So, why can’t Iran have the bomb?

Smith, Luke (2021-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In May of 2018, The USA withdrew from the ground-breaking Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which was designed to stagnate Iran’s rate of nuclear development and push back its nuclear breakout. In January of 2020, tensions between the USA and Iran reached a tipping point following the US assassination of Iranian Lieutenant-General Qasem Soleimani. Iran’s nuclear development continues to be the source of major international concern as the USA and notable institutions such as the United Nation Security Council make efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic in order to forcibly restrict its nuclear development. Iran’s noteworthy isolation under economic sanctions has had detrimental effects on its economy, political and social well-being and has further strained its relationship with the international community. The proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout the international system has been a visible trend since the 1940s. However, not all states have been allowed to freely develop their own nuclear capacity. The Arms Control Association (2019) states that there are an estimated 14,000 nuclear warheads globally and that more than 90% of them are divided between only two major global powers, the USA and Russia. However, if we consider the concerns and tensions that have arisen from the nuclear development of states such as Iran, it is clear that institutions such as the UNSC and states such as the USA have made considerable efforts to maintain the current nuclear imbalance within the international system. Ultimately, the research problem for this study is best understood as understanding the systematic failure of nuclear non-proliferation initiatives in restricting nuclear development and preventing regional and global instability that stem from access to nuclear weapons. This study ultimately addresses the research problem by answering one primary research question: So, why can’t Iran have the bomb? In order to answer the primary research question, this study challenges the efficiency and sustainability of contemporary efforts to forcibly restrict nuclear development. It further considers an interpretation of structural realism that supports the stabilising effects of nuclear power balancing and applies it to the case of Iran. It has been argued that Iran’s nuclear development and breakout may be a catalyst for greater regional instability. However, focusing on the seminal work of Kenneth Waltz, this study views Iran through a lens of structurally defensive realism and presents an argument in which Iran’s nuclear breakout balances regional power and threats, in turn stabilising the region. In providing a theoretical solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, this study acknowledges the role of realist theory in accounting for the past, as well as its limitations in predicting the future.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In Mei van 2018 het die Verenigde State van Amerika (VSA) hom onttrek aan die baanbrekende gesamentlike omvattende aksieplan (JCPOA) wat ontwerp is om die tempo van kernontwikkeling in Iran te stagneer en sy kern-uitbreking terug te druk. In Januarie van 2020 bereik die spanning tussen die VSA en Iran ’n kantelpunt ná die Amerikaanse sluipmoord op die Iraanse luitenant-generaal Qasem Soleimani. Iran se kernontwikkeling is steeds die bron van groot internasionale kommer, aangesien die VSA en vername instellings, soos die veiligheidsraad van die Verenigde Nasies (VN), pogings aanwend om die Islamitiese Republiek te isoleer ten einde sy kernontwikkeling met geweld te beperk. Iran se noemenswaardige isolasie weens ekonomiese sanksies het nadelige gevolge vir sy ekonomiese, politieke en sosiale welstand gehad en het sy verhouding met die internasionale gemeenskap verder onder druk geplaas. Die toename in kernwapens regoor die internasionale stelsel is sedert die 1940’s ’n sigbare tendens. Nie alle state is egter toegelaat om hul eie kernkapasiteit vryelik te ontwikkel nie. Die Arms Control Association (2019) het verklaar dat daar na raming 14 000 kernplofkoppe wereldwyd bestaan en dat meer as 90% daarvan slegs tussen twee groot wereldmoondhede, die VSA en Rusland, verdeel is. As ons die kommer en spanning weens kernontwikkeling van state soos Iran in ag neem, is dit duidelik dat instellings soos die VN-veiligheidsraad en state soos die VSA aansienlike pogings aangewend het om die huidige kernwanbalans in die internasionale wereldstelsel te handhaaf. Hierdie studie spreek uiteindelik die navorsingsprobleem aan deur een primêre navorsingsvraag te beantwoord, naamlik: Waarom mag Iran nie die bom hê nie? Om die primêre navorsingsvraag te beantwoord, betwis hierdie studie die doeltreffendheid en volhoubaarheid van hedendaagse pogings om kernontwikkeling met geweld te beperk. Verder word daar na ’n interpretasie van strukturele realisme gekyk wat die stabiliserende effekte van kernkrag-balansering ondersteun en dit op die geval van Iran toepas. Daar is aangevoer dat Iran se kernontwikkeling en -uitbreking ’n katalisator vir groter streeksonstabiliteit kan wees. Hierdie studie fokus egter op die invloedryke werk van Kenneth Waltz en beskou Iran deur ’n lens van struktureel-verdedigende realisme. Dit bied ’n argument aan waarin Iran se kern- uitbreking plaaslike mag en bedreigings balanseer en op sy beurt die streek stabiliseer. Hierdie studie gee ’n teoretiese oplossing vir die Iraanse kernkrisis en erken die rol van die realistiese teorie in die boekhouding van die verlede, asook die beperkings daarvan om die toekoms te voorspel.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/123581
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