Nuclear Weapons - 2006 Developments
On 13 January 2006 British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that the United States and Britain haven't discussed military action against Iran. "This can only be resolved by peaceful means, let us be clear about that," he said. "Nobody is talking about invading Iran or taking military action against Iran. And, again to quote the White House, Iran is not Iraq."
On 22 January 2006 Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz hinted that Israel is preparing for military action against Iran's nuclear facilities. "Israel cannot accept an Iranian nuclear capability and it must defend itself, with all that that implies," Mofaz said. "We are preparing," he added. But Mofaz said international diplomacy must be the first course of action. He welcomed the U.S.-led effort to bring Iran before the U.N. Security Council, saying sanctions and international oversight of Iran's nuclear program are the "correct policy at this time." Israel has expressed growing alarm about Iran's nuclear program since late October, when the Iranian president called for the Jewish state to be "wiped off the map." Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says the U.S. and Europe must move more quickly to prevent Iran from acquiring the atom bomb. "The combination of a regime with a very radical agenda, put together with nuclear weapons, I think that is a combination, a dangerous combination that no one in the international community can accept," said Regev.
The I.A.E.A. board in its February 4 resolution called on Iran to take several steps, but Iran is not taking any of these steps. Iran has not suspended all enrichment related activities and is operating centrifuges to enrich uranium. Iran is not fully cooperating with the the I.A.E.A. and Iran has not resolved any of the outstanding problems.
On 14 February 2006 Iran said it has started small-scale uranium enrichment - an initial step in the process of producing fuel for civilian nuclear reactors or atomic weapons. Top Iranian nuclear official Javad Vaeidi told reporters in Tehran Tuesday that work has resumed at the Natanz nuclear plant. He did not elaborate.
On 15 February 2006 Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Iran is obsessed with hatred of Israel and the Jewish people and must be stopped from developing nuclear weapons. The Israeli leader called for concrete, joint action by the international community to stop Iran's alleged push to develop a nuclear arsenal.
On 15 February 2006, Iranian parliament speaker Gholamali Haddad Adel, during a visit to Caracas, Venezuela, suggested that Iran could consider helping Venezuela develop nuclear technology for the peaceful generation of energy. Haddad Adel said Iran and Venezuela have not had any conversations on nuclear cooperation, but Iran would be willing to study the possibility.
On 16 February 2006 French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy for the first time called Iran's nuclear program a "clandestine military" project. Douste-Blazy told French television that it is, as he put it, "very simple: no civilian nuclear program can explain Iran's nuclear program." Douste-Blazy called the enrichment "a clandestine military nuclear program."
On 17 February 2006 a high-ranking Iranian official says the Islamic republic has injected uranium gas into a small number of centrifuges, a step in the process of uranium enrichment. Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said on state television that Iran is not yet at the point of getting enriched uranium, and that several more months of work may be necessary.
On 03 March 2006 Talks between European negotiators and Iran over its controversial nuclear program broke down without any agreement. European officials say the talks were constructive, but Iran was not prepared to suspend parts of its program that could be used to make nuclear weapons. The talks took place in the residence of the German ambassador. The EU insisted Iran must suspend uranium enrichment activities before further talks can take place. Iran was not prepared to do this and the meeting abruptly ended.
On 08 March 2006 in an interview with Reuters news agency, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz was asked whether Israel is ready to use military force, if the Security Council does not stop what Israel believes is a covert Iranian weapons program. Mofaz replied, "we have to defend ourselves." He said any military action would be based on Israel's right to provide security to its people.
On 18 March 2006 Minister of Energy Parviz Fattah said that Iran will soon start construction of its first indigenous nuclear power plant. He noted that the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was resisting pressures from the West, the US in particular, against right to use peaceful nuclear energy 'for the sake of people'. The minister had earlier told reporters that given Iran's depletable hydrocarbon resources, the country would need to turn to nuclear energy for power generating as its power consumption would be doubled during next decade. He had also said that construction operation for Iran's first indigenous nuclear power plant would start in three to six months.
On 25 April 2006 Tehran's top nuclear negotiator said Iran will cut off its relations with the International Atomic Energy Agency if the UN Security Council imposes sanctions against it. "If sanctions are imposed on Iran, then we will suspend our relations with the IAEA," said Ali Larijani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council said. Larijani also said that Iran would stop acting in a transparent manner over its nuclear programs if it is attacked. "If the USA attacks Iran's nuclear facilities, we will stop acting transparently in the nuclear field and continue covert nuclear work at other facilities," he said.
Iranians moved toward what they say is the next phase: building new centrifuges, with the aim of installing nearly 1,000 by the end of this year. On April 28 in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that the Iranians were assembling two more cascades, or strings of centrifuges, each consisting of 164 machines. Those cascades were expected to start operating in May and June, respectively. But by late May 2006 the Iranians had made little progress on the new cascades.
