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Iran's Nuclear Ambitions

Iran's Nuclear Ambitions

Shahram Chubin
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 222
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  • Book Info
    Iran's Nuclear Ambitions
    Book Description:

    Iran is aggressively seeking nuclear technology that could be used for making weapons -and its quest has set off alarms throughout the world. This widespread concern stems in part from Iran's uncertain intentions and recent history. Will it remain a revolutionary power determined to subvert its Sunni Arab neighbors, destroy Israel, and spread theocratic government to other lands? Or would an Iran with nuclear weapons merely defend its territory from foreign aggression and live in peace with its neighbors? Are the country's leaders and society willing to negotiate limits on nuclear capability and normalize relations with the West, or will they resist accommodation? Iran's Nuclear Ambitions provides a rare, balanced look into the motivations, perceptions, and domestic politics swirling around Iran. Shahram Chubin, an Iranian-born security expert, details the recent history of Iran's nuclear program and diplomacy. He argues that the central problem is not nuclear technology, but rather Iran's behavior as a revolutionary state, with ambitions that collide with the interests of its neighbors and the West. Topics include: The view from Tehran Iran's nuclear energy rationale, domestic politics, and decisionmaking Sources of concern, including the nature of Iran's regime, its nuclear infrastructure, missile development, and terrorism Iran's negotiating strategy The international response Iran and regional security, including the U.S. as a threat and rival, Iran's regional ambitions, and Israel Policy options

    eISBN: 978-0-87003-291-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Jessica T. Mathews

    Iran’s nuclear program looms ever larger among international threats. Were Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, it could menace Israel, whose existence Iran does not recognize, blackmail smaller neighboring states, and possibly deter the United States from fulfilling security guarantees to regional states or projecting power throughout the Persian Gulf. A nuclear Iran could be emboldened to foment political unrest throughout the Middle East, especially in countries with large Shiite minorities. Moreover, if Iran were to succeed in continuing to defy IAEA and, perhaps, UN Security Council demands to come back into compliance with its non-proliferation obligations, the effectiveness of...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Acronyms
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  6. Iranian Nuclear Chronology
    (pp. xiv-xx)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    In its twenty-seventh year, it is not clear whether the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) still rejects the international system and seeks to overturn it, or is striving to improve its position within the system. This question is posed starkly with respect to Iran’s quest for a nuclear capability. Important as it is to keep the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) intact, it appears doubly so when faced by the threat of a revolutionary Iran seeking a nuclear capability. Given the nature of the Iranian regime and its past behavior, Iran’s nuclear aspirations appear...

  8. 1 The View from Tehran
    (pp. 14-23)

    Revolutionary states see the world as a hostile place and tend to act to make it so. A fundamental ambivalence characterizes such states. They alternately feel impelled to spread their message but feel surrounded by hostile states; they veer between overconfidence and insecurity. In Iran’s case, the default position in its foreign policy has been one of obstructionism, due as much to its worldview as to its response to the strategic environment. Normalization and routinization of foreign policy necessitates jettisoning revolutionary claims, which are believed to be an intrinsic part of the regime’s legitimacy. The revolutionary reflex competes with a...

  9. 2 Nuclear Energy Rationale, Domestic Politics, and Decision Making
    (pp. 24-43)

    Iran argues that it is developing nuclear energy to generate electricity and to master the fuel cycle to become a supplier of nuclear fuel in the future. Its arguments in support of this claim are both economic and strategic. Iran is a major producer of oil and soon gas, and it justifies its interest in nuclear technology by reference to the need to diversify its energy sources and keep abreast of a technology that it identifies as modern and synonymous with being an advanced scientific state. Initially cancelled by the Islamic Republic, the Iranian nuclear program was restarted in the...

  10. 3 Fear of a Nuclear Iran
    (pp. 44-62)

    Iran is difficult to read and Iranian society is hard to categorize.¹ Iran is not a typical outlaw state in that it has at least some redeeming qualities: It is not overtly confrontational or given to wild swings in behavior or to delusional goals; it has not denounced arms control treaties to which it formally adheres; and there is evidence of pluralism and some debate within the country. Though a threat to Western interests, the nature of that threat is difficult to categorize. As was shown in Iraq, not being able to read a state’s nature can lead to faulty...

  11. 4 Iran’s Negotiating Strategy
    (pp. 63-80)

    Iran has improvised a strategy to deal with the “outing of its nuclear facilities” undeclared to the IAEA for nearly two decades. Iran’s tactics and negotiating style, far from reassuring the international community, have exacerbated the problem of trust. Thus, four years after the issue first surfaced, questions remain as to the extent and peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.

    The surprise revelation of its undeclared nuclear activities in 2002 caught Tehran unprepared. It came at a sensitive time, with victory in Afghanistan feeding a U.S. sense of confidence that was manifest in planning the next phase of the war...

  12. 5 The International Response
    (pp. 81-112)

    Despite initial differences, the United States, the EU-3, and the IAEA all agree on the need to prevent the emergence of a nuclear Iran. The differences, which have been on the best way to accomplish this goal, have not posed an obstacle to policies, which have been largely mutually reinforcing. U.S. pressure has energized the IAEA, and the threat of Iran’s referral to the UNSC has increased the IAEA’s leverage on Tehran. The agency’s prominent role as an international institution has made its medicine more palatable politically for Tehran (and Russia and China) and defused any notion that the issue...

  13. 6 Iran and Regional Security
    (pp. 113-133)

    Iran seeks a leading role in the Muslim world and the Middle East regional order. Its efforts have focused on reshaping this order to make it more conducive to Iran’s interests. This objective implies a correspondingly diminished role for the United States and the West, which are seen as rivals having a different vision of the regional order—a vision that is antithetical to Iranian interests and aspirations. Iran’s determination to have a dominant role in the region stems from Iranian nationalism in general, but the emphasis on revolutionary Iran as a role model, the exploitation of Islam, and the...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 134-148)

    I have argued that Iran’s nuclear ambitions reflect a broader Iranian challenge to the Middle Eastern regional order. A nuclear capability symbolizes Iran’s quest for regional leadership. It provides the means to block a U.S.-inspired regional order, which is seen as domineering, hegemonic, and imperial.¹ Such an order is seen as a threat to Iran and its pretensions to manage regional security.² In seeking to block it, Iran gives priority to its relations with Russia and China. In joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (as an observer), Iran joins an implicitly anti-NATO and anti-Western grouping.³ Iran seeks a regional order in...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 149-204)
  16. Glossary
    (pp. 205-208)
  17. Index
    (pp. 209-222)
  18. About the Author
    (pp. 223-223)
  19. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
    (pp. 224-224)