Timeline of The Iran Bomb

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Published Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Shah Years

1957: The US and Iran sign a civil nuclear co-operation agreement under the US Atoms for Peace program.

1960: A small research nuclear reactor is purchased by Iran from the US and it becomes active seven years later.

1968: Iran signs and ratifies the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

1970: Negotiations begin between Iran and the US, France, and West Germany over plans to develop 20 nuclear reactors and possibly aid with a rudimentary nuclear weapons program.

1974: “[One day] sooner than is believe, [Iran would be] in possession of a nuclear bomb.” Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi tells a French news agency.

1975-76: The administration of Gerald Ford backs Iran’s nuclear plans. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Henry Kissenger lobby in support of this policy.

1978: Iran and US sign on to a nuclear agreement. Iran agrees to safeguards beyond NPT requirements, while the US granted Iran “most favored nation” status for reprocessing nuclear fuel.

Post Revolution Years

1979: The revolution erupts and the unpopular shah is ousted. All ties along the nuclear front between Iran and Western countries are severely downgraded or out-rightly terminated. The new Iranian leadership decides to scrap the nuclear program over religious grounds.

1980: Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invades Iran, with support from the Arab Gulf and the Americans, sparking off an eight-year war between the two.

1982: Iran reconsiders its ban on the nuclear program.

1984: British defense magazine Jane’s Defense Weekly becomes the first publication in the West to claim that Iran was “engaged in the production of an atomic bomb, likely to be ready within two years.” This was followed by US Senator Alan Cranston’s announcement that Iran was expected to have nuclear weapons as early as 1991.

1988: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini drafts a letter contemplating a militarized nuclear program. He is influenced by Iraq’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war.

1992: Benjamin Netanyahu expresses the belief that Iran could develop nuclear weapons within “three to five years” and therefore must be stopped through “an international front headed by the US.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres reiterates this position but pushes the clock to 1999. “Iran is the greatest threat [to peace] and greatest problem in the Middle East … because it seeks the nuclear option while holding a highly dangerous stance of extreme religious militantism,” Peres said.
Similarly, US House Republican Research Committee claims that there was a “98 percent certainty that Iran had already had all (or virtually all) of the components required for two or three operational nuclear weapons.”

(Click over years to view quotes)

1995: Benjamin Netanyahu declares in his book, Fighting Terrorism, that “the best estimates at this time place Iran between three and five years away from possessing the prerequisites required for the independent production of nuclear weapons.”

1996: Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak tells members of the UN Security Council that Iran would be able to produce nuclear weapons within eight years.”

1998: Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reported to Congress that Iran could build an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear or a biological payload that could hit the US within five years.

2002: US President George W. Bush places Iran as part of the “axis of evil”.

2003: Iran allows the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit its nuclear facilities for the first time. While accusing Iran of a “pattern of concealment,” the IAEA does not that they had found “no evidence” that Iran was attempting to build an atomic bomb.
After IAEA visitations, Iran President Mohammed Khatami says in a speech, "We don't need atomic bombs, and based on our religious teaching, we will not pursue them...but at the same time, we want to be strong, and being strong means having knowledge and technology."
Britain, France, and Germany initiate dialogue with Iran and the Paris Agreement is drafted. Iran agrees to temporary suspend its program pending the progress of negotiations.

2004: Secretary of State Colin Powell declares that there is information that Iran was trying to wed its nuclear program with its missile development project.

2005: The US presents “alleged studies” to support Powell’s allegations. IAEA, other international experts, and Iran doubt the authenticity of these documents.
Supreme leader Ali Khamenei issues a fatwa forbidding the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons during a meeting with the IAEA Board of Governors in Geneva.

2006: Iran’s suspension of its program ends. In response, the UN Security Council passes first rounds of sanctions, and passes further sanctions between this year and until 2010.

2007: The US National Intelligence Estimate releases its report on Iran. It states with “high confidence” that Iran had given up any nuclear weapons effort in 2003.

2009: Various Israeli political and military officials places the timetable for an Iranian bomb between 2012-2014.
A US Senate Foreign Relations Committee reports states: "There is no sign that Iran's leaders have ordered up a bomb."

2010: Brazil and Turkey broker a deal with Iran in regards to swapping nuclear fuel abroad. West does not support the deal and it collapses.

2010-2011: Iran experiences further economic sanctions, in addition to cyber-attacks and assassination operations of Iranian scientists.
Seymour Hersh, journalist at the New Yorker, notes: “Despite years of covert operations inside Iran, extensive satellite imagery, and the recruitment of many Iranian intelligence assets, the United States and its allies, including Israel, have been unable to find irrefutable evidence of an ongoing hidden nuclear-weapons program in Iran, according to intelligence and diplomatic officials here and abroad.”

2011: IAEA under the new leadership of Yukia Amano reverses the agency’s position on Iran, suddenly asserting that the Islamic republic had been working on weapons-related activities for years.

Sources for timeline:

(Photo Credits: AFP, Reuters)


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