Mohammed Ayoob writes: It is time for world leaders to recognize the inevitability of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons capability, even if it remains untested, with Tehran following the policy and adopting the rhetoric of deliberate ambiguity. Moreover, the major powers that act as the self-appointed guardians of the current international nuclear order need to recognize that treaties and other legal documents are not the primary determinants when it comes to state decisions regarding acquisition of nuclear capability. It is a country’s strategic environment that principally determines such a decision.
Iran’s strategic environment is such that it makes the decision by Iran’s policy makers to acquire nuclear weapons appear rational both to themselves and to the wider Iranian public. This is why leading opposition figures are as opposed to suspending uranium enrichment as regime hard-liners. The foremost opposition presidential candidate, Mir-Hossein Moussavi, in an interview with the Financial Times in the run-up to the elections in 2009, stated categorically: “No one in Iran would accept suspension.”
The strategic rationality of such a policy was recognized in a candid moment by none other than Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak.
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In an appearance on “Charlie Rose” last month, Barak was asked whether he would want to acquire nuclear weapons if he were an Iranian government minister. Barak responded very candidly: “Probably, probably. I know it’s not — I mean I don’t delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel. They look around, they see the Indians are nuclear, the Chinese are nuclear, Pakistan is nuclear, not to mention the Russians.”
While downplaying the Israeli nuclear weapons capability, Barak neglected to mention that Iran’s policy makers perceive the American nuclear and non-nuclear armada in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea as the greatest threat to their security.
All this obviously makes for a dangerous strategic environment as far as Tehran is concerned, regardless of the nature of the Iranian regime. The American decision to invade non-nuclear Iraq while desisting from militarily confronting a nuclear North Korea surely tells Iran’s rulers that even rudimentary nuclear capability can deter potential American and allied designs to attack Iran, whether to topple its regime or impair its nuclear capacity.