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Abstract: Iran conducts a nuclear program which has become one of the important issues of nuclear proliferation in the contemporary world. Iran has launched its civilian nuclear program before the Islamic revolution which was first interrupted by the Islamic regime. Since 2002, Washington claims that Iran’s final aim is to develop nuclear weapons. In Iranian domestic politics, since the Islamic Revolution, there has been debate between the radicals and the moderates on whether developing nuclear program is Tehran’s own interests or not. This article examines the views of two radical leaders of Iran namely Khomeini and Ahmadinejad on developing nuclear program.

Keywords: Nuclear Program of Iran, Khomeini, Ahmadinejad, Moderates, Radicals.



Since its inception in late 1960s; the nuclear program developed by Iran has been one of the hardcore debates in the international arena and in Iranian domestic politics. There are fundamental differences on the approaches of Khomeini, which made the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, and the incumbent government of Ahmadinejad, that has been in power since 2005, toward the development of nuclear program by Iran. During his administration, which was between 1979 and 1989, Khomeini and his administration did strongly reject the advancement of a nuclear program.

Since 2002, American-led coalition alleges that by advancing a nuclear program, Iran targets to develop nuclear bombs and this is in violation of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But, the Ahmadinejad administration has been following a different policy on this issue and reacting for these allegations. They state that as being a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, they have the obvious right to develop a nuclear program for civilian purposes. They also reiterate that this program does not have any military aims.

This paper discusses the comparison of Khomeini and Ahmadinejad administrations within the context of their outlook to developing a nuclear program. The brief history of nuclear program of Iran will be mentioned in the first part of the paper. The comparison of Khomeini and Ahmadinejad administrations’ views on the nuclear policy will be put forward in the second part of the paper. That part firstly talks about Khomeini’s ideas and his government’s approach towards the nuclear program. In that part, secondly, the nuclear policy of Ahmadinejad’s administration will be given. Some fundamental developments on Iran Nuclear Crisis since 2002 will be discussed in the final part of the paper.

Part 1- Nuclear Program of Iran

A nuclear cooperation treaty was signed between the United States and Iran, which was then considered by Washington an ally, about the civilian use of nuclear energy within the context of ‘Atoms for Peace Program’ in 1957 and Tehran Nuclear Research Center became operational in 1959 thanks to the US assistance.[1] Reactors used in nuclear researches were placed not only to Iran, but also to Turkey and Pakistan in 1967 by the United States. The first nuclear research reactor having the capacity of 5 megawatt, set up by the assistance of American Machine and Foundry in 1967, was able to produce 600 grams of plutonium per annum, which was far enough to meet the demand.

Right after, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed by Iran in 1968 and this treaty was ratified by the Iranian parliament in 1970, a treaty which Israel, India and Pakistan have never signed and from which North Korea withdrew in 2003. By this treaty, Iran is allowed to carry out nuclear activities for peaceful purposes, production, doing research and also the right to acquire the necessary equipments and technology without being subjected to any discrimination.

In the 1970s, the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who maintained a close relationship with the West and particularly with the United States, had developed an ambitious plan to construct 23 nuclear plants, able to produce 23,000 MW of electricity in total.[2] This program was to be finished by the end of the century at a total cost of $24 billion. According to this plan, the power plants could supply electricity not only to Iran but also to other Persian Gulf countries, consolidating the nation’s superiority in the region.

The Western countries supported the Shah’s plan. They were apt to have another powerful ally in the Middle-East as a bulwark against anti-West Arab states backed up by the Soviet Union under the conditions of East-West antagonism. Iran was encouraged by the United States to develop her non-oil energy resources and the United States was eager to sell reactors and other facilities to Iran, required to set in motion an extensive nuclear program. Soon the work began in the southern port city of Bushehr, in the Persian Gulf, in which West German companies began to construct a two-unit power plant in 1974. Along this a French consortium was set up to provide the fuel. It was obvious that Western Europe and the U.S. encouraged the Iran on the way to become a nuclear power.

