Nukes Unlikely to Change Iran’s Strategy

May 12, 2013

            Nuclear arms would be unlikely to change Iran’s fundamental interests and strategy in the Middle East, according to a new report by the Rand Corporation’s Alireza Nader. Tehran is primarily concerned with survival. So it probably would not attack Israel or U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf if it were to attain nuclear weapons, according to the report. The Islamic Republic would not likely use them against its Muslim neighbors either. Iran “does not seek to invade, conquer, or occupy other nations,” argues Nader. The following are excerpts, with a link to the full text at the end.

            •The Islamic Republic is a revisionist state that seeks to undermine what it perceives to
              be the American-dominated order in the Middle East. However, it does not have
              territorial ambitions and does not seek to invade, conquer, or occupy other nations.
            •Nuclear arms would probably reinforce Iran's traditional national security objectives,
              including deterring a U.S. or Israeli attack.
            • Iran is unlikely to use nuclear weapons against other Muslim countries, particularly in
              view of its diminishing influence and deteriorating economy; it is unlikely to use them
              against Israel given Israel's overwhelming military superiority.
            •The Iranian government does not use terrorism for ideological reasons. Instead, Iran's
              support for terrorism is motivated by cost and benefit calculations, with the aims of
              maintaining deterrence and preserving or expanding its influence in the Middle East.
            •Iran's possession of nuclear weapons will create greater instability in the Middle East.
              An inadvertent or accidental nuclear exchange between Israel and Iran is a dangerous
              possibility. However, there is not much evidence to suggest that rogue elements could
              have easy access to Iranian nuclear weapons, even if the Islamic Republic were to
              collapse.
            •Elements of the political elite, including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may be fervent
              Mahdists or millenarians, but their beliefs are not directly related to nuclear weapons
              and will not shape Iran's nuclear decision making.
 
             There is substantial evidence to suggest that Iran would not be greatly emboldened by a nuclear weapons capability. Nevertheless, Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons will create greater instability in the Middle East. An accidental or inadvertent nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel would be a dangerous possibility. Moreover, quite aside from how Iran might behave, its possession of nuclear weapons could arguably set off a cascade effect, encouraging other regional rivals to move in the same direction.