Ideas on Revive Iran Nuclear: Analytical Essay

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Research of the IRI nuclear program in the context of international and regional security should be implemented with the involvement of primarily realistic tradition - classical realism and neorealism. After all, realism in a broad sense is the direction of the theory of international relations, which focuses in detail and comprehensively on issues related to power, weapons (including nuclear), as well as security. At the same time, classical realism emphasizes the level of actors, and neorealism - at the level of international systems.

Power politics prevail in the Middle East region because of its fluid geopolitical configuration and potential change in the regional balance of power. Therefore, Waltz's theory of neorealism about nuclear weapons as the most effective security guarantee, a specific 'weapon of peace' best reveals the topic of the report. According to Kenneth Waltz, nuclear weapons can contribute to stability and reduce the possibility of developing full-scale conflict between the countries that possess them[footnoteRef:1]. R. Rauhhaus agrees that the presence of nuclear weapons in two states can reduce the likelihood of armed conflict between them, but emphasizes that the likelihood of armed conflict is higher if one state possesses nuclear weapons and the other does not[footnoteRef:2]. [1: 2. Kenneth, N.W. (1981) The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May be Better. Adelphi Papers. 171. London: International Institute for Strategic Studies. [Online] Available from: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/waltz1.htm] [2: Rauchhaus R. Evaluating the Nuclear Peace Hypothesis: A Quantitative Approach // Journal of Conflict Resolution. 2009. Vol. 53 № 2 (April). P. 258–277.]

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The example of the Middle East is characterized by dynamic interactions of international actors. In our time, the Middle East is an explosive region, since there is a protracted acute regional conflict - the Arab-Israeli one; conflicts between many Muslim states; here are the largest strongholds of international terrorism; the region, as a world energy storehouse, is the focus of the interests of global players; Israel is outside the NPT regime and possesses nuclear weapons. However, according to some realists, the nuclearization of Iran could lead to stability in the Middle East region. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, the world community fears an uncontrolled nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Stephen Walt denies this and cites North Korea and Israel as examples. The testing of their nuclear weapons did not provoke neighboring countries to start developing nuclear weapons. He explains this by the fact that nuclear weapons in no way enhance the status of the state, but only ensure non-interference in its internal affairs, and reduce external pressure on the country [footnoteRef:3]. [3: Walt, S. (2009) Iran, arms races, and war. Foreign Policy. 1st October. [Online] Available from: https://foreignpolicy.com/2009/10/01/iran-arms-races-and-war/]

Opponents of nuclear proliferation fear that the new nuclear powers will not have a responsible attitude towards nuclear weapons, which could lead to accidental launches, theft, or other accidents with nuclear weapons. Kenneth Waltz refutes this argument by the fact that, over the 50 years of the existence of nuclear weapons, such incidents have happened, but did not lead to casualties or great material damage. Scientist also claims that the new nuclear countries will have a small number of weapons and materials, sufficient for deterrence, which is not so difficult to keep track of. There are also fears that violating states will begin to cooperate with terrorists. However, the Iranian government, like any other, will seek to maintain its power; therefore, it does not make sense to transfer expensive and dangerous weapons to forces that cannot be controlled[footnoteRef:4]. [4: Sagan, S. & Waltz, K. The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: An Enduring Debate Renewed. 3rd edition (W.W. Norton & Company, 2012)]

Also, realists refute the arguments about the irrationality, danger, and potential brutality of Iran. R. Takei emphasizes that in most direct clashes with enemies, Iran behaved cautiously. For example, in the Iran-Iraq war, Iran refrained from using chemical weapons, while Iraq used them. R. Takei explains Iran's desire to acquire nuclear weapons by the fact that it is surrounded by enemies, and the United States, by imposing economic sanctions and putting pressure on Iran, only provokes it to develop nuclear weapons[footnoteRef:5]. [5: Takeyh, R. (2003) Iran’s Nuclear Calculations. World Policy Journal. 20(2). [Online] Available from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40209856?seq=1]

The nuclear program involves the use of two main components - the peaceful atom and nuclear weapons. Iran's nuclear program has been declared peaceful from the beginning. On 5 March 1957, an agreement was signed with the United States on cooperation in the peaceful uses of the atom under the Atom for Peace program. In 1967, the country even had its Center for Nuclear Research, but Shah's regime showed no interest in developing nuclear weapons, and in 1968 signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, thus joining the ranks of non-nuclear states. Iran has thus, Iran undertook by the Article 2 NPT, not to manufacture or purchase nuclear warheads and explosive devices and not to accept any assistance in their production. This, in turn, allowed the state to fully engage in the development of a peaceful atom. The 1973 oil crisis accelerated Iran's nuclear program and established the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), the main function of which was operational control over Iran's civilian nuclear program.

