Iran's Nuclear Programme - A regional perspective

Nicklas Meiner-Jensen

Studenteropgave: Semesterprojekt


Iran has long been a pariah state in the international community. Despite the fact that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the attack of World Trade Center and that Iran did not object to USA invading Afghanistan, the relationship between USA and Iran has not improved. On one side Iran indirectly supported the war in Afghanistan by not protesting. But on the other side the Islamic Republic of Iran was still seeking what they have always been seeking, which is to be a role model for all the Muslims in the region. Iran has used different methods to show this. Among these have been the moral and religious support and the arming and financing of non-state actors such as Hezbollah. This was confirmed by Iran itself when they in 2003 offered USA a grand bargain in which they also put the relationship to both Hamas and Hezbollah on the table. But when USA January 29, 2002 declared Iran to be a part of the Axis of Evil, states “arming to threaten the peace of the world”, the tension between USA and Iran only increased. This also opened up for the neoconservative movement in Iran to grow. The reformists had been in government with Mohammad Khatami as president since 1997 but in 2005 the neoconservatives won the election and took over office. When USA invaded Iraq in 2003, Iran did not stay quiet. Hamid Reza Asefi, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said, "The Iraqi people, not a world power, should determine Iraq's destiny. At the same time, Iran will not stand idle before such instability because, if a country decides to overthrow another country's government, this will create a norm". Iran feared that USA, after having imposed a regime change in Iraq, would act to cause a regime change in Iran. USA has long been present in the Middle East with military bases in Kuwait and Qatar and now with a strong presence in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the American forces are even more present than before. With Iraq out of the way, USA seems to be more focused on Iran. Iran’s support for non-state actors is of course one of the biggest concerns for USA and Europe but the growing loyalty from the Shia population throughout the Middle East was, most likely, not foreseen. This also worries Iran’s neighbours in the Persian Gulf, who all are Sunni-governed and American friendly states. Especially Saudi Arabia is feeling threatened because of the old rivalry with Iran. The rivalry has both been caused by a desire for control over the Persian Gulf and a desire to control the oil exports in the region. Iran and Saudi Arabia are both ranked among the top three of oil reserves in the world. The rivalry also stems from a religious struggle between the homeland of the holy cities Medina and Mecca, namely Saudi Arabia, and the only Islamic republic, Iran. When it was revealed that Iran had an active nuclear programme it created an outcry from the international community, especially because Iran had not notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), despite the fact that they are co-signers of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran’s nuclear programme was first initiated during the Shah, but was abandoned after the Islamic Revolution. In 1988 The Islamic Republic of Iran restarted the programme. In 2002 it was discovered that Iran had built vast nuclear facilities without informing the United Nations. IAEA- inspectors have frequently inspected the different facilities and concluded that Iran is not supplying the necessary information or implementing the requirements set in the various UN resolutions on the matter. Thus, because of the distrust that has been created between Iran and the rest of the world, Iran’s motivations are being questioned. Israel is one of the states objecting strongly to Iran developing a nuclear programme because Iran does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. Since the ascension of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the strong hostile rhetoric towards Israel has escalated. This includes the denial of Holocaust and exclamations that Israel should be wiped out from the map of the world. This, with Iran’s support to Hezbollah and Hamas, has lead to a strong concern from Israel’s side towards Iran’s nuclear program. Even though the biggest reactions and concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme have come from outside the region, our interest lies within the region. We therefore wish to look at Iran’s possible motivations for pursuing a nuclear arsenal and what the consequences are for Iran’s relationship to its neighbours.

UddannelserGlobal Studies, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Bachelor el. kandidat
Udgivelsesdato1 jun. 2010


  • International Relations
  • Power