From the “If Wishes Were Horses” Department of Foreign Policy Analysis

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on September 15, 2012

I rarely disagree with anything I see written at Shadow Government, but I have to disagree with this post, whose title “guarantee[s]” us that a free and democratic Iran will not pursue nuclear weapons. The trouble is that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to be found in the post supporting the notion that a free and democratic Iran will not be a nuclear Iran. Irrespective of the nature of any future Iranian government, if Iran under that government perceives threats to its interests or its existence and believes that the best way to counter those threats is with the possession of nuclear weapons, it will seek those weapons as surely as night follows day. The nature of the Iranian regime will likely play, at best, an entirely incidental role in influencing Iran’s course regarding the development and possession of a nuclear arsenal.

This does not mean, of course, that there are not reasons to aspire and hope for a free and democratic Iran. I aspire every single day for sociopolitical liberalization in the country. I want Iranians to enjoy freedom, I want them to stop having to fear the kind of oppression their regime subjects them to, and I want Iranians to enjoy the economic advances that follow when liberalization is coupled with the creation and implementation of a legal framework that protects and codifies the rights of the populace. And to be entirely fair to the argument made in the Shadow Government post, it is not unheard of for a country that experiences political liberalization to decide–almost simultaneously with that liberalization process–that a nuclear weapons program that it was working on is no longer desired; see for example the case of post-apartheid South Africa. But such incidents are not the rule. As realist theory has clearly demonstrated, third image concerns on the part of a nation-state contribute more to the decision-making and interest-perception of that nation-state than do any other factors. Freedom and democracy are laudable ends to pursue, but sociopolitical liberalization will very likely not serve as some kind of secret weapon against the existence of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

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