On the other hand, there existed a suspicion that behind the Shah’s declared desire for acquiring nuclear energy had a determination of possessing nuclear weapons. Indeed, the Shah’s former foreign minister, Ardeshir Zahedi had verified as such concern:

The Iranian strategy at that time was aimed at creating what is known as surge capacity, that is to say to have the know-how, the infrastructure, and the personnel needed to develop a nuclear military capacity within a short time without actually doing so. But the assumption within the policymaking elite was that Iran should be in a position to develop and test a nuclear device within 18 months.[3]

In 1974, a 10-year cooperation agreement was signed between France and Iran on the construction of five nuclear reactors and the total cost of this agreement was $4 billion.[4] Moreover, Iran bought 10 % share of the uranium enrichment company named as Eurodif, a joint-venture of France, Belgium, Spain and Italy, in 1975. The US administration under President Gerald Ford proposed to sell Iran a processing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel – a facility whose only likely use was to produce a nuclear bomb. In fact the US was grateful to enable Iran to have a full nuclear cycle. On March 3, 1975, a $15 billion agreement signed between the United States and Iran for the construction of 8 reactors having the total capacity of 8000 MW. Also in 1975, Massachusetts Institute of Technology had an agreement with the Atomic Energy Institution of Iran for the training of Iranian engineers. In the same year, the United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger signed the National Security Decision Memorandum-292 regarding the selling of nuclear energy equipments to Iran.

The Shah’s cooperation with the United States did reach to its highest level when in January 1978 with the declaration of Iran by US President Jimmy Carter  as ‘most favored nation’ status for reprocessing; permitting Iran to reprocess US-origin fuel. Moreover President Carter did adopt a plan for Iran in order to purchase up to eight light-water reactors from the United States.

Part 2- Khomeini versus Ahmadinejad Periods

In this section, Khomeini’s ideas will firstly be mentioned. Gündoğan points out that Khomeini continued to fashion the velayate faqih. He envisaged an ideal polity in which the clergy would be involved in all aspects of society, acting as guardians of society. They could interpret and implement law, shepherd the nation and oversee politicians.[5]

Significantly, his ideal was in fact, a clerical Islamic government, the clergy, in his view, acting as a vanguard. According to Khomeini, in order to be successful, the clergy had to gain actual control of the state and use its political power to impose Islamic law and create a truly Islamic community. Islam was in the control of clergy, and the clergy were controlling the government. His government was a theoretical government but one with representative institutions, a summering contradiction between autocracy and democracy. According to the conception of the government’s supreme authority was the guide of the revolution, a position he hold until his death.

Arı mentions that in this term, ‘Neither West nor East, No alliance with the two superpowers’ was the main motto of Iranian foreign policy.[6] Also, the basis of foreign policy of Iran was under the control of Khomeini and was based on the spread of Islamic Revolution to other countries. According to Khomeini, the religion of Islam did not belong to a nation and it did offer a system for the sake of all humanity. It was also aiming all of the humanity to live in absolute justice.

He called the USA as “Great Satan”, the Soviets as “Little Satan”.  He used the term “Small Satans” for the Gulf States. According to him, the world was divided into two camps as “tyrants and oppressed.” The Gulf States were serving to tyrants -USA and USSR. Moreover he adverted that in order to ensure the security of the Gulf; these states would have to cut off the relations with these superpowers and would have to be real Islamic republics.

It can be understood from these thoughts that there were two targets of Khomeini’s foreign policy; rejecting the lifestyles of East and West given the lack of religious belief within them and not only bringing Iran the most powerful base of Islamic world but also becoming sole dominant power in the region through the exportation of the revolution to other countries.

Part 2.1 Nuclear Policy during the Khomeini Era

Following the overthrow of the Shah regime in 1979, the leader of the Islamic revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini put an end to the nuclear program.[7] The revolutionaries who got the power did consider that the nuclear program was unnecessary. They also asserted that the projected nuclear power plants meant ‘the continuation of dependence’ on the West. To them, these were simply a waste of money for a country like Iran that was sitting on a sea of oil and gas.

Iran’s first post-revolutionary Prime Minister, Mehdi Bazargan, did suspend the construction of the two reactors in Bushehr, when one of these was 90 percent completed. He acknowledged that nuclear power plants were not economical. All contracts for the building of other power plants were called off and Iran Atomic Energy Organization significantly suspended its activities. According to the Revolution’s leaders, there existed far more critical issues than an expensive and seemingly aimless nuclear program in post-revolutionary Iran. Iran was in turmoil and few of the new leaders thought about nuclear weapons.

