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The Disarmament of Iran

In 1979, a referendum was held in Iran that abolished its monarchy and declared it an Islamic Republic.   This meant that strict doctrinal Islamic beliefs (practiced by 99% of its people) were considered federal policy.   While the government remained extremely disorganized for many years, the fundamentalist Islamic community did have a defined leader named the Ayatollah Khomeini.   He made decisions concerning how Islam was to be practiced and how those of the faith should view their own communities as well as the rest of the world.   The Ayatollah (comparable to Dalai Llama terminology-wise) declared that all who were not of Islamic faith were sinners and that the people of Iran were to have very little, if any, relations with the non-Muslim world; the western world, especially the United States, was declared essentially to be Satan.   Thus, Iran has remained alienated (and considered potentially threatening) from the rest of the world since this revolution.   

Iran’s tendency to horde weapons began with the gruesome territorial, political, and religious dispute that was the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988).   Iran was significantly disadvantaged in this conflict from the fact that it had isolated itself from virtually every country in the world, especially the United States.   Iran could not get spare parts for its US made military hardware, nor did it receive sufficient loans or supplies from other Western countries to effectively carry on the war.   Iraq, however, received substantial military and diplomatic support from many Western countries:  the USSR, and all Arab countries with the exception of Syria.   This imbalance of military resources led to Iran’s hording of as many weapons as it could through any available means.   During the Iran-Iraq war, Iranians captured several hostages from the United States and other western countries.   Despite its own laws forbidding the official sale of arms to Iran, in 1985, the US used intermediary nations to conceal its sale of TOW and Hawk missiles to Iran in exchange for hostages.   These deals which are known as the Iran-Contra incident were exposed and terminated in 1986.   Although Iran and Iraq both accepted a UN resolution declaring a cease fire in 1988, it is believed that Iran was bitter about the way it was defeated and that it has the potential to revive this conflict once it is capable of victory.   This is primarily because Iraq actually ended up gaining some of Iran’s territory (near the Arvand-Roud River) as a consequence of the war.   Given its history of illegally and secretly acquiring weapons, as well as its lingering motivation to do so, Iran has remained under close supervision by many world powers including the United Nations, especially regarding any type of industry or transactions that could potentially threaten international security.   While Iran has yet to make any offensive military moves, its militant attitude toward western civilization and secretive policies regarding outsiders make it a looming concern.   Iran is of exceptional concern in this past year because of its newly acquired nuclear capabilities, thus the feasibility of an offensive action by Iran is greatly increased.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is a United Nations program whose goal is to achieve safe and peaceful usage of atomic energy by means of international safety inspections and openly informative policies from every country concerning its nuclear facilities and weapons.   Near the end of 2003, Iran came under close scrutiny by this agency because of its decision to renew its own nuclear program as an alternative to fossil fuels.   Iran argues that its major cities, especially Tehran, are excessively polluted because of automobile and refinery emissions.   This is partly due to subsidies of oil prices by the Iranian government which would be reduced with the introduction of alternative energy sources.   While Iran does have over 9% of the world oil reserves and over 16% of the world’s natural gas, Iran has been rendered incapable of fully utilizing these resources; the necessary foreign equipment and know-how has been unavailable due to the nation’s isolationist attitude since the revolution, and now many wells have been rendered useless due to neglect.   Regardless of these hindrances, Iran still has more than enough gas and oil to meet its own increasing energy needs for many years to come.

In 2003, Iran contracted with Russia to install a reactor to replace the one destroyed by the Iraqis in the Iran-Iraq war.   Iran has also been manufacturing and installing a large number of gas centrifuges which can be used to purify low grade uranium ore.   Iran possesses a relative abundance of this ore, and with this process it can be converted into reactor fuel grade uranium. This process can also be used to produce weapons grade U-235 isotope.   Iran may want nuclear weapons to match Israeli nuclear capabilities, so as to remain a dominant force in the Middle-East territories.  Additionally, Iran is building a heavy water reactor plant and is under suspicion of building other plants without proper notification of international authorities.  Heavy water is not required for the Russian built reactor but can be used for other types of nuclear processes.

Many are suspicious of this large investment in nuclear energy by a poor country with tremendous fossil fuel reserves. They believe it could only be an indication that that country is developing nuclear weapons.  Both Israel and the United States have been watching the Iranian nuclear program with concern. Though there has been speculation that Israel would strike the Iranian reactor as it struck the reactor in Iraq in 1981, the situation is not comparable.

IAEA inspectors became uneasy after finding several discrepancies in Iranian disclosures about their program, and after finding traces of highly enriched uranium in Iranian nuclear sites.   Iran claims that these traces were present in machinery that was shipped to them from abroad.  The IAEA ordered Iran to submit a full account of its nuclear program, and also asked for the right to snap inspections and other measures. After initial resistance, Iran complied, submitting the report ahead of time, and agreeing also to suspend the upgrading of uranium.   In most recent discussions, Iran insists that its growing nuclear program is for 100% peaceful uses.   Iran claims that international efforts toward the eradication of its nuclear program and its disarmament of conventional weaponry are against its legal and legitimate international rights.

  For further information on Iran and the United Nations’ concerns regarding its disarmament visit: http://lugar.senate.gov/CRS%20reports/Nonproliferation.pdfhttp://csis.org/mideast/reports/irantrends.pdfhttp://tribun.com/Sayir%20Media/SM128.pdf

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