Iran: Nuclear Programme and the International Atomic Energy Agency

Tehran’s nuclear program has sparked an intensification of global tension as the European Union has increased its pressure on Iran through sanctions and Israel has threatened military actions against the threat of Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Iran has Irritated Western Powers with Nuclear Build-up

Officials from the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency begin another round of talks on Monday with Iranian officials over the country’s nuclear program.  The scheduled talks between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iranian officials are seen as an opportunity for the agency to verify Iranian claims that its nuclear activities are simply for electricity generation.  Iran says it is producing enriched uranium to fuel civilian power plans and has refused international demands to halt its production.  Nevertheless, Western nations remain skeptical and believe the program is geared towards making weapons, claims that are supported by a November report by the IAEA that suggested Iran had carried out some weapons-related research.

“Importantly, we hope for some concrete results from the trip.  The highest priority remains of course the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme, but we want to tackle all outstanding issues.  This is of course a very complex issue that may take  while.  But we hope it can be constructive.” – Herman Nackaerts, Chief Inspector from the International Atomic Energy Agency

The information from the IAEA in November had stated the Iran had carried out tests relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.  This information led to a decision by the US and the European Union to tighten sanctions against Iran, including measures targeting the country’s lucrative oil industry.  In retaliation to the increased EU sanctions, Iran’s oil ministry halted crude exports to French and British companies.  The EU sanctions put in place last month are meant to force Iran to provide more information on its nuclear program by the shutting of its sales of crude oil, which generates half of Iran’s revenue.  The EU is to enforce a full-force oil embargo beginning on July 1st but some of the EU’s 27 members have already stopped purchasing oil from Iran and others are reducing their purchases.  The UK, Austria and Portugal did not import any oil from Iran in the period from January to September 2011.  Belgium, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, which bought a total of 2.38 million tons of Iranian crude in that period, have not stopped purchases and Italy, Spain and Greece are currently reducing imports.  The gestures are largely symbolic though, as Iran has various trading partner outside of the EU, yet the EU is largely dependent on Iran for its crude exports.  The 5-month phase-in period, during which existing contracts between EU members and Iran are allowed to continue, is meant to give member states time to find alternative supplies.

“Iran has no difficulty in selling and exporting its crude oil.  We have our own customers and have designated alternatives for our oil sales.  We shall sell to new customers, who will replace French and UK companies.” – Ali Reza Nikzad-Rahbar, ministry spokesman

Meanwhile, Israel has made it clear that it considers a nuclear-arms Iran an existential threat, and has made it clear that it is considering an attack on Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure.  The threat illustrates the tension existing between Israel and Iran, as well as intensified the already precarious position of the US in attempting to mediate the cold conflict between its Middle Eastern ally and a historical enemy.  The Us believes that talk of military strike against Iran’s nuclear program is premature and has advised Israel that an attack would be counterproductive.  Israel is surrounded by religious and cultural enemies, many of which received Iranian support during repeated occasions of embroiled war with Israel.  The complicated situation is what has influenced US diplomatic tactics, coercing Israel through political rhetoric and the implementation of still-tougher sanctions.

“I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us.  I think Israel has the capability to strike Iran and to delay the production of the capability of Iran to achieve nuclear weapons status, probably for a couple of years, but some of the targets are probably beyond their reach and, of course, that’s what concerns them.  That’s this notion of a zone of immunity that they discuss.” – General Martin Demspey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

In retrospect, Iran has long stood as a polarized extreme against the West and its build of nuclear capabilities is yet another illustrious example of its gun-ho attitude towards show-boating and cold threats. Iran’s tactics to oppose Western intervention or influence have been through diplomatic, theoretical and indirect fashions.  Though it has agreed to this UN/Western intrusion upon its country, the findings will confirm what Tehran wants it to confirm, that the uranium facilities spoken of are for peaceful purposes.  Iran’s intentions are merely to instigate more Western animosity in its country and throughout the Middle East and thus securing their stance as a superpower, of sorts, in the Middle East.  This stance as a Middle Eastern “democracy” will serve as a gradual lure to many of the liberalizing and revolting countries throughout North Africa and the Middle East during this perpetuating “Arab Spring”

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