In June 2006 Iran reported a new stage in its uranium enrichment program. On 08 June 2006, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran has accelerated uranium enrichment. At the same time, Teheran was said to have been installing 164-machine cascades. A day later an Iranian official said Teheran has been advancing in plans to establish a 3,000-centrifuge cascade over the next nine months. The official said Iran has been producing enriched uranium through indigenous technology. "Iran has started another stage of injecting hexafluoride gas into centrifuge machines," the unidentified official was quoted by the official Iranian Student News Agency on 09 June 2006. "Iran is also pursuing a plan to have a 3,000-centrifuge cascade by the end of the current year [March 2007]."
On 31 July 2006 the United Nations Security Council demanded a suspension of the country's nuclear enrichment and reprocessing activities, saying that Iran has not taken required steps to assure the world it is not developing nuclear arms. Adopted by a vote of 14 to 1, with only Qatar in opposition, the resolution was the Council's first action on the issue passed under Article 40 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for enforcement measures.
Since June 2006, Iran had been feeding uranium into a small 20-centrifuge test cascade for short periods of time, and it had conducted various tests in June, July and August of the initial 164-centrifuge cascade. The installation of a second 164-machine cascade was proceeding, but Iran planned to test the second cascade in September 2006 without injecting uranium. By late 2006 the centrifuges were overheating. Some were breaking down and must be replaced.
On 26 August 2006 Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad opened the heavy-water plant. The ceremony took place at the Khondab plant near the city of Arak, some 200 kilometers southwest of Tehran. Ahmadinejad said that his country's controversial nuclear program poses no threat to any other country, even Israel, "which is a definite enemy." But he warned that the Iranian people would defend its rights to nuclear technology "with force." The reactor, which could produce plutonium for use in making nuclear weapons, is scheduled to be opened in 2009.
On 26 September 2006 Iran and Russia signed an agreement under which Russia will ship fuel to a nuclear power plant it is building in Iran by March 2007. The agreement was signed by Sergei Shmatko, head of Russia's state-run company Atomstroiexport, and Mahmoud Hanatian, vice president of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization. The document provides for supplying Russian fuel for the atomic energy plant in March, physical start-up in September 2007 and electric generation by November 2007. about 80 tons of fuel would be supplied by Russia for Iran.
The US House of Representatives voted September 29, 2006 to impose mandatory sanctions on entities that provide goods or services for Iran's weapons programs. House sponsors of the Iran Freedom Support Act said they expect the Senate to act quickly on the measure, sending it to President Bush for his signature. The bill, passed by a voice vote, would sanction any entity that contributes to Iran's ability to acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
On 19 October 2006 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the Iranians should "be afraid" of the consequences of their defiance. "They have to understand that if they object to every compromise, there will be a price to pay." He did not specifically threaten to cripple Iran's nuclear program with a military strike. But this comment was described in Israeli media as the strongest warning yet by an Israeli leader that Israel might consider a pre-emptive strike against Tehran atomic bomb effort.
On 20 October 2006, during the annual Jerusalem Day protest against Israel, President Ahmadinejad described Israel's leaders as a "bunch of terrorists". He said "There is no longer a reason for the Zionists to exist. The Zionists will soon disappear... The war in Lebanon showed there is no end to Islamic resistance. This regime, thanks to God, has lost the reason for its existence. Efforts to stabilize this fake regime, by the grace of God, have completely failed.... it has to promote an atmosphere of panic and threat in the region to facilitate the hegemony of the bullying and colonial powers on the regional countries... Its military power, aggressiveness and myth of invincibility were the mystery of its survival. But thanks to God Almighty's mercy as well as resistance of Palestinian people and Lebanon's Hizbollah such false myths have been disproved. Thus, today the Zionist criminals feel insecure even in their own houses... You should be aware that this fake and corrupt regime is doomed to end even if it is equipped with the most advanced armaments... "
"Even if we assume the Holocaust is true, then why should the Palestinians pay the price for it. ... If the Holocaust is real why are those who have the opposite opinion about it being arrested and jailed? If it is true, where did it happen? If it was in Europe, why should it be paid for in Palestine? .... Why should people, including the youth, go through such a great loss for what took place three generations ago? When are such claims expected to end and what is their connection to the US and Britain to authorize them to blackmail the world on the pretext of holocaust. ... Wasn't Britain accused of inciting Jews to attack the occupied territories, make a nation leave its own homeland and encourage others to reside this land? ... I proposed formation of a research group to be represented by intellectuals from world countries and continents. I also suggested that the group conduct research on the claims of this fake regime and its supporters. I am still waiting for a response to my proposal...."
