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Iran’s nuclear program

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  1. Introduction
  2. The Iranian nuclear programme and the questions it raises
  3. Explanations on why states acquire nuclear
    1. Challenges and threats to security
  4. The debate on the real necessity for Iran to hold nuclear weapons
  5. The main argument put forward by the EU-3 negotiators
  6. Approachs to explaining nuclear proliferation highlighted by Scott Sagan
  7. The role of Russia and that of the suppliers of expertise and material to Tehran
  8. Conclusion
  9. References

As diplomats from the 190 signatory countries gather in New York this week for the five-yearly review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran will surely be present in many minds. Although some warning signs had been issued by various intelligence services during the previous decade, concern over Iran's nuclear programme became widespread in August 2002, with the discovery of the Natanz installation, destined for uranium enrichment. In October 2003, an agreement was reached in Tehran, between Iran and the foreign ministers of the three ?big? members of the European Union, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Iran agreed to suspend all enrichment-related activities, adhere to the International Atomic Energy Agency's additional protocol requiring more intrusive inspections, and provide full information about its nuclear programme. In return, the EU-3 promised that the issue would not go before the UN Security Council and pledged to provide technology to Iran, including in the civil nuclear area. However, the IAEA later found that a report submitted by Iran omitted references to activities involving advanced centrifuges and to the production of polonium, a material used in the making of nuclear bombs.

[...] Einhorn, transatlantic strategy on Iran's nuclear programme? Washington Quarterly 2004), pp. 22-23 High Representative for CFSP, Background on agreement on Iran's nuclear programme (15 November 2004), S0304/04 Robert J. Einhorn, Op. cit., p Ibid. European Council, EU strategy against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, (December 2003) William Walker, ?Nuclear order and disorder?, International Affairs 2000), p Scott Sagan, do states build nuclear weapons? Three models in search of a International Security 1996), pp. 54-86 Ibid., pp. 57-62 Ray Takeyh, ?Iran builds the Survival 2004), p Robert J. [...]


[...] The examples given here are those of France, which desired to foster its national prestige and independence through its nuclear weapons, and Ukraine, which was cajoled by the international community into giving up its Soviet-inherited nuclear arsenal, as the issue was framed in terms of image and respectability. Sagan contends that this model calls for policies that would increase the likelihood that norms will push proliferation-prone countries toward policies that serve disarmament[21]. It seems indeed, as we have noted above, that Iranian conservatives have been quite successful in presenting the issue of Iran's nuclear programme in terms of national independence, a stance which is likely to find a positive echo in the population. [...]


[...] Given that military strikes are unlikely, a short-term approach toward Iran's nuclear programme will have to integrate several aspects. It seems that the most realistic strategy the EU-3 can adopt is to follow the path they have already taken: exploit Iran's economic weaknesses with promises of increased trade, and perhaps muster further support from the US and Russia, as well as toughening up the discourse and confronting Iran, as Robert Einhorn suggests, with a clear choice between integration and isolation. [...]

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