Iran's nuclear program an assessment of the threat to the United States
Williams, David E.
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This thesis explores the threat, if any, posed to the United States by the Iranian nuclear program. Specifically, it addresses whether Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology is likely to represent a threat for homeland defense (direct use of nuclear weapons) or homeland security (indirect use of nuclear weapons through intermediaries). It begins with an overview of the cooperation and conflict between the U.S. and Iran on a number of issues, but primarily in regard to nuclear technology. Next, it addresses Iranian intentions, motivations, and rationality for developing nuclear technology. The possible employment options for Iranian nuclear weapons are then reviewed and assessed in terms of their likelihood based on historical models of deterrence derived from the U.S.-Soviet relationship during the Cold War (direct use), as well as theoretical models of Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons (indirect use). It appears that Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology results from a combination of security concerns, pride, prestige, and a desire for regional leadership. Iran has rational motivations for pursuing nuclear technology; therefore, U.S. leaders should approach Iran as a rational actor in order to avert further conflict between the two states.
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