Iranian nuclear program – A lingering challenge to 2015

19/01/2015


The Iranian nuclear programme has surfaced as one of the chief security, political and diplomatic challenges of the 21st century. Whether or not Iran actually builds nuclear weapons, its nuclear activities pose an acute challenge to international order. By defying International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demands and UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions to cease its suspect activities and build international confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, Iran continues to mock the rule-based system for preventing nuclear proliferation. If the Islamic Republic goes further and weaponizes the nuclear capabilities it is accruing, the risks of war in the Middle East will increase as Iran and its neighbors adjust to the shifts in power.
Undoubtedly, the Iranian nuclear programme would ‘throw existing security structures into flux’ causing a ‘fundamental rethink in regional strategic alignments’. Nuclear Iran is likely to complicate an already intricate geopolitical orientation of the Middle East, whose history has been mired in conflicts, distrust and a range of other integrated factors. In the region, Iran’s nuclear programme has caused serious anxiety among its neighbouring states, particularly Arab GCC states and Israel argue that reactions from neighbouring states span a broad spectrum, ranging from ‘accommodation and detente to outright hostility and opposition’ including ‘efforts to acquire a countervailing [nuclear] deterrent’. Undeniably, the complexity of forming cooperative security structures in the Middle East cannot be neglected.
Since the revelation in late 2002 that Iran was building facilities and acquiring other capabilities that could enable it to produce fuel for nuclear weapons, the United States, and later the UNSC, have demanded that Iran cease work related to the nuclear fuel cycle. Meanwhile, the collective Iranian leadership, headed by Supreme Guide Ayatollah Khamenei, has declared its bottom line from which it will not depart—Iran will not foreswear uranium enrichment formally or for any length of time that would seriously impede the technical development of this capability
If Iran decided to build nuclear weapons and was interrupted in the process by a military attack, it is extremely difficult to predict the consequences. Much would depend on the ensuing actions and reactions. We do know that there would be serious consequences in Iran itself, in the broader Middle East, and in the overall international system. It is slightly less difficult to predict what would happen if the Islamic Republic of Iran succeeded in acquiring a small nuclear arsenal. The primary threat would then be that the government of Iran, including the agencies that support subversive or terrorist organizations outside Iran, would be emboldened to challenge the interests of Israel, moderate Arab states, and the United States.
For example, groups such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the states or other actors that support them could be provided with more potent means of violence and subversion and encouraged to pursue causes they share with Iran’s ascendant Revolutionary Guard. These actors and Iran could believe that Iran’s nuclear capability would deter Israel and the United States from pursuing counterforce tactics against them.
Fearful, smaller Arab states in the Persian Gulf, as well as Egypt, might try to accommodate Iran in hopes of inducing it to refrain from actively threatening their interests. In return, Iran could demand that these states distance themselves from the United States and pursue more radical policies toward Israel. The United States would try to counter Iranian gains by intensifying military aid and other assistance to induce Iran’s neighbors to work more closely with the United States to contain Iran’s projection of power. The risks of acute crises and military conflicts would increase as Iran tried to project power and influence while being countered by the United States, Israel, and others. The ominous shadow of Iranian and Israeli nuclear weapons would hang over the political-security environment, resulting in the daunting prospect of managing crises that could go nuclear without significant warning.
The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted four resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran for its nuclear proliferation activities. The U.S. has had sanctions in place for many years against companies that invest in Iran's energy sector. The U.S. Treasury has also "blacklisted" Iranian companies involved in proliferation or terrorism to make banking transactions more difficult for them globally. Since July 2012, the European Union has banned all imports of Iranian oil. Previous sanctions from October 2010 had prevented EU-based companies from investing in Iran's energy sector or providing energy-sector technology to Iran.
The stakes are high, and nothing the United States, UNSC, or Israel could do has a high probability of resolving the situation happily. In the long term, a non-peaceful nuclear program will neither sustain nor secure the Iranian people, which can only exacerbate the structural weaknesses of the Iranian government. Increasing isolation from international investment and other cooperation will further weaken Iran, although it may not keep the country from building nuclear weapons.
For a number of years, the major world powers - The United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom (the "P5+1") - followed a two-track policy:  encouraging Iran to engage in diplomatic negotiations, while imposing increasingly comprehensive sanctions against Iran’s energy and financial sectors. Both the United States and Israel promoted the imposition of sanctions as well as the search for a diplomatic resolution, while warning that there will be a time limit for these policies, and that “all options” – including military action - remain on the table. 
On November 23, 2013, after intensive negotiations in Geneva, the P5+1 (the US, UK, China, Russia, France and Germany – with EU facilitation) and Iran announced that they had reached an interim agreement, a Joint Plan of Action,  which would put restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and, in exchange provide Iran with some sanctions relief.   The six month agreement was extended in July 2014 for another six months, and again on November 24, 2014.  It is now set to expire on July 1, 2015.  
By considering all aspects, it is evident that Iran’s nuclear programme would have very destabilizing impacts on international order, particularly on the region’s security. Neighbours’ fears of Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions and the emergence of new security dilemmas could ignite a nuclear arms race in the region, hence more proliferation. This could lead to a multipolar regional scenario which is regarded as being highly unstable. Moreover, a complex unstable regional order, the lack of communication infrastructure between Iran and Israel, and a likely pre-emptive strike make the equation more devastating, and, perhaps, as some analysts argue, it could light up a nuclear war.
So, as entering new year 2015, let us hope for a peaceful solution to this nuclear issue and peace and prosperity for all./.
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All comments [ 10 ]


Phạm Hiếu 19/1/15 20:56

Iran’s long history of noncompliance with safeguards requirements and the suspect nature of some of its activities require a suspension of further fuel-cycle development to build international confidence that Iran’s nuclear intentions and actions are purely peaceful.

Lê Tín 19/1/15 21:00

There are many prevailing uncertainties. Whether Iran’s nuclear programme has an actual military dimension remains uncertain and hypothetical.

Quân Hoàng 19/1/15 21:04

The Middle East is different from South Asia where only two powers are major adversaries and arguably had the economic means to develop nuclear weapons.

Huy Quốc 19/1/15 21:09

I don't think Iran can produce nuclear weapons.

Quốc Cường 19/1/15 21:13

Iran’s neighbours, particularly the GCC Arab states and Israel, are concerned about Iran’s behaviour if it becomes a nuclear power.

Hùng Quân 19/1/15 21:16

Many fear that Iran has regional ambitions and once it has gained nuclear capability it would be more aggressive and assertive.

Quốc Kiên 19/1/15 21:23

Let Iran be a counterweight to the US and EU, they can do anything they want.

Hoàng Lân 19/1/15 21:29

Numerous governments and multinational entities impose sanctions against Iran, that America-led coalition against Iran.

Huy Lâm 19/1/15 21:34

the time being Tehran appears content to continue gradually advancing its nuclear program while remaining within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Vân Nhàn 19/1/15 21:37

I don't think this issue can be solved in 2015, it still danger international stability.

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