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Asia Journal of Global Studies

Vol 4, No 2 (2010-11), 68-78

Asia Association for Global Studies

The Logic Behind Iran's Uncompromising Nnuclear Policy

Md. Thowhidul Islam

International Islamic University Chittagong, Bangladesh

The Iranian nuclear issue has lately become a political discussion of significance
in both Iran and Western countries, with considerable disjunction emerging
between the views of Iran and those of much of the West. The Iranian people
generally argue that their country is entitled to sovereignty over civilian nuclear
power and deny that their government has a nuclear weapons program. Western
countries, on the other hand, feel the civilian program has a hidden agenda that
includes the eventual production of nuclear weapons. Negotiations led by the
European Union (EU) and United Nations (UN) have so far failed to yield
satisfactory results. Since the referral of Iran's nuclear issue to the United Nations
Security Council (UNSC), Iran has followed an uncompromising policy towards
its nuclear program, linking it to its national security demands and real politics.
Historical experience has also conditioned Iran's uncompromising nuclear policy,
one which is consistent with the principles of the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Focusing on the nuclear ambitions of Iran, this article attempts to discern the
principal logic behind the nation's uncompromising nuclear policy. The paper
also tries to explore the possibility of international cooperation with Iran on the
nuclear issue.

Iran's desperation for nuclear power has become a hot button issue in both Iran and Western
countries. Almost all Iranian political parties maintain that Iran is entitled to nuclear
sovereignty over civilian nuclear power and have denied that the nation has a secret nuclear
weapons program. Western countries, on the other hand, feel Iran has a hidden agenda to
produce nuclear weapons, though the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)1 has
not been able to present definitive evidence of such a program (IAEA Statements,
GOV/2003/40, GOV/2004/60, GOV/2005/67). Negotiations led by the European Union
(EU) as well as United Nations (UN) sanctions led by the United States (US) have so far
failed to soften Iran's nuclear stance. Distrust between Iran and the West has resulted in
an uncompromising nuclear policy on the part of Iran as well as profound mistrust of its
intentions on the part of the West. Support from China and Russia regarding Iran's nuclear
program has further complicated the issue. The two nations are acutely aware that Iran's
being a major energy producer makes it an important geopolitical player capable of playing
a leading diplomatic role in the balance of power in the Gulf region and Middle East.2
Though many sanctions have been imposed by the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Iran,
*The material presented by the authors does not necessarily portray the viewpoint of the editors and the
management of the Asia Journal of Global Studies (AJGS).

VOL 4, No 2.2010-11.PRINT ISSN 1884-0337, ONLINE ISSN 1884-0264

C Asia Journal of Global Studies, c/o The Asia Association for Global Studies
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The Logic Behind Iran's Uncompromising Nuclear Policy

Iranians have evolved a nuclear policy that allows little room for compromise. This article
first attempts to uncover the logic behind Iran's nuclear policy. It then explores the possibility
of cooperation among the major powers regarding the nation's nuclear capabilities.


Iran has a long history of nuclear interest and development.3 As early as 1957, Iran and
the US signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement as part of the US Atoms for Peace
program, which provided technical assistance to develop nuclear power and leased several
kilograms of enriched uranium to Iran (Department of State Bulletin, 1957). As a member
of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)4 since 1968, Iran claims the unalienable
right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Toward this end, Iran completed a
comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA in 1974.
Geopolitical developments in the early 1970s (the Arab-Israeli conflict and the subsequent
oil crisis) impelled the Shah's government to accelerate Iran's nuclear program. The Atomic
Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), founded in 1974, announced an ambitious plan to
build 23 nuclear power plants to generate 23,000 MW of nuclear energy within 20 years
(Poneman, 1982). America's Gerald Ford administration5 in particular, together with French
and German companies, actively supported Iran's nuclear program, supplying it with
components and training Iranian nuclear scientists. Considerable progress was achieved
in constructing two nuclear reactors in Bushehr.6 Although these countries only intended
to help Iran develop nuclear energy, the Shah clearly had nuclear weapons in mind. In
September 1974, he remarked:
The present world is confronted with a problem of some countries possessing
nuclear weapons and some not. We are among those who do not possess nuclear
weapons, so the friendship of a country such as the United States with its arsenal
of nuclear weapons . . . is absolutely vital. (Cottrell & Dougherty, 1977)

