Iran’s Nuclear Program & Western Sanctions

Iran’s calculated risk


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Iran's nuclear deal

Mains level: Paper 2- Iran nuclear deal and challenges

The article analyses Iran’s response to the recent killing of its top nuclear scientist. Instead of responding to the provocation, Iran has decided to wait and watch the new U.S. administrations response.

Background of nuclear deal with Iran

  • In 2015, the P5+1 nations-China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S., plus Germany- reached an agreement with Iran to curb the country’s nuclear programme.
  • It was expected that the agreement would lead to a new beginning in West Asia, however, this did not happen.
  • Washington saw Iran’s nuclear programme, which was at an advanced stage in 2015, as a national security problem and tackled it via diplomacy.
  • However, for Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran’s nuclear programme was not the problem but was part of the larger geopolitical challenges Iran posed.
  • The problem was Iran itself: Tehran’s influence across West Asia, its backing for non-state militias, and its ambition to emerge as a dominant pillar in the region.
  • The Donald Trump administration took an entirely different line towards Iran.
  • It pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal, despite United Nations certification that Iran was compliant with its terms, and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.


  • Iran wants to set back Iran’s nuclear programme by taking out a prominent scientist and scuttle the possible revival of the nuclear deal.
  • If Iran does not retaliate, it shows that Iran’s deterrence is getting weaker, which could trigger more such attacks from its rivals.
  • If it retaliates, it could escalate the conflict, giving the outgoing Trump administration and Isarael reasons to launch heavier strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities, closing off the diplomatic path.

Iran’s response and challenges in it

  • Instead of walking into the trap of provocation, Iran’s Parliament passed a Bill that obliges the government to enrich uranium to a higher level, from less than 5% now to 20%.
  • This is a technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90%.
  • And stop access for UN inspectors to the country’s top nuclear facilities in two months if sanctions relief is not given.
  • Within two months, Mr. Biden will be in the White House.


Iran is taking a calculated risk by enhancing its nuclear programme, which can be reversed if talks are revived. But it is leaving the Israel problem unaddressed, for now. This leaves the region vulnerable to a prolonged crisis.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch