How many nuclear weapons does Iran have

In July 2015, a comprehensive agreement on Iran's nuclear program was signed, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This nuclear agreement was unilaterally terminated by US President Donald Trump on May 7, 2018. Iranian President Rouhani, who initially stuck to the agreement, announced in July 2019 and January 2020 that he would suspend parts of the nuclear agreement.

Since 2003, Iran has been fighting the charge of hiding a nuclear weapons program behind its uranium enrichment program. Above all, the Israeli government - itself the secret owner of nuclear weapons - claimed that Iran was building nuclear weapons and therefore threatened at regular intervals to want to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. Although the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could neither prove the existence of a nuclear weapons program nor prove the contrary, it referred the case to the UN Security Council in March 2006. This required Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran called this demand illegal and even built more uranium enrichment facilities.

For its civil nuclear program, Iran is striving for a closed fuel cycle that is independent of foreign countries. To do this, he mines his own uranium and converts it to uranium hexafluoride (UF6). This low-enriched uranium will be used in the fuel rods of Iran's nuclear power plants. The first nuclear power plant in Bushehr was started up in September 2011, a year later than planned. A second nuclear power plant is under construction, which should be completed in 2023. A third nuclear power plant is also planned.

Iran is allowed to use nuclear energy as long as the program is solely for "peaceful" purposes. It is guaranteed by the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that Iran has signed. It is also allowed to enrich uranium, but only if control measures are tolerated by the IAEA (so-called safeguards). Because the enrichment of uranium can also serve the development of nuclear weapons, these controls are intended to guarantee that the uranium is only enriched for reactor use and not for use in nuclear weapons. Iran has not signed the Additional Protocol (ZP) to the Safeguards Agreement, but allows the provisions of the ZP to apply.

Dispute over the nuclear program

The first open dispute with Iran occurred in 2003. Investigations by the IAEA in the nuclear facilities in Arak and Natans in 2002 revealed indications that Iran was conducting undeclared experiments with the separation of plutonium and, through an illegal network from Pakistan, nuclear equipment for uranium enrichment had acquired.

After the diplomatic negotiations by Germany, France and Great Britain failed in 2005, the IAEA referred the “case” of Iran to the UN Security Council. The reason given was that the country would violate its obligations under the Safeguards Agreement.

The UN Security Council has passed a total of 12 resolutions on the Iranian nuclear program. They call on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. Three of the resolutions impose sanctions as Iran continues to enrich uranium. In 2007 a work plan was drawn up between the IAEA and Iran, on the basis of which the original open questions could be resolved by February 2008.

Only the question remained open with regard to extracts from an internal document of the IAEA, which were published on the website of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in 2009. According to this, Iran is said to have carried out studies on the possible nuclear armament of its missiles. Iran denied it and spoke of a fake. The electronic files smuggled out of Iran have long been the subject of controversy within the IAEA because their authenticity could not be proven and they had apparently been altered. Nevertheless, based on these documents, the new head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, in his February 2010 report expressed suspicion that Iran might be working on a nuclear missile warhead.

However, according to a report by all US intelligence services published on December 3, 2007, Iran in all probability suspended its nuclear weapons program as early as autumn 2003. They repeated this assessment in September 2009. However, the secret services also suspected that Iran was "keeping open" the option of using nuclear energy for military purposes.
Nonetheless, in his report of November 8, 2011, the head of the IAEA Amano came to the conclusion that there were "credible" indications that Iran had been working on building an atomic bomb and had already carried out tests on individual components. However, no diversions of nuclear material from the controlled facilities have been detected so far. Iran continued to deny working on nuclear weapons.

Agreement on an agreement

On November 24, 2013, the so-called P5 (the five UN veto powers) and Germany reached an agreement with Iran in a long-standing dispute over the nuclear program. The agreement was valid for the next six months and a permanent solution should be negotiated during that time. Two more agreements followed in April 2014 and April 2015, and finally a nuclear deal was concluded in July 2015.

The deal cuts the enrichment capacity by more than half, halts the redevelopment of centrifuges and curbs all nuclear activities in Iran for 15-25 years.

In a statement on May 7, 2018, US President Donald Trump declared the United States' unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Linked to this was the reintroduction of severe sanctions against Iran. After Iran's President Hassan Rouhani initially assured that the nuclear agreement would continue to be adhered to, Iran's first suspensions of the agreement came in July 2019. Two days after the US targeted killing of Iranian General Soleimani in Iraq on January 3, 2020, Iranian President Rouhani announced that Iran would suspend further parts of the nuclear deal. (xh)

Processing status: January 2020