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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Second, measure Iran's influence in the Middle East, the Gulf, Lebanon, Gaza; its agreements with Syria; its presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia; and its role in Iraq. Saudi Arabia is probably the Gulf country most worried about Tehran, although Riyadh has expressed little publicly so far on the subject. The Iranian nuclear program also casts a shadow over Egypt and Turkey. Egypt is preoccupied by Tehran extending its sphere of infl uence with the bomb and afraid to be drawn into a conflict between Iran and some of the smaller Gulf states. Turkey, for all its ambiguous policy concerning Tehran, will never accept a hegemonic Iran that throws its weight around thanks to nuclear weaponry. Nor will it accept a Middle East with only two nuclear powers: Israel and Iran. Concerning Iraq, an unpredicted consequence of the war is Tehran's growing influence there. At a time when his own citizens are fighting inflation, Ahmadinejad announced a billion-dollar reconstruction loan during his state visit to Iraq in March 2008. He also said foreign forces should leave Iraq immediately, hoping to still increase its influence when this will eventually be done. In Afghanistan, Iran has conflicting interests: ensuring stability of a neighboring country and destabilizing U.S. troops, which explains Iran's contradictory policy of helping declared enemies (the Taliban and Al Qaeda) up to a certain point. Limiting Iran's ability to interfere in such a sensitive zone should be a major goal of any sound policy. This means preventing the acquisition of the most destructive weapon available.
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Third, we must fully realize what it would mean to deal with a nuclear-armed Iran. An Iranian bomb would strengthen the more radical elements in Iran who would be buoyed by nuclear success; it would extend Iran's sphere of influence; it would expose the weakness of its neighbors; and it could result in a Middle East with a number of nuclear actors that would make it utterly unpredictable and even unmanageable. A nuclear Iran would jeopardize the fragile hopes of any virtuous circle in the region, and possibly the entire nonproliferation regime, which would not be able to withstand an assault of this magnitude in the most strategically sensitive part of the world. Tehran may not necessarily use the bomb to destroy Israel, as it claims, but who wants to test that hypothesis in the real world? And even if such is the case, an Iranian bomb would by its own existence be an unacceptable coercion on neighbors and on powers present in the region. In a situation in which Iran does not even acknowledge its military program, no one can describe the command and control or safety mechanisms that Tehran has in mind. This will greatly increase the fear that something might go wrong inadvertently or, in a time of crisis, possible misunderstandings—the very situation nuclear experts dread. Realism would therefore counsel to ask the following questions: What could be expected from Tehran with the bomb, taking into account what it already does without it? And are the risks tolerable? President-elect Barack Obama answered the last question with a clear "no."
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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.
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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