nations on 31 August 2006, said that he expected action to impose sanctions to begin immediately after the deadline passes, with meetings of high-level officials in the coming days, followed by negotiations on the language of the sanctions resolution. Bolton said that when the deadline passes "a little flag will go up." "In terms of what happens afterward, at that point, if they have not suspended all uranium enrichment activities, they will not be in compliance with the resolution," he said. "And at that point, the steps that the foreign ministers have agreed upon previously . we would begin to talk about how to implement those steps." The five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, previously offered Iran a package of incentives aimed at getting the country to restart negotiations, but Iran refused to halt its nuclear activities first. Incentives included offers to improve Iran's access to the international economy through participation in groups such as the World Trade Organization and to modernize its telecommunications industry. The incentives also mentioned the possibility of lifting restrictions on US and European manufacturers wanting to export civil aircraft to Iran. And a proposed long-term agreement accompanying the incentives offered a "fresh start in negotiations." 
In a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, the United States Intelligence Community assessed that Iran had ended all "nuclear weapon design and weaponization work" in 2003. 
IAEA officials complained in 2007 that most US intelligence shared with it to date about Iran's nuclear program proved to be inaccurate, and that none had led to significant discoveries inside Iran through that time. 
Through 2008, the United States repeatedly refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in an attack on Iran. The US Nuclear Posture Review made public in 2002 specifically envisioned the use of nuclear weapons on a first strike basis, even against non-nuclear armed states.  Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh reported that, according to military officials, the Bush administration had plans for the use of nuclear weapons against "underground Iranian nuclear facilities".  When specifically questioned about the potential use of nuclear weapons against Iran, President Bush claimed that "All options were on the table". According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Bush "directly threatened Iran with a preemptive nuclear strike. It is hard to read his reply in any other way."  The Iranian authorities consistently replied that they were not seeking nuclear weapons as a deterrent to the United States, and instead emphasize the creation of a nuclear-arms free zone in the Middle East.  The policy of using nuclear weapons on a first-strike basis against non-nuclear opponents is a violation of the US Negative Security Assurance pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear members of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) such as Iran. Threats of the use of nuclear weapons against another country constitute a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 984 and the International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons.
In December 2008, President-Elect Barack Obama gave an interview on Sunday's "Meet the Press" with host Tom Brokaw during which he said the United States needs to "ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran". He said in his view the United States needs to make it clear to the Iranians that their alleged development of nuclear weapons and funding of organizations "like Hamas and Hezbollah," and threats against Israel are "unacceptable."  Obama supports diplomacy with Iran without preconditions "to pressure Iran to stop their illicit nuclear program".  Mohamed ElBaradei has welcomed the new stance to talk to Iran as "long overdue". Iran said Obama should apologize for the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II and his administration should stop talking to the world and "listen to what others are saying."  In his first press interview as president, Obama told Al Arabiya that "if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us." 
In March 2009 US National Intelligence Director Dennis C. Blair and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Michael D. Maples told a United States Senate Committee on Armed Services hearing that Iran has only low-enriched uranium, which there were no indications it was refining. Their comments countered ones made earlier by an Israeli general and Maples said the United States was arriving at different conclusions from the same facts. 
On 7 April 2009, a Manhattan district attorney charged a financier with the suspected misuse of Manhattan banks employed to transfer money between China and Iran by way of Europe and the United States.  The materials in question can be used for weapons as well as civilian purposes, but some of the material can potentially be used in making engine nozzles that can withstand fiery temperatures and centrifuges that can enrich uranium into atomic fuel. The charges would carry a maximum of up to a year in jail for fifth-degree conspiracy and a maximum of four years for falsifying business records.  David Albright, a nuclear weapons expert who assisted in the prosecution, said that it is impossible to say how Iran used or could use the raw materials it acquired. 
A document released by the US State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research in August 2009 assessed that Iran was unlikely to have the technical capability to produce HEU (highly enriched uranium) before 2013, and the US intelligence community had no evidence that Iran had yet made the decision to produce highly enriched uranium.  In 2009, US intelligence assessed that Iranian intentions were unknown.  
On 26 July 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton explicitly ruled out the possibility that the Obama administration would allow Iran to produce its own nuclear fuel, even under intense international inspection. 
Following the November 2009 IAEA Board of Governors resolution demanding Iran immediately stop building its newly revealed nuclear facility and freeze uranium enrichment, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs avoided mentioning sanctions but indicated harsher measures were possible unless Iran compromised: "If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences." Glyn Davies, the chief US delegate to the IAEA, told reporters: "Six nations . for the first time came together . [and] have put together this resolution we all agreed on. That's a significant development." 
A 2009 US congressional research paper said that US intelligence believed Iran ended "nuclear weapon design and weaponization work" in 2003.  Some advisors within the Obama administration reaffirmed the intelligence conclusions,  while other "top advisers" in the Obama administration "say they no longer believe" the key finding of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.  Thomas Fingar, former Chairman of the National Intelligence Council until December 2008, said that the original 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran "became contentious, in part, because the White House instructed the Intelligence Community to release an unclassified version of the report's key judgments but declined to take responsibility for ordering its release."  A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is the most authoritative written judgment concerning a national security issue prepared by the Director of Central Intelligence. 
The impending opening of the Bushehr I plant in late 2010 prompted the White House to question why Iran is continuing to enrich uranium within its borders. "Russia is providing the fuel, and taking the fuel back out," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in August. "It, quite clearly, I think, underscores that Iran does not need its own enrichment capability if its intentions, as it states, are for a peaceful nuclear program," he said. 
On 8 January 2012, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said on Face the Nation that Iran was not trying to develop a nuclear weapon, but was trying to develop a nuclear capability.  He also urged Israel to work together rather than make a unilateral strike on Iran's nuclear installations.  On 1 August 2012, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta while in Israel said that the United States had "options," including military options, to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon, should diplomacy fail.  In 2012, sixteen US intelligence agencies, including the CIA, reported that Iran was pursuing research that could enable it to produce nuclear weapons, but was not attempting to do so.  The senior officers of all of the major American intelligence agencies stated that there was no conclusive evidence that Iran has made any attempt to produce nuclear weapons since 2003. 
On 14 January 2013, the Institute for Science and International Security (a US think tank) published a 154-page report by five US experts titled "U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing Middle East", which stated that Iran could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more nuclear bombs by the middle of 2014. Therefore, the report recommended that the United States should increase sanctions on Iran in order to curb its ability to develop weapon-grade uranium. In addition the report states: "The president should explicitly declare that he will use military force to destroy Iran's nuclear program if Iran takes additional decisive steps toward producing a bomb." 
