National Security to Nationalist Myth: Why Iran Wants Nuclear Weapons   [open pdf - 605KB]

"Throughout twenty-five years of strained relations, U.S. policy efforts have delayed but not thwarted Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons program, largely because Washington has failed to influence Iran's motivations for acquiring nuclear weapons. There are three main motivations behind Iran's nuclear program. First, at the systemic level, external threats drive Iran's perceived need for a nuclear deterrent. Second, at the individual level, well placed governmental elites propel the nuclear security myth to spur nationalistic support for nuclear weapons. Third, at the state level, institutional bureaucracies, created to build Iran's nuclear infrastructure, now compete against other organizations for their own self interests, which are closely associated with the continued development of nuclear weapons. The thesis recommends three policy tracks, addressing causal factors at each level. First, the United States should try to create a new Gulf Security organization, including Iran and the new Iraqi government, to build a collective security environment without nuclear weapons. Second, Washington should build a multilateral coalition to contain Iranian proliferation activities while offering economic incentives for Iranian disarmament. Third, the United States should work to discredit Iran's nuclear security myth by fostering a public debate within Iran on the costs of nuclear weapons, using U.S.-run media."

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