A note about the Iranian Nuclear Deal

 

Nuclear trouble in Iran can be better understood by a timeline starting right at the 1950’s. US had provided Iran with Nuclear materials in 1950’s to help Iran generate Nuclear Energy. The ruler at that time, the Shah hugely co-operated with the West and promised use of nuclear materials solely for peaceful purposes.

The Shah was later overthrown. The new leader, Ayatollah Khomeini did not lay out any specific policy to prioritize development of Nuclear facilities. However, in the late 1960s, when Israel developed its nuclear facilities, Iran decided to re-think its nuclear strategy. Israel being a rival nation, Iran did not want Israel to have an upper hand due to nuclear warfare. Thus, Iran actively set up labs and facilities for processing weapon grade nuclear materials in different parts of the country. By 1996, when Iran’s efforts to set up nuclear facilities are revealed, US issues sanctions against Iran hugely affecting trade. This leads to an economic disaster. Later, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad takes over as President, he pushes rapidly for Iran’s nuclear expansion, also making public statements against Israel.

Tensions mount when Israel plans air strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But then, US intervenes and attacks are stalled. However, US later plans a covert operation, a cyber attack, along with Israel on Iran’s nuclear facilities called ‘Olympic Games’. This operation is successful and is a major setback for Iran as its progress is slowed down and the timeline for development of weapons grade nuclear materials is postponed by approximately 2 years.

At the same time, widespread political crisis destroys peace in Iran. People protest electoral malpractices by Ahmadinejad leading to the ‘Green Revolution’. Top Iranian Nuclear scientists are assassinated or killed in bomb explosions widely believed to be conducted by Israel. Political and Economic tensions rise.

Iran’s economy is hugely dependent on its oil exports. US issues sanctions implementing a ban on trade with Iran. Along with US, many nations (including the P5+1) decided to reduce or even completely stop importing oil from Iran. Trade sanctions hit the economy badly. Prices rise the quality of life is degraded.

People rise in protest. In 2013, Hassan Rouhani takes over as President. His electoral promises included improving the devastating condition of the economy and improving quality of life. Later throughout 2014 and 2015, Iran freezes its nuclear program and decides to ship the available nuclear fuel out of the country.

The conditions of the Nuclear Agreement signed by Iran include provisions for reducing quantity (from 10,000 Kg to just 300 Kg) and quality (From 20% enrichment to just 3.7% ) of nuclear material. Many operational restrictions have been placed on the facilities at Natanz, Arak and Fordo (which is underground) Iran has agreed to the provisions, but discussions and negotiations are still underway.

Why should India be concerned? Mainly because it brings stability to a region which concerns India’s oil imports and global oil prices. Also Iran’s nuclear race should be considered along with that of its rival Saudi Arabia. A large number of Indians live in Saudi. Long term stability in Iran ensures that Saudi’s nuclear ambitions are also kept in check.

Another reason is that India could be a dominant player in infrastructure development projects (oil & gas pipelines, ports, roads etc.) in the region if long term peace is established. This would be a win-win situation for both India as well as Middle East.

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