This nuclear assistance was halted during the political turmoil in Iran in the late 1970s
that resulted in the removal of the Shah. The new Islamic regime, led by the Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini,7 displayed no nuclear aspirations. Moreover, many
of Iran's top nuclear scientists had fled the country during or in the wake of the revolution.
However, Iraq's bombing of the Bushehr construction site at the time of the Iran-Iraq War
in 1980,8 and Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak nuclear facility in 1981, likely influenced
Tehran to develop its nuclear program further. In 1983, Iran declared the restarting of its
nuclear program with the help of China and India (Middle East Executive Reports [MEER],
1983). Tehran developed long-term cooperation agreements with Pakistan in 1987 (in the
mid-1990s, Iran also acquired components of P-1 centrifuges and blueprints of more
advanced P-2 centrifuges from the A.Q. Khan network) and China in the early 1990s
(signing several agreements between 1990 and 1992). China provided Iran with small
research reactors, laser enrichment equipment, conversion technologies, and even shipped
more than a ton of natural uranium to Iran.
In the early 1990s, two international events significantly affected Iranian national security.
The first was the fall of the Soviet Union, which pushed that former superpower back
from Iran's borders with Afghanistan and lessened the chances of its invading the country.
Ironically, the Soviet threat was replaced by an American one since Washington would
potentially no longer be deterred from intervening in Iran by its superpower rival. The
second event was the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the subsequent Gulf War of
1991. The US response to Iraq's invasion ultimately resulted in the defeat of Saddam
Hussein, adding further to fears of US intervention in Iran.
The IAEA pointed out in November 2004 that Iran had neglected to report its nuclear
program "in a number of instances over an extended period of time," thereby failing to
meet its obligations under its safeguards agreement (IAEA statement, GOV/2004/83).

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Md. Thowhidul Islam

Although the IAEA still has not concluded that Iran must have been pursuing a nuclear
weapons program, many within the international community take it as proof that Iran has
had such a program for some time. Especially after Iran's submission to the IAEA in
October 2005 of its nuclear history and black market purchases in the 1980s of a quantity
of centrifuges and other nuclear technologies, Tehran's position in the international
community grew increasingly vulnerable. In an attempt to justify Iran's nuclear moves,
former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani indicated in March 2005 that Iran
indeed had engaged in an intentional clandestine nuclear buildup. He reinforced the claim,
however, that it was only for peaceful purposes (Zhen, 2005).


For decades, Iran's nuclear policy has aggravated diplomatic tensions. In August 2005,
the European Union (EU) presented a comprehensive package of incentives that reaffirmed
Iran's inalienable right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and offered a possible
provision for light water research reactors. It also supported full integration of Iran into
the World Trade Organization (WTO) (Mousavian, 2008). But Iran was determined to
resume its enrichment program. UNSC Resolutions 1696 and 1737 called upon all states
to exercise vigilance regarding the entry into or transit through their territories of individuals
engaged in, directly associated with, or supportive of Iran's proliferation-sensitive nuclear
activities or its development of a nuclear weapon delivery system. All states were to freeze
funds, financial assets, and economic resources in their territories that were owned or
controlled by persons or entities designated in the Annex (UNSC Resolution 1737, 2006).
The current impasse with Iran mainly resulted from Iran's refusal to alter its nuclear policy
or make concessions. Its reasons for its uncompromising stance are discussed below.

Iran's Legitimate and Sovereign Right

Iran claims that the use of nuclear power for civilian purposes is its sovereign right, denying
that it has a secret nuclear weapons program. As a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty
since 1968, the nation claims its development of nuclear technology conforms to the
framework of the NPT and is protected under international law. Ayatullah Ali Khomeni,
the former Supreme Leader of Iran, explained the legitimacy of Iran's uranium enrichment
activities as follows:
The only common thing between nuclear weapons and nuclear technology,
which we pursue, is uranium. Ninety percent of enriched uranium is for the
complex industry of nuclear weapons but 3-4 percent enriched uranium is for
the fuel of nuclear power plants and today we have the Bushehr nuclear power
plant. But look at the distance between 3-4 percent and 90 percent. (Khameni,
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting [IRIB], n.d.)

