Ten Reasons Iran Doesn't Want the Bomb

Acquiring nuclear weapons would be harmful to Tehran's interests.

6. Goodwill: During negotiations from 2003 to 2005, with Iran and France, Germany, and the UK (the EU-3), Iran submitted proposals which included a declaration to cap enrichment at 5 percent; to export all low-enriched uranium or fabricate it into fuel rods; to commit to an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and subsidiary arrangements to the agreement, which would provide maximum transparency; to allow the IAEA to make snap inspections of undeclared facilities; and to ship its enriched uranium to another country for fabrication into fuel rods for Tehran Research Reactor. Similarly, Iran welcomed the Russian step-by-step proposal in the summer of 2011, which addressed all the West’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities.

These offers were intended to ensure that no enriched uranium would be diverted to a nuclear weapons program in the future. That’s why the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman recently said: “Iran, in order to prove its goodwill, has even gone beyond the commitments enumerated in the agency’s regulations.” But the United States and EU still rejected the offer.

7. No Stockpile: Accusations levied against Iran for stockpiling enriched uranium to build nuclear weapon are misleading, since Iran requires 27 tons of uranium enriched at 3.5 percent level annually to provide fuel for its only nuclear power plant in Bushehr. Up to now, Iran has produced about 7 tons and needs an additional 20 tons.

8. Enrichment Offers: The West’s biggest concern and therefore highest priority in nuclear talks have centered on Iran’s 20 percent enriched uranium. First in February 2010 and for the second time in September 2011, Iran proposed to stop its 20 percent enrichment in return for fuel rods—and once again the West declined. At a meeting between EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili on September 19, Iran once again offered to suspend its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, provided proportionate reciprocation would be taken by P5+1. "If they give us the 20 percent [enriched] fuel, we will immediately halt 20 percent [enrichment]," Ahmadinejad said in an interview with Iranian state-run television. But Europe responded to his goodwill by placing more sanctions.

9. Deterrence: A major accusation levied against Iran is that once it acquires nuclear weapons, it will use it against the United States and Israel. This makes no rational sense, since any provocation by Iran against two states that possess thousands and hundreds of nuclear weapons respectively would result in Iran’s total annihilation. Iran has publically acknowledged this fact.

10. Forget Regime Change: The view of some U.S. politicians is that Iran’s motive for seeking nuclear weapons is nuclear deterrence—to ensure Washington would not attack it at will, instigate regime change or reach its objectives. If this concern is accurate, then Iran’s nuclear weapons could be used to prevent war—a positive outcome. But this concern relies on the wrong premise, as Iran has not aimed to acquire nuclear weapons in the face of a concerted effort by the United States and the West to engineer regime change in Tehran, including the use of war. During eight years of Iraqi aggression against Iran, the United States and the West did their utmost to support the aggressor and yet failed to bring defeat to Iran. Paradoxically for some, Iran without nuclear weapons has become more powerful year after year in the past 34 years, stymying Western efforts to bring about the collapse of the regime. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Israeli positions in the region have declined despite the thousands of nuclear weapons between them.

The Deal

These are just a few reasons the West should enter into a genuine, face saving and realistic solution—rather than continuing to push aggressively and ineffectively against Iranian nuclear development.

Tehran would only accept a deal in which the P5+1 recognizes Iran’s legitimate rights of enrichment under the NPT and gradually lifts the sanctions. In return, to assuage Western worries, Iran would operationalize Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwa banning nuclear arms, implement the Additional Protocol and the Subsidiary Arrangements (Code 3.1), and cooperate with the IAEA to resolve technical ambiguities and its worries about possible military dimensions. It would also export its enriched uranium stockpile beyond domestic consumption or convert it to fuel rods, cap enrichment at 5 percent, and establish a multilateral consortium for enrichment in Iran.

This package can guarantee Iran’s legitimate NPT rights of enrichment while ensuring that Iran will remain a non-nuclear-weapon state forever.

Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School and a former spokesman for Iran’s nuclear negotiators. His latest book is The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir, published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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