Change In Leadership

In June 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a leader known for his militancy and radicalism, became president of Iran. He replaced Mohamed Khatemi, who had been elected by a landslide in 1997. Khatemi's leadership had been more moderate than that of other Iranian leaders—especially more moderate than that of Ahmadinejad. During Khatemi's presidency the U.S. president, Bill Clinton, even waived sanctions against Russian, French, and Malaysian firms for investing in Iran's oil industry. However, only five days after Ahma-dinejad's election, Iran resumed its project to enrich uranium at a facility in Isfahan, Iran, that had been suspended in 2004 to allow negotiations with the IAEA to continue. Ahmadinejad defended Iran's decision to conduct nuclear research and contended that Iran had the right to research peaceful uses of nuclear technology. He maintained that the research was for the purpose of generating nuclear power to help his country, which, he claimed, was running short on energy. In September 2005 Iranian leaders threatened to make the investment climate of Iran unfavorable to countries that attempt to hinder its access to nuclear energy technology. Then, in November 2005, Iran rejected a plan whereby it would abstain from uranium enrichment and accept enriched uranium from Russia instead. However, Iran was reported to the UN Security Council in February 2006 because of charges that its nuclear program violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Ahmadinejad threatened that Iran would "revise its policies" if the rights of the Iranian people were violated.

In April 2006 Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had successfully enriched uranium. The uranium was enriched by using more than 100 centrifuges, devices that separate substances of different densities. This quantity of centrifuges would make the uranium capable of being used in a nuclear reactor, but manufacturing a nuclear bomb would require several thousands of centrifuges. However, that same month, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) published satellite images that allegedly showed new nuclear sites under construction in Iran, including a new tunnel entrance at a nuclear facility in Isfahan. In the meantime, the United States, Great Britain, France, and other nations pressed for UN sanctions against Iran if it continued to pursue uranium enrichment and attempted to institute a series of negotiations to obtain Iran's cooperation in nuclear nonproliferation.

In June 2006 Iranian officials indicated that they would consider proposals to delay their nuclear power program until UN officials determined it would be used for peaceful purposes only. The proposals, developed by the UN Security Council with Germany, would involve the United States in direct talks with Iranian officials for the first time in more than 25 years. On August 31, 2006, however, Iran failed to meet a UN Security Council deadline to either suspend its nuclear program or receive sanctions. The council voted in late 2006 to impose sanctions on Iran's nuclear materials and technology trade. In response Iran vowed to further increase its uranium enrichment activities. In March 2007, after Iran failed to meet a second deadline for halting uranium enrichment, Germany and five permanent council nations, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France, drafted a resolution to embargo arms exports and impose financial sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guards and one of its banks. It was hoped that these measures would apply enough pressure to cause Iran to stop enriching uranium.

In early 2007, amid the political insurgency and violence that had been escalating in Iraq for four years since U.S. forces first invaded the country, the Bush administration reported that Iran was backing Shiite extremists inside Iraq, supplying them with weapons with which to launch terror attacks against U.S. troops. Thus, tensions between Iran and the United States heightened even further.

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