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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid