HTS 2041: The Modern Middle East

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Iran and Nuclear Development

The state of Iran’s nuclear program is an issue in hot debate currently around the world. Iran claims that it only has peaceful intentions, but Israel has drawn a figurative “Red Line” stating that Iran should not develop their nuclear capabilities because they will use it against them. However, there are legitimate reasons for Iran to continue to develop their nuclear programs.

One reason is that nuclear capability gives them legitimacy in the eyes of the world. In a recent interview, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran needs to be treated as a major contributor to the world now. They are a developed country with nuclear power and not a small nation or territory to be exploited any more.  Ahmadinejad said in the interview,

“They want Iran to go back to what it was in the past, but they won’t succeed. They assume we’ll give in to pressure; such thoughts are misguided. We’re already an industrial and nuclear country, a country that has conquered space. For years we have been thinking about sending a human being into space, and we will do that, with Allah’s help. We must ensure development and growth and bring them to pass, and the world must acknowledge our progress.”

This sentiment is similar to what was going on in the 19th and early 20th centuries when Britain and Russia were fighting over Iran’s resources. Iran has come a long way since then and is now an independent and developed country. They are by no means a major world power, but the current world powers need to stop seeing them as a barbaric, warmongering state.

This does not mean that Iran doesn’t have its own faults that need to be reconciled before they can be considered a legitimate power in the world. Their current policies with Israel do nothing to help with being seen as a warmongering state. However Israel isn’t helping with that situation either.

It is important to note that there is a difference between nuclear power and nuclear weapons when Iran says it is a nuclear state. Nuclear power would mean they are a developed country in the world with peaceful intentions, which is what Ahmadinejad is trying to convey here. Nuclear weapons also show that Iran is a developed nation, but it also shows that Iran many not have peaceful intentions.

Another reason is that nuclear capability gives Iran the ability to defend themselves or at least prevent attacks from other nations. Israel has kept up strategic ambiguity as to whether they have nuclear weapons or not, but it is generally agreed that they do. Iran wants to have a more level playing field and not let Israel have the much higher position. Israel wants Iran to halt their nuclear development and Iran sees this as trying to keep them down. If Iran denied the ability to defend themselves from what they see as an imminent threat, then they feel they are denied being a sovereign state as well, which brings us back to the first point, that nuclear capability gives Iran legitimacy.

New nuclear talks will start later this month in Kazakhstan and hopefully a peaceful settlement can be reached. Iran is not completely opposed to stopping all nuclear weapon development. They recently called for the destruction of all nuclear weapons after the North Korea nuclear test. “We need to come to the point where no country has any nuclear weapons and at the same time all weapons of mass destruction and nuclear arms need to be destroyed,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast.

I think nothing good will come out of this situation without transparency. Iran has not been very trustworthy in the past, such as hiding their nuclear developments and constant spats with Israel. Israel has not been very open at all either, keeping a strategic ambiguity on having nuclear weapons. Destruction of all nuclear weapons will not happen without complete transparency on all sides, including the major world powers.

Even if destruction of nuclear weapons is not a realistic or achievable goal, transparency is what is needed to help settle these problems. For Iran, transparency opens up the door for more trust with other nations, and more trust opens up the door to being considered a legitimate world player. Iran will be more likely to be transparent if the UN and specifically Israel follow suit.

The new nuclear talks later this month could be a turning point for the conflicts in the Middle East if Iran and other nuclear nations become a bit more open.

-Jeffrey Holleman



  1. I agree with you on how Iran is developing nuclear technologies in order to show to that they are a developed country and not a third-world like how many view it as. Like the similar blog about Iran and nuclear power a few weeks ago, it’s not reasonable to expect Iran to stop all nuclear development, but rather having them be transparent about it is a step in the right direction not only for Iran, but for all countries with nuclear power.

  2. flambert3 says:

    I agree with you. I think demands coming from the US and Israel make Iran want to develop nuclear weapons. I do think they only want to be on a even playing field. So if this is such a problem for Iran to have nuclear weapons for other nations then all the other nations should become transparent and get rid of the ones they have now. Easier said than done.

  3. I totally agree with you about transparency about nuclear weapons issue. Having an irrational state like North Korea as a neighbor and enemy is really scary, especially after its underground nuclear test early this week. I totally understand how Israel feels about nuclear weapons in Iran. I think North Korea has said similar things as Iranian president, but neither of them is trustworthy, in my opinion.

  4. ojanus3 says:

    The claim that now a days having the capability to produce nuclear power is what makes a country a ‘major contributor to the world’ is some what alarming. I believe the quote given here from Ahmadinejad’s interview is a great connection with the discussion we had in class today and the Jamal essay; each were about how Islam limits the evolution of technology but perhaps they can break through, and in this case Ahmadinejad believes that it will happen with the blessing of Allah.

    The issue of developing nuclear power/weapons is not only limited to the Middle East. Exemplified by North Korea’s defiance of international bans as they tested a nuclear bomb earlier this week.

  5. mjuren3 says:

    The unfortunate thing about the modern world is that countries like Iran think they need nuclear weapons to both be taken seriously as a global power and be considered a developed nation. Therefore, we are on the path to more and more countries having nuclear weapons instead of less. What is even sadder is that I don’t believe we will ever truly reach a point where every or even some countries agree to disarm themselves. The reason for this being lack of trust between governments and as mentioned above the absence of transparency. Even if responsible nations agreed to give up their nukes, you would still have the possibility of governments not going through with the agreement or the weaponry falling into the wrong hands leaving people without a way to effectively defend themselves. And as no one is going to leave something that important up to chance, I’m afraid the world is going to remain in this situation indefinitely.

  6. kmh3 says:

    I very much agree with what Marion said above. The new standard of development is nuclear firepower, however many of these countries that want to be considered as global powers fail to realize that with such nuclear power comes extreme scrutiny from long-established nuclear powers who do not want another player on their stage. Though transparency could be a good first step in diffusing the tenuous situation between Iran and Israel, I’m afraid it is a pipe dream. Neither side has enough trust for the other or even for its own allies to truly consider giving the entire world a view into their nuclear programs or accrual processes. Coming from an international relations point of view, the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction would hold that the world is as safe with all sides holding nuclear power as it is with no nuclear arms at all.

    • chai164 says:

      I completely agree with this. Because of the mutual distrust, neither Iran nor Israel will want to be transparent about their activities and their usage. What if Israel initiates the transparency, and Iran chooses to use that to their advantage then go on to reveal nothing? What if it’s the other way around? Both countries have adequate reason to keep their activities a secret and it’s going to be very hard to create the kind of transparency that you’re suggesting. Although, in an ideal world, I completely agree with your article. It would be the best solution.

      That being said, it was good to hear the other side of the argument about this issue and attempt to understand Iran’s motivations from their perspective.

  7. akranc3 says:

    Iran definitely has not been very trustworthy in the past. This point is agreed upon. However, I don’t see how Iran can argue for the destruction of all nuclear weapons, and at the same time be seeking them. You can’t desire the possession of something and at the same time want to see its nonexistence. It’s nonsensical. I feel that Iran should leverage its position of not having a developed nuclear program to start disarmament talks with these hipster nations that have the nukes.

  8. tnatoli3 says:

    After reading this blog I saw this on Yahoo showing how Iran’s nuclear capacity is increasing.

  9. kolson23 says:

    It makes sense that Iran wants to come into the modern age as a developed country. It also makes sense that nuclear power is the key. I agree with your separation of nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Nuclear power is something that is up and coming and has the potential to do awesome things, if used responsibly. I also agree that transparency with regards to nuclear policies is the only way that anyone will know what other countries intentions are, also that is the only way we can be sure that nuclear weapons are disarmed. I understand Iran’s concern, their neighbors are not on the best of terms and there is a strong possibility that they have nuclear weapons, so Iran wants to defend themselves. They just need to gain some trust and show responsibility with nuclear power.

  10. jdowling6 says:

    It doesn’t make sense that Iran said they were going to get rid of all nuclear weapons and yet claim they are developing their nuclear programs for peaceful intentions if they already had these nuclear weapons. Hmmm. Irony. After reading, I am convinced of ill intentions.

  11. mnicholas6 says:

    I’m glad you differentiated between nuclear powers and nuclear weapons as the two are often viewed synonymously. It truly shows how word choice can be the determining factor between peaceful development and the threat of the “mutually assured destruction” of the Cold War.

  12. John Girata says:

    I can appreciate that Iran has some right to nuclear power. But the United States has the right to defend itself. Iran has positioned itself opposed to the United States, and no one can expect the United States to concede its defense. If Iran obtains nuclear weapons, it will probably use them against Western nations because, well, that’s what they have said they are going to do.

  13. shaimsn says:

    I want to bring up one of the paragraphs you wrote:

    “Another reason is that nuclear capability gives Iran the ability to defend themselves or at least prevent attacks from other nations. Israel has kept up strategic ambiguity as to whether they have nuclear weapons or not, but it is generally agreed that they do…”

    It seems that you’re saying that (one of the reasons why) Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons to be able to defend themselves from attacks from Israel. Let’s assume for a second that Israel does have nuclear weapons, as it is generally agreed on. Following the assumption, if they have nuclear weapons already, they’ve had them for a long time (because it has been agreed on by the general public since the 1960s). Why would Iran start feeling threatened nowadays, instead of freaking out when the entire world started to agree on the fact that Israel had nuclear weapons? Why would this reaction start right after an extremist leader (for example, denies the existence of the Holocaust) took power?

    Plus, Israel hasn’t threatened erasing another nation from the map (and we all know Iran has).

    Who is the real aggressor?

    These are just questions that we should think about.

    Also, if anybody is interested in reading Ahmadinejad controversial public declarations against the State of Israel and the Jewish People, check out this link (list of all the major declarations since 2005). I recommend you to start reading from 2005 and the continue on.

