News / Middle East

Much of Iran's Nuclear Capability Shrouded in Secrecy

Delegations from Iran and other world powers sit before the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks at the United Nations offices in Geneva, Switzerland, Oct. 15, 2013.
Delegations from Iran and other world powers sit before the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks at the United Nations offices in Geneva, Switzerland, Oct. 15, 2013.
With the most substantive talks in years underway between Tehran and Western powers, analysts are looking at what is generally known about Iran’s nuclear capability while warning that much of it remains secret.    

The so-called P5+1 group of nations - the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany - are evaluating a proposal made by Iran during recent negotiations on Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

More talks are scheduled for early November in Geneva.

For years, the international community has been trying to persuade Iran to end its uranium enrichment program - but to no avail. Low enriched uranium can be used for civilian nuclear power plants, but highly-enriched uranium is an integral part of a nuclear bomb.

The United States and the European Union believe Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its program is for peaceful, civilian purposes.

Joel Rubin, Iran expert with the Ploughshares Fund, a foundation specializing in nuclear weapons policy, said that Western intelligence agencies know some details about Iran’s nuclear program.
“And that basically means that Iran is enriching uranium, that it does have 19,000 centrifuges spinning, that it is enriching uranium at a couple of key sites and that it has a stockpile of medium-enriched uranium near 20 percent that is less than what would take to construct enough fissile material for one bomb," he said. "And that they continue to develop this program."

Rubin said Iran is also building a plant that will produce plutonium, which can also be used in a nuclear weapon.

Much not known

Still, John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said too much remains secret about Iran's ambitions.

"I’m worried that there is a lot we don’t know - that the Iranians, perhaps with some tactical assistance from the North Koreans, who are expert at building things underground, have engaged in that kind of camouflage for a protracted period of time," he said. "So that there may be a lot more to the nuclear weapons program than we know about."

In an effort to pressure Iran to end its uranium enrichment program, over the past few years, the United Nations Security Council has passed resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran.

In addition, several other nations, including the United States, have imposed their own measures. And Israel has warned it will not stand by and watch Iran develop nuclear weapons. It is warning the West to tread cautiously in talks with Tehran.

Over the years, negotiations between Western nations and Iran have made little progress.

But analysts say this may change, following the June election of President Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president - a man considered to be a moderate and who ran on a platform of diplomatic engagement with the West.

Initial talks positive

At a meeting in Geneva earlier this month, Western officials and Iran held negotiations described by Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, as “the most detailed talks we have ever had.”

At that session, Iran offered a proposal.

Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, a private research firm, said the details of the Iranian offer remain confidential.

“And I think that’s a good sign, because it shows that each is not trying to use leaks in order to make rhetorical points, to score points back home," he said. "They are really trying to achieve an outcome.”

Experts say the Iranian proposal probably contains concrete steps Iran is willing to take - such as curtailing its uranium enrichment program - in exchange for easing Western economic and financial sanctions.

But analysts, such as the Ploughshares's Rubin, say that before any significant progress is made, both sides have to overcome a high level of mistrust.

“There’s more than three decades of mistrust and of concern between the sides. The United States designates Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism," he said. "They have an atrocious human rights record inside Iran. There are regional tensions and conflicts between Iran and Israel and the Gulf States and about Syria and other issues. So there are multiple layers here.”


Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

N. Korea Sentences American to 6 Years Hard Labor

Matthew Miller's brief trial Sunday comes two weeks after 24-year old Miller and two other American detainees appealed to the US government to help free them More

Pakistan Rejects Afghan Criticism of 480-kilometer Border Trench

Military spokesman tells VOA the project is part of administrative and security measures taken to secure the mountainous border with Afghanistan More

Photogallery Typhoon Kalmaegi Makes Landfall in Philippines

Storm makes landfall late Sunday, cutting power and communications lines and forcing people to flee to higher ground More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: will from: chicago
October 25, 2013 11:24 AM
If iran develops a nuke warhead they will have to test it and when that happens god help them.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interesti
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 12, 2014 8:35 PM
The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video Palestinians Turn to Rebuilding Gaza

After almost two months of conflict in Gaza, Palestinians are preparing to rebuild the isolated Mediterranean enclave with assistance from abroad. Meanwhile, an international human rights group has found that Israel likely violated international laws of war during some of its attacks on Gaza. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Middle Eastern Church Leaders Highlight Christians’ Plight

Patriarchs of Eastern Rite churches came to Washington this week to draw attention to the attacks against Christians in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. VOA’s religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid