On November 24, Iran and the P5+1 states (USA, UK, Russia, China, France, plus Germany) failed to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Discussions have been further extended for another seven months. The P5+1 states want Iran to halt the development of its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Talks have been ongoing for over a year, and the new extension seems to indicate that an agreement will not be reached any time soon. Other states across the world already possess nuclear weapons, however, so why are the P5+1 giving so much attention to Iran?
In 1970, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) went into effect. Since then, 189 countries have signed it, making it one of the most universally accepted treaties. The treaty acknowledges the right of its signatories to develop peaceful uses for nuclear power, but limits its military potential.
Iran insists that it only intends to develop its nuclear program for peaceful purposes, but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) claims that it has not been able to verify the country’s claims. In 2005, the IAEA even referred Iran to the UNSC for not complying with the conditions of the NPT. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has adopted six different resolutions, which call on Iran to stop developing its nuclear program. Iran’s refusal to comply has been answered with crippling sanctions.
Iran is unique in comparison to other countries that have nuclear power primarily because of the fact that Iran has not yet fully acquired the technology. At the time the NPT came into effect, the P5 members already possessed nuclear weapons, but India and Pakistan, for example, did not. If India and Pakistan were able to develop their nuclear programs after the treaty came into effect, why can’t Iran do the same? One crucial difference is that Iran, unlike India and Pakistan, signed the NPT. Iran’s relationship with the IAEA is another important difference between the three cases. Reports indicate that Iran has been less than forthcoming with IAEA Inspections, hiding documentation and facilities that could indicate its intentions in terms of the development of its nuclear program.
Since Iran has ratified the treaty, it must ensure that any actions it takes towards the development of its program abide by the treaty’s guidelines. The Iranian government is completely justified in claiming that Iran has a right to develop nuclear energy, as all states do. The fact that Iran continues to engage in talks with the P5 is an excellent step forward, but Iran must also take care to cooperate with the IAEA in order to show that not only is it complying with the NFP, but that it has nothing to hide.