Iran must know that the United States will destroy its nuclear program

Irun remains committed to developing a functional nuclear weapon. The United States must also be determined to prevent one.

Iranian politicians are becoming increasingly transparent: Tehran is not pretending to threaten to develop a nuclear weapon; he wants a real, working nuclear weapon to “reinforce [its] deterrent. »

Such a strategy makes perfect sense from Iran’s perspective. For Tehran, its only top priority – more than its influence in the Middle East or its national economy – is the survival of the regime itself. As it struggles to suppress the internal threat of thousands of brave women protesting its brutality and subjugation, Tehran sees nuclear weapons as the best deterrent to ensure its survival against external threats.

Some experts suggest that some Iranian leaders may think they can achieve Tehran’s deterrence goals and pressure the West by stopping short of a working nuclear weapon. It’s upside down. Such a moment would not be one of maximum leverage for Iran, but of maximum danger. This would be the time when Iran’s enemies would be most likely to launch a military strike against its nuclear weapons program, not wanting to risk Iran rushing to complete the development of the weapon.

Other analysts argue that Tehran does not really want a nuclear weapon because Iran has effectively used its conventional weapons capabilities and proxies to deter adversaries. That might be true in the case of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which have recently sought to bolster cool but improving diplomatic ties with Iran.

But this is not the case for Israel, which remains embroiled in a long “shadow war” with Iran. A former senior Israeli military official told me last month: “Israel can handle anything [conventional]but not a nuclear weapon.

Good modeling shows that Iran’s nuclear capability would have limited “military and strategic value” compared to Israel’s. But Tehran’s goal in having a nuclear weapon is to deter Israel from attacking in the first place, not to match Israel’s lethality.

Iran’s view that a nuclear weapon is necessary for its long-term deterrence also helps explain why sanctions fail to impose meaningful changes in its behavior. Sanctions are an important tool of US policy toward Iran, and in the absence of an agreement to end its nuclear program, sanctions should continue as leverage on Tehran.

But those in Washington who believe that economic pressure from sanctions alone could eventually bring down the regime – or convince it to abandon its nuclear weapons program – are engaged in wishful thinking; it is a strategy doomed to failure as in the maximum pressure campaign.

A new US strategy toward Iran is needed. For nearly a decade now, strategy under Presidents Obama, Trump and now Biden – and the debate in Washington on Iran more generally – has revolved around the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), for or versus. I was for.

But with the growing likelihood of the JCPOA coming to an end, a new holistic strategy toward Iran is urgently needed. Understanding that Tehran really wants a nuclear weapon, addressing the threat its proxies and conventional weapons pose to regional US allies, and formulating a meaningful response to the protests – should be the three pillars on which such a strategy is developed. .

Diplomatically, post-JCPOA, Tehran will have no interest in getting involved. Therefore, the United States should work with allies around the world to assemble a new package to compel Iran to dismantle, not delay, its nuclear program. Such an effort should not focus on economic incentives – although they should be included – but rather on Iran’s belief that maintaining its nuclear program is more likely to jeopardize the survival of the regime than the survival of the regime. ‘to assure.

This means that diplomatic efforts must be simultaneously supported by a clear and credible military threat. President Biden has been explicit that he will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. These words cannot be empty rhetoric — an empty promise that would jeopardize America’s own global deterrence.

To that end, the United States should begin annual joint military exercises with Israel simulating a strike against Iran in which the United States not only provides refueling capability, but deploys American fighter jets. Washington should work with regional allies to “update” their defenses against drone and missile attacks, as others have suggested. And President Biden should publicly seek, in the next budget cycle, additional funds to accelerate research and development of next-generation military hardware capable of destroying, not just diminishing, Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran wants a fully operational nuclear weapon; the United States must respond with a new, fully operational strategy.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Intelligence Community, or other U.S. agency Government agency.

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