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting has asserted that "it is the undeniable right of Iran
to make use of nuclear technology, and the countries possessing this technology are obliged
to assist non-nuclear member states" (IRIB, n.d.). In support of its views, IRIB cites the
IAEA charter and its regulations, which stipulate that it is the legal right of Iran to make
use of nuclear technology and be assisted by the IAEA. In addition, IRIB has argued that
national sovereignty and independence require a country to pursue its national interests
within the framework of domestic and international law, suggesting no country in the
world wishes to put its national security and interest at the disposal of others (IRIB, n.d.).
The organization has also cited Article IV of the NPT, which states that all parties to the
Treaty facilitate, and have the right to participate, in the fullest possible exchange of
equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful use of
nuclear energy (NPT, 1968). Iran has thus condemned the West's claim that Iranian nuclear
activities area violation of NPT clauses and international treaties, arguing that such criticisms
are a politicization of a purely technical issue.


Asia Journal of Global Studies

The Logic Behind Iran's Uncompromising Nuclear Policy

Historical Experience and National Security

Iran's need for advanced nuclear technology is linked its perceived national security
demands and political interests, with its historical experience heavily influencing its
policymaking decisions in this regard. After the revolution in 1979, Tehran turned away
from the US but did not embrace the USSR. So the perceived threat of superpower
intervention in Iran - most likely to access oil supplies - increased from both sides during
the Cold War era. Such fears pushed Iran into a defensive posture over its nuclear program.
During the Iran-Iraq War, the USSR supplied Saddam with arms and Iraq attacked the
Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehar seven times between 1984 and 1988 (Barry, 1995).
Owing to its dependence on outside nations for weapons, Iran became deeply aware of
its vulnerability to arms supplier interruptions in the battlefield. After the war, therefore,
self-reliance became a principle consideration for Iran regarding arms production as well
as the diversification of sources of supply and the stockpiling of arms.
When Iran was attacked by Iraqi chemical weapons during the war, the international
community's silence shocked Iranians and led to counteractive measures on its part. As
Rafsanjani asserted in October 1988: "[C]hemical and biological weapons are the poor
man's atomic bombs and can easily be produced. We should at least consider them for our
defense" (Chubin, 1994, p. 26). After the war, Tehran began a massive military rebuilding
program. Continuing fear of Israel and Iraq pushed Iran to seek nuclear-related technology
from different countries. The excessive response of the US to Iran's nuclear program as
well as the gap in military capabilities between the two countries also prompted Iran to
think about the importance of a deterrent nuclear technology. Moreover, Israel's acquisition
of a nuclear deterrent is an open secret. The development of a counterbalance in kind is
a rational response in Iran's eyes. National security considerations as such have reinforced
Iran's determination to rebuild its military forces, increase its self-reliance, develop its
nuclear technology and place little faith in international institutions like the United Nations
and international treaties.

Principles and the Spirit of the Islamic Revolution

Iran's nuclear policy is also consistent with the principles of the Islamic Revolution of
1979.These principles include independence, self-reliance, and equality (Constitution of
Iran), concepts which imply territorial sovereignty and self-reliance in the fields of the
politics, economics and technology, and equal treatment, non-discrimination, and respect
from the international community. As the principle of independence was one of the
touchstones of the Iranian revolution, few Iranians of whatever political persuasion nationalists, secularists, or advocates of a strict religious government - are dissuaded of
its importance. The long and painful history of foreign intervention in Iran (of Russia and
Great Britain in Persia and, more recently, of US hegemony in the region) makes the issue
of independence crucial for Iranians. At the same time, the regime has cultivated a sense
of victimization, grievance, and embattlement that the Shi'ite culture finds so congenial
the government is granted a relatively free hand in defining Iran's defense and security
needs. In this regard, Iran considers nuclear technology as a way of gaining self-reliance.
Western efforts to stop the uranium enrichment of Iran have been perceived as a form of
deception to keep Iran dependent. According to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting:
The main discussion is over fuel. We want to produce the fuel for our nuclear
power plant by ourselves. They say don't produce it yourself, come and purchase
it from us. What does this mean? It means that we stay dependent, that the Iranian
nation remains dependent on nuclear fuel producing powers. If once they decide
not to give us fuel, if they place conditions [on us], our nation and government
will be forced to raise their hands and say we have no choice, our fuel, our
electricity depends on them - it must come from that side, otherwise our power
plant will not work. They want this and want our nation to remain dependent.
(Khameni, IRIB, n.d.)

