The Threat from Iran
(Updated July 2016)
Iran is one of the foremost, self-proclaimed enemies of the West and one of the most serious threats to stability in the Middle East.
The Iranian government’s extreme interpretation of Islamic law, and its anti-Western philosophy, inspires the rise of Islamic extremists across the world. Iran is also one of the principal state sponsors of terror, proudly delivering weapons to Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorists and providing safe haven for many international terrorists, including senior al-Qaeda leaders. Moreover, Iranian agents have acted to perpetrate anti-Western and anti-Israel terrorist attacks in more than 20 countries around the world. Iran has been implicated in the July 2012 bombing in Bulgaria that killed 5 Israeli's, the February 2012 attacks on Israeli representatives in Georgia and India, the failed strikes in Thailand and Azerbaijan against Jewish targets, and the foiled attempt to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. in October 2011. Israel's Mossad security service also noted that Iran was behind foiled plots to attack Jewish and Israeli targets in Kenya and Cyprus as well.
But above all these concerns, the most menacing threat Iran poses to international security is its harnessing of nuclear energy for the purpose of developing a nuclear bomb.
In 2005, Iran made its first advance in the production of enriched uranium and subsequently established a secret nuclear research center to train scientists in all aspects of atomic technology. In August 2013, outgoing Iranian nuclear chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani proclaimed that Iran has amassed some 18,000 functioning centrifuges, a number mostly corroborated by a May 2013 IAEA report which indicated Iran had installed roughly 16,600 centrifuges in two main facilities. The Islamic Republic continues to streamline the uranium enrichment process so that they can convert their more than 6,000 kilograms of low-enriched fissile material into high-grade, weapons-ready material. Analysts believe it could take Iran anywhere from a number of weeks to nine months - from the moment an order is given - to assemble an explosive device and reduce it to the dimensions of a missile payload.
Iran also continues to develop its arsenal of long range missiles. It already has weapons capable of reaching Israel, parts of Eastern and Southern Europe, the Arabian peninsula, and American bases in the Middle East. In July 2012, a report released by the US government and signed by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta showed evidence that Iran is continually boosting the accuracy and lethality of its existing missile systems. These improvements are in tandem with regular ballistic-missile training that “continues throughout the country” and the addition of “new ships and submarines,” the report found. Intelligence reports from 2013 estimate that Iran may be technically capable of flight-testing an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015.
There is little disagreement as to the intentions of the Iranians.
Already since the release of its November 2011 report, the IAEA had confirmed that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and reiterated the need to address this situation as soon as possible. At the time, Director General Yukiya Amano said, "It is my responsibility to alert the world. From the indicators I had, I draw the conclusion that it is time to call the world's attention to this risk."
The question has now become how to respond.
As U.S. President Barack Obama noted, the threat from a nuclear Iran affects not just "one country's interests or two countries' interests ... [but] the entire internatioanl community," and therefore cooperative international measures must be taken to stop Iran's progress.
In the United States, President Obama has imposed sanctions against companies doing business with Iran, the Treasury Department has worked to freeze Iranian financial assets and new measures have been passed by Congress to halt transactions with Iran's Central Bank. Obama's administration has also made clear they will not accept containment of a nuclear Iran and have drawn red lines for possible military intervention. "The United States does not have a policy of contaiment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," President Obama noted in March 2013. "And I will repeat: All options are on the table."
In Europe, a new sense of urgency over halting Iran's nuclear program has taken hold since military analysts, such as Maj. Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin of the Center for Strategic Nuclear Forces, are convinced that a fully developed nuclear program "will most likely be able to threaten the whole of Europe." France, Germany and Great Britain are spearheading European Union efforts to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. In January 2012, these efforts scored a major success when the EU voted to embargo Iranian oil imports and to freeze the assets of Iran's central bank. "We will not accept Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran has so far had no regard for its international obligations and is already exporting and threatening violence around its region," British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a joint statement. Following this lead, in March 2012, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) cut off all business with Iran, effectively stopping transactions with nearly 30 Iranian banks and their subsidiaries worldwide.
Across the Arab Middle East, the Iranian nuclear program is also raising grave concerns, primarily with regards to Iran's intentions for regional dominance. In 2009, then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said, "A nuclear armed Iran with hegemonic ambitions is the greatest threat to Arab nations today.” In 2011, Saudi Arabia government officials noted, "We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons ... If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us.” Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal expouned, noting that if Iran achieved nuclear weapons it would "lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences." Those consequences are clear - nuclear proliferation across the Middle East. By mid-2013, at least twelve Arab nations, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and the UAE had begun to explore nuclear energy.
For Israel in particular, a nuclear armed Iran is not tolerable. Not only would Iranian nuclear weapons create an existential threat to Israel’s existence, it would also limit Israel's ability to protect itself from Iranian terror proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. IDF intelligence believes that Iranian proxy Hezbollah had amassed nearly 65,000 rockets and missiles within striking distance of Israel in southern Lebanon. Former-Minister of Defense Ehud Barak noted that if Iran gained a nuclear capability, then retaliating against an attack from Hamas or Hezbollah "would be tantamount to an attack on Iran," and would thus restrict an aggressive range of operations. Therefore, in the words on PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel is “determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons; we leave all options on the table; and containment is definitely not an option.”
Despite the election of President Hassan Rouhani - a former member of Iran's nuclear negotiation team that temporarily suspended the program in 2003 - to succeed the vitriolic Ahmadinejad, Iran is still closing in on its "immunity zone" - the point when its accumulated know-how, raw materials, experience and equipment would ensure that any military strike would fail in derailing the nuclear program.
President Obama and the other members of the P5+1 appear committed to a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear threat, but the framework agreement is highly problematic, and the concessions made to Iran in the talks have raised serious concerns about the efficacy of an agreement. The concessions are opposed by the Gulf States and Israel and the terms of the agreement raise concerns about Iran cheating and the proliferation of nuclear weapons among Iran's neighbors who do not trust Tehran.
Israel and many analysts believe in the need for a more stringent international sanctions regime, one sufficiently punitive to convince the Iranian leadership to abandon their project. In the absence of such sanctions, or if they are shown to be ineffective, a joint military response, as undesirable as it may be, will most likely be the only other option.
The Iranian and P5+1 negotiators reached a final nuclear accord on July 14, 2015, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The agreement required Iran to reduce their stockpile of low enriched uranium by 98%, presumably by shipping the excess to Russia, and also required the Iranians to shut down 2/3 of their centrifuges spinning at the Natanz facility. The negotiators from the P5+1 concluded that these measures combined would extend Iran's potential breakout time from a few months to over a full year. Chief negotiator John Kerry stated during a press conference following the conclusion of negotiations that, “Iran will not produce or acquire highly enriched uranium or plutonium for at least 15 years,” under the agreement. (NY Times, July 14, 2015) Missile restrictions against Iran will remain in place for 8 years under the deal, and the UN Arms Embargo ban on the Iranian purchase and sale of conventional weapons will remain in place for 5 years. Both of these restrictions have been in place since 2006. The Iranians also agreed to a ban on designing warheads and conducting tests on detonators and triggers that could be weaponized.
In return for limiting their nuclear program for at least a decade, the Iranians over the course of the following months will receive relief from both international sanctions against their economy, and the oil industry. The deal freed up an estimated $100 billion in frozen Iranian assets around the world. A snap-back mechanism for sanctions was decided in the negotiating room as well, as a cautionary measure should it be found that Iran is violating the terms of the deal.