  14. This how debate on nuclear power is very interesting. There have even been amazing stories involved, one being about how a spy went into Iran and planted a virus that set them back. I think its good that Iran, at least publicly, is focusing on using this to obtain power rather than weapons. I believe North Korea is much scarier due to their desperation and public hate towards the US.

  15. phillipscheng says:

    If we were to want to eradicate nuclear weapons as a whole, we get to the point where if hypothetically no country has nuclear weapons, if a single country develops and builds nuclear weapons in secret, many of that country’s enemies become targets.

    If we were to eradicate nuclear weapons do we truly believe that nuclear powers will willingly destroy all their weapons? I think several countries will create secret stockpiles instead.

  16. jkipp3 says:

    Many of you may have seen this on Reddit…Iran recently unveiled a new stealth plane, the Qahar 313. It has been debunked my numerous physicists, aerospace experts, and even Photoshop users as a hunk of fiberglass. Iran’s leaders clearly get a rush out of telling the world they are big and bad, while wasting resources on these publicity stunts. It isn’t getting them anywhere fast.

  17. Jeffrey Lester says:

    I think if the Iranian government wants to be taken seriously then they need to learn their place. They seem to want to pick a fight with anybody who tries to tell them what they need to do to be considered legitimate. They don’t realize that building trust takes time and effort so they will continue to fall short of their goals because they can form no meaningful allies. They should look to world leaders like Japan who have managed to maintain their status without any military presence.

  18. nathenj65 says:

    JKipp3 that is a very interesting point that you proposed about their government willing to go to extremes to make people believe that they had something that was of importance. And that this thing could potentially do some serious harm to others around them. While this seems to be a waste of time for others involved. A threat like this not only wastes their resources but it also wastes the resources that it takes by the other governments in finding out for sure what this new scare by their government actually is. Due to the fact that these always have to be taken serious in the event that it was not a hoax. I agree that this is a bad situation in which a better solution really needs to be found.

  19. sstephenson3 says:

    As I have stated in this blog before, this is more or less an inevitable outcome. It is simply not possible, short of sabotage or military action, to stop the Iranians from developing nuclear capability. I have also stated that those in the Iranian government have very good historical reasons not to trust western powers when it comes to their development. Combined with the fact that Iran is a belligerent state and Ahmadinejad, essentially a religious zealot, is in charge of the country this is a very terrifying prospect with dire consequences.

  20. kledbetter6 says:

    I think the distinction between nuclear power and nuclear weapons is important, as the author pointed out. Nuclear power does contribute a significant amount to the energy produced by industrialized countries. For example, 22% of Germany’s energy was produced by nuclear power in 2010 (though of course Germany has recently decided to slowly replace nuclear power with renewable energy sources: It’s understandable that Iran sees this as a way to become a world power. However, I’m also wary of what they might do if they develop nuclear weapons. That being said, everyone thought Russia and the U.S. would cause a nuclear holocaust during the Cold War period, but the fact that one side being decimated meant that both sides would almost positively be bombed into oblivion stopped this from happening. Hopefully Iran and Israel use the same logic and do not engage in a nuclear war.

  21. marymsherman says:

    I think its important to remember here that there’s a difference between what people say and what they actually mean. Yes, Iran says they are developing enriched uranium for power purposes, but scrutinizing research from outside sources say that a different motive is at hand. Also you mentioned the irrational North Korean government and Iran’s need to protect themselves from Kim Jung Un’s nuclear program. However aren’t they in cooperation with each other and share a lot of weapons research. I’m still suspicious, but I don’t know if this is just my American slant talking…

  22. mcharles6 says:

    It makes sense that Iran would want to develop their nuclear capabilities. They are no longer a third world, underdeveloped country as much of the world assumes. When the major world powers were becoming such, one way that they showed their dominance was through their nuclear developments. Although these world powers have for the most part begun dismantling much of their nuclear capability, Iran is several years behind in their development, and it makes sense that they would choose to assert their growing influence in the same way that these other countries did. This is not a problem. However, like you said, transparency is key, and Iran has not done a very good job of being transparent with nuclear power in the past.

  23. Ben Townsend says:

    Iran’s official narrative is not hypocritical or ironic, as it has been labeled in the comments. Pursuing nuclear energy and advocating global nuclear disarmament are not mutually exclusive.

    It seems like the US and US-aligned countries are less interested in regional and global stability and accord than they are in preserving a durable politicized threat to the west.

  24. mitch7991 says:

    I do sympathize with Iran in that without nuclear weapons, they are just a joke as a nation. They’re surrounding neighbors could wipe them off the face of the earth at any time. All the world powers have their eyes on Iran right now and they don’t HAVE to sit back and watch Iran become a serious contender. They could go ahead and take more serious action. Therefore, I think Iran’s mission is futile. They’d be better off uniting themselves with a nation that can hold its own.

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