In his Al-Quds Day [the Arabic name for Jerusalem] address, Ahmadinejad issued America and its Western allies an ultimatum: unless the West distanced itself from the Jewish state, the Middle East would "take revenge". He said "You should believe that this regime [Israel] cannot last and has no more benefit to you ... You imposed a group of terrorists... on the region. It is in your own interest to distance yourself from these criminals... This is an ultimatum. Don't complain tomorrow. What benefit have you got in supporting this regime, except the hatred of the nations? We have advised the Europeans that the Americans are far away but you are the neighbours of the nations in this region.... We inform you that the nations are like an ocean that is welling up, and if a storm begins, the dimensions will not stay limited to Palestine, and you may get hurt. ... You (Israel supporters) should know that any government that stands by the Zionist regime from now on will not see any result but the hatred of the people," he added. "The wrath of the region's people is boiling. .... You should not complain that we did not give a warning. We are saying this explicitly now. ... This regime (Israel) will take its supporters to the bottom of the swamp. The best solution is for you to take all the components of the regime and take it away ... "
"As an option, I recommend you to comply with your claims to democracy and let the Palestinians determine their own destiny through a free and legal election. ... If you are seeking to restore your true reputation, be aware that it can only be obtained under the light of monotheism, justice and defending the rights of the oppressed. You will never manage to restore your reputation by defending criminals. ... "You'd better consider your long-term relations with the regional people rather than confront them by supporting this fake and corrupt regime..."
As for the UN, he said "The Security Council lacks legitimacy. Its decisions are illegitimate. You [the Council] want to be the judge, the prosecutor and the executor at the same time? Those times are gone... The IAEA neither supported our legal right to nuclear energy nor did it provide any technological and technical assistance. The nation rather developed nuclear technology by relying on its own knowledge ... While the Iranian nation attempted to secure such a right, none of the countries possessing nuclear technology took any measure to this end. Such decisions taken at UNSC are illegitimate, given that those filing complaints cannot make decisions and implement them. We offered our views and way of cooperation in a rational and clear package of proposal. It will be to their interest to cooperate with Iran, which is a powerful and justice seeking country ..."
On 20 October 2006 Israel's army chief, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, said Israel cannot ignore the threat of a nuclear Iran. "This combination of nuclear weapons and an extreme regime which has the clear goal of destroying Israel is a combination to which we cannot remain indifferent," he said.
On 21 October 2006 Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Israel had no aggressive intentions towards Iran. When Channel Two television asked if he would support an independent Israeli military strike against Iran if other nations failed to curb its uranium enrichment program. Peres said "We must never consider such a thing ... "Israel has never shown aggressive intentions (towards Iran) -- it has none. I don't think we have to, or can, deal with this issue."
On 12 November 2006 Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Iran intended to install 3,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges by March 2007. Hosseini said Iran was doing all the work to install the centrifuges under control of the UN nuclear watchdog, adding that two cascades of 164 centrifuges were already in operation in the country.
On 14 November 2006 President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad announced "Today the Iranian nation possesses the full nuclear fuel cycle". The event will be marked by a 10-day celebration at the start of February 2007, coinciding with the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. Iran will have 3,000 operational centrifuges by the end of 2006 as the first target towards the 60,000 it needs for its nuclear-energy requirements, according to Ahmadi Nejad. "We are determined to master the fuel cycle and commission some 60,000 centrifuges to meet our demands," he told reporters.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on 20 December 2006 that the United States and the United Kingdom will disappear along with Israel. He was quoted by Iranian news agencies as saying that, "Any power that is close to God will survive while the powers which are far from God will disappear like the pharaohs." Ahmadinejad added that, "Today, it is the United States, Britain and the Zionist regime which are doomed to disappear as they have moved far away from the teachings of God." He reiterated that nuclear power was a "right" of the Iranian people.
On 23 December 2006 the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology, in an effort to stop uranium enrichment work that could be used in bombs. The resolution will freeze the assets of key companies and people the U.N. considers affiliated with Iran's nuclear and missile programs. The Security Council also promises further non-military sanctions if Iran does not comply. The resolution imposes a ban on Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and ballistic missiles. It also freezes the assets of key companies and people the U.N. considers affiliated with Iran's nuclear and missile programs.
Reacting to the sanctions against Iran by the United Nations Security Council, on 26 December 2006 the Iranian parliament passed legislation, supported by the governmenta, requiring the government, "to revise its cooperation level with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)." The vague wording of the bill's text - it dictates no specific action, only a "revision of cooperation level" - gave officials wide latitude in dealing with the issue of sanctions.
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