On 2 February 2013, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, US Vice President Joseph Biden said that the Obama administration "would be prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership. We would not make it a secret that we were doing that. We would let our partners know if that occasion presented itself. That offer stands, but it must be real and tangible, and there has to be an agenda that they’re prepared to speak to. We are not just prepared to do it for the exercise."  A few days later Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected the offer and added ambiguously: "The U.S. policies in the Middle East have failed and the Americans are in need of a winning hand. That is bringing Iran to the negotiating table."  On 4 February the Italian news-wire "Agenzia Nova", citing "sources in Teheran," reported that "from the beginning of the year Ali Larijani, Speaker of the (Iranian) Parliament, secretly traveled twice to the United States" to launch direct negotiations with the Obama Administration. The Italian Agency explained that US diplomacy was waiting for the Presidential election in Iran, that most probably will see a dramatic change in Iranian approach.   It was reported on 17 June Iran's newly elected president Hassan Rohani had expressed readiness for bilateral talks with Washington, with conditions. 
On 2 April 2015, hailing the agreement between the P5+1 and Iran on parameters for a comprehensive agreement, President Obama said "Today, the United States, together with our allies and partners, has reached an historic understanding with Iran, which if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon." 
In April 2018, Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State nominee at the time, said that he believed that Iran had not been "racing" to develop a nuclear weapon before the finalization of the Iran deal and that it would not do so if the deal were to unravel, although he favored a "fix" of the deal. 
Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 Edit
Iran has held a series of meetings with a group of six countries: China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, United States. These six are known as the P5+1 (the permanent five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) or alternatively as the E3+3. These meetings are intended to resolve concerns about Iran's nuclear program.
October 2009 Geneva negotiations Edit
January 2011 Istanbul meeting Edit
Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 were resumed on 21 January 2011 in Istanbul after about a 14-month break. The two-day meetings were led by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. The talks deadlocked after Iran imposed two preconditions: recognition of Iran's right to enrich uranium and dropping the United Nations economic sanctions on Tehran.  
April 2012 Istanbul meeting Edit
The first session of fresh negotiations in April went well, with delegates praising the constructive dialogue and Iran's positive attitude.  Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, however, that Iran had been given a "freebie",  a charge that was sharply rebutted by Barack Obama.  In the lead up to the second round of negotiations in May, and in what may foreshadow a significant concession, an unnamed senior US official hinted the United States might accept Iran enriching uranium to five per cent so long as the Iranians agreed to tough international oversight of the process. The US shift was reportedly made for the pragmatic reason that unconditional demands for zero enrichment would make it impossible to reach a negotiated deal.  Netanyahu had insisted a few days before that he would tolerate no enrichment, not even to the three per cent required for nuclear power.  In a shift on the Iranian side, April saw members of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps urging Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to maintain a policy of keeping uranium enrichment at or below 20 per cent.  The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton felt compelled to make a special visit to Netanyahu, partly to keep him from again voicing his negativity and opposition to the negotiations.  At the meeting, which included Avigdor Lieberman, Ehud Barak and Shaul Mofaz, the Israelis demanded a guaranteed timetable for cessation of all uranium enrichment by Iran, the removal of all enriched uranium, and the dismantlement of the underground facility at Fordo. Otherwise, they said, Iran would use the talks to buy time.  
May 2012 Baghdad negotiations Edit
Second enrichment plant Edit
On 21 September 2009, Iran informed the IAEA  that it was constructing a second enrichment facility. The following day (22 September) IAEA Director General ElBaradei informed the United States, and two days later (24 September) the United States, United Kingdom and France briefed the IAEA on an enrichment facility under construction at an underground location at Fordu, 42 kilometres (26 mi) north of Qom. On 25 September, at the G-20 Summit, the three countries criticized Iran for once again concealing a nuclear facility from the IAEA. The United States said that the facility, which was still months from completion, was too small to be useful for a civil program but could produce enough high-enriched uranium for one bomb per year.  Iran said the plant was for peaceful purposes and would take between a year and a half to two years to complete, and that the notice Iran had given had exceeded the 180 days before insertion of nuclear materials the IAEA safeguards agreement that Iran was following required. Iran agreed to allow IAEA inspections.  Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the site was built for maximum protection from aerial attack: carved into a mountain and near a military compound of the powerful Revolutionary Guard. 
Also in October, the United States, France and Russia proposed a UN-drafted deal to Iran regarding its nuclear program, in an effort to find a compromise between Iran's stated need for a nuclear reactor and international concerns that Iran harbors a secret intent on developing a nuclear weapon. After some delay in responding, on 29 October, Ahmadinejad voiced an openness towards cooperation with other world powers. "We welcome fuel exchange, nuclear co-operation, building of power plants and reactors and we are ready to co-operate," he said in a live broadcast on state television.  However, he added that Iran would not retreat "one iota" on its right to a sovereign nuclear program. 
In November 2009, the IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution that criticized Iran for defying a UN Security Council ban on uranium enrichment, censured Iran for secretly building a uranium enrichment facility and demanded that it immediately suspend further construction. It noted the IAEA chief Mohammed El-Baradei cannot confirm that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively geared toward peaceful uses, and expressed "serious concern" that Iran's stonewalling of an IAEA probe means "the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program" cannot be excluded. 
Cooperation with Venezuela, 2009 Edit
In October 2009 Hugo Chávez announced that Iran was helping Venezuela in uranium exploration. He said that "We're working with several countries, with Iran, with Russia. We're responsible for what we're doing, we're in control".  A number of reports suggested that Venezuela was helping Iran to obtain uranium and evade international sanctions.  
Enrichment, 2010 Edit
On 9 February 2010 the Iranian government announced that it would produce uranium enriched to up to 20 per cent to produce fuel for a research reactor used to produce medical radioisotopes, processing its existing stocks of 3.5 per cent enriched uranium.   Two days later during the celebrations in Tehran for the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Islamic revolution, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran was now a "nuclear state."  IAEA officials confirmed it has enriched uranium "up to 19.8%".  Responding to criticism, President Ahmadinejad said, "Why do they think that 20 per cent is such a big deal? Right now in Natanz we have the capability to enrich at over 20 per cent and at over 80 per cent, but because we don't need it, we won't do it." He added "If we wanted to manufacture a bomb, we would announce it."   On the same day as the President's announcement, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Reuters that their 20 per cent enrichment production, was going "very well," adding "There is no limit on enrichment. We can enrich up to 100% . But we never had the intention and we do not have the intention to do so, unless we need (to)." He maintained that the 20 per cent production was for a Tehran medical reactor, and as such would be limited to around 1.5 kg per month. 
Iran has reportedly breached its nuclear pact with world powers by surging its enriched uranium stock and further refining its purity beyond allowed standards, the UN atomic agency, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said. 
Diplomats closely monitoring the work of International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) in Iran have said that investigators found traces of uranium at a secret atomic facility based in Tehran.  
Tehran Nuclear Declaration, 2010 Edit
US President Obama reportedly sent a letter dated 20 April 2010 to President Lula of Brazil, in which he outlined a proposal of fuel swap. While expressing skepticism that the Iranians would now be willing to accept such a deal, having provided "no credible explanation" for the previous deal's rejection,  President Obama wrote "For us, Iran’s agreement to transfer 1,200 kg of Iran’s low enriched uranium (LEU) out of the country would build confidence and reduce regional tensions by substantially reducing Iran’s LEU stockpile."  Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan received a similar letter. A senior US official told The Washington Post that the letter was a response to Iran's desire to ship out its uranium piecemeal, rather than in a single batch, and that during "multiple conversations" US officials made clear that Iran should also cease 20 per cent enrichment however, the official stated "there was no president-to-president letter laying out those broader concerns". 
