Iran’s Nuclear Policy and International Relations
Development, gain, and possession of nuclear weapons by states or non-state representatives pose one of the biggest threats to the international security. The problem of nuclear proliferation is a global issue. As a result, the nations have to develop a mutual mechanism to prevent the expansion of nuclear weapons. Nine states, including China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States possess the weapons of mass destruction (Jackson 2013, p. 267). However, there are approximately 30 states that have technological capacities to develop the nuclear weapon. Thus, the international community insists on the efforts towards the nuclear disarmament. At the same time, the international participants remain skeptical about the refusing of Iran from the pursuing of nuclear policy. Indeed, the country has already invested large amounts of money into the development of the nuclear program. In addition, acquiring the capacity of mass destruction weapon will provide Iran with an opportunity to establish its influence in the region and on the international scene, as well.
While Iran denies the development of the nuclear program in order to receive the weapons of mass destruction, the country has its nuclear program. The aim of the nuclear initiatives is to obtain nuclear power for peaceful purposes. The program was established in the middle of the 20th century with the assistance of the United States (Patrikarakos 2012, p. 5). However, in 1979, the cooperation between Iran and the Western countries in the nuclear sphere ended. The Iranian government still continues developing the nuclear program. In the 1990s, Russia provided technical support for the Iranian initiatives in the sphere. The concerns of the international community have risen at the beginning of the 21st century when Iran was suspected in using nuclear program for non-peaceful strategies. According to the investigation reports of the United Nations Organization, Iran has demonstrated non-compliance with the undertaken commitments on nuclear nonproliferation as the country has adopted nuclear weapons program in 2003 (Iran: Nuclear intentions and capabilities 2009).
The Iranian nuclear policy can be explained by a certain theory of the international relations. For example, the attempts of Iran to acquire nuclear weapon can be analyzed from the realist perspective that underlines that the international representatives are self-interested and compete for the establishment of power and security (Snyder, 2004). Basic principles of realism can provide the insights into the Iranian nuclear program. In particular, the realists emphasize that Iranian attempts to receive nuclear weapon are determined by the survival and security interests. According to the realism, Iran is portrayed as an aggressive state with the hegemonic political ambitions, which tries to establish its influence in the region. Realism theory considers the international system to be anarchic, and provides several characteristics of the international relations. First, the states are the main participants of the international relations. Second, the political environment has an anarchic nature as there is no super national authority that can impose rules of the behavior on other participants. Third, the international community behaves rationally, as their goal is to maximize the national interests. Finally, in order to guarantee self-preservation, all states-participants try to establish their power in the international relations. The nuclear program of Iran can be explained by the each of the principles of realism.
Indeed, Iran represents a member of the international relations. The country has its domestic and foreign policy aimed at fulfillment of the national interests. According to the scholars, the international system is anarchic. The countries act to ensure their security interests and gain power. In case of Iran, the decision to acquire nuclear weapons is determined by the security reasons. In particular, the country does not look for power to threaten the other states-members of the international relations, but to maximize its security (Schmidt 2012, p. 6). Waltz underlines that the international participants conduct “their affairs in the brooding shadow of violence” (Waltz 2011, p. 47). From such perspective, the attempts of Iran to gain nuclear weapon are rational. The country considers the weapon of mass destruction an effective way to provide security. As a result, Iran needs to develop a nuclear weapon, but it does not necessarily mean that the country will use it. It is determined by the fact that the aggression of Iran will undermine its regional positions and destabilize the situation in the Middle East. In addition, the country can lose its influence in the region.
The nuclear ambitions of Iran are determined by the external and internal factors. One of the biggest external reasons for it includes security concerns. In particular, until the beginning of the 21st century, Iraq represented a threat to the national security of Iran. Iran-Iraq war demonstrated that the country should be capable of defending itself. With the fall of Iraq, the new threats appeared. Iran has a new rival that tries to establish its influence in the region, namely the United States of America. In addition, there are other regional participants, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, which strive to gain regional dominance. The diplomatic relations between the USA and Iran ended in 1979 with the Iranian Revolution (International Business Publications 2012, p. 128). During the 1980s, the United States supported Iraq that increased the tension with Iran. Besides, after the end of the Gulf War, the USA established military presence in the region and paid attention to the “rouge states”, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and North Korea, which were considered to represent a threat to the international peace and stability (Mirza 2007, p. 437). As a result, Iran has developed a policy aimed at addressing the containment from the United States and increasing its influence in the region.