According to U.S. President Barack Obama, “Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off, and the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place. Because of this deal, Iran will not produce the highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium that form the raw materials necessary for a nuclear bomb. Today's announcement marks one more chapter in our pursuit of a safer, more helpful and more hopeful world.” (Roll Call, July 14, 2015) Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu referred to the deal as a, “bad mistake of historic proportions,” and stated that, “Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons.” (Washington Post, July 14, 2015)
Iran test-fired two Qadr H missiles with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out,” emblazoned on the sides on March 7, 2016. The missile test coincided with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel to discuss upcoming aid packages. The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, made it clear that the missile test was intended to intimidate Israel, stating “The 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) range of our missiles is to confront the Zionist regime. Israel is surrounded by Islamic countries and it will not last long in a war. It will collapse even before being hit by these missiles.” (Time Magazine, March 7, 2016)
Developments in the Threat From Iran:
(Listed in Reverse Chronological Order)
- Iran test-fires a North Korean BM-25 Musudan ballistic missile on July 11, which explodes shortly after take-off. . (Daily Mail, July 17, 2016)
- Iran test-fires two missiles that have the capability to strike Israel. (Time Magazine, March 8, 2016)
- Russia will begin to construct two nuclear reactors in Iran at the Russian constructed Bushehr nuclear facility. (Gulf in the Media, December 23, 2015)
- The IAEA voted to close their file on the past military application of Iran's nuclear program on December 15, 2015. This announcement marked the end of a decade-long inquiry by the IAEA into the potential military applications of Iran's covert nuclear program and facilities. (Jerusalem Post, December 15, 2015)
- The IAEA board report set to be released in mid-December 2015 confirmed that Iran had indeed pursued nuclear weapons for military purposes prior to 2003, but had halted all research into military applications as of the end of that year. U.S. officials noted the information included within the IAEA report was consistent with a U.S. national intelligence estimate from 2007. The report found no evidence of current activities. (Washington Post, December 2, 2015)
- Russian officials announced at the 2015 Dubai air show on November 9, 2015, that they and Iran had signed a contract for the delivery of the S-300 missile system earlier in the month. The deal, estimated to be worth $800 million, was delayed more than 9 years. (Times of Israel, November 9, 2015)
- Past Iran President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani admitted in an interview that his government at one time sought nuclear weapons to be developed for military purposes. (Jerusalem Post, October 28, 2015)
- Russia shipped two shipments per day of Iranian weapons to Syria over a period of ten days during October 2015, in violation of arms embargo's against Iran and two United Nations Security Council Resolutions. (Fox, October 28, 2015)
- In violation of a United Nations ban on testing of missiles that could possibly deliver a nuclear warhead, Iran tested a new missile known as the Emad in early October 2015. The Emad is a precission-guided long range missile, and is the first guided weapon in Iran's arsenal capable of striking Israel. (Reuters, October 11, 2015)
- IAEA inspectors are granted access to Iran's secretive Parchin nuclear facility for the first time in a decade.
- Iranian officials unveil a new missile, called the Fateh 313, with a range of 310 miles. Iranian President Hassah Rouhani stated at a press conference that, “We can negotiate with other countries only when we are powerful. If a country does not have power and independence, it cannot seek real peace.” (Reuters, August 22, 2015)
- On July 14, 2015, Iranian and P5+1 negotiators reach a final nuclear accord aimed at preventing Iranian development of a nuclear weapon, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). To read the full JCPOA, click here.
- Iranian spy Ali Mansouri, arrested in September 2013, was convicted of spying for Iran and sentenced to 7 years in prison in Israel.
(Jerusalem Post, April 21, 2015)
- The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) revealed on April 14, 2015, that China, in addition to Russia, was going to begin constructing nuclear plants in Iran.
(Algemeiner, April 14, 2015)
- During the week following the announcement of a framework agreement aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear capabilities, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree lifting a ban on the delivery of S-300 anti-missile systems to Iran.
(Haaretz, April 13, 2015)
- The negotiators failed to complete a plan by the self imposed deadline of the end of March, but they announced on April 2 that they had agreed on "key parameters" for resolving the nuclear Iran issue. European Union Foreign Affairs Minister Federica Mogherini confirmed that under the supposed framework Iran would not have the ability to produce weapons-grade nuclear materials, and Iran would allow wider international access to their nuclear facilities for inspections. International sanctions are to be lifted as a part of the agreement, but a timetable was not revealed.
- According to Marine Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, Iran faces “no insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon.”
(Bloomberg, February 2, 2015)
- While the negotiating teams were hard at work on January 14th, the Iranian government made a troubling announcement. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced during a visit to the Bushehr nuclear power facility that the facility is to be expanded and that two new nuclear power facilities are to be built in the vicinity. The goal of these power plants is to increase nuclear power output according to the Iranian government. Rouhani firmly stated that "construction of two new power plants will increase the capacity of Bushehr province's power generation to 2,000 megawatts."
(Fars News, January 14, 2015)
- A senior commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Gaurd Corps (IRGC) stated on January 31, 2015, that the Iranian regime must strengthen their foothold in the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip. Iranian Brigadier General Iraj Masjedi called upon Iran to "contain Israel so that it never dares to speak about a missile attack on Iran" and to "reinforce [their] power in the West Bank and Gaza." In the same statement, Masjedi praised Hezbollah after their recent attack on Israel, calling Hezbollah a "powerful and wise organization."
(PressTV, January 31, 2015)
- Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei told a group of Senior Iranian Navy officials that "our armed forces should continuously improve their (combat) readiness, irrespective of political calculations".
(Reuters, December 1)
- On December 7 2014 Iran's President Hassan Rouhani announced a military spending hike of 33.5% in the state's 2015 budget, increasing spending to 282 trillion Iranian rials. Iran's 2015 general budget represents only a 6% increase in spending over 2014..
(Reuters, December 8)
- US officials accused Iran of breaching the nuclear sanctions placed on them by the United Nations by secretely seeking to acquire parts for a heavy water reactor that could be used in the production of nuclear weapons grade materials. US and international monitors observed "no recent downturn in [Iranian] procurement" activities according to a November 7 report made public in early December.
(Foreign Policy, December 8)
- On November 4 Iran tentatively agreed to ship a significant portion of it's uranium stockpile to Russia, where it will be processed into specialized fuel rods that can only be used for nuclear power purposes and not for a weapon. This agreement has not been made official, and the day after the announcement Iranian Foreign Ministry officials dismissed news of this tentative agreement as "all speculations and rumors by some foreign media".
(RT, November 4)
- In an IAEA report released on November 7 2014, which can be found here , the agency reported that Iran "has not provided any explanations that enable the Agency to clarify the outstanding practical measures, nor has it proposed any new practical measures in the next step of the Framework for Cooperation". According to the report Iran has failed to answer almost every critical question about the potential military dimensions of it's nuclear program, and has continued to thwart further investigations into the program.
(IAEA November 7)
- Also on November 7, an Iranian dissident group came forward claiming to have hard evidence of a second explosive chamber for testing weapons, potentially located within Iran's secretive Parchin nuclear base. The existance of one explosive chamber for testing explosive devices has been known to the international community, but the presence of a second one shows that Iran is indeed forging ahead with it's nuclear weaponization program.
(Free Beacon November 7)
- On November 11 Russias state nuclear power agency, Rosatom struck a deal with Iranian officials to build multiple new nuclear reactor units in Iran. The deal calls for the immediate construction of two nuclear reactors at the Russian built Bushehr power plant and the construction of two more at a later date, and four more in unspecified locations around Iran. The construction of these new facilities opens the way for Iranian domestic production of power for their own nuclear reactors. As a part of the agreement Russia indicated that it would discuss with the Iranian leadership "the feasibility of fabricating fuel rods in Iran, which will be used at these power units". Domestically producing these fuel rods would likely allow Iran to build up a nuclear infrastructure and creep them closer to developing a nuclear bomb, something that the international community has obviously attempted to avoid at all costs.
- It was revealed late in the afternoon on the deadline of November 24 that the two parties still had significant differences to work out and that no comprehensive nuclear deal had been reached. After months of intense negotiations between Iran and world superpowers from the P5+1, the two groups could not come to an agreement by the deadline agreed to in July. The nuclear discussions were once again extended, this time for seven months. The negotiating teams hope to have a draft agreement by March 1 2015, with a finalized agreement on the table ready to be accepted by all parties in July. Until a more comprehensive deal is reached, the conditions and stipulations of the current temporary deal remain in effect. As a part of this extension, Iranian officials are expected to allow United Nations inspectors increased access to workshops where Iranian centrifuges and rotors are built, in an effort to increase the transparency of their nuclear program and facilities. Negotiators are optimistic about prospects for an agreement in the coming months.
(New York Times, November 24)
- During the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 President Obama wrote a secret letter to Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei expressing their mutual interest in defeating the Islamic State. This is the fourth letter that Obama has written to Khamenei, and these suggest that the United States is genuinely interested in pursuing a mutually beneficial relationship with Iran with further cooperation if the nuclear issue is sorted out.