After the revolution and the overthrow of Shah's power on November 15, 1979, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran was finally approved. It does not define non-nuclear status states, but also not prohibited from developing a nuclear program. The stabilization of the situation after the revolution and the Iran-Iraq war gave significant impetus to the development of the military and nuclear sphere. Concepts such as self-reliance, ‘holy defense,’ and export of the revolution first entered the military lexicon during the Iran-Iraq War and were codified as doctrine in the early 1990s.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Iran began negotiations with companies in Switzerland, the Netherlands, China, and the Soviet Union to purchase uranium enrichment technologies and produce heavy water. After the collapse of the USSR, IRI's cooperation with Russia intensified. At the same time, Iran's relations with the United States and the IAEA have deteriorated, accusing the Iranian government of pursuing secret nuclear weapons projects. By the mid-2000s, there had been a relative liberalization of relations between Iran and the West in the nuclear field. IRI has temporarily suspended the implementation of uranium enrichment programs, and an agreement has been reached on the further development of peaceful nuclear technologies.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) defended his vision of Iran's right to use nuclear energy. Statements and resolutions of the UN Security Council on Iran (since 2006) demanding the suspension of uranium enrichment and processing have not yielded any results, so there are grounds for imposing sanctions on this country. And in early 2007, the United States significantly considered the military solution to the conflict with Iran not only because of the need to forcibly stop the development of nuclear and missile programs but also given Iran's support for international terrorism. On May 17, 2010, the Iranian government signed an agreement with Turkey and Brazil to exchange enriched Iranian uranium for nuclear material suitable for scientific use. Because of this, the UN Security Council voted 12 votes in favor of Resolution 1929 (2010), which provided for new sanctions on IRI. In early 2012, the attitude of several countries to Iran deteriorated again, threatening Tehran with new sanctions. At the same time, the United States and France did not rule out the start of hostilities against Iran, and Australia and Japan were preparing in case of war to assist the United States. However, Iran did not make concessions but instead suggested the possibility of closing the Strait of Hormuz in the event of new sanctions by the West.

In Iran's negotiations with the United States and EU members from 2006 to 2012 on the use of nuclear energy, nuclear fuel, and other components of the nuclear program, Tehran has consistently stated that it will continue to develop peaceful nuclear energy and defend itself in the nuclear field despite the threat of sanctions. In the event of further unfair pressure from the international community, Iran has declared its readiness to terminate its participation in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. A compromise on Iran's nuclear program was hampered until the election of Iran's new president, H. Rouhani, on June 4, 2013. At that time, a document was signed that provided an international influence on Iran's nuclear program, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)[footnoteRef:6]. But in 2018, the United States announced its withdrawal from the JCPOA and the resumption of sanctions against Tehran, due to the imperfection of this document. The victory of Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential elections in November 2020 has become a new hope for improving relations with Iran, but the provocative murder of Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which official Tehran blames on Israel and the United States, casts doubt on the possibility of a return to negotiations between the two countries. [6: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Vienna, 14 July 2015: Letter dated 16 July 2015 from the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council // UN Security URL: https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N15/225/49/PDF/N1522549.pdf?OpenElement]

Despite Tehran's assurances to the international community that the country's nuclear program has an exceptionally peaceful purpose, the US and their European allies, as well as certain Middle East states, including Israel, are concerned about Iran's ability to develop nuclear weapons. The situation around the Iranian nuclear program has been on the brink of war several times, each time going back to the diplomatic way, the negotiations taking place while the realization of tough sanctions on Iran by the international community. Therefore, the prospect of developing the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear program as an example of the nuclear non-proliferation regime is an important factor determining international security not only in the Middle East region but in the world as a whole. Also one of the features of Iran's nuclear program is that a lot of states at different stages of its development were involved in it.