On 17 May 2010 Iran, Brazil, and Turkey issued a joint declaration "in which Iran agreed to send low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for enriched fuel for a research reactor."   Iran reported the joint declaration to the IAEA on 24 May 2010, asking it to inform the "Vienna Group" (the United States, Russia, France, and the IAEA), in order to conclude a written agreement and make contingent arrangements between Iran and the Vienna Group. [ citation needed ] The proposal was welcomed by Arab leaders    and China.   France's Prime Minister called the agreement a "positive step" toward resolving the Iran nuclear program dispute, if Iran were to cease uranium enrichment altogether.  EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton played down the agreement, saying it was a step in the right direction but did not go far enough and left questions unanswered.  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the proposal had "a number of deficiencies," including Iran's intention to continue enriching uranium to high levels. 
Meanwhile, the United States was also pursuing other action to address the situation in Iran, in the case that the more diplomatic method not produce a satisfactory deal, and on 18 May 2010, announced a "draft accord" among UN permanent Security Council members for additional sanctions on Iran, designed to pressure it to end its nuclear enrichment program.  Turkey and Brazil criticized the sanctions proposal.  Davutoglu said that the swap agreement showed Iran's "clear political will" toward engagement on the nuclear issue.  Brazil's Foreign Minister also expressed frustration with the US stance, saying of Brazil's vote against the sanctions resolution: "We could not have voted in any different way except against." 
Early analysis from the BBC stated the swap deal could have been an "effort by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to deflect pressure for fresh sanctions" and that "Iran watchers are already criticising Washington for moving the goal posts".  Iran's atomic energy chief said the agreement left world powers no reason to continue to pressure Iran regarding its nuclear program. [ citation needed ] Iran also described the agreement as a major boost to trilateral relations with Brazil and Turkey, and Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized the continuing call for sanctions, stating that the "domineering powers headed by America are unhappy with cooperation between independent countries." 
Mohamed ElBaradei, former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote that "the only way to resolve the Iranian issue is to build trust. Moving 1200, half, or at least more than half of the Iranian nuclear material out of Iran is a confidence-building measure would defuse the crisis and enable the US and the West [to gain] the space to negotiate. I hope that it would be perceived as a win-win situation. If we see what I have been observing in the last couple of days that it is an "empty dressing", I think it is a wrong approach. we lost six years of failed policy frankly vis-à-vis Iran. And it's about time now to understand that the Iranian issue is not going to be resolved except, until and unless we sit with the Iranians and try to find a fair and equitable solution."  "If this deal is followed up with a broader engagement of the IAEA and the international community, it can be a positive step to a negotiated settlement," UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said. 
Possible espionage and assassinations Edit
Several Iranian nuclear scientists died in alleged assassination attacks between 2010 and 2012.  According to Iran, and privately confirmed by unnamed US government officials, the attacks on the nuclear scientists and facilities are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group called the People's Mujahedin of Iran. According to US officials, the group is financed, trained, and armed by Mossad. 
According to former Iranian chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi, the West used tourists and environmentalists to spy on Iran: "In their possessions were a variety of reptile desert species like lizards, chameleons… We found out that their skin attracts atomic waves and that they were nuclear spies who wanted to find out where inside the Islamic Republic of Iran we have uranium mines and where we are engaged in atomic activities.", however these plots were foiled by Iran.   
February and April 2013 Almaty negotiations Edit
September 2013 Ministerial meeting Edit
Foreign Ministers of the P5+1 met in September 2013 on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, and were joined by Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. [ citation needed ]
Why would Iran want nuclear weapons?
For several reasons. Until the defeat of Saddam Hussein, Iran was clearly concerned about Iraq’s potential to develop such weapons. Iraq had already used chemical weapons against Iran in the 1980-88 war. Tehran is also worried about countering Israel, which is widely acknowledged to have nuclear weapons. Experts also say that some in Iran argue that possessing even a primitive nuclear weapons arsenal could deter a pre-emptive attack by U.S. forces stationed next door in Iraq.
Hopes raised for Iran agreement
While it would remove most of the low-enriched uranium Iran has stockpiled, Iran has not agreed to stop enrichment and it could make up the amount in about a year.
The draft was drawn up by the UN nuclear agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), after talks in Vienna between Iran and the US, Russia and France.
The plan is to take 1,200kg of the low-enriched uranium Iran has produced (about 75% of its stockpile), enrich it further in Russia to just under 20% and then make it into fuel rods in France.
The rods would then go back to Iran, under IAEA control, to power a research reactor in Tehran producing radioactive isotopes used in the detection and treatment of cancer.
This reactor was originally installed by the US when the Shah was in power, but it is running out of fuel, which was provided by Argentina.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has circulated a draft text to the governments concerned and hopes for a reply by Friday.
Mr ElBaradei, who has been something of an optimist in all the lengthy dealings with Iran, spoke in upbeat terms: "Everybody who participated at the meeting was trying to look at the future not at the past, trying to heal the wounds. I very much hope that people see the big picture, [and] see that this agreement could open the way for a complete normalisation of relations between Iran and the international community."
Diplomats from the countries negotiating with Iran might not be so sure. One remarked that dealing with Iran was "worse than in Groundhog Day".
"That was the same every day. Now you wake up and things are a little bit worse."
Perhaps not this time, if - and it is a big if - Iran accepts the agreement and it is carried through.
Experts have welcomed the proposed deal.
Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in London, feels this approach is "the best and maybe the only way" out of the crisis. He said that he and others had urged a solution based on getting the low-enriched uranium out of Iran.
The Obama administration, he added, had capitalised on Iran's need for fuel for its research reactor by proposing this arrangement.
Whether it serves as a model for Iran's wider nuclear power needs is more doubtful. The Iranians still insist that their domestic enrichment programme will go ahead.
So while talk of further sanctions is likely to abate for the moment, an end-of-year deadline set by Washington for serious progress towards a comprehensive solution might well yet come into play.
Western diplomats are looking for two other confidence-building measures.
The first is a follow-up to the agreement reached in Geneva earlier this month that there should be a substantive meeting with Iran on the nuclear issue by the end of October. No date has yet been set.
The other is for a proper inspection regime to be agreed for the newly-announced enrichment plant near Qom. The IAEA is to visit it on Sunday but Western governments want the IAEA to have access to documents, plans and to the scientists working there to try to assess its significance.
Biden can make history on nuclear arms reductions
In April 2009, just a few months after taking office, then-President Obama gave a speech in Prague, where he said the following:
“[A]s a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it. So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
The speech was widely praised and was the principal reason Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize later that year.
But talking about eliminating nuclear weapons and getting the job done are two very different things. To be fair, Obama didn’t claim it would be easy, saying “this goal will not be reached quickly –- perhaps not in my lifetime.”
