Iran’s nuclear program

saddam hussain samo
The writer is a columnist and researcher. He can be reached at

Iran’s nuclear program was initiated by the US in 1950s under its vision “Atoms for Peace” for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. As a result, Shah of Iran received technical assistance from America and Europe. Some energy giants of the Britain, France and Germany signed billions of dollars nuclear deals with Iran to install required infrastructure to produce energy for the civilian use. However, the cooperation was halted in 1979, when Iran witnessed Islamic revolution led by Khomeini. The mega projects of the European companies were forced to close in the middle, particularly, owing to the pressure from Washington. The new supreme leader of Iran was also not interested in it because he considered it un-Islamic and, according to him, it causes wide destruction.

In 1984, Khomeini expressed interest in the nuclear power and started to find partners to re-start the program. As a result, Tehran signed nuclear agreements with China, Russia and Pakistan. Iran was signatory of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and according to it; Tehran could not enrich uranium more than 5 per cent for peaceful use. In 2004, CIA received information that Iran has diverted its peaceful nuclear program to make a nuclear bomb. But, Iran rejected the obligations. From 2005 to 2013, under the government of Ahmadinejad, Iran started to enrich uranium beyond its limit set by NPT and the new leader turned out to be non-cooperative on the issue. Consequently, the United Nations, suggested for nuclear related sanctions and Iranian assets like banks in foreign countries were frozen and its oil export was reduced affecting its economy.

The Great Britain, France and Germany were the largest trade partners of Iran. Already, their investment in different nuclear related projects reduced to ashes after Iranian revolution. The economic sanctions further affected their business activities with Iran. It is therefore; these countries initiated nuclear dialogues called Iran+E3, to get sanctions lifted from it. Afterward, China and Russia joined the process of dialogues. In 2013, a moderate leader, in the form of Hassan Rouhani was also elected as a new supreme leader, who was interested in solving the nuclear program issue through negotiation. Finally, America joined the process. The negotiation bloc was created called P5+1. One represents Germany while P5 are the five permanent members of the United Nations Organization (UNO).

The first round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 was held in Geneva from 15-16 October 2013. They reached an agreement on 24th November 2013 called Joint Plan of Action (JPOA). It was the first nuclear deal that would last for 6 months only. If Iran fulfilled the promises, the final comprehensive plan would be signed. Under JPOA, Iran would allow IAEA to inspect its nuclear sites and reduce its uranium enrichment to 5 per cent. Besides, Iran would close its Arak nuclear plant that was suspected by the US to be involved in making nuclear bomb.

The deadline of the deal was extended and Iran cooperated with the US. As a result, on 14th July 2015, Iran, P5+1 along with the European Union signed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna, Austria. The US congress was not happy with the deal. Israel and Saudi Arabia also expressed their regrets. It was the presidential executive order and there were more chances of its reversal once Obama left the White House.

The main provisions of JCPOA are given as below:

  • This deal would last for 15 years.
  • Iran would bring down its uranium enrichment to 3.67 per cent and stick to it for 15 years. Besides, Iran’s current capacity of 19,000 gas centrifuges would be reduced by 6,104, out of which just over 5,000 would actually be enriching uranium.
  • Under the agreement, Fordow underground enrichment plant would be used only for non-military research.
  • Iran’s current enriched uranium of around 7500kg would be reduced to 300kg by bringing a total reduction of 96 per cent.
  • Iran would not be allowed to carry out research and development on enriching uranium.
  • Iran would open all its nuclear related sites including un-declared for the inspection of IAEA.
  • If Iran fulfilled the provision of the deal, the EU and US would suspend or cancel the nuclear related sanctions. The EU would end its oil embargo and banking sanctions.
  • Iran would destroy reactor core of Arak nuclear facility and redesign it to produce much less plutonium.

In 2016, IAEA confirmed that Iran was fulfilling its obligations under JCPOA. The European countries were very happy because the agreement opened an opportunity for them to carry out business deals. It was the reason that Hassan Rouhani made his first trip to Europe and signed an investment of around $37 billion with these countries. Local Iranian people also celebrated the deal because it opened a golden window for them to improve their lifestyle by engaging in global trade activities.

However, the US congress was not happy and Trump, during his election campaigns promised to withdraw the US from JCPOA. According him, the deal was defective and does not end an ambition of Iran to make an actual bomb. He wanted to replace it with a new harsh agreement. He fulfilled his commitment and on 8th May 2018, parted the US from it. Thus, he eliminated chances of further US-Iran cooperation on the nuclear related issue. At present, the JCPOA is dead and the global leaders are patiently waiting for another nuclear deal with Iran, but it seems difficut now.


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