According to the revolutionaries in power in Iran, the nuclear power plants, which the Shah had ordered from the West, were just one more of the irrational plans of a megalomaniac. They believed that the Shah was the puppet of his masters in Washington, London and other Western capitals: returning the oil money to them by purchasing unnecessary luxuries that Iran did not need. Iran was not in need of any power plants given the fact that it already did possess abundant oil and gas resources. The revolutionaries also asserted that under the cover of constructing power plants, the deserts of Iran would become the dumping ground for the nuclear wastes of the West. Moreover they cancelled the existing contracts and pulled Iran out of a French-led consortium which was established for nuclear fuel production.

The eight years long war with Iraq (1980-1988) did alter Iranian authorities’ thoughts on this issue. The war’s outcome was one to be ashamed of for the Iranian authorities. A letter was sent by Ayatollah Khomeini to all of Iran’s political and military leaders on July 16, 1988.[8] He did write of a ‘shocking’ report by the commander of Revolutionary Guard, Mohsen Rezaie, in which he had stated utter despair at the state of war with Iraq. The Ayatollah expressed that Rezaie had been genuine: if Iran were to come out of the war with its head held high, it would need plenty of sophisticated weapons, including nuclear ones. The significance of this letter is that it is regarded as the first proof of the Revolutionary Guard’s belief in the necessity for Iran to have nuclear weapons. Within a year, Khomeini would pass away and replaced by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was only too happy to back up new president Rafsanjani in his determination to develop a nuclear program.

Part 2.2 Nuclear Policy during the Ahmadinejad Era

Dedeoğlu addresses that a new era began in Iran on June 24, 2005.[9] After the holding of presidency post by two moderate-liberals namely Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, new presidency elections were held and Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – a radical and the ex-mayor of Tehran – was elected as the president of Islamic Republic of Iran by getting 65 % of the votes in the second round of elections. He also won 2009 presidency elections by getting 62.63 % of the votes. Following are the main foreign policy parameters of Ahmadinejad administration;

  • ‘Theory of Mehdeviyet’ (thought of Sect Leadership): The theoretical framework of the foreign policy is based on 1) Tyrants, 2) Oppressed.
  • Some anti-Israeli statements such as Israel should be erased from the pages of history, Israel should be moved to Alaska and the Holocaust history is an exaggerated project of the history.
  • The decision making mechanism of foreign policy is composed of velayate faqih / the institution of guidance (religious leader), soldiers (Revolutionary Guards) and radical conservative bureaucrats (the Hüccetiye group).

Efegil points out that after the occurrence of 9/11 events, the U.S.invaded the two neighbors of Iran namely Afghanistan and Iraq.  Also at that time, the U.S. declared a security concept defining the Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea and Iran as ‘Axis of Evil’.[10] Furthermore, the U.S. has begun to follow a classical American strategy named as ‘Containment of Iran’ within the context of ‘Preemptive War’. The United States feverishly advocates the regime change in Iran. Moreover she has allocated $85 million for realization of regime change in Iran. She also deploys her military forces to the neighboring states of Iran. This is another development that Iran is concerned within the context of her national security.

Here, the report named as “Iran: Time for a New Approach” prepared by an Independent Task Force under the sponsorship by the Council on Foreign Relations in December 2004 should be mentioned. This Independent Task Force was co-chaired by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert M. Gates.[11] The Task Force reached an important assessment that “despite considerable political flux and popular dissatisfaction, Iran is not on the verge of another revolution.  From this finding flows its advocacy of the United States adopting a policy of what it describes as limited or selective engagement with the current Iranian government”. This report also concluded that the current lack of sustained engagement with Iran does damage U.S. interests in a critical region of the world and direct dialogue with Tehran on specific areas of mutual concern should be carried out. According to this report, when the historical and turbulent neighbors of Iran are taken into consideration, Iran’s nuclear ambition does not completely indicate irrational strategic calculations.[12] In addition to the great insecurity feeling emerged from the invasion of Iraq and together with the experience of war, there is a widespread consensus on the existence of two further significant effects of weapons of mass destruction.