(Wall Street Journal November 6)
- An Iranian dissident group claimed to have evidence of a second explosive chamber to carry out tests located within the secretive Parchin nuclear facility. Officials from the National Council of Resistance of Iran stated that this was an issue that the IAEA should pursue immediately.
(Free Beacon November 7)
- Russias state nuclear power agency, Rosatom struck a deal with Iranian officials to build multiple new nuclear reactor units in Iran. The deal calls for the immediate construction of two nuclear reactors at the Russian built Bushehr power plant and the construction of two more at a later date, and four more in unspecified locations around Iran. The construction of these new facilities opens the way for Iranian domestic production of power for their own nuclear reactors.
(BBC November 12)
- A comprehensive deal could not be reached, negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 were extended until March 2015, with hopes of getting a complete deal on the table by July.
- On October 6 a large explosion ripped through the Parchin nuclear facility, leaving 2 workers dead and multiple people injured. The blast was so powerful that it shattered the windows in buildings up to 9 miles from the facility. Allegedly the blast was an accident that occured when weapons materials were being transported. The Iranian government has refused the IAEA access to the Parchin nuclear facility since 2005.
(Jerusalem Post, October 6)
- Negotiating teams from Iran and the P5+1 reconvened in New York City on September 17 2014, in what was called a "make or break" moment for the negotiations. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani travelled to New York on Tuesday September 16 in order to prepare for the relaunch of negotiations. The negotiations stalled over the next few days, and on Friday the negotiations were called off due to "lack of progress".
(Haaretz, September 18)
- Nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 resumed on August 7 in Geneva. These meetings went well, but Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed the value of negotiations with the West during a conference with Iranian Foreign Ministry officials on August 13. Khamenei said that "Some pretend that if we sit down with Americans at the negotiating table, many of the problems will be resolved. We knew that won't be the case but developments in the past year proved this reality once again."
(Yahoo, August 7)
- Iran's parliament impeached their Science, Research, and Technology Minister for being too moderate and supportive of Western ideas on August 20. Reza Faraji Dana was elected in 2013 and this marks the first time that a Minister from Rouhani's cabinet has been impeached. After his impeachment, President Rouhani immediately appointed Reza Faraji Dana as Advisor on Science and Education.
(US News, August 21)
- Pursuant to their agreement with the P5+1, on August 23 Iran opened up a new uranium conversion plant with the sole purpose of converting weapons-grade uranium into a material that cannot be weaponized. The uranium hexaflouride that Iran currently has stock of will be converted to uranium dioxide which can only be used in nuclear reactors and not weapons. The plant is located the city of Isfahan.
(ABC News, August 23)
- The IAEA deadline with Iran for them to implement transparency measures and fully disclose the possibe militarization of their nuclear capabilities came and went without a final word from Iran. By the August 25 deadline, set in November, Iran had to accomplish a number of things in order to calm international concerns of their possible weaponization and militarization of their nuclear program. This list of 5 demands from the IAEA has not been fully publicly disclosed, but it includes full disclosure of explosive experimentation, and statistical measurements of their nuclear facilities. Statements from Iranian officials point to the fact that some of these demands have been met and others have not. Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that "They have 5 demands and questions... some are completed, and some are in the process of being completed," providing no elaboration on this statement.
(Voice of America, August 25)
- On August 27 it was revealed to the world that Iran had been undertaking "mechanical" tests on a new centrifuge system. Iran claims that it's centrifuges are not for nuclear weaponization purposes and that it is manufacturing new ones to replace it's old and accident-prone centrifuges. These new advanced centrifuges could allow Iran to come up with a nuclear weapon at a much faster rate than before. The interim deal struck between Iran and the P5+1 in November 2013 states that Iran could not go beyond the current centrifuge research and development programs it had in place.
(Reuters, August 27)
- After the temporary agreement was reached, a goal was set to reach a comprehensive permanent agreement by July 20. However, on July 18 the P5+1 and Iran agreed to a four month extension of the talks as they did not believe that an agreement could be met. The talks were extended until November 24 and this extension was been met with much criticism, but the White House released a statement that after the extension there is a "credible prospect for a comprehensive deal". Although there is hope in this extension, officials doubt whether coming to an agreement is at all feasable.
(The Jerusalem Post, July 19)
- The July monthly report from the IAEA surprisingly concluded that Iran had in fact so far cooperated with most aspects of the temporary agreement.
- An IAEA report released in June shows fresh activity at the Parchin nuclear facility as of February 2014.
(Middle East Eye, June)
- Intelligence information revealed that a high ranking Iranian lieutenant general had been sent to Lebanon provide counsel to Hezbollah as it works to reform its security and communications apparatusses. The changes were spurred by supposed violations committed by certain Hezbollah cells working independently that reached out to Israeli intelligence agents.
(The Daily Star, April 1)
- The Israeli navy seized a ship in the Red Sea that was carrying dozens of advanced Iranian-supplied rockets made in Syria and intended for Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip. The Panamanian-flagged cargo vessel Klos C was boarded in international waters without resistance from its 17-strong crew. After ferrying the ship back to Israel, the IDF said it unloaded 40 rockets (type M-302), up-to the range of 160 kilometers; 180 mortar shells; and, pproximately 400,000 7.62 caliber rounds.
(Reuters, March 5)
- Iran's military successfully test-fired two new, domestically-made missiles ahead of talks with world powers to try to reach an agreement on curbing Tehran's nuclear program. Iranian Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said one of them was a long-range ballistic missile with radar-evading capabilities. President Hassan Rouhani issued a congratulatory message saying: "Iran's children successfully test-fired a new generation of missiles," the television reported.
(Reuters, February 10)
- On January 12 2014 the last details of the interim agreement from November were finalized. Iran agreed to this temporary halt in uranium production in exchange for foreign aid from the West in the form of sanctions relief totalling $6-$7 billion.
(The New York Times, January 12)
- In late January, James Clapper, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, briefed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the threat of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear proliferation. Regarding Iran, Clapper testified that the U.S. intelligence establishment still believes that Iran is pursuing the ability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons but that it is now balancing this with the conflicting objective of making concessions in its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Clapper also said that he does not know whether Iran will decide to build nuclear weapons but that it has made technical progress in a number of areas, including uranium enrichment and ballistic missiles, from which it could draw if the decision to go nuclear was made.
(United State Senate, January 29)
- Bahrain seized a huge weapons stash, including bomb-making materials, and arrested more than two dozen wanted terror fugitives attempting to flee the country. Iranian-made explosives, Syrian bomb detonators, Kalashnikovs, C-4 explosives, Claymores, hand grenades, a PK machine gun, circuit boards for use in bomb making, armour-piercing explosives, TNT and a raft of other materials used to manufacture bombs were discovered.
(Gulf Daily News, January 1)
- Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for Iran's atomic energy agency, was quoted by IRNA news agency as saying that initial testing on a new generation of more sophisticated uranium enrichment centrifuges had been completed. "The new generation of centrifuges was produced with a higher capacity compared with the first generation machines and we have completed initial tests," Kamalvandi said. Some experts believe that the newer IR-2m can enrich uranium 2-3 times faster than the IR-1.
(Reuters, December 7)
- The Obama administration is prepared to allow Iran to engage in a "limited enrichment program" if Tehran holds up its end of the international agreement, particularly with regards to curtailing its nuclear capabilities under stringent global oversight. "We are prepared to negotiate a strictly limited enrichment program," national security spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, noted that in a comprehensive agreement the United States "would consider a limited, modest enrichment program, if it is attached to real, practical needs." Sherman also stressed that the "sanctions that we are suspending are quite limited, quite targeted and all reversible."
(CNN, December 4)
- The P5+1 and Iran reached a set of initial understandings that halts the progress of Iran's nuclear program for at least six months and rolls it back in key respects. The details of the deal include: Iran has committed to halt enrichment above 5%, neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium, halt progress on its enrichment capacity, halt progress on activities at the Arak reactor and provide daily access by IAEA inspectors at the Natanz and Fordow sites. In return for these steps, the international community will not impose new nuclear-related sanctions on Iran for at least six months and will suspend certain sanctionson gold and precious metals, Iran's auto sector, and Iran's petrochemical exports.
