Summary of Barry Posen's “A Nuclear Armed Iran,”
Barry Posen argues that this scenario is not necessarily the worst scenario for the United States and its allies. While Iran having nuclear arms wouldn’t be an ideal situation, Posen believes that the US and its allies could manage this.
Posen believes that if Iran developed its own nuclear weapons, it is highly unlikely that other countries in the region would do the same thing. Israel already has nuclear weapons and might publicly explain how it would use them against Iran if needed. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey would probably not pursue a policy of developing nuclear weapons. Egypt depends on foreign assistance and, because of this, would likely not be willing to risk this assistance in order to develop nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia would need many years to develop its nuclear program and would face obstacles in getting the needed materials. Turkey is a member of NATO and could rely on the US for protection.
While Iran could give nuclear weapons to terrorists or use them to blackmail their neighbors to do things such as raising the price of oil or cutting oil production, the US is in a position to counter those moves. If any terrorist group used nuclear weapons supplied by Iran against the United States, Iran would likely be attacked by American nuclear weapons. It also is very unlikely that the US would allow its allies in the Middle East to be blackmailed by Iran. It is likely the United States would take actions to stop this from occurring.
It also is possible that Iran might feel emboldened by possessing nuclear weapons and become more aggressive in the Middle East. Iran’s neighbors could deal with this by improving their intelligence and police force and by making domestic reforms. Taking aggressive actions could put Iran in a position where it might be attacked by nuclear weapons. This threat might force Iran to be more cautious.
Thus, while it isn’t desirable for Iran to possess nuclear weapons, it is possible that this scenario could be managed.
Barry Posen argues that it is not such a disaster if Iran gets nuclear weapons.
He says that there are three things that they could do.
First, Iran could give the weapons to terrorists. But he says that Iran will not do this because of what would happen to them if they did. He says a country that found out that Iran had provided the weapon that was used to attack them would attack Iran with many nuclear weapons. This threat will stop Iran from giving weapons to terrorists.
Second, Iran could blackmail countries with the threat of nuclear weapons. Posen says those countries would turn to the US for help rather than giving in.
Finally, Iran could use the weapons to deter anyone from attacking them. They could then go out and destabilize other countries with impunity. Posen says this won't work -- countries can reform themselves in ways that will prevent Iran from destabilizing them.