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The Iranian Nuclear Deal Coursework

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Updated: Jul 22nd, 2021

Brief Historical Analysis of Iranian Nuclear Program

The United States started an ambitious program, under the Marshall Plan, to help Western Europe and other allies that were significantly affected by the Second World War to help rebuild. In 1950, the Iranian government, under the leadership of Mohammad Reza Shah, signed a nuclear program deal with the United States to help the Arabian country in the production of energy for domestic and commercial use. Under the program Atoms for Peace, the United States provided the experts and equipment needed to set up the nuclear power plants in the country. When Shah was toppled following the Iranian Revolution, the United States withdrew from the program. The country was determined to continue with its nuclear enrichment, and as such, the new leadership turned to Russia for assistance. In the 1990s, the Ruhollah Khomeini regime formed a joint research unit with Russia to help the country with technical information and nuclear experts (Bernstein 43). Some conspiracy theories have argued that Russia played a critical role in enabling Iran to redesign its nuclear power plants into nuclear arsenal bases hoping that the country would be an ally in case of an attack by the United States (Mitchell 64).

In 2000, the international community got concerned that the Iranian nuclear enrichment was not for non-peaceful courses and that the country had been running clandestine nuclear weapons development without the knowledge of the Security Council. The United Nations Security Council issued a directive to the Iranian government in 2007 demanding that it halts its nuclear enrichment program because of its failure to comply with Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) obligations (Maloney 899). However, the country has continued to ignore these demands, which led to Iranian economic sanctions under Resolution 1803 of 2008. In 2015, the United States, under the leadership of President Barrack Obama, and the P5+1 (permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany), and the European Union, reached a deal with Iran, popularly known as the Iranian Nuclear Deal (Mitchell 78). This paper will focus on the deal to determine its impact regionally and in the international arena.

Motivations of Obama’s Administration about the Iranian Nuclear Deal

The United States has close political and economic ties with various countries in the Middle East. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are not only its business partners but also political allies that have helped fight terror groups such as ISIL, Al Qaeda, and Hamas. On the other hand, Iran is known to sponsor some of these terror groups. It has offered financial and military support to Hezbollah and Hamas; a move considered a threat to regional peace and security. One of the primary motivations of the Obama administration in the negotiations leading to the deal was to ensure that Iran does not pose a serious security threat to regional allies of the United States. The United States considered disarmament as the only strategic move to protect Israel from a nuclear attack. In the agreement, Iran agreed to reduce its nuclear stockpile to a level that would not pose a threat to some of the countries it considers a threat within the region.

The Obama administration explained that another major motivation for the nuclear deal was to avoid triggering a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region (Maloney 904). Following the end of World War II, the Middle East has remained the most unstable region in the world. Iran has been very hostile to some of its neighbors, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia (Mitchell 32). The knowledge that Iran has nuclear weapons would force these neighbors to arm themselves for defensive and offensive purposes. The global community, through the United Nations Security Council, would not have the moral authority to stop these neighbors from nuclear enrichment because of the imminent threat from Iran. The strategic move of disarming Iran would eliminate the need for its neighbors to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

According to the Obama administration, there were only two options for resolving the issue of Iranian nuclear weapons: through negotiation or through war (Bernstein 69). The United States was under immense pressure from its allies in the Middle East to find a solution to the problem. Doing nothing was not an option at that time. The government considered using force as an expensive venture that would lead to massive loss of lives and destruction of properties in Iran. That option was also undesirable because it would create instability in the country, making it easy for terror groups and extremists to infiltrate it, just as it happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Having the deal was the most economically viable and politically acceptable strategy for the United States.

The Obama administration was motivated by the desire to create regional stability beyond the nuclear threat. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran have been actively involved in proxy wars in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, which each on the opposing sides. The continued conflict in these countries has caused a major international humanitarian crisis, with Europe as one of the main casualties, having been forced to host most of the refugees. The continued rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, according to the Obama administration, was widely viewed as an impediment to peace initiatives in the region. Having a peace deal would create a platform for the two rivals to have a political deal based on specific principles, which would enable them, to avoid providing direct or indirect support to warring parties in the region. Instead, they can help these parties reach political agreements that would promote peace in the region.

Trump’s Administration Motivations about the Iranian Nuclear Deal

The Trump administration has expressed its displeasure towards the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and subsequently pulled the United States from the deal (Jett 41). The administration has cited various factors as the main motivations for its total rejection of the agreement. First, the deal does not stop Iran from acting against the interest of the United States in the region, so the country remains an enemy to the Americans. It does not cover Iran’s support for Hezbollah, Hamas, and active involvement in the Yemeni conflict (Ritter and Hersh 61). As such, the deal would leave some of the United States’ allies, such as Saudi Arabia, vulnerable. In its report, the Trump administration questioned the motivation of the previous regime to support Iran economically and lift the sanctions if its activities in the Middle East still pose a threat to friendly states in the region.

The deal does not prohibit the Iranian government from testing its missiles. To the current administration, the omission was a major flow that makes Iran a dangerous country not only to its neighbors but also to the United States. It means that Iran can still test and improve its ballistic missiles with the primary goal of ensuring that they can reach mainland United States, as long as they do not have nuclear heads. Such a move would put the United States at risk of a possible nuclear strike as soon as the deal collapses or if the Iranian government decides to dishonor the deal. Moreover, the deal ignored the United Nations Security Council resolution that categorically stated that Iran should abandon its missile programs (Miller 28). The current administration believes that the previous administration was so interested in reaching some form of a deal that it ignored fundamental principles and the primary objective that was to be realized through the process.

The deal stated that the restrictions on Iran’s centrifuges would disappear after ten years, and the limit on uranium enrichment would be lifted five years after that (Mitchell 77). The Trump administration viewed such a deal as a temporary solution to a major international security threat. It means that within the next 15 years, Iran would have the opportunity to design and develop nuclear weapons, and the international community would have no moral authority to place more economic sanctions on the country. The regime would have preferred a stronger deal that permanently bars the country from acquiring nuclear weapons and outlining specific punishment that the country would be subjected to in case it acted contrary to the agreement (Cronberg 55). It also wanted a deal that would give the United States and the United Nations Security Council a greater capacity to inspect nuclear facilities in the country and ensure that the country does not engage in nuclear armament.

Pros and Cons in the U.S Perspectives

The current United States’ perspective on the nuclear deal is that it is irrelevant, and as such, should not be supported by the global community. Although the country was at the forefront in the enactment of the policy under the Obama regime, the current administration has pulled away from the United States from the agreement, which means that some of the gains made through the peace deal may no longer be relevant. This perspective has pros and cons which are worth discussing. With the help of relevant theories and concepts in international politics, the researcher focuses on the benefits and dangers of embracing this new perspective.

One of the main benefits of this new perspective is that Iran will be forced to accept stricter policies that would permanently rid it of any form of nuclear armament. Critics of the deal have complained that under the current arrangement, Iran can easily develop nuclear infrastructure and weapons soon after the end of the stated period, making it necessary for the international community to reach another deal. It is necessary to have a lasting solution to this problem now instead of pushing forward the problem. Machiavellianism as a political theory holds that one can use any means possible to maintain political power, some of which may not be ethical (Mitchell 112). Iran is keen on maintaining its position in the region as a political power in the Middle East. Its current leadership, especially the Supreme Leader, is also keen on protecting its political control of the country. These politicians will do everything within their powers to ensure that the international community does not force them out of office, as was the case with Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, or Omar al Bashir of Sudan.

These leaders view nuclear weapons as their only guarantee of power, and they will do everything to protect them. As such, the current deal will only buy them time and give them the resources needed to continue with such projects. Applying this theory in this context shows that the current dictatorial leadership of Iran has no genuine desire to abandon nuclear enrichment. As such, the new stance taken by the United States is an appropriate way of finding a lasting solution. As the theory holds, the United States and the international community through the Security Council should use any means possible to destroy the nuclear program in Iran, even if it means using military force. It will be easier and less costly, in terms of both resources and human lives, to deal with the problem now when the country’s nuclear and intercontinental ballistic system is not advanced instead of postponing the problem.

The new perspective will help be beneficial to the United States in expressing its global dominance as a Super Power and its commitment towards promoting a peaceful international community. As a Super Power, the country is not expected to make concessions that endanger its allies and peaceful regional and global coexistence. The concept of complex interdependence is an international relations theory, which holds the assumption that states are coherent units and are the dominant actors in international relations; second, force is a usable and effective instrument of policy; and finally, the assumption that there is a hierarchy in international politics” (Mitchell 67).

The first principle of this theory is that states are the main actors in international relations, and as such, the United States is at liberty to express its dissatisfaction when it feels a given policy does not meet its interests. The second principle of the theory states that sometimes force may be a necessary instrument of achieving desired goals when diplomacy fails. Finally, it states that there is a hierarchy in international politics, and the United States is often viewed as being at the top of that hierarchy as the world’s only superpower (Miller 901). When engaging in international diplomacy, it should have the interest of the global society instead of focusing on quick fixes.

The main disadvantage of the new perspective that the United States has taken towards the Iranian deal is that it may require the use of force. According to Cronberg, the deal required the United States under the Obama administration to make many concessions (56). The current Iranian regime has a legitimate fear that the only instrument that keeps it in power is its nuclear arsenal. As such, the country would be willing to go to war when the international community forces it to abandon the program without providing an alternative means of protecting the current rulers. Many lives would be lost if force is used to disarm this country, and the biggest casualties may be the immediate neighbors viewed as close allies of the United States.

Liberalism, also known as liberal internationalism, is a political concept, which holds that the global system has the capacity of engendering a peaceful world order without the need to use direct force (Joyner 89). This theory advocate for diplomacy instead of military force when addressing conflicts in the international community. Using force would only result in deaths and destruction without being assured of the needed solution. The international community would not be assured that the new crop of Iranian leaders, in case the current leaders are toppled, would be friendly to the United Nations.