President Obama did have two signature achievements on nuclear weapons policy — the conclusion of the New START nuclear reductions treaty with Russia and the multilateral deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). New START cut deployed U.S. and Russian warheads by one-third and preserved and expanded a rigorous verification regime that injects a measure of predictability in nuclear relations between Washington and Moscow. The Iran deal headed off a potential war between Washington and Tehran and put enforceable limits on Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon. Both were significant accomplishments that made the world a safer place.
But domestic and international politics and a lack of sustained attention to the issue conspired to make New START the last step towards nuclear disarmament of the Obama era. There was no follow-on agreement to New START, and no effort to rethink the massive nuclear modernization plans being pursued by the Pentagon and the Department of Energy, which were actually reaffirmed and expanded by the Obama administration as part of the price of winning Republican support for Senate ratification of New START.
Meanwhile, President Trump Donald TrumpWhat blue wave? A close look at Texas today tells of a different story Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin Trump's former bodyguard investigated in NY prosectors' probe: report MORE did everything in his power to erase the Obama nuclear legacy and attack arms control more generally, abandoning the Iran deal, withdrawing from a longstanding agreement on intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe and adding new warheads and weapons systems to the Pentagon’s already massive, three-decade-long nuclear modernization plan, which could cost up to $2 trillion.
As a candidate and now as president, Joe Biden has embraced the Obama legacy by renewing the New START treaty with Russia and promising to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. Time is of the essence on the Iran deal. The administration must seize on recent, promising signs of progress to reenter the deal as quickly as possible, before domestic politics in the U.S. and Iran make it much more difficult to do so.
One the broader nuclear front, Biden has pledged to “head off costly arms races and reestablish our credibility as a leader in arms control.”
Rescuing the best aspects of Obama’s nuclear policies is a worthy undertaking, but President Biden Joe BidenMilitary must better understand sexual assaults to combat them The Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population On The Money: Democrats make full-court press on expanded child tax credit | White House confident Congress will raise debt ceiling MORE can and must go further. A good place to start would be by revisiting the Pentagon’s costly and unnecessary nuclear weapons modernization plan. As part of that effort, he should cancel the plan to spend $264 billion to develop, build and operate a new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).
Canceling the new ICBM would be good politics as well as good policy. A poll carried out by ReThink Media on behalf of the Federation of American Scientists found that 60 percent of Americans favored either forgoing the development of a new ICBM, eliminating ICBMs or eliminating all nuclear weapons.
As former Secretary of Defense William Perry has noted, ICBMs are “some of the most dangerous weapons in the world” because the president would have just a matter of minutes to decide whether to launch them in a crisis, greatly increasing the risk of an accidental nuclear war based on a false alarm. Bearing this in mind, Sen. Ed Markey Ed MarkeyBiden risks break with progressives on infrastructure Ron Johnson booed at Juneteenth celebration in Wisconsin Black lawmakers warn against complacency after Juneteenth victory MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ro Khanna Rohit (Ro) KhannaPublic option fades with little outcry from progressives Democrats shift tone on unemployment benefits Khanna outlines how progressives will push in climate infrastructure proposal MORE (D-Calif.) are co-sponsoring a bill – the “Investing in Cures Before Missiles (ICBM) Act” – that would take funds slated for the new ICBM and invest them instead in efforts to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine.
The arguments against ICBMs are underscored in a blueprint for a “deterrence-only” nuclear strategy developed by the organization Global Zero, which persuasively makes the case for a revamped nuclear arsenal that eliminates ICBMs and relies on smaller numbers of nuclear-armed submarines than are currently deployed, along with a reserve force of nuclear-armed bombers.
Adopting this approach would have a stabilizing effect and could set the stage for further measures aimed at achieving the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons altogether, as required under the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in January of this year after it was ratified by 54 nations, but none of the major nuclear powers, yet. Canceling the new ICBM project would be a good place to start towards the goal of creating the nuclear-free world that Barack Obama Barack Hussein ObamaObama: Voting rights bill must pass before next election The world's most passionate UFO skeptic versus the government Biden plans to host Obama for portrait unveiling that Trump skipped: report MORE endorsed and Joe Biden could help advance.
William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy.
Bill Clinton Once Struck a Nuclear Deal With North Korea
President Bill Clinton took the podium on October 18, 1994, with aspeech that reads like a sigh of relief—the announcement of a landmark nuclear agreement between the United States and North Korea. “This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world,” he assured the nation. Called the Agreed Framework, it was designed to put the brakes on North Korea’s nuclear program, and it promised to put an end to years of increasing nuclear tension, including a near war, to a halt.
“This agreement represents the first step on the road to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” Clinton said. “It does not rely on trust.” In exchange for North Korea ending its nuclear weapons program, the United States agreed to normalize relations with the nation𠅊nd both agreed to pursue 𠇏ormal assurances” not to use nukes against one another.
The agreement𠅏orged against all odds in an environment of fear and worry—seemed bulletproof. So why did it fail just a few years later? The reasons why are rooted in behind-the-scenes negotiations and international mistrust.
North Korea had been preparing for nuclear war since the Cold War, when the USSR began to train North Korean scientists to build nuclear weapons. As part of the Communist bloc, North Korea was closely aligned with the USSR, and Moscow provided the technology, training and even geological surveys that helped North Korea locate local deposits of graphite and uranium ore that could be used to create nuclear weapons.
According to Derek Bolton, who works with the national security think tank American Security Project, North Korea was well on its way to a nuclear weapons program by the 1960s, and had conducted successful experiments with fission, the underlying chemical phenomenon that can cause a nuclear reaction, under the supervision of the USSR as early as 1963.
Over the years, North Korea tried to find more support for its nuclear program, includingengaging South Korea in talks about whether the two countries should develop a joint nuclear weapon in secret. (South Korea declined.) But it took until the 1980s for the world to realize that North Korea might be serious about building nukes𠅊nd to recognize that it might be closer to nuclear weapons than previously thought.
A1992 file photo showing missiles marching in the North Korean People’s forces’ 60th anniversary parade. (Credit: Jiji Press/KNS/AFP/Getty Images)
Despite its apparent commitment to developing nuclear weapons, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung did ratify the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1985. The international treaty, which was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, had been in force since 1970, but North Korea had lagged behind other nations like the United States. Now that North Korea was on board, though, it also began mining uranium and producing plutonium𠅋oth critical to the production of nuclear weapons𠅊nd creating nuclear reactors during the 1980s. Then, in 1989, the Soviet Union fell, leaving North Korea increasingly isolated.
“With the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea lost its main protector,” Georgetown University professor Keir LeibertoldVox’s Zack Beauchamp. “What does it have that can counter conventional US power? The answer is obvious: nuclear weapons.”
That same year, the U.S. discovered Kim Il Sung’s covert nuclear program using satellite imagery, and North Korea kept developing weapons even afteragreeing with South Korea not to test or manufacture nukes. As a result, the International Atomic Energy Agency, an autonomous nuclear oversight organization that reports directly to the United Nations, asked to conduct inspections of North Korean nuclear sites in 1992 and 1993. North Korea refused, and threatened to back out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
This represented a double crisis for then-President Clinton. Republicans in Congress pressured him not to negotiate with North Korea, but the international community and Democrats argued that engagement was the only solution. Meanwhile, North Korea escalated its rhetoric,telling the United States that North Korea would turn Seoul into 𠇊 sea of flames” if the U.S. pursued sanctions through the United Nations.
