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The Progression of Iran's Nuclear Program: Global Perspectives and Consequences

Written by Kourosh Harbottle

Edited by Annika Lilja


Ministers of foreign affairs and other officials announcing the framework of a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program (2015) | Photo Credit: US Department of State

The progression of Iran's nuclear activities has ignited an ongoing global discussion, especially since Iran publicized its second nuclear facility in 2009. This initiative is widely seen as a determinant of Iran's strategic plans and a possible destabilizer for regional and global security, mainly concerning the aim of stopping nuclear weapon production and growth.


Originating in the 1950s with American aid under the "Atoms for Peace" scheme, Iran's nuclear program took shape. Following the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the American-Iranian collaboration ended, but Iran carried on with its nuclear endeavors. Iran insists its nuclear activities are harmless and are specifically used for electricity production. Yet, Iran's uranium enrichment and its opaque dealings with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have resulted in global skepticism regarding potential military usage.


Iran's nuclear program has seen major advancements in the last few years, most notably in uranium enrichment. This process involves boosting the proportion of the isotope that can sustain a nuclear chain reaction. Iran had managed to reach a uranium enrichment level of 60% purity by 2021, surpassing the 3.6% limit set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran Nuclear Deal of 2015. The JCPOA, endorsed by Iran, the U.S, the UK, Russia, China, and the European Union, sought to restrict Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for relief from sanctions. However, the exit of the US from the deal in 2018, due to Iran's failure to protect America's national security interests, and subsequent sanctions caused Iran to lessen its commitment to the JCPOA gradually. These sanctions blocked transactions with and barred entry to the U.S. financial system for anyone operating in the construction, manufacturing, textiles, or mining sectors of the Iranian economy. By 2021, Iran was not only going over the enrichment threshold but also limiting the IAEA's access to its nuclear facilities, causing fears of hidden activities.


These developments come with profound implications though. Iran's advanced nuclear program causes anxiety among neighboring nations like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, in an already fragile Middle East. On a global level, it challenges diplomatic negotiations and the effectiveness of international non-proliferation.

The Biden administration has addressed its willingness to rejoin the JCPOA, but only if Iran "fulfills its obligations," said by President Biden. To address the developments in Iran's nuclear program, comprehensive diplomatic measures are needed, accounting for Iran's energy security, economic aspirations, and compliance with international non-proliferation standards.


In conclusion, the progression of Iran's nuclear program poses a multilayered challenge. Achieving a peaceful solution requires an in-depth understanding of Iran's goals and regional dynamics, coupled with the political determination for ongoing diplomatic interactions among all parties that are involved.

 

Sources:


Collinson, Stephen. “World Holds Breath for Trump’s Iran Deal Decision | CNN Politics.” CNN, Cable News Network, 8 May 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/05/08/politics/donald-trump-iran-deal/index.html.


Dina Smeltz, Amir Farmanesh. “Iranians and Americans Support a Mutual Return to JCPOA.” Chicago Council on Global Affairs, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 30 Mar. 2021, globalaffairs.org/research/public-opinion-survey/iranians-and-americans-support-mutual-return-jcpoa.


“Iran Nuclear Deal: What It All Means.” BBC News, BBC, 23 Nov. 2021, www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33521655.

“Javascript Required!” Nuclear Power in Iran - World Nuclear Association, www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-g-n/iran.aspx. Accessed 4 Sept. 2023.


“Nuclear - The Dangers Are Real.” The Nuclear Threat Initiative, 18 July 2023, www.nti.org/area/nuclear/.


“Timeline of U.S. Sanctions.” The Iran Primer, 8 June 2023, iranprimer.usip.org/resource/timeline-us-sanctions.


“What Is the Iran Nuclear Deal?” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-iran-nuclear-deal. Accessed 4 Sept. 2023.



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