Iran-perceived as a powermaximizer from the realist point of view
In the subsequent section would be outlined the reasons for perceiving Iran as a nuclear threat and the measures that consider to be taken by other actors, especially U.S.A, for preventing the use of nuclear capability and military assets for offensive purposes. We also formulate the arguments that sustain the military attack on Iran`s nuclear program or the diplomatic and financial sanctions, and the arguments that consider that a military strike would stimulate Iran`s uranium enrichment.
The behavior of Iran can be explained with the help of realist theoretical framework. Iran, as all the international actors, behaves like a selfish state, interested to promote and to reach its national interests. Iran increases its power by developing a nuclear program for increasing its security and for discouraging any offensive actions undertaken by other states, for example: U.S. Most likely, it won`t stop from acquiring nuclear technology until it would obtain a second-strike nuclear capability, so as to ensure a “nuclear power balance” that makes nuclear attacks and the military ones, improbable and impossible. Given the fact that the international system is anarchical, meaning the non-existence of a superior authority above the national one that could impose certain rules, norms to the states; the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty exercises a minimal control upon the nuclear capability and other military sites possessed by Iran. Defection instead of cooperation is seen as the best option by Iran, so as to eliminate every possibility of being cheated. The lack of trust and communication stimulates Iran to face US capabilities and not U.S possible intentions. U.S and other international actors, such as China and Russia, actors involved in this dispute, are also guided by their national interests. U.S tries to eliminate any threat, existent or potential that could reduce its security by destabilizing the “regional balance of power”, China supports its main oil supplier and Russia its customer of nuclear technology. According to the realist view the powerful states influence the international political economy, so Iran in this case is one example of how powerful states protect their economic interests and deter any threat that would undermine their economic security.
The Shahab 3 flight test revealed the real intentions of Iran regarding its nuclear program. “The only reason for developing long-range missiles is to deliver nuclear weapons to target’’. The “commercial satellite imagery’’ also pointed out the existence of nuclear constructions, which are built underground or near human communities, so as to prevent its destruction. Iran`s ambition to develop heavy-water reactors and to obtain uranium, cannot be explained in terms of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, but in terms of its interests to increase nuclear weapons capacity.
In order to prevent the development of nuclear weapons by a “rogue state”, policymakers have proposed two kinds of solutions. The first one would imply a military attack on nuclear bases and the second one would imply diplomatic or financial means of resolution. Those that sustain the military strike on the nuclear plants of Iran, count on the conventional and nuclear superiority of U.S.A. According to them, the military intervention of U.S.A in Iran should also imply regime change and a permanent presence of inspectors for preventing the nuclear contraband and for establishing a nuclear technology embargo.
The non-attack strategy would suppose financial and economic sanctions upon Iran or the implementation of various mechanisms that would stimulate negotiation and cooperation.
The following section analyzes the implications of each strategy at regional level and international level, also the measures that may be taken into consideration by Iran in order to pursue its national interests.
The military attack on nuclear plants, followed by a forced regime change might generate unexpected consequences. Even if the population has low standards of living and there is a great disparity between the rich and poor people, the military intervention of U.S.A may stimulate nationalist waves and it could be interpreted as a desire of U.S.A to impose its hegemony in the region.
Another important aspect that should be mentioned is that Iranian people sustain the nuclear program, the debate is wherever it should be a civilian nuclear energy program or it should generate nuclear power. The diplomatic and economic sanctions, especially a military attack, would turn the people in favor of developing nuclear weapons.
A military strike upon Iranian nuclear plants could cause a negative reaction not only from the Iranian population, but also from Russia and China, which have strategic interests in the region. Iran is one of the main oil supplier to China, while China is an important investor in the Iran`s infrastructural field. Russia provides nuclear “high-tech military technology and nuclear hardware for Iran”. The military attack launched by U.S.A upon the nuclear plants of Iran would make no difference if it would not be sustained by Russia and China. Without Russia`s and China`s cooperation, the nuclear and missile program of Iran could be rebuild in three years.
