Iranian nuclear programme prompts fears

Politics Reporter Helen Cox outlines the international response to Iran’s recent military exercises which flaunt developments of nuclear power

Whenever a country announces that it has developed a nuclear programme, the world seems to go into a momentary meltdown. This happened last November when it was announced that Iran had nuclear capabilities. The UN reacted by starting an investigation into the country’s intentions.

Last week Iran announced it will hold military exercises to boost protection of its nuclear sites, which have been the subject of much recent controversy, causing renewed anxieties amongst the world.

A statement from the military said that drills would be held in southern Iran to counter “all possible threats, especially to public, important and nuclear centres.”

This statement came as speculation has been increasing that Israel may launch a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

This latest move came as UN nuclear experts began a two-day visit to Iran, the second such trip in a month in an attempt to discover the capabilities of the Iranian sites.  Iran states it is just enriching uranium to use for power generation, but the US and its allies believe the programme is aimed towards making weapons, possibly targeted towards Israel.

In response to the controversial nuclear programmes, the EU imposed oil sanctions on Iran. The oil ban agreed by the European Union will be brought in over a period of months to reduce the impact on some of the weaker European economies.

It is the most significant of sanctions imposed on Iran to date. This will affect Iran greatly as the European market accounts for 20% of Iran’s oil market. The EU will also introduce restrictions on the Central Bank of Iran.

Iran said last Sunday it had halted oil sales to British and French companies ahead of an EU oil embargo set to begin on July 1. Analysts say that the gesture of retaliation is largely symbolic. Last Monday, the head of Iran’s national oil company suggested the ban might be extended to other EU members that continued “hostile acts” against Iran.

The chief inspector with the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said his team’s “highest priority” while visiting Iran was to clarify the “possible military dimensions” of the nuclear programme. “This is of course a very complex issue that may take a while. But we hope it can be constructive.”

The IAEA described its last visit, in January, as positive, and said Iran was “committed” to “resolving all outstanding issues”.

In November last year, the outlook was slightly bleaker, with the UN taking a more suspicious outlook on Iran. The Security Council suspected Iran of developing nuclear programmes with military intent and ordered them to stop enriching fuel.  Iran refused.

Ultimately, this air of distrust cannot be good for world relations. If the US and the UN are constantly suspicious of anyone with nuclear capabilities, how can they expect other countries to be open about it?

As long as the US has a nuclear program, other countries are going to want to have one too for protection and that is going to continue until nuclear power is abandoned by the US altogether – which it will never do – so for the foreseeable future the issue of nuclear capability is going to be entangled in a vicious circle of distrust, secrets and lies.