Nuclear proliferation in Iran

The world is becoming much smaller than it was in the 20th century. Military conflicts are becoming less reliant on strategy and fighting style and more reliant on who has the best weapon capabilities. States are worrying about who is will the press the red button that could start a nuclear holocaust. Nuclear weapons are the deciding factor in whether a state poses a threat to the international community. Iran, a country that is trying to become a new hegemony on the world stage, is attempting to gain nuclear weapons. It is very important that the United States and its democratic allies keep Iran from succeeding in their nuclear program.

Even though it is tough to stop another country from doing anything, the problem that can arise if Iran succeeds could be catastrophic, a catastrophe that might lead to world war III that would surely include the use of nuclear weapons. A government’s main priority is to ensure the safety of its citizens and protect the countries ideologies. To keep safe states are doing two things. One, they are attempting to gain nuclear capabilities and two; they are aliening themselves with already nuclear capable states that share common ideologies in domestic, political and foreign policies.

For the states that already have nuclear capabilities, they are trying to stop states with opposing ideologies from gain nuclear weapons. This is all part of the security dilemma which is summed up very well by John Herz. He says: “Striving to attain security from attack, [states] are driven to acquire more and more power in order to escape the power of others. This, in turn, renders the others more insecure and compels them to prepare for the worst. Since no one can ever feel entirely secure in such a world of competing units, powers competition ensures, and the vicious circle of security and power accumulation is on.

None of the countries involved are seeking but to stay in a sense of security, they advance their military capabilities. The security dilemma is meant strictly for the theory of “why wars start” but for “why countries seek nuclear weapons” there are different theories. The causes of Iran’s possible proliferation of nuclear weapons as well as their disregard for the international community’s guidelines lie in Scott Sagan’s three models on nuclear proliferation.

In Sagan’s paper “Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons? Three Models in Search of a Bomb” he thoroughly discusses the Security Model, Domestic Politics Model and the Norms Model. These models asses the issue on with different schools of thought as well as on different levels of analysis. The Security Model is based on the neo-realist school of thought. The neo-realists believe that the international system is anarchic, therefore states must protect themselves. Sagan points out that, “because of the enormous destructive power of nuclear weapons, any state that seeks to maintain its national security must balance against any rival state that develops nuclear weapons”.

On an International level, Iran is a state that is surrounded by many nuclear armed states like Pakistan, India, and Israel. United States which possesses nuclear weapons also has forces in the region. Dude to the Islamic Revolution, the US led intervention in Kuwait, and US presence throughout the Middle East, Iran and US relations have not be good to say the least. Iran sees the United States as a very serious and powerful enemy.

Israel and the United States also have a heavily intertwined alliance, Israel benefits largely from US security help as well as economic help. United States is also involved with states such as Georgia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Iraq all of which increase Iran’s security concerns (Posch). Despite Iran’s cooperation in the United States intervention in Afghanistan they have come to realize that United States cannot be differed by conventional means and that they are willing to overthrow regimes swiftly.

Saddam Hussein was ousted in twenty one days time. This is a perfect reason for Iran to be concerned especially being that ideologically Iran and the West bump heads. Regionally it is important to point out that in the Iran – Iraq war there was little help from the internationally community when Iraq used WMD’s against Iran, this makes Iran feel as if they are all by themselves and need to be in possession of something that will almost guarantee their security. Security is not always the motive in the minds of neo-liberalists.

The Domestic Politics model is derived from the neo-liberal thought. This model suggests that domestic pressure from public opinion and/or elites in society, such as the military or nuclear scientists create the decision to go nuclear. Political leadership might seek nuclear weapon capability in order to please influential elites or to strengthen their own power through support from public opinion as well. In Iran’s system there is one actor that fits directly into the Domestic Politics model, President Ahmadinejad.

His use his offensive (Anti-Western and Anti-Israel) speeches to unify Iran’s population and gather support are well known in the international community. “By controlling public opinion, the strategic elite is able to create a positive public disposition towards nuclear weapons by building up threat perceptions, and more significantly attaching symbolic values to nuclear devices: national pride…”(Frey 14). An important thing to note in this argument is that Iran has yet to announce that they are in fact producing Nuclear weapons but they do have a nuclear program that they claim is for energy purposes only.

