War With Iran: We Can Afford to Let Iran Have Nuclear Weapons

Over the past few years the world has debated the issue of a nuclear Iran. What should be done to prevent it? How can it be prevented? Who should be the one to take action?  These are all important questions, but perhaps the most important question at this stage is: What are the consequences of not preventing a nuclear Iran?  The consequences are, in fact, naught if not stabilizing.

Iran’s nuclear program is only a natural reaction to its current situation. Iran is building up to balance. In recent years, countries around its borders have undergone massive change as a result of both domestic and external forces. A nuclear-weapons program could domestically stabilize the regime under a newly elected president and deter regional and global aggressors seeking Iranian reform. 

As every realist understands, power is meant to be balanced. Turkey’s rise in geopolitical significance as a potential partner for the U.S., in addition to a potential Turkish rapprochement with Israel — Iran’s scapegoat for all its regional problems — seems to necessitate some sort of Iranian action. For these reasons in addition to its location in a region full of Sunni Arabs, it is easy to see the rationale behind Shia-Persian Iran’s plan, however unsavory it may be to Westerners

 

So, it is clear that Iran is rational in its pursuit of a nuclear weapons program. Why then would a rational actor inhibit peace? In short, it would not. Repercussions for following through with any previous threats against Israel would certainly incite immense retaliation from both Israel and the U.S. An Iranian move to close the Strait of Hormuz would also be met with an unyielding naval reprisal. Effectively, aggression is not in the interest of a nuclear Iran. 

The late Kenneth Waltz went so far as to argue that an Iranian nuclear weapons would have an easing effect on regional tensions. He said, “Should Iran become the second Middle Eastern nuclear power since 1945, it would hardly signal the start of a landslide.”  There is no evidence that the macabre outcome of nuclear war would ensue if Iran — or any other Middle Eastern actor — achieved a nuclear capability.

As a direct threat to the security of the United States, a nuclear Iran is no different from a non-nuclear Iran. It still lacks the capacity for a strike on the U.S. its territories. It does not maintain ICBMs or intercontinental bombers. And under the premise that Iran’s nuclear program is a rational reaction to a predicament, this would not be a concern in the first place. 

"Containability," therefore, will not be an issue. There will be no need for it. Nuclear Iran will contain itself for fear of provoking retribution for aggression. It will be complacent with a reaffirmed domestic situation and more stable geopolitical footing as a result of deterrence. A complacent nuclear Iran means a less aggressive, less hostile Iran.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

George Hartmann

Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Class of 2014

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