Iran’s nuclear challenge

Authored by: Mark Fitzpatrick

The Routledge Handbook of Security Studies

Print publication date:  November  2009
Online publication date:  December  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415463614
eBook ISBN: 9780203866764
Adobe ISBN: 9781135239077


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Iran launched its uranium-enrichment programme in the mid-1980s in the middle of the war with Iraq, after it was attacked with chemical weapons. This decision was a reversal of the leadership’s original opposition to the Shah’s nuclear programme, which was based on moral grounds. Iranians argue that Saddam Hussein would not have dared to start the war or use chemical weapons if Iran had possessed a nuclear capability. It is also often remarked that Iran inhabits a dangerous region, with four close neighbours (Israel, Russia, Pakistan and India) that possess nuclear weapons, and a domineering superpower with troops positioned to its east in Afghanistan and to its west in Iraq, and with naval forces off its coast to the south. Pronouncements by the Bush administration assigning Iran to the ‘axis of evil’, a policy of ‘preventive deterrence’, and loose talk of regime change on the part of the US have undoubtedly motivated the Iranian leadership to develop the ability to resist coercive measures.

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