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Iran condemns the West for its foreign policy double standards. First, before the victory
of the Islamic Revolution, Western countries encouraged Iran to build nuclear power
plants; after the revolution, the West changed its policy, attempting to prevent a nuclear
Iran from emerging. Second, Iran signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)9
and Non-Proliferation Treaty, but other countries such as Israel, India and Pakistan have
not signed the NPT, nor are their nuclear programs under the supervision of IAEA inspectors.
In 2005, in fact, US President George Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
reached an agreement on civilian nuclear energy cooperation while Iran's nuclear program
was condemned by the West. Of the US-India agreement, IAEA Director-General Mohamed
ElBaradei claimed it represented
An important step towards satisfying India's growing need for energy, including
nuclear technology and fuel, as an engine for development. It would also bring
India closer as an important partner in the non-proliferation regime. It would
be a milestone, timely for ongoing efforts to consolidate the non-proliferation
regime, combat nuclear terrorism and strengthen nuclear safety. (VandeHei &
Linzer, 2006)

But at the same time IAEA adopted a different stance towards Iran, creating ill will among
its citizens. The organization's pronouncements were seen not only as a form of nuclear
discrimination but also as a slight against Iran's national dignity.


In his 2002 State of the Union speech, US President George W. Bush highlighted Iran
when he labeled it part of an "Axis of Evil" alongside North Korea and Iraq (The White
House, 2002). But Iran viewed this designation as part of a conspiracy. The most important
feature distinguishing Iran from the other "Axis of Evil" states is its quasi-democracy. In
Saddam Hussein's Iraq, where insulting the president was punishable by death, political
freedom simply did not exist. In North Korea, Kim Il Sung created and presided over a
dynastic political system that his son Kim Jong Il still controls. In contrast, Iran has a
vibrant, restive, and skeptical public, one increasingly given to criticism, debate, and
scrutiny of a regime that has squandered its political legitimacy. Thus, Iran is arguably in
a different league from North Korea and Iraq (RFE/RL Iran Report, 2002). Public opinion
in Iran supports an active international role for the country that will allow it to be taken
seriously and not undermine neighboring states' legitimate search for security. In short,
unlike North Korea and Iraq, Iran's dynamic domestic political system presents an avenue
for influencing the country's decisions over its nuclear program. Bush's "Axis of Evil"
notion was therefore misconceived in Iran's case and only prompted the latter to adopt a
defensive nuclear policy.

America's Hostile Policy towards Iran

The US has had fundamental problems with Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The
American hostage situation during 1979-80 and strong suspicions that Iran supports
international terrorism are the two principal reasons for diplomatic tensions between the
two countries. Containment, deterrence, and economic sanctions have thus been central
strategies informing the United States' relations with Iran. Moreover, the close relationship
of mosque and state in Iran's political structure is inimical to Western notions of a separation
between religion and the state, further aggravating discord between the nations. According
to Iran's constitution, the Guardian Council protects Islamic ordinances and the constitution,
and safeguards the compatibility of legislation passed by the Assembly with Islam. This
type of governance with its pronounced Islamic character is strongly opposed by the US.
American suspicions that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program increased following
the conclusion of the Gulf War. The US also aims to contain Iran because of its hostility


Asia Journal of Global Studies

The Logic Behind Iran's Uncompromising Nuclear Policy

toward Israel, desire to undermine US allies in the region, and alleged efforts to acquire
weapons of mass destruction (WMD), perceiving Iran's quest for nuclear energy as a
serious threat to its interests in the Middle East. In order to stop Iran from manufacturing
nuclear weapons, the US has tried to economically isolate Iran by banning Iranian imports,
implementing strict export controls, and prohibiting foreign aid and credits to the nation.
The US government has also in the international media referred to Iran as "the terrorist
state of Iran" and a "rogue state." Likewise, Iran perceives the presence of the US in the
Middle East and Persian Gulf as an effort to establish hegemony and control over its oil
supply that threatens regional stability. The role of the US in the Gulf Wars reinforced
Iran's determination to rebuild its military forces and follow an independent path in security
matters. The hardline stance of the US towards Iran's nuclear program, therefore, has
resulted in greater stubbornness and determination on the part of Iran.