The Iranian Nuclear program has become a gem for the Iranian population. The people are proud and become infuriated when the international community pushes to end it. This nuclear program represents their sovereignty and they do not want it infringed upon. Domestically Ahmadinejad stresses the external security challenges posed by the US and Israel to gather support from hardliner conservatives in the political system. The system that Israel has set up provides an interesting set up for the domestic model.

The way Ahmadinejad had set up the nuclear program for energy has public opinion very high but if he was to come out and tell his country that they are creating weapons as well it could spark outrage but it could also be parallel to the opinion on the energy program. Citizens could be proud and feel as their country is now competing with the west and other great nations. Iran presents a hard assessment of the Domestic politics model because with the amount of media sanctions and monitoring it is hard to asses public opinion.

Showing the world that Iran is a competing state in the international system is a large part of the Norms Model. The Norms model is based on constructivism and it advocates that nuclear proliferation can show technological progress and modernity for a state. For Iran their anti-western views and hopes of being able to be seen as one of the world’s great powers puts them right in the path of nuclear proliferation. Nothing in this day and age creates an aura around a state more than nuclear weapons.

As Sagan says, “military organizations and their weapons can therefore be envisioned as serving functions similar to those of flags, airlines, and Olympic teams: they are part of what modern states believe they have to posses to be legitimate, modern states. ” Political leadership may choose a policy-direction that is legitimate and appropriate in the international system for their state. Iran’s foreign policy clearly states that it rejects any foreign domination as well as hegemony. Therefore if other states have nuclear weapons it is clear that they would wish to obtain them.

Regionally Pakistan is the only Islamic nations with nuclear weapons and Iran undoubtedly would like to be in possession as well. These three models explain reasons why Iran could be producing nuclear weapons and the evidence of why they should be is exponentially large. If Iran does come out in the near future and admit to proliferating nuclear weapons there should be no doubt that these reasons listed above contributed to the start of such an action. The problem does not lie in why Iran is attempting to produce nuclear weapons but in the effects that their program causes.

Since 2005, Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has stood behind the position that it is his countries right to seek nuclear energy. According to Iran’s president, Iran’s deposits of petroleum and natural gas will one day be gone and the country must be prepared to use alternative energy. The Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is an international treaty that aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. It was signed opened for signature in 1970 and by 1990 190 parties have joined the treaty, including The United States, Russia, The United Kingdom, Chine and France.

The treaty holds three main points, non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology. By this treaty that Iran has signed, Iran is allowed the right to use nuclear energy but in 2003 the IAEA Directory General reported that Iran has repeatedly failed to meet its safeguards obligations, including failing to declare its uranium enrichment program. The IAEA reported to the United Nations Security Council in 2006 of their failure to comply with the IAEA safeguards agreement.

The Security Council passed a resolution which demanded that Iran suspend their enrichment program, instead Iran continued. Iran has already advanced beyond the point where its choices consist of whether or not it should actually create some form of nuclear weapons capability. Its weapons are steadily getting better and its nuclear technology and manufacturing is nearing the point where they can choose to build a nuclear weapon in a year or so. Every act Iran takes will produce a hostile or defensive response from the international community. Israel is probably preparing itself for a conflict between themselves and Iran.

It is unclear if Egypt, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia would seek to match Iran’s growing nuclear program but s regional arms race is probable. The United States response is even harder to predict but its response will surely consist of deterrence but also might choose military action to halt Iran’s nuclear program. No matter what the outcome, it is clear that the region is not stable while Iran continues its nuclear programs. The complicated mixture of countries involved and their different perspectives will also create a domino effect that could escalate to the use of nuclear weapons.

In the upcoming years it will be harder to control the situation and limit the chance of a military conflict. While the situation is still under control, there are still possible options for dealing with Iranian proliferation. There is a wide range of ways that outside states can react to Iran’s options, some of which are already in play: diplomacy and dialog, sanctions, regime change, preventive or preemptive strikes before Iran has a significant force, containment, deterrence, and defense.

Diplomacy and dialog, which is in place now, is being used to convince Iran that they do not face any real threat that would call for the need to proliferate. This tactics is an attempt to stop the vicious circle cause by the security dilemma. Sanctions are typing to put economic pressure on Iran by the use of controls and measures that limit Iran’s access to technology and limit its access to arms. In the hope of crippling Iran economically, the sanctions will hopefully force Iran to stop its proliferation.

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