The debate over Iran and its nuclear capabilities fuel discussions challenging the effectiveness of deterrence. While some argue that continuing to implement serious sanctions will stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, others argue that nothing will stop the determined country from doing so. Iran has been suffering from the effects of such harsh sanctions for years and has yet to abandon its pursuit of nuclear power. Many believe these sanctions actually motivate the Islamic Republic to continue its work because it will gain the protection it needs to stand against super powers like the United States and the EU. Iran is also concerned by the threat of nearby Israel. I am in agreement with these critics and believe that Iran cannot be deterred from developing nuclear weapons.
Iran is not a new player in the game of nuclear development. It has been working with nuclear technology since the 1950’s through the U.S. Atoms for Peace program. Although the program had a slow start, things speeded up after the Shah began to invest significant amounts of money in “several nuclear technology related contracts with foreign suppliers and invested in education and training for its personnel” (nti.org, 2014) at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). Nuclear technologies were substantially developed by the time of the 1979 revolution but came to a halt under Ayatollah Khomeini. A few years later in 1984, Khomeini expressed a “renewed Iranian interest in nuclear power” and from there on Iran began to rebuild its nuclear technologies and capacities (nti.org, 2013). The movement gained strength after Iran-Iraq war and Iran became much more invested in producing nuclear technology. As Iran began to expand its programs by creating nuclear cooperation agreements with countries like Pakistan, China and Russia, the United States suspected their interest in developing nuclear weapons and started to pressure the international community to limit these agreements. The United States blocked agreements between Iran and China, and, Iran and Argentina. The following years consist of suspicion over Iran’s nuclear motives and the United States trying to use international pressure to deter Iran from developing a nuclear weapon or Iran’s capacity to build one very quickly.
The history of Iran’s involvement with nuclear technology is important because it emphasizes the longevity of this issue. The United States has made many attempts over the years to isolate Iran from the international community and deter their interest in building nuclear weapons. Sanctions, however strong, are simply not enough to deter Iran. Deterrence is defined by the ability to discourage a potential aggressor from attacking or behaving in a threatening way because the consequences will be greater than any anticipated gains. The problem is that Iran does not believe that obtaining nuclear weapons will be more harmful than rewarding. According to Kenneth Waltz, “If Tehran determines that its security depends on possessing nuclear weapons, sanctions are unlikely to change its mind” (Waltz, 2012). The more the United States or the United Nations pressures Iran, the more threatened it will feel and it not want to stop a project that will give them the security they need. Having second-strike capability gives Iran power in the Middle East and the rest of the international community. In order for deterrence to work, the United States (for this case) needs to establish commitment, capability and credibility. Capability is not a problem; the United States has all the nuclear resources it needs to defend a threat or an attack against a nuclear Iran. The issues the United States deals with are following through on commitment and credibility, both on many levels. First, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) has many flaws. Some states are not a part of it, which means it is not a total global effort. Many countries may feel threatened by this and feel as though