(White House, November 23)
- On November 13, Yukiya Amano, head of the IAEA, said that his agency saw "no radical change" in Iran's nuclear program since summer 2013, roughly the time that Hassan Rouhani took over as president. Amano noted that Iran was pursuing its most sensitive nuclear activity, enrichment of uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, but that it had not sharply expanded enrichment. Amano also said that Iran still had "quite a lot to do" to complete the Arak research reactor.
(Reuters, November 13)
- On November 11, the IAEA announced the signing of an agreement with Iran that was hailed as a culmination of many years of disagreements between the parties. The agreement stipulates that Iran will share information with the IAEA regarding the Gchine uranium mine and the Arak Heavy Water Production Plant. The IAEA will also be provided with resources and information on any new reactors or enrichment facilities.
(INSS, November 13)
- According to a report released by the Institute for Science and International Security, the United States' top nuclear experts, Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month. "Shortening breakout times have implications for any negotiation with Iran," stated the report. "An essential finding is that they are currently too short and shortening further." David Albright, president of ISIS, said the estimate means that Iran would have to eliminate more than half of its 19,000 centrifuges to extend the time it would take to build a bomb to six months.
(USA Today, October 25)
- Following the close of the first round of nuclear negotiations with Iran, a senior western diplomat cautioned that any breakthrough in diplomacy over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program was not "close", dampening expectations the next round of talks scheduled for November could lead to a deal. Despite the improved atmosphere at the talks, diplomats say major differences remain between western governments, which suspect Iran's nuclear work has covert military goals, and Tehran, which denies that and demands the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.
(Reuters, October 17)
- Iranian and U.S. officials cited significant progress following the second of two days of international talks on Iran's nuclear program, agreeing to hold further meetings with the explicit aim of producing a deal inhibiting Tehran's ability to acquire atomic weapons. The talks yielded no specific agreements on curbing Iran's nuclear activities but they did produce a rare direct meeting between U.S. and Iranian officials and pledges from both sides to work quickly to end what a top Iranian official called "an unnecessary crisis." The modest tangible results included a schedule for further negotiations early next month and, for the first time in four years, an agreement on the wording of a short concluding statement.
(Washington Post, October 16)
- Using PowerPoint slides and speaking English, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif outlined a proposal to representatives of the big powers during the first day of nuclear negotiations in Geneva that would constrain the Islamic Republic's nuclear program in return for a right to enrich uranium and an easing of the sanctions that have been battering the Iranian economy. Zarif called for "an end to an unnecessary crisis and a start for new horizons," according to Iranian officials.
(New York Times, October 15)
- Two days before talks were set to begin over its nuclear program, Iran rejected the West's demand that it send sensitive nuclear material out of the country. However, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who made the comment, also signalled willingness to compromise about other areas of uranium enrichment. "Of course we will negotiate regarding the form, amount, and various levels of (uranium) enrichment, but the shipping of materials out of the country is our red line," he was quoted as saying on state television's website.
(Reuters, October 13)
- The dissident National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), citing information from sources inside the Islamic Republic, said a nuclear weaponisation research and planning center called SPND was being moved to a large, secure site in a defense ministry complex in Tehran about 1 mile away from its former location. It said the center handles small-scale experiments with radioactive material and was in charge of research into the weaponisation of nuclear weapons. "There is a link between this transfer and the date of Geneva [talks] because the regime needed to avoid the risk of visits by inspectors," Mehdi Abrichamtchi, who compiled the report for the NCRI, told a news conference.
(Reuters, October 10)
- In a speech after to returning to Iran from attending the opening ceremony of the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that "[Iran's] basic nuclear rights to enrich uranium are by no means negotiable." Rouhani also assured Iranians that there will be no discussions concerning the issue of nuclear technology and enrichment inside Iran and stressed again that Iran has nothing to hide in the field of nuclear energy.
(IRIB News, October 3)
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech to world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, warned that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is "a wolf in sheep's clothing" and declared that Israel will do whatever it takes to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it has to stand alone. Netanyahu gave a point-by-point rebuttal of Rouhani's speech from the previous week in which the Iranian leader signaled a willingness to discuss his country's disputed nuclear program. Accusing Rouhani of conducting a "charm offensive" aimed at getting the West to lift crippling sanctions, Netanyahu portrayed Rouhani as "a loyal servant of the regime" who has done nothing to stop his country's nuclear program since he took office in June.
(Prime Minister's Office, October 1)
- Israeli security officials announced that they arrested a Belgian businessman of Iranian descent, Ali Mansouri, for spying on Israel and gathering intelligence on possible terrorism targets. The Shin Bet domestic intelligence service released photographs that it said were taken from the suspect's camera that included exterior shots of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. The alleged spy was detained September 11 as he was attempting to leave Israel through Ben Gurion International Airport. Mansouri, the suspected Iranian agent, had made three trips to Israel over the past two years and was working to make business contacts here and establish a covert base of operations, including a front company to market windows and roofing materials. Mansouri was sentenced to seven years in an Israeli prison in April 2015.
(Washington Post, September 29)
- U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke via an arranged telephone call regarding the future of Iran's nuclear program. The conversation - the first between U.S. and Iranian leaders since the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis - was aimed at defusing the dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Afterward, both leaders expressed optimism at the prospect of a rapprochement that would transform the Middle East. "Resolving this issue, obviously, could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect," President Obama said.
(New York Times, September 27)
- In speeches at the opening debate of the United Nations General Assembly, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he has instructed Secretary of State John Kerry - in close coordination with the European Union, Russia and China - to pursue diplomacy with Iran regarding its nuclear program. Obama stressed that America prefers to resolve the issue diplomatically but that the use of force is not off the table. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in his speech to the plenum, said that sanctions against Iran are illegal and inhumane and that the world must respect Iran's right to uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes. He also declared that Iran is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
(White House, September 24; Times of Israel, September 24)
- Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, announced on September 22 that the Iranian government would shortly be assuming control over the Bushehr civilian nuclear reactor. The plant, built by Russia, had been operated solely by Russian technicians in an agreement sanctioned by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In August 2012, it was announced that the plant was finally operating at full capacity.
(Times of Israel, September 22)
- In an interview aired in the United States, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his government is in full control over its nuclear program and that "under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons." In a followup article published in the Washington Post, Rouhani noted that, for Iran, generating nuclear power "is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about ... our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world."
(NBC News, September 19; Washington Post, September 19 )
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told clerics in Iran that his government would reach out to world leaders about resuming negotiations on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. However, Rouhani stressed that his country "will not give up one iota" of its nuclear program and wouldn't cede "its absolute right [on] the nuclear issue."
(Times of Israel, September 10)
- IAEA quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program revealed that Iran has stepped up installation of IR-1 centrifuges, placing new IR-1's at a rate of nearly 600 per month since May. Iran now has more than 17,000 IR-1 and IR-2 centrifuges in use at the Natanz and Fordow plants. The IAEA report has noted that Iran delayed the start-up of the Arab heavy water reactor due to shortages in fuel cells. Iran also continued to convert some of its 19.75 percent LEU to gas form, but the IAEA noted the conversions were not sufficiently reducing Iran's stockpile of 19.75% LEU.
(Chicago Tribune, August 28)
- Iranian President Rouhani appointed former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to take over the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). In stepping down, outgoing AEOI chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani said that Iran had now amassed nearly 18,000 centrifuges. Abbasi-Davani noted that 10,000 IR-1's are operating, 7,000 IR-1's are ready to start operations and 1,000 additional IR-2's are also ready to start working.
(Jerusalem Post, August 17)
- Following the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who replaces outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 76 members of the U.S. Senate sent a letter urging President Obama to step up sanctions and bring "a renewed sense of urgency" to stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The letter notes overtures by Rohani to make more transparent the Iranian nuclear program that he insists is peaceful, but it also demands that Iran agree to remove its stockpiles of 20 percent enriched uranium. Rohani has categorically refused to suspend uranium enrichment. The letter was initiated by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
(The Telegraph, August 3)
- By a vote of 400-20, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.850 - Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013. The bill would hit Iran with the toughest sanctions yet over its nuclear program by blocking Iran from exporting any oil abroad. International sanctions have already cut Iran's oil sales in half, but lawmakers wanted to send Tehran a strong signal following the election of Hassan Rouhani. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), a co-sponsor of the measure, said "today the House took a critical step toward crippling this regime to prevent a nuclear Iran and dire security consequences."