Middle East Policy Strategy

Strategic energy has always been a vital issue in Middle East politics. In Iran's view, the
vast oil and gas reserves on the Eurasian continent and the latter's unique geopolitical
position can serve as a source of retaliatory capacity, if and when Iran confronts a crisis.
Iran's proven oil reserves have risen to 132.5 billion barrels, accounting for 10 percent of
the world's total known reserves. It also has the world's largest natural gas reserves at 971
trillion cubic feet, or 16 percent of the world total (Saxton, 2006). Iran's consideration of
a nuclear option stems not only from a desire to possess a nuclear deterrent, but also from
an optimistic assessment of the possibility of acquiring such a capacity. Iran expresses
strident views on the nuclear issue to influence radical Islamic political forces in the Middle
East, as well as meet the strategic energy needs of powers seen as counterweights to the
US in the region, such as Russia and China.
Iranian policy toward the Middle East peace process is based on sympathy for the Palestinian
cause. Iran has used Israel as an all-purpose bogeyman to criticize the US for harassing
select regimes that possess WMD, ingratiate itself with Arab states by supporting the
Palestinians, and to argue that the threat posed by Israel justifies Iran's own missile program.
To achieve its goals regarding Israel and Palestine, Iran has preferred to aid proxy groups
such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. At the same time, Iran's support for the Palestinians can
be seen as a cynical attempt to gain leverage against the West. Finally, its nuclear program
supports Iran's record of not recognizing Israel and attempts to weaken and discredit the

Strategic Disputes in Central Asia, the Caspian Region, and Gulf States
Considering Iranian policies within a Central Asian security framework is another way
in which to examine the nuclear issue. US interests in Central Asia primarily center on
the Global War on Terrorism, US security in Eurasia, the maintenance of access to airspace
and territory in the heart of Asia, the development of alternative sources of energy, and
the furthering of freedom and democratic development (Cornell & Swanstrom, 2006).
Since 9/11, Washington's emphasis on security issues has been particularly pronounced.
Equal access for American firms with regard to energy exploration, refining, and marketing
is also in the United States' vital interest. Washington has sought to isolate Iran from
Central Asian energy supplies by urging states to build pipelines that bypass it while
enforcing sanctions upon those states and firms trading with Iran. Tehran, Beijing and
Moscow view the US political and strategic presence in Central Asia with unfeigned alarm
and consider it as a desire to establish bases in the region (Mukhin, 2005). As a
countermeasure, they have waged an unrelenting campaign since 2002 to impose limits
on the duration and scope of the US presence on Central Asian military bases (Goldstein,
2002). Most significantly, Beijing and Moscow have utilized the Shanghai Cooperation
Organization (SCO) as a platform for a collective security operation in Central Asia. Iran
joined the SCO as an observer in 2005 and in 2008 became a permanent member (Beehner
& Bhatacharji, 2008). The SCO since its inception has served as a forum for unifying
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Md. Thowhidul Islam

Central Asian governments in an anti-American regional security organization (Jefferson,

Afghanistan is mired in reconstruction and civil war, as are many of the Caspian states.
The major threat to Iran's northern and eastern frontier from its shared borders with
Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan is sectarian violence, along with drug smuggling
and other illicit trade activities. Turkey's interests lie in controlling Kurdish groups in
northwest Iran. Though Iran and Pakistan have no major bilateral disputes, tensions are
aggravated by Pakistan's failure to manage its domestic sectarian rivalries, resulting in
occasional violence between Pakistan's Sunni and Shi'a communities. In addition, Pakistan
is a nuclear power that is preoccupied with its problems with India, largely over Kashmir,
while Iran has now established good relations with India, which also possesses nuclear
None of the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, have sufficient military strength or a
coherent strategy to present a serious threat to Iran. Moreover, Iran has cultivated relationships
with many of the smaller Gulf States, such as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar
since the end of the Iran-Iraq War. But the US military presence in the Gulf States poses
a threat to Iran at least in theory. Any further conflict regarding the nuclear issue in Iran
would also push the Gulf States toward the US to meet their own security needs, further
elevating US-Iran tensions (Jones, 1998). Moreover, the likely US response to an Iranian
nuclear threat would be an even larger military presence in the Gulf, aimed specifically
at Iran.
Israel and the US remain the key threats to Iran (Chubinv & Litwak, 2003, pp. 8-9). Though
Israel has restrained itself from making direct provocations, it is now acquiring aircraft
and submarines with the range and capability of putting Iranian targets at risk (Kori &
Judith, 2001). With forces stationed in Afghanistan, South Asia, Turkey, in many Gulf
States, and now Iraq, the US military has virtually encircled Iran, supported by unprecedented
conventional and nuclear capabilities that Iran views as a direct threat. Although the US
may not have the exact hegemonic designs or capacity Iran imagines, every time a US
official talks about the "Axis of Evil" or "regime change" the flames of nationalist reaction
are fanned and Iran prepares to defend itself by whatever means it deems necessary.

