America Helped Start Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program
For several decades now, the U.S. has sought to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons. But ironically, the reason Iran has the technology to build these weapons in the first place is because the U.S. gave it to Iran between 1957 and 1979. This nuclear assistance was part of a Cold War strategy known as “Atoms for Peace.”
The strategy’s name comes from Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech, given before the United Nations General Assembly in 1953. In it, he suggested that promoting the non-military use of nuclear technology could discourage countries from using it to create nuclear weapons, or “Atoms for War.”
The speech came only eight years after the invention of the atomic bomb, at a time when the U.S. was anxious to keep these new and frightening weapons from proliferating around the world. Strange as it sounds, President Eisenhower viewed his “Atoms for Peace” strategy partly as a form of arms control.
“He thought that sharing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes would reduce the incentives of countries to want to make nuclear bombs,” says Matthew Fuhrmann, a political science professor at Texas A&M University and author of Atomic Assistance: How “Atoms for Peace” Programs Cause Nuclear Insecurity. For example, countries can use nuclear technology to generate electricity through nuclear power plants or produce radioisotopes for medical purposes.