Barry Posen has authored an article titled “A Nuclear-Armed Iran: A Difficult but not Impossible Policy Problem”. In this article, Posen explores the nuclear program in Iran. In the last few years, Iran has been engaged in intensive nuclear research and development. In fact, the nation seems to be very well on course to achieve the ability of producing highly enriched uranium that is one of the key elements of nuclear weapons. The capacity to produce enriched uranium would not encompass violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), under the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) safeguards (Posen 3). However, Iran’s deceptive behavior and attitude towards the development of this nuclear technology as well as the insubstantial arguments it has given in trying to justify the capability to produce enriched uranium has led to great opposition to the program, by many nations across the world with many adopting the opinion that the real intention of Iran is to produce nuclear weapons (Posen 3). Nations such as the United States have been negotiating with Iran to cease is nuclear enrichment program but this has so far been unsuccessful. Posen claims that the failed negotiations only leave nations such as the US and the UK with three alternatives. The first is the use of economic and political coercion. The other alternative is to launch a preventive attack on Iran to destroy its nuclear program. The final alternative and the one that the paper majorly concentrates on is the development of strategies of deterrence and containment.
Therefore, the major concept of international relations that is explored in this article is the deterrence theory. In terms of international relations, deterrence usually consists of convincing opponents or stimulating strategies or occurrences that would convince opponents that particular actions would most likely elicit responses that would ultimately result in huge and unacceptable damage that in in the end would outweigh the benefits of these actions
The deterrence theory is perfectly applicable to the current behavior of a nuclear producing Iran. In hindsight, the production of nuclear weapons by Iran would not necessarily lead the nation to becoming actively aggressive. The reason for this is that of foreign nations such as Israel and the United States would impose humongous costs on the country to the point that were it to make threats of using nuclear weapons, the leadership of Iran would rationally come to the conclusion that aggression would incur greater costs that the benefits and gains that the use of nuclear weapons would bring about.
Posen explains how the production of nuclear weapons might translate into a more belligerent Iran. One, it might equip terrorists with these nuclear weapons. Secondly, the nation might attempt to blackmail other nations using the nuclear weapons. Thirdly, the country might become aggressive on the belief that no country, not even the US would accept the huge risk of invading a nuclear producing state or even try to attack it from the air. Posen contends that first and the second threats are quite improbable while the third one is manageable.
There is a very good reason that the risk are manageable or remote, and it is this reason that perfectly exhibits the concept of deterrence. First, the main adversaries of Iran that is, Israel and the United States both possess nuclear weapons. Therefore, an offset to the risk of Iran giving weapons to terrorist is that anyone who would attack the United States or Israel with nuclear weapons would in turn be attacked with even more nuclear weapons. This is a policy used both by Israel and the United States. Therefore, if the two nations were attacked using nuclear weapons manufactured in Iran, the nation would constantly have to worry about the victim countries discovering the source of the weapons and exerting incredulous revenge. On recognizing this huge risk, Iran would make the rational conclusion that handing nuclear weapons to terrorists would inadvertently lead to its own annihilation in the long run. This is a perfect exemplification of deterrence at work.
In addition, Posen points out even if Iran was to use nuclear weapons to blackmail nations such as Saudi Arabia or Kuwait on things such as oil prices and production levels, it is unlikely that these nations would choose to capitulate to Iran and choose not to rely on the American deterrent threat.
The third risk can also be met with an aspect of deterrence. Although Iran might use its nuclear capability as a tool of threat diffusion. It would however have to very cautious. This cautiousness would once again emanate from an analysis of the costs, benefits, losses and risk of the endeavor. Aggression on Iran’s part might actually stimulate costly- counter measures or actions by other powerful nations that might even attack a nuclear producing Iran with better and more dreadful weapons if it showed signs of provoking war.
In conclusion, this article by Posen exemplifies one aspect of international relations, and this is the deterrence theory. Using the case of Iran and its nuclear production and development program, it is shown that powerful nations such as the US could use deterrence to make Iran aware of the fact that the production and use of nuclear weapons would have worse consequences than benefits.
Posen, Barry R. Nuclear-armed Iran: A Difficult But Not Impossible Policy Problem. Century Foundation, 2006.