By Sohail Parwaz
The foundation of Iran’s nuclear programme was laid in 1960 during the Shah of Iran Reza Pahlavi’s era under the patronage of the U.S. within the framework of a bilateral accord between the two countries. The late Shah had a plan to build a couple of nuclear power reactors.
The most interesting thing is that the Tehran Nuclear Research Centre (TNRC) was equipped with a U.S.-supplied 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor in 1967 and was run by the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI). Iran signed and ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968.
Since Iran’s atomic agency was established and the NPT was signed, the Shah of Iran planned to construct 23 nuclear power stations across the country with the help of the U.S.. by the year 2000.
The Iranian nuclear programme faced setbacks twice and was brought to a standstill. When the Shah of Iran was deposed after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and during the Iran-Iraq war, two unfinished power reactors were bombed and ruined by the Iraqis in Bushehr on the coast of the Persian Gulf.
Although all the nuclear activities were suspended after the 1979 revolution, the work was resumed on a modest scale subsequently. Iran always claimed that it was trying to establish a complete nuclear fuel cycle to support a civilian energy programme, but U.S. and the European countries feared that the same fuel cycle would be applicable to a nuclear weapons’ programme.
Iran appears to have spread its nuclear activities around a number of sites to reduce the risk of detection and attack. It is generally believed that Iran’s efforts were focused on uranium enrichment.
Interestingly, the issues on which the U.S., France, and the UK are making a hue and cry were once hatched and sponsored by them. How could one forget that it was the U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who had signed the National Security Decision Memorandum 292 titled, ‘U.S.-Iran Nuclear Cooperation’ in 1975, which very generously laid out the niceties of the sale of nuclear energy equipment to Iran to bring home more than $ 6 billion as revenue? This cooperation did not stop in the following year (1976) when U.S. President Gerald Ford signed a directive offering Tehran a chance to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel.
The deal was for a complete nuclear fuel cycle. Besides this, numerous other contracts were signed with various Western firms, including a German firm that began the construction of the Bushehr power plant. Work was halted after the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the German firm withdrew from the project.
Shortly afterwards, Iraq invaded Iran and the nuclear programme was stopped until the end of the war. In 1990, Iran began to look towards partners for its nuclear programme. Due to a radically different political climate and punitive U.S. economic sanctions, few candidates existed at that time. In 1995, Iran signed a contract with Russia to resume work on the incomplete Bushehr plant. It was not until 2002 that the U.S. began to question Iran’s nuclear intentions after Masud Rajavi’s Mujahideen-e-Khalq Organisation of Iran revealed the existence of the Natanz and Arak facilities.
The Iranian nuclear programme has become the talk of these days. It appears that the Western world has come together to oppose Iran’s right to enrich uranium for vested interests best known to Europe and the U.S. It is an open secret now that Iran’s nuclear programme was founded during the Shah of Iran’s rule. After seeing the lows and highs of the time, it has reached a stage where it is not acceptable to the Western world.
Things were sailing smoothly when on one fine morning of February 9, 2003 the then Iranian President Mohammad Khatami disclosed publicly the existence of Natanz and some other nuclear facilities on Iranian television and invited the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit them. He revealed the details about the Iranian programme for enriching uranium at Natanz and other locations. On the Iranian president’s invitation, Dr Muhammad El-Baradei, the head of the IAEA, accompanied by a team of inspectors visited Iran somewhere in late February 2003. Since then the IAEA’s experts and inspectors have visited Iran many times.
On the basis of the observations made during these visits, the IAEA released a prelude in July the same year with a follow-up report on August 26, 2003. These reports were sufficient for the IAEA authorities to be convinced about Iran’s nuclear activities. Thus on September 12, 2003, a formal ultimatum was handed over to Iran by the IAEA to reveal all details on the proceedings in the field with a deadline of October 31, 2003. The Bush administration objected to Iran’s nuclear programme asking why a country that has vast oil and natural gas reserves is striving for nuclear energy.
The most interesting thing is that the logic given now did not strike the American minds back in the 60s when the TNRC was equipped with a first ever U.S.-supplied 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor in 1967. It was before 9/11. The history of the Iranian nuclear programme has to be understood besides finding reasons about what has actually started bothering the West, especially the U.S.
— Sohail Parwaz is columnist, media strategist, and playwright in Pakistan.
Source: Middle East Online