These are; prestige and a means of pressure. Prestige reflects the national pride, forming the one of the characteristic feature of Iran. In the political spectrum, their neighbor Pakistan’s possession of more sophisticated military technology is absolutely unacceptable thing for the Iranians in which they see Pakistan much more subordinate in terms of economy, society and political maturity.

For Iranian officials, the nuclear technology is an element of deterrence that they will acquire for the protection of their territorial integrity, national security and Islamic regime.[13] Especially, the threat of use of military force by the United States and also the application of economic sanctions by this state for years have further reinforced Iranian leaders’ thoughts on this issue. Being a nuclear power will provide a national honor to Iran. This will also give Iran an opportunity of being region’s leader. Thanks to this, having an appropriate nuclear program is a significant factor that strengthens the bargaining position of Iran with Washington.

Ahmadinejad’s administration most serious threat perception is ‘Nuclear Israel’. Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons encourages the Iranian officials on nuclear technology. According to Iranian leaders, Israel is evidently hostile to the Islamic regime and Jerusalem is the representative of the United States in the region. Therefore nuclear Iran will be able to come to the same level with Israel and she will also be able to balance Israel in terms of regional politics.

Furthermore, Iran will have sophisticated technology in other words; she will have her own national industry. As a member of the nuclear club, Iran will meet the energy demand of her population. Iran’s public opinion heavily supports their government’s initiatives on this issue. The society of Iran sees the initiatives of officials as a technological outcome within the national basis. The people of Iran think that thanks to this programme, their nation will recuperate their old honor and glory. Iranians, which consubstantiate with the concepts of independence, progress and the efforts of acquiring nuclear technology, consider that the West desires to deprive them of acquiring sophisticated technology in which this is their obvious right. Iranians advocate that the Western countries want to keep them dependent and also under tutelage.

Another significant factor that motivates Iran to carry out its nuclear program can be found within the deep-rooted nationalistic pride of that country: Iranians do not like being told what to do by people with whom they have any affiliation.[14] Iranian public opinion has always been suspicious about the real intentions of the U.S. and they perceive the United Nations and its International Atomic Energy Agency as this country’s tools. The US policy is often seen as an example of ghodrat-talabi or ‘power-mongering’. This concept is especially used for the people who endeavor to exercise power without having the moral authority to do so. It is an extraordinarily negative trait in the Iranian culture and when it is perceived; people object it furiously, even to their own detriment. This asserts why Iran has hidden information from international inspectors even when it was not in their advantage to do so. As long as the United States pursues this indirect pressure, Iran is likely to continue resisting.

Given the abovementioned reasons, the Iranian decision makers have abandoned the pragmatist foreign policy approach. According to them, the only way to overcome the crisis which is escalated by Israel and the United States is not following pragmatist and Western-oriented policies, instead to further escalate the crisis. According to Ahmadinejad and his administration, the prestige policies meaning that the deterrence of the power is much more reliable. Within this context, the aggressiveness and the escalation of the crisis are the most deterrent factors. The following is one of the statements of President Ahmadinejad regarding his country’s nuclear program:

I do not agree with those who say the nuclear issue has created a crisis for the country. What crisis? Nuclear technology is our right and no one can deprive us of it. We have come so far, and God willing, we will need just one more push [to reach it].[15]

Since the beginning of their nuclear programme, Iranian officials have repeatedly been emphasizing that their nuclear program is just for peaceful purposes. Here, it can be good to mention the statement given by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, on June 3, 2008.

Iranis opposed to nuclear weapons based on religious and Islamic beliefs as well as based on logic and wisdom. Nuclear weapons have no benefit but high costs to manufacture and keep them. Nuclear weapons do not bring power to a nation because they are not applicable. Nuclear weapons cannot be used.[16]

According to the reformists or in other words pragmatists, such as Rafsanjani – the head of the Expediency Council -, and Hasan Rowhani – former secretary for the Supreme Council on National Security-, officials within the ministries and significant elements of Iran’s national security establishment advocate that they do not call for the suspension of Iran’s nuclear edifice but for the development of an advanced capacity within the flexible capacities of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.[17] The more moderate elements consider the nuclear program in a wider context of Iran’s international relations. Given Iran’s chase of its nuclear ambitions harms other aspects of its foreign policy, this group is in favor of compromise and even a potential suspension of the program.

