Iran Nuclear Talks Reflect History of War and Deceit

Iran meets world powers today in Kazakhstan in the latest round of talks intended to ensure that Iran doesn’t develop nuclear weapons.

Diplomats convene in Almaty for their first meeting since negotiations broke down in June. European Union foreign policy head Catherine Ashton is leading the meeting with Iran on behalf of the so-called P5+1 group of countries -- China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and U.S.

Iran calls the dozens of international sanctions affecting its economy unfair and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and is within the bounds of its treaty rights. The United Nations Security Council has ordered the country to suspend its atomic work until international investigators can demonstrate Iran hadn’t developed the technology in the past with a military intent.

The U.S. and Israel have threatened to take military action if necessary to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

The following timeline traces key events in the development of Iran’s nuclear work and its diplomacy with world powers.

September 1967: U.S. helps build Tehran Research Reactor and supplies highly enriched uranium for it.

February 1970: Iran ratifies Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

January 1973: The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran is founded under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi with plans to develop 20 reactors, or 23,000 megawatts of nuclear power.

1974: Iranian oil production peaks at 6.1 million barrels per day.

June 1974: Iran loans France $1 billion for rights to 10 percent of uranium enriched by a European consortium.

December 1974: Iran signs International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement on nuclear inspections.

1975: Iran signs contract with Siemens AG and AEG Telefunken to build a 1,000-megawatt reactor near Bushehr, Iran.

1979: The Islamic revolution topples the Shah’s government. Construction of the Bushehr reactor stops and the contract is eventually canceled.

September 1980: Iraq invades Iran. In November, Iraq begins to use chemical weapons against Iran.

March 1984: Iraqi planes bomb the Bushehr reactor.

February 1986: Pakistan nuclear scientist and smuggler A.Q. Khan visits Bushehr and signs secret nuclear-cooperation agreement.

August 1988: War ends with Iraq.

October 1988: Future Iranian president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani says in broadcast remarks that a lesson of the war is that “we should fully equip ourselves both in the offensive and defensive use of chemical, bacteriological, and radiological weapons.”

November 1992: Central Intelligence Agency report warns that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon by 2000.

August 1992: Iran signs nuclear-cooperation agreement with Russia to build power plants.

March 1994: Russian nuclear engineers begin construction at Bushehr.

January 2002: U.S. President George W. Bush names Iran part of an “axis of evil,” along with Iraq and North Korea.

August 2002: Iranian opposition group reveals Iran didn’t declare construction of a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. Iran’s original IAEA agreement called for the country to provide such design information “as early as possible before nuclear material is introduced.”

March 2003: U.S. invades Iraq, citing reasons including that war was necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing weapons of mass destruction. IAEA begins formal probe of Iran nuclear work.

May 2003: Iran offers to hold direct talks with the U.S. aimed at normalizing their relationship. The U.S. turns down the offer.

October 2003: Iran implements Additional Protocol allowing IAEA inspectors wider access and agrees to suspend enrichment activities during negotiations with the European Union

July 2005: U.S. officials show IAEA investigators nuclear-weapon related documents on a laptop alleged to have been taken from Iran.

August 2005: Iran resumes uranium-enrichment activities. Enriched uranium is the heavy metal that can be used both to fuel nuclear reactors and to form the core of atomic weapons.

February 2006: Iran suspends the Additional Protocol permitting wider inspections. IAEA reports Iran to UN Security Council, citing ‘‘many breaches’’ of the safeguards agreement.

April 2006: Iran says it enriched uranium to the 3.5 percent purity required to fuel a power reactor. IAEA inspectors in June verify that none of the material has been diverted for possible military use.

December 2006: First UN Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran.

November 2007: U.S. National Intelligence Estimate produced by 16 spy agencies concludes that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, though it may be keeping its options open.

September 2009: Intelligence reveals, and Iran admits to, a second uranium enrichment facility, which was built into a mountainside near Fordo, Iran.

January 2010: First targeted killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist by an unidentified assailant on a motorcycle who attached a bomb to the man’s car. Iran blames Israel and the U.S.

February 2010: Iran enriches uranium to 20 percent level, saying it needs the fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. While the reactor produces radioactive isotopes for medical use, it also has potential weapons use, and 20 percent enriched uranium is a step toward the approximately 90 percent enrichment needed for bomb fuel.

June 2010: Stuxnet computer virus hits Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran blames the U.S. and Israel for the computer worm that damages centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant.

December 2010: P5+1 and Iran meet in Geneva for inconclusive talks.

January 2011: Deputy head of enrichment at Natanz, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, is killed in a targeted assassination. Iran says he was the fourth nuclear scientist targeted. P5+1 and Iran meet in Istanbul

September 2011: Bushehr, Iran’s first nuclear power reactor, connects to power grid.

November 2011: IAEA releases outline of evidence received by unidentified countries, which the agency calls “credible,” showing possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program

February 2012: Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei says possession of nuclear weapons is “unnecessary, harmful and dangerous.”

May 2012: P5+1 and Iran meet in Baghdad, followed the next month by a meeting in Moscow.

September 2012: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells the UN General Assembly that Iran is approaching a nuclear “red line,” indicating the point at which Israel and the U.S. may determine a need to take military action.

2012: Iran daily oil output falls to 2.9 million barrels.

January 2013: Iran announces centrifuge upgrade at Natanz.

February 24: Iran said recent discoveries of uranium resources have almost tripled the country’s reserves of the radioactive fuel and that it plans to build reactors at 16 new locations.

February 26, 2013: P5+1 and Iran meet in Kazakhstan.

(Sources: International Atomic Energy Agency, Federation of American Scientists, Institute for Science and International Security, Arms Control Association, Nuclear Threat Initiative, World Nuclear Association)