It’s Circumvention Time! (Paper 4 Avoids’s Perniciousness)

Here is an explanation of why I’m posting a class paper here. Basically, I’m circumventing ethically. Enjoy!

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Jessica Dickinson Goodman
Dr Kai-Henrik Barth
10 March 2010

Iran and Nuclear Weapons: Political or Nuclear Science?

Both the illusion and the reality of a nuclear-armed Iran are excellent motivators for a strong international response. We must assume that Iran will become a nuclear power in the near future without dramatic international intervention. There is enough evidence that Iran is heading towards nuclear armament and not just nuclear power—its secret facility at Qom, its insistence on domestic enrichment and greed for highly enriched Uranium, and its development of a heavy-water at Arak—that Middle Eastern regional powers must act.

Iran’s nuclear technology is a thumb on the scales weighing what international role Iran will play in this century. By implying but denying that they are seeking nuclear weapons, Iranian politicians have gained a significant international audience for their perspectives[1]. With the possibility of a nuclear Iran looming in the background, Iran has obfuscated international inquiry into its nuclear program (whether in the negotiations[2] or in determining the scopre of inspections[3]), improvising a negotiation strategy to keep its needs on the international political agenda[4]. The threat that Iran might soon acquire nuclear weapons ensures the international attention, conflated with respect and status, that its politicians and some of its people crave[5].

Even if the diplomatic reality is that even a murky threat of a nuclear Iran is sufficient to empower it internationally and demand an international response, Iran’s realistic ability manufacture its own nuclear weapons is an important fact. Taking the converse world, where Iran is truly seeking only civilian nuclear power, I find several major questions. If the plant at Qom is justifiable under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, why risk enduring the loss of international trust[6] when its existence became widely known? Why risk global opprobrium by baiting the EU- 3, the United States and Israel by insisting on conducting the whole fuel- cycle in Iranian territory and dance so closely to the red-flagged 20% enrichment level? Finally, why develop a heavy-water research reactor at Arak if the goal is not to produce Plutonium[7]?

The obvious answer is that the risks to Iran’s national security which come from these actions are not worth their political-capital benefits. Sanctions, threats of bombing from Israel, and international isolation are high prices to pay for ephemeral international status. That international status commensurate with Iran’s self-perception is a top priority for many Iranian politicians, is the strongest counter to this argument. However, even taking seriously the Iranian press’s nearly idolatrous attachement to Iran’s nuclear program, the gravity of the threat of Israeli, Saudi or American military action if Iran appears to be imminently nuclear appears to me to be too great to justify even as domestically important a goal as international reputation[8]. It is therefore my opinion that the answer to te above questions is: because Iran’s nuclear program is not aimed at achieving civilian nuclear power, but at development of nuclear weapons.

Given this reality, it is vital that policy-makers deeply understand the technical timeline of weapons vs electrical power development. If there were one concept that global policy-makers must understand to effectively contextualize Iran’s nuclear developments, it is the non-linear relationship of enrichment cycles and percentage of enrichment[9]. That Iran is actively seeking nearly 20% enrichment (aka Highly Enriched Uranium) and that the number of enrichment cycles necessary to take 20% enriched Uranium to 90% (Weapons-Grade Uranium) is significantly less than the number it takes to go from .3% to 2% is not intuitive but is necessary for establishing a timeline of international response to Iran’s nuclear program. While there are a number of traditional responses: diplomatic isolation, regional trade sanctions, military action, I would like to propose a novel approach to externally controlling the course of Iran’s nuclear program. Turkey should strengthen economic and social ties with Iran, and in the process influence the Iranian leadership against a nuclear weapon’s program.

Today, Iran and Turkey have strong trade relations, particularly in tourism and energy. In the first 11 months of 2009, over 140,000 Iranian tourists visited Turkey[10]. While this is only 5% of the number of Russian tourists Turkey hosted in the same period, the number is important given Iran’s long-term isolation in the region and the travel-restrictions placed on its people. Likewise, although Turkey is not in the top importers of Iranian oil (Japan, China are the top two at just above and just below 500,000 bpd, or just under half of Iran’s output)[11] their energy relationship has significant symbolic value because they are geographic neighbors.

Of the many reasons why Chubin believes Iran is difficult to negotiate with is that it is “is without a significant strategic partner or dependable ally.”[12]. With Turkey as its ally, Iran might feel respected and powerful enough in the region to confidently give up its weapons program, with Turkey providing the carrot of increased trade and freedom to travel for Iran’s middle class, and the stick of denying these boons. By allying with Turkey, the most powerful Muslim, non-Arab nation in the Middle East, Iran could remain defiant towards it Arab neighbors while increasing its own security through diplomatic rather than military means[13].

Iran’s nuclear ambitions stem from its sense that it should be a vital power in the region, a status befitting to its Persian heritage. This impetus exists separately from Iran’s feelings of insecurity relating to Israel and its assertion that nuclear capabilities (ambiguously either civil or military) would help it counter-balance Israel’s weapons in the region. Such pragmatic concerns merely flavor the more destiny-focused rhetoric surrounding the nuclear program. For example, the quasi-mystical language the Iranian press uses to describe nuclear energy. It is this kind of national-destiny language that drives the popular support for nuclear capabilities in Iran, even those funding and driving the program subscribe to more security-focused rationales.


[1] Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions. Sharhram Chubin. 2006. pp 81.
[2] Ibid, 80.
[3] Ibid, 66.
[4] Ibid, 63.
[5] Ibid, 31.
[6] “INAF382S10_Class15.ppt”. Barth, Kai-Henrik. 8 March 2010.
[7] National Intelligence Estimate: Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities. Nation Intelligence Council of the United States ofAmerica. 2007.
[8] “what immense power would be forged and what a great epic it would create, so majestic and glorifying”” Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions. SharhramChubin. 2006. pp 26.
[9] “INAF 382: Class 11: Nuclear Weapons Basics”. Dr Kai-Henrik Barth, 15 February 2010.
[10] “Turkey Welcomes 26 Million Tourists in 11 Months Despite the Crisis”. 29 December 2009, Turkish Weekly. Visited 10 March 2010.
[11] “Q+A: Iran’s oil supply and potential for disruption”. Reporting by Simon Webb in Dubai, additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Tehran;editing by Janet McBride. Visited 10 March 2010.
[12] Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions. Sharhram Chubin. 2006. pp 11.
[13] This should no go too far–it would be destructive for these nations to bond on an explicitly ethnic basis—as they did in July 2004 in an agreement for military cooperation in controlling their minority Kurdish populations. “Military: Kurdistan – Iran”. Global Security. Visited 10 March 2010. iran.htm

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