Overview of Iran Nuclear Crisis



Iran is a Muslim Mideast country abundant in oil reserves that has had a tumultuous modern history. A democratic regime was toppled in 1953 through covert efforts by U.S. and British intelligence efforts due to concerns about nationalization of oil reserves and the country's relationship with the Soviet Union. The subsequent dictatorship imposed on the country under the Shah brutally resisted dissent. The Shah was overthrown in 1979 by a religious uprising which established a fundmentalist anti-western government which continues to rule the country. In 1980, the country was invaded without provocation by Iraq and a deadly 8 year war ensued. The U.S. provided military assistance to both countries.


Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Agreement. After the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq war, the Iranian government began to develop a nuclear program which it claimed was for electricity generation purposes but the U.S. and European Union believed that the true purpose was to use the technology for military purposes. Ultimately the international community imposed sanctions which eventually had the effect of crippling the Iranian economy.


An agreement was reached in 2016 whereby Iran agreed to dismantle the program in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions. The U.S. under President Donald Trump withdrew from this agreement and has reimposed the sanctions. This decision was not based on any evidence that Iran was failing to adhere to the agreement. Although European countries were critical of this decision, they are participating in the sanctions because the sanctions extend to any country that imports Iranian oil. In 2020, the United States conducted an air strike that led to the death of a high ranking Iranian general.


U.S. public opinion is conflicted regarding the Iran situation. To a certain extent U.S. attitudes toward Iran remain negative because of a multi-month occupation of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the detention of U.S. diplomats by radical students at the time of the 1979 revolution.