Iran, Syria, and North Korea Pose Threats

Even as the United States and the world focuses on terrorism, other threats emerged. Developments in Iran, Syria, and North Korea also raised concerns about world security.

When Iran announced a plan to develop nuclear power plants in the early 2000s, the United States and other nations feared that Iran truly intended to develop nuclear weapons. Although Iran insisted its nuclear energy program was for peaceful purposes, the UN Security Council imposed some sanctions on Iran. After years of negotiations with world leaders, Iran agreed in 2013 to some preliminary agreements designed to temporarily suspend its nuclear program while efforts proceed to try to obtain a permanent agreement. World and regional leaders are especially concerned about Iran's nuclear program because Iran already possesses advanced long-range missile technology that may threaten neighboring nations.

Although Syria signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), its nuclear program has been subject to international scrutiny. Its adversarial relationship with Israel raised concerns that Syria might try to develop nuclear weapons. Then, as Syria erupted into civil war, the world's attention turned to Syria's chemical weapons.

In 2013, chemical weapons killed 300 civilians in Damascus. The government and rebels each blamed the other. Although responsibility for the attack remained unclear, President Bashar al-Assad agreed, in a U.S.-Russia brokered deal, to allow international inspectors to dismantle and destroy Syria's chemical weapons cache.

For years, North Korea violated its agreement under the NPT and worked on developing nuclear weapons. Tensions grew as the United States tried to pressure North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program. In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT. In 2006, it tested a small nuclear bomb, and by 2013 it had conducted three such tests.

Many people feared that if Iran, Syria, or North Korea developed nuclear weapons, nuclear technology could be passed on to terrorist groups. Those nations, if armed with nuclear weapons, might also pose threats to their regions and to world peace.

Photo of man in overcoat looking out of binoculars, next to a young soldier in winter gear.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un uses binoculars to view South Korean territory from a military post near the border. North Korea has been criticized for its nuclear weapons testing.


  1. Check Understanding How do nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons threaten international security?
  2. Identify Cause and Effect How has Arab rejection of the state of Israel led to ongoing conflict?
  3. Draw Conclusions How does Islam influence government and law in fundamentalist Muslim nations?
  4. Generate Explanations Why did President George W. Bush declare a “war on terror” following September 11, 2001?
  5. Draw Conclusions What are the reasons for the growth of terrorist groups such as al Qaeda over the past two decades?

End ofPage 899

Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments