Country Profiles: Iran

Iran flagNPT: 1970
CTBT: 1996 (signed but not ratified)
First Test: none
First Hydrogen Bomb: none

Current number of nuclear warheads: 0
Last Updated: 2/27/02

Iran’s nuclear program predates its current regime. Under the Shah, the government planned to build twenty reactors, though it completed only two. Despite signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970, the Iranian government apparently pursued weapons research and worked on fissile material production until the Revolution of 1979 temporarily halted all nuclear activities. Work began again during the 1980s, however, in response to the perceived threat from Iraq, which repeatedly bombed reactor sites during the Iran-Iraq war. In February 1992 Iran began allowing the IAEA to inspect its nuclear facilities, and no violations of the NPT have yet been found. However, Iran retains nuclear reactors well beyond its electricity needs, and many experts believe that is still pursuing both nuclear weapons and missile programs.

At the core of Iran’s missile arsenal are its 200 Scud B missiles with a range of 310 km. Iran also has a number of Scud C missiles and is seeking longer range missiles. It has several such missiles in development through indigenous research and foreign connections, especially with North Korea. In May 2001, Iran claimed success with its first indigenous surface-to-surface guided missile, though some analysts doubted the veracity of the claim. However, it is certain that Iran has built and tested several missiles with the help of North Korea, Russia, and China. These missiles have a sufficient range to reach Israel.

One analyst, Dr. Peter Jones of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), describes Iran’s nuclear program as “an effort to ‘create an option,’ that is, to shorten the time frame for acquiring a nuclear device should Iran ever deem it necessary.” While Iran is aware that acquiring nuclear weapons would give it a higher regional and international status, it is wary of jeopardizing foreign ties and investment through such a move at this time.


Middle East Institute summary of Dr. Peter Jones, talking on “Iran’s Arms Control Policies and Weapons of Mass Destruction” April 16-17 2001 5/31/01 Jim Mathews “Iran Claims Successful Solid-Fueled Missile Test”

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy Policywatch No. 444 3/8/00 “Special Policy Forum Report: Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: Status and Implications” Seth Carus and Michael Eisenstadt

Cordesmann, Anthony H. The Military Balance in the Middle East: an Executive Summary. La Jolla: Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, 1999.