(Los Angeles Times, July 31)
- Despite a report by the UN Panel of Experts on Iran that said Iran's ballistic missile tests of July 2012 qualified as a violation of UN restrictions, the 15-member UN Security Council failed to reach a unanimous decision to declare the tests illegal. The division, led by Russia and China, effectively rules out any expansion of sanctions against Tehran over the tests for the time being. As long as the sanctions committee remains divided, it will be difficult for the Security Council to add names of any Iranian individuals or entities linked to the missile tests.
(Chicago Tribune, July 15)
- Following Iran's presidential election, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) - Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) - the Committee’s Ranking Member - along with 44 members of the Committee, sent a letter urging President Obama to increase the pressure on Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs. The letter highlighted an IAEA report that showed Tehran is expanding its nuclear infrastructure, writing: "Iran's election unfortunately has done nothing to suggest a reversal of Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapons capacity ... It is important that you leave no doubt in the minds of the Iranian government that the United States will do all it can to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability."
(House Committee on Foreign Affairs, July 1)
- On June 14, Hassan Rouhani won Iran's presidential election to replace current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August 2013. Though portrayed as a moderate in the West, Rouhani was pre-approved by the regime to run in the election and has been a disciple of Ayatollah Khomenei and Ayatollah Khameini since his early days in politics. From 2003 to 2005, Rouhani served as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, during which time he led the effort to suspend certain parts of Iran's nuclear program to alleviate the concerns of the UN and the West. However, he later admitted that those concessions were done merely in an effort to buy time to build up Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has already made clear that no president is allowed to make concessions on the nuclear program, so it is unclear what, if any, change Rouhani will bring to Iran.
(Washington Post, June 17)
- During a Congressional hearing, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey describe Iran as a "threat" to America's national security and that the US is determined to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. "Iran is a threat to US national security in many ways, not simply their move toward the potential to develop a nuclear weapon," Dempsey said. ""We have been very clear as a nation that we are determined to prevent them from acquiring a nuclear weapon because it would be so destabilising to the region. But they are also active in cyber. They've got surrogates all over the region and all over the world. They proliferate arms. They are a disruptive influence globally. And so I do consider them a threat to our national security."
(Business Standard, June 12)
- With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on hand, workers installed two containers on the reactor at the Arak heavy water facility which was a critical step toward completing the reactor and making it fully functioning. "We hope that we can go through the relevant phases and carry out the necessary tests to make sure of the proper operation of this reactor and start its full launch next year," Fereidoun Abbasi, the head of Iran's nuclear agency said.
(CNN, June 10)
- On May 22, the IAEA - the UN's nuclear watchdog - released their quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program and detailed rapid Iranian progress in two programs that the West fears are geared toward making nuclear weapons. The report says that Tehran has upgraded its uranium enrichment facilities by installing close to 700 high-tech centrifuges which can produce the core of nuclear weapons. It also said Tehran had added hundreds of older-generation machines at its main enrichment site to bring the total number to more than 13,000. The report also noted that Iran has been paving over areas at the Parchin site where alleged experiments with test blasts took place.
(Washington Post, May 22)
- Satellite pictures of the Parchin military complex, taken October 2012 and uncovered by The Telegraph, shows new construction inside the facility. International inspectors have been able to visit the complex since 2004, where Iran is accused of experimenting and running tests on detonators for a nuclear weapon. The satellite imagery shows a cluster of three new buildings near the entrance to a tunnel, the largest building having been constructed in a relatively isolated location, cut into a hillside. The pictures confirm the IAEA’s report earlier this month that Iran has pressed on with construction inside Parchin. Some of the efforts appear to have been designed to cover up evidence of previous work.
(The Telegraph, February 27)
- Satellite imagery obtained by The Telegraph show that Iran has activated the Arak heavey water nuclear plant. The heavy water facility is used to operate a nuclear reactor that can produce plutonium which could then be used to make a bomb. The imagery also indicated that Iran has planted three surface-to-air missile sites and at least 50 batteries of anti-aircraft guns protect this research reactor. Inspectors from the IAEA have been unable to visit the facility since August 2011 and Iran has refused repeated requests for information about the site, which is 150 miles south-west of Tehran.
(The Telegraph, February 26)
- According to details released from a confidential report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has already begun installing roughly 180 advanced IR-2M centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. While the centrifuges were not yet operational, such machines could enable Iran to significantly speed up its accumulation of material that could be used to make a nuclear weapon. Iran alerted the IAEA in January 2013 of its intention to upgrade the Natanz enrichment facilities.
(Jerusalem Post, February 22)
- Iranian Culture Minister Seyed Mohammad Hosseini and Cultural Official Sheikh Ali Zaher of a Hezbollah-related organization announced the expansion of cultural ties between the two entities. Hosseini said, "Iran and Hezbollah have inseparable bonds and in Seyed Hassan Nasrallah’s words, Hezbollah is continuing the path of the Islamic Revolution and this bond is now present."
(Bookroom News [Iran], February 6)
- In a letter dated January 23, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) informed the United Nations that it was planning to upgrade its uranium enrichment plant at Natanz by installing more advanced centrifuges, the IR2M. The new centifuge can enrich two or three times faster than the present equipment being used by Tehran, according to the Associated Press. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sent a letter to member states saying Iran had informed the agency of its plans to use the improved machines at its fuel enrichment plant in Natanz.
(BBC News, January 31)
- Jill Bellamy van Aalst, a biological warfare threat analyst, reported that Iran is developing at least 16 different biological agents for possible inclusion in biological weapons. These agents, including anthrax, Ebola, encephalitis, biological toxins, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), cholera, smallpox and plague, may also be undergoing tests to make them ineffective to vaccines. Genetically modified, weaponized biological agents would pose threats for which there are no known medical countermeasures. Biological weapons are silent until they explode in epidemics or pandemics. Calculating kill ratios and controlling strikes as with chemical weapons and nuclear weapons are nearly impossible with biological weapons.
(Washington Times, January 25)
- At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Nobel Peace Laureate and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called for "serious" negotiations between Iran and the West over the former's nuclear program. Kissinger noted that, "Unilateral intervention by Israel would be a desperate last resort, but the Iranians have to understand that if they keep using the negotiations to gain time to complete a nuclear programme then the situation will become extremely dangerous." The major consequences of Iran's drive for nuclear weapons is the proliferation of such weapons across the Middle East and the world, said Kissinger.
(BBC News, January 24)
- Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's foreign minister, announced that his country is proposing Cairo, Egypt as the venue for restarting negotiations with the West over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Salehi also said Egypt has welcomed the Tehran offer and is now consulting about it with the six-nation group - the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - that have been directing negotiations until this point. "[Iran] has suggested that the next meeting be held in Cairo. Egypt has welcomed the proposal," Salehi told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.
(Haaretz, January 23)
- On January 3, US President Barack Obama signed into law the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, including additional sanctions levied against Iranian energy, shipping and shipbuilding sectors as well as Iran's ports, blacklisting them as "entities of proliferation concern." The bill, HR 4310, passed both houses of the Congress in December 2012 and was signed by President Obama without amendment on any of the Iran-related sections. The bill also imposes penalties on anyone caught supplying precious metals to Iran and sanctions on Iranian broadcasting. Additionally, the billI targets the state broadcast network, called the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, which the law says violated human rights by broadcasting forced confessions and show trials. The law orders the U.S. Treasury to slap sanctions on Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and its president, Ezzatollah Zargami.
(Wall Street Journal, January 3, 2013)
- On December 13, North Korea successfully launched a satellite into orbit and many analysts believe their rocket work is intricately intertwined with the Iranian nuclear program. According to missile expert Charles Vick, the evidence of the two countries' cooperation can be seen by comparing Pyongyang's Nodong missile with Iran's Shahab missile. "The technology is being tranferred in both directions, and I think that's what's going on in the nuclear technology, too," Vick said. MIT missile expert Theodore Postol thinks that this latest North Korean rocket launch was actually a joint production between North Korean and Iranian engineers. "...You don't need access to the intelligence information to see that these programs are very, very strongly collaborating," he said.
(NPR, December 14, 2012)
- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that Iran installed 700 new centrifuges at its fortified underground facility at Fordo, according to its November report. Iran had already been enriching uranium to 20 percent and the new equipment will allow the facility to double its output of higher-enriched uranium. The IAEA believes this could allow Iran to make the core for a nuclear warhead within months. The plant is now believed to house approximately 2,800 centrifuges.
(AP, November 16, 2012)
- The independent Institute for Science and International Security released a report concluding that in two to four months, Iran will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for at least one atomic bomb (about 25 kilograms) at its Nantaz facility. This assessment was made by former IAEA inspectors and other nuclear experts.
(Israel National News, October 10, 2012)
- President Obama signed an executive order and House Resolution 1905, authorizing the implementation of sanctions stipulated in the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012. The order and bill state that the goal of compelling Iran to abandon efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability and other threatening activities can be achieved through a policy that includes economic sanctions, diplomacy, and military planning, and urges the President to initiate diplomatic efforts to expand the multilateral sanctions regime against Iran. Secondly, expands sanctions related to the energy sector of Iran and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by Iran, by expanding the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996.
(The White House, October 9, 2012)
- Mansour Haqiqatpour, Iranian deputy head of parliament's Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, said that his country would enrich uranium to 60% if negotiations with world powers over its nuclear program fail. This step, if taken, would mean Iran would be another significant step closer to the 90% enrichment level needed to make atomic bombs.
(Chicago Tribune, October 2, 2012)
- According to an anonymous Iranian reporter who was recently hired as a researcher at one of Iran's nuclear facilities, Iran is recruiting staff non-stop to work on its nuclear program. The source said that Iran has already enriched uranium to 30% and "by next year, we hope to reach up to 50 or even 60 percent. The experience and knowledge is there, but getting the right parts at times has been difficult," he said. Parts of the equipment being received was "not reliable and sometimes defective."
(Times of Israel, October 2, 2012)
- The United States Senate, in a 90-1 vote, passed Joint Resolution 41 which reaffirmed the government's commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. The non-binding bill warns that time to limited to ensuring that Iran does not reaching this capability and urges the government to put economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran until it suspends uranium enrichment programs, complies with IAEA safeguards and inspections, and promises to only use its nuclear program for peaceful purposes.
(Washington Post, September 22, 2012)
- Iranian atomic energy chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani said that "terrorists and saboteurs" used explosives to cut the electricity power lines to Iran's Fordow underground nuclear enrichment plant in mid-August. Abbasi-Davani also said that a similar act had been carried out on power lines to Iran's main enrichment facility at Natanz. Iran's nuclear chief made clear his view that sabotage would not be successful in slowing Iran's nuclear program and he also suggested that whoever carried out the sabatoge mission was connected to inspection teams from the IAEA.
(Reuters, September 17, 2012)
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ramped up threats against Iran while also taking a swipe at the United States, who recently said that it refuses to place red lines on negotiations with Iran over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. "The world tells Israel 'wait, there's still time'. And I say, 'Wait for what? Wait until when?' Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel," Netanyahu said. Netanyahu has said Israel and the United States were in talks on setting a "clear red line" for Iran's nuclear program but the two allies remain at odds over whether to spell out a clear threshold for military action.
(Reuters, September 11, 2012)
- Diplomats from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said they received new intelligence that Iran has moved closer to the ability to build a nuclear weapon. They say the intelligence shows that Iran has advanced its work on calculating the destructive power of an atomic warhead through a series of computer models that it ran sometime within the past three years. The information, gathered by the US, Israel, and at least two other Western nations, is significant for the fact that it strengthens IAEA concerns that Iran is continuing to work towards a nuclear weapons capability.
(Washington Post, September 11, 2012)
- Working off concerns voiced by the Costa Rican government, Israel Radio reported that Iran has established training bases in northern Nicaragua near the border with Honduras to prepare for retaliatory strikes in case US or Israel strikes Iran's nuclear facilities. According to the report, approximately 30 members of Hezbollah are based full time in the camp and receive all supplies directly from Tehran.
(Times of Israel, September 6, 2012)
- In a closed-door intelligence briefing for member states, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed officials a series of satellite images that adds to the growing suspicion that Iran is conducting clean-up activities in Parchin, a site believed to have housed nuclear weapons testing and development. "It was pretty compelling," a senior Western diplomat said about the briefing by IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts and Assistant Director General Rafael Grossi.
(Chicago Tribune, September 5, 2012)
- A quarterly report on Iran's nuclear program released by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that the Islamic Republic has more than doubled the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges at its impenetrable underground facility Fordow, near the holy city of Qoms and about 80 miles from the capital Tehran. The number of centrifuges now at Fordow had more than doubled to 2,140 from 1,064 in May. The IAEA report also noted that "extensive activities" at the Parchin complex, which has yet to be inspected, prove that Iran is leading a determined effort to cleanup that site from any evidence of illicit nuclear-weapons-linked testing.
(Reuters, August 31, 2012)
- According to intelligence gathered by the United Nations, the US and Israel, Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, has kickstarted his nuclear energy and weapons work after having been sidelined for up to nine years. Officials worry that Fakhrizadeh's research revolves around warhead construction and coincides with steps taken by the Iranian government to push ahead other facets of their nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says he opened the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research in 2011 and that elements of Iran's nuclear-arms research is taking place there.
(Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2012)
- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began to form a special "Iran Task Force," drawing together sleuths in weapons technology, intelligence analysis, radiation and other fields of expertise, as it seeks to add muscle to a probe of suspicions that Iran is working secretly on atomic arms. The creation of the unit, much like the agency's "Iraq Action Team" from the 1990's, indicates frustration by UN officials over Iran’s refusal to cooperate with IAEA experts who are trying to follow up on suspicions that the Islamic Republic is secretly working on an arms program.
(Washington Post, August 23, 2012)
- Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told Bloomberg Newsweek that Israel would be willing to strike the Iranian nuclear facilities even if such an attack would only delay the Islamic Republic's ability to produce nuclear weapons. "One, two, three, four years are a long time in the Middle East - look what's happened in the last year," Oren said referring to the Arab Spring revolutions. “Diplomacy hasn’t succeeded,” Oren also said. “We’ve come to a very critical juncture where important decisions do have to be made.”
(Bloomberg Businessweek, August 16, 2012)
- A poll released by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 61% of the Israeli public thinks that Israel should not attack Iran without US cooperation while 54.5% say the chances are low that an attack with US help would actually succeed. On the other hand, 56% of Israelis also believe that efforts by the West to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons are neither serious nor sincere, and a large majority (70%) feels that Israel cannot trust US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's promise that the United States will make sure Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons.
(The Peace Index, August 8, 2012)
- Iranian state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that Iran successfully test-fired the newest version of the Fateh-110 missile which is capable of flying 185 miles and could targets spots in Eastern Europe or Israel. According to a Pentagon report, "Iran has boosted the lethality and effectiveness of existing systems with accuracy improvements and new submunition payloads," which allow missiles to drop explosives over a wider area thus causing more destruction.
(CNN, August 6, 2012)
- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced in a speech that the only solution to conflict in the Middle East is to destroy Israel. Ahmadinejad said, "Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented" between Israel and the Lebaneses terrorist organization Hezbollah. Later in his speech, the Iranian leader also noted that Israel "is an illegitimate regime, there is no legal basis for its existence."
(Washington Post, August 3, 2012
- The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an opposition movement to the regime in Iran, claimed to have evidence that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has established a new research unit called the New Defence Research Organisation (NDRO) to rapidly expand Iran's capability to build a nuclear weapon. The NCRI says that this new unit is subdivided into seven branches each with a responsibility for conducting a specific area of research, including the fissile material needed for a bomb, metals used for a warhead, and device detonators.
(The Daily Telegraph, July 17, 2012)
- The Aerospace Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) conducted a missile exercise, dubbed Great Prophet 7, which involved firing dozens of missiles at a target that resembled a U.S. airbase situated in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, or Saudi Arabia. The exercise was meant as a signal that the Islamic Republic is prepared for a military clash with the West and Israel, and possesses a devastating “second-strike” response capability against any attack on its nuclear sites. IRGC Aerospace Force commander Brig.-Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh claimed Iran had already amassed information on 35 U.S. bases in the region and had deployed missiles to destroy them within minutes of an attack on its soil.