Former North Korea President Kim Il Sung sitting alongside former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in June 1994, just weeks before Kim’s death. (Credit: Korean Central News Agency/AP Photo)
The U.S. considered military intervention, but also sent Jimmy Carter to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Il Sung. Carter convinced Kim to start nuclear talks𠅋ut the day negotiations were supposed to begin, Kim died. He was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il, the very man who founded the most controversial nuclear complex in North Korea, a facility in Yongbyon.
Things looked grim, but Clinton became increasingly convinced that direct negotiations were the only way. However, American negotiators doubted from the start that diplomacy would work. “The initial contacts were to test the proposition that we could address their security concerns by getting them to give up their nuclear weapons,” Robert Gallucci, the chief negotiator,toldBeyond Parallel in a 2016 interview. “It was not so much of a conviction on anybody’s part…It was possibly true, and worth testing.”
For 16 months, Gallucci and his team conducted intense negotiations with North Korea. The countries locked horns on what it would take for North Korea to stop producing nukes. Finally, they came to an agreement—the Agreed Framework.
Just four pages long, theagreement said that North Korea would shut down its main nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, abandon two others, and seal fuel that could potentially be used to create a nuclear weapon. In exchange, the U.S. would provide oil to make up for the fuel lost from the dismantled plants and would build two new “light fuel” plants from which it would be harder to extract nuclear materials. If North Korea did try to get fuel out of the new plants, it would beeasy for nuclear watchdogs to identify𠅊nd hard to hide. In addition, the agreement promised that the U.S. would lift economic sanctions and its diplomatic freeze on North Korea and agree that it would not use nuclear weapons of its own on North Korea.
President Bill Clinton looks on as Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gallucci meets reporters in the White House briefing room, October 18, 1994. The president announced that North Korea agreed to freeze its existing nuclear program and accept international inspection of all its nuclear facilities. (Credit: Marcy Nighswander/Getty Images)
On the surface, it looked like the U.S. was offering huge concessions to North Korea in exchange for few assurances. But behind the scenes, the Clinton administrationthought that North Korea was on the verge of collapse and likely wouldn’t last long enough for the U.S. to build the agreed-upon reactors. In North Korea, the agreement wasn’t taken seriously. Isolated, impoverished and headed by a leader who believed nuclear power would give the country power on the international stage, North Korea had little motivation to give up its program.
Clinton knew the agreement would be hugely controversial—so he structured it in a way that ensured it wouldn’t have to be ratified by the Senate. Republicans were infuriated. And shortly after the agreement was signed, the Republicans won control of Congress. They grilled Gallucci. “It was pretty harsh,” hetold PBS in 2003. “We did not get ticker tape parades, as it turned out.” Congress made it clear that they would not agree to actually fund the implementation of the project or sanction formal peace agreements between the two countries.
Meanwhile, North Korea continued producing uranium. Kim Jong Il, it turned out, had used potential nukes as a bargaining chip𠅎ven though he had no intention of stopping the program. Despite promisinginitial results, North Korea began flouting the agreement more and more. North Korea ignored warnings that the agreement was in jeopardy and soon intelligence agencies realized it possessed much more advanced nuclear tech than the U.S. had suspected.
At first it seemed like George W. Bush, who took office in 2001, might continue Clinton-era diplomatic policies toward North Korea. But then things fell apart. Bush’s diplomats stopped sending fuel shipments North Korea complained bitterly that the promised nuclear reactors had never been built. And when the September 11 terrorist attacks happened, it pushed American diplomacy in other directions𠅊nd Bush mentioned North Korea as one of the three countries in his 𠇊xis of Evil” State of the Union Speech in 2002.
Soon, relations between the two countries were openly tense, if not hostile. North Korea dropped out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003. By 2006, it had conducted its first nuclear test𠅊n underground delivery that may have been a fizzle, or unsuccessful explosion. And though Bill Clinton himselfheaded to North Korea to successfully negotiate the release of two American hostages in 2009, it was too late to halt North Korea’s march toward nukes.
Though the United States continues to try to seek solutions to North Korea’s potential nukes, including the potential of talks between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, Clinton’s vision of an end to nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula now seems more like a mirage.
Israeli Paper: Obama Adviser Valerie Jarrett Holding Secret Talks With Iran
(CNSNews.com) – In the final presidential debate, President Obama dismissed reports about an agreement to hold one-on-one talks with Iranian officials after the election, but now, two weeks later, fresh claims have emerged on the eve of Tuesday’s election, this time tying senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to alleged secret talks with representatives of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Israel’s mass-circulation Yediot Ahronot newspaper cited unidentified Israeli officials as saying the talks had been led by the Iranian-born Jarrett, were held in Bahrain, and had taken place over “several months.”
Mideast expert Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Israel, said the “story should be taken very seriously.” He noted that it was reported by the Israeli paper’s defense correspondent, Alex Fishman, “considered to be a reliable reporter with good sources in the Israeli government.”
Attempts to get White House reaction to the claims late Monday were unsuccessful.
This is the second time in recent weeks that Jarrett’s name has been linked to alleged discussions with Iran. Last month, a former CIA operative who worked in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Reza Kahlili, cited Iranian regime sources as saying Jarrett had held secret talks with senior Iranians in Qatar.
According to Kahlili’s reports, which appeared in World Net Daily, attempts were made to reach agreement on the announcement of a breakthrough in the nuclear standoff before the Nov. 6 U.S. election.
Kahlili said the Iranian team was headed by Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister. Velayati is a special advisor to the supreme leader on foreign affairs, and a potential candidate in next year’s Iranian presidential election. He is also wanted by Argentinian prosecutors in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
Jarrett was born to American parents in Shiraz, Iran, where her father worked as a physician. A Chicago lawyer close to Barack and Michelle Obama, she is a senior adviser to the president and heads the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Last July, she took part in a White House roundtable with Iranian-American organizations, including the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group that advocates “strategic engagement” with Tehran.
CNSNews.com asked NIAC spokesman Jamal Abdi late Monday whether negotiations with Iran had come up during the roundtable discussions.
“A majority of Iranian Americans support U.S.-Iran diplomacy as the best way to prevent war and address human rights, so the issue was raised at the White House event, but in very broad terms,” he replied. “There was nothing specific discussed about negotiations and not with Ms. Jarrett.”
Abdi voiced skepticism about the latest claim of secret talks.
“I would take these reports with a grain of salt, particularly given the improbability of Bahrain as the location,” he said.
At the same time, Abdi was supportive of the need for negotiations, and saw value in holding them out of the public eye.
“Direct talks are certainly a better course than war and sanctions on innocent people. We will need real diplomacy to resolve security concerns about Iran's nuclear work, seriously address human rights abuses in Iran, and put an end to inhumane sanctions,” he said. “Time is of the essence.”
