News / Middle East

Deterrence Might Not Work in Case of Iran, Analyst Says

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility (file photo)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility (file photo)

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. - plus Germany, are holding talks, this month in Turkey, focusing on their fears Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons - an accusation Iran denies, saying its program is for peaceful purposes.

But what if Iran was in fact developing and were to use a nuclear weapon? VOA’s Susan Yackee spoke about such a scenario with Evan Braden Montgomery, a Research Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He is the co-author of a report on the Iranian nuclear issue, published by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Listen to full interview with Evan Braden Montgomery:

Evan Braden Montgomery
Evan Braden Montgomery

According to Montgomery, adding a nuclear component would, first of all, further destabilize an already unstable relationship between Iran and Israel. And it would, he believes, create a situation in which both countries would have an incentive to “strike first” in the event of a crisis, even despite the enormous potential cost.

Second, says Montgomery, a nuclear Iran could be emboldened to lend broader support to proxies in the region, such as Hezbollah and Hamas or forces in Afghanistan and Iraq intent on destabilizing the governments of those countries.

And, third, Israel could be encouraged to abandon its policy of nuclear ambiguity of not declaring whether it is or is not a nuclear-armed state. And this, Montgomery believes, could have broader implications throughout the region both in terms of its cooperation with Arab states and the ability of the United States to implement a containment coalition against Iran in the future.

Asked whether deterrence in the case of Iran is a viable option, Montgomery says that it, along with containment seems to be emerging as the default option for dealing with a nuclear-armed Iran in the future.

He cautions, though, that this strategy might not work as well as it did between adversaries during the Cold War, when the U.S. had formal treaty arrangements with allies and hundreds of thousands of troops in Western Europe to deter a Soviet attack. Montgomery believes that such an arrangement would be impossible to replicate between the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East today.

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