Nuclear Iran would be a threat to international security
There are three threats that are likely to increase following Iran's acquisition of a nuclear option:
- Even more nuclear proliferation. Iran's continued insistence that it acquired its nuclear capabilities legally under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) would, if unchallenged, encourage its neighbors (including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Algeria) to develop nuclear options of their own and overtly declare possession or import weapons from elsewhere.
- Dramatically higher oil prices. A nuclear-ready Iran could be emboldened to manipulate oil prices upward, either by threatening the freedom of the seas (by mining oil transit points as it did in the 1980s or by seeking to close the Straits of Hormuz) or by using terrorist proxies to threaten the destruction of Saudi and other Gulf state oil facilities and pipelines.
- Increased terrorism geared to diminish U.S. influence. With a nuclear weapons option acting as a deterrent to U.S. and allied action against it, Iran would likely lend greater support to terrorists operating against Israel, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Europe, and the U.S.
All of these threats are serious. If realized, they would undermine U.S. and allied efforts to foster moderate rule in the Middle East, and set into play a series of international competitions that could ultimately result in major wars.
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There has been a consensus in the international community — especially in the United States, Europe, and Russia — that Iran should not acquire nuclear weapons. It would be a serious blow to the NPT if Iran were to do so. It might provoke other states in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria, for example) to pursue nuclear weapons, thereby further destabilizing an already volatile region. Iranian policies, as well as belligerent statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders, suggest that Iranian nuclear weapons would pose a particular danger to Israel. In the longer run, if Iran acquired nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, it could pose a nuclear threat to Russia, Europe, and the United States.
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In the abstract, nuclear arms should provide a set of advantages; however, practically, pursuit of nuclear weapons engenders a large set of negative consequences. First, ‘‘proliferation begets proliferation.’’14 If Iran obtains nuclear arms, it is likely that other states in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and perhaps Egypt, would pursue nuclear arms as well. This would create a dramatically increased threat to Iran, as neither Egypt nor Saudi Arabia could successfully mount a significant offensive against Iran using only conventional arms. Moreover, the more nuclear weapons that exist in the region, the greater the chances that accidental detonation, theft, or other unauthorized use could affect Iran. Second, by pursuing nuclear weapons, Iran risks a preemptive strike by other states hoping to deny Iranian aims. Likewise, if Iran is successful in obtaining nuclear arms, in the event of conflict Iran’s adversary could decide to launch a preemptive strike to destroy Iranian nuclear arms before they could be used. Without a publicly known, guaranteed second-strike capability, the very presence of a nuclear program is destabilizing. Third, states that might otherwise have a neutral policy toward Iran could fear the increased Iranian military capability represented by nuclear weapons and join a coalition aimed at balancing Iranian power, thereby creating new threats to Iran. Fourth, Iran would face challenges in securing its nuclear arms. With messianic Islamist extremists present in parts of the regime, including within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), protection against the theft or other unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon or nuclear materials by insiders would be particularly important. Yet new nuclear powers typically do not have sophisticated security devices such as permissive action links (coded locks) on their weapons or precise material control and accounting procedures. Fifth, the international community, acting through the United Nations, has made nonproliferation a major goal. Various sanctions are emplaced against proliferators, aimed at pressuring them to abandon their nuclear programs. Tough sanctions, appropriately monitored and enforced, could produce devastating economic effects on Iran, threatening the survival of the targeted regime. Thus, in determining whether nuclear arms are beneficial, the Iranian regime, if rational, must take each of these negative factors into account.
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A nuclear-capable Iran will represent a complex security challenge. Generally, six concerns have been raised. A nuclear Iran might: (1) limit US, European, and Israeli military mobility in Iran’s strategic backyard and coerce neighboring Arab states; (2) become emboldened, increasingly ambitious, and more risk accepting in its foreign policy; (3) better protect and defend its militant nonstate proxies; (4) increase its support for terrorism (up to and including nuclear terrorism); (5) confront Israel directly (up to and including launching a nuclear first strike);4 and (6) undermine the nonproliferation regime by compelling other states to seek their own nuclear capabilities. Of these concerns, the first four—coercion, assertiveness, protection, and nuclear terrorism—are explored in further detail. Employing the logic and theory of deterrence, the article suggests ways in which the United States and its allies might contend with, contain, and coerce nuclear Iran in its relationship with terrorism and nonstate proxies.
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The Iranian nuclear program is one of the new century’s principal for- eign policy challenges to the United States. An Iranian nuclear weapons capability could further destabilize an already precarious security situation in a key region of the world. It could also upset the existing military balance between an adversarial Iran on the one hand and the United States and its regional allies on the other. This could have important negative consequences for U.S. and world unfettered access to the region’s energy resources, a prerequisite for economic growth and stability in a world only just recovering from a major financial catastrophe. It could also put U.S. interests and U.S. military forces at risk in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the Middle East. Finally, it could trigger a regional nuclear arms race, prompt Israel to declare its opaque nuclear arsenal, or even risk nuclear conflict.
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[ABRAMS] A broad international coalition agrees that Iran must freeze its nuclear weapons program and may not develop either of the ingredients—sufficient highly enriched uranium and a usable warhead and delivery system—that could result in a bomb for the Islamic Republic. The International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors, the UN Secu- rity Council, and the governments of almost every influential country— including the United States, Russia, China, Germany, Britain, and France, acting as the P5+1 negotiating group—have not only reached consensus on this demand but acted upon it. Increasingly tough sanctions have been imposed on Iran to force it to stop what is obviously a military program aimed at building a usable nuclear weapon. These diplomatic steps and these tightened sanctions reflect a wide consensus about the dangers that an Iranian nuclear weapon would bring.