(JCPA, July 17, 2012)
- The United States Department of Defense released a report on the military power of Iran that confirmed the Islamic Republic continues to improve the accuracy and lethality of its long- and short-range missile systems. “Iran has boosted the lethality and effectiveness of existing systems by improving accuracy and developing new submunition payloads” that extend the destructive power over a wider area than a solid warhead, according to the report which was signed by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
(Bloomberg, July 10, 2012)
- Talks in Moscow between Western powers and Iran over the latters disputed nuclear weapons program failed to reach any conclusion over future policy as mistrust, miscommunication, and frustration kept the two sides apart. Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, said that the differences in opinion between the two sides over Iran's program are now so far apart that future meetings were not even scheduled at the close of negotiations. Iran's parliament, meanwhile, told their lead negotiator, Saeed Jalili, to stick to their positions about not giving in to the demands of the West.
(New York Times, June 19, 2012)
- Satellite photographs released by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) show intensified Iranian efforts to cleanse and destroy parts of the Parchin military site suspected by the IAEA of being a nuclear weapons facility. A tenative deal struck last week between the Islamic Republic and the IAEA would have allowed for international observers to visit the site to assess for nuclear weapons-related work. "The newest image raises concerns that Iran is attempting to raze the site prior to allowing the IAEA visit," said ISIS in its report. "The razing of the two buildings may also indicate that Iran has no intention to allow inspectors access soon."
(Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2012)
- The IAEA released a report that confirmed Iran is still moving ahead with its uranium enrichment work in defiance of Security Council resolutions and agreements stipulated in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The IAEA report shows than Iran has significantly increased its production of 3.5% low-enriched uranium (has amassed nearly 750kg more than what was reported in the previous IAEA report), that it continues to stock 19.75% low-enriched uranium, and that its IR-1 centrifruge performance is increasing. According to independent analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), the report means that Iran has enough enriched uranium to fill five nuclear bombs if refined much further.
(Reuters, May 26, 2012)
- Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, said threats and pressures cannot deter Iran from its revolutionary causes and ideals, and stressed that the Iranian nation will remain committed to the full annihilation of the Zionist regime of Israel to the end. General Firouzabadi said, "The Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel."
(FARS News Agency, May 20, 2012)
- The United States Senate approved tough new penalties on the Tehran regime to thwart its nuclear ambitions. The bill passed by the Senate would target Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, require companies that trade on the U.S. stock exchange to disclose any Iran-related business to the Securities and Exchange Commission and would expand penalties for energy and uranium mining joint ventures with Tehran. The bill also would deny visas and freeze assets on individuals and companies that supply Iran with technology that could be used to crack down on its citizens, such as tear gas, rubber bullets and surveillance equipment.
(Fox News, May 21, 2012)
- Reports surfaced that Iran is actively seeking to establish its physical presence - ground and naval - in Yemen, a country among those that control the ports and shipping (and weapon-supply) of the Red Sea, as part of Iran's broader strategy for hegemony in the region. According to U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein, the U.S. has evidence that the Iranians are providing military assistance and trainers to several groups in Yemen, information conveyed via Hizbullah and Hamas in Lebanon.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, April 22, 2012)
- The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, largely cut off all Iranian banking transactions through its network in order to enforce EU sanctions aimed at deterring Iran from continuing its nuclear program. SWIFT managed to halt business with nearly 30 Iranian banks and subsidiaries. “Disconnecting banks is an extraordinary and unprecedented step for SWIFT," said Lazaro Campos, chief executive of the company. “It is a direct result of international and multilateral action to intensify financial sanctions against Iran."
(Boston Globe, March 16, 2012)
- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated three new nuclear projects including the loading of the country's first domestically made nuclear fuel rods into the Tehran Research Reactor, Iranian state TV reported. A European diplomat in Vienna said that Iran "wants to show that they have the technical expertise to master the fuel cycle." Additionally, the nuclear plants at Natanz and Fordow are now able to enrich uranium to 20% and will use a new type of centrifuge, the 174 IR-1, capable of three times higher enrichment speeds than previous models. There are around 9,000 centrifuges at these central Iranian plants, a 50% increase from the previous amount.
(Jerusalem Post, Haaretz Feb 15, 2012; American Enterprise Institue, Feb 21, 2012)
- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that their inspectors were unable to obtain any new information on the Iranian nuclear program as Tehran refused to answer questions raised in the agency's November 2011 report. A senior American official characterized the IAEA meeting as "foot-dragging at best and a disaster at worst." U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, "My view is that right now the most important thing is to keep the international community unified in keeping that pressure on, to try to convince Iran that they shouldn't develop a nuclear weapon, that they should join the international family of nations and that they should operate by all the rules that we all operate by."
(New York Times, February 3, 2012)
- Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that Israel believes "Iran's nuclear development is clearly intended for military purposes." This came in the wake of an Iranian request from the IAEA to begin enriching their uranium to a 90% grade. 90% is generally viewed as an indication of weapons-grade material.
(Israel Hayom, January 31, 2012)
- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the United States believes Iran is one year away from developing a nuclear weapon and possibly two years shy of being able to mount it on a deliverable weapons system. "The United States ... does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us. And it's a red line obviously for the Israelis so we share a common goal here," Panetta said. "If they proceed and we get intelligence that they're proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop it," he added.
(Haaretz, January 30, 2012)
- The European Union adopted an "unprecedented" resolution calling for an embargo on Iranian oil and petroleum imports to European nations. Europe has been one of the leading importers of Iranian oil and an embargo of this nature is meant to show Iran the West's resolve in working towards an end to development in its nuclear weapons program. The EU foreign ministers also passed a resolution freezing all assets of the Iranian central bank in Europe.
(BBC, January 23, 2012)
- Yukiya Amano, director general of the IAEA, made clear that he believes the Iranians are developing nuclear energy in order to create atomic or nuclear bombs and that he feels the Iranians have been less than open about their true intentions. "What we know suggests the development of nuclear weapons," Amano said in his interview with the Financial Times of Germany. "I have absolutely no reason to soften my report," he added. "It is my responsibility to alert the world, from the indicators I had, I draw the conclusion that it is time to call the world's attention to this risk." Iranian representatives to the IAEA responded to the comments by saying their country was open to discussing any issues about their nuclear energy program in a series of talks scheduled in Tehran for the end of January.
(Reuters, January 19, 2012)
- In the Winter 2011/2012, a string of suspicious explosions hit various sites in Iran and killed a number of Iranian nuclear scientists.
- On November 12, an explosion at a Revolutionary Guard Corps weapons depot near Tehran (in Karaj) killed 17 soldiers, including an IRGC rocket expert and long-range missile research specialist. (Washington Post, November 12, 2011)
- On November 28, a large explosion rocked the Iranian city of Isfahan (where a military complex is located) as the government issued conflicting reports thought to deny any notions of damage by way of sabotage on its nuclear sites. (Telegraph, November 28, 2011)
- On November 30, there was a blast on a military facility in the Iranian city of Khorramabad near the Iran-Iraq border.
- On December 14, there was an attack against a plant that manufactures a particular type of steel that is used for nose cones and other parts of missiles. (Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, December 14, 2011)
- On January 11, 2012, nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was assassinated when a bomb detonated in his car. Iranian Lawmaker Kazem Jalali immediately blamed both the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services for the strike, though both categorically denied any involvement. (CNN, Jan 11, 2012).
- In December 2011, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal noted that if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, “[it] would compel Saudi Arabia…to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences”. One of his officials clarified the vague statement by saying, “We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don’t. It’s as simple as that. If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit.” (New York Times, December 6, 2011)
- In November 2011, the IAEA Board of Governors adopted a resolution calling on Iran to comply, fully and without delay, to its obligations under resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council and to intensify their dialogue with in order to resolve questions regarding their nuclear development. The resolution expressed support for a diplomatic, negotiated solution to the growing problem in order to restore international confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program. This resolution came on the heels of yet another IAEA report - the fourth released in 2011 alone - that confirmed fears that Iran seems to be working towards the development of a nuclear weapon.