K. Waltz identifies three main ways to resolve Iran's nuclear question. The first solution involves the West's use of force through sanctions and diplomatic pressure to force Iran to curtail its nuclear program. The second decision is to envisage deterring Iran 'one step' from testing a nuclear charge, but while maintaining the possibility of its implementation. At the same time, Iran will not be the first country to have a complex nuclear infrastructure, but will not have a nuclear bomb. The third decision will have negative consequences. This is Iran's continuation of the military component of its nuclear program, its creation of a nuclear charge, and its testing. Such an approach by Tehran is likely to lead to military intervention by Israel and the United States. Waltz believes that the threat to Iran's nuclear program is somewhat exaggerated, particularly in the area of Iran's ability to hand over nuclear weapons to terrorists[footnoteRef:7]. [7: Waltz, K.N. (2012) Why Iran Should Get The Bomb. International Affairs. July/August 2012. [Online] Available from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23218033?seq=1]

D. Harrison Smith believes that efforts to coerce Iran into altering its foreign policy have failed due to a lack of understanding of the extent to which Iranian national identity affects its attitudes toward nuclear development and openness to cooperating with Western powers. In this sense, mutual animosity and confrontational engagement continue to prevent the achievement of any meaningful diplomatic progress. Attempts to force Iran to change its foreign policy have failed due to a lack of understanding of Iran's national identity and its openness to nuclear development and openness to cooperation with Western nations[footnoteRef:8]. [8: Harrison Smith D. Reinterpreting Nuclear Consequences: Realism, Constructivism, and the Iranian Crisis. URL: https://soundideas.pugetsound.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1007&context=ipe_theses]

M. Kroenig, a strong advocate of preventive strikes against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, argues that Iran’s strategic objective in acquiring a nuclear capability“ is to deter an attack on itself from the United States and to a lesser degree Israel.” Tehran is aware that a nuclear deterrent has been the only proven way to repel a U.S. attack. Nuclear proliferation theorists have introduced the concept of nuclear latency to describe a state’s capacity to have sufficient resources to support a weapons program [footnoteRef:9]. [9: Kroenig, Matthew. 2014. A Time to Attack: The Looming Iranian Nuclear Threat. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan p.32]

Nuclear weapons are a superb deterrent for states that feel threatened by rival powers. Simply put, no state is likely to attack the homeland or vital interests of a nuclear-armed state for fear that such a move might trigger a horrific nuclear response. S. Walt and D. Mirsheimer reject the neoconservative position that nuclear Iran poses a threat to US security and call the main motive of the United States in preventing the nuclearization of Iran's unwillingness to allow it to become a regional hegemon. In a debate with Sagan, Waltz exposes the true motives of the United States as follows: rogue states that possess nuclear weapons will be able to deter the strong, but they will be unrestrained. As a result, the United States will no longer be able to 'just take and intervene,' as has happened in Iraq. This argument reaffirms the defensive nature of nuclear weapons. Thus, in the Middle East, if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, the situation may stabilize, as Israel's military power will be balanced and the position of the antagonists will be fixed at the stage of inadmissibility of hostilities. The only way to resolve disputes will be through a negotiation process[footnoteRef:10]. [10: Mearsheimer J. Nuclear-Armed Iran Would Bring ‘Stability’ but Risks // PBS. URL: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/nuclear-armed-iran-would-bring-stability-but-risks ]

Strategies focusing on isolation and sanctions cannot produce the desired non-proliferation effect. Progress in normalizing US-Iranian diplomatic relations could be the start of an Iranian reversal. The United States and the international community must provide concrete opportunities for Iran to increase its diplomatic recognition. The result would be a kind of nonnuclear “status accommodation” for Iran in world politics. Also, the United States and other countries could help increase Iranian participation in international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, which is a priority for Iran. If the US aims for Iranian reversal, it would do well to honor US commitments to sanctions relief made in the JCPOA as a means to reduce Iran’s ostracism. Military engagement with the Iranian military and the Revolutionary Guards, drawing on the experience of humanitarian operations, could increase interest in non-nuclear routes to international prestige. States might also consider prudent educational and material support to civil society organizations [footnoteRef:11]. [11: Andrew Prosser, Much Ado about Nothing?: Status Ambitions and Iranian Nuclear Reversal. Strategic Studies Quarterly Vol. 11, No. 2 (SUMMER 2017), pp. 26-81]

Therefore, offensive realism can be explained why the United States wants to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear deterrent. A great power that is a hegemon in its region, such as the United States, will intervene in other areas of the world to prevent the rise of another regional hegemon. Defensive realism explains the desire to acquire nuclear weapons because of the state's fear of an attack. The defensive realist policy of Iran exacerbates the U.S. offensive realist policy, which in turn creates further reasons for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon in the first place. Interestingly, both policies feed into one another in a way that is best captured by the concept of the security dilemma, which is referred to as a situation wherein one state’s investment in its security increases another state’s insecurity. Iranian reversal requires reducing Iran's perceived security threats. The policy of defusing conflicts in the Middle East and ensuring security in Iran must be more effective than the threat of military force.

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