“Political nonsense on all sides has derailed the few public negotiations that have held over the past few years, so talks outside of the spotlight may be a good thing,” Abdi added.
‘Intense, secret exchanges’
In a front page story on October 21, the New York Times reported that “The United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials.”
It said the agreement was “a result of intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term.”
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor at the time denied that an agreement had been reached but added that the administration had “said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally.”
The Iranian foreign ministry also denied the report, and the next day, during the Oct. 22 debate with Gov. Mitt Romney, Obama said reports of a deal were “not true.” (Several minutes later, he confirmed having a policy of “potentially having bilateral discussions with the Iranians to end their nuclear program.”)
The New York Times stood by its story Executive Editor Jill Abramson said that the White House was “hair-splitting” in its denial that there was an agreement.
While campaigning for the presidency, then Sen. Obama was asked during a Jul. 2007 presidential primary debate whether as president he would meet with the leaders of Iran (as well as those of Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea) “in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries.”
He replied that he would, adding that “the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them – which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this [George W. Bush] administration – is ridiculous.”
After he took office Obama offered to engage with Iranian leaders who were willing to “unclench their fist” and in a March 2009 Nowruz (Persian new year) message called for “a new beginning” in relations.
A year later, after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hotly-disputed re-election, a violent crackdown and continuing nuclear defiance, Obama in a Nowruz 2010 message told Tehran again that “our offer of comprehensive diplomatic contacts and dialogue stands.”
The president’s messages on Nowruz 2011 and 2012 were silent on the subject of engagement with the regime, focusing instead on the Iranian people.
Iran hid its nuclear program from the international community for almost two decades before it was exposed by opponents of the regime in 2002. Over the drawn-out standoff with the international community ever since it has consistently maintained that the activities are peaceful, despite the growing concerns of Western governments and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said late last month that Iran’s opportunities to resolve the nuclear dispute diplomatically were running out.
“The window remains open to resolve the international community’s concerns about your nuclear program diplomatically and to relieve your isolation, but that window cannot remain open indefinitely,” she said after talks with European Union foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton. “Therefore, we hope that there can be serious, good-faith negotiations commenced soon.”
October 21, 2009 - Potential Nuclear Agreement With iran - History
When we think of weapons of war doing damage to physical things, we tend to think of solid objects, whether they be spears, swords, guns, bombs, tanks, or aircraft. But in June of 2010, a group of computer programmers stumbled on one of the most innovative of a new type of weapon that had recently emerged: one made up of nothing more substantial than lines of ones and zeroes, but every bit as precise and destructive to certain physical objects as any laser-guided bomb. It was an opening shot in a new, shadowy theatre of warfare that threatens the very foundations of our digital, connected society. This is the story of STUXNET, one of the world’s first digital weapons.
On June 24, 2010, Sergey Ulasen and Oleg Kupreev, analysts for Minsk-based anti-malware firm VirusBlokAda, received a set of suspicious files which were causing computers in Iran to enter an endless reboot loop. Even wiping the computers and reinstalling all the software didn’t seem to help the files somehow always managed to reinfect the system. At first Ulasen and Kupreev thought little of the assignment after all, VirusBlokAda dealt with thousands of new pieces of malware every year. But as soon as they looked closer at the code, they realized that this was something very different indeed.
For one thing, it was big: 500 kilobytes compared to 10-15 for most viruses. And when the files were uncompressed this ballooned to a colossal 1.2 megabytes. The next surprise came when Ulasen transferred the files to his work computer not only did they install and run themselves automatically, but they did so without triggering any alarms or warnings. This could only mean one thing: the worm had a kernel-level rootkit that allowed it to burrow deep into the computer’s operating system and evade detection by virus-scanning software. But the biggest shock came when Ulasen looked at how the worm installed itself. Most viruses exploit Windows’s AutoRun feature, which automatically detects and opens flash drives and other devices. But this exploit is easily thwarted by simply disabling AutoRun. Instead, this worm used a series of .LNK files, used by Windows to automatically display files and applications as icons. It was a fiendishly clever exploit, and one Ulasen and Kupreev had never seen before. A quick check of VirusBlokAda’s malware registry confirmed their suspicions: they had stumbled upon the holy grail for malware hunters – a zero-day exploit.
Zero-day exploits are software vulnerabilities which neither manufacturers nor antivirus companies are yet aware of. So-named because such companies would have zero days’ warning of an attack, zero-days are highly coveted by hackers, cybercriminals, and intelligence agencies, and can fetch rather hefty prices when ordered on illicit markets. Given the danger they pose, true zero-day exploits are exceedingly rare of the 12 million new viruses discovered each year, you can generally count on two hands the number of zero-day ones from that number. So try and imagine Ulasen and Kupreev’s shock when they discovered not one, not two, but three more zero-day exploits hidden in the worm. A single zero-day was rare enough four was unheard of.
And the surprises didn’t end there. The worm contained four separate .LNK files to allow it to infect every version of Windows since Windows 2000, and appeared designed to spread not via the internet like normal viruses but via flash drives. It also featured what appeared to be genuine digital certificates signed by Realtek Semiconductor in Taiwan – a highly valuable security feature almost impossible for most hackers to obtain. But strangest of all, the worm was programmed to specifically seek out SIMATIC Step 7 or WinCC software on Siemens Programmable Logic Controllers, or PLCs – small computers used in industry to control things like robotic arms on automated assembly lines. If the machine the worm infected didn’t have this software installed, the worm would shut itself down and leave the machine alone. Ulasen and Kupreev were baffled not only was the worm designed to seek out an extremely specific target, but the target itself made no sense. Most malware is designed to steal credit card numbers, passwords, and other information with the intent of making money, but this worm seemed specifically designed to attack industrial systems. But what systems, and for what purpose? Unfortunately by this time Ulasen and Kupreev had been assigned to other projects. But before moving on, they announced their discovery on the company website and a cybersecurity forum. They also gave the mysterious worm a name, derived from one of its system files: STUXNET.
And there the story of STUXNET would have ended, were it not for the perseverance of another pair of malware hunters: Liam O’Murchu and Eric Chien of California firm Symantec. Upon receiving the STUXNET files on July 16, 2010, the pair immediately spotted an unusual feature: whenever STUXNET infected a new computer, it sent a confirmation message with the machine’s IP address to a pair of IP addresses masquerading as soccer fan sites, allowing its creators to track its progress as it hopped from machine to machine. O’Murchu and Chien diverted the DNS of these sites to a sinkhole – a dedicated server in their office – and watched as the pings started flooding in. Within four days STUXNET had infected over 38,000 machines – 3700 in India, 6700 in Indonesia, and 22,000 in Iran. A quick internet search revealed the connection between these countries: the 2700 – kilometre-long Peace Pipeline stretching from the South Pars Oil Field in Iran through Pakistan and India. The attack had apparently begun in Iran and spread via infected flash drives along the pipeline. But what was being targeted in Iran? Despite gaining a better understanding how STUXNET spread and operated, O’Murchu and Chien were no closer to determining its purpose than Ulasen and Kupreev.