In sum, the logic of Iran's uncompromising nuclear policy reflects a lack of confidence
in international organizations and also its relationship with the US. The failure of negotiations
led by the EU, in essence, lies in the absence of the US participation in them. Iran's
historical experience and its perception that it is being surrounded by US military bases
mean that developing an effective deterrent against American hegemony is the most
important component of Iran's defense policy. These deterrent options are nuclear technology,
retaliatory capability in the Middle East, and positive relationships with China and Russia.
Israel's acquisition of nuclear weapons technology has provided further justification for
the development of Iran's nuclear capacity.
Moreover, Iran's determination to pursue an ambitious nuclear program for power generation
is based on sound economic and energy considerations. The energy rationale is frequently
cited in response to Iran's population growth and increased domestic energy consumption,
as well as to the decline in oil production and need to conserve fuel domestically. In the
past 11 years, fuel consumption in Iran has doubled, leading to current plans to establish
nuclear power plants that will generate 7,000 megawatts of electricity by the year 2020.
Tehran aims to become self-sufficient in providing fuel for these plants. Iran also considers
it a sovereign right to have access to advanced technology, a right undermined by a hostile
United States. Iranians across the political spectrum support their nation's right to acquire
the most modern forms of technology necessary for the country's development. Iranians


Asia Journal of Global Studies

The Logic Behind Iran's Uncompromising Nuclear Policy

also support a responsible policy that can balance their treaty obligations with their own
country's needs. Iran's approach as such entails balancing the right to appropriate technology
for power generation and other peaceful applications with the need to reassure the
international community of its benign intentions.
US policy should foster an Iranian reevaluation of its threat environment so Tehran can
conclude on its own that it should opt for another security solution. Aside from the trade
and cooperation agreement Iran and the EU have negotiated, Iran has responded to few
diplomatic entreaties. Yet international discourse impacts the threat environment. President
Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech characterized Iran in terms difficult to overcome. The US
must not appear so imposing and should also lead a new multilateral coalition consisting
of the EU, Russia, China, Japan, and as many Gulf States as possible. Such a coalition
would equalize the threat posture of both states. Hard talk should be reserved for bilateral
and multilateral diplomatic communications and it should clearly spell out a carrot and
stick relationship. Some Iranian diplomats are afraid that even if they ratify the NPT
additional protocol, "more demands will be forthcoming and that such concessions will
open the door for the US to seek a regime change" (Chubin & Litwak, 2003, p. 112).The
US-led coalition must demonstrate good faith by not using Iran's acquiescence to one set
of conditions as a departure point for more demands, although it must also unwaveringly
hold the line on Iran's nonproliferation commitments.
Washington must also address Iran's threat perception of Israel. Iranian leaders have
quietly hinted that they would also accept any settlement the Palestinians are willing to
accept. President Khatami remarked that the Palestinians themselves must "determine
their future" (Chubin, 2001, p. 26). Addressing why Iran would never directly intervene
in an Arab-Israeli conflict, Supreme Leader Khamenei declared that the Palestinian issue
"is simply not Iran's jihad" (Chubin, 2001, p. 27). The US should play on this sentiment
and do all it can to revive the Israeli peace roadmap; removing the Israeli-Palestinian
question from the Iranian debate should be a top priority. The US can also do more to
"equalize" its security guarantee among the Arab states and Israel. By applying a more
even hand in supporting the Gulf States and Israel, the US can reduce the impression of
a double standard regarding Iran. Iran is also concerned about what it perceives as an
Israeli nuclear threat. The US must clarify the role of Israel's military in relation to the
region's conventional capabilities arrayed against it. Here also the new coalition must
convince Iran that any continued Arab opposition will only be accepted in the diplomatic
realm, and Iran can lead the Arab states in the discussion.
Iran views itself as a target of the US and Israel. The strategic situation of the nation - its
relative size, economic power, and neighboring threats - identify it as a small, status quo
state. It is evident that Iran views security threats in its region differently than the rest
of the world does; but in that context, Iran sees itself as an aspiring great power with a
status quo strategy, supported by a defensive military doctrine. Because of the nature of
the threats Iran perceives (namely a nuclear US and Israel), a rational defensive doctrine
on its part includes nuclear weapons capability. Iran is not likely to change its strategic
viewpoints unless it perceives a demonstrable change in the regional political environment.
To reassure Tehran that there is no preplanned agenda against it, the US should clearly
articulate its plan for a post-Saddam Iraq and encourage the formation of a new Gulf
Council working group. Such a working group would help establish new cooperative
norms and mechanisms for collective security and common defense that includes an active
Iran. This would do much to allay fears among Gulf States and Iran about the direction
of their regional strategic environment (Perkovich, 2003). These initiatives might be
difficult to enact, but they would begin reshaping the regional strategic environment and
allow Iran to make an honest reassessment of its threat perceptions. The US and Israel
thus can subtly change the strategic landscape and encourage Iran to change its views on
the nuclear issue. Iran can be encouraged to reassess its security requirements, alter its
strategy, and by extension, revamp its military doctrine. Once it changes its strategy, Iran
can then readdress its security approach to emphasize collective security or defensive
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Md. Thowhidul Islam

