In recent news, countries like North Korea and Iran have been further developing their nuclear technology for diplomatic, security, and national identity reasons. Within the past decade, there have been concerns about the potential spread of nuclear weapons. Scholars are still developing new theories to explain why nuclear proliferation has increased dramatically in recent years; normally, when a state is trying to develop a nuclear program, the cause of proliferation is almost always a response to rival states developing nuclear weapons. In the case with Iran, there were cases of immediate regional threats to the state from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Taliban’s Afghanistan. Iran’s desire for the expansion of nuclear weapons is explained through the pursuit for power and security by the state, the ability to open new political tools for domestic politics, and the modernization of the Iranian state through its identity. Reasons for proliferation, particularly pursuit of power and security, are similar for North Korea.
Iran’s development of nuclear weaponry to increase state power and protect state security can be explained through the following approaches. The cause of nuclear proliferation initially started with the US helping Iran to develop the Tehran Nuclear Research Center. Following the development of the research center, nuclear treaties were constructed between Iran and India. The intent of the nuclear development was to prevent any dangerous nuclear activity from being tested. In addition, the US also believed that the creation of a nuclear industry in Iran would serve as a potential market of expansion for the future. When conditions in the Middle East worsened, and when the conflict between Iran and Iraq began to increase, Iran needed to strategically develop nuclear weaponry in order to protect itself. This possession of nuclear weapons would promote not only Iranian state security, but international security, argue scholars. Iran would not be subject to testing risky bombs jeopardizing the safety of innocent civilians. One benefit to letting Iran have the bomb is the fact that legitimate technology would make Iran more inclined not to use nuclear weapons because the power that it gives to the state of Iran makes others nations look at Iran in a different lens. Essentially Iran would not want to jeopardize the relationship with other states. Iran would be allowed to “enjoy all the benefits of having a bomb (such as greater security) without the downsides (such as international isolation and condemnation).” Once Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, deterrence will apply, even if the Iranian arsenal is small. Critics have been portraying Iran as an irrational actor explaining that nuclear deterrence would not apply, but this is false. Letting Iran have nuclear weaponry would restore Middle Eastern stability and national security. This would influence deterrence through the other nations internationally. There would be less worry about potential wars as long as there is effective diplomacy and communication between states. Iran in return would be more open about state policy and would be willing to share their intentions with the nuclear weaponry with other states.
Iran having nuclear weapons could bring Iran back to the circle of trust within the rest of the nations. This would open new policy doors with other states and potentially create new allies. All outside states would have to do is work on diplomacy with Iran which would open lines of communication making everyone feel more comfortable knowing about what Iran is doing with the nuclear weaponry. Not only would opening communication lines with states improve Iran’s moral to join the international community again, but developing nuclear technology will also help focus Iran’s assets and improve the economy. High inflation and unemployment rates, the excessive sanctions on the oil industry, and low industrial activity have all bean big factors to the decline of Iran’s economy. With Iran trying to develop secret nuclear weapons, the country is not able to balance any assets. Giving Iran nuclear weapons would allow it to allocate resources more effectively. In addition, the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty gives Iran the ability to develop nuclear materials for peaceful purposes. Nuclear enrichment programs developed in Iran are being worked toward the end goal of Iran having nuclear weaponry. Iran’s nuclear technology would open new bureaucratic policies, mixed with the development of power and national identity. Keeping Iran out of the international circle will further lead Iran’s economy into a worse state, and the nuclear technology developed would be potentially more harmful without the protection of other states giving help. State officials in Iran would use the pillars and values that Iran stands on to make policy decisions on nuclear weaponry responsibly.
There are some critics that doubt the intentions or Iran as a nuclear power. When Israel emerged as a nuclear state, it did not trigger an “arms race”, and there is no reason to think that with Iran emerging as a nuclear state, there would be any causes of dispute in the international system. There is also no reason to believe that Iran would share its technology secrets to terrorists. Iran would not run the risk of sharing technology with dangerous parties, it would jeopardize Iran’s standing in the international system and be viewed as a target in the eyes of major power. Both the United States and Israel would become enemies of Iran instantly. Rather, Iran would be using three models (security, bureaucratic, and identity) to shape its nuclear policy. The state is in no position to be looking for trouble in the international system, nor is it ready to do so. Throughout history, there have been numerous amounts of case studies that show how nuclear states have been handling their weaponry responsibly, and Iran will fit that model similar to others who have done so in the past.