a direct attack on iran in order to prevent a further development of nuclear assests, posts a threat to international stability and does not deter any further aspirations of iran to become a nuclear power, in my point of view. why is this? states acquire nuclear weapons for a reason. five reasons will be elaborated:
protection against a threat – considering e.g. israels geographical position in a culturally hostile environment, makes it easy to understad their acquisition of the nuclear bomb. they successfully managed to prohibit any other nuclear aspirations in iraq and syria for their fear of not having the military assets to protect themselves against cultural hostility any more.
deterrence by potential punishment – attacking a nuclear power is like poking a bear. even if you are a bear yourself you might consider it twice before you trigger any unforeseen reaction. the atomic bomb makes it less attractive for opponents to attack, for the potential nuclear answer posts too big a risk.
balance of power – as kenneth waltz argues, it is a natural behaviour of iran to pursue nuclear power for this is a systemic reaction to balance the capabilities of israel. a theoretical way to stop the iranian nuclear program, following this logic, would be a disarmament of israel. this seems unlikely, though, considering reason one and why israel acquired the atomic bomb in the first place.
a bargaining asset – more than just military means the posession of an atomic bomb gives states a different weight in international bargaining. a threat by an ‘unfriendly’ nuclear power is percieved as potentially more threatening than a threat from a non-nuclear opponent.
for military means – threatening to international stability, atomic bombs may also be acquired for active military use. this position is accredited to iran, which explains the american resistance to an iranian atomic program. the bright sight of this issue is that the atomic bomb is still handled more as a bargaining and deterring asset than as an actively used military mean – except for the united states, which explains why they find it hard to believe that one would not actually use the bomb to achieve something.
the reason of ‘atomic program for non-military-usage’ will be excluded for its apparent unlikelyness in the case of iran and because any effort for civil usage of atomic power does not concern the security issue discussed here.
the potential danger in todays discussion about iran is that reason 5 earns the main focus of attention. one might argue that this happens for apparent reasons, but this is still no point about why the other reasons should not be considered. if, as waltz argues, iran wants to acquire the bomb for the balance of power, the policy discourse of the united states would need a fundamental revise. it is also likely that iran pursues the atomic program for a perceived threat of western civilization: of the ongoing democratization, that is spilling over to arabic countries more and more, and of american oil aspirations. the atomic bomb would give them the capabilities for protecting themselves and potentially deterring any unwelcome influence from outside while enhancing their bargaining power in the region of the middle east. – if this was the case, one can argue, that iran has to perceive his own status in international relations as vulnerable – why else would it feel the need to protect itself otherwise? when we look at the policy from the west, with all its sanctions and threats, the risk of iran feeling even more vulnerable because of those measures is high. it might just be the case that all sanctions to prevent the atomic program, give iran even more reason to acquire it.