Iran Nuclear NewsHow did it come to this?

How did it come to this?

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The Daily Telegraph: Why is the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme reaching a critical stage? Iran started enriching uranium last January. This can produce the material essential to building a nuclear bomb. By taking this step, Iran broke a deal signed with Britain, France and Germany. The UN passed two Resolutions last year calling for Iran to stop developing its nuclear programme. So far, Iran has ignored these calls. The Daily Telegraph

Why is the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme reaching a critical stage?

Iran started enriching uranium last January. This can produce the material essential to building a nuclear bomb. By taking this step, Iran broke a deal signed with Britain, France and Germany. The UN passed two Resolutions last year calling for Iran to stop developing its nuclear programme. So far, Iran has ignored these calls.

Why is Iran suspected of seeking nuclear weapons?

Iran says that its nuclear programme is peaceful and designed to generate electricity for its growing population of 70 million. Western governments don’t believe this for two reasons. First, Iran has failed to declare all of its nuclear facilities and deliberately obstructed UN inspectors. The plant at Natanz was only revealed by exiles from the National Council of Resistance of Iran in 2002. Second, highly enriched uranium only has military purposes. Samples have been found on Iran’s centrifuges.

How far away might Iran be from having a nuclear bomb?

If Iran starts enriching uranium on an industrial scale, it will take two or three years to make enough for one bomb. Iran would also need long-range ballistic missiles to carry a nuclear warhead. It could take four to eight years to develop a fully operational weapons system.

How did they get this far?

Iran’s nuclear programme began before the Shah’s overthrow in the Revolution of 1979. It made little progress until 1995, when Russia agreed to help build nuclear reactors at the Bushehr power plant. Iran’s key supplier was Abdul Qadeer Khan, the head of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, who ran a “nuclear supermarket” for much of the 1990s, selling parts and designs to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Iran is believed to have bought centrifuge parts from Khan, who was placed under house arrest in Islamabad in 2004.

What has Iran got to gain by restricting its programme?

Western governments, including America, have offered Iran trade concessions, economic help and investment in return for Teheran curbing its nuclear ambitions. They have also offered technical help for a civilian programme.

Why might Iran press ahead regardless?

Iran has its own security concerns. Pakistan is a nuclear power, Russia is a near neighbour and America has troops on its borders, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran may judge that having a nuclear weapon will guarantee its own security and allow it to become the leading power in the Middle East. Israel believes it would be the prime target for any Iranian bomb. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pledged to wipe Israel off the map.

Who is in charge of Iran’s nuclear policy?

Not the firebrand president, you might be relieved to learn. Real power is wielded by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He will have the final say on whether Iran presses ahead or not. Ahmadinejad has the power to wreck negotiations with the West, but not to make or unmake the programme.

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