On the other hand, reformists mention that of late years, Iran has also been living with the sanctions and cannot handle the other sanction decisions that will emerge from this scenario. Beyond the fears of sanctions and isolation, some advocates of nuclear limitation mention that possessing such weapons do not necessarily serve for the strategic interests of Iran. If Iran does cross the nuclear threshold, the Gulf States and the newly independent Iraq are possibly further fall under toward the American security umbrella. Therefore under the auspices of the United States, Persian Gulf security architecture may change toward the aim of containment and isolation of the Islamic Republic.

As Iran’s former representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, did emphasize in June 2004 that;

We cannot buy security by having nuclear weapons which only invite more threats against ourselves.[18]

They also state that it is necessary not to provide a basis for a military intervention. The influential pragmatic politician Mohsen Mirdamadi did put forward that;

The reality is that our recent achievement in the area of nuclear technology has been part of our strength and created new opportunities for us in the international arena, but we should not turn this into a new threat. We should be careful not to bring the U.S. and Europe together.[19]

That option was excluded as a result of the latest 2008 parliamentary elections in which the conservatives got the majority. In this situation, it is highly unlikely that of welcoming the pre-conditional negotiation option of the United States.

The hard-liners closely affiliated with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei are the primary proponents of nuclear breakout option. Through the command of fundamental institutions such as the Revolutionary Guards and the Guardian Council, Iran’s reactionary clerics do have grandiose influence on national security planning.[20] A key principle of the hard-liners’ ideology is that the Islamic Republic is threatened by predatory external forces which necessitate military self-reliance. This view was initially formed by a revolution that did seek not just to defy international norms but refashion them. The passage of time and the failure of that mission have not necessarily abandoned the hard-liners’ suspicions of the international order and its primary guardian, the United States. Jomhuri-ye Islami, the conservative newspaper and the mouthpiece of Khamenei, did voice this theme;

The core problem is the fact that our officials’ outlook on the nuclear dossier of Iranis faulty and they are on the wrong track. It seems they have failed to appreciate that America is after our destruction and the nuclear issue is merely an excuse for them.[21]

For many of Islamic Republic’s reactionary leaders, the only way to protect Iran’s interests is the development of an independent nuclear deterrent. The notion of the need to sacrifice and fight on behalf of the revolution and withstand imperious international demands is the fundamental keynote of the hard-liners’ ideological perspective. Therefore, they emphasize that it should not be compromised on the nuclear program since this issue is a matter of national honor.[22] They think that as soon as they begin to compromise on this issue, they might be in compromising in other fields. They hope that when if they prove their determination on this issue to the Western world; they can get considerable economic and political privileges from the West. Due to this reason, it seems unlikely that they welcome a proposal in a way that ‘First, suspend the program, and then negotiate’.

There are four main approaches to be followed by the Iranian side.[23] They are as follows;

  1. Staying in line with the peaceful nuclear program and compromising in order to resolve the crisis,
  2. Staying in line with the peaceful nuclear program, but refusing to compromise,
  3. Following a policy of nuclear ambiguity,
  4. Producing nuclear weapons and to expressly declare this situation.

In the first option; Iran will make a concession from her uranium enrichment program till there will be an environment of confidence. It will also ratify the Additional Protocol in her parliament that gives the full inspection right to International Atomic Energy Agency. She will postpone her industrial enrichment activities for a while or she will accept the uranium enrichment activity in Russian territories.

As a second option, as she is currently doing, she will continue her cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency.  Furthermore, Tehran will try to respond the questions that are directed towards her and it will continue negotiating with the European Union but will not accept precondition that is requested from her. Iran will be ready for the negotiations with the United States while it will steadily reiterate its objection about the demand of suspending her uranium enrichment activities.

In the third option, Iran will have to withdraw from Safeguards Regime and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which makes the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspections possible.  In this condition, she will withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and will close her doors to IAEA’s inspectors. Iran will also make the decision of following policy of silence on her nuclear program. Even if it produces nuclear weapons in this case, neither will it accept the existence of these weapons nor will deny the presence of these weapons just like the current policy followed by Israel.