- In November 2011, the US government took two distinct, yet tangible steps to halt funding to Iran in an effort to curb its nuclear programs. These steps by the Obama Administration sent an unequivocal message to the Government of Iran that it will continue to face increasing international pressure until it addresses the international community's legitimate concerns regarding the nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
- On November 19, President Obama signed Executive Order 13590 that imposed sanctions on anyone doing business with Iran's energy or chemical programs. If a person is found to have provided a good, service, technology, or support to Iran described in E.O. 13590, the Secretary of State, in consultation with other agencies, has the authority to impose sanctions on these people or businesses, including prohibitions on foreign or banking transactions and property transactions in the United States.
- Additionally, the US Department of the Treasury identified Iran as a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act based on Iran's support for terrorism, pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and the illicit and deceptive financial activities that Iranian financial institutions - including the Central Bank of Iran - and other state-controlled entities engage in to facilitate Iran's illicit conduct and evade sanctions
- On September 3, 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report on the Iranian nuclear program that expressed grave concern on Tehran's experimental work to develop nuclear weapons, saying that it is becoming "increasingly concerned" at the advancements. The IAEA said Iran has begun deploying so-called second-generation centrifuges at its largest uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, which could allow the country to produce nuclear fuel at three times its current rate. (Wall Street Journal, September 3, 2011).
- In September 2011, Iran moved its most critical nuclear fuel production to a highly guarded underground military facility outside the city of Qum, where - according to intelligence officials - it is less vulnerable to an air or cyberattack such as the 2010 Stuxnet computer worm that reportedly infected 16,000 computers and set back Iran's nuclear program by a year or two. (New York Times, September 2, 2011).
- In June 2011, a UN panel of experts, which was convened after the UN Security Council imposed stiffer sanctions against in Iran in 2010, released a report which compiled information provided by Security Council member nations, monitors sent to various countries where unauthorized Iranian activity has been uncovered and input from outside experts on Iran's development of medium- and long-range missiles, nuclear program and weapons-smuggling operations. The report warned: "Iran's circumvention of sanctions across all areas, in particular the use of front companies, concealment methods in shipping, financial transactions and the transfer of conventional arms and related materiel, is willful and continuing. Iran maintains its uranium enrichment and heavy water-related activities, as noted in reporting by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and in the area of ballistic missiles, continues to test missiles and engage in prohibited procurement." According to the report, in a period of less than six months, the Iranians launched Sejil and Shahab 3 missiles on three occasions, and conducted an additional trial of the Fateh-110 missile. (Haaretz, June 10, 2011).
- In April 2011, scientists from Iran's atomic energy program announced that they had successfully tested advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium and were less than a month away from starting Iran's first commercial nuclear reactor. Though the advances were not yet fully implemented, the announcements countered international perceptions that Iran's nuclear program had suffered significant setbacks during a series of cyber attacks on the country’s main uranium enrichment facilities in 2009 and 2010 and prompted some experts to redraw their forecasts for how quickly the country could build an atomic arsenal (Washington Post, April 14, 2011).
- A January 2011 summit of six world powers meeting with Iran to discuss freezing its uranium enrichment program, failed after two days of negotiations in which Iran demanded an end to UN sanctions and an agreement that it could continue to enrich. Tehran rejected proposals for improved UN monitoring of Iran's nuclear activities and the revival of a subset of international talks focusing on Iran shipping out a limited amount of its enriched uranium in exchange for fuel for its research reactor (Jerusalem Post, January 22, 2011).
- In January 2011, the top-secret Manhattan Project published a study warning against Western complacency over Iran's nuclear drive as they found that Tehran had boosted its capacity to build an atomic bomb during 2010. According to the Federation of American Scientists, after examining data provided by the IAEA, the enrichment capacity of gas centrifuges at Iran's main enrichment plan in Natanz was more efficient in 2010 than in previous years (AFP, January 21, 2011).
- Iran announced that it had selected the locations inside protected mountain strongholds where it would build 10 new uranium enrichment sites. In an additional move seen as retaliation against the international community for its sanctions against Iran, President Ahmadinejad also announced the implementation of a new law banning the Iranian government from anything beyond the minimum level of cooperation with the IAEA.
(AP, August 16, 2010)
- IAEA report said that Iran had produced a stockpile of nuclear fuel that, with further enrichment, would be sufficient to build two nuclear weapons. In addition, the report said Iran expanded work at Natanz and that inspectors were denied access to facilities and their questions had gone unanswered.
(New York Times, May 31, 2010)
- President Obama's top advisers said they did not believe the government's earlier National Intelligence Estimate's conclusion that Iranian scientists ended all work on designing a nuclear warhead in late 2003 . The following month, President Obama announced new unilateral sanctions by the United States, freezing “the assets in U.S. jurisdictions of a Revolutionary Guard general and four subsidiaries of a construction firm he runs for their alleged involvement in producing and spreading weapons of mass destruction.” A day later, Iran announced it had begun enriching uranium to a higher level of purity, 20 percent, which is a step closer to producing weapons-grade uranium.
(New York Times, January 2, 2010; Washington Post, February 11, 2010)
- Disclosed that Iran had a second fuel enrichment plant. The United States had apparently been aware of the facility, but it was hidden from IAEA weapons inspectors (Jerusalem Post, September 25, 2009). Meanwhile, Iran's exiled political opposition movement reported the day before that it had learned of two previously unknown sites in and near Tehran that it said were being used to build nuclear warheads.
(Agence France-Presse, September 25, 2009)
- IAEA report said the number of Iran's centrifuges had grown to 8,300 (Haaretz, August 31, 2009). Director-General ElBaradei told the IAEA's 35-nation board that Iran had not stopped enriching uranium or answered lingering questions about its nuclear program.
(New York Times, September 7, 2009)
- Iran tested a new missile, the Sejil, with a range of 1,200 miles, that can reach Israel, U.S. regional bases and southeastern Europe . The Sejil is similar to the Shahab-3 (“Shahab” means shooting star in Farsi), which was unveiled in September 2007. That missile’s range had been improved from 810 to 1,125 miles. The Shahab-3 missile is capable of carrying a non-conventional warhead, could be stationed anywhere in Iran and can reach Israel as well as parts of Europe.
(The Peninsula, May 21, 2009)
- Maj. Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin, head of the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Nuclear Forces, said that the most worrisome aspect of the potential danger of an Iranian bomb is not the possibility of a nuclear strike against other countries, but the ability to assume a more bold approach in dealing with the international community after becoming a nuclear power. “The real threat is that Iran, which is already ignoring all resolutions and sanctions issued by the UN Security Council, will be practically ‘untouchable’ after acquiring nuclear-power status, and will be able to expand its support of terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hizballah” said Dvorkin, “I won't say the Iranians will be able to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles in the near future, but they will most likely be able to threaten the whole of Europe.”
(RIA Novosti, March 12, 2009)
- The United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany offered Iran technical and commercial incentives to suspend uranium enrichment. A few weeks later, the powers held talks in Geneva, attended for the first time by a senior U.S. official, aimed at reaching an agreement with Iran and forestalling further sanctions. A senior Iranian official, however, ruled out any freeze in uranium enrichment . After the talks, the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Iranian Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, announced Iran would no longer cooperate with IAEA experts investigating the country’s clandestine nuclear weapons program . Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad then announced that Iran had 6,000 centrifuges operating at its uranium enrichment facility at the underground Natanz facility, double the number operating less than a year earlier, a worrisome development showing the progress Iran had made toward developing a nuclear weapon . In December 2008, Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the IAEA, admitted that sanctions had been “a failure.”
(Reuters, July 20, 2008; Washington Post, July 24, 2008; Washington Post, July 26, 2008; Los Angeles Times, December 6, 2008).
- In response to Iran's continued defiance, the Security Council unanimously passed resolution 1737 to block “the import or export of sensitive nuclear material” to Iran. On February 22, 2007, the IAEA found Iran in violation of the Security Council ultimatum to freeze uranium enrichment. Iran continued to insist that its nuclear program could not be stopped by external actors. In March 2007, the IAEA announced the suspension of nuclear technical aid programs to Iran. Russia also announced it would withhold a nuclear fuel delivery to the county but then reversed its position.
(Reuters, December 18, 2007 )
- The UN Security Council approved Resolution 1696, giving Iran until August 31 of that year to suspend its uranium enrichment and to implement full transparency measures requested by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran insisted that it would continue its uranium enrichment program despite the resolution.