Dealing With a Nuclear Iran

Acceptance and Deterrence

Iran’s agreement to “suspend” her nuclear program in exchange for economic benefits from the European Union has dampened that crisis for the moment.  The Bush administration’s vocal skepticism about the agreement, however, suggests that the crisis has not been defused.  Moreover, Iran emphasizes that her nuclear activities have only been suspended, not abolished.  That is precisely the same distinction North Korea made when she signed her 1994 agreement with the United States, and we are now in the midst of a new confrontation with that country over her renewed quest for nuclear weapons.

We do not have definitive evidence that Iran’s nuclear program is for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons.  It is possible that the Iranians are telling the truth—that they are simply pursuing a program for peaceful power generation.  Departing Secretary of State Colin Powell is probably right, though, that Tehran has embarked on a program to build nuclear weapons and is rapidly developing ballistic missiles as a delivery system.  U.S. policy needs to take into account that very real possibility.  We should not, indeed dare not, adopt a policy based on an excessively optimistic scenario.

Why would Iran want to build nuclear weapons?  In attempting to answer that question, we need to look at why the vast majority of countries decide to remain non-nuclear. ...

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