The final piece of the STUXNET puzzle would be uncovered by Dutch programmer Ron Hulsebos, who in November 2010 discovered in the worm’s payload an application designed to attack two specific models of frequency converters – devices for controlling extremely precise electric motors. When Hulsebos looked up these devices, to his surprise he found that they were regulated for export by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Putting together all the pieces, Hulsebos came to the only reasonable conclusion: STUXNET was designed to interfere with the nuclear program of Iran. But how, exactly? Little did Hulsebos realize, but the answer had already been revealed some eleven months before.
In January 2010, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency began noticing some strange activity at Iran’s Natanz Uranium enrichment complex. The complex, located 320 kilometres south of Tehran, was completed in 2008 at a cost of $300 million. Covering 100,000 square meters and buried 50 meters underground, in 2010 Natanz operated some 8700 gas centrifuges. Gas centrifuges are devices used for separating the rare Uranium-235 isotope – which can be used to fuel nuclear reactors and build atomic bombs – from the more common Uranium-238. Refined uranium is converted into Uranium Hexafluoride gas and passed through a set of concentric high-speed rotors centrifugal force causes the slightly heavier U-238 to move towards the wall of the rotor while the U-235 moves towards the centre and is tapped off. This slightly enriched gas is then passed through a series of centrifuge cascades, becoming more and more enriched in U-235 as it goes along. Gas centrifuges spin at such high rates that the outside of the rotors exceed the speed of sound, requiring all air to be pumped out of the casing. This speed also makes centrifuges extremely delicate and easily unbalanced, with the weight of a single human fingerprint being enough to make a rotor shake itself apart. Given this fragility, a facility like Natanz is expected to burn through a certain number of centrifuges per year – in this case, around 10% or 900 units. But starting in November 2009, IAEA cameras installed outside the facility began seeing a sharp increase in centrifuges being removed and replaced by January the number had reached an astonishing 2000 units. But under the IAEA’s inspection agreement with Iran, the inspectors had no right to ask why – and no way of knowing that what they were witnessing was the handiwork of none other than STUXNET.
Based on what has been learned about STUXNET in the past 10 years, let us take you on a tour of how this sophisticated digital weapon carried out its devious mission.
Sometime in June 2009, STUXNET was introduced to the computer systems of 5 companies closely involved with Iran’s nuclear program. The worm’s creators assumed that at some point, an engineer from one of these companies would travel to Natanz and use an infected flash drive to program a PLC controlling the gas centrifuges, allowing STUXNET to slip aboard. STUXNET then lay low, monitoring and recording the flow of data between the PLC, centrifuges, and plant operators. Then, after 13 days, the worm performed a trick straight out of Ocean’s Eleven, cutting off the flow of data from the centrifuges to the plant operators and replacing it with the data it had collected over the past 13 days. With the operators believing everything to be running normally, STUXNET sprang into action, spinning the centrifuges up to 1410 Hertz for 15 minutes before returning to normal. Then the worm went dormant again, waiting 26 days before dropping the frequency down to 200 Hertz. These wild swings in frequency served to induce vibrations and distortions in the centrifuge rotors, eventually causing them to destroy themselves. Over the course of a year, STUXNET gradually wore out up to a fifth of the centrifuges at Natanz, all while leaving the plant’s operators oblivious to the digital havoc being wrought.
But the question remains: who created STUXNET, and why? The why is rather straightforward. Ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution which saw the West-friendly regime of the Shah deposed and replaced by the theocracy of Ayatolla Komeinei, Western powers and neighbouring countries like Israel have feared that Iran might use its nuclear infrastructure to build an atomic bomb. These fears seemed confirmed when in 1987 Iran secretly began a program of Uranium enrichment using centrifuge designs stolen from Pakistan. Tensions further increased in 2005 with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, under whose administration the massive Natanz enrichment plant was constructed. However, given the slow nature and timing of the STUXNET attack, it is believed that the worm was not intended to destroy Iran’s enrichment capability outright but rather to delay it until a diplomatic solution could be found to the Iranian nuclear problem. This solution finally came in 2015 with the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal.
As for who created STUXNET, its creators may have left clues within the worm’s code itself. One line of code which serves as an inoculation value – a safety device to prevent STUXNET from infecting its creator’s computer – appears to refer to May 9, 1979, the date prominent Jewish-Iranian businessman Habib Ehghanian was executed by firing squad in Tehran. Another file is named “myrtus”, a possible reference to the biblical story of Esther, who saved the Jewish people from being massacred by the Persians. This would indicate that at least some of STUXNET’s programmers were from Israel. However, most evidence points to STUXNET having largely been programmed in the United States, with collaboration from Israel, Germany, France, the UK, and the Netherlands. Based on the types of exploits used and other signatures in the code, the Kaspersky Lab, a prominent Russian cybersecurity organization, has concluded that STUXNET is likely the work of the Equation Group, a cyber attack division of the US National Security Agency or NSA.
But the importance of STUXNET goes far beyond who created it and the specific damage it caused. Its creators demonstrated that using only a few lines of code it was possible attack physical infrastructure in a manner that previously would have taken an air strike or a human saboteur – and all without the attackers having ever set foot inside the Natanz facility. In the past such an attack would have been nearly impossible, as most companies used their own custom-built PLCs with proprietary software. But today the use of off-the-shelf PLCs running Windows is widespread, and these devices control an alarming amount of our modern infrastructure, from sewage plants to electrical grids to nuclear power plants. And more alarming still, many of these systems are connected to the internet, meaning a digital weapon in the wrong hands has the potential to inflict far more damage than any conventional terrorist attack. The ancient world saw warfare move from the land to the sea, while the twentieth century took it to the air and into space. The twenty-first century will see warfare expand into the unknown frontier of cyberspace.
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On March 4, 2007, the Idaho National Laboratory conducted the Aurora Generator Test, launching a prototype worm composed of only 21 lines of code against a PLC controlling a 5000-horsepower diesel generator. Within three minutes, the code had reduced the giant machine to a smoking ruin, vividly demonstrating the potential of such a digital attack on physical infrastructure.
But the history of digital attacks on physical infrastructure goes back further still. In 2003 the Sobig virus interrupted railway signalling systems along the US East Coast, while the Slammer virus forced the Davis Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio to shut down for 5 hours. In 2000, disgruntled employee Vitek Boden hacked a sewage plant in Maroochy Shire, Australia, unleashing 750,000 gallons of raw sewage into the city water supply. Earlier still, in March 1997 a hacker known as “Jester” hacked into the Bell Atlantic switching system at Worcester Airport, Massachusetts, forcing air traffic to shut down for 6 hours.