The last option is that if Iran decides to implement this policy, she will withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as experienced in the case of North Korea and will therefore stop International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspections. In this option, she will launch the weapons as a further step and will expressly declare her obtainment of nuclear weapons.

Ekinci cites that there exist four options for the be followed regarding the solution of this issue. United States’ options are;

  • Implementation of economic sanctions against Iran,
  • Military intervention,
  • Regime change,
  • Negotiation with the Islamic Republic of Iran for a “Great Bargain”.

According to George Friedman, the founder of Stratfor, the military option has the following potential risks;

  • Its success depends on the quality of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear facilities and on the degree of hardening of those targets.
  • It requires successful air attacks.
  • It requires battle damage assessments that tell the attacker whether the strike succeeded.
  • It requires follow-on raids to destroy facilities that remain functional.
  • Attacks must do more than simply set back Iran’s program a few months or even years.[24]

He has also assessed that but even if the attacks succeed the question of what would happen the day after the attacks remains. Iran has its own counters.

  • It has a superbly effective terrorist organization, Hezbollah, at its disposal.
  • It has sufficient influence in Iraq to destabilize that country and force the United States to keep forces in Iraq badly needed elsewhere.
  • It has the ability to use mines and missiles to attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf shipping lanes for some period – driving global oil prices through the roof while the global economy is struggling to stabilize itself. [25]

Iran’s position on its nuclear program is rooted in the awareness that while it might not have assured options in the event of a military strike, it does have counters that create complex and unacceptable risks. Iran therefore does not believe that United States will strike or permit Israel to strike, as the consequences would be unacceptable.

Part 3- Some Significant Developments on Iran Nuclear Crisis since 2002

The recent public debate over Iran’s nuclear program began in August 2002 [26], when the National Council of Resistance on Iran, an Iranian exile group, revealed information during a press conference (some of which later proved to be accurate) that Iran had built nuclear related facilities at Natanz and Arak that it had not revealed to the IAEA. Prior to these reveals, IAEA had concerns that Iran had been hiding information about its nuclear program, but never detected Iran in violation of the safeguards agreement.

In response to this, Iran acknowledged the existence of these facilities and permitted the inspection of these sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In 2004, Iran accepted the suspension of enrichment related activities but then began the uranium conversion in August 2005 by the directions of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Üstün mentions that after the bringing of Iran’s nuclear file before United Nations Security Council in 2006 given Iranians’ lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, thanks to U.S. pressures, the United Nations Security Council has adopted five resolutions – numbered 1696,1737,1747,1803 and 1835 – about Iran until 2010.[27] In general, the Security Council requested in these resolutions from Iran that the suspension of constructing heavy water reactors and uranium enrichment activities, the adoption of the Additional Protocol of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the augmentation of the cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The following are the two examples of these resolutions.

Ritter points out that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737 consists of a ban on the import or export of sensitive nuclear material and equipment, and a freeze of the financial assets of persons or entities supporting sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems. [28] The deadline for Iranian compliance with came and went, and in March 2007 the United States has sanctified a new resolution, 1747 again passed under Article 41 of Chapter 7 which continues its condemnation of Iranian intransigence and expands economic sanctions to entities related to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command and Iranian ballistic missile activities.

In November 2007, National Intelligence Council of the USA, which is comprised of 16 intelligence agencies, released a National Intelligence Estimate named as “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities”.[29]  In that report, it is stated that Iran halted her nuclear weapons program in fall 2003 and since that date she did not carry out an activity toward this. That report also emphasized the fact that Iran would at best have high level uranium enrichment technology which is necessary for the nuclear weapons until late 2009 but reaching a capacity to enrich the uranium in sufficient quantities for the nuclear weapons might be realized in 2010-2015 timeline and that might be unlikely before 2013.

There occurred a meeting in Genevabetween the P5+1[30], Javier Solana and Iranian officials on October 1, 2009.[31]  In that meeting, the Iranian officials agreed in principle to a proposal that would provide fuel enriched to 19.75% uranium-235 forIran’s U.S.-supplied Tehran Research Reactor producing medical isotopes and operating under IAEA safeguards. After that, theUnited States andRussia did present a proposal to the IAEA (which the Agency conveyed toIran) for providing fuel for reactor.

