Just before a professor delivered a lecture on the neo-realism theory of international relations, he screened a video showing the dropping of the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima.
Observing the nuclear bomb flying towards the civilian area caused sudden panic among the students, before landing in the middle of innocent civilians. The students silently watched the consequences of the nuclear bomb and remained so after the video ended. The professor then began to explain the concept of neo-realism. The lecture was very engaging and afterwards the students were asked to prepare for a debate on a topical article written by neo-realist Kenneth Waltz (‘Why Iran Should Get the Bomb’, Foreign Affairs, 2012) with the question being whether Iran should be allowed a nuclear weapon?
Firstly, those in favour questioned why Iran should be excluded when Israel, Western countries and other Asian countries already possess nuclear weaponry? Another material question is why the West accepted India’s nuclear programme despite it being outside of the NPT? Therefore, Iran can legitimately acquire the same weaponry for its strategic, security and national interest, in deterring the nuclear threat of Israel in the West Asian region.
Further, those in favour of Kenneth Walt’s article argued that “history shows that nuclear weapons would balance and give peace to any region”. Walt described the “nuclear deterrence between the US and the Soviet as being the reason for the long peace during the cold war”. Let us apply this logic to the present situation. If Iran emerged as a nuclear power, it would deter Israel in West Asia, resulting in a more peaceful region. However, Iran’s behaviour at present reflects its insecurity and by extension the prevalent vulnerability in the region. Since neorealism expresses that states are self-interest oriented actors, Iran would never act as self-destructive state but as a responsible one if it had nuclear weaponry, knowing the impact of the nuclear casualty. Moreover, it has the capability to maintain the nuclear weaponry compared to the nuclear vulnerability of Pakistan.
Secondly, those against pointed out that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, the tension in West Asia would only increase. With many devastated states in the region, should Iran acquire nuclear weaponry, Saudi Arabia would be forced to do likewise, seeking weaponry from Pakistan or China within a week or month. This chain of events would mean there would be an increased threat to Israel’s survival and the security of the region. Moreover, this may trigger a move by a small, wealthy oil exporting country to acquire a nuclear weapon. If bipolar was the safe game for peace during the cold war, the post-cold war multi-polar would be the reason for the world present disorder. Nuclear weapons in more hands would be more threatening to the region. Iran has threatened Israel on several occasions that it will wipe it off the map.
Another important factor to be aware of is the possibility of Iran allows the nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists or that it transfers nuclear secrets to rogue states or to non-state actors. If such events occurred the proliferation of nuclear weapons would be unstoppable. The consequences and damage would be immeasurable. This would not only be a concern for West Asia security, but for the security of the entire world. Hence, it can be argued that there is no compelling reason for allowing Iran to attain nuclear weaponry. Moreover, the ‘no’ group argued that with Iran added into the equation, the precedent set by the growing number of nuclear weapon states would bring continuous threat to world peace.
Thirdly, the self-discipline of India as a nuclear state, in its exclusion from the NPT, is an example to follow. It did not produce a nuclear weapon by signing the NPT like Iran. However, India’s request for a security assurance from the western powers in the 1960s against the nuclear threat of China was not answered positively. Hence, India chose to walk down an undesired path, contrary to the vision of India’s founding father Mahatma Gandhi and the first Prime Minister Nehru. While India’s security was put at risk by its nuclear neighbour China, India refused to sign the NPT. When India refused to sign the NPT, it was expected that India would begin striving for nuclear weaponry. India did thereafter emerge as a minimum nuclear deterrent. Moreover, standing outside of the NPT, India has an impeccable track record with a non-proliferation past. So, with such striking differences between the two states, the value of such a comparison was not so high during this debate.
Fourthly, if the world requires more experience of the effects of nuclear warfare than it observed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki then it may have the opportunity if the international community’s stance on Iran’s claim for the nuclear bomb does not change. The oil fields will not recover if any nuclear bomb was dropped in West Asia. There will be no redemption across the entire region for the next five decades. A nuclear disaster would destroy the entire Arab region. It would also affect millions of expatriates and the global economy would soon come to a stand-still without the oil flow from this region.
The present agreement with Iran has been seen as an achievement of the P5+1 joint effort. Although this deal has several limitations, it is a better than launching a military strike on Iran’s nuclear base. Iran cannot easily distract the P5+1. This agreement with the P5+1gives a strong signal that any violation of the agreement by the actor would result in a collective reaction by the P5+1. This would serve as a serious warning to Iran and to other reactionary states which seek nuclear weaponry. This path could also serve as a direction to deal with the North Korea nuclear issue in the future.
However, the chaotic stance of the US Republicans is entirely misguided and ill advised. They are politically correct, but diplomatically wrong. It may help them for the 2016 presidential election campaign but not for their national security. One thing is quite clear – if the US Congress continues to diverge on this issue – there will be negative implications for US non-proliferation initiatives globally.
Finally, the arguments on both sides of the debate are defended strongly. However, it is unlikely that the ‘yes’ group is in a strong position at the present stage of Iran’s ambition to attain nuclear capacity. The ‘no’ group has the upper hand. The core reason behind this is that Iran’s claim is unjustifiable because Iran has not demonstrated its responsibility as a state in the region so far. Hence, Iran’s claim of entitlement to nuclear weaponry did not convince the majority of the students in the lecture hall.