alliances and obviate a need for nuclear weapons. Only then can the systemic forces that
influence Iran's military doctrine begin to change its strategic requirements.

1. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seeks to promote the peaceful use of
nuclear energy and to inhibit its use for military purposes. The media often refer to the
IAEA as "the UN's Nuclear Watchdog." It was established as an autonomous organization
on July 29, 1957, with its headquarters in Vienna, Austria. The organization and its Director
General, Mohamed ElBaradei, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
2. The term "Middle East" may have originated in the 1850s in the British India Office.
It became more widely known when American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan used
the term in 1902. Mahan realized not only the strategic importance of the region, but also
its center, the Persian Gulf. He labeled the area surrounding the Persian Gulf as the Middle
East, and said that after the Suez Canal, it was the most important passage for Britain to
control in order to keep the Russians from advancing towards India. Mahan first used the
term in his article "The Persian Gulf and International Relations," published in September
1902 in The National Review, a British journal.
3. For a complete history and one of the best updated online sources of Iranian nuclear
chronology, see
4. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT or NNPT) is an international treaty to limit
the spread of nuclear weapons, opened for signature on July 1, 1968. There are currently
189 signatory countries, five of which have nuclear weapons: the United States, the United
Kingdom, France, Russia, and China. Four nations are not signatories: India, Israel, Pakistan
and North Korea.
5. Gerald Ford (1913-2006), 38th president of the US (1974-1977).
6. Bushehr is a city in southwestern Iran, located on the Persian Gulf. In 1975 the government
began building a nuclear power plant near the city. This facility was only partially completed
when it was bombed by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). After the war Germany,
the initial backer of the plant, declined to complete it in 1995; however, Russia signed an
agreement to finish the plant. The plant inaugurated on February 25, 2009, with virtual
fuel consisting of lead, which was designed to simulate the enriched uranium needed to
make it fully functional. The 1000-megawatt reactor is not expected to come into proper
operation until later this year.
7. Ayatollah Khomeini (1900-1989), full name Sayyid Ruhollah al-Musavi al-Khomeini,
was a religious leader who, from exile, led the popular revolution that toppled Muhammad
Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran in 1979.
8. The Iran-Iraq War began when Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980 and ended in August
1988 after both sides accepted a cease-fire sponsored by the UN. Despite the conflict's
length and cost, neither Iran nor Iraq made significant territorial or political gains, and the
fundamental issues dividing the countries remained unresolved at the end of the war.
9. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions in
all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the UN General
Assembly on September 10, 1996 but it has not yet entered into force. It opened for
signatures in New York on September 24, 1996, when it was signed by 71 States. As of
May 2010, 153 states have ratified the CTBT and another 29 states have signed but not
yet ratified it. More information on the treaty is available at

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