According to that proposal, Iranwould be able to transfer approximately 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium hexafluoride to Russia having the options of either enrich the uranium to 19.75 % uranium-235 or produce the LEU from Russian-origin uranium. Then, Russia would send the low-enriched uranium hexafluoride to France for fabrication into fuel assemblies. Finally, France would send the assemblies toRussiafor shipment to Iran. Initially October 19, 2009, Iranian officials met the officials from the IAEA, France, Russia and the United States to discuss details of implementing proposal, such as the fuel price, contract tables, and a timetable for shipping the fuel. As of December 29, 2009, Iran did not give an official respond.


On May 17, 2010, with Turkey’s initiative and her intensive diplomacy, Turkey, Brazil and Iran signed the ‘Nuclear Swap Deal’ in Tehran.[32] This deal has attracted the attention of world public opinion. In previous months, Iran had rejected the P5 +1’s offer by alleging the lack of necessary condition for trust. In this agreement, the parties have agreed upon the exchange of low-enriched nuclear fuel with the 20 % enriched nuclear fuel to be used in reactors.

The United Nations Security Council adopted a sanction decision numbered 1929 with the ‘Yes’ votes of its 12 members against Iran on June 9, 2010. Lebanon abstained from voting. In order to keep the Iran on the negotiation table, Turkeyand Brazil voted ‘No’.[33] This decision was made to prevent nuclear capacity and to restrict uranium enrichment opportunity of Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad evaluated this decision as “a worthless piece of paper” and he mentioned that the UN decision would not affect Iran’s determination of continuing nuclear activities for peaceful purposes. The Obama administration called attention to the fact that the sanction decision under consideration would not iron out the resolution of problem through diplomacy. Also the foreign affairs ministers of England, France, China andRussia mentioned that the doors would still be open for the resolution of the question by dialogue. Furthermore it was also addressed that sanctions would remove in case of Iran’s changing her attitude. Russia also addressed that the embargo would not be applied in case of the suspension of uranium enrichment activities by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

On June 19th, 2012, after five sessions, the European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, told the differences between Iran and the group of six world powers participated in the talks here continued so noteworthy that negotiators did not pledge to another high-level meeting.[34] Instead, technical experts from both sides will have another meeting early next month to determine whether there are grounds for further high-level contact. The talks between Iran and the six powers-Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany- challenged discouraging obstacles from the outset. Iran has indicated some willingness to cut down its uranium enrichment, a process that can produce nuclear fuel but also the components of a nuclear bomb, and is being pressed by new rounds of economic sanctions that will come into force on July 1. The sanctions do threaten to isolate Tehran further from world oil markets and the international banking system.

But Iran’s principal demand was a substantial one. It requests international recognition that it has the right to enrich uranium for what it claims are peaceful purposes. Western powers are doubtful that Iran intends to produce fuel for nuclear weapons, and domestic politics in both the United States and Iran all but excluded the chance that either side would accept big concessions.


The comparison of Islamic Republic of Iran’s two radical leaders’ approaches namely Khomeini and Ahmadinejad on their country’s development of nuclear program is discussed in this paper.

It can be argued that, these two leaders’ approaches toward the development of a nuclear program by their country are completely divergent. On the one hand, Khomeini and his proponents strongly rejected the nuclear program and they stated that this program was unnecessary due to their country’s having abundant oil and natural gas resources. Given this thought, they stopped the implementation of a nuclear program in their country.

On the other hand, Ahmadinejad administration, which has been in power since 2005, states that as being party to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is their legitimate right to develop a nuclear program for peaceful purposes. They have been reiterating that this program does not aim the nuclear armament. They also make mention of the fact that they need this program for economic reasons and deterrence.

It should also be mentioned that reformers in Iran advocate that the policy followed by their incumbent government has serious repercussions on the lives of Iranian people and also on the foreign policy of Islamic Republic of Iran and it should be compromised on this issue for the sake of Islamic Republic of Iran and the insistence of incumbent government’s on developing a nuclear program results in the formation of  a coalition led by the United States which endeavors to use every possible means to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

Finally, the development of a nuclear program by the Islamic Republic of Iran has been a long debate and it will continue to be discussed in this country in the future. Today it seems that the winner of this debate is the hard-liners. As long as they hold the power, this situation is likely to persist that way.





