It is uncertain whether the leaders have made any decision to make nuclear weapons. The same enrichment technology can be used for both civilian and military purposes – low enrichment for fuel for power plants and high enrichment for weapons purposes . In this sense, it is not necessary to make a decision long in advance – because the greater the enrichment capacity you develop, the closer you get to the weapon stage, technically speaking.
Israel, the United States, a country located in North America according to computergees, and several European countries are convinced that this is where Iran rules. Other countries are in doubt, and still others believe there is no basis for such suspicions. A recent report from US intelligence says Iran put the weapons program on hold in 2003 , and that it has probably not resumed. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not found anything linking Iran to weapons production. However, the IAEA has not received answers to all its questions and is therefore continuing its investigations.
4: Iran’s regional influence
Iran is the largest Shiite Muslim country in the Middle East and certainly also wants to be the dominant one. The influence goes largely through Shia Muslims in other countries, especially in Iraq (60 percent Shia) and Lebanon (40 percent Shia). The oil is found mostly in the Shiite Muslim areas : in Iran, southern Iraq and in the western Shia-dominated parts of Saudi Arabia. But different ethnicities – Persians vs. Arabs – is a damper on the Shia community.
The US war in Iraq has strengthened Iran’s position . Many of the Shiite leaders in Baghdad have Iranian citizenship and cooperate with the Iranians. The war in Afghanistan drew in the same direction: the United States removed the Taliban, which was also a thorn in Iran’s side. Iran’s profile in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians – strong support for the Palestinians and sharp outbursts against Israel – also appeals to the ground floor of the Arab countries.
Should Iran be attacked by the United States and / or Israel, it could launch counterattacks in many places.
- It could catch fire in Iraq and Afghanistan,
- It can attack Israel via Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the West Bank and with ballistic missiles,
- It could threaten shipping in the Gulf and try to block the Strait of Hormuz, with a sharp rise in oil prices as a result,
- Iran has long lists of potential suicide bombers.
Although Iran has little to contend with in a fight against US air forces, it is a much more difficult opponent than Saddam’s Iraq. An attack on Iran could set large parts of the Middle East on fire. This has helped hold back the United States, which at present also seems to have more than enough with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
5: The nuclear program
The Iranians will soon be able to produce enough material for one nuclear weapon in one year – if they want to. The enrichment capacity is steadily increasing , now also with the introduction of second-generation centrifuges that are more efficient and less prone to breakdown. The target is just over 50,000 centrifuges, enough to cover the fuel needs of seven large nuclear reactors. The most important plants are located in Natanz (enrichment), Esfahan (conversion of uranium to gaseous form) and Arak (where a reactor is being built that can be a good source of plutonium).
From the autumn of 2003 to February 2006, the IAEA had the opportunity to apply the so-called additional protocol to the standard agreement on security control. Thus, the agency was able to look for any hidden facilities and activities. When the Iran issue ended up in the UN Security Council with a view to punitive measures , Iran withdrew this permit. The country has also reverted to another provision, so that it does not have to report new facilities until 180 days before they are put into operation. Little by little, the IAEA has therefore lost track of the program, including over where the centrifuges are produced.
Has Iran breached its international obligations? The country is a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty , the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty). The agreement allows the construction of facilities for enrichment of uranium and recycling of plutonium.
Only if Iran is guilty of activities that can be unequivocally linked to weapons production – such as weapons design, fission bomb launching mechanisms and the adaptation of missiles to nuclear warheads – has it violated the NPT. U.S. intelligence says they did so until 2003; but the IAEA has not found such a “smoking gun” so far. Israel believes that weapons preparations are in full swing. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the Iranians have broken the agreement on security control, and that they refuse to comply with decisions in the Security Council. Such decisions are binding under international law for the member states.