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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More