The Impact of the Iranian Nuclear Program and its Interventions in the Arabian Gulf

Iranian nuclear program is a major concern for many countries in the Arabian Gulf. Since Ruhollah Khomeini took over power in 1979, the country embraced foreign policies that placed it on a path of conflict with most of its neighbors. During the Iran-Iraq War that lasted 8 years, most of the countries in the Arabian Gulf supported Iraq. The relation between Iran on the one side and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, and Qatar is strained (Dershowitz 87). Israel also views Iran as one of its biggest security threats in the region. Currently, Iran and Saudi Arabia are involved in proxy wars, with each supporting opposing warring groups in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

The Iranian nuclear program will have a serious effect on the Arabian Gulf if immediate measures are not taken to disarm Iran. These countries consider Iran a threat to their national security. If the program is not halted, these countries may feel that the only option is to have their own nuclear program for defensive and offensive purposes when necessary. Given the oil resource in the region and the technical capacity of Israel, an arms race may emerge in the region, and the international community may not have the capacity to deal with the problem at that large scale.

The Iranian intervention in the Arabian Peninsula is viewed as counterproductive by a section of the international community. During the Yemeni War, the Iranian government offered direct financial and material support to the Houthi insurgents, enabling them to overthrow a democratically elected president (Jones 58). Supporting a military coup instead of a peaceful democratic process was viewed as a major reason why Yemen has remained politically unstable for nearly one decade. Iran has been mobilizing and supporting Shia insurgents, while Saudi Arabia supports Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq (Bernstein 41). The problem is that these foreign governments provide arms, food, training, and other resources to those they support, making it impossible to end the war. The real casualties in such scenarios are civilians in the country who cannot engage in any meaningful economic activities. Some of them are killed in the war, while others are forced to seek political asylum. With nuclear power, many countries in the Arabian Peninsula feel that Iran may become more aggressive.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The United States, under the previous regime of President Barrack Obama, played a leading role in the development of the Iranian nuclear agreement. However, when the current President Donald Trump came to power, the United States’ government disowned it, citing major weaknesses. In fact, the government is planning to impose even tougher sanctions to force Iran back to the negotiation table for a better deal (Jett 78). The current regime argues that the deal does not address fundamental issues in the Arabian Peninsula. Iran is still able to support extremist groupings in the region that poses a serious threat to the United States allies in the Middle East. The deal, in its current form, allows Iran to resume its nuclear armament programs after fifteen years (Ritter and Hersh 45). It means that the global community will be forced to address the same problem at that time. The current regime views such a deal as postponing the problem instead of finding a lasting solution. As such, the United States perspective towards the deal has changed. The government has the following recommendations:

Iran must commit to the permanent destruction of its current nuclear ambition before all the economic sanctions can be lifted. The current and future regimes of the country should allow the United Nations Security Council to conduct regular checks to ensure that the government is not running clandestine nuclear programs.

  • Iran must stop its destabilizing activities in the Arabian Peninsula, especially its direct support to insurgencies and terror groups such as Hamas, Houthi, and Hezbollah.
  • The government of Iran should stop its ballistic missile programs as was suggested by the United States Security Council. Continued advancement of the missile program would be an indication that the country is still committed to engaging in aggressive activities that may jeopardize regional and international peace.
  • The United Nations should have the military capacity to use military force to destroy the nuclear stockpile in Iran in case the current regime fails to take into consideration the conditions set for the disarmament program.

Works Cited

Bernstein, Jeremy. Nuclear Iran. Harvard University Press, 2014.

Cronberg, Tarja. Nuclear Multilateralism and Iran: Inside EU Negotiations. Routledge, 2017.

Dershowitz, Alan. The Case against the Iran Deal: How Can We Now Stop Iran from Getting Nukes? Rosetta Books, 2015.

Jett, Dennis C. The Iran Nuclear Deal: Bombs, Bureaucrats, and Billionaires. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Jones, Bruce D. Still Ours to Lead: America, Rising Powers, and the Tension between Rivalry and Restraint. Brookings Institution Press, 2014.

Joyner, Daniel. Iran’s Nuclear Program and International Law: From Confrontation to Accord. Oxford University Press, 2016.

Maloney, Suzanne. “Sanctions and the Iranian Nuclear Deal: Silver Bullet or Blunt Object?” Social Research, vol. 82, no. 4, 2015, pp. 887-911.

Miller, Nicholas L. Stopping the Bomb: The Sources and Effectiveness of Us Nonproliferation Policy. Cornell University Press, 2018.

Mitchell, Lincoln A. The Democracy Promotion Paradox. Brookings Institution Press, 2016.

Ritter, Scott, and Seymour Hersh. Dealbreaker: Donald Trump and the Unmaking of the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Clairty Press, 2018.

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