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[1] Arzu Celalifer Ekinci, İran Nükleer Krizi (Ankara : USAK Yayınları, 2009), 31.

[2]  Kasri Naji, Ahmadinejad: The Secret History of Iran’s Radical Leader (London: I.B. Tauris& Co. Ltd, 2009), 114.

[3] Ray Takeyh, Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic (New York: A Council on Foreign Relations, A Holt Paperback, 2006), 136.

[4] Ekinci, İran Nükleer Krizi, 33.

[5] Ünal Gündoğan, İran ve Ortadoğu: 1979 İran İslam Devriminin Ortadoğu Dengelerine Etkisi (Ankara: Adres Yayınları, 2010), 181-183.

[6]  Tayyar Arı, Irak, İran, ABD ve Petrol (Bursa: MKM Yayınları, 2007), 359.

[7] Naji, Ahmadinejad: The Secret History of Iran’s Radical Leader,116.

[8] Ibid, 117.

[9] Beril Dedeoğlu, “11 Eylül Öncesi ve Sonrasıyla ABD-İran İlişkileri,” in Ortadoğu’da Güç Savaşları: Hedef Neden İran? , ed. Mehmet Tuncel, Etkileşim Yayınları, İstanbul, 2008, 23-24.

[10]Ertan Efegil, “İran Nükleer Krizi: Farklı Algılamalar Üzerine İnşa Edilmiş Uluslararası Güvenlik Sorunu,” in Dünya Çatışmaları: Çatışma Bölgeleri ve Konuları, eds. Kemal İnat, Burhanettin Duran, Muhittin Ataman, Vol. 1 (İstanbul: Nobel Yayın Dağıtım, 2010), 362.

[11] Zbigniew Brzezinski, Robert M. Gates, İran’ın Zamanı Geldi, trans. Sermin Karakale (İstanbul: Profil Yayıncılık, 2008), 9.

[12] Ibid, 42.

[13] Efegil, “İran Nükleer Krizi: Farklı Algılamalar Üzerine İnşa Edilmiş Uluslararası Güvenlik Sorunu”, 363.

[14] William O.Beeman, The “Great Satan” vs. The “Mad Mullahs”: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other (Chicago: TheUniversity ofChicago Press, 2008), 160.

[15] Naji, Ahmadinejad: The Secret History of Iran’s Radical Leader, 111.

[16] Paul K. Kerr, “Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status.” CRS Report for Congress, December 29, 2009,, Accessed 02 July 2011, 2.

[17] Takeyh, Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, 151.

[18] Ibid, 152.

[19] Ibid, 153.

[20] Takeyh, Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, 147.

[21] Ibid, 148.

[22] Ekinci, İran Nükleer Krizi, 387.

[23] Ibid, 387-388.

[24]George Friedman, “Thinking about the Unthinkable: A U.S.-Iranian Deal,” March 01, 2010,, Accessed 01 August 2011.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ekinci, İran Nükleer Krizi, 42.  

[27]  Kadir Üstün, “Turkey’s Iran Policy,” Insight Turkey 12 (2010): 20.

[28] Scott Ritter, Target Iran: The Truth about White House’s Plans for Regime Change, (New York: Nation Books, 2007), 233-234.

[29]For further details see National Intelligence Estimate, Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities.

[30] P5+1 are comprised of five permanent members of United Nations Security Council namelyUnited States,Russia,China,Britain, France plusGermany.

[31]Efegil, “İran Nükleer Krizi: Farklı Algılamalar Üzerine İnşa Edilmiş Uluslararası Güvenlik Sorunu,” 361.

[32] Tayyar Arı, Liderler, Kanaat Önderleri ve Kamuoyunun Gözünden Yükselen Güç: Türkiye-ABD İlişkileri, (Bursa: Marmara Kitap Merkezi, 2010), 255.

[33]Bülent Keneş, İran: Tehdit mi, Fırsat mı?, ( İstanbul: Timaş Yayınları,2012), 327.

[34] Ellen Barry, Ricky Gladstone, “Setback in Talks on Iran’s Nuclear Program in a ‘Gulf of Mistrust’, New York Times, 19 June 2012, (Accessed 09 July 2012).

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