Iranís Nuclear Program: The linchpin to deter the US

by Christos Iacovou, Assistant Professor of International Relations, Intercollege

 

In I980ís, the Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime in Iraq vied to fill a power vacuum left by the fall of the Pahlavi dynasty. Today the roles have reversed, as the Islamic Republic of Iran trying to exert its influence in post-Saddam Iraq and beyond. Tehran's efforts to subvert progress in Iraq and to acquire nuclear weapons betray an over-arching scheme to dominate the Gulf region.

 

Iran's successful April 11 enrichment of uranium using 164 centrifuges is a mere prelude to "industrial scale" enrichment by the end of 2006. As the Iranian acquisition of a nuclear bomb nears, the threat of using force seems the only viable preventive measures. Gulf states can hardly establish a nuclear balance with Iran.

 

The Iranian nuclear program began under the Pahlavi dynasty and reflects the Stateís perception of itself as a great power with hegemonic aspirations in the Gulf region. Nowadays, Iranís nuclear program has been designed to provide a strategic response to American regional order in the Middle East. Tehran wants to be able to continue to oppose American policies and to deter possible American action against the Islamic Republic. The Iran regime has invested tremendous political capital in order to become a nuclear power. This behavior has accumulated following the rise of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency of the country and inevitably has worsened its relations with the United States.

 

The nuclear effort of Iran was intensified in the last three years and reflects a strong sense of vulnerability and threat perception which increased following the American military invasion in Afghanistan, on Iran's eastern border, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq, on its western border. The two invasions caused Tehran to feel encircled by the United States and more exposed to on American strategic siege. Tehran's attempts to strengthen its deterrence stem from its fear of attacks on the part of an American coercive diplomacy and/or its Middle East allies. In addition, Iran shares a border with Pakistan, a, long ago, nuclear-armed state. These factors provide Iran with an additional strong incentive for following the nuclear option.

 

As the diplomatic option is being exhausted and in the absence of a clear reversal on part of Iran, the United States will try to prod the Security Council into imposing a strict policy of sanctions against Tehran. Such sanctions will include economic and political isolation combined with a military quarantine tightly controlling what flows in and out of Iran. Iran seems ready to pay a high price for its foreign policy orientation. Actually, external pressure has been used more than once as a focal point for gaining domestic support for the Islamic regime. In the case of Iran, time is of critical importance, particularly if Iran wants to present the world with a nuclear reality in the Gulf region.

The other option for Washington is the military action. A military strike against Iranian nuclear installations involves many risks and complications. Is the US ready to experience another Iraq case? It remains uncertain.


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