But perhaps the oldest digital attack in history reportedly took place in 1982. The year before, Lt. Col. Vladimir Vetrov of the KGB’s Line X Technology Directorate had defected to the West, bringing with him a collection of classified documents known as the “Farewell Dossier.” The dossier revealed the existence of a Soviet spy ring dedicated to stealing Western technology – including industrial control software. According to former Secretary of the Air Force Thomas C. Reed, in response the CIA created a special piece of software for controlling natural gas pipelines, with the intention that it would be copied and used by the Soviets. As expected, the software was stolen and installed on the trans-Siberian pipeline. After a certain amount of time, the Trojan horse hidden in the software kicked into action, closing valves and ramping up pump speeds to produce extremely high pressures. The CIA had only intended for this to cause broken welds, leaks and other minor damage, but instead the pipeline proceeded to explode, creating a massive 3-kiloton blast bright enough to be picked up by American spy satellites.
But while this makes for an amusing story, Reed’s version of events has been called into question. No intelligence agency has independently confirmed the existence of the blast, and former KGB operative Vasily Pchelintsev points out that while there was a pipeline explosion in 1982, it was far smaller in scale and in a different location than Reed reports. Furthermore, at the time the Soviet Union did not employ digital controls on its pipelines, making such a cyberattack impossible.
Zetter, Kim, Countdown to Zero Day: STUXNET and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon, Broadway Books, NY, 2014.
U.S. Officials Say Iran Has Agreed to Nuclear Talks
WASHINGTON — The United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.
Iranian officials have insisted that the talks wait until after the presidential election, a senior administration official said, telling their American counterparts that they want to know with whom they would be negotiating.
News of the agreement — a result of intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term — comes at a critical moment in the presidential contest, just two weeks before Election Day and the weekend before the final debate, which is to focus on national security and foreign policy.
It has the potential to help Mr. Obama make the case that he is nearing a diplomatic breakthrough in the decade-long effort by the world’s major powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but it could pose a risk if Iran is seen as using the prospect of the direct talks to buy time.
It is also far from clear that Mr. Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, would go through with the negotiation should he win election. Mr. Romney has repeatedly criticized the president as showing weakness on Iran and failing to stand firmly with Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat.
The White House denied that a final agreement had been reached. “It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections,” Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, said Saturday evening. He added, however, that the administration was open to such talks, and has “said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally.”
Reports of the agreement have circulated among a small group of diplomats involved with Iran.
There is still a chance the initiative could fall through, even if Mr. Obama is re-elected. Iran has a history of using the promise of diplomacy to ease international pressure on it. In this case, American officials said they were uncertain whether Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had signed off on the effort. The American understandings have been reached with senior Iranian officials who report to him, an administration official said.
Even if the two sides sit down, American officials worry that Iran could prolong the negotiations to try to forestall military action and enable it to complete critical elements of its nuclear program, particularly at underground sites. Some American officials would like to limit the talks to Iran’s nuclear program, one official said, while Iran has indicated that it wants to broaden the agenda to include Syria, Bahrain and other issues that have bedeviled relations between Iran and the United States since the American hostage crisis in 1979.
“We’ve always seen the nuclear issue as independent,” the administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter. “We’re not going to allow them to draw a linkage.”
The question of how best to deal with Iran has political ramifications for Mr. Romney as well. While he has accused Mr. Obama of weakness, he has given few specifics about what he would do differently.
Moreover, the prospect of one-on-one negotiations could put Mr. Romney in an awkward spot, since he has opposed allowing Iran to enrich uranium to any level — a concession that experts say will probably figure in any deal on the nuclear program.
Beyond that, how Mr. Romney responds could signal how he would act if he becomes commander in chief. The danger of opposing such a diplomatic initiative is that it could make him look as if he is willing to risk another American war in the Middle East without exhausting alternatives.
“It would be unconscionable to go to war if we haven’t had such discussions,” said R. Nicholas Burns, who led negotiations with Iran as under secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration.
Iran’s nuclear program “is the most difficult national security issue facing the United States,” Mr. Burns said, adding: “While we should preserve the use of force as a last resort, negotiating first with Iran makes sense. What are we going to do instead? Drive straight into a brick wall called war in 2013, and not try to talk to them?”
The administration, officials said, has begun an internal review at the State Department, the White House and the Pentagon to determine what the United States’ negotiating stance should be, and what it would put in any offer. One option under consideration is “more for more” — more restrictions on Iran’s enrichment activities in return for more easing of sanctions.
Israeli officials initially expressed an awareness of, and openness to, a diplomatic initiative. But when asked for a response on Saturday, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren, said the administration had not informed Israel, and that the Israeli government feared Iran would use new talks to “advance their nuclear weapons program.”
“We do not think Iran should be rewarded with direct talks,” Mr. Oren said, “rather that sanctions and all other possible pressures on Iran must be increased.”
Direct talks would also have implications for an existing series of negotiations involving a coalition of major powers, including the United States. These countries have imposed sanctions to pressure Iran over its nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes but which Israel and many in the West believe is aimed at producing a weapon.
Dennis B. Ross, who oversaw Iran policy for the White House until early 2012, says one reason direct talks would make sense after the election is that the current major-power negotiations are bogged down in incremental efforts, which may not achieve a solution in time to prevent a military strike.
Mr. Ross said the United States could make Iran an “endgame proposal,” under which Tehran would be allowed to maintain a civil nuclear power industry. Such a deal would resolve, in one stroke, issues like Iran’s enrichment of uranium and the monitoring of its nuclear facilities.
Within the administration, there is debate over just how much uranium the United States would allow Iran to enrich inside the country. Among those involved in the deliberations, an official said, are Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, two of her deputies — William J. Burns and Wendy Sherman — and key White House officials, including the national security adviser, Tom Donilon, and two of his lieutenants, Denis R. McDonough and Gary Samore.
Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium bears on another key difference between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney: whether to tolerate Iran’s enrichment program short of producing a nuclear weapon, as long as inspectors can keep a close eye on it, versus prohibiting Iran from enriching uranium at all. Obama administration officials say they could imagine some circumstances under which low-level enrichment might be permitted Mr. Romney has said that would be too risky.
But Mr. Romney’s position has shifted back and forth. In September, he told ABC News that his “red line” on Iran was the same as Mr. Obama’s — that Iran may not have a nuclear weapon. But his campaign later edited its Web site to include the line, “Mitt Romney believes that it is unacceptable for Iran to possess nuclear weapons capability.”
For years, Iran has rejected one-on-one talks with the United States, reflecting what experts say are internal power struggles. A key tug of war is between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Larijani, Iran’s former nuclear negotiator and now the chairman of the Parliament.
Iran, which views its nuclear program as a vital national interest, has also shied away from direct negotiations because the ruling mullahs did not want to appear as if they were sitting down with a country they have long demonized as the Great Satan.
But economic pressure may be forcing their hand. In June, when the major powers met in Moscow, American officials say that Iran was desperate to stave off a crippling European oil embargo. After that failed, these officials now say, Iranian officials delivered a message that Tehran would be willing to hold direct talks.
In New York in September, Mr. Ahmadinejad hinted at the reasoning. “Experience has shown that important and key decisions are not made in the U.S. leading up to the national elections,” he said.
A senior American official said that the prospect of direct talks is why there has not been another meeting of the major-powers group on Iran.
In the meantime, pain from the sanctions has deepened. Iran’s currency, the rial, plummeted 40 percent in early October.