Among the regional representatives that pose a threat to the national security of Iran, there are Israel and Gulf countries. The tensions between Iran and Israel began in the 1980s with Iranian involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Iran is known for providing support to the Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian jihadist. In addition, the official representatives of the country have already made statements that Israel should be completely removed from the map of the world (Hitchcock 2013, p. 35). Thus, the acquisition of the nuclear weapon provides Iran with an opportunity to establish the balance of powers in the region. Israel possesses the weapons of mass destruction, as well as sophisticated conventional weapons, and Iran needs to provide its security. In addition, Israel traditionally represents the US ally in the region and has an influence on the directions of the US foreign policy. The relations between Iran and Gulf countries are also characterized by conflicts and lack of trust. The countries tend to change the alliances and agreements due to the self-interests. As a result, there is a constant change of regional powers. Among the factors that have a negative impact on the relations between countries there are ethic, ideological, and religious differences between the nations. Iran is considered as a threat to the Gulf nations due to the possible rise of Shia laws and revolutionary ideas. As a result, Iran has to ensure that its sovereignty will not be violated. From the Iranian perspective, there are three countries in the region that already have nuclear weapons, including Pakistan, India, and Israel (Sagan, Waltz, & Betts, 2007). Besides, the United States remains present in the Middle East. Historically, Iran has tense relations with Iraq. For instance, the hostile policy of Saddam Hussein, which “waged a merciless eight year war against Iran in which he deployed chemical weapons against Iran troops”, demonstrated the necessity to develop capabilities to respond to the inner threats (Tayekh 2003, p. 22). The threat of Taliban regime may influence Iran from the Pakistani side. Taking into account the fact that Iran does not possess powerful conventional weapons, the nuclear power represents an effective mechanism that can restrain the aggression from the countries of the region. The fall of Iraq contributed to the division of the power balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The position of Iran is worsened by the fact that the country does not have allies in the region. One of the Iranian allies, Syria, is currently involved in the civil war.
Moreover, Iran has a number of multilateral agreements with the international community and provides various negotiations with its members. For example, during the Iran-Iraq war, the countries took the position of Iraq, despite the fact that Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran. In addition, Iran has experienced a number of international sanctions on oil supplies, the financial sector of the country, and nuclear program. Thus, nuclear deterrent can ensure the security of the country.
At the same time, there is a number of internal factors influencing Iran’s nuclear policy. In particular, Iran has a national identity that opposes the West and its influence in the region. According to the constitution of the country, “the foreign policy of Islamic Republic of Iran is based upon the rejection of all forms of domination… the preservation of the independence of the country in all respects [and] non-alignment with respect to the hegemonic superpowers” (Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran 1989). As a result, the acquisition of nuclear weapons will provide Iran with an opportunity to restore national pride, strengthen opposition against the West, and ensure the independence of the country. In addition, the nuclear program of Iran is supported by the population and meets the energy needs of the country. The Iranians consider the acquisition of nuclear weapon to be a right of the country (Manochehr 2006, p. 329).
Apart from this, the acquiring of nuclear weapon imposes certain risks. For example, the countries of the region can consider Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to the national security (‘Iran nuclear weapons’ 2015). As a result, the hostilities in the region will increase. In 2011, Saudi Arabia already stated that with the acquisition of nuclear weapon by Iran, Saudi Arabia will have to response and the situation in the region can have dramatic consequences (Burke 2011). The nuclear policy of Iran has enhanced the security threats instead of decreasing them. The international community has taken measures to ensure that the country will not develop, gain, and use the nuclear weapons.
Other theories of the international relations, including constructivism, also provide explanations of Iran’s nuclear program. The representatives of the constructivism underline that the political decisions of the states are determined by the collective values, cultural and social peculiarities, and persuasive ideas (Snyder, 2004). Indeed, it is difficult to determine the nuclear program of Iran from the perspective of strategic influence and defense of the national interests. On the contrary, Iranian initiatives are motivated by the ideological desire to increase its importance in the region (Rubin 2006). Additionally, the official position of Iran denies the connection between the nuclear program and creation of the weapon of mass destruction. In particular, the country does not have enough technologic potential for the development of weapons. The acquisition of the nuclear weapons can create the tension in the Middle East (Zarif 2005). According to the constructivist theory, the political decisions are determined by the historical and cultural peculiarities of the international participants rather than human nature or desire to acquire power. As a result, constructivists agree with the anarchic nature of the international environment but underline that in case of Iran it is important to consider the other factors, as well. For example, the past regional might and opposition to the process of the Westernization has an impact on the decision to begin a nuclear program (Moshirzadeh 2007, p. 530). Indeed, the US definition of Iran as an axis of evil or rouge state was considered as a humiliation.
Thus, the Iranian nuclear program has become an important issue of the international relations. The motives of Iranian nuclear program can be explained by realist theory of the international relations. In particular, due to the existence of internal threats and lack of allies in the region, Iran develops the nuclear program in order to ensure the balance of powers in the Middle East and guarantee its independence and security. At the same time, the ideological motives also play an important role in the conduction of the nuclear program. As a result, constructivism provides insights into Iran’s nuclear policy. In particular, the initiatives of the country are not defensive in nature. On the contrary, the domestic interest of the obtaining of peaceful nuclear power dominates strategic concerns of the regional level. The policy of the country is influenced by the principles of national identity, power ambitions, and energy needs. Finally, Iran has an ideological desire to become a predominant power in the region.