"Attacking Iran's Nuclear Project
." World Affairs
. Vol. 175, No. 1 (May-June 2012): 25-38. [ More (7 quotes) ]
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The dangers of Iran’s entry into the nuclear club are well known: emboldened by this development, Tehran might multiply its attempts at subverting its neighbors and encouraging terrorism against the United States and Israel; the risk of both conventional and nuclear war in the Middle East would escalate; more states in the region might also want to become nuclear powers; the geopolitical balance in the Middle East would be reordered; and broader eaorts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons would be undermined. The advent of a nuclear Iran—even one that is satisfied with having only the materials and infrastructure necessary to assemble a bomb on short notice rather than a nuclear arsenal—would be seen as a major diplo- matic defeat for the United States. Friends and foes would openly question the U.S. government’s power and resolve to shape events in the Middle East. Friends would respond by distancing themselves from Washington; foes would challenge U.S. policies more aggressively.
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For many reasons, it would be better if Iran had neither nuclear weapons,nor the enabling technologies that would permit it to build nuclear weapons:
- Neither nuclear energy nor nuclear weapons are risk-free technologies -- new civil and military nuclear powers run the risks of any novice. These include environmental problems, equipment failures, and unsafe or insecure weapons storage.
- It is natural for the nonnuclear states in the region to fear a nuclear Iran. These fears may cause countermeasures that are fraught with danger -- including national nuclear energy or weapons programs of their own -- which also would run "novice" risks.
- As other states try to acquire nuclear weapons, they may inadvertently threaten each other, setting off new security competitions.
- Iran and any of its neighbors that chose to deploy nuclear weapons mayhave problems developing a secure basing method, which could tempt them to adopt "hair trigger," day-to-day alert postures, which in turn could raise the risks of accidental war or preemptive war.
- Iran may be emboldened by its possession of nuclear weapons, and could threaten the security of regional or distant powers.
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This article, relying on research and meetings with the nation's leading experts on Iran, the Middle East, and nuclear proliferation -- and based upon a working group report on these issues -- is intended to make recommendations designed to reduce the harm Iran might do or encourage if it gained nuclear weapons. There are three threats that are likely to increase following Iran's acquisition of a nuclear option.
Even more nuclear proliferation. Iran's continued insistence that it acquired its nuclear capabilities legally under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) would, if unchallenged, encourage its neighbors (including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Algeria) to develop nuclear options of their own and overtly declare possession or import weapons from elsewhere. Such announcements and efforts would likely undermine nuclear nonproliferation restraints internationally and strain American relations with most of its friends in the Middle East.
Dramatically higher oil prices. A nuclear-ready Iran could be emboldened to manipulate oil prices upward, either by threatening the freedom of the seas (by mining oil transit points as it did in the 1980s or by seeking to close the Straits of Hormuz) or by using terrorist proxies to threaten the destruction of Saudi and other Gulf state oil facilities and pipelines.
Increased terrorism geared to diminish U.S. influence. With a nuclear weapons option acting as a deterrent to U.S. and allied action against it, Iran would likely lend greater support to terrorists operating against Israel, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Europe, and the U.S. The objective would be to reduce American support for U.S. involvement in the Middle East, for Israel, and for actions against Iran generally, and to elevate Iran as an equal to the U.S. and its allies on all matters connected to the Persian Gulf and related regions. An additional aim of Iran's support for terrorism would be to keep other nations from backing U.S. policies, including a continued U.S. military presence in the Middle East.
All of these threats are serious. If realized, they would undermine U.S. and allied efforts to foster moderate rule in the Middle East, and set into play a series of international competitions that could ultimately result in major wars. Most U.S. and allied policymakers understand this and are now occupied with trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. As Iran gets closer to securing this option, though, two possible courses of action -- bombing or bribing Iran -- have become increasingly popular. Neither, however, is likely to succeed, and each could easily make matters worse.
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Such a study may seem unnecessary to some in light of the December 2007 NIE, but Iran's nuclear program remains one of the most serious threats to U.S. interests and Middle East peace. Iran continues to enrich uranium-the most difficult component of a nu- clear weapons program-and continues to conduct work that could contribute to nuclear weapons development. As the NIE states, Iran now possesses the ''scientific, technical, and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so.'' Consequently, the NIE judges ''with moderate confidence'' that Iran will have enough highly-enriched uranium (HEU) to produce a nuclear weapon by 2010--2015. Furthermore, because the motivations inspiring the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons remain unaddressed, Iran remains unlikely to fully abandon its long-term drive to obtain a nuclear weapon capability. If in fact Iran halted the other aspects of its nuclear weapons program in 2003, this action almost certainly represents a tactical pause rather than a strategic change of course. In short, Iran now possesses the means as well as the motivation to develop nuclear weapons. Consequently, based on Iran's acquired capabilities and Iran's continued motivations, it is entirely possible that the United States could confront a nuclear-armed or nuclear weapons capable Iran in the next decade.
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Iran's nuclear development may pose the most significant strategic threat to the United States during the next Administration. A nuclear-ready or nuclear-armed Islamic Republic ruled by the clerical regime could threaten the Persian Gulf region and its vast energy resources, spark nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East, inject additional volatility into global energy markets, embolden extremists in the region and destabilize states such as Saudi Arabia and others in the region, provide nuclear technology to other radical regimes and terrorists (although Iran might hesitate to share traceable nuclear technology), and seek to make good on its threats to eradicate Israel. The threat posed by the Islamic Republic is not only direct Iranian action but also aggression committed by proxy. Iran remains the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism, proving its reach from Buenos Aires to Baghdad.
The author argues that unlike the current nuclear powers, Iran has demonstrated that it is irrational and cannot be trusted to develop nuclear weapons.
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