Rene — ''Why Nuclear Weapons May Be In Iran's National Interests''

Topic(s): Iran | Comments Off on Rene — ''Why Nuclear Weapons May Be In Iran's National Interests''

”Why Nuclear Weapons May Be In Iran’s National Interests”
20 August, 2003
For more than two decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been at odds
with the foreign policy of the United States. The most significant clash
between the two countries began shortly after the election of Premier
Mohammed Mossadeq, who took power in Tehran in 1951. Mossadeq, a
nationalist, nationalized the oil industry and formed the National Iranian
Oil Company. Due to this action, the United States and Great Britain
engineered a coup in August of 1953, overthrowing the democratically elected
leader and replacing Mossadeq with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, referred to as the
Shah, who ruled for twenty-five years. Shortly after taking power, the Shah
allowed an international consortium of American, British, French and Dutch
oil companies to operate its oil facilities and reap fifty percent of the
profits. Despite the Shah’s close, friendly relationship with Washington and
other Western governments, his brutal autocratic methods of violently
quelling domestic dissent with his dreaded security apparatus, the SAVAK,
sparked a revolution in Iranian society led by conservative religious
leaders. By overthrowing the U.S. supported government, therefore
threatening U.S. interests in the region, the new Iranian leaders quickly
became enemies of successive American administrations.
Moreover, on top of earning the disregard of the world’s only superpower,
Iran also has found itself in a geographically volatile region. During the
1980s, Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party,
invaded Iran in an attempt to conquer valuable territory such as the
disputed Shatt al Arab waterway. The war was devastating to both the Iraqis
and the Iranians. Since the end of that conflict in 1988, Iran and Iraq have
had terse relations. In addition to Iraq, Iran is also threatened by the
region’s most powerful state, Israel, which has a carefully defended nuclear
monopoly in the Middle East. In 1981, Israel launched a surprise air attack
on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in an attempt to dash Baghdad’s goal of
developing nuclear arms; Israel’s aim was to preserve its nuclear monopoly
in the Middle East. It is clear that Israel would seriously consider similar
action in Iran, should Tehran come closer to developing nuclear arms.
To add to its security woes, Iran has been facing a rapidly changing balance
of power directly on its borders. In 2001, the United States overthrew the
Taliban leadership in Afghanistan. While the Taliban was still in power,
Iran had little to fear from its eastern border; it faced an unorganized
state constantly in the throes of civil war. Yet with the removal of the
Taliban from power, Iran now faces a border area littered with U.S. troops
hostile to Tehran. In addition to Afghanistan, Iran also faces threats along
its western flank with Iraq. While Tehran certainly did not bemoan the fall
of the Ba’ath Party, it is justifiably concerned about its replacement: A
U.S. occupational force situated on its western border. Furthermore, if U.S.
objectives are realized in Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran’s current leadership
will face a perilous future of being enveloped by unfriendly states,
beholden to U.S. interests.
It is for these security concerns that the Iranian state would want to
develop and acquire nuclear weapons. Already Iran has greatly improved its
missile delivery capabilities, with the potential of launching missiles into
Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel. If Tehran were to become nuclear-armed, it
would end Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the Middle East and also give Iran
the capability of launching nuclear strikes on surrounding states. However,
even with such a nuclear arsenal, Iran, like all nuclear-armed states, would
most likely use its nuclear capability as a deterrent and not as an
offensive weapon. Becoming nuclear-armed would increase Iran’s foreign
policy leverage in dealing with U.S. forces on its eastern and western
borders, the state of Israel, and whatever new governments may form in both
Afghanistan and Iraq.
In addition to being concerned about U.S. troops on its eastern and western
borders, Tehran is worried about covert activities by U.S. intelligence
agencies in their quest to seek the Bush administration’s much touted
“regime change” policy in Iran, which was classified by the White House as
being part of an “axis of evil.” Such rhetoric began with the election of
the Bush administration in 2000, in which a group of administration
officials took office that had been abnormally antagonistic to the Iranian
government and uncharacteristically friendly with the current hard-line
Likud government in Israel. These officials, often categorized as
neo-conservatives, openly seek to remove the leadership in Tehran in an
attempt to foster a U.S.-friendly government in the oil rich state, along
with removing a potential threat to Israel, a firm American ally in the
region. Tehran is concerned that U.S. and British support will bolster the
power of Iranian rebels operating from Iraq. In fact, in 1997 Iran executed
a series of air attacks in Iraqi territory in order to weaken these rebel
groups; such an overt policy would be impossible now due to the U.S. and
British occupation.
Finally, with the unilateral invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq — with
the latter invasion taking place in direct opposition to the United Nations
and the global population — Tehran remains in the dark about the Bush
administration’s next move. Learning from these examples, Iran, like North
Korea, another state that is part of the Bush administration’s “axis of
evil,” knows that should it acquire nuclear weapons, it would be much more
difficult for Washington to attack it. Any assault by Iran’s current
adversaries — the United States and Israel — would have to take into
account the possible repercussions that come with attacking a nuclear-armed
state capable of causing extensive damage to its opponents either with
conventional or nuclear weapons.
While Iran’s adversaries could attempt to launch a massive strike that would
destroy its nuclear arsenal or its delivery systems, such a strike would
have to have a 100 percent success ratio in order to be certain that a
devastating retaliatory blow would not occur. Failure to eliminate a
nuclear-armed state’s second strike capability could lead to unacceptable
consequences on the side of the attacking state. If an offshore power like
the United States were to launch an attack, Iran could not initiate a
conventional or nuclear attack on the U.S. mainland, but it could easily
strike U.S. troops in either Afghanistan or Iraq.
Therefore, it is clear that developing nuclear weapons is in the national
interests of Tehran. While Tehran cannot openly develop nuclear weapons —
due to the international outcry it would warrant — it can continue its
research into peaceful nuclear energy all the while preparing for a possible
day when it could quickly develop its first nuclear weapons and become a
nuclear-armed state. Such status would shield Iran from a variety of outside
threats — including ones emanating from its traditional rivals, the United
States and Israel — but also from the newly formed governments in Kabul and
It will be important to monitor the reactions of the United States and
Israel to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology. How will these two states
seek to preserve their balance of power in the region? Does the Bush
administration still retain the political leverage within the U.S. domestic
population to transform its current rhetoric into a tangible policy of
removing Tehran’s leadership? And will the state of Israel risk the
potentially disastrous political and military consequences of attempting to
preserve its nuclear monopoly in the region? It is these questions that will
grow increasingly important in the coming months.
Report Drafted By:
Erich Marquardt
The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an analysis-based publication
that seeks to, as objectively as possible, provide insight into various
conflicts, regions and points of interest around the globe. PINR approaches
a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral
judgments to the reader. PINR seeks to inform rather than persuade.