Why West struggles to rein in Iran's nuclear program
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is set to attend the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference next week in New York. Sanctions have slowed – but not arrested – Iran's nuclear program.
Making dire predictions about Iran's nuclear programs has been a parlor game since the mid-1980s.Skip to next paragraph
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In Pictures Nuclear Weapons
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Jane's Defence Weekly, a well-respected military-related publication, in 1984 estimated that the Islamic Republic was two years from making an atomic bomb. By 1992, the CIA was predicting an Iranian nuclear weapon by the end of the decade. In 1995, Israel agreed. The breathless warnings have almost never stopped.
Today, Iran's potential to soon join the nuclear club is informed by the latest US estimate that Iran may be one year away from having enough enriched uranium for a weapon, though actually making one – if Iran wanted to – is still years off. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is set to attend the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference next week in New York with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has called for stricter sanctions.
What does Iran teach us about how much a determined nation can achieve despite concerted efforts by many world powers to stop it? In recent decades, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea have all in secret become nuclear weapons states.
Iran case highlights flaws in safeguards
Iran says it only wants peaceful nuclear power and that nuclear weapons are forbidden by Islam. But the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says a number of issues remain unresolved with Iran about possible weapons-related work.
"The Iranian case really highlights shortcomings in the safeguards system," says Shannon Kile, a nuclear arms expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden. Even though Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its nuclear material is under IAEA watch, Iran's decision in February to boost enrichment levels – in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions – was significant.