Deeper Iran Thought

FoKerr _JP_ asked me to elaborate on my “assertion”: that “capabilities influence intentions.”

Here’s the full paragraph from the original post:

bq. Put another way, some in Iran probably want a nuclear weapon, or at least a weapons option, but there is scant evidence that they want one at all costs. Therefore, Iranian officials’ preferences for a nuclear weapon are not immutable. Capabilities influence intentions.

As we know, a state’s propensity to undertake a certain course of action is a function of the government’s capabilities and intentions (I actually learned it as “opportunity and willingness,” which I think is a better formulation.) But those two variables are frequently not independent; the more difficult it is to take a course of action, the less likely it is that a government will bother to take (or continue with) that action.

In the case of Iran, I think there is good evidence that at least some elements of the Iranian government wanted a nuclear weapon _if_ that weapon could be developed in secret. The evidence that Tehran wants to develop a weapon overtly is not nearly as good. If that is true, then complicating Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapon in secret could dissuade Tehran from trying.

Parenthetically, it is also entirely possible that a strategic decision to actually field an Iranian nuclear arsenal has been shelved, scrapped, or never existed in the first place.

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