Timeline of Iran Nuclear Standoff

By Patrick Goodenough | September 3, 2009 | 1:51 AM EDT

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) –The dispute over Iran’s nuclear program has been dragging on for seven years, and despite three rounds of sanctions, multiple U.N. reports, and several proposals put to Iran by the international community, it shows little sign of resolution.
Aug.: Iranian exiles expose Iran’s nuclear program, hidden from the international community for almost two decades. They report existence of  a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak
Sept.: Construction work begins on Iran's first nuclear reactor at Bushehr.
Dec.: Satellite imagery confirms the existence of the Natanz and Arak site; the U.S. accuses Iran of pursuing a non-conventional weapons capability; Iran agrees to allow the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) to inspect.
Feb.: President Mohammed Khatami announces that Iran plans to develop a nuclear fuel cycle. IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei visits Iran to begin investigation.
Jun.: ElBaradei says Iran is not being open about the extent of its nuclear activities and urges Tehran to agree to more intrusive inspections, by signing a voluntary “Additional Protocol” to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Aug.-Sept.: Traces of highly enriched (weapons-grade) uranium are found at Natanz, prompting new calls for Iran to agree to tougher inspections.
Oct.: Iranian officials meet with British, French and German (E.U.-3) foreign ministers, agree to sign Additional Protocol and to halt enriching uranium, but provides no evidence that is has in fact stopped.
Nov.: ElBaradei says he has found no evidence Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons; Washington disagrees.
Dec.: Iran signs Additional Protocol.
Feb.: IAEA reports unexplained Iranian experimentation that could be linked to nuclear weapons development; Iran again agrees to freeze uranium enrichment.
Jun.: IAEA criticizes Iran for withholding full co-operation with its inspectors.
Sept.: IAEA orders Iran to stop preparations for large-scale uranium enrichment and the U.S. calls for U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions.
Nov.: In talks with E.U.-3, Iran agrees – for the third time – to stop enrichment activities and does so, but says it will resume them at a later date.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the U.N. in New York on September 22, 2008 (UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe)

Apr.-May: Iran announces plans to resume uranium conversion and enrichment; E.U.-3 say resumption would end negotiations. Tehran agrees to wait until end of July to see E.U.-3 offer.
Aug.: E.U.-3 presents 35-page proposal, backed by U.S., offering economic and political cooperation in return for Iran abandoning all activities that could be used to make nuclear weapons, while allowing it to use nuclear energy peacefully. Iran rejects offer.
Aug.: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is installed as Iranian president, and Tehran appoints hardliner Ali Larijani to head nuclear talks; Iran removes IAEA seals from uranium conversion facility near Isfahan and resumes fuel cycle work.
Aug.: U.S. urges IAEA board of governors to send “strong message” to Iran; IAEA board issues statement voicing “serious concern” but does not refer Iran to Security Council.
Sept.: IAEA reports that Iran has resumed uranium conversion, and board passes resolution paving way for Security Council referral at a later date.
Jan.: Iran removes IAEA seals from Natanz nuclear research facility.
Feb.: IAEA board votes to report Iran to the Security Council: Iran ends snap IAEA inspections, resumes enrichment work at Natanz.
Apr.: Iran announces it has succeeded in enriching uranium at Natanz.
Aug.: Security Council deadline for Iran to halt activities passes on 31st; IAEA reports that Tehran has not done so
Dec.:  Security Council unanimously passes resolution imposing sanctions on Iran over nuclear enrichment.
Mar.: Security Council agrees to further sanctions.
Jul.: After talks with IAEA, Iran agrees to allow inspectors to visit Arak nuclear plant.
Oct.: U.S. imposes tough new sanctions against Iran, targeting state banks and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Nov.: Ahmadinejad says Iran has 3,000 centrifuges operating at Natanz, up from just over 300 a year earlier (Centrifuges spin at high speeds to enrich uranium to varying degrees, providing fuel for nuclear reactors or, in the case of very high levels of enrichment, producing a key ingredient for an atomic bomb.)
Nov.: Security Council permanent members plus Germany (P5+1) agree to impose more sanctions.
Dec.: A new U.S. intelligence report concludes that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003 but has continued to enrich uranium. Multiple analysts warn that the report should not be interpreted to mean the danger is past; Russia and China cite the U.S. assessment to back their position that no new sanctions are needed.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei addresses a U.N. panel discussion in New York on October 24, 2008. (UN Photo by Paulo Filgueiras)

Mar.: Security Council adopts third sanctions resolution.
Apr.: Tehran announces plans to triple the number of centrifuges it has operating.
May: IAEA says Iran is still withholding information on its activities, declares itself to be seriously concerned.
Jun.: A new P5+1 incentives proposal, presented by foreign policy chief Javier Solana, is considered by Iran: Israeli cabinet minister warns that military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities may be unavoidable.
Jul.: Iran test-fires a new version of a long-range missile experts say could reach targets in Israel.
Jul.: In policy shift, Bush administration sends diplomat for the first time to E.U.-led talks with Iran in Geneva, where Iranians reject calls to freeze enrichment.
Aug.: A deadline for Iran to respond to the P5+1 incentives package (offered by Solana in June) passes with no response; Tehran later says is has stepped up enrichment; U.S. and Britain call for further sanctions.
Sept.:   Security Council passes resolution reaffirming demands that Iran stop enriching uranium, but Russian opposition means no new sanctions; IAEA reports that Tehran has blocked probes into whether it researched ways to make a nuclear weapon.
Feb.: Iran launches a three-stage, liquid-fueled rocket, putting a satellite into orbit – further evidence, say experts, of its fast-developing ballistic missile capability; Russia says Bushehr nuclear reactor will start operating by year’s end.
Feb.: IAEA reports a significant increase in the amount of low-enriched uranium in Iran’s possession. Some experts say it now has enough to be converted into highly-enriched uranium sufficient for one bomb – and that if it decides to do so, that could happen within six months.
Mar.: President Obama calls for engagement with Iran, “grounded in mutual respect.”
Apr.: P5+1 offers Iran third proposal (following the E.U.-3 one in Aug. 2005, and the P5+1 one in Jun. 2008) – a revised package of economic and other incentives in exchange for enrichment halt and return to talks
Apr.: Ahmadinejad says Iran has mastered the nuclear fuel cycle and also tested more sophisticated enrichment equipment
Jun.: IAEA reports that Iran has increased its number of centrifuges to 7,231.
Aug.: Obama and other G-8 leaders give Iran late September deadline: Accept April offer of returning to negotiations or face stiffer sanctions.
Aug.: Media reports cite Western diplomats as saying IAEA chief ElBaradei – soon to leave his post after 12 years – has been holding back sensitive evidence pointing to Iranian attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Western governments reportedly plan to press him to reveal this information at IAEA meetings planned for September.
Aug.: Iran says it has allowed IAEA officials to inspect the site at Arak and to increase monitoring at Natanz.
Aug.:   IAEA reports that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium in violation of U.N. resolutions, although at a slightly slower rate in recent months; Iran welcomes “positive” assessment.
Sept.: Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili says Iran will present new proposals on nuclear issue but gives no details
Sept.: P5+1 meets in Germany, says Iran should respond to April proposal before U.N. General Assembly session opens later in the month.
(Sources: CNSNews.com and other media reports, IAEA, U.S. State Department)
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow