Ever since the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States has been at the forefront of several global initiatives to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Keeping such powerful destructive forces out of the hands of independent actors and countries with anti-American or anti-Western sentiments appears to be a primary goal. However, this has resulted in a fair amount of controversy. Particularly in Iran, where the nuclear program has been active for decades, several international initiatives have been taken to monitor and reduce Iran’s potential to develop nuclear bombs. The JCPOA, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of 2015, was formatted by Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to ensure that Iran would reduce its uranium stockpile by 98%. Iran’s facilities are also inspected by agents of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to prevent any attempts to build a nuclear bomb.1 The United States withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, leading to Iran disregarding its own responsibility towards the agreement.2 These inconsistent attempts to control and regulate Iranian nuclear activity create an even greater uncertainty in the possibilities of its program.
The question of significant risk in Iran is entirely based upon what the country intends to accomplish. For years, the argument against the Iran nuclear program has been to completely prevent the possibility of another nuclear bomb. In 2019, the IAEA reported that Iran had exceeded the JCPOA limit on its stockpile of enriched uranium by 4.5%.3 However, nuclear-latent states, or nations with advanced nuclear technology and no nuclear weapons, have existed for decades, and Iran could be among them.4 The assumption that any nuclear-latent country is on a path to develop weapons is a dangerous one that could give way to further frustrations. Particularly in Iran, leaders have noted the hypocrisy that permits Japan to remain in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons despite its fuel-cycle systems.4 Still, there remains an argument that the advanced stage of the Iranian program is capable of producing weapons. Iran’s foreign policies are incredibly influential throughout the Middle East, including attacks against Israel and support of the current Syrian regime. Such aggression is a cause for concern, and a hypothetical nuclear weapon makes the stakes all the more dangerous.
The history of Western involvement in the Middle East also raises another layer to the political and ethical context of non-proliferation efforts. Is it hypocritical for the United States, the only country to have dropped a nuclear bomb on another, to place sanctions and security measures on Iran’s nuclear program? The diplomatic balance is essential to negotiating a global compromise on nuclear disarmament, but history becomes both a reminder and a vice. Iran has not forgotten the impact of Western colonization and influence, and the world will never forget the devastation wrought upon Japan during the Second World War. Is it safer to keep a short leash on Iran’s nuclear aspirations for the sake of the global community, or will this only lead to more resistance, isolation and destruction in the long run? For now, the world’s superpowers are watching with observant and cautious hesitation.
- “Iran Nuclear Deal: Key Details.” BBC News, 11 June 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33521655.
- “Two Years After JCPOA Withdrawal, Americans Are Less Safe, the Middle East Less Peaceful.” IISS, 19 May 2020, www.iiss.org/blogs/survival-blog/2020/05/jcpoa-withdrawal-pompeo-statement. Accessed 15 Nov. 2021.
- “Why Iran May Be in No Hurry to Get Nuclear Weapons Even Without a Nuclear Deal.” RAND Corporation Provides Objective Research Services and Public Policy Analysis | RAND, www.rand.org/blog/2021/06/why-iran-may-be-in-no-hurry-to-get-Nuclear-weapons.html.
- “The Iranian Nuclear Threat: Why It Matters.” Anti-Defamation League, www.adl.org/resources/fact-sheets/the-iranian-nuclear-threat-why-it-matters.