Academic journal article Geopolitics, History and International Relations

Iran and Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Military Dynamics of Nonproliferation

Academic journal article Geopolitics, History and International Relations

Iran and Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Military Dynamics of Nonproliferation

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

There are five military reasons why weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are not an appropriate class of weapons for Iran. Careful examination of these reasons may help us to understand Iran's position on the acquisition of WMDs. First, tactically speaking, Iran is a non-possessor of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; second, the Iranian Army, because of its low number of armored vehicles and its logistical, communication, and command features, is a non-mechanized army, third, the Iranian Army is organized according to a defensive military posture; fourth, WMDs are not strategically suitable for Iran given its protective security interests; and finally, Iran's current conventional destructive capability meets the regime's core protective security interests without WMDs.

These five characteristics support the claim that WMDs are not suitable for the Iranian Army in a regional conflict. A dilemma arises, however, between Iran's secret pursuit of an enrichment program and the last three decades of discriminatory policies refusing Iran access to modem technology Such a conflict demonstrates the inherent tension between the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty's (NPT's) prohibition on proliferation (see Articles 1 and 2) and its provision of the right to nuclear energy (see Article 4).1 Ultimately, the boomerang effect of incremental sanctions and prolonged negotiations with the P5+1 may set both sides on a path with unwanted and unwarranted consequences. To avoid this, the P5+1 should strive to better understand the Iranian military's weapon acquisition dynamics and to approach negotiations with an impartial and sound judgment.

Two main concepts in understanding weapon acquisition are means and ends. These two notions were introduced into the literature of military studies by Carl von Clausewitz. His definition of war as a "real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce...by other means" highlights the importance of military means and their political ends.2 This definition has been widely adopted by other strategists as well. For example, Liddle Hart defined strategy as "the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill ends of policy,"3 and Hedley Bull considered strategy as "shaping means so as to promote ends in any field of conflict."4 Barry Posen focuses on the interaction between means and ends instead of on one as the cause of the other. He defines strategy as a "chain of political ends and military means."5 Hence weapon acquisition could be considered a political as well as a military instrument to achieve victory in war and to maintain security in peacetime. By this account, the acquisition of WMDs could be understood as the response of a state's military policies to these two aims. Accordingly, a state's decision for weapon acquisition could be examined in terms of means and ends. Means encompass the tactical utility of a weapon in case of a probable war, and ends embody the strategic utility of a weapon during both war and peacetime. These two tactical and strategic concepts of the utility of WMDs are developed in this study to illuminate the appropriateness of WMDs for the Iranian Army.

2. Tactical Utility of WMDs for Iran

On the tactical level, three characteristics can help to determine Iran's disposition toward the acquisition or rejection of WMDs. The first characteristic is whether the Iranian military currently possesses WMDs capability; the second is whether it has a mechanized army; and the third is whether the Iranian Army has developed an offensive or defensive military posture. This paper postulates that the closer the Iranian government is to possessing WMDs, the more mechanized its army, and the more offensive its military posture, the less likely it will be to reject WMDs.

2.1 Iranian WMDS Capability

To describe a country as a WMDs possessor means that the state has the capability of mass producing, weaponizing, and applying lethal chemical or biological agents, or nuclear weapon grade material, in war. …

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