Iran's supreme leader rejected a proposal for direct talks about its nuclear program with the United States, saying negotiations will not solve anything. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement posted on his website Thursday 07 February 2013 that the US wants to talk while threatening to punish Iran, and that his country will not be intimidated. On 06 February 2013 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in reaction to US proposal for holding direct talks with Iran, said Iran evaluates the new proposal 'positive', adding if US changes its behavior, Iran will consider the proposal. US Vice President Joe Biden said during a security conference on Saturday 02 February 2013 in Munich that the United States is open to directly engaging Iran if it is serious about negotiations.
In a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency dated 23 January 2013, Tehran said it would introduce new centrifuges to its main enrichment plant near the central town of Natanz. The letter from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) informed the Agency that 'centrifuge machines type IR2m will be used in Unit A-22' at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz. It was not clear how many of the upgraded centrifuges Iran aimed to put in place at Natanz, which is designed for tens of thousands of machines, but the wording of the IAEA's note implied it could be up to roughly 3,000. A unit can house more than 3,000 centrifuges. About 10,400 IR-1 centrifuges were installed at Natanz as of late 2012, an IAEA report said in November 2012. Using the IR-2m in large numbers would enable Iran to enrich uranium much faster.
Iran will be capable to create nuclear weapons in six to seven months, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with the NBC channel on 16 September 2012. "They're in the last 20 yards. And you can't let them cross that goal line," Netanyahu said. "Because that would have unbelievable consequences." “Iran is guided by a leadership with an unbelievable fanaticism, "It's the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today,” Netanyahu said referring to a string of riots across the globe sparked by the U.S.-made short film titled "Innocence of Muslims." The Israeli prime minister also said he disagrees with the statements that Iran’s nuclear weapons would stabilize the situation in the Middle East calling this approach “a new standard for human stupidity.”
A new assessment of the costs and benefits of attacking Iran released September 13, 2012 said U.S. military strikes probably carry the risk of igniting an all-out war in the Middle East. The report, by more than 30 former U.S. government officials, national security experts, and retired military officers, says attacks would shake the Iranian regime's political control. But it goes on to say that Tehran would likely retaliate, directly and through surrogates. The report says an attack could delay Tehran's development of an atomic bomb for a few years. If the United States alone, or with Israel, carried out “extended military strikes,” Iran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb could be delayed by two to four years, it says. The report estimated that a military strike by Israel alone could delay Iran’s nuclear program by up to two years. "You can't kill intellectual power," said retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Frank Kearney, who endorsed the report. He is a former deputy director at the National Counterterrorism Center and former deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
Iran's nuclear program began in the Shah's era, including a plan to build 20 nuclear power reactors. Two power reactors in Bushehr, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, were started but remained unfinished when they were bombed and damaged by the Iraqis during the Iran-Iraq war. Following the revolution in 1979, all nuclear activity was suspended, though subsequently work was resumed on a somewhat more modest scale. Current plans extend to the construction of 15 power reactors and two research reactors.
Research and development efforts also were conducted by the Shah's regime on fissile material production, although these efforts were halted during the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq war.
The current nuclear program is headed by the President, the commander of the Iranian Revulutionary Gaurd Corps (IRGC), the head of the Defense Industries Organization, and the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO). These leaders continue the pursuit of WMD's and support Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear programs against all pressures from the United States and its allies.
Iran ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1970, and since February 1992 has allowed the IAEA to inspect any of its nuclear facilities. Prior to 2003 no IAEA inspections had revealed Tehran's violations of the NPT.
Since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, Tehran redoubled its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missiles. In addition to Iran's legitimate efforts to develop its nuclear power-generation industry, it is believed to be operating a parallel clandestine nuclear weapons program. Iran appears to be following a policy of complying with the NPT and building its nuclear power program in such a way that if the appropriate political decision is made, know-how gained in the peaceful sphere (specialists and equipment) could be used to create nuclear weapons (dual-use technologies have been sold to Iran by at least nine western companies during the early 1990's). Also, in this atmosphere of deception, unconfirmed reports have been made that Tehran purchased several nuclear warheads in the early 1990's
It is evident that Iran's efforts are focused both on uranium enrichment and a parallel plutonium effort. Iran claims it is trying to establish a complete nuclear fuel cycle to support a civilian energy program, but this same fuel cycle would be applicable to a nuclear weapons development program. Iran appears to have spread their nuclear activities around a number of sites to reduce the risk of detection or attack.
Iran does not currently have nuclear weapons, and would appear to be about two years away from acquiring nuclear weapons. By some time in 2006, however, Iran could be producting fissile material for atomic bombs using both uranium enriched at Natanz and plutonium produced at Arak. The Natanz facility might produce enough uranium for about five bombs every year, and the Arak facility might produced enough plutonium for as many as three bombs every year.
If Iran did acquire atomic bombs, it would put pressure on other countries in the region do the same. Many Arab countries believe it is unfair that Israel has nuclear weapons. If Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia but also Egypt and possibly Syria, found themselves caught between a nuclear-armed Israel and a nuclear-armed Iran, it would greatly increase pressures to pursue their own nuclear options. This could result in a regional arms race in the Middle East which is likely to be quite destabilizing, given the number and intensity of conflicts and instabilities in the region.
In December 2003 Presidential hopeful John Kerry said that he would explore "areas of mutual interest" with Iran. And in June 2004 Kerry proposed providing nuclear fuel to Iran in exchange for Iran's abandoning the fissile material production complex at Esfahan, Arak, Natanz and other locations. In an interview on 29 August 2004, reported in the Washington Post on 30 August, Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards proposed a "Grand Bargain" with Iran, under which the US would drop objections to the nuclear power reactor at Bushehr, in exchange for Iran abandoning the material production complex. According to Edwards, if Iran rejected this offer, it would confirm that it was building atomic bombs. Edwards also said that Kerry would ensure that European allies would join the US in imposing sanctions on Iran. "If we are engaging with Iranians in an effort to reach this great bargain and if in fact this is a bluff that they are trying to develop nuclear weapons capability, then we know that our European friends will stand with us," Edwards said. "Iran is further along in developing a nuclear weapon than they were when George Bush came into office... A nuclear Iran is unacceptable for so many reasons, including the possibility that it creates a gateway and the need for other countries in the region to develop nuclear capability -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, potentially others," Edwards said.
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