The European Involvement in the Conflict Over Iran's Nuclear Program from 2003
By Marco Overhaus and Anna Katharina Meyer
Last-update: July 19, 2007
The current conflict over Iran's nuclear program began on August 14, 2002, when an Iranian
opposition group, the "National Council of Resistance of Iran", publicly claimed that Tehran
had been secretly building two nuclear facilities to convert and to enrich uranium in the cities
of Isfahan and Natanz respectively. As a member state of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT, see Glossary) - which it had already signed on July 1, 1968 - and under the
complementary Safeguards Agreement (see Glossary) Iran would have been obliged to report
these activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Uranium conversion and
enrichment (see Glossary) - as well as the reprocessing of plutonium to a lesser degree - are at
the core of the current conflict, because from a technical point of view both processes can
serve to produce either fuel for civilian nuclear reactors or for the production of a nuclear
weapon. The Iranian government has always insisted that its activities are entirely peaceful.
The European Union, the IAEA and the USA have called this claim into question.
Since then, the international conflict over Iran's nuclear program and the European
involvement in it unfolded in at least four distinct phases. Each phase is characterized by an
escalation or de-escalation of the conflict, accompanied by diplomatic moves from the
Europeans, the IAEA, the Iranian side and more recently from the informal "Contact Group"
(“P5 plus 1, consisting of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council
plus Germany). In the following overview, we will briefly sketch the developments along
Phase 1: Rising Suspicion of Iranian Intentions and the Beginning of European
On February 9, 2003, Iran had to admit that it had in fact been building new facilit