There is US speculation about how committed Iran is to acquiring nuclear capabilities. In January of 1995, when Russia agreed to complete construction of two light water reactors at the Bushehr complex 450 miles south of Tehran, US officials were determined to block the agreement. They feared that Iran was attempting to build nuclear weapons. However, the US has not proven that Iran has a bomb program or that they have a facility committed to building nuclear weapons. There is, however, a lot of speculation on this issue. "Although most reports place the program under the authority of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), some implicate the defense ministry in illegal foreign procurement activities and possible nuclear-weapons work at military sites. Still other reports indicate that the Revolutionary Guard controls an independent, but fledgling, nuclear-weapon effort." (2)
Much to the dismay of Washington there were other covert initiatives in the contract between the two countries that would be revealed months later. "Adding to suspicions, Russia's Minster of Atomic Energy, Viktor N. Mikhailov, and Iran's Vice President and President of the AEOI, R. Amrollahi, signed a secret protocol declaring their commitment to negotiote additional contracts for research reactors, and to develop a uranium mine, train AEOI scientific personnel at Russian academic institutions, and build a gas centrifuge plant for enriching uranium." (3)
The United States did not learn about Iran's plans to build a gas centrifuge plant until April of 1995. The US then proceeded to step up efforts to block the deal. The US Congress considered implementing legislation that would sanction foreign companies that attempted to do business in Iran. They also considered blocking economic aid to Russia. The final decision was made by President Bill Clinton to impose a US trade embargo on Iran. President Clinton has also attempted to dissuade Germany and Japan from rescheduling debt that would allow them to make payments to the cash-starved MINATOM (Russia's Ministry of Atomic Defense)
This nuclear contract posed a definite point of contention at the May 1995 summit between Russia and the US. However, Russian President Boris Yeltsin did agree not supply Iran with a centrifuge plant. "Yeltsin said then that deal contained components with the 'potential for creating weapons-grade fuel,' so 'we have decided to exclude those aspects from the contract.'" (4) However, the US is still troubled by Russia's refusal to abort the entire initiative. After all, "The United States is engaged in a multi-billion dollar cooperation program with Russia and other former Soviet Republics to ensure that nuclear materials and technical experts from states of the former Soviet Union are not used to assist nuclear weapons programs elsewhere. (8)
Russian officials have dismissed the US argument that Iran does not need to seek alternative forms of energy as they are one of the largest suppliers of oil on the international market. Although, It has been estimated that Iran has another 70 years worth of oil in its supply, Iran contends that they need nuclear power in order to continue selling oil on the world market.
Iran and Russia have also argued that they are not in violation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). "Iran is considered to be a member in good standing under the treaty. Tehran has promised to place all its Russian-supplied technology under international safeguards and last year announced that it would return to Russia the plutonium-laden spent fuel from the reactor. (5) In addition, Iran has allowed repeated inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IKAEA).
Moreover, Iran feels that they are being unfairly persecuted. They have pointed to the United States nuclear reactor deal with North Korea as evidence that they are being victimized by the US's double standard. "Washington has promised to supply a similar type of light water reactor to North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang's pledge to dismantle its nuclear weapon program. North Korea, which was generally considered to be in violation of its NPT commitments, refused repeated IAEA requests for special inspections" (6)
Iran views the deal as their right under the NPT to pursue the peaceful usage of nuclear technology. However, "During a mid- January visit to Israel, Defense Secretary William Perry told Israeli Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin that, while the United States also considers Iran's nuclear ambitions a major concern, it might take Iran seven to 15 years to acquire a nuclear capability, even with the nuclear reactors completed and running" (7)
B. Environmental Aspect of Conflict
If the conflict escalates to this level the environment could suffer tremendously. There could even be nuclear fallout if the reactors are damaged. Furthermore, it is difficult to estimate all the species and eco-systems that could be damaged as a result of this potential conflict. It is also possible that the Persian Gulf could become polluted as a result of military action. The potential for radiation to leak into the Gulf is high if the reactors were to be damaged.
Region: Mideast Asia
The Bushehr reactors are located 450 miles South of Tehran.
Act Site Harm Site Example Iran Iran Possible Nuclear Mishap
US State Department Travel Advisories - Middle East
CIA World Fact book entry on Iran
Facts and Figures on Iran
Council of Resistance
Albright, David. "An Iranian Bomb" Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. (51)4 1995.
Gerardi, Greg J. and Maryam Aharinejad. "Report: An Assessment of Iran's Nuclear Facilities" The Non-Proliferation Review. (2)3 1995.
Hiatt, Fred. "US Campaign to Block Nuclear Reactor Sales to Iran Irks Russia" The Washington Post. (115)8 3/3/95.
Medeiros, Evan S. "Clinton, Yeltsin continue debate over Russia-Iran Nuclear Deal" Arms Control Today. (25)5 1995.
Medeiros, Evan S. "Russian-Iranian Reactor Contract Restarts Work at Bushehr Complex" Arms Control Today. (26)4 1996.
Rubinstein, Alvin Z. and Oles M. Smolansky. Regional Power Rivalries in the New Eurasia: Russia, Turkey, and Iran. (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1995).
Wolfsthal, Jon B. "Iran Russia Sign Nuclear Deal, Raising Proliferation Concerns" Arms Control Today. (25)1 1995.
1) Medeiros, Evan S., "Russian-Iranian Reactor Contract Restarts Work at Bushehr Complex," Arms Control Today, (26)4 1996, P. 25.
2) Albright, David, "An Iranian Bomb," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, (51)4 1995, P. 21.
3) Ibid., P22.
4) Ibid., P22.
5) Medeiros, Evan S., "Russian-Iranian Reactor Contract Restarts Work at Bushehr Complex," Arms Control Today, (26)4 1996, P. 25.
6) Ibid., P25.
7) Wolfsthal, Jon B., "Iran Russia Sign Nuclear Deal, Raising Proliferation Concerns," Arms Control Today, (25)1 1995, P. 21.
8) Ibid, P. 21.