A military strike upon Iranian nuclear plants would mean to undermine the authority of United Nations and to break out the main principles of the Charter. The Security Council would not approve the military intervention in Iran mainly because it is not in accordance with the article two from the Charter, which states that “all members shall settle the international disputes by peaceful means”, “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” and shall not intervene in the domestic affairs of one state. Secondly, two of the permanent members of Security Council, which have veto rights, China and Russia, would oppose it.
Taking into consideration the strategic location of the nuclear plants, near human settlements or underground, a military strike would be less efficient because it implies more targets, which could be difficult to be localized, but also their destruction would conclude with the deaths of many innocent people and high military costs. Even if the nuclear program could be destroyed, the technical and scientific experts would still be able to develop a new one.
The financial and diplomatic sanctions upon Iran could encourage it to raise the prices of oil. The result would not affect only United States economy, but the world`s oil market, as Iran provides daily 20 percent of world oil`s reserve. Of course, we cannot ignore the fact that the export of oil provides about 60% percent of Iran`s national budget, but Iran could take such a risk and look for new marketplaces.
Let`s analyze the measures that might be taken by U.S. and their impact upon Iran`s behavior. The military intervention of U.S. may also stimulate the development of Iran`s nuclear program. The military inferiority of Iran would encourage it to use the nonconventional weapons for fighting against U.S. conventional superiority. Instead, a nuclear attack on Iran would give reasons for further achieving nuclear weapons and for initiating a nuclear arm race. ,,Iranian fears that the United States could success-fully disrupt its command-and-control infrastructure or preemptively destroy its ballistic missile arsenal could also tempt Iran to launch as many missiles as possible early in the war”. Iran most likely would approach a realist thinking, by increasing its power it would increase the security of the country and would not allow an attack of U.S. on Iran, without major costs. “Controlling escalation would be no easier on the U.S. side. In the face of reprisals by Iranian proxies, token missile strikes against U.S. bases and ships, or the harassment of commercial and U.S. naval vessels, Kroenig says that Washington should turn the other cheek and constrain its own response to Iranian counter-attacks”.
In case of U.S., how would you explain to the audience that you are leading a war against a potential disastrous nuclear war? The probability that Iran would attack U.S.A is still minimal. Why is then Iran increasing its nuclear capacity? Maybe it wants to prevent the control of USA over the region or to decrease the chances of being attacked. For the Americans the nuclear attack on Iran is less probable, but for Iranians the U.S.A capabilities are obvious and not their intentions. Given the fact that the first-strike capability is detained by USA until Iran would not develop a second-strike capability, ‘the nuclear and conventional military balance, in a strict technical sense, will remain crisis unstable’.
Matthew Kroenig argues in the article ‘Time to attack Iran’ that a military attack on the nuclear program of Iran would discourage the elites to initiate a new one, but after the Osirack nuclear reactor from Iraq was destroyed by Israelli, Saddam Hussein initiated a new nuclear weapons program and it took a decade of sanctions and surveillance to impede its development.
If Iran was to rebuilt its nuclear program after an attack it might even consider restraining the control of IAEA and break out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In this case it would be difficult for the international community to control Iran`s actions regarding nuclear weapons program and to react in time.
The nuclear war is not winnable and is self-distractive. The goal to wage a war is to win and gain control upon a territory and a population, once the war cannot be won and it also implies the ‘disappearance of human organized society’, it has no meaning to begin it or to respond to a nuclear attack. So, it would not be rational for a state to initiate its own destruction or the destruction of another state, if there is nothing left to conquer. The possession of nuclear weapons reduces the probability of direct confrontation to zero, even the conventional one, but in the same time increases the level of disputes and conflicts between the allies.
Conclusion: A realist view upon Iran`s nuclear progress and the implications of the strategies that are taken into consideration by the policymakers for stopping it, show that Iran would act as a selfish actor and would react. A military attack on Iran most likely would determine Iran to reestablish its nuclear power and to refuse for the future any presence of inspectors, being way harder for the international community to monitor its progress and to stop an offensive act.