The Nuclearization of Iran: Motivations, Intentions and America's Responses

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

This research investigates the strategic intentions behind the Iranian state's programs for acquiring nuclear weapons. Using Graham Allison's Rational Actor Model of national decision-making, this thesis investigates three questions: 1) Iran's motivations for obtaining nuclear weapons; 2) Iran's strategies for actual use of nuclear weapons; and, 3) alternative political frameworks for the U.S. to use with Iran to minimize the negative effects of a nuclearized Iran.

This study asserts that Iran would most likely acquire nuclear weapons for the purposes of self-reliance, a greater international voice, to make up for deficiencies in conventional weapons, and for deterrence. Some scholars argue that since Iran should be designated a "rogue" state, it may become aggressive or hostile once obtaining nuclear weapons. Yet, Iran's political actions actually seem to have become increasingly pragmatic. Hence, it appears that Iran would use this arsenal to induce caution among its rivals to avoid major wars, as well as a tool for deterrence.

While current political differences between Iran and America are considerable, this research recommends pursuing greater political engagement with Tehran, focusing on mutual benefits. American policymakers should implement policies which rely on positive inducements for change as well as sanctions for non-compliance. If no rapprochement takes place prior to Iran's nuclearization, however, the U.S. will need to employ tactics for minimizing the significance of Iran having nuclear weapons. This research suggests that Washington could begin by implementing economic, technical and material sanctions, establishing a Middle East missile defense system, and beefing-up U.S. coastal defenses.

Weapons of Mass Destruction, National Security